Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 254  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
Chapter 14 

Killing with Syringes:
Phenol Injections

  But then instead of doing it for medical purposes, it was for killing …. It was very much like a medical ceremony …. They were so careful to keep the full pecision of a medical process — but with the aim of killing. That was what was so shocking.   
  — Auschwitz prisoner doctor   
The most medical of all Auschwitz killing methods was the phenol injection, which was institutionalized during the relatively early phases of Auschwitz. A patient was brought to a treatment room and there administered a drug by a physician or (in most cases) his assistant, who wore a white coat and used a syringe and needle for the injection In camp jargon, there were the active verb spritzen (“to inject, squirt, spray”), the passive verb abgespritzt (“to be injected off,” or killed), and equivalent noun forms meaning “syringing” and “phenoling.”¹

Phenol injections were associated, in their early phase, with the direct medical killing of the “euthanasia” project. Thus Dr. Friedrich Entress, who organized the injections in Auschwitz, testified in 1947 that he had received what he called an order on euthanasia from Dr. Enno Lolling, chief of SS concentration-camp medicine, stating that “incurably mentally ill persons, incurable tuberculosis patients, and those permanently incapable of work” were to be killed. Later that order was expanded to include “sick prisoners whose recovery was not possible within four weeks.” The order probably arrived in mid-or late 1941, when the Nazis were searching for efficient killing methods; in early 1942, at least two hundred prisoners with tuberculosis had been killed with phenol on Entress’s orders.²*
* Entress remembered the first order as arriving in May 1942, but Langbein is convinced that he was in error concerning the date, since the phenol killings were under way in fall   1941. Dr. Jan W. told me that “every day in 1942, twenty to thirty or more were killed this way.” Most victims were Jews, but other prisoners were also murdered by phenol.
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 254 Forward  Next Page