The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton, Author Basic Books $22.95 (561p) ISBN 978-0-465-04904-2
Nazi doctors did more than conduct bizarre experiments on concentration-camp inmates; they supervised the entire process of medical mass murder, from selecting those who were to be exterminated to disposing of corpses. Lifton (The Broken Connection; The Life of the Self shows that this medically supervised killing was done in the name of ""healing,'' as part of a racist program to cleanse the Aryan body politic. After the German eugenics campaign of the 1920s for forced sterilization of the ``unfit,''it was but one step to ``euthanasia,'' which in the Nazi context meant systematic murder of Jews. Building on interviews with former Nazi physicians and their prisoners, Lifton presents a disturbing portrait of careerists who killed to overcome feelings of powerlessness. He includes a chapter on Josef Mengele and one on Eduard Wirths, the ``kind,'' ``decent'' doctor (as some inmates described him) who set up the Auschwitz death machinery. Lifton also psychoanalyzes the German people, scarred by the devastation of World War I and mystically seeking regeneration. This profound study ranks with the most insightful books on the Holocaust. (October 1)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1986
Release date: 09/01/1986
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