Thursday, September 14, 2023

Berlin Memorial to the victims murdered by the T4 Euthanasia Program

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

While in Berlin Germany to speak at a conference about euthanasia, I went to the Euthanasia Memorial located at Tiergartenstraße 4, directly beside the Berliner Philharmonie and across from Tiergarten park.

The explanation of the T4 Euthanasia Program from the memorial is striking considering the countries that have legalized euthanasia and the fact that the German government is now debating assisted suicide. 

People living in jurisdictions that have legalized euthanasia and/or assisted suicide should shudder at the historical past, especially knowing how modern euthanasia programs are being medicalised.

The euthanasia lobby will argue that the (T4) Euthanasia Program did not give people the "choice" to die, whereas the modern programs are based on choice and autonomy. When we consider the legal language within our modern euthanasia laws, choice and autonomy are lacking. These laws give doctors and nurses the right in law to kill you. Read on and ask yourself - "Is history repeating itself?"

I have reproduced most of the text from the monument below:

Tiergartenstraße 4
From 1940 to 1945, this (Euthanasia Memorial) was the location of the head-quarters for the National Socialists' mass murder of people with mental disabilities or illnesses. The organization was housed in a villa in Tiergartenstraße 4. The crimes planned here were called "Aktion T4" after this address.

After 1945, knowledge of the suffering and death of the victims was suppressed. Only since the 1980's has a plaque and a sculpture at this historical site commemorated the patients murdered in institutional settings. In 2007, Berlin citizens began to campaign for an appropriate memorial site. The German parliament granted this wish in November 2011.

The Path to the Euthanasia Killings:

Long before 1933 "active euthanasia" (Greek for a good death) was being discussed for incurable patients, institutionalised patients in need of care, and babies born with disabilities. Eugenics or "racial hygiene" theories developed in the 19th Century provided the basis for debates.

In 1933, the National Socialist regime issued a "Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring." It allowed forced sterilisation. It also indirectly called into question the right to life of human beings with psychiatric illnesses and mental or physical disabilities.

The lawyer Karl Binding (1841 - 1920) and the psychiatrist Alfred Hoche (1865 - 1943) not only demanded a "right to die" for the terminally ill but also the killing of "incurable idiots" and the "mentally dead" in institutions.

The National Socialist regime used films, magazines, posters and even school education to warn people of the "economic burden" that the "idiots" and "insane" supposedly posed to the population.

The Murder of Patients (1939 - 1945):

Shortly after the war begin in 1939, the SS murdered thousands of German and Polish psychiatric patients in occupied Poland. At the same time, the murder of at least 5,000 children and adolescents with mental and physical disabilities began in Germany under the assumed name of the "Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses."

From 1939 - 1941, institutionalized patients were the target of the murder campaign organised at Tiergartenstraße 4, the so called Aktion T4. About 70,000 people were asphyxiated by gas in killing centres. At a later stage, the "T4" staff also killed about 20,000 concentration camp prisoners in these centres. Even after the centrally managed "Aktion T-4" was shut down in August 1941, the murders continued: doctors and nurses killed about 90,000 more institutionalised patients through deliberate neglect, starvation, and with drugs.

The Families of the Victims and Public Response:

The victims of the "euthanasia" crimes came from all walks of life. The murders could not be covered up entirely. The frequent reports of deaths led to suspicion among family members. Nevertheless, some accepted the killings or even advocated them, but there was also resistance.

At the beginning of "Aktion T4" obituaries reporting cases of sudden death began to mount up; from Spring 1941 it was no longer permitted to print them.

The deportations and rumours about the murder of patients led, in 1940, to protests in Vienna. Anna Wodl, whose son Alfred was killed in a "children's ward for expert care" a year later, took part in the protests.

Only a few representatives of the Judiciary and the Church opposed "euthanasia". In August 1941, a sermon given by the Bishop of Munster, Clemens August von Galen (1878 - 1946), led to the cancellation of the centralised campaign of murder.

In a sermon that was secretly circulated on leaflets, Bishop Graf von Galen denounced the "euthanasia" murders in early August 1941. The sermon caused great unrest among the population.

Selections in the Psychiatric Institutions:

From 1933, the authorities radically intensified the austerity measures that had already been initiated in the Weimer Republic's psychiatric hospitals.

"Incurable" patients and those "unfit" for work were particularly affected. For example, the state of Saxony introduced a nutritionally deficient diet for non-working institution residents in 1938.

"Aktion T4" then took the step of systematically murdering institutionalised patients who were unfit to work, in need of a lot of care or held to be "troublesome". The doctors in the institutions were involved in the crimes: they completed the registration forms that were used to select the "euthanasia" victims.

Under National Socialism, the patient's ability to work in the institution became the key to their survival; "useless eaters" were murdered.

Tiergartenstrasse 4 - The Administrative Headquarters:

In October 1939, in a document backdated to the beginning of the war, Hitler gave his escort surgeon Karl Brandt and the head of the Chancellery of the Fuhrer, Philipp Bouhler, the authority to grant supposedly incurable patients a "mercy death."

Under the Chancellery of the Fuhrer, which was directly subordinated to Adolf Hitler, doctors and administrative staff at Tiergartenstrasse 4 began to organise the registration and selection of institutionalised patients and their transportation to the killing centres in 1940. Specially created administrative machinery was intended to ensure that everything ran smoothly and the mass murders were kept confidential. When "Aktion T4" was cancelled due to protests, the headquarters tried to take charge of the murders carried out by drugs, and continued recording patients with registration forms. The perpetrators made use of a bureaucratic and dehumanising language.

The "Aktion T4" staff in Berlin drew up patient transfer lists and used buses belonging to the fake company "Charitable Ambulance Services" to take patients to the killing centres set up for mass murder of patients.

Mass Murder in the Gas Chambers:

Gas chamber "shower"
On the basis of such registration forms that were sent to all psychiatric institutions, four medical experts decided whether patients would die (red plus sign) or survive (blue minus sign).The murder of the patients was carried out systematically. For this purpose, the "T4" organisation set up a total of six killing centres in Germany. The "T4" staff often initially grouped patients together in intermediate institutions for a few weeks before transferring them to one of these killing centres. This served the purpose of concealment and allowed each murder facility to adapt to the existing "killing capacity" at that time.

Usually patients were asphyxiated in the gas chambers using carbon monoxide on the day they arrived at the "euthanasia" institutions. Their bodies were burned.

"Every time a transport had arrived, you could see a big black cloud of smoke shortly afterwards, reported Karl Schuhmann (1921 - 2000), a local resident who secretly photographed the Hartheim Killing centre.

Perpetrators - Accessories - Profiteers:

In the Berlin "T4" head office and in the institutions where people were killed by gas, around 500 people were directly involved in the organisation and operation of "Aktion T4". The judiciary covered up the murder campaign.

Many doctors were involved out of careerism, out of conviction or due to their blind acceptance of authority. In their view, healing and annihilation belonged together. As experts, they selected the victims; in the killing centres, they turned on the gas tap, in the psychiatric institutions, they murdered patients with drugs or let the inhabitants starve. They conducted experiments on patients or research on the brains of the victims. Nursing staff helped the doctors with the "Aktion T4."

The Charitable Foundation for Curative and Institutional Care was one of four cover organisations that concealed the murder of patients. One of its tasks was to staff the "T4" programme.

In order to kill people with gas, the "T4" organisation had five psychiatric facilities (Hadamar, Grafeneck, Bernburg, Pirna-Sonnenstein, Hartheim) and a former prison (Brandenburg der Havel) converted into killing centres.

The "T4" staff feigned a normal admission procedure for the patients when they arrived at the killing facilities and then led them into a gas chamber disguised as a shower room. There they were killed.

The 'victims' families were informed of the death of their relatives with so-called letters of condolence. These contained false information about the cause, date and place of death.

Euthanasia and the Holocaust:

The first systematic mass murder of Jews in Germany took place as part of "Aktion T4."

In 1940, nearly all Jewish psychiatric patients were killed because of their "race". When the "euthanasia" killings were extended to concentration camp prisoners ("Aktion 14f13") in 1941, the doctors deliberately selected Jewish inmates.

The "T4" staff continued their crimes in the German extermination camps in the east. Thus around 120 "T4" men were involved in "Operation Reinhardt" in the occupied Polish territories, during which at least 1.6 million Jews were murdered.

The commandants of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka were members of "T4." The "T4" driver and "corpse burner", Lorenz Hackenholt, played a major role in the construction of the gas chambers at Belzec.

Dealing with the Euthanasia Crimes:

After the war ended, the Psychiatric patients continued to face discrimination; eugenic ideas persisted. The situation only began to improve in the 1970's. In the "euthanasia" trials, only a few offenders were given severe sentences. Most of the doctors involved were never called to account.

Karl Brandt and Viktor Brack, two of the main men responsible for the "euthanasia" murders were sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Doctors' Trial in 1947.

The medical director of the "T4" organisation, Herman Paul Nitscke (1876 - 1948), was sentenced to death by the district court in Dresden for his part in the "euthanasia" crimes and executed in 1948.

Friederike Pusch (1905 - 1980), a doctor in the State Hospital of Brandenburg-Gorden, was involved in the "euthanasia" crimes, but allowed to continue working undisturbed as a psychiatrist in Germany, despite incriminating witness statements.

As the office manager at Tiergartenstraße 4, Friederich Tillmann (1903 - 1964), was in charge of administering the programme of murder. The criminal proceedings initiated against him in 1960 were dropped after his death.

The brain researcher, Julius Hallervorden (1882 - 1965), used at least 700 brains of "euthanasia" victims for his research, the results of which he published without hesitation even after 1945.

Dr. Adolf Wahlmann (1876 - 1956), the head of the Hadamar killing centre from 1942, was found guilty of mass killings and initially sentenced to death, but was released from prison in 1952. The male nurse Karl Willig (1894 - 1946), was sentenced to death for the murder of forced labourers and executed in 1946.

When it was revealed in 2000 that Jussuf Ibrahim (1877 - 1953) had, as the head of the University Children's Hospital in Jena, personally proposed children for "euthanasia" in 1943 and 1944, many Jena residents came to the defence of the town's honorary citizen and "Honoured Doctor of the People" of the GDR.

Even as late as 1964, Werner Catel (1894 - 1981) the head of the "children's ward for expert care" at the Children's University Hospital in Leipzig and a "Reich Committee" expert, was still demanding that "idiot children" be "released from their misfortune".

1987 saw the foundation of the "Federation of the People Damaged by Euthanasia and who Underwent Compulsory Sterilisation." The German Parliament outlawed the forced sterilisation law in 2007.


Tershia said...

“There is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9
Euthanasia was the slippery slope that turned into the holocaust. How far down the slippery slope can Canada’s euthanasia program slide?

Paul Gosselin said...

Some may be interested to note that I have an on-going Press File (articles in English and French) on Genocidal Eugenics. When I first began looking into this, I was surprised by the deep historical roots this ideology has among Western elites. And there are as many notable advocates for eugenics among the French as their are among the English. So this file begins with quotes from historical figures preparing the ground for the Eugenic ideology, then gradually (near the bottom of the file) comes into genocidal eugenics proper and nearer to our own time. The link is here:

Vi said...

This is heartbreaking, disgusting, frustrating & absolutely HORRIFIC on sooooo many levels! What CRUEL, EVIL, HEARTLESS BEASTS/DEVILS/MONSTERS! WOE, WOE, WOE unto every last one of those Eugenicists that were involved back then & to those arrogant sickos (like BG) who are involved NOW.

Regardless of unbelief, they will ALL be held accountable & divine JUSTICE will be served for their WICKEDNESS, HEINOUS CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY & for their LIES/DECEPTIONS & MURDERS one GLORIOUS DAY (of the Lord's choosing, not ours).

(Isaiah 3:11)
11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

(Romans 12:19)
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.