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The role of the Nazi medical professionals in the Holocaust - Essay Example

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The role of the Nazi medical professionals in the Holocaust: What was it, what happened and why How was it possible, and could it happen again If so, can it be prevented This involves evil acts by those who were supposed to have sworn to protect human life and morals…
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The role of the Nazi medical professionals in the Holocaust
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Download file to see previous pages The id is the violent, animalistic side that comes to the fore in moments of stress and also within wars, when the power of the superego (laws, norms etc.) becomes diluted (Jones, 1955). The case of the Nazi medical professionals, who indulged in a series of experiments that ranged from the nominally 'medical' to the outright sadistic, seems to suggest that given the opportunity, many people, and even those who are meant to be dedicated to caring for people will allow the id that has been lurking within them to fore.
This essay will deal with both the general tendencies of Nazi rule that led to the doctors' involvement in various atrocities, from euthanasia of infants to selections of those to go to the gas chambers to medical experiments, together with the specifics of some of the people involved. The questions of "how" and "why" are often linked within this study. As will be seen, many of the doctors seemed to be able to convince themselves that what they were doing was at least nominally in the interests of medical science. William Shirer (1959) presents the situation very well. He states that
Thus the Nazi medical experiments must be considered not only from the relatively small number of doctors who actually took an active part in them, but also the tens of thousands other doctors who passively endorsed the experiments through their silence.
This overall complicity of the German medical community within the Holocaust in general may be partially explained by the indoctrination to Nazi principles that had occurred with the steady development of Nazi hegemony within Germany. As Robert Lifton (2000) puts it, "the oath of loyalty to Hitler they took as SS military officers was much more real to them than a vague ritual performed at medical school" (p.207). Even for those doctors who were not members of the SS there was a sense of loyalty to the state that was perhaps much more real than the Hippocratic oath they had probably taken decades before.
As with many of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, those performed by doctors did not start at the extremes, but rather gradually developed. Thus medical doctors were first used to perform the "mercy killing" or "euthanasia" of the mentally handicapped, the physically handicapped and those that were terminally ill or otherwise regarded as a burden to the Nazi state. This started with the killing of "idiot children" and the severely "mentally ill" (Lifton, p.180). Such killing was also accomplished through essentially letting newborn babies with defects die. Doctors argued that "there was no justification for keeping such a child alive" (Lifton, p.51). It is interesting to note that the act of killing is transformed into a more passive definition of "not keeping" the child alive.
In these initial stages of using doctors within the Nazi plan for dominance, the Nazi hierarchy, on Hitler's explicit instruction, was careful to consider the sensibilities of those involved with the killing. Thus a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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