A Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts

By Samuel Totten; William S. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6

Holocaust: The Genocide of Disabled Peoples

HUGH GREGORY GALLAGHER


Aktion T-4 Euthanasie: Summary of Program

In the late 1930s and throughout World War II, physicians of Germany's medical establishment, acting both with and without the acquiescence of the Nazi government, systematically killed their severely disabled and chronically mentally ill patients. These people were said by their doctors to be "useless eaters"-persons with "lives not worth living."

The officially sanctioned killing program, begun in 1939, was called "Euthanasie," although most of its victims were neither terminally ill nor in unbearable pain, nor were they anxious to die. The program's proponents advanced various arguments in its justification-compassion, eugenics, economics, racial purity. The official program was halted by Adolph Hitler in the summer of 1941, in the face of a rising wave of protests from disabled people, their families and friends, and religious officials. Even so, many doctors, acting largely on their own counsel, continued killing patients in hospitals and institutions throughout Germany.

Over the course of the official program and the unofficial so-called "runaway" euthanasia that followed it, more than 200,000 German citizens met their death at the hands of their physicians. The mass murder techniques developed in the euthanasia hospitals were later utilized against Jews.

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