Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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kill not just Jews but all Jews. As I suggested in chapter 6, there is evidence that a specific order for the Final Solution was issued by Göring to Heydrich on 31 July 1941 but was actually requested by Heydrich and drafted by Eichmann.65 Much of the impetus for the order may have come from below the highest levels of Nazi authority, but always as expressions of known desires of Hitler and the people around him. One plausible view is that Hitler, without issuing any such decree under his name, made fully clear to close subordinates that he wanted the threshold crossed, wanted to implement the genocide of Jews. In this combination of drift and deliberation — and it is significant that scholars are uncertain about whether a single order bringing about the Final Solution can be identified66 — a point is reached at which a collective understanding takes shape that the designated group is to be annihilated. Collective understanding quickly becomes collective will as perpetrators join in the process on the basis of perceptions of what is expected of them, calling forth prior inclination and adaptive doubling. With the Nazis, that genocidal process was probably well under way before the introduction of a systematic plan for the genocide, as reflected in Himmler’s discussions with Höss about creating a Jewish death factory in Auschwitz.

That genocidal threshold requires extensive prior ideological imagery of imperative. One has to do this thing see it through to the end for the sake of a utopian vision of national harmony, unity, wholeness When Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that this world belongs only to the forceful whole man and not to the weak half man he was speaking for the special virtue of those who are strong, hale and healthy, cured.*

That vision was more fundamental for the Nazis than was any single myth about the Jews (such as that of the world-destroying intent of the Elders of Zion) as a warrant for genocide. The warrant is developed more broadly from many sources that feed the image which associates destruction of the entire collectivity of designated victims with the robust revitalization of one’s people and race. There is likely to be a prefiguring or rehearsal in the form of a prior, smaller genocidal event in the case of the Nazis, the direct medical killing or “euthanasia” project. The smaller genocide develops the technology (poison gas) personnel (medical units) and institutional structures (killing centers) for the larger genocidal act. But the prior event does something more it provides a shared sense notably among the élite that it can be done that one can move from relatively amorphous imagery of victimization and triage to the act of total murder; and that it seems to work — a problem is solved, there is a sense of achievement, a movement toward health.

Early perpetrators become a scientific and moral élite and form a spiritual engine of biological necessity. The rest of the population is not deemed ready for full knowledge; there is an ambivalence between se- […crecy]
* Hitler’s preceding sentence reads (with his emphasis): “If the power to fight for one’s own health [he had been speaking of “decay” brought about by prostitution and syphilis] is no longer present, the fight to live in this world of struggle ends.”67   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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