I started and discarded five versions of a question I want to ask about German doctors in the Hitler era (not all were Nazis) participating in euthanasia programs, grotesque human experimentation, and extermination, with regards to their Hippocratic oath to, first, "do no harm."

I have read several articles and excerpts from books on this topic, and some brief portions of transcripts from the so-called "Doctor's Trial" at Nuremberg (which focus mainly on the testimonies of victims, not so much on rationalizations from the doctors). Some disturbing themes do appear in some cases though, as well as some interesting psychological theories which suggest possible answers after the fact, but the psychological theories don't offer any first-hand responses from the physicians themselves (from interviews, interrogations, testimonies, journals, or memoirs).

To frame this question without it sounding like a rhetorical question ("how can someone so easily abandon such a sacred oath?" or "how can one hold an oath to Hitler as a member of the SS in such high regard while at the same time rejecting an earlier oath to do no harm?" - etc.), or without it sounding like I am seeking opinions from others (either forum members here, or others who have studied the topic after the fact without conferring with the primary sources), I have found myself having to write paragraphs and paragraphs of explanations and disclaimers. And the really long questions on this board seem to be either ignored (for lack of time or interest in reading pages of clarifying text to understand the question) or answers start popping up that indicate the whole text of the boringly long question wasn't read all the way through.

After spending a week trying to frame this question appropriately (with a lot of reference material linked or quoted), and crafting an accurate yet brief title, I have abandoned several failed attempts (failed, in my own opinion as to how well I achieved the goal of sufficient clarity so as to avoid downvotes, endless comments, or unhelpful answers as well as sufficient brevity).

But dangit I'm really interested in finding answers (and I have found a few answers from one or two of the principle physicians, however I'm seeking a pattern, if any, or additional / different answers from other physicians).

Is there a team here that could help me craft this question appropriately? I can share all the material I have read and researched thus far with interested "Question Coaches" if there is any way this could be facilitated.

Thanks in advance. If this "Question Coach" is an inappropriate question just add a comment and I will delete it.

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    Intriguing question. I appreciate the effort, and the goal. Does anyone have constructive suggestions? – MCW Sep 10 '18 at 21:11
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    Perhaps your difficulty is that the question you seem to be nosing around is not actually a history question - but rather is a philosophy question? I've not read Nietzsche myself, but what I've read about his work suggests his argument is that society's abandonment of religion leads to an amoral nihilism in many people. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 19 '18 at 11:48
  • @PieterGeerkens - yes I think you may be on to something there with that analysis. But one of the things I believe about studying history is the importance of learning lessons from it in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes., And there are so many lessons to learn from that violent period in our history, such as how can men of science and medicine so easily turn from altruistic paths to barbarism. I have found quite a bit of information on this topic actually as I have been reading further in Annie Jacobsen’s excellent book (cont’d) – Kerry L Sep 19 '18 at 14:09
  • (cont’d) Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intellugence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America, and a phsyhology research paper I found. Some of the implications are chilling, and some simply make me shake my head and moan inwardly. – Kerry L Sep 19 '18 at 14:09
  • @PieterGeerkens - I found a way to introduce this complex topic with an actual history question on Main. It opened the door for great answers that explore some of the additional questions that are naturally related. Thanks for helping me focus on finding a history approach. – Kerry L Sep 20 '18 at 17:58
  • @sempaiscuba - since excessive comments on Main are discouraged I wanted to come here and thank you for the time and painstaking effort you have taken to answer and expand on my history question on Main. – Kerry L Sep 20 '18 at 18:00
  • @LangLangC - I want to thank you as well for an excellent answer on Main. I appreciate your time and effort and attention to detail, as well as the expanded areas you explore in your thoughtful answer. – Kerry L Sep 20 '18 at 18:02

No. There is no "question coach team" or task force here.

Yes, we have a question coach team-like feature. It comes in three variants.

  1. Just ask on main. Comments and edits are there to improve the question. This works reasonably well on comparatively minor problems with questions, borderline cases of on/off topic, interesting theme but suboptimal focus. This works not so good if a question is from a novice user, blatantly off-topic, or wholly unclear for the original asker. If it is so quite clear for the asker and just sloppy in phrasing it, this can be remedied quickly. If the topic is in an area attracting controversy, like Trump, Germany, Nazis, race etc. this approach is less than ideal as the downvotes come immediately. And frankly, with these kinds of topics, a question simply has to start on a somewhat solid footing.

  2. Ask in chat. This is nice as it avoids the possible downvotes and is usually quite quick and interactive to exchange a few simple ideas and suggestions. If it's likely to result in a big exchange, you can create a separate chatroom just for this purpose.

  3. Ask on meta. This seems to be new as most come here after posting on main. This is somewhat difficult as it is really meta-meta since an answer here has to try to a certain extant to avoid posting the actual question and the actual answers in the likely ensuing back-and-forth of comments and edits. But this is likely the most powerful of the options listed so far. The above methods can be combined as needed.

  4. Use the question sandbox. This is special tool to see if a question could fly and how to safely improve it before going on main with it. A fantastic idea for testing the waters. Only problem with that is that we don not have one here. We need a feature request for that first. Just had to say it ;)

Re: the actual question for main:

Post length should not be a problem. There is a hard limit enforced by the system and I never hit it just by writing something. There are people on main writing longer posts than I do and they still get their readers and votes. The adage "if I had more time I would have written a shorter post" is of course not be dismissed and shows that you care for the reader. "Keep it simple", stupid was better defined by Einstein: "make it as simple as possible, bit not too simple". If an information is strictly necessary, include it.

In trying to keep it answerable describe your question, research and preliminary reasoning, your problems with it. As I read the question here combined with my point 1 from above it's already almost 'launchable'.

Main remaining problems seem to be language and opinion attraction. I think the language problem should be solvable, easily, with quick edits –– if there indeed remain problems. Currently it looks as if a thoughtful person is on the way of posting a good question with a great and interesting topic. To keep it factual, I'd suggest here to ask about written out psychological or psychiatrical assessments that deal with the subject on the one hand and possibly just the diaries or memoirs of the perpetrators or their helpers, family etc. The personal opinion of answerers will kreep [sic!] in anyway, but I think this approach will keep that down a bit.

There may be a structural problem you perceive with your posts so far. I do not have much other than general advice for that here: start with the biggest, most important and filter it down, keeping a recognisable thread running through it.

If this sounds broad: it is. If this sounds like "too broad", leading perhaps to closevotes, you might need another opinion on that from someone else. I do not know better than to maybe limit that to some very few, typical examples of doctors.


Currently I guess my first comment would be to ask you for clarification of "pattern": observed behaviour, suggested psychological mechanisms, assessments of those people by others ("diagnosing doctors"). And what type of assessment you are interested in: anecdotal verdicts, newspaper editorials, professional organisational verdicts or consequences, Freud-type analysis, Hannah Arendt-type…

  • A Question Sandbox is an interesting idea for a feature request. I had a similar thought. But on further reflection I have some doubts, only because of what it could turn into - I foresee cats using it for, well, what cats use sandboxes for, unless the same posting and commenting guidelines are applied in the sandbox as on Main. Or - Questions could end up living there without ever migrating to Main (and sure, that could be ok in some cases). I’m planning to start attempt #6 usu g some of your suggestions. – Kerry L Sep 11 '18 at 12:52
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    @KerryL I actually tried to start a question sandbox for History some years ago, but it was very poorly received. Unless public opinions has changed on that since then, I think probably one simply has to brave the storm to ask in main, or test the waters in chat. – Semaphore Sep 11 '18 at 13:47
  • @Semaphore is there a feature here that offers a way to start drafting a Question (and save the Draft before posting) - it will take a while to write and format this particular Question, which would make it helpful while I am at work to spend a few minutes here and there on it and save the draft(s) for later completion when I get home from work. Maybe that would be a better feature request (in my case anyway) than a Sandbox. – Kerry L Sep 11 '18 at 14:24
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    @KerryL When you start a post, drafts are (supposed to be) automatically saved periodically. Should be available when you open the link to ask questions again, assuming you're logged in. Be aware it tends to get swallowed after a few days, I've lost a number of longer answers when I dithered too long. – Semaphore Sep 11 '18 at 14:28
  • @Semaphore - ah, ok that may help. I do expect a certain amount of dithering so we'll see how that goes :-) – Kerry L Sep 11 '18 at 14:30
  • @Semaphore I have more than one complex Question in flight at present (besides this one mentioned above, I am also constructing a Question on Operation Anthropoid - the Czech / Slavic / British mission to assassinate Heydrich)... it would be nice to be able to have drafts of multiple Q's. Worth considering as a feature request in your opinion? – Kerry L Sep 11 '18 at 15:03
  • @KerryL You'll have to ask on Meta.SE although I'd just use an external tool. – Semaphore Sep 11 '18 at 16:00
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    @KerryL You might want to have a look at external tools for drafts.. The built-in editor has proven quite unreliable for me. – LаngLаngС Sep 11 '18 at 17:39
  • @LangLangC OOOOOoooooooohhhhh – Kerry L Sep 11 '18 at 17:53
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    I just added a couple of markdown editors to Chrome (I primarily use Chrome for browsing, including SE, so, no brainer)... StackEdit and Minimalist Markdown Editor - I'm using StackEdit at the moment (it seems both can save and open files locally or via DropBox or Google Drive)... – Kerry L Sep 12 '18 at 2:21
  • (cont'd) Since I carry a ChromeBook with me everywhere, having an inline tool for on the go access seems like a good option. Gonna try it out and see how compatible the generated markdown is with SE. Thanks for the idea. – Kerry L Sep 12 '18 at 2:21

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