The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide

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The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide

By Robert Jay Lifton
Basic Books, 1986
561 pp. $19.95
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A major work on the role of doctors in the death camps, largely based on interviews with Nazi doctors who participated in mass killing or ghastly experiments and with surviving victims. A well-known psychiatrist and writer examines the psychic process-he calls it doubling-by which "banal men" performed "demonic acts." He acknowledges the few resisters and emphasizes the conduct of "decent Nazis," who were "idealistic" and who through occasional acts of normality thought themselves pure as against those doctors without any redeeming moments. Lifton believes "that most of what Nazi doctors did would be within the potential capability-at least under certain conditions-of most doctors and most people." A hedged statement that in part may account for the motivation of this study of horror-but even in Nazi Germany it was only a small group who committed these atrocities.

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