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Euthanasia – the ‘mercy killing’ of disabled people in Germany
At the beginning of World War II the Nazi regime began killing individuals with physical disabilities, people who were mentally retarded, and the terminally ill. The killings were called ‘euthanasia’, i.e. ‘mercy killings’.
After Hitler had received a letter from the father of a handicapped child, whom the father wished to be put to death as a mercy killing, the Fuehrer approved the Euthanasia Programme. The idea of the Programme was to “remove” the seriously disabled on a national basis.
The Euthanasia Programme demanded the cooperation of German doctors, who were to decide what patients to kill. The killings were done by doctors and policemen employed by Operation T4, either by lethal injection, gassing, gas trucks or shooting. Approximately 400 people were part of the Operation, which worked out of six ‘killing centres’.
Euthanasia and the Holocaust
Many historians see Operation T4 as an experimental “rehearsal” before the Final Solution – the extermination of Jews and gypsies. The people involved in Operation T4, approximately 400, became unemployed when the Operation was (temporarily) terminated at the end of 1941. However, most of them were transferred to the newly established concentration- and extermination camps, as ‘experts in the killing of people’. Among them was Christian Wirth, one of the most important men in the practical implementation of Operation Reinhard – the extermination of the Polish Jews.
Want to know more?
Ernst Klee, "Euthanasie" im NS-Staat : die "Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens" (Frankfurt/Main, 1985).
© 2002 by Peter Vogelsang & Brian B. M. Larsen. All rights reserved