Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 147 
[Page 146 is blank] 
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page

Introduction to Part II 
Had the Nazis named their “euthanasia” institutions according to their concepts, they might well have referred to the “Hartheim [or Grafeneck] Center for Therapeutic Genetic Killing” and, correspondingly, to the “Auschwitz Center for Therapeutic Racial Killing.”

It was a Nazi doctor, Heinz Thilo, who gave Auschwitz a much more appropriate name — anus mundi, “anus of the world” — a term meant to characterize what another Nazi doctor, Johann Paul Kremer, described as “the most horrible of all horrors ”: “the particularly unpleasant. . . action of gassing emaciated women.”¹

An astute Polish psychiatrist has suggested that the term anus mundi accurately reflects the Nazi vision of “the necessity to sweep clean the world,” a vision “of the Germanic superman .... of a world where there would be no place for sick people, cripples, psychologically immoral people, contaminated by Jewish, Gypsy or other blood.”² All these, he is saying, were for the Nazis biomedical waste material. In Auschwitz, that especially meant Jews.

While Auschwitz genocide came to encompass Gypsies, Poles, and Russians, only Jews underwent systematic selections.* For the primary function of Auschwitz, once it had been reconstituted, was the murder of every single Jew the Nazis could (in Himmler’s words) lay their hands on anywhere.

The SS doctor did no direct medical work. His primary function was to carry out Auschwitz's institutional program of medicalized genocide.³ Consider the SS doctor’s activities in Auschwitz. He performed initial large-scale selections of arriving Jewish prisoners at the Birkenau camp (chapter 8). These selections were usually conducted according to formula: old and debilitated people, children, and women with children all selected for the gas chamber; while relatively intact young adults were permitted to survive, at least temporarily. The victim’s experience, with which we begin, gives the truest picture.

After the selection, the presiding doctor was driven in an SS vehicle, usually marked with a red cross, together with a medical technician (one
* Poles and others underwent limited selections, conducted within the camp, early in Auschwitz history. And the Gypsy camp was selected en masse for death in 1944 (see pages 185-86). But institutionalized selections for the gas chambers involved only Jews.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 147 Forward  Next Page