Thursday, May 14, 2020

T-4 euthanasia program began killing people with disabilities 80 years ago.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Nazi doctors at Nurembourg trial.
Many people are unaware that the Nazi T-4 euthanasia program created the method of mass killing that was then implemented in the holocaust killing camps.

I have published excellent articles about the Nazi T-4 euthanasia program but this new article by Matt Lebovic, published last week by The Times of Israel is an excellent historical account of how the T-4 euthanasia program led to the mass killing of Jewish people, and others. Lebovic writes:

Eighty years ago this week, the most lethal “T4” euthanasia center began implementing “merciful deaths” for physically and mentally disabled Germans.

Hartheim Castle was not far from Austria’s Linz, where Adolf Hitler grew up. With Renaissance roots, the sprawling castle’s colonnaded courtyard was used by the Nazis for one of Hartheim’s two crematoria.

The plan for so-called “useless eaters” to be killed came from Nazi theories of eugenics, “racial hygiene,” and social Darwinism. By the end of the war, an estimated 230,000 people with physical or mental disabilities were murdered in “T4” and its successor program, sometimes called “wild euthanasia.”
Tiergartenstrasse 4
Lebovic explains how the euthanasia program worked:

Hitler’s 1939 decree had specified doctors should determine who receives “merciful deaths,” so the “T4” operation had to be given a medical appearance. Not only did doctors determine who died, but they usually operated the carbon monoxide gas tap at killings.

Within days of Hitler’s “merciful death” order, a euthanasia apparatus was set up to eliminate thousands of asylum patients across Germany. Operations staff were housed in Berlin at Tiergartenstrasse 4 — hence the nickname “T4” — in a house confiscated from a Jewish family.
Nazi euthanasia victims
Similar to today, the government wants euthanasia to be seen as a medical act that is determined by doctors.

Inside headquarters, committees reviewed patient information cards for people suffering conditions such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, dementia, or other chronic disorders. Also examined were cards for the criminally insane and people who had been confined to an institution for more than five years.

By virtue of how many hours a patient was capable of working each week, as well as by how many visitors he or she received, the committee determined life or death.
Bus used for euthanasia victims
The T-4 program started by killing children with disabilities, but quickly expanded.

In the early months of “T4,” most of the victims were children. Some were handed over voluntarily by ashamed parents, such as when a new father wrote to Hitler asking for permission to kill his “deformed” infant. According to historians, that letter prompted Hitler to issue the order for “T4.”

The “Charitable Patient Transport Company” was set up to transfer victims from their asylums to six new killing centers, including Hartheim. The armed nurses had plenty of drugs on hand to calm down agitated patients in the dark grey buses with opaque windows.
Bishop von Galen
Protests by religious leaders and groups led to the "cancellation" of the euthanasia program.

Within months of “T4” starting, some Germans — including Nazi party members — sent protest letters to the Reich Chancellery and Minister of Justice. In February 1941, Franconia was the scene of Catholics protesting the emptying of an asylum. Even some Protestant clerics — a group usually in line with Nazi policy — expressed dismay about the slaughter of disabled Germans.

In addition to public awareness of the euthanasia program, a tipping point was reached when an outspoken Catholic bishop escalated his rhetorical attacks on the regime. 
The influential Clemens August Graf von Galen, the bishop of Munster, became known as the “Lion of Munster” for his homily denouncing the euthanasia program on August 3, 1941.

As the bishop told congregants, Germans were being murdered “because in the judgement of some official body, on the decision of some committee, they have become ‘unworthy to live,’ because they are classed as ‘unproductive members of the national community.’”

The commandment not to kill, said von Galen, could not be erased by National Socialism, as it was written “on the souls of men.” He also asked if injured German soldiers would be subject to euthanasia upon returning from the front.

Von Galen’s sermon was reproduced and made its way around Germany. According to historian Anton Gill, the bishop “used his condemnation of this appalling policy to draw wider conclusions about the nature of the Nazi state.”
Article on the book: The Lion of Munster: The Bishop who roared against the Nazi's (Link).

In reality, the protests slowed down and changed the euthanasia program. Lebovic writes:
In retrospect, we know the regime was preparing a much larger murder apparatus while “T4” was being pushed underground. From Hartheim, at least 27 staff people were sent to occupied Poland to build the death camps of “Operation Reinhardt,” including SS men whose names are synonymous with those camps.

At Chelmno, Treblinka, and Sobibor, the “T4” methods of killing were revived for the “disinfection” of Jews. The Holocaust transitioned from mass shootings in occupied Soviet lands to the death camps, where fewer Germans were needed to murder millions of Jews.
The T-4 euthanasia program was medicalized, requiring doctors to do it. Today, the euthanasia programs falsely claim to be based on choice and autonomy, whereas in reality, the approval to kill and the act of killing is done by doctors and nurse practitioners, with the approval of the government.

Here is a list of other excellent articles concerning the T-4 euthanasia program.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Intrinsic to the legalization of euthanasia in Canada and much of the rest of the world was the censorship of references to the T4 program and the holocaust in public discussions - to whatever slight extent there was public discussion. It's a relatively easy thing to undermine what is the strongest case against euthanasia, that is, the historical case. You simply deprive your interlocutors of the right to make references to history.
Mark Jaskela