Ja Emerson Vermaat, `Euthanasia' in the Third Reich: Lessons for Today?

Issues in Law & Medicine, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Ja Emerson Vermaat, `Euthanasia' in the Third Reich: Lessons for Today?


18 EThics & MED. 21 (2002).

Sixty years ago the Nazis occasionally used similar arguments as today's humane and sincere advocates of euthanasia. Karl Brandt, the head of Hitler's euthanasia program, claimed at his trial after the war: "The underlying motive was the desire to help individuals who could not help themselves and were thus prolonging their lives of torment." However plausible or humane this may sound, the reality was far from humane. Indeed, the Nazis went far beyond killing the incurably sick, and few of the "individuals" Brandt had in mind actually made a request that "their lives of torment" should not be prolonged.

"Euthanasia" in the Third Reich was even a prelude to the Final Solution (Endlosung). Euphemistic terminology and covering up was the rule. Hitler's Euthanasia Decree (Erlass) of 1 September 1939 ordered his personal physician Dr. Karl Brandt and Reichsleiter Philip Bouhler, head of the Reich Chancellery, "to enlarge the authority of certain physicians to be designated by name in such a manner that persons who, according to human judgment, are incurable can, upon a most careful diagnosis of their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death (Gradentod)." Hitler's decree was written on personal letterhead ("Adolf Hitler. Berlin") and highly secret. It was never made law, even when pressure was brought to bear to do so. The official bureaucracy was largely bypassed.

Nazi practices of euthanasia did not appear out of the blue. They were preceded by Social Darwinism and the debate on "eugenics." Racial and social hygiene and sterilization of inferior and worthless life were dominant themes in the Twenties. This was referred to as Schadlingsbekampfung ("pest control"). In July 1949 Leo Alexander, Chief U.S. Medical Consultant at the Nuremberg Crimes Trials, published his essay "Medical Science Under Dictatorship." The Nazi rule in Germany was preceded by "a propaganda barrage directed against the traditional compassionate nineteenth-century attitudes towards the chronically ill," Alexander writes:

   Sterilization and euthanasia of person with chronic diseases was discussed
   at a meeting of Bavarian psychiatrists in 1931.... Nazi propaganda was
   highly effective in perverting public opinion and public conscience in a
   remarkably short time. In the medical profession this expressed itself in a
   rapid decline in standards of professional ethics.

The crimes which the Nazis would commit later had their origins in prior subtle changes as stated in the following:

   The beginnings at first were a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic
   attitude of the physicians. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ja Emerson Vermaat, `Euthanasia' in the Third Reich: Lessons for Today?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.