Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Chapter 18 

Healing-Killing Conflict:
Eduard Wirths
  I can say that I have always done my duty and have never done anything contrary to what was expected of me.   
Eduard Wirths lived out most directly, and most extremely, the Auschwitz healing-killing conflict and paradox. A man with a strong reputation as a dedicated physician, and described by inmates who could observe him closely as “kind,” “conscientious,” “decent,” “polite,” and “honest,” he was the same man who established the camp’s system of selections and medicalized killing and supervised the overall process during the two years in which most of the mass murder was accomplished. Because of that dichotomy, he was one of the few Auschwitz doctors frequently spoken of as not only criminal but a tragic figure. Hermann Langbein, the political prisoner who served as his secretary in both Dachau and Auschwitz believed him to be the only Nazi doctor in Auschwitz who refused to succumb to its ubiquitous corruption and in no way enriched himself there. From the time of his first encounter with Wirths in Dachau, Langbein was struck by his medical conscientiousness and considered him “completely different from other SS doctors.”¹

He differed also in the story of his death — not in the way that he died (a considerable number of Nazi doctors committed suicide) but in what transpired just before his death. It is claimed (probably accurately) that a British intelligence officer, a member of the group to whom Wirths surrendered himself, greeted him and then said, “Now I’ve shaken hands with a man who … bears responsibility for the death of four million human beings.” That night Wirths hanged himself; although cut down, he died two or three days later, in September 1945.²  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
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