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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into the darkness of war.
Fascinating looks at the psychological make up of some of the most infamous people who, in absolute hatred of Jews and other so called undesirables, committed unforgivable crimes against humanity during the Second World War. The author gives a good case study of each of these doctors, and attempts to give an explanation as to why they believed their experiments were in...
Published on Dec 21 2003 by Flanger

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3.0 out of 5 stars Not deep enough
This book is based on direct interviews with a number of Nazi Doctors, but rarely quotes from them. It covers a wide range of issues, but delves deeply into few of them.
It purports to be a pyschological insight into why the Nazi doctors did what they did, and how the psychological mechanisms worked that allowed them to operate. Though Lifton is a Professor of...
Published on July 19 2003 by shaw6


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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into the darkness of war., Dec 21 2003
By 
This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
Fascinating looks at the psychological make up of some of the most infamous people who, in absolute hatred of Jews and other so called undesirables, committed unforgivable crimes against humanity during the Second World War. The author gives a good case study of each of these doctors, and attempts to give an explanation as to why they believed their experiments were in the name of medical research. Chilling but real.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not deep enough, July 19 2003
By 
shaw6 (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
This book is based on direct interviews with a number of Nazi Doctors, but rarely quotes from them. It covers a wide range of issues, but delves deeply into few of them.
It purports to be a pyschological insight into why the Nazi doctors did what they did, and how the psychological mechanisms worked that allowed them to operate. Though Lifton is a Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, I didn't find his explanations particularly insightful. He repeats a few key ideas often, without going into how these mechanisms work. Instead, he fills the book with detail of what they did.
On balance, it added little to my understanding of the subject. The detail of what the Nazi Doctors did is readily available elsewhere.
I was hoping to find first hand accounts, of which very little was included, and psychological insights. Perhaps it would have been more useful if he had covered fewer people and situations in more depth, with more analysis.
He actually spoke to these people, but the book mostly reads as drily as any history book.
Disappointing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for those concerned with bioethics!, June 8 2003
By 
K. L Sadler "Dr. Karen L. Sadler" (Freedom, Pa. USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
When I read The Origins of Nazi Genocide, which came out in 1995, the author referred to this original book concerning the physicians and scientists who had exploited the 'situation' in Germany to their own ends. I had also come across references to this book in many, many professional papers...yet, made the stupid decision that I didn't need to read it. I finally decided I had to read this when my advisor in science education recommended it because he was using it in teaching bioethics to science teachers.
Though Friedlander's book is excellent, and was my introduction to The Medical Holocaust (especially as concerned the disabled) Lifton's book goes much further and deals with the physician/scientists within the concentration camps as well as in the psychiatric institutions which became involved in the killing machinery of the Nazis. Lifton's book explores the rationalizations made by these men to take advantage of a situation to experiment on those who could not give informed consent. Though Lifton tends to make a few speculations concerning motives from his interviews with physicians who were not prosecuted or were absolved of their involvement in these camps...his speculations are on target (mostly) and he backs up his statements with the words of these doctors from letters and interviews with those people who had the most to do with them: the prisoner physicians forced to work in these environments not only to save their own lives, but the lives of so many others.
Of course, more information is in this book concerning the atrocities. Sometimes, I had to put the book down and leave it for a while because the information is so horrendous. It is so beyond belief that so many physicians could rationalize the experimentation, using a statement I've grown to recognize in legal documents and even in newspapers in the U.S. ('for the good of society'). I just cringe now when I see this or sentences like this. Science should never replace the rights of the individuals. And scientists are never objective...they have the same prejudices and biases that society has and it permeates their work...to the point of biasing the information they find.
My only complaint about Lifton's book is occasional repetition or dwelling on certain topics/agendas. Sometimes, it seemed as if I had just reread the same pages, but Lifton was trying to make a point in most of these cases, or make a case for what he was saying...
The need to teach ethics in all fields of endeavors, including medicine and research science is all the more important today. If we don't, the work of Lifton and FRiedlander to remind the world of the horrors of The MEdical Holocaust will have been in vain. The slippery slope is growing with advanced technology, genomics, cloning, and stem cell use, without the accompanying legal protections. The Nuremberg Code, etched into the history of mankind in 1947, seems to have been forgotten.
To remind your students of the need for morals and ethics within all fields, this book is a necessary addition for required reading. I will certainly make it required for those I work with....
Karen Sadler,
Science Education,
University of Pittsburgh
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good but no objective, May 12 2003
By 
M. Gray "GrayGhost" (California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
This was a all around informative book. I enjoyed reading it and it changed my perspective of the Nazis. It just proves my theory that this is what happens when you take yourself to seriously. It just amazes me that these were doctor and yet they still never used common sense.
As the narrative goes, it is well written and thought out. He interviewed numerous doctor and survivors and amassed a large enough fact to construct a clear recount of the concentration camps. At most though this is a history book and most defitinely not a psychology book. Yes the author makes evaluations and tries to explain but it is very poor. He'll state an event and then throw in his two sense about what was going on. Everything is objective till he expresses his opinion and then it becomes boring. He is jewish but that doesn't mean that he couldn't of written an objective account. He simple doesn't try. He acts like he is compeled to speak his mind, almost ruining the entire chapter you had just read.
I give him a five as a historian but a two in his opinions.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint of Heart, Feb. 27 2003
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A. A Slezak "Incredulous Reader" (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
I heard many stories about the Nazi Doctors in the war but I had always wondered why they were the way they were and how could they live with themselves. Well this book gave a pretty good explanation on how these Doctors were. I found each of the Doctors facinating and peculiar in their own manner.
I was surprised that the Doctors did all the selecting and treated the people as cattle. They thought they were being the least cruel in this manner because the people suffered less. I also learned that typhus was one of the biggest diseases at the time. It was interesting to find out that only 15% of the people even had a chance to survive and the rest went straight to the gas chambers. Some of the Doctors were vicious while others were able to get away with not being cruel and inhuman.
I have to admit I thought Mengele was quite a character in the way that he treated people. He thought he was so superior and the story of the eyes that people had that were different colors that he set out to other colleges in Germany, well that was pretty twisted.
Also the part about him asking the kids if they wanted a ride in his car and he would drive them to the gas chambers was pretty psycho.
Overall this was a well written book but it was also very graphic so you should take care when you decide to read this one.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, flawed book, Sept. 26 2002
By 
N'body (Brooklyn, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
This book is a must for anyone interested in the direct psycho-social and material circumstances of the Final Solution--an enterprise that most people have found awesomely cruel. Like Arendt's _Eichmann in Jerusalem,_ _The Nazi Doctors_ attempts to demystify the motives of Holocaust perpetrators--in this case SS doctors and medical workers--and ends up contributing greatly to a modern, enlightened, psychological understanding of "evil." The formalization of Lifton's extensive research is probably what will continue to bring new readers to _The Nazi Doctors_. Despite the importance and persuasiveness of his overall thesis (that "medicalized killing" played an essential and often overlooked role in the Holocaust), Lifton's psychological theorizing about the etiology of individual doctors' behavior is usually either obvious or, if not obvious, simple. Of course there is no harm in stating simple ideas or facts, especially if they are new or have been overlooked. There is no harm, either, in stating the obvious: of course there are those to whom it isn't yet obvious. But this book states and restates basic psychological theories, and then summarizes its statements and restatements. For example, Lifton points to, among other things, a sort of psychological "doubling" phenomenon that took place in the personalities of Auschwitz doctors--most of whom began life as relatively normal people. This doubling allowed them to separate the non-murderous versions of themselves--the family men, the husbands, the fathers--from the men who felt compelled by circumstance or duty or some deviant inner need to conduct selections, murders, cruel pseudoscientific experiments, etc., on innocent people. While certainly true, it's a simple idea and could have been stated in far fewer pages and invoked far less often without thwarting the author's ends. It is Lifton's application of the idea, rather than the idea itself, which is original. The fact that he goes on for so long explaining such things makes the book seem bloated. This is a terrible injustice to his research. An added weakness for ostentatiously academic formulations makes Lifton seem at times almost unsure of the book's importance. I suppose the thing among career academics is to make a name with novel ideas. Though Lifton clearly succeeds in accomplishing a lot more than that, one can't help but feel subjected to a secondary effort to satisfy a tenure board. (The book was written in the mid-eighties, as straightforwardness was first being widely discouraged by the mainstream academy.) The real core of the book, for these reasons, is the unself-conscious, highly instructive, and direct middle section documenting the careers of Nazi doctors, among them Mengele and Wirths. Even the prose style in this section seems strikingly fluent in comparison with the rest of the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT!!!!, June 7 2002
By 
Clara M. Fuller (Florence, SC USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
Written by a Jewish psychologist, this book should be required reading for anyone interested in Nazi Germany. Lifton explains the psychology behind the Nazi directives - how Hitler was able to convince a nation that it was Ok to exterminate millions of people with the stamp of approval by medical doctors. Of course, these doctors have their own stories - some performed horrible experiments on their concentration camp test subjects, some were Jewish doctors trying to minimize the pain of these experiments. The pages are filled with facts, personal stories, psychological commentary, and an insightful overview of the implementation of the Final Solution. This book clearly shows how this tragedy occurred and how truly close we are to having it occur again. It is not an easy read because it will make you think and make you feel...and hopefully, make you change.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Best of its kind, but.., April 15 2002
This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
This is the best book out there on Nazi doctors. Lifton covers topics outside just Nazi doctors at death camps such as the Euthanasia program. His chapters on Mengele and Wirths were very good too. And he has a ton of primary sources such as interviews, letters, diaries, and memoirs. Also, unlike other books written by scholars, Lifton's writing is not stuffy and boring. Instead, the book reads very well and quickly. The only reason I gave the book 4 stars rather than 5 is because I felt the last 2-3 chapters on the psychology of the doctors was somewhat boring. Other than that, a great book on a somewhat seldom covered topic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Within its context, a Masterpiece, Feb. 17 2002
By 
Daniel J. Cragg (Springfield, Virginia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
Any serious study of the Third Reich leads inevitably to the Holocaust. My interest started well over 40 years ago when I lived in Germany and discussed the wartime years with individual Germans freely. I asked myself, "How could these intelligent and decent people have been taken in by Hitler?" And when one considers the Holocaust the question becomes, "How could they have done that?" While Lifton's study considers only medical professionals, I think his explanations, "doubling" (division of the self into two wholes so that one acts as the entire whole), "numbing" (getting so used to horror you don't notice it anymore), and "genocidal bureaucracy" (normalizing murder), can be made to apply to everyone involved with the Nazi concentration camp system. This becomes apparent if you have read Gitta Sereny's examination of Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka, or the memoirs Rudolh Hoss, commandant of Auschwitz (superbly edited by Steven Paskuly). But everyone everywhere uses these psychological devices on occasion and for good reason. Police officers, for instance, are taught that they must compartmentalize themselves into a "street self" and a "private self," so the private self, the self that is revolted by criminal behaviors, does not assert itself on the streets and cause an officer to take the law into his own hands. Lifton does not seem to realize this when he tries to draw comparisons between Nazi genocidal murderers and the experiences of Vietnam combat veterans and the arms race. I think having figured out why A-B-C & D went wrong, he thinks he can apply that formula to everyone else in the alphabet. This applies to many psychologists who spend their lives trying to quantify human beings. Well, in combat you kill to survive. The other guy, after all, is trying to kill you. And the arms race was undertaken because of the very real threat the Soviet Union presented to the freedom-loving peoples of the world. When it came to murder and concentration camps, the Stalinists were second only to the Nazis. I lived through all of Vietnam and the Cold War and I say, thank God for strong men armed. But despite Lifton's left-liberal biases, I gave this book the five stars it so richly deserves. First, Lifton deserves credit for having the courage and endurance to write this book and second, his explanations work, within the context of his subject here, and he is correct that given the proper circumstances, people can be led to condone murder.
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4.0 out of 5 stars From reader in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Dec 24 2001
By 
Practising Catholic "Cardinal Lustiger" (VICTORIA, British Columbia Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide (Paperback)
A difficult book to read, not only because of its sickening subject matter, but for one who lacks a knowledge of the depth psychology described/postulated, as causes for this aberrant behaviour.
My experience is that the reader needs some knowledge not so much of abnormal psychology, but of depth psychology and philosophy.
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The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide
The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide by Robert Jay Lifton (Paperback - April 12 1988)
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