The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
Author: Robert Jay Lifton
Publisher: Basic Books
Release Date: September 23, 1986
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.