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The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
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The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  3,074 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Nazi doctors did more than conduct bizarre experiments on concentration-camp inmates; they supervised the entire process of medical mass murder, from selecting those who were to be exterminated to disposing of corpses. Lifton (The Broken Connection; The Life of the Self shows that this medically supervised killing was done in the name of "healing," as part of a racist prog ...more
Paperback, 561 pages
Published 1986 by Basic Books
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Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. Not for the faint of heart. Martin Amis used this as background for his novel Time's Arrow.
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, european-history
"National Socialism is nothing more than applied biology," said Deputy Party Leader Rudolf Hess at a 1934 meeting. Robert Jay Lifton, professor of psychiatry and psychology, examines the role medical doctors played in the Nazi genocidal project. From its beginnings, with the sterilizations of the unfit, the "euthanasia" of mentally defective or handicapped children, followed by adults, to its apotheosis in Auschwitz with the medical experiments of Josef Mengele and others, and the attempt to era ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-third-reich
I got my hands on this book after my Mom helped a librarian friend clean out the Stillwater High School library's non-fiction section. Since they're just going to toss the books anyway, she often sets aside any Third Reich related materials for me. I think they do this weeding because non-fiction becomes out of date so quickly, and library's use the average copyright date of their materials to gauge how up to date their collection is. In any case, after reading the book I felt that the HS could ...more
There are several points that get to the crux of this book. One is from the preface; Lifton, having interviewed both Nazi and prisoner doctors, was asked by one of the prisoner doctors "Were they monsters?" "No" he replied, "They were human beings." The prisoner doctor opined that it would've been simpler if they were monsters--but the book makes plain that it's not so simple.

Another critical point deals with a prisoner doctor who is sent to escort a child through the camp. He felt eyes on the c
Erik Graff
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Kelly Kingdon
Shelves: history
Lifton, a psychiatric physician and teacher himself, has written a host of books, many of them treating of the threat of nuclear war, all of them with a decided ethical concern, a concern which can be related to what Freud termed the 'thanatos' or death instinct. How does it happen, he asks, that people can become so destructive, so evil?

While treating of early Nazi extermination practices (f.i., of the disabled and infirm), most of this book concerns itself with Auschwitz, that enormous complex
Sep 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how one decides how to rate a book on such heinous crimes. I can't say that I enoyed it or that I would go about waving the book in the air recommending it to others. What I can say is that this author offers a well-researched historical account of the genocide movement which began and advanced insidiously during the pre-war era and reached epic proportions during WWII. The questions raised in The Nazi Doctors are not dissimiliar to the issues we debate when considering capital puni ...more
Katherine Addison
This is an astounding book. On a second reading, I am, if possible, even more impressed by Robert Jay Lifton than I was the first time. He takes on an enormous question--how did doctors under the Nazis come to participate in the genocide of the Jews?--and not only does he answer it, but the bulk of his research is interviews with surviving Nazi doctors.

The idea makes my skin crawl, and I'm not Jewish. Robert Jay Lifton is.

So one of the things I admire in this book is Lifton's courage and honesty
Anne Hawn Smith
This book is so hard to read...not from the writing, but the events and the people who perpetrated them. I am finding that I can only read a few pages at a time. The book is extremely well researched with footnotes and an extensive bibliography. A great deal of it comes from actual interviews.

The extent of Nazi crimes is far more unimaginable that I could have ever thought and nothing is worse than doctors, who are trained to heal, turning into killers. The book deals with the SS doctors, German
Andrea Hickman Walker
I wanted to like this book, but I found it surprisingly dry and uninteresting. It's a topic that fascinates me, so I'm really surprised that I had to force myself to read this, and eventually just gave up.
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. Not for the faint of heart. Martin Amis used this book as background for his novel Time's Arrow.
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ending my 2017 with this book seems negative, but i just want to remind myself how weak our kindness could be altered due to different circumstances.
It was a very heavy book to read, also quite thick with many chapters of case studies.
I think the prefaces say the points about human rationalized their behaviors even though it's apparently wrong.

the evil of banality is everywhere.
below i copied preface to keep
本书的顺序如下:在这篇前言的后一部分,将谈谈我总体的心理学方法, 我的那些访谈,以及相伴而来的道德问题;然后,我将介绍基本的
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: World War II buffs, undergraduates, Holocaust students
Recommended to Michael by: serendipity
In this book, Robert Jay Lifton sought to understand how people trained to heal and protect life became involved as perpetrators of genocide and the destruction of life. It remains significant as a book which ties together the early eugenics laws and operations to sterilize or euthanize undesirables with the ultimate development of mass killings on the Russian front and in the extermination camps. It also remains one of the most comprehensive analyses of the men who carried out the selections wi ...more
Jeremiah Johnson
Jan 22, 2008 rated it liked it
A terrifying description of what humans are capable of doing to one another. Lifton does a wonderful job of dispelling the Nazi Doctor's mythical reputation while dutifully and accurately recording the horrors they committed. Exhaustingly researched and full of eye-witness interviews from both "patients" and "doctors"; this book should be on the shelf of every primary school and university library in the world.
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-issues
For anyone who wants to understand a little bit about how a society can become so comfortable with 1.2 million abortions in the US every year (over 42 million worldwide every year), this is a must-read. Many of the steps used by the Nazis to channel the medical profession into killing millions can be seen in what the pro-aborts have done. I'll plan to write more about this on my blog (, please check it out.
Vasil Kolev
Feb 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
There's one thing that any author can learn from Lifton, and that's being as honest as possible with your readers.

Even though a Jew and even though he has some really personal feelings (which get in the way at some places) he paints a really good picture of everything and gives the reader the possibility to think for himself and to understand the issues.

Also, through the book you can't stop asking yourself "What would I do in this situation?"
I've always been fascinated in what makes people become monsters, and this books details the chilling metamorphoses of several with all of their delusional reasons and lingering mysteries. This is a very, very difficult read--the horrors leap off the pages and gave at least me nightmares. But I still think this is a very important book and a valuable read.
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, in-depth look at how those who were charged with healing and saving lives as physicians were psychologically able to commit the horrendous crimes that they did during WWII. A must read for everyone on how "normal" people, healers even, could make the psychological adjustments necessary to allow themselves to be part of a genocidal machine; and those who could not.
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and chilling account of the process known as the healing-killing paradox in which doctors under the Nazi regime utilized their skills for death rather than life. I used this as a major component for my senior research seminar, and may challenge the author's concept of psychological doubling in future works, most likely my Master's Thesis.
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If this book doesn't alter the way you view our society today I don't know if anything will. This is far more than a chilling history.
Molly Felth
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A meticulously-researched, horrifyingly factual portrayal of the evil committed by the major Nazi players, especially Dr. Mengele. Not for the faint of heart by any means, I had to put this book down at times because it is so psychologically disturbing. I have an academic and historical interest in Nazis and WWII, and this book contains information that was entirely new to me. Expect detailed accounts of human atrocity told from the point of view of a factual narrator. I appreciate what I know a ...more
Lord Zion
May 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Couldn't finish this book, I'm afraid. It is very formal and academic; factual and linear. It's like reading an encyclopaedia or Wiki entry.

The information within the book is, of course, interesting and accurate but presented in such a dry manner that I just couldn't absorb it and found myself re-reading sentences over and over, just to make the info stick.

I appreciate this is my failing and I feel bad criticising such a well received and well researched book. I prefer personal stories and accou
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
This huge study, taken on by Lifton, must have been very painful in its execution. If you hated Nazis and Aryans before you read this, you will become enraged at their presumptuous impression that THEIR race was the only one that should survive in this world. Ugh. Anyone could be a target for murder: elderly, people with mental illness, homosexuals, Romanians, ...and Jews.

However, when you see Animals as sentient beings, instead of flesh on a plate, you are not as shocked by cruelty to humans as
Ronald Wilcox
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very hard to read both because of the density of some of the writing but more so because of the disturbing nature of the material. I could only read 50-75 pages then had to go read another book (or three) and come back.
Roy B.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Contains interesting information I had not previously encountered, but I found the book overly long. I forced myself to continue reading past about 1/2 the book, and finally quit about 3/4 the way into it.
Paul Gaschen
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing exploration of medicine and the Nazi ethics of killing. It took me so long to read because much of it is difficult to absorb, but in the end it was worth it. As a medical student, I would highly recommend this to all in the medical profession.
Sophie Stokes
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure if I ever thought I would complete this book. It's a really important read, especially for those working as psychiatrists (or any doctor really).
Took me nearly two years to finish this book; it is harrowing and I took many breaks while reading this.
Yischuan Pflaume
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Enrst B aka Hans Muench
Cat Noe
May 12, 2017 rated it liked it
A dark read, but as far as what he could have said, it's manageable enough, given what's been left out. I still had nighmares, but I appreciated his moderation and discretion.

The history and interview based part rated an easy five stars. It was insightful, informative, unbiased as far as I could see, and packed with relevant details. As difficult as this must have been for the author, I have nothing but respect for what he's done there.

It falls apart at the end, however. Faustian bargains and al
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Chilling. An important book.
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
THE book to read on this subject tbh
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans
  • The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them
  • Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience
  • The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942
  • Auschwitz
  • Mengele: The Complete Story
  • Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust
  • The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders
  • Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Extermination, 1939-1945
  • Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz
  • Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land
  • The Destruction of the European Jews
  • Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz
  • Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps
  • The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS
  • Treblinka
  • Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers
  • The Holocaust Chronicle
Robert Jay Lifton is an American psychiatrist and author, chiefly known for his studies of the psychological causes and effects of war and political violence and for his theory of thought reform. He was an early proponent of the techniques of psychohistory.
“In all fundamentalisms, and they are usually religious or political, there is the sense of profound threat to what are considered fundamental beliefs and symbols, and a compensatory invocation of a sacred text (the Bible, the Koran, Mein Kampf) as a literal guide to every form of action. History stops so that murderous therapy can be applied. While medicine does not provide the sacred text, one can revert to ancient practices of shamans, witch doctors, and tricksters who could be expected to kill in order to heal. For physicians as well as charismatic spiritual physicians, there is a release from Hippocratic restraint.” 0 likes
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