This book explores the question of how doctors, who are sworn to do no harm, became the integral organizers and managers of the Nazi death camps. Through exhaustive interviews with these doctors, people who knew them, and camp survivors, Lifton arrives at more than just individual psychological profiles of these professional killers. He presents us rather with a dense, psychosocial exploration of the dynamics of state-organized terror, along with enough history to describe the milieu in which these dynamics evolved. (Many people will be surprised to discover that the eugenics movement, which fueled the Nazi terror, had a large following in the United States during the 1930's.) The book reads like a novel in parts (especially the chapter on Josef Megele). However, I found the introduction one of the most interesting sections; in it Lifton describes the process he went through to gather and analyze his data. This included interviewing ex-Nazi doctors, who suspected or knew outright that Lifton himself is Jewish. Lifton's descriptions of the little verbal dances he and these doctors did around the German/Jewish conflict are fascinating.....For obvious reasons this book is not an "easy read," despite the quality of the writing. It will literally give you bad dreams. However, those dreams will spring from the collective human experience which we all share. For that reason this book is important to read.
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
In this reviewer's opinion, Lifton's book is the definitive work on the subject of Nazi doctors; in this book, he has pulled together more details and information about his subjects on a scale that has yet to be surpassed. From the origins of the Nazi "bio-medical vision" (his term) to "euthanasia," to the full-blown scale of the Final Solution, a clear-cut transition into mass murder and genocide is presented in light of a tremendous number of lives and times of Nazi perpetrators, whose betrayal of the Hippocratic Oath is shocking. Lifton's original research is in itself a work of tremendous value; he personally interviewed many former Nazi doctors, survivors that bore direct witness to their crimes, as well as the Jewish and non-Jewish doctors that became collaborators with their Nazi superiors. So many accounts of their lives and deeds abound within the pages of this book...their experiences speak for themselves to add to the growing portrait of the medical profession in light of Nazism. In this reviewer's opinion, Part III, which deals with the doctors in Auschwitz, is the most integral part of the book, with Chapter 16 being one of the most prominent chapters, as its subject, Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous doctor that never ended up living and being caught for his insurmountable cruelty, is given a human face that cuts through all the years of myth, legend, and hype surrounding his career and medical experiments. There is one weak part of the book, evident in its sub-heading: "Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide." While it is incumbent that readers will judge for themselves the validity and integrity of psychoanalysis in history, this reviewer finds this an appropriate element suitable for another book. Psychoanalysis and history, in essence, should not be combined, as they themselves are two totally different areas not meant to be combined with the risk of considerable distortion and misunderstanding. Part IV of this book can be coined the Psycho-historical aspect of this work, as Freudian methods abound. Its psychoanalytical bearing notwithstanding, this book is absolutely riveting, tremendously exhaustive and interesting, and original. It is crucial to the understanding of the Nazi doctors that were trained (and sworn) to be healers, and who became killers and traitors of the most basic of human moral codes. Absolutely crucial to any understanding of Holocaust perpetrators and the driving force behind the genocide.
For somebody just interested in what went on in the "Nazi bio-medical vision" or the researcher, I highly recommend it. Robert J. Lifton gives a highly detailed account from survivors and even medical personnel that were present. His book steers clear of fabricated stories and really tries to underline the truth behind this tragedy. I bought this book 2-3 years ago, and I still cannot put it down. The true-life stories behind this book really leave an impression no one can deny. So like one reviewer on this book commented, I also must say if this is the only book you'll ever read on this subject, this is the one to read.
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 book was one of the best books I have read in a long time. Lifton used a very clear language and did an exellent job presenting the mentality of the who carried out the most gruesom job of the final solution. He was very discriptive and the book lead into the big question: Should we use their research or brush it off because of the way it was gathered.
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.
This book will give insight to that haunting question.Thought provoking,answered the question for me.Detachment, most prevalent in the "practice"of medicine, can be dangerous.You will never view a physician in the same way again.Hazardous to your health to not read.
This is an excellent book which is relevant to our times in that we have systematically done away with the Hippocratic Oath. History can indeed repeat itself and this book shows what happens when doctors are allowed to become mere biological technicians instead of healers.