Monday, September 1, 2014
September 1, 2014
September 1, 2014
Adolf Hitler in October 1939, signed a “euthanasia decree” backdated to September 1, to his words:
“Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. med. Brandt are charged with the responsibility of enlarging the competence of certain physicians, designated by name, so that patients who, on the basis of human judgment [menschlichem Ermessen], are considered incurable, can be granted mercy death [Gnadentod] after a discerning diagnosis.”
The program ran from September 1939 to August 1941, and 70,273 people were eliminated at extermination centers located at psychiatric hospitals in Germany and Austria. That’s the official termination of patients, unofficially there were 200,000 additional deaths.
The real issue with the authorities was how to do this with respect to economy and technology The key architect of the T-4 Euthanasia Program was Doctor Karl Brandt with great assistance from Philipp Bouhler, who actually organized and placed the system in place to eliminate the sick, the weak, the chronic alcoholic, and so forth. Like all men with a vision, he also wrote a book called “Napoleon - Kometenbahn eines Genies” (Napoleon - A Genius’s Cometary Path) Doctor Brandt was Hitler’s personal physician.
Doctor Brandt was very much influenced by a German psychiatrist named Alfred Erich Hoche, who was very much against the psychoanalysis theories of Sigmund Freud, and was renowned for his writings about eugenics and euthanasia. He believed the health of society as a whole and that its weakest citizens must be eliminated for the betterment of the entire society. So in Doctor Brandt’s mind, this means that these poor helpless creatures should be granted a merciful death. Ironically Hoche, also a published poet, was privately critical of the Nazi euthanasia program, due to a relative of his that was murdered under that program. Nevertheless, Hoache wrote that the killing of the mentally ill and what he calls “mentally or intellectually dead” since birth or early childhood is quite suitable in one’s society. Basically he believed that “the killing of patents which he claimed had neither value for society, nor for themselves should be allowed.” As quoted Hoache “that perhaps one day we will come to the conclusion that the disposal of the mentally dead is not criminally nor morally wrong, but a useful act". The one day came with the arrival of Brant and Bouhler’s Nazi euthanasia program.
First of all the act of multiple killings was a great concern for both Hitler and Brant. For Hitler, he just wanted to know “what is the most humane way?” Brandt suggested the use of poisonous gas. Bingo! The headquarters for the T4 was the Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Heil- und Anstaltspflege (literally, "Charitable Foundation for Curative and Institutional Care"). In Germany, the theory of Eugenics was very popular. Basically the theory is to “advocating the improvement of human genetic traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of people with desired traits (positive eugenics), and reduced reproduction of people with less-desired or undesired traits (negative eugenics).” As Hitler wrote in his number one bestseller “Mein Kampf” : “He who is bodily and mentally not sound and deserving may not perpetuate this misfortune in the bodies of his children. The völkische [people's] state has to perform the most gigantic rearing-task here. One day, however, it will appear as a deed greater than the most victorious wars of our present bourgeois era. ”
What followed this was at first was compulsory sterilization for people who were chronic alcoholics, schizophrenia, epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, and of course, “imbecility.” In 1939, the parents of a severely deformed child wrote to Hitler asking his permission for their child to be put to death. Hitler thought this was a reasonable request, and created the “Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congental Illnesses.” In charge was our good friend the doctor Brandt, Bouhler, and Viktor Brack. The three of them were authorized to approve applications from parents who wished to end the life of their deformed children. After awhile, the authorities totally forgot about the ‘guardian’ consent, and focused on killing children with disabilities. There was a law placed where all doctors and nurses had to report children being born with severe disabilities.
What they would do is to be contacting the parents to let them know that they must be taken to a hospital or center to receive ‘proper attention. ' They were executed by injection of toxic chemicals and then their deaths were recorded as pneumonia. Brain samples were taken during autopsies, and the parents are told that the samples will be used for medical research. A lot of the parents of the deceased felt better knowing that the program had a genuine medical purpose.
Next step was killing the adults. The first mass-killings of adults with disabilities were Poles in Poland. Then they killed or sterilized people in Germany. One well-known individual who was killed in Germany was Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler. She was a painter who suffered a nervous breakdown, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She was forced to have a surgical sterilization in the Dresden-Friedrichstadt woman’s hospital with respect to the Nazi eugenicist policies. Afterwards she never painted again. She was murdered with the majority of the other patients, with the official cause of death being “pneumonia with myocardial insufficiency". In actuality, she was gassed in an institution that was once noted for its humanistic traditions.
There was concern that the German public would not accept the killing of large numbers of Germans with disabilities, so Hitler told Bouhler that “the Füher’s Chancellery” must distance itself from the actions, in case anything goes sour. There was resistance from families, and once they suspected what was happening or about to happen tried to get their family member out of the hospital or transferred to a private medical institution, where the Nazis didn’t have any pull or influence. But at the end of the day, most of the doctors agreed to co-operate with the program, due to either ignorance, or agreement with the eugenicist policy, or more likely the fear of the regime. Nevertheless, it didn’t end in a happy note.