Robert Jay Lifton has written an exceptional work, thoroughly and painstakingly researched, and above all, he presents an analysis of the psychopathology of the Nazi doctors that is so well-thought out and well-presented that I recommend this book above all others for my students of criminal profiling. His discourse on the nature of evil and its place and use in society is unmatched in any book I have read to date. Pat Brown, Director/Investigative Criminal Profiler/The Sexual Homicide Exchange of Washington DC and Vicinity
If you only read one book about doctors under Hitler then this is the one. Lifton not only focuses on the leading medical figures in the Third Reich, but also includes eyewitness testimony and disturbing accounts from victims. He offers numerous theories on how medical professionals turned into dispassionate killers in the name of "scientific research." A must read for anyone interested in behavioral pathology.
This is a very carefully researched book which deserves to be read. It not only covers the involvement by doctors in medical killing but also investigates their psychology. For those interested in medical ethics I'm sure it would be worth reading.
The first half of this book charts the historical progression from direct medical killing of those deemed to be 'life unworthy of life' (often mental patients) through to the most complete expression found in Auschwitz. We see how the medical ideal can be twisted by subverting it to the 'higher' ideal of caring for the health of the social organism by surgically removing the 'ailing' parts.
We are presented with the complex factors involved in this process. The religious, visionary component of the 'world blessing' which the Nazi's have to offer and the purported modelling of the SS on the Jesuits. The scientific component with the interest in eugenics and the 'research' which is carried out. Rudolf Hess declared that National Socialism is 'nothing but applied biology.' And the sense in which some of it is just part of the zeitgeist. The author suggests that there was a fear in Germany that they could fall behind work which was being done in the USA on eugenics. In addition there is the sense of humiliation and disintegration which remains from the First World War. There was a widely accepted right-wing theory that Germany hadn't been militarily defeated but had been undermined by strikes in munitions factories which had been orchestrated by Communists and Jews.
From here, the author offers brief biographies and psychological profiles of Ernst B., Josef Mengele and Eduard Wirths before turning his attention to the psychology of genocide.
There is also an examination of how the development of 'professionalism' results in detachment and objectivity - a psychological 'doubling' which the author has shown to be present in each of his case studies. He suggests that this splitting of the psyche is an important factor in leading towards genocide. Not just doctors but any profession would be advised to reflect on the author's message here and to examine to what extent their professionalism compromises their integrity as a human being.
As you may anticipate, there are moments when this book proves upsetting. It is not an easy read. However, I never felt that the unpleasant incidents were recounted in a gratuitous way. It reminded me of Henry Charles Lea's 'A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages.' You may wish to try to get hold of Lea's book (3 volumes) to compare and contrast.
This book was the best that I have read. It was a required reading and I went into it with a bad attitude. But, as soon as I began to read it I realized that this was a really good book. I recommend it too anyone that wishes to know what Hitler and his men were thinking. It provides an excellent discription and analysis of what the Nazi Doctors were thinking and the emotional stress that they were going through. It is definatly not for the weak.
A very good and well written book which not only tells of The doctors who did the operations and experiments in Auschwitz but also gives and insight as to the power they had in the camp for instance they were the main parties who did the selections for people who lived, died and was experimented on. It also tells of the psychology of their thinking, how they turned from being good doctors into the murderers/torturers they became. By thinking the Jewish people were doomed anyway they considered these people as an abundance of guinea pigs to experiment on with unclean instruments and without anesthetic in many cases. They considered that they would never again have so many men, women and children at their mercy to experiment on so freely without question. After the experiments had come to an end they just sent these people to the gas chambers or injected them with phenol.
I have not picked up "Nazi Doctors" in years, but just seeing it on my book shelf awakens the images that the book produces. It was so disturbing and descriptive that I was unable to finish it. The book was handed down by my father, a medical doctor, whom couldn't finish it either. It's excellently written, but not for the weak.
Purchased this book mainly on the strengths of the previous reviews...and because I have read the author before. Very grim reading as you would expect, but some interesting hypothesis and conclusions. Recommended.