When I was still in my psychiatric residency training in New York City, I was subjected to the doctor draft of that time, during the early fifties, at the time of the Korean War.
As a kid I was fascinated with sports, and I loved sports more than anything else. The first books I read were about sports, like books about Baseball Joe, as one baseball hero was called.
It may sound terrible, but I often say that the military saved me from a conventional life in the United States and I've never really thanked them for it, because I haven't exactly been pro-military in my work.
Again, I was influenced by my father, who was very much an atheist and took pride in combating the traditional or orthodox forms of Judaism, which his parents and which my mother's parents were very steeped in.
That is, we are bombarded by all kinds of images and influences and we have to fend some of them off if we're to take in any of them, or to carry through just our ordinary day's work, or really deepen whatever we have to do or say.
But when I went to Hiroshima and began to study or just listen to people's descriptions of their work, it was quite clear they were talking about death all the time, about people dying all around them, about their own fear of death.
And I thought about the psychic numbing involved in strategic projections of using hydrogen bombs or nuclear weapons of any kind. And I also thought about ways in which all of us undergo what could be called the numbing of everyday life.
One reason that I embarked on a study of Nazi doctors was that in this personal journey, I had the feeling increasingly that I did want to do a Holocaust study and that increasingly I wanted it to be of perpetrators, which I thought was more needed.
But I spent just two calendar years at Cornell University, though it was covering more than three years of work, and then went to medical school and did become interested in psychiatry, and even helped form a kind of psychiatry club in medical school.
And I managed to arrange to get some research support and to stay in Hong Kong for another year and a half, interviewing people coming out of China, both Westerners and Chinese. And that was my first real research study on thought reform or so-called brainwashing.