About this page
This page is locked. Want to contribute to this page? Contact bgill
“Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.”
July 14, 1933
On July 14, 1933, the Nazi government instituted the “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.” This law, one of the first steps taken by the Nazis toward their goal of creating an Aryan “master race,” called for the sterilization of all persons who suffered from diseases considered hereditary, such as mental illness, learning disabilities, physical deformity, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and severe alcoholism. With the law’s passage the Third Reich also stepped up its propaganda against people with disabilities, regularly labeling them “life unworthy of life” or “useless eaters” and highlighting their burden upon society.
Just a few years later, the persecution of people with disabilities escalated even further. In the autumn of 1939, Adolf Hitler secretly authorized a medically administered program of “mercy death” code-named “Operation T4,” in reference to the address of the program’s Berlin headquarters at Tiergartenstrasse 4. Between 1940 and 1941 approximately 70,000 Austrian and German disabled people were killed under the T4 program, most via large-scale killing operations using poison gas. (This methodology served as the precursor to the streamlined extermination methods of the “Final Solution.”) Although Hitler formally ordered a halt to the program in late August 1941, the killings secretly continued until the war’s end, resulting in the murder of an estimated 275,000 people with disabilities.
The term "euthanasia" (literally, "good death") usually refers to the inducement of a painless death for a chronically or terminally ill individual who would otherwise suffer. In the Nazi context, however, "euthanasia" represented a euphemistic term for a clandestine murder program which targeted for systematic killing mentally and physically disabled patients living in institutional settings in Germany and German-annexed territories.
Buses used to transport patients to Hadamar euthanasia center. The windows were painted to prevent people from seeing those inside. Germany, between May and September 1941.
The so-called "Euthanasia" program was National Socialist Germany's first program of mass murder, predating the genocide of European Jewry, which we call the Holocaust, by approximately two years. The effort represented one of many radical eugenic measures which aimed to restore the racial "integrity" of the German nation. It endeavored to eliminate what eugenicists and their supporters considered "life unworthy of life": those individuals who--they believed--because of severe psychiatric, neurological, or physical disabilities represented at once a genetic and a financial burden upon German society and the state.
CHILD "EUTHANASIA" PROGRAM
In the spring and summer months of 1939, a number of planners--led by Philipp Bouhler, the director of Hitler's private chancellery, and Karl Brandt, Hitler's attending physician--began to organize a secret killing operation targeting disabled children. On August 18, 1939, the Reich Ministry of the Interior circulated a decree compelling all physicians, nurses, and midwives to report newborn infants and children under the age of three who showed signs of severe mental or physical disability. Beginning in October 1939, public health authorities began to encourage parents of children with disabilities to admit their young children to one of a number of specially designated pediatric clinics throughout Germany and Austria. The clinics were in reality children's killing wards where specially recruited medical staff murdered their young charges by lethal overdoses of medication or by starvation.
At first, medical professionals and clinic administrators incorporated only infants and toddlers in the operation, but as the scope of the measure widened, they included juveniles up to 17 years of age. Conservative estimates suggest that at least 5,000 physically and mentally disabled German children perished as a result of the child "euthanasia" program during the war years.
EXTENDING THE "EUTHANASIA" PROGRAM
Euthanasia planners quickly envisioned extending the killing program to adult disabled patients living in institutional settings. In the autumn of 1939, Adolf Hitler signed a secret authorization in order to protect participating physicians, medical staff, and administrators from prosecution; this authorization was backdated to September 1, 1939, to suggest that the effort was related to wartime measures. Because the Führer Chancellery was insular, compact, and separate from state, government, or Nazi Party apparatuses, Hitler chose this, his private chancellery, to serve as the engine for the "euthanasia" campaign. Its functionaries called their secret enterprise "T4." The operation took its code-name from the street address of the program's coordinating office in Berlin: Tiergartenstrasse 4. According to Hitler's directive, Führer Chancellery director Phillip Bouhler and physician Karl Brandt undertook leadership of the killing operation. Under their auspices, T4 operatives established six gassing installations for adults as part of the "euthanasia" action: Brandenburg, on the Havel River near Berlin; Grafeneck in southwestern Germany; Bernburg and Sonnenstein, both in Saxony; Hartheim, near Linz on the Danube in Austria, and Hadamar in Hessen.
Utilizing a practice developed for the child "euthanasia" program, T4 planners began in the autumn of 1939 to distribute carefully formulated questionnaires to all public health officials, public and private hospitals, mental institutions, and nursing homes for the chronically ill and aged. The limited space and wording on the forms, as well as the instructions in the accompanying cover letter, combined to convey the impression that the survey was intended to gather statistical data.
The form's sinister purpose was suggested only by the emphasis which the questionnaire placed upon the patient's capacity to work and by the categories of patients which the inquiry required health authorities to identify: those suffering from schizophrenia, epilepsy, dementia, encephalitis, and other chronic psychiatric or neurological disorders; those not of German or "related" blood; the criminally insane or those committed on criminal grounds; and those who had been confined to the institution in question for more than five years. Secretly recruited "medical experts," physicians--many of them of significant reputation--worked in teams of three to evaluate the forms. On the basis of their decisions beginning in January 1940, T4 functionaries began to remove patients selected for the "euthanasia" program from their home institutions and to transport them by bus or by rail to one of the central gassinginstallations for killing.
Within hours of their arrival at such centers, the victims perished in especially designed gas chambers, disguised as shower facilities, utilizing pure carbon monoxide gas. Thereafter, T4 functionaries burned the bodies in crematoria attached to the gassing facilities. Other workers took the ashes of cremated victims from a common pile and placed them in urns to send to the relatives of the victims. The families or guardians of the victims received such an urn, along with a death certificate and other documentation, listing both a fictive cause and date of death.
Because the program was secret, T-4 planners and functionaries took elaborate measures to conceal its deadly designs. Even though in every case, physicians and institutional administrators falsified official records to indicate that the victims died of natural causes, the "euthanasia" program quickly become an open secret. In view of widespread public knowledge of the measure and in the wake of private and public protests concerning the killings, especially from members of the German clergy, Hitler ordered a halt to the euthanasia program in late August 1941. According to T4's own internal calculations, the "euthanasia" effort claimed the lives of 70,273 institutionalized mentally and physically disabled persons at the six gassing facilities between January 1940 and August 1941.
Hitler's call for a halt to the T4 action did not mean an end to the "euthanasia" killing operation. The child "euthanasia" program continued as before. Moreover, in August 1942, German medical professionals and healthcare workers resumed the killings, albeit in a more carefully concealed manner than before. More decentralized than the initial gassing phase, the renewed effort relied closely upon regional exigencies, with local authorities determining the pace of the killing.
Employing drug overdose and lethal injection--already successfully used in child euthanasia--in this second phase as a more covert means of killing, the "euthanasia" campaign resumed at a broad range of custodial institutions throughout the Reich. Many of these institutions also systematically starved adult and child victims. The "Euthanasia" Program continued until the last days of World War II, expanding to include an ever wider range of victims, including geriatric patients, bombing victims, and foreign forced laborers. Historians estimate that the "Euthanasia" Program, in all its phases, claimed the lives of 200,000 individuals.
Persons with disabilities also fell victim to German violence in the German-occupied East. Although the Germans confined the "Euthanasia" Program, which began as a racial hygiene measure, to the Reich proper--that is, to Germany and to the annexed territories of Austria, Alsace-Lorraine, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Warthegau in former Poland, the Nazi ideological conviction which designated these persons "life unworthy of life" made institutionalized patients targets of shooting actions in Poland and the Soviet Union. Here the killings of disabled patients were the work of SS and police forces, not of physicians, caretakers, and T4 administrators who implemented the "Euthanasia" Program itself. In areas of Pomerania, West Prussia, and occupied Poland, SS and police units murdered some 30,000 patients by the autumn of 1941 in order to accommodate ethnic German settlers (Volksdeutsche) transferred there from the Baltic countries and other areas.
SS and police units also murdered disabled patients in mass shootings and gas vans in occupied Soviet territories. Thousands more died, murdered in their beds and wards by SS and auxiliary police units in Poland and the Soviet Union. These murders lacked the ideological component attributed to the centralized "Euthanasia" Program, for by and large, the SS was apparently motivated primarily by economic and material concerns in killing institutionalized patients in occupied Poland and the Soviet Union. The SS and the Wehrmacht quickly made use of the hospitals emptied in these killing operations as barracks, reserve hospitals, munitions storage depots. In rare cases, the SS used the empty facilities as a formal T4 killing site; an example is the "euthanasia" facility Tiegenhof, near Danzig (today Gdansk).
The "euthanasia" program represented in many ways a rehearsal for Nazi Germany's subsequent genocidal policies. The Nazi leadership extended the ideological justification conceived by medical perpetrators for the destruction of the "unfit" to other categories of perceived biological enemies, most notably to Jews and Roma and Sinti (Gypsies). Planners of the so-called Final Solution later borrowed the gas chamber and accompanying crematoria, specifically designed for the T4 campaign, to murder Jews in German-occupied Europe. T4 personnel who had shown themselves reliable in this first mass murder program, figured prominently among the German staff stationed at the Operation Reinhard killing centers of Belzec,Sobibor and Treblinka. Like those who planned the physical annihilation of the European Jews, the planners of the "euthanasia" program imagined a racially pure and productive society and embraced radical strategies to eliminate those who did not fit within it their vision.
Adolf Hitler's authorization for the Euthanasia Program (Operation T4), signed in October 1939 but dated September 1, 1939.
Hartheim castle, a euthanasia killing center where people with physical and mental disabilities were killed by gassing and lethal injection. Hartheim, Austria, date uncertain.
This photo originates from a film produced by the Reich Propaganda Ministry. It shows two doctors in a ward in an unidentified asylum. The existence of the patients in the ward is described as "life only as a burden." Such propaganda images were intended to develop public sympathy for the Euthanasia Program.
This image originates from a film produced by the Reich Propaganda Ministry. It shows patients in an unidentified asylum. Their existence is described as "life without hope." The Nazis sought, through propaganda, to develop public sympathy for the Euthanasia Program.
Slide taken from a Nazi propaganda filmstrip, promoting "euthanasia," prepared for the Hitler Youth. The caption says: "Mentally ill Negro (English) 16 years in an institution costing 35,000 RM [Reichsmarks]." Place and date uncertain.
Photograph with the caption: "...because God cannot want the sick and ailing to reproduce." This image originates from a film, produced by the Reich Propaganda Ministry, that aimed through propaganda to develop public sympathy for the Euthanasia Program.
This image originates from a film produced by the Reich Propaganda Ministry. It is captioned: "A moral and religious conception of life demands the prevention of hereditarily ill offspring." Nazi propaganda aimed to create public support for the compulsory sterilization effort.
A victim of the Nazi Euthanasia Program: hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for her nonconformist beliefs and writings, she was murdered on January 26, 1944. Germany, date uncertain.
Emmi G., a 16-year-old housemaid diagnosed as schizophrenic. She was sterilized and sent to the Meseritz-Obrawalde euthanasia center where she was killed with an overdose of tranquilizers on December 7, 1942. Place and date uncertain.
Head nurse of the children's ward at the Kaufbeuren-Irsee euthanasia facility. Kaufbeuren, Germany, 1945.
Personnel of T4
Personnel of T4, the agency created to administer the Nazi Euthanasia Program. Berlin, Germany, date uncertain.
Oktober 1904~28. Januar 1947
Friedrich Mennecke, a Euthanasia Program physician who was responsible for sending many patients to be gassed. He was sentenced to death in 1946. Germany, date uncertain.
Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Mennecke
- 1940, Berlin: Attended meeting in the Reichskanzlei [Chancellery of the Führer], where he learned that "unproductive" psychiatric patients were to be systematically killed. Mennecke served as a medical expert, visiting psychiatric institutions and registering and selecting victims for the gas chamber. He inspected patients to determine their fates.
- 1941: Promoted to medical specialist. Mennecke boasted to colleagues that he was a member of physician panels that evaluated patient registration forms to be sent to Berlin. He reported that he witnessed, through a window, a gassing at Hadamar.
- Spring 1941: Mennecke was assigned to the 14 f 13 operation, "prisoners' euthanasia," where Polish, Jewish, Gypsy, and political prisoners, as well as so-called Arbeitsscheue ["the work-shy"] and criminals, were selected for killing.
- Mennecke began his work in Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Ravensbrück, and Buchenwald concentration camps. This followed the mass murder of the mentally and physically disabled. His written "diagnoses" are among the most heinous texts ever written by a German physician..· Mennecke considered using electric shock therapy to kill patients. However, he became embroiled in a dispute with his boss, a Nazi party official. As punishment, he was demoted from his position of Ortsgruppenleiter, was again drafted, and was then sent to a military hospital in Metz in 1943. He was briefly transferred to the eastern front, where, due to panic attacks, he was diagnosed with "Basedowian illness" and sent to a military hospital himself. He applied for positions at various gassing institutions, but then learned that he had tuberculosis.
- Summer 1945: Allied war crimes investigations and interrogations
- 1946: Indictment and trial; Mennecke claimed he had opposed "euthanasia."
- December 21, 1946: Sentenced to death
- January 27, 1947: His wife visited him in prison; he was found dead in his jail cell the next day.
Mennecke died before the appeals court heard the case. If his letters had not been saved, he would probably - like so many of his colleagues - have presented himself as a rescuer or a resistance fighter. But his correspondence reveals his innermost thoughts as a "typical" citizen, who apparently as a matter of course, and without inner struggle or hesitation, became a mass murderer.
Nazi Physician Karl Brandt
Nazi physician Karl Brandt, director of the Euthanasia Program. August 27, 1942.
Cemetery at Hadamar
Cemetery at Hadamar where victims of euthanasia killing at Hadamar were buried. This photograph was taken toward the end of the war. Hadamar, Germany, April 1945.
Born: 1937, Mannheim, Germany
Describes fleeing from a clinic where, his mother feared, he was to be put to death by euthanasia [Interview: 1994]Robert and his family were Jehovah's Witnesses. The Nazis regarded Jehovah's Witnesses as enemies of the state for their refusal to take an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, or to serve in the German army. Robert's family continued its religious activities despite Nazi persecution. Shortly before Robert's birth, his mother was imprisoned briefly for distributing religious materials. Robert's hip was injured during delivery, leaving him with a disability. When Robert was five years, he was ordered to report for a physical in Schlierheim. His mother overheard staff comments about putting Robert "to sleep." Fearing they intended to kill him, Robert's mother grabbed him and ran from the clinic. Nazi physicians had begun systematic killing of those they deemed physically and mentally disabled in the fall of 1939.
My mom and I were summoned to a, a part of the university clinic in Heidelberg, in Schlierheim, and there I was examined. And during the examination my mom was sitting on the outside of the room, and she overheard a conversation that the doctors would do away with me, uh, would ab...would abspritz me, which means that they would give me a needle and put me to sleep. My mom overheard the conversation and, uh, during lunch time, while the, uh, doctors were gone, she, uh, grabbed hold of me, we went down to the Neckar River into the high reeds and there she put my clothes on, and from there on we really went into hiding because now we knew that they really were after us. So, uh, we went to my father's father's house where we also stayed until I started school.
Helene Melanie Lebel
Born: Vienna, Austria, September 15, 1911
The elder of two daughters born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Helene was raised as a Catholic in Vienna. Her father died in action during World War I when Helene was just 5 years old, and her mother remarried when Helene was 15. Known affectionately as Helly, Helene loved to swim and go to the opera. After finishing her secondary education she entered law school.
1933-39: At 19 Helene first showed signs of mental illness. Her condition worsened during 1934, and by 1935 she had to give up her law studies and her job as a legal secretary. After losing her trusted fox terrier, Lydi, she suffered a major breakdown. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic, and was placed in Vienna's Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital. Two years later, in March 1938, the Germans annexed Austria to Germany.
1940: Helene was confined in Steinhof and was not allowed home even though her condition had improved. Her parents were led to believe that she would soon be released. Instead, Helene's mother was informed in August that Helene had been transferred to a hospital in Niedernhart, just across the border in Bavaria. In fact, Helene was transferred to a converted prison in Brandenburg, Germany, where she was undressed, subjected to a physical examination, and then led into a shower room.
Helene was one of 9,772 persons gassed that year in the Brandenburg "Euthanasia" center. She was officially listed as dying in her room of "acute schizophrenic excitement."
Placing a Plus or Minus on a Child's Form
The euthanasia program began in 1939, with the murder of disabled children. These murders were not officially part of T4; T4 referred specifically to the adult killing program. Midwives and physicians were ordered to report all infants born with disabilities, a policy disguised as a scientific investigation to aid children with serious medical conditions. Based solely on the forms filled out by midwives and physicians,"experts" made the decision whether a child was to live or die by placing a plus or minus sign on the child's form. Three experts voted, but all knew what the others had voted - the same forms were passed between the experts (Friedlander, 1995, pp.39-61). Several children's wards where the killing occurred were established in state hospitals or similar institutions. Methods used to murder children included deliberate starvation and overdoses of medications.
Shortly after the killing of children began, the operation expanded to include adults, and became officially known as Operation T4. The gas chamber was developed when the killing of adults began, and a more efficient method of killing was needed to accommodate the much greater numbers of adults being killed (Friedlander, 1995, p.86). Six killing centers were developed in all, including Hadamar, Grafeneck, Brandenburg, Hartheim, Sonnenstein, and Bernburg (Friedlander, 1995, p.103).
In order to keep questioning relatives away, official causes of death were faked. Doctors were supplied with a list of possible causes of death which they matched with patients' age, sex, and physical condition before killing them. Before notifying a family of the death of a relative, a letter was usually sent informing them of the transfer of that patient. Shortly thereafter, a condolence letter was sent expressing sympathy at the unexpected death of the patient. The condolence letters contained false information, not only about the cause of death, but often about the date and place of death. This was done to avoid the possibility of too many families from one town receiving similar death notices from the same institution, at too close a period in time. Although families were asked if they wished to have the ashes of their deceased returned to them, those who did received ashes gathered from the crematorium ovens and randomly distributed among urns. (Burleigh, 1994, p.150; Friedlander, 1995, pp.101-107) The elaborate measures taken to disguise what was actually taking place was likely due to the fact that the doctors, nurses, and other hospitals aids were murdering a population of people comprised primarily of relatives and loved ones of their own supporters, the German, Aryan, public.
Because many of the records were destroyed during the war, an exact number of children murdered in the euthanasia program does not exist. It is estimated that at least 5000 children were killed during WWII in the children's wards (Friedlander, 1995, p.61). An estimated 80,000 adults were murdered in the T4 program (Friedlander, 1995, p.110).
Committed to Hadamar Hospital
On 13th January 1941, the first transport of mentally sick and disabled persons arrived from the psychiatric hospital Eichberg at the newly established killing centre Hadamar near Limburg. After a few hours, the patients were killed by gas, their remains were burnt in the crematorium. Until August of the same year, more than 10.000 people were killed in the gas chamber of Hadamar. This crime was falsely called "euthanasia", meaning mercy killing. In their records, the perpetrator's coldly spoke of "disinfection", thereby simply identifying the persons killed as vermin.
The Hadamar Killing Centre with the smoking chimney of the crematorium, 1941
Photo taken secretly
Adolf Hitler's "decree on euthanasia", Berlin 1939
Written on his private stationary
"Officially "the systematic killing of inmates of psychiatric hospitals in the German Reich began with Hitler's "Decree on Euthanasia ". Mass killing of sick people had, however, taken place before in Pomerania and Western Prussia. The debates on the implementation of the "extermination of life unworthy of life "did not start later than July 1939. Only in October of the same year did Hitler sign the authorisation as a secret decree on his private stationary, thereby evading all legal rules and governmental agencies. Upon his urging, a copy of this document was handed to Dr. Franz Gürtner, Reich Minister of justice, only on 27th August 1940 by T4 leader Philipp Bouhler.
Dating back the "decree" to 1st September 1939 was done on purpose: since the war was also the beginning of the extermination of European Jewry, it was easier to trigger a "campaign" against sick and disabled persons for whom there should be no room in the victorious Reich. The "decree "did not have any legal force. It is true that there were debates on a law concerning "euthanasia in the case of incurably sick persons" until the autumn of 1940. However, the proposal was then rejected by Adolf Hitler who wanted total secrecy in this matter. Although this killing operation was illegal according to Nazi law, the courts - with the exception of a few courageous but unsuccessful judges - did not intervene.
Philipp Bouhler, no date
Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler (1899-1945), Head of the Reich Chancellery, joined the NSDAP as early as 1935. He was responsible both for the killing of disabled children within the scope of the so-called "children euthanasia "and also for the killing of inmates of institutions pursuant to the "euthanasia "decree. Bouhler was also involved in the extermination of Jews in Poland. He committed suicide in 1945.
Karl Brandt, no date
Since 1934, Prof. Dr. Karl Brandt (1904-1948) was Hitler 's personal doctor. He too was involved in the killing of disabled children under the"children euthanasia' procedures. In 1942, he was appointed commissioner general for health and sanitary matters. In this function he was particularly responsible for the killing of inmates of institutions and hospitals from the bombed towns in 1943/44, the beds of which were needed for military hospital purposes ("Operation Brandt "). In 1947, Brandt was sentenced to death as war criminal. He was executed in 1948.
Tiergartenstraße 4 in Berlin (the original building was destroyed in Allied bombing but the address is now the home for the Berlin Philharmonia).
Under the direction of Bouhler and Brandt, and in connection with the Reich Ministry of Interior, the killings were implemented by four camouflage organizations established for that purpose: The "Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Anstaltspflege "(Charitable Foundation for Institutional Nursing), the so-called "Stiftung ", supplied the personnel; the "Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft Heil-und Pflegeanstalten "(RAG)(Reich Task Force of Sanatoriums and Nursing Homes) organized and supervised the medical questionnaire procedures and gave an expert opinion on the data provided by the inmates of the institutions; the "Gemeinnützige Krankentransportgesellschaft" (Gekrat)(Charitable Ambulance Service)transported those to be killed to the killing institutions; the "Zentralverrechnungsstelle Heil-und Pflegeanstalten "(ZVSt) (Central Clearing Agency for Sanatoriums and Nursing Homes)cleared the expenses for each individual killing procedure.
Completed registration form I of the Landesheilanstalt Haina, 4th July 1942
Completed registration form I of the Landesheilanstalt Haina, 4th July 1942
On 1st July 1940, all patients had to be reported to the Reich Task Force of Sanatoriums and Nursing Homes if they suffered from schizophrenia, epilepsy, syphilitic diseases, retardation, encephalitis, Huntington's chorea and other neurological diseases in their final stage. Those who had been without interruption in institutions for at least 5 years, were criminally insane, did not possess German citizenship and were not of German or related blood were also to be reported. The so-called registration form I was used to register the individual patients. Registration form 2 was designed to include general data on the situation of the hospital. The registration forms were filled out by the physicians of the hospital who used data from the medical records of the patients. The physicians usually had some information on the purpose of such inquiries. In case of refusal by the institution, the T4-headquarters appointed their own "experts".
Landeshauptmann Traupel 's notice for the director of the Landesheilanstalt Haina to handle the registration forms in the quickest possible way, July 5th 1940
The deadlines for completing the registration forms were very short in order to emphasize the importance of the matter and to avoid any opposing measures. The pressure of the Reich Ministry of Interior on the directors of the institutions was exercised through the state governments, the agencies of the provinces and the districts.
Operation T-4 expert list
Operation T-4 expert list
More than sixty so-called medical experts were charged by the "Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft" (Reich Task Force) with inspection of the registration forms filled out by the institutions. Their -mark or +mark (the red "+"mark resulted in a decision for "euthanasia ") was a decision for life or death of a patient they never had met. The "experts "were remunerated for the work "according to the quantity" of the forms they examined. This, between April and December 1940, one single physician "gave his opinion "on 15.000 registration forms. Nobody concerned themselves with "a most careful diagnosis ".All registration forms showing a +mark were handed over to the "Gemeinnützige Krankentransportgesellschaft" (charitable ambulance service) which provided for the "transfer" of the patients.
T-4-Expert Friedrich Mennecke,about 1940
Dr. Friedrich Mennecke (1904-1947). In 1932, he joined the NSDAP and the SS; in 1936, he became a physician and in 1939, he was appointed director of the Rheingau based "Nassauische" Landesheilanstalt Eichberg. From January 1941, this institution served as an „interim facility "for the transfer of patients to the killing institution of Hadamar. From April 1941, the institution also held a so-called special branch for the killing of disabled children. It was also active in the killing of an unknown number of patients. Mennecke who since 1940 was an "expert" of "Operation T-4", also participated in the extermination procedures of "Operation 14f 13" and began, as of 1942, with the "selection" of concentration camp prisoners. At least 2,500 people fell victim to his "expert activity ". Sentenced to death in 1947, Mennecke died a short time after the judgement in the state prison of Butzbach. The cause of his death remains obscure.
The photo has been taken from the records of the lawsuit. These records also contain the letters of Mennecke, which he sent to his wife during his "expert journeys ".
The letters reveal a "frightening dehumanisation of the victims "(Chroust) who were described by Mennecke as "portions".
Killing Institutions Under the "Euthanasia Programme" in the German Reich
Killing institutions under the "euthanasia programme" in the German Reich
Until August 1941, more than 70.000 people were killed by gas in six killing institutions. The first killing institution was established in January 1940 in Grafeneck Castle near Reutlingen (until that date run as a "Cripples' Home" of the foundation of the Samaritans). Followed Brandenburg, Hartheim, Sonnenstein near Pirna and Bernburg. Hadamar was the last killing institution to be established, replacing Grafeneck.
Contract concerning the cession of both the building and the equipment of the psychiatric hospital to the "Foundation", 8" January/15th February 1941
The institution of the district agency Wiesbaden of the province Hesse-Nassau, established in 1883 as "Korrigendenanstalt" (Convict labour institution), became a psychiatric and educational institution in 1920. In 1939, the institution already included a reserve military hospital.
The choice of Hadamar as a T-4-institution was obviously based on its geographical location and on the special commitment of the district unit concerning the extermination policy of the Nazis with regard to sick and disabled persons.
On July 31st 1942, when killing by gas was stopped, the institution was returned to the district agency.
For camouflage reasons, the sick and disabled persons scheduled to be killed were "transferred" from their home institutions to so-called interim institutions. There, the patients only stayed some days and received very little food. In order to clear the way for those to be "transferred", the home patients of the interim institutions were the first ones to be killed in Hadamar.
In the surrounding area of the Hadamar "euthanasia" - institution the authorities established interim or transit facilities. These centres served as collecting points and waiting halls for the sick people that were scheduled to be killed. By order of T-4, the institutions of origin of the mentally sick and disabled people had to transfer anybody selected to these interim institutions. From there, the busses of the "Gekrat" took the victims to Hadamar where they were killed.
The "transfer" of the victims selected to leave for the "interim institutions" was one of the tasks of the district agency. In 1941, a total of 1.200 patients were transferred from the Kassel administrative district.
Nurses from Merxhausen on duty during the transfer of patients at Herborn railway station, 30th May 1941
Accompanied by the nurses (male and female) of their institutions, the patients were taken by public transportation (bus and train) from their home institutions to the „interim institutions ". Upon arrival of the patients, the personnel returned home.
On 29th and 30th May 1941, a total number of 506 female patients from the Merxhausen mental hospital near Kassel were "transferred "in three shipments to the Eichberg and Herborn "interim institutions".
Busses of the ,GemeinnEitzige Krankentransport-gesellschaft "in front of the Eichberg mental hospital, 1941
Departing from the "interim institutions "(in this case Eichberg), the sick persons were transported to Hadamar by the Gekrat's own buses (in former times used by the post administration of the Third Reich). The windows of the "grey buses "were covered by cloth or painted, so that the population could not see the persons penned into the vehicles. Those, however, that lived in the places the buses went through, soon realized what their function was.
Hadamar mental hospital, seen from the back, ( 1947)
The photo was taken during the post-war trials and shows the wooden garage behind the main building of the institution, into which the Gekrat buses drove. From there a passage led directly inside the building.
Basement of the Hadamar T-4-institution, 1947
In Hadamar, the people were killed within a few hours. First, they had to get undressed: then they were photographed and quickly checked by the doctors . who had to determine the cause that allegedly led to their death. After this procedure, they were taken to the gas chamber.
Gas chamber in Hadamar, 1990
The gas chamber in Hadamar is the only killing room of a T-4-institution which is left from the days where people were killed by gas and which is maintained in its original condition. The gas chamber was disguised as a shower room. A perforated gas pipe, fixed at a height of about one meter, went through the room. The pipe was connected with gas containers in the room next door. The fatal carbon monoxide then entered the room through the holes in the pipe. Up to 60 people were crowded into the 14 m2 room which was locked by steel doors. Through a control window in the wall, the killing doctors watched the people die. It took several minutes before they were all dead. After the murder, a fan extracted the gas from the gas chamber. The "administrator "of Hadamar stated in 1946:"I ... looked through the control window in the wall. I saw approximately 40 to 45 men crowded in the room next door who were slowly dying. Some of them were lying on the floor, others collapsed, many of them had their mouths open as if they couldn't breathe. This method of putting people to death was so distressing that one couldn't call it a humane killing, all the more many of the killed persons might have had moments of clearness. I watched the scene for approximately 2-3 minutes and then went away, because I couldn't stand watching it any longer and felt sick."
Dissecting table in Hadamar, 1990
Gold-teeth and brains were taken from the dead bodies of pre-murder chosen patients - men, women and children. For purposes of research the brains were sent to the medical institutes of the universities in Würzburg and Frankfurt am Main.
Friedrich Berner, 1937
Since May 1941, Dr. Friedrich Berner (born 1904) was second manager and head physician of the T-4-institution Hadamar. In this function he executed the murders by opening the gas-cock. Berner started his career as radiologist (university of Frankfurton-the-Main).He died during the Second World War in his function as surgeon commander.
Hans Bodo Gorgass, 1946
Since June 1941, Dr. Hans Bodo Gorgass (born 1909) i.e. at the age of 32 years, was a killing doctor in Hadamar. Already since 1937 he had worked as a doctor in the institutions of the district unit Nassau. The death penalty for at least 1.000 cases of murder inflicted in 1947 was changed into life-imprisonment. In 1958 Gorgass was reprieved by the Hesse Prime Minister August Zinn. After his discharge he worked as scientific assistant with a pharmaceutical company.
Günther Hennecke, (1937)
Only in 1939 Dr. Günther Hennecke (1912-1943) obtained his license for a doctor. In 1940 he was already a T-4-doctor in the killing institution Grafeneck. ln January he was transferred to Hadamar.
T-4-personnel on an excursion
When the assassination by gas ended in August 1941, most of the personnel working for the T-4-headquarters were sent to Poland, where they played an important role in building and operating the extermination camps Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. There too, gas chambers were masked as shower rooms and the guards were said to be medical personnel. One contingent of the T-4-personnel (92 people) was assigned "to assassinate the Jews crowded in the ghettos of the Polish territory under German rule, masked as Operation Reinhard".
Correspondence between the Merxhausen mental hospital and the mother of a woman killed in Hadamar, August/September 1941
The daughter was one of the women who were transferred on 30th May 1941 from Merxhausen to Herborn. The stereotype answer "transferred from here by order of the inspector of the War Cabinet "shows how the war situation was made use of for the transfer operation.
From January until August 1941, the T-4 organisation had its own registry office called "Hadamar-Mönchberg". Almost all data shown on the death certificates was false: day, hour, cause of death, name of the registrar, and often even the place of death.
Statistics concerning disinfected persons in the so-called Hartheim-Dokument (1942)
The statistics found in a safe of the Hartheim killing institution after the end of the war, was produced by the "general inspector for public health" (Karl Brandt).
According to this document, a total number of 70.273 persons were killed; from these persons, 10.072 were killed in the institution "E ", that is in Hadamar. The total number of approximately 70.000 victims related to a plan: This plan provided for one case of "euthanasia "for each thousand inhabitants of the German Reich.
In addition to the statistical data, the document contains an exact calculation of the money saved on food as a consequence of the assassinations.
Information of the Haina Mental Hospital
Information of the Haina mental hospital of the district agency Hessen concerning the continuing use of the registration forms, 81" November 1941
Despite the end of the assassinations by gas in August 1941, the "euthanasia" programme of the Reich Chancery of the Führer - here camouflaged as "statist measures" - went on. Until 1945, patients continued to be killed by means of medical poisoning or malnutrition, executed in a more decentralised way. The number of killing institutions increased (in Hessen these centres included, in addition to Hadamar, the Eichberg mental hospital and the Kalmenhof educational curing institution) and the group of victims increased. Those affected were old people, soldiers, children brought up under the social welfare system and forced labour prisoners suffering from tuberculosis. Now, the doctors and nurses decided themselves which life was worth and unworthy of life. "An attempt to escape or larceny, obstinacy or insubordination, restlessness, enuresis, masturbation or homosexuality could mean the sentence of death for an inmate of the institution." (Schmuhl)
In addition to the more than 10.000 victims killed by gas, the Hadamar institution continued to kill another 4000 people and more until the end of the war.The director of the institution's administrative department was Mons Klein (1909-1946) - here in the middle of the photo - an extremely scrupulous and brutal representative of the Nazi policy of extermination. Protected by the chief of the Nassau institutions, the trained dairy-farm assistant was even senior to - the head physician. During the years 1943/44, healthy children with one parent being a Jew were also killed in Hadamar under Klein's direction.
Klein was sentenced to death in 1945 and executed in 1946.
Dr. Adolf Wahlmann (1876-1956), since 1933 a member of the NSDAP, was head physician of the Hadamar mental hospital from 1942 to 1945.Together with the nurses, he selected the foster-children to be killed. The following night, those to be killed upon his orders were given fatal quantities of Luminal, Veronal (diethylbarbituric acid) or Trional. On occasion of the death of 43 female patients coming from the Rhineland area and killed in Hadamar, Wahlmann wrote in 1942: "With reference to my nationalsocialist conviction, I cannot agree to apply any medical measures, whether by medicine or any other kind, aiming at the prolongation of the life of those individuals that are completely unfit for our society, especially in these days of struggle for surviving, where every bed is needed for those of grater value for our people."
Dr. Wahlmann was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment in 1947, but was pardoned in 1953.
In 1943/44 44 female forced labourers were killed in this ward. They were reported to have suffered from tuberculosis. Often, sick persons only stayed one night in Hadamar.
The persons killed in Hadamar in the years 1942-1945 were buried in common graves
on a newly constructed cemetery of the institution. Each grave identified by a number represents a common grave.
The Assassination of Children in Eichberg and Kalmenhof
Within the scope of the "euthanasia programme ", introduced by the "decree "dated 1st September 1939, children from the institutions were also killed. Children and especially infants and pre-school children, not living under the care of institutions, were killed in a special action on the basis of the "compulsory registration procedures". The midwives obtained a pay met of blood money for each child reported to be "idiotic "or "deformed".
The action itself was preceded by the establishment of the "Reichsausschuß zur wissen-schaftlichen Erfassungerb-und anlagebedingter schwerer Leiden "(Reich committee for the scientific registration of serious diseases caused by genetic and hereditary dispositions) as a "medical expert body ".The men represented in this committee were the same men who were responsible for Operation T-4. Until 1945, approximately 5.000 children fell victims to the "euthanasia programme for children".
In his function as head of the university clinic Leipzig, Prof. Dr. Werner Catel (1894-1981) had a share in the planning of the "euthanasia programme for children " and was one of the three experts in the killing operation of children. Even after 1945, he did not want to give up his racist convictions and, until his death, continued to be an advocate for the killing of disabled children. After, his escape from Leipzig in 1946, he became the head of the Mammolshöhe Children's mental home near Kronberg im Taunus in 1947. In 1954, he was appointed to a chair at the university of Kiel.
For killing the children, so-called "Children 's Speciality Departments "were established in both hospitals and mental homes. These departments were designed to convey the idea that the children were given excellent care and treatment. The reality, however, was that, after only a short while, the children were killed by medicine.
On 14th January 1942, Friedrich Mennecke wrote to his wife: "...for Mr. Straub, they are going to establish a new mental hospital near our place, which will mainly deal with child guidance .... and the "waste "of this new "clinic for child guidance "will finally end their treatment with me. Here we are with our future project that I have always expected from the Children 's Speciality Department.'
Until 1945, at least 430 children were put to death in the "Children 's Speciality Department ", established in April 1941 in Eichberg and lodged in a single-storied house near the mental hospital. The department with an average of 30 children was more taken care of than the rest of the institution, especially with respect to therapeutics. As soon as a child, after a "period of observance "of a few days or weeks, was not considered to "qualify for improvement ", Dr. Schmidt, the head of the department, turned to the T-4-headquarters in Berlin in order to obtain the"authorisation for treatment "which was followed by the assassination of the child. These assassinations also served, among others, the brain anatomy laboratory of the university of Heidelberg.
Dr. Walter Eugen Schmidt (1911-1970). Since 1930, he was a member of the NSDAP In 1941, he was appointed senior physician and head of the Children 's Speciality Department. In 1942, he was also assigned the post as deputy director of the Eichberg mental hospital. Despite the approaching American troops, he was said to continue his plans - according to the statements given in the "Eichberg trial" - to lock in the patients that were still alive and to let them die of starvation.
In 1946, Schmidt was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1951 this sentence was shortened to seven years, and in 1953, on the background of a campaign for his release, he succeeded in getting out of prison.
Authorization for treatment by order of the Reich committee for the scientific registration of serious diseases caused by generic and hereditary dispositions, concerning the children Horst Sch. and Bernhard W., 29th January 1945
Reich committee children in the Eichberg mental hospital, (1941)
The photos were taken from an album that was given to Dr. Schmidt by the patient and dissection assistant Ballast. The first part of the album contains photos of the living children, the second part shows the brains of the children killed. During the post-war trials, the photos served as evidence against Schmidt and Mennecke.
"Here's the sunny side - there's the dark side" (1938)
Nassauer Volksblatt dated 9th March 1938
From its foundation in 1888 until the year 1933, the Kalmenhof in Idstein/Taunus was known to be a progressive medico-pedagogic institution for so-called "idiotic "children, with its own school and special instruction workshops, run by a private association. In 1933, the institution came under government control, and its director was replaced with a Nazi. In 1941, Kalmenhof was one of the "interim institutions "that the victims passed on their way to Hadamar. The same year, Kalmenhof, too, was added a Children 's Speciality Department which sent to death over 600 children. All children and adolescents that were "still worthy of life ", but no longer obtaining any assistance, had to work for the armed forces since the beginning of the war.
For 214 inmates of the Kalmenhof, evidence was brought forward for forced sterilisation. Even before Hitler's decree on "euthanasia ", the cases of death at Kalmenhof considerably increased considerably due to neglect. The description of the "dull eyes of the children "corresponded to the Nazi ideology that suggested life was of no more value for the children.
The Hospital of Kalmenhof
Assassination of Children
The hospital of Kalmenhof on the western part of the Tauberberg was not opened before 1927. It was meant to essentially improve the children's care. It included, among others, an observation ward for preschool children who underwent a special treatment with vitamins, black light etc. In August 1941,a department was established on the upper floor (the first floor served as a military hospital for German soldiers) that was exclusively reserved for children sent by order of the Reich committee.
Here, the children died within a few days from malnutrition and overdoses of morphinescopolamine and Luminal, dispensed by both doctors and nurses. For each child killed, they were given a "blood money". In the "Kalmenhof trial "the ward was described as follows:
"The room in which the child was kept consisted of three beds, nothing more, in the other beds were children too. The children were lying in their beds, apathetically, and looked very pale. There were absolutely no handles on the windows and the doors ...The windowpanes were painted white. Several ground-floor rooms had signs showing the words 'Entrance strictly prohibited'.
Many of the children knew that people were being killed in the hospital of the institution and feared to go there. Some of them played "Klappsarg" (swinging coffin). When relatives attended a funeral, they used a coffin whose lower part swung open so that the body remained in the grave and the coffin could be taken back the evening following the burial. Up to six children were buried in the same grave.
The fatal medicine (mostly Luminal, partly combined with morphine-scopolamine) was sent to the hospital directly from Berlin. When dispensed, the medicine did not have an immediate fatal effect but caused a slow decline and ultimately led to the death of the completely debilitated children.
Der Stern No.4511987 (Michael Schick)
Dr. Mathilde Weber (born in 1909), was a medical assistant since 1936; from 1940 until 1944, she was head physician of the Kalmenhof institution and consequently responsible for the assassinations in the hospital. In the post-war trial she declared: „I made them die a natural death".
In 1942, in her function as physician of the Reich committee, she attended a four week course with the Heidelberg psychiatrist Prof. Carl Schneider who had a leading position in the T-4 operation. He scientifically evaluated the brains of those killed in the Hessian „Children 's Speciality Departments".
In 1944, Dr. Weber was affected by pulmonary phthisis and replaced by Dr. Wesse who, from 1942 until 1943, was in charge of the Waldniel ,Children's Speciality Department ".The sentence of death against Dr. Weber in 1947 was annulled in 1948. In 1949, she was condemned to three years and six months imprisonment, but was in confinement for a only short time.
The relatives of the children were always provided with false data. In order to prevent the parents from visiting the institution, the burial in a common grave often took place before the notice was sent to them.
Many parents worried about their children. By referring to the war situation, the authorities kept visitors away. If, however, they succeeded in attending the funeral, many of them at least sensed the crimes.
Last letter from Emil, 11th February 1944
News of Emil W.'s death, 1944
Forced sterilization, Further Assassinations and Mass Dying
Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Disease in Posterity. dated 14th July 1933
Official gazette of the Third Reich announcing new laws No. 86/part I.
Discussions on the introduction of a sterilization law had already taken place before 1933, but a parliamentary majority in favor of a forced sterilization was not in sight. According to the law dated 14th July 1933, sterilization could be carried out against a person's will and in case of need with the help of the police.
The applications were filed by the public health commissioners or directors and physicians of the institutions, in office since 1934, and the decisions on the applications were taken by the responsible Hereditary Health Courts. From 1934 until 1939, about 400.000 women and men were victims of the Nazi forced sterilization.
The victims were said to be "hereditarily diseased", even though the hereditary character of the diseases in question was still disputed. Many of those having undergone forced sterilization, especially women, died in consequence of the surgical intervention. Others retained serious mental injuries. "Never before in history had a nation propagandized and practiced such a policy of massive contraception, never before had a country taken measures in such a large, violent and efficient manner for purposes opposing fatality." (Gisela Bock)
In 1934, the state ministers of justice decreed the establishment of an Upper Court for Hereditary Health with each Upper Court and a Court for Hereditary Health, with each bigger district court of a provincial court district. Prussia witnessed the establishment of 84 Courts for Hereditary Health and 13 Upper Courts for Hereditary Health; one Court and one Upper Court were established with the courthouse in Kassel. In addition to legal experts, physicians, psychiatrists and anthropologists exercised "jurisdiction" in these courts. The government of the Third Reich instructed the state governments to choose for the chair, deputy chair and medical board only such persons who were known to support the sterilization law. Consequently, the courts practically held a partisan position. In most of the cases, they, followed the applications; a certain reluctance was only felt when it came to decide on alcoholics.
The heads of the mental hospitals and other social welfare-institutions participated in many ways in the implementation of forced sterilization. They reported the patients, foster-children and pupils of special schools to the courts, denouncing them as "hereditarily diseased"; in their function as medical experts, they had an influence on the decisions taken by the "Courts for Hereditary Health". Some even had sterilization departments in their own institutions.
The inmates of the institutions were specifically exposed to forced sterilization. When the law was passed, they mostly had to give in and undergo surgery if they wanted to be released.
In the mental hospital of Herborn,founded in 1911, a total number of (.184 people said to be hereditarily diseased, underwent forced sterilization between December 1934 and July 1939. They originated even from the institution in Herborn as well as from numerous other institutions in the province of Hesse-Nassau. In the case of the 620 men, the prevailing arguments were "mental deficiency", "schizophrenia" and "alcoholism"; the 564 women were reported to have suffered from "mental deficiency" and "schizophrenia".However,"mental deficiency" that "legitimated" forced sterilization more than any other argument, had such abroad meaning that it was strongly depending on social, political or sexual standards.
In 1941 Herborn, too, became an "interim institution" for Hadamar until August 1941, when the Wehrmächt requisitioned the building for war-hospital purposes. Only a few patients remained as workers.
Since the living-conditions of the inmates of the institutions began to deteriorate as a consequence of the world-wide economical crises, and even more so with the implementation of an austerity policy after 1933, the supply turned out to be disastrous with the beginning of World War II. Not only did the number of patients increase, military hospitals and prisoner 's camps of the Wehrmacht had to be lodged too. On the other hand, the number of both the medical and the nursing staff as well as quality and quantity of food and medicine decreased. In all the social welfare institutions of the present federal state of Hesse, the death rate was far above the pre-war situation. In Haina the highest death rate was approximately 16% of the inmates and in other institutions it almost reached 50.
The origins of the Haina mental hospital go back to a hospital for poor men, founded in 1533 by the Hessian landgraves. This was reputed to be exemplary. In 1941 almost 600 men of the institution were first transferred to "interim institutions "and then to their death in Hadamar. The Jewish inmates had already been transported in 1940 and killed at an unknown place. The criminal patients were transferred in 1944 to the concentration camp Mauthausen near Linz.
n 1980 Walter Adlhoch, the pastor of Weilmünster, described the living-conditions within the institution of Bezirksverbandes Nassau under the Nazi period as follows: "They only got vegetable, widely died off in the wards and suffered all the time from diarrhoea. There wasn't enough linen; the beds and mattresses were rotten. Since the beds were rotten, those dying were put in the bathtub filled with water. There, I gave them the extreme unction. The water had a green colour and was filled with excrements. They were mere skin and bones, skin and bones."
The Weilmünster mental hospital in the twenties
The Weilmünster mental hospital and nursing home was opened in 1897. The ten hospital buildings had room for 1,100 patients. From 1921-1933 the institution served children whose health was endangered or who were. in need of a rest. From 1933 Weilmünster was once again a mental hospital; from 1944-1946 it was a military hospital. With reference to its role as an "interim institution "for Hadamar, the occurrences in Weilmünster were the object of a judicial investigation which pronounced the director of the institution was free from guilt. The reports concerning mistreatment by the nurses and "hunger cures "were not the object of any further investigation.
Between 1942 and 1945, more than half of all the sick people died in the Eichberg mental hospital. The institution that took care of 920 patients in 1936 lodged up to 1.800 individuals during the times of war. They slept on bundles of straw in halls and corridors. An unknown number of sick people were killed by injections; many also died because of undernourishment. Each peculiar and unwanted behaviour was punished by deprivation of food, confinement in a bunker, water-beds, electroshocks or injections causing nausea. In 1941 the mental hospital was also an "interim institution" for Hadamar.
Since the end of the thirties, this building of the institution contained "bunkers "that had been constructed under the direction of Mennecke and Schmidt. They were designed as penalty-dungeons used for all kinds of "sorts".The bunkers for women were dark and narrow cellar-rooms with high light wells. The bunkers for men included two dull narrow, and barred cellar-rooms. "To get caught while playing with Schmidt's medical appliances or while receiving another patient 's harmless "love-letter "could lead to confinement in the bunker, sometimes for days or even weeks, with only very little food:" (Horst Dickel)
The mental hospital was founded in 1849 as an offspring of a department for mentally sick people of the Eberbach monastery. In the twenties, the institution was renowned outside its walls for its progressive approaches concerning therapies and welfare services.
In 1941 the Nazis stopped the killing of sick and disabled people in Hadamar and other locations by carbon monoxide gas. They began to apply drugs within the scope of a decentralised "euthanasia "programme, at least 90-100 medical doctor assassins of the T4 killing organisation were transferred to participate in the genocide of the Jewish people beginning 1942.
Appointed to the so-called "action Reinhard "(named after Reinhard Heydrich - commander of the SS Security Service), T4 members established the three extermination camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, located in the so-called "Government general "(occupied Poland). Until 1943, the T4 assassins and their assistants had killed 1.5-2 million European Jews in the gas chambers of these three extermination camps by the use of exhaust gases. Almost all of the central employees of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka originated from the T4 killing machinery.
In 1943, the Austrian village of Hartheim, where the Nazis had run another gas chamber, eventually became the T4 headquarters, which, until that date, was located in Berlin. Finally, T4 operated from the Italian town of Trieste where the rice mill San Sabba had been transformed into a concentration camp.
Christian Wirth, a Stuttgart police superintendent and SS Hauptsturmführer was the commander in chief of the three "action Reinhard "camps (and thus the senior official of the three camp commanders). Until 1941, he was the administrative director of the T4 institution of Hadamar and of other killing hospitals. He was then to play a key role in the assassination of European Jewry. Beginning 1942, he was assisted by Gottlieb Hering, commander of the camp of Belzec, who - like Wirth - was a former police officer. More than 600.000 people were put to death in the gas chamber of Belzec.
From the three "Action Reinhard "concentration camps, the extermination camp of Treblinka put to death the biggest number of people (more than 900 000). In September 1942, the Austrian Franz Stangl took over the command of the camp. Kurt Franz who had worked in different T4 "euthanasia "institutions was made assistant commander of the Treblinka extermination camp. He was the last to command the camp before it was closed down following the prisoners ' revolt in the middle of 1943 and turned into a farm. In the so-called "Treblinka Trial "of the year 1965, the District Court of Düsseldorf sentenced Franz to a lifelong imprisonment.
Before Stangl took over the supreme command of the Treblinka concentration camp, he passed spring and summer of the year 1942 as commander of the Sobibor extermination camp which was still under construction. Operating from May 1942, the gas chambers of Sobibor killed more than 250 000 Jews in the years 1942 and 1943. Like in Treblinka, the prisoners of the Sobibor camp who had been forced to handle the arrival of the "transports", rose 71 in revolt in I 943. Immediately after the revolt during which several of the T4 supervisors were killed, the camp was closed down.
Werner Dubois, born in 1913, first worked in the agricultural field while holding a second job as a driving instructor. He became a member of the Brandenburg SS Death 's Head Battalion and started to work as a driver of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1937. In autumn 1939, he left for the T4 organisation where his first job was to drive busses with mentally ill patients to the Grafeneck killing institution (Wurttemberg). He then worked in several T4 institutions, where his duty was to incinerate the dead bodies of those killed. He took up work in Hadamar in January 1941.When in Hadamar patients were no longer killed by gas, Dubois, like many of his T4 colleagues, moved to the extermination camps in occupied Poland. In the Belzec and Sobibor concentration camps, Dubois was part of those who killed the deported Jews in the gas chambers.
Lorenz Hackenholt, no date
SS Hauptscharführer Lorenz Hackenholt had worked for T4 in Berlin since 1939, among others as driver of Viktor Brack, chief organiser of the "euthanasia "programme, as well as for the killing institutions Grafeneck and Pirna-Sonnenstein. In 1942, Hackenholt began to work in the Belzec extermination camp where he operated the engine that put to death the Jews by the exhaust gases sent into the gas chambers. He had the entrance of the gas chamber building decorated with geraniums and the inscription "Hackenholt Foundation ". In 1945, he succeeded in breaking away.
The personnel used first to kill patients and then to kill Jews not only involved police supervisors and gas chamber and crematorium workers, but to some extent the physicians, too. One example is Dr. Irmfried Eberl, born in 1910 in Bregenz (Voralberg /Austria), who had worked for T4 since the beginning of 1940. In the years 1940 and 1941, he subsequently worked as medical director in the killing institutions of Brandenburg and Bernburg and was then involved in the "Action Reinhard ". In 1942, he participated in the construction of the extermination camp Treblinka, which he directed for a short time. However, since he was unable to manage a mass extermination camp where soon chaotic conditions began to appear, he was dismissed from his office as commander in summer 1942. After the end of World War 11, he first worked as physician. In January 1948, he was committed for trial. One month later, he hanged himself.
Gottlieb Hering, born in Stuttgart in 1887, commanded the Belzec extermination camp from 1942 until 1943. He was said to be its absolute ruler. In 1940/41, he was working in the T4 institutions Sonnenstein, Hadamar and Bernburg as office supervisor and as director of the special registry office. Heinrich Gley had worked as head nurse in the T4 killing institutions of Grafeneck and Sonnenstein before he - just like Hering - came to Belzec.
The excessive consumption of alcohol is recorded for the personnel of both the T4 killing institutions and the extermination camps. In 1941, Karl renzel was also involved in the incineration of dead bodies in Hadamar; while in Sobibor in 1943, his function was the same. Erich Bauer, a former tramway controller, was responsible, among other things, for operating the gassing engine in the Sobibor extermination camp.
Austria, annexed by Germany in 1938, was fully involved in the "euthanasia" programme from the very beginning, among others through the Hartheim killing institution near Linz in Upper Austria. Hartheim was also used as training institute for new killing doctors such as Bodo Gorgaß who had spent some weeks in April and May 1941 with Dr. med. Rudolf Lonauer, director at Hartheim, before he took over responsibility for operating the gas cock in the Hadamar gas chamber.
With more than 18.000 victims killed in the years 1940 and 1941, Hartheim was the biggest of the six T4 killing institutions. Dr. med. Georg Renno as Deputy Director of Dr. Lonauer until 1941, had already tested the killing of patients by soporifics in the years 1939/40, and this on behalf of T4 .In 1942, Renno moved to the Rhineland to take over the ,Kinderfachabteilung" ("paediatric institute ") Waldniel-Hostert (an institution practicing so-called "child euthanasia"). In 1943, Renno returned to Hartheim where until the end of 1944 - within the scope of the so-called ,Sonderbehand lung I4fI3" ("special treatment I4fI3") - at least 8000 prisoners from several concentration camps (such as Dachau and Mauthausen) had been put to death in the gas chamber.
Forced sterilization and more...
The T4 career of the born Austrian Franz Stangl (who later commanded the concentration camps of Sobibor and Treblinka) began in 1940 in the offices of Castle Hartheim killing institution. Stangl, 32 years old at that time, had worked with the Linz based police service of the Gestapo. Since he was looking for a new job, he appealed to the Central Security Office of the Reich. He accepted an offer to work for T4 at Hartheim. Arrested after World War 11, Stangl escaped from an Austrian prison in 1947 and managed to get to Italy and then into Syria. In 1951, he came to Brazil and began to work with Volkwagon. Simon Wiesenthal succeeded in identifying him in Brazil from where he was extradited to Germany in 1967. In 1970, the Court of assizes at Düsseldorf sentenced him to lifelong detention; he died in prison one year later.
With the progress of World War II, T4 had to look for more places to escape from the Berlin headquarters more and more exposed to the risk of bomb attacks. In 1943, the ,,Zentralverrechnungsstelle Heilund Pflegeanstalten "("Central Clearing Office for Psychiatric Hospitals ") one of the T4 sub-divisions, moved to Castle Hartheim near Linz. For reasons of secrecy, the name "Hartheim "was not mentioned in the address. The T4 Central Clearing Office was now responsible for the overall German Reich settlement of daily costs billed by T4 for such patients who, for the purpose of getting more places clear, were to be transferred to interim institutions and from there to the "euthanasia "institutions where they were put to death. The patients from Hamburg mentioned here were transferred in 1943 to Scheuern near Nassau and from there to the killing institution Hadamar.
In 1944, the T4 payroll department worked in "Haus Schoberstein "located in Weißenbach at the Attersee, near the Austrian town Vöcklabruck. For camouflage reasons, the address only consisted of the postal box number in Linz (Upper Austria). In the years before, "Haus Schoberstein "was used as sanatorium for T4 personnel that had worked in the killing institutions and extermination camps. In 1944, the killing institutions still employed members of the T4 personnel such as the five nurses of the Hadamar institution. The personnel was still on the payroll of the T4 organisation which had its costs reimbursed by the new administrative body of the killing institution.
At the end of 1943, many T4 employees from the camps closed after the "action Reinhard "in occupied Poland were transferred to Trieste (Italy) for a new mission. They remained under the authority of Odilo Globocnik, responsible until that date for the extermination camps in the Lublin district in his function of SS and police officer, and now transferred to Trieste as senior SS and police officer. At the local rice mill ("Risiera") of San Sabba, the T4 members established a concentration camp designed to concentrate Jews from the Adriatic region. From there, they were sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp. In addition, T4 members specified as "Special Task Force Adriatic Coast "also took over police duties in the region and got involved in fights with Yugoslav partisans in neighbouring Istria and Dalmatia.
In San Sabba, T4 members had established detention installations as well as a central office for the interrogation of prisoners. There are only some vague allusions as to the extent of potential assassinations committed by the T4 command at San Sabba. Some information relates to the execution by firing squads and some even to assassinations by gas. There is a clear evidence, however, that San Sabba had an installation for incinerating dead bodies, built by the T4 mason Erwin Lambert.
When the commander of the Tieste section, Christian Wirth, was killed in May 1944 during fights against partisans, he was replaced by the T4 executive Dietrich Allers. Born in 1910, Allers, a solicitor and high-ranking councillor, got in touch with the killing organisation through his contact with the T4 executive Werner Blankenburg. In 1943, he had succeeded in becoming the most influential T4 man. After the war, he managed to work as a lawyer until 1968 when he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment. Allers died in 1975.
After the closure of the extermination camp in Treblinka, Kurt Franz had to leave his post as commander and found a new mission - like many of his T4 colleagues - in the Trieste region. The photo showing Franz on mission in the Adriatic area is part of a photographic album and bears the title (just like the photos from Treblinka) "Happy Times"
Some years before, many members of the T4 command structure in the Italian city of Trieste had played an active role in the T4 "euthanasia "institutions of the Third Reich. One of Erwin Lambert 's roles in 1940 was to install the gas chamber and the incinerators of the crematorium in Hadamar. In addition to the bus driver Hackenholt and the cremator Dubois, the Trieste mission also included Gerhard Schneider who had worked as courier between the T4 headquarters and the killing institutions.
Menschliche Erblichkeitslehre and Rassenhygiene (Human Heredity Teaching and Racial Hygiene), E. Baur, E. Fischer and F Lenz
Between 1921 (1st edition) and 1936/40, this "standard text-book" was repeatedly adapted and published five times. During the times of his confinement, Adolf Hitler read the second edition dated 1923 and processed essential ideas of that volume in "Mein Kampf". The authors of the official commentary on the Nazi sterilisation law also referred to the "Allgemeine Erblehre" (general heredity teaching). The book had two volumes:the first theoretically oriented part contains chapters by Prof. Dr. phil. Dr. med. Erwin Baur (1875-1933; director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Breeding Research) on the principles of heredity; by Prof. Dr. Eugen Fischer on the different racial groups on earth and by Prof. Dr. Fritz Lenz (1887-1976) on human heredity. The second part, written by Lenz only, is exclusively dealing with the topic of racial hygiene. Here, the concept of "race" was used to proclaim the superiority of the "Nordic" strain. As early as 1913, Lenz, a student of the Social Darwinist Alfred Ploetz (1860-1940) who established racial hygiene in Germany, asked for the "man of action" to implement this ideology. In 1933 he became head of department at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Hereditary Teaching and Eugenics in Berlin-Dahlem, replacing the former director who was dismissed for political reasons. He also had his share in shaping the "Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Disease in Posterity" dated 1933. In 1946 Lenz was offered the chair for "Human Hereditary Teaching" with the university of Göttingen.
Eugen Fischer, (1940)
Prof. Dr. Eugen Fischer (1874-1967) was the. first director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Hereditary Teaching and Eugenics in Berlin-Dahlem, established in 1927 upon his initiative. Already in 1913, Fischer earned a reputation by publishing his field research concerning the questions of race crossbreeding in the colony of German-Southwest-Africa (today; Namibia). He stood for an absolute prohibition of mixed marriages within the colonies.
The Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute actively participated in the Nazi policy of racism, in his function of government consultant within the expert committee on demography and racial policy, Fischer, together with Fritz Lenz, planned the enforced sterilization of the so-called "Rhineland bastards", "half-breeds"; who were the descendants of German women and African or Asian colonial soldiers, born during the Rhineland occupation of the years 1920-1927. In 1945, Fischer was denazified as a "follower". In 1952, he became honorary president of the newly founded German Anthropological Society.
Announcement of the speech "Human Hereditary Research and Eugenics" by Professor Dr. Eugen Fischer in the Hessian National Museum in Kassel, dated 3rd March 1932
The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value (Life Unworthy of Life). Its measurement and form. Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, 1922
The little booklet only including 60 pages and first published in 1920, was of an outstanding importance for the discussion of "euthanasia", even after the beginning of the "Third Reich". With his juridical arguments in support of the killing of "life devoid of value", which clearly opposed all preceding positions, Prof. Dr. jur. Dr. phil. Karl Binding (1841-1920), a highly respected penal law expert, triggered off an avalanche. In his part of the booklet, Dr. med. Alfred Hoche, a professor in psychiatry from Freiburg, provided a cost-benefit analysis regarding psychiatric care and described sick and disabled people as "people with deficits", "elements of minor value" ,"mentally dead" and "ballast existences" .On the basis of a regulated procedure of applications and after the examination by a commission consisting of two physicians and a legal practitioner, both authors requested the painless killing of "incurably" sick persons against their will. They especially referred to inmates of "fools homes" and to cases without hope in "mental homes".
After the publication of the paper, the statements of both authors raised a broad opposition (thus Ewald Meltzer in his reply dated 1922); however, since the commencement of the worldwide depression, their ideas found more and more followers. The Nazi policy of extermination. clearly referred to the explanations of Binding and Hoche.
Alfred Erich Hoche (1865-1943), was from 1899 onwards professor in Strasbourg and since 1902 a full professor for psychiatry and later-on for neuropathology in Freiburg/Br., was honoured by the Nazis as pioneer of „euthanasia"; however, after 1933, he obviously dissociated himself from his former ideas. These were clearly stamped by his experience of World War I and the dying of German soldiers (one of them was his son), which was said to be in contrast with the number of survivors in mental homes. In fact, the death rate in psychiatric institutions was, however, extremely high during the war.
Seminar on "Hereditary Teaching and Racial Hygiene "with the Staatsmedizinische Akademie in Berlin-Charlottenburg, December 10th-15th
The physicians of the mental hospitals regularly participated in scientific lectures and congresses on "Hereditary Teaching "and "Racial Hygiene ", where they also met the leading representatives of Nazi racism.
The horrible results of an uncontrolled growth of population were always forecasted in Nazi propaganda, like here in an exhibition of the Reich government. Behind was the idea that "inferiority traits "are passed on with more vigour than "high value. traits ".
The Nazis considered large groups of the population as of minor value: poor people and beggars, criminals, prostitutes, alcoholics. The pictures of propaganda followed the idea that ways of behavior and life, too, are passed on by reproduction.
Deutsches Filmmuseum Frankfurt a.M. The killing of people, sick and of "inferior value", was dealt with in public only in a most secret way. The film "I accuse", initiated by the Führer's chancellery in 1941 (under the direction of Wolfgang Liebeneiner. 1905-1987, professor with the Filmakademie in Babelsberg) is the most known example of film propagandaAlready shown after the killing action by gas, it was obviously intended to prepare public opinion for more assassination by drugs and withdrawal of food. However, the focus of the film is neither on a "mentally sick" nor on a disabled person, but on the wife of a physician, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Her husband, having been urged by his wife to give her the fatal medicine ends up by making the first step before court and to accuse himself. The film ends without a judgment. Ail the personnel of the Eichberg mental hospital were among the spectators who were asked to watch this film.
Picture of propaganda
Federal archives, Collection of photos The "Lebensborn" association founded in 1935 by Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the SS, was designed to care for pregnant women, "racially and biologically precious, who, after an attentive examination by the association of both their own and the progenitor's family are expected to give birth to children of the same quality." The association's specialized physicians included the directors of the Marburg university clinic and of the hygiene institute of the university of Marburg.
Until the final days of the war the association maintained eight maternity and four children's homes at different places. Between 7,000-8,000 children were born in these homes, of which 50-60% of them were illegitimate. The children of the home "Taunus" near Wiesbaden, established in 1939, were given to adoptive parents through the channels of the adoption office of the Nassau district agency, under the custodianship of Landesrat Fritz Bernotat. Some of the mothers came from the concentration camp Ravensbrück, since 1943 under the field office control of the home. If children in the "Lebensborn" homes were born sick or disabled, they were immediately "selected" and killed,with others, in the Brandenburg-Görden "Children's Specialty Department".
"Three-year old boy, deaf, crippled and completely idiotic. The nursing costs amounting to 8 Marks a day", exhibition of the Reichsausschuss für Volksgesundheit (Reich Committee for National Health), March 1914
The public was continuously presented with figures on the costs for nursing and taking care of sick and disabled persons. Schools in their maths lessons even provided students with comparisons between the income of "hereditarily healthy" families and the money spent in nursing institutions.
The austerity programmes with reference to the nursing sector already started before 1933 when the worldwide depression began to spread. In 1932 the hospital allowances underwent a first cut. After 1933 and especially with the outbreak of World War II, the life conditions of the inmates of institutions deteriorated dramatically, sometimes even leading to death by starvation.
In a speech of 1937, Landesrat Fritz Bernotat, since 1937 Referee for the Nassau district agency and in 1940 primarily responsible for the establishment of Hadamar as T-4 institution, spoke openly in favor of the principles concerning Nazi welfare policy: the costs for the "hereditarily diseased" identified by him as "asocial" individuals, should be kept as low as possible, whereas more money should be given to "healthy persons". Liberalism as well as Christian charity were considered to the main opponents of Nazi racial policy,, with both - philosophies emphasizing the role of the individual.
Serving as an example, the Merxhausen mental hospital in 1937 underwent an "efficiency" audit by the "Wirtschaftsberatung Deutscher Gemeinden". According to the audit, the institution that was taking care of approximately 900 female patients at the time should accept another 200 sick people in order to be even more "efficient". By transferring female patients from clerical institutions (Bethel near Bielefeld, Hephata near Treysa) as well as from the institution Merzig in the Saar district in the course of war preparations against France, the number of inmates in Merxhausen was raised up to 1.172 in the year 1939. As a consequence of life in such cramped and poor housing and nursing conditions, the death rate in Merxhausen rose from 6.5% (1937/38) up to 23% (1940/41) and finally to 30.6% in the years 1944/45.
The Merxhausen mental hospital was established by landgraves as a foundation for poor and sick women in the year 1533. Since 1880, Merxhausen, in its function as a Prussian Mental home and Nursing institution of the Kassel district agency, had experienced an enormous extension. Since 1935, forced sterilization of female patients was practiced in the institution on application of the Merxhausen director Theodor Malcus (1881 -1967).
In the republic of Hesse with its seat of government in Darmstadt, the department III (internal administration) of the state government was responsible for the administration of the institutions. The Nazi austerity policy was in tine with what had been done in previous years in the province of Hesse-Nassau, and including the transfer of foster-children of clerical and private institutions to the state-operated institutions. It was this policy that prepared the concentration of inmates of institutions in order to provide for a relatively smooth "selection" within the scope of the "euthanasia programme".
Since 1933, the authorities introduced a systematic registration of the population under genetic aspects in order to implement Nazi racial policy. Welfare authorities of any kind provided personal data concerning their foster. children and clients to both the municipal and state authorities. The data that was filed could be used freely against those concerned for purposes of sterilization, marriage licenses, adoption, public service careers or nationalization.
In 1935/36 the Frankfurt genetic register contained 100,000 entries and approximately 170,000 files for a population of 555-857 inhabitants. In 1937/38 the genetic register contained 230.000 entries, the hereditary archives consisted of 250.000 files. Thus, half of the population of Frankfurt was already registered.
Request of the Lauterbach district office, department for hereditary health and racial hygiene, to also indicate the addresses of mentally sick etc., 19th October 1934
The groups of the population designed to become the first victims of the Nazi racial
policy underwent systematic registration: mentally sick, mentally deficient, deaf and
dumb, blind, children brought up under the social welfare stem and ,,alcoholics".
The head of Giessen department for hereditary health and racial hygiene of the
Hessian Chamber of Physicians, Dr. med, Heinrich Wilhelm Kranz, who later became
a lecturer with the universities of Giessen and Frankfurt a.M., was one of the leading
representatives of racial hygiene during the 'Third Reich".
The new institute for Hereditary and Racial Research in Giessen, 1937
In 1938, the institute under the head of Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Kranz, inaugurated in January 1936, was formally affiliated to the university of Giessen. The tasks of the institute holding three medical assistants and at least three further medical and nine non-medical posts, was not confined to research and science. The "Landesstelle für die erbbiologische Bestandsaufnahme" (regional authority for the genetic registration) and the "Eheberatungsstelle des staatlichen Gesundheitsamtes" (marital counselling bureau of the stateoperated sanitary board), responsible for the district of Upper-Hesse, were also part of the institute. In 1939, the archives included data from more than 450.000 individuals. In the marital counseling bureau, approximately 1,800 persons were registered per year.
The registration of hereditarily diseased clans by the mental hospitals, by Dr. Wilhelm Stemmler, 1936
Dr.Wilhelm Stemmler was head of the newly established Wiesbaden based "department for hereditary and racial hygiene" of the province of Hesse-Nassau. In his function and with the support of local commissioners, he organized the genetic registration in all institutions of the province. Emphasizing the importance of his duty he explained: "It someone says that funds should be used for equally necessary tasks like e.g. the support of the youth hostels and similar projects, we may also ask what youth hostels are good for if nobody doesn't take immediate measures within the scope of hereditary and racial hygiene, in older to ensure that only hereditarily healthy individuals come into such youth hostels and not those young people that are mentally or physically crippled." (Speech 1936)
World War II: Militarisation of Society
Prohibition of Sunday visits to the Kalmenhof mental hospital, 20th January 1941
With reference to the war situation, the directors of the institutions tried to shield the inmates from outside contacts such as visits or letters, in order to keep the crimes within the institutions secret from the public:
Since the outbreak of the war, all welfare institutions of both the province of Hesse-Nassau and of the Republic of Hesse provided considerable room, sometimes even the whole institution to the Wehrmacht in order to lodge German soldiers and war-prisoners. This was partly achieved by transferring and killing approximately 3.000 inmates of the Hessian institutions in the year 1941 and by concentrating those individuals that remained in the institutions.
In November 1940, the chief executive had signed a contract according to which the "Dynamit-Aktien-Gesellschaft" had obtained two buildings from the mental hospital (men's house 5 and women's house 5) for housing its forced laborers. The company kept the premises until March 1942. Every day, the prisoners working In the armaments industry (production of explosives) were taken to the factory in Allendorf (today Stadtallendorf). Up to 25.000 prisoners were forced to work there in three of its buildings for the German Wehrmacht, under conditions that were both inhuman and extremely hazardous for their health.
n 1941/42, the building housed forced female laborers of the factory "Allendorf" belonging to the "Dynamit-Aktien-Gesellschaft". Their exact number is unknown.
This and some other similar buildings of the mental hospital established in 1876 and constructed in the "style of pavilions", maintained a close relation with the university of Marburg and was originally designed to provide room for small groups of approximately 20 mentally sick women or men intended to live there "like a family". The clear and fresh basements offered room for workshops.
Request of the mental hospitals to provide for more accommodation, 13th March 1944
The letter of state commissioner Scheilmann followed after a corresponding information by the "Reich commissioner for the mental hospitals", that was circulated a year before, with the clear message that priority should be given to the "productive" population: "in cases of special distress we must not accept that physically sick people have to be lodged outdoor or under the most primitive condition, whereas the beds in institutions are reserved for the mentally sick depending on care..:"
Block 13 of the reserve war hospital Merxhausen, summer 1943
Policy and Adminstration
Before 1945, today's federal state of Hesse consisted of the Prussian province of HesseNassau with the government districts of Kassel and Wiesbaden and the republic of Hesse. The state-operated welfare institutions of the province of Hesse-Nassau were administrated by the district agencies of Hesse and Nassau (until 1933 municipal selfgovernmental bodies), those of the republic of Hesse by the state governmental (department „internal administration").The NSDAP-Gau Kurhessen included the district of the government district of Kassel only, without Hanau, Schlüchtern and Gelnhausen (until 1943 under Gau leader Weinrich), whereas the NSDAP-Gau Hesse-Nassau (under Gau leader Sprenger) also extended over the district of the republic of Hesse.
Federal archives, Collection of photographs The Gau leader Jakob Sprenger (1884-1945) - on the left, in front of the picture - was reputed to be the most string-pulling Nazi politician throughout Hesse. Already in 1927, the "old fighter" of the Nazi movement became head of the Gau Hesse-Nassau South. He was town councilor in Frankfurt, leader of the party in the representative assembly of the province and, since 1933, also a member of the Reichstag. In 1933 the former commissioner of the Reichspost became Reich Governor of Hesse and, in 1939, Reich defense commissioner for the district of the army corps XII and the Gau Hesse-Nassau. In 1944 he was appointed president in chief of the newly founded province of Nassau.
Sprenger especially protected the chief of the Nassau institutions, Fritz Bernotat, who was an extreme defender of the Nazi policy of extermination.
Prince Philipp of Hesse, senior executive, 1937
Berlin Document Center (Federal archives) Philipp of Hesse (1896-1980), from 1933 until 1944 senior executive of the district agencies of the province of Hesse¥Nassau, architect by profession, owed most of his political carrier to his relationship with the Italian royal court. In his function as highest commissioner of the district agencies of Hesse and Nassau, he was politically responsible for the forced sterilization executed in the institutions, the "transfers" of inmates of the institutions, austerity programmes in the social welfare institutions, the establishment of "Children's Specialty Departments" and the assignment of Hadamar as a T4 killing center. Since Italy's liberation from fascism was declared as "treachery", Philipp of Hesse, who was married to an Italian princess, was rejected by the government of the Reich and put into a "waiting status" in January 1944.
Landeshauptmann Wilhelm Traupel, 1937
Berlin Document Center (Federal archives) Before 1933, Wilhelm Traupel (1891-1946) was the head of the publishing house of the Nazi "Frankfurter Volksblatt". In September 1933, he replaced Dr. Lutsch who had been democratically elected but then removed from office, and became Landeshauptmann of the district agency of Nassau. In 1936 he also was given the direction of the district agency of Hesse (where Landeshauptmann Gottfried Rabe von Pappenheim was in office) and transferred his domicile to the Ständehaus of Kassel. According to post-war testimonies, Traupel had said more than once in the years 1936137, "it is better to have a law to kill the mentally sick, because they are only ballast existences..:'. Because of domestic struggles with Gau leader Jacob Sprenger, the SS Standartenführer spent the years 1941 until 1944 with the Wehrmacht. In 1945, Traupel was removed from office under the denazification programme. He died in 1946.
Berlin Document Center (Federal archives) From 1911, Dr. jur. Otto Schellmann (born in 1880) was working for the district agency in Kassel. In his function of Landesrat he was responsible for youth welfare services and youth welfare, the state welfare agency and the general welfare services. At the same time, the Nazi party member Schellmann (he joined the party in 1933) was the Landeshauptmann's deputy for directing both district agencies. During the years of the war Schellmann practically carried out the business of the Landeshauptmann.
Throughout Hesse, Fritz (Otto-Friedrich) Bernotat (1890-1951) was the motor for the extermination of "life unworthy of fife". He vehemently stood for the Nazi austerity programme and publicly declared to stay the inmates of the institutions.
Having joined the NSDAP as soon as in 1928, he was admitted to the SS in 1932. Bernotat quickly was promoted 1933 in the administration of the district agency in Wiesbaden, where he had begun in 1922 as simple assistant with only a first-grade. He became head of department for political affairs, for the state welfare service agency, the central administration of the institutions, the state welfare office and the headquarters of the welfare authorities for war-disabled and war victims in 1938. In this function, Bernotat was also president of different private and clerical institutions of the Nassau region, which were subject to the "Fuhrer principle" and now under the political direction of the district agency. In 1945, Bernotat managed to escape and to live undisturbed until his death in 1951 in Neuhof near Fulda where he lived under an assumed name.
System according to the organization chart dated 29th August 1939
In 1933, all officials of the public administration were put under racial and political assessment. Civil servants whom the Nazis disliked, were removed from office. Step by step, all executive positions were filled by Nazis. The "old fighters" enjoyed preferential treatment.
Research and Science
Willers Jessen, Remarkable observations on sterilized hereditarily diseased individuals of the Giessen mental hospital, Dissertation, Giessen 1937
In his medical dissertation and under the supervision of a senior physician of the institution, Willers lessen examined 78 inmates of the mental hospital, who had undergone forced sterilization. He emphasized all racial prejudices with respect to disabled and sick people, presupposed a special sexual responsiveness in "feeble-minded" individuals, detected several "defects" in the clans related to inmates of the institution and, consequently, responsible for their genetic material.
Enquiry by the Frankfurt university's institute for biology and racial hygiene concerning the inspection of files of patients of the Marburg mental hospital, 8th June 1936
The Frankfurt "Insitut für Erbbioiogie and Rassen-hygiene" (institute for heredobiology and racial hygiene), inaugurated in 1935 under its director Prof. Dr. Otmar von Verschuer in the "Haus der Volksgesundheit" (House of national health) on the south-side of the river Main, focused upon family and twins research. In 1939, Verschuer wrote about the three-year project:
"'Medical and anthropological data could be collected from more than 80 per cent of the long-standing population of individuals over six years of age, Self-reports could be collected from approximately 2,800 individuals. These data were complemented with a total of more than 15,000 excerpts from doctors' files, hospitals, sanatoriums, health authorities etc. Case records and school reports, partly dating back to the year 1838, were also collected, ...
By linking heredobiological and medical clan research with historical and genealogical inquiries, it was possible to give an impressive picture of how much career efficiency, the capacity of integration into the community, and especially the disposition for diseases in certain clans and even villages depended on the genetic material;' (Vier Jahre Frankfurter Universitäts-Institut..., in: Der Erbarzt 27, May 1939, p. 57-63)
Prof. Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer (1896-1969), was one of the most important racial hygienists of the "Third Reich". Since 1927, he was head of department for anthropology with the Kaiser-Wilheim-Institute in Berlin-Dahlem, and in 1935 became head of the "Institut fur Erbbiologie and Rassenhygiene" (Institute for heredobiology and racial hygiene) in Frankfurt a.M. In 1942, he returned to the "Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut fur Anthropologie, menschliche Erblehre and Eugenik" (Institute for anthropology, human hereditary teaching and eugenics) in Berlin. His former assistant from Frankfurt, Dr. Dr. Joseph Mengele, now a physician with a focus on twin research in the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz, supplied him with "examined material" such as the eyes of killed "Gypsies', skeletons of killed Jews,>> and serums of some twins whom Mengele had infected with typhus.
In 1945, Verschuer escaped to Bebra together with several railway wagons full of material. In 1946, convicted as a "follower", a Court of Arbitration fined him to 600, -- RM. He subsequently established the biggest institute for human genetics of the Federal Republic of Germany in Munster and obtained numerous awards.
From 1930-1933 he was the first medical head of the von Bodelschwinghsche Anstalten (institutions of von Bodelschwingh) in Bethel; after Hitler's "seizure of power", he was offered the chair for psychiatry and neurology with the university of Heidelberg. His predecessor was driven out.
In psychiatry, Schneider was a decisive representative of the "active-biological therapy" and the "critical research of the healing processes based on experience". Dr. Hans Hefelmann (former colleague in the chancellery of the Führer) declared in the post-war proceedings: "Immediately after implementation of the mental home programme during World War II, it was generally agreed that both the manpower of the institutions as well as medicine and therapies saved by euthanasia measures should be used for the benefit of the remaining 80% of inmates in the institutions. For this purpose Schneider, professor of the university of Heidelberg, an expert In psychiatry, agreed to be appointed to die Reichsarbeits-gemeinschaft, in order to further develop therapy and research. These circumstances emphasized the moral justification for implementing the measures of euthanasia..." (quotation according to Aly 1985, p. 50). Consequently, since April 1940, Schneider not only became a "T-4" expert, but also established a "Forschungsanstalt des Reichsausschusses" (research institute of the Reich committee) in Wiesloch, which was connected to his institute. As psychiatrist he tested the application of occupational therapy in connection with pharmacological and electric shock procedures. Dr. Friedrich Mennecke (Eichberg) and Dr. Mathilde Weber (Kalmenhof) were both trained by him. In the anatomy of the "Research institute", Schneider carried out histo-pathological examinations of the brain in order to examine "idiocy", Most of the "material" he received came from the "Children's' Specialty Departments" of the mental homes such as Eichberg and Kalmenhof where children were killed for research purposes.
Schneider hanged himself while he was in American confinement in December 1946.
Behandlung and Verhütung der Geistes-kranheiten von Carl Schneider (Treatment and prevention of mental diseases by Carl Schneider), Berlin: Julius Sprenger 1939
After five years of activity as director of the neurological-psychiatric clinic of Heidelberg university, Carl Schneider published his masterpiece on the "treatment and prevention of mental diseases". The work contains a big part on the psychiatric therapies and their principles especially used during the thirties.
The person in charge mentioned in the letterhead as Dr.W was Dr. Julius Weber, proxy of the chemical-pharmaceutical and sero-bacteriological department of IG-Farben in Frankturt-Hoechst. In 1943, together with Prof. Dr. Carl Lautenschläger; he was responsible for testing the typhus preparation 3582 "Akridin" in the concentration camp Buchenwald. 21 inmates died in this experiment.
There is evidence that the preparation 9736 tested on the male and female patients of the Eichberg mental hospital was Neosalvarsan, designed to be used as a chemotherapy agent against syphilis.
Mennecke's future wife, a medical-technical assistant herself, worked as a volunteer for Mennecke's research projects.
n 1935 the welfare system institutions of both the Inner Mission of the Protestant Church and the Caritas of the Catholic Church were already exposed to massive attacks from the state. The exemplary "institutional welfare service" in the province of HesseNassau which also reached the republic of Hesse meant subjection of the clerical institutions to the "Fuhrer principle", i.e. to guidance by the state, deterioration of the situation in the institutions and forced transfer of inmates or, very often, the closure of the institution. In the years 1937 and 1938 the state interventions reached their peak. Although Landeshauptmann Traupel was prepared to face strong opposition from the Catholic Church, he tried to negotiate with the Inner Mission, represented by the Central Committee. The result of the debates on 10th October 1937 was that the Inner Mission remained opposed to the subjection of their institutions to the "Führer principle", but was willing to accept two "experiments" to be carried out in the institutions Scheuern (educational sanatorium) and Rengshausen (Burschen-heim Beiserhaus).
On 29th May 1937 Landeshauptmann Traupel explained to the staff of the institution that children under public welfare care and foster children would be allowed to enter an institution not owned by the district agency only if both the care and the education corresponded to the principles of the Nazi state and if the district agency of Nassau had the absolute authority of direction in accordance with the "Führer principle". Nonobedience would result in the transfer of 505 of the 778 foster-children. On 25th August 1937, the amendment to the statutes made the institution come under the "guidance" of the Oberpräsident (senior executive), represented by Landesrat Bernotat, as sole member of the board. In 1941, this amendment made it possible that the institution of the Inner Mission became an "interim institution" for Hadamar. In consequence of the "transfers" to Hadamar, the number of foster children in Scheuern was reduced to 350. Numerous houses were also used as military hospitals.
n 1936, on request of the Landeshauptmann, the allowances for care services in the Hephata institutions of the Inner Mission near Treysa were reduced; (before 1933, these institutions included an educational and nursing institution for mentally feeble minded children and adolescents, a cripples' home, a public hospital, an educational and absorption home for children under the public welfare system, and a home for psychopaths and the unemployed). The same year, school children brought up under the public welfare system were transferred to the "Karlshof" public educational institution in Wabern. In the summer of 1937, the institution had to decide whether it agreed with the "Fuhrer principle" or to have the inmates transferred. Rector Happich in his function of head of the institution refused to adhere to the "principle of the Führer", but agreed to a "circular exchange": 52 men were transferred to the Haina mental hospital white Hephata took over 28 male and 14 female foster children from the catholic St. Antoniusheim in Fulda. The following year, the fight over the transfers started again. All negotiations and even a "memorandum" sent to the head of the Reich government and the party did not bring any change. Until the end of June 1938, 388 inmates of the home had been "transferred" to state-operated institutions.
Friedrich Happich (1883-1951) was in charge of the Hephata institutions from 1923. In the twenties Happich already expressed himself in favor of eugenic sterilization and was a member of the "Standing Committee for issues concerning racial hygiene and racial nursing of the Inner Mission" (...). In 1934, upon his request, the institution obtained the authorization to execute forced sterilization. Later, looking back to these years, Happich said: "One thing was seriously painful for him and this he was obliged to express in public. Before the turn, the Hephata institutions, together with the Bruderhaus, were considered to be a stronghold of opposition and struggle against Marxism. Together with the physicians of the institution, he (Happich) had fought for a law of sterilization for many years and had often been attacked for this. Of all bigger institutions of the Inner Mission of Germany, it was his institution that was subject to conditions touching the core of life. Happich would not have been surprised if people who had a different opinion before 1933, had said to him: 'This is how they pay you back!"'
On 10th June 1937, the Oberpräsident in Kassel gave orders to the catholic St. Antoniusheim in Fulda that 52 children had to be transferred to Hephata, 26 men to Haina and 25 women to Merxhausen. It was forbidden to inform the parents of this transfer in order to "avoid unrest".
Until the beginning of the war, 1,250 people had been transferred from Hessian institutions of the German Caritas Association to state-operated facilities. The homes concerned were, among others, the home of the Barmherzige Brüder in Montabaur, the St. Valentinshaus in Kiedrich, the St. Vinzenzstift in Aulhausen and the St. Josefsanstalt in Hadamar.
The access of the state to foster children in private and clerical institutions did not come to an end with the transfers of the years 1935-1939. Under the "Euthanasia Programme" further deliveries of inmates were requested. The Bishop of Fulda refused to co-operate in the "extermination of life unworthy of life". He had already presented a petition on the former transfers to the Reich Minister of the Interior. On 11th August 1940, the Bishop's Conference of Fulda sent an official note to the Reich Chancellery, protesting against the killing of so-called mentally sick individuals, "unworthy of life", and the life-threatening experiments on new therapies involving other sick people.
On 3rd August 1941, bishop Clemens Graf von Galen (1878-1946) from Munster held a sensational sermon against "euthanasia" in the Lambertikirche in Munster; its written reproduction had a large-scale distribution. Von Galen called the "euthanasia programme" 'pure murder" and declared he would bring a charge against those responsible for this crime on the grounds of an offence against section 211 (murder) of the German Penal Code. He ended the sermon with the words: Do you, do I have the right to live only as long as we are productive, as long as others acknowledge that we are productive?"
Owing to von Galen's reputation, he could go on exercising his function as bishop, but only under constant observation of the Gestapo.
The Public, Relatives and Friends
In her novel "Wenn nur der Sperber nicht kommt", Maria Mathi (1889-1961) described the destiny of Jews from Hadamar under the Nazi Regime. Describing the surrounding circumstances, she depicts the dark picture of the psychiatric hospital on the Mönchberg. Born in Hadamar, Mathi lived near Lake Constance during the years of the "euthanasia" crimes; in 1949, on occasion of a visit to her hometown, she gathered detailed information about the actions that were still very present in the memory of inhabitants of Hadamar.
The killings in the mental hospitals produced permanent unrest within the population and especially in the case of relatives. In spite of the bureaucratically accurate organization of the crimes, the numerous failures of the system made the public become more and more aware of the situation: healthy inmates of the institutions died of chronic diseases within a few days, people found their death because of appendicitis, although surgery had occurred a long time ago. The report on "the public awareness" clearly shows that it took the people of Hadamar only two months to find out about the beginning of the gassings which, finally, left them with horror.
Paufus Buscfier, was born in 1928, expelled from school because of belonging to the illegal Bündische jügend and was arrested by the Gestapo and sentenced to confinement in a camp (1942-1944). In his novel he describes the opening of the coffin of his aunt Katharina, kilted in Hadamar. As Catholic, he felt particularly hurt when the mortal remains were ordered to be incinerated. Although it was strictly forbidden to open a coffin, people continued to do so.
Relatives or members of the staff of individual institutions occasionally succeeded in rescuing some inmates. Since the whole "euthanasia programme" was unlawful, even according to Nazi law, the public's awareness of the events began to pose a threat for perpetrators. They therefore tried to avoid any risk by making concessions in individual cases.
In 1937, the Philippshospital near Goddelau, founded in 1534 (or poor and sick women by the Hessian landgraves, held more than 1,100 places for foster children. In 1941 when the Jewish patients had already been transferred to Heppenheim, 596 men and women were transferred to Hadamar by passing through "interim institutions". In November 1943 another 243 patients were transferred to the Eichberg institution. In 1944, eight men were taken to the concentration camp of Mauthausen.
Epileptics, and Mentally Ill
From the very beginning, the inmates of the hospitals or institutions were working in workshops, farms and various other supply facilities, depending on their, vitality. Since the turn of the century, work was considered more under the angle of a therapy.
In the twenties and thirties, different shockand cramp-therapies were developed for the treatment of "mental diseases" and applied in psychiatry, especially cardiazol-, electro- and insulin shock treatment. Such therapies were used in all Hessian mental hospitals, some of them in a most brutal way and sometimes even as punishment as applied by the Eichberg mental hospital directed by Friedrich Mennecke. In 1943, "T-4" had provided almost all mental hospitals with newly developed electro¥shock devices of the company Siemens in order to make the patients' capacity to work recover as quickly as possible.
Permanent baths, introduced as a therapy at the end of the 19th century, were designed to tranquillize "restless" patients. The patients had to sit in the bathtub, fixed with cloths and with only their head out of the water.
Children and Adolescents
In the eyes of the Nazis, the deaf were of "minor value". The assumption that deafness was a "hereditary disease" lead to forced sterilization. The expenses for the development of deaf children and adolescents were reduced to a minimum or cancelled in total. The institution for the deaf in Homberg/Efze was founded as a family boarding school in the year 1835, taken over by Electoral Hesse and, in 1874, by the district municipal agency of Kassel. By 1933,88 deaf pupils were taught in the institution by 16 teachers. Almost half of the children and adolescents were reported to the authorities by the director of the institution, a convinced Nazi, and taken to sterilization.
In 1937, the institution for the deaf was closed and transformed into an educational home for girls.
The institution founded in 1820 was one of the first institutions in Germany offering lessons for deaf children and children with auditory defects. In 1937, both the school and the boarding school were replaced by a school for home and rural economics for girls from the Kalmenhof guidance institution in Idstein. During the war the premises were transformed into military hospitals. Together with the pupils from Homberg, the children were taught in the Frankfurt institution for, the deal until 1939.
On 1st September 1939, the buildings of the Frankfurt institution for the deaf in which, since 1937, all deaf children and adolescents of the province Hesse-Nassau were given lessons, were transmitted immediately to the Wehrmacht as military hospital. The school service was shut down, the children were sent home and most of the teachers were sent to Wiesbaden to do office work. The objection of the responsible teaching staff of the province resulted "in the re-introduction of lessons for the deaf in two Frankfurt primary schools in January 1940. In 1943, while the deaf pupils. were evacuated to Camberg and its surroundings. The Camberg institution was reopened on I1st December 1945, while the Homberg institution not before 1st July 1946.
The observation centers were interim homes for the guidance institutions. During an observation period, the direction of the institution was asked to check where the child should go to next. The institution was to decide whether the child should be sent to continue education within a family or a guidance institution. In 1913, the Idstein observation center was opened for 26 children brought up under the public welfare system. In 1928, the center cared for between had I 10 to 120 children. The observation center had close ties With the Kalmenhof where during the Nazi period many children were sent to for public welfare guidance. Many of them died there in the hospital after having attempted to escape or because of inadequate behavior:
The Nazis made a clear distinction between "jugend-hilfe" (youth related assistance) and "jugendfürsorge" (youth related welfare work). The first - predominantly organized by the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (NSV) - was directed to help young people not yet full of age, principally "valuable", "endangered";'lead astray" or "socially weak"; the latter - predominantly organized by the state - dealt with young people "in no way or no longer able to qualify for discipline". The special task of the "Jugendfürsorge" was to protect the "healthy" youth from the "youth of minor value" and to release funds for the "Jugendhilfe". In 1934, the Nazi educational theorist Ernst Kriegk (professor for philosophy and education in Heidelberg) defined his educational goal as follows: "building of a character predetermined by the whole and consisting of the following traits: - obedience self-command - military carriage - truthfulness - faithfulness - simplicity - readiness to take over responsibility - ability to learn." (Quotation according to Kuhlmann, p. 106)
The welfare guidance institution Karlshof in Wabern, founded in 1886, looked after young males. Under the Nazis, their daily life was first of all determined by work and military drill. Many of them were affected by forced sterilisation, and while some became "euthanasia" victims, one of whom was 20 year-old Wilhelm W, who died in June 1943 in Hadamar from a so-called "enteritis".
Letter of the Breitenau welfare foster child Lieselotte S. to her mother, 14th January 1940
During all those years my life was cloudy..:' Lieselotte S. had been "transferred" to the Breitenau guidance institution (near Guxhagen),"because" - as the official reason stated - "she didn't show any readiness to accept guidance in the Homberg home and because she felt strongly inferior and showed an instinctive behavior considered as a risk for other girls..:" The girl, born in 1921 in Kassel, had come under welfare guidance, because she was "disorderly, dishonest and lazy in school, showed only an interest in ... male adolescents and, consequently, was a risk for them." The mother, too, was said to have a disreputable conduct of life.
Between 1933 and 1940,"sexual negligence" was one of the reasons for admission in an institution applied to girls only and this increased from 44% to 62%. The behavior of these girls was in contrast with the Nazi ideal of a "chaste housewife and mother".
The prison-like life in the welfare guidance department of the Breitenau workhouse had a more authoritarian character of institutionalized welfare guidance."Guidance" was characterized by 12 hours work in agriculture and industry and by hard summary punishments. Permanent hunger and life conditions causing sickness even led to death here and there. The authorities could keep the young people as long as they wanted to. Like the letter from Lieselotte S., numerous letters of children and adolescents brought up in welfare institutions still exist because of the strict postal censorship. The smallest trace of criticism made the censors detain the letters they were only allowed to send once a month.
16-year-old Fritz had been arrested because of several cases of larceny, willful destruction and arson. The medical opinion of the Stadtroda mental hospitals in Thuringia came to the conclusion that expenses for educational measures did not pay and recommended to have the adolescent transferred into a prison or camp (since 1937, Nazi law allowed transfer into a concentration camp). The senior prosecuting attorney with the Erfurt district court condemned him as "morally inferior, completely asocial and highly neglected". Both sides argued that the responsibility was with the mother who lived "in concubinage". The reality of detention camps for adults was directly perceptible for the adolescents brought up in the Breitenau welfare institution. Since 1940 people under forced labor were admitted to the workhouse and Jewish and other people were "collected" for being transported to a concentration camp. Later, another adolescent brought up in a welfare institution, described the situation as follows: "When I arrived at Breitenau, the yard was divided in longitudinal direction by rollers of barbed wire ... I don't know anything about people that died there or got killed. But I recall the daily cries coming out of the church, when people got beaten there..:"
In August 1940 the "jugendschutzlager" (camp for the protection of young people) Moringen near Göttingen was established on the land of the workshop, for male adolescents aged between 16 and 21 years; in summer 1942 the "Jugendschutzlager Uckermark (in close connection with the concentration camp Ravensbrück) was established for girls accordingly. Under the control of the Reich criminal investigation department, the camps were designed to serve the "police's preventive struggle against youth delinquency". The biggest share of the young inmates of concentration camps derived from welfare institutions (in Hesse especially by transiting Breitenau). Other adolescents had been arrested "for reasons of prevention" directly in their home town because of their way of life which did not correspond to Nazi ideals, among them the swing and jazz enthusiasts. After a "bio-criminal" investigation in the camp, the young people were immediately put into blocks that distinguished different groups ranging from the "unfit" to those "capable of being educated". The boys and girls admitted for an unspecified period had to work very hard. "Misconduct", resulted in the punishments that went from mail withdrawal to cudgeling or even single arrest for several weeks. Those "incapable of being educated" were transferred to concentration camps or mental hospitals as soon as they were full of age.
Male and Female Jews, "half-breeds"
The Jewish people in Sanatoriums and Nursing Homes were considered to be "of minor racial value" and "hereditarily diseased". Approximately 1,000 Jewish inmates of the institution were already killed under the "T-4 Operation". In summer 1940, the government of the Reich decided to. kill the remaining Jewish inmates of the institution collectively - without the superficial expertise granted to other "euthanasia" victims. The Jewish patients were brought together to "collecting institutions" (in Hesse: Giessen and Heppenheim) and then transferred after a short time to an unknown destination. Officially, the authorities indicated the Reich institution Cholm near by Lublin, however, at that time, the institution whose Polish patients had been shot in January 1940, no longer existed. We know, however, that some of the Jewish patients were gassed in the killing institution of Brandenburg.
On 25th September 1940, 106 Jewish inmates originating from the North-Hessian institutions were transferred to the "collecting institution" of Giessen, from where they went on to be transferred, together with 20 male and female patients of this institution, on 1st October 1940. The Giessen mental hospital, opened in 1911, cared for almost 500 male and female patients. In the forties, the institution included, among other things, a "neurological and psychiatric observing-station" of the SS.
News regarding the transfer of the daughter Franziska "Sara" M. from Merxhausen to Giessen, 25th September 1940
Addressee "moved to unknown location".
The Heppenheim mental hospital was the second Hessian collecting institution for Jewish patients. In addition to the inmates from Hessian institutions (especially from the Philippshospital near Goddelau) Jewish people from Baden were also collected here, on the 1st February 1941. All Jewish patients were called by the "Gemeinnützige Transportgesellschaft" on 4th February 1941. The institution founded in the year 1866, was completely emptied of patients in the following months (most of them were transferred to "interim institutions'); the institution was then used as a "reserve war hospital, department prisoners of war" pursuant to an agreement between the state government in Darmstadt and the army administration. In 1943, an "alternate hospital was added to the institution.
In February 1941,a total of 79 Jewish patients were transported from the Philippshospital. Place and way of their killing are unknown.
In May 1943, on order of the Reich Minister of the Interior, an "educational home for Jewish cross-breeds of first degree" was established in the Hadamar mental hospital. Until 1944, children from "half-breeds" under age from the whole Reich were taken to this "educational home", for whom a public welfare education had been decreed. "Neglect" of these children had often been a consequence of the Jew-baiting that had taken a parent away from them. In the beginning, Hadamar had an own children's ward, since August 1943, the boys and girls stayed in the general wards of the hospital. Until their assassination, the children were given lessons by Alfons Klein, head of the mental hospital. 34 from 39 children were murdered in Hadamar; five were released or transferred.
The Unsettled, "Asocials", Alcoholics and Prostitutes.
Who is unfit for community life (asocial)?
Excerpt from the "Informationsdienst Rassenpolitisches Amt der NSDAP Reichsleitung" dated 20th June 1942, No. 126
In February 1942, on the occasion of a table-talk in which Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler participated, Hitler explained: „After ten years of imprisonment with hard labor an individual is lost for community life anyhow. Who is going to give him any work? Such a fellow should be put into a concentration camp for life or he should be killed. In our days the latter is more important and serves as a warning. It should be an example for all followers!" (Adolf Hitler, Monologe im Führer-haupt-quartier 1941-1944, Hamburg 1980, p. 271), Nazi reality combined both ways of action: in the years 1942/43 almost 6.000 out of 12.658 "asocial prisoners" died in concentration camps under the programme "extermination through work programme". This extermination programme was also used for forensic psychiatry patients, if they had not already become victims of the "euthanasia" operation.
Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Kranz and his colleagues in the Institute for Hereditary Health and Racial Hygiene with the university of Giessen directed their focus in work on the attempt to demonstrate the hereditability of criminal and "asocial" behavior. After his habilitation paper "Lebensschicksale krimineller Zwillinge" (1936), his main work consisting of two volumes, "Die Gemeinschaftsunfähigen", was published in 1941; Kranz had edited this work together with his colleague Siegfried Koller. Kranz and Koller identified "all those'unfit for community life' or'asocial'..., who show very often significant tendencies opposing community life and who repeatedly show their incapacity or hostility concerning community life." The authors described those who were unable or who did not want to fit into the dominant Nazi condition s, crimal and non criminal individuals, "unfit for community life" as "clinkers and excretory products of human society and civilization", and recommended forced sterilization, forced labor and deprivation of national civil rights for the protection of national unity.
In 1941, the medical statistician Siegfried Koller (born in 1908) became head of the new bio-statistical institute in Berlin. In 1956, after having spent the years 1945-1952 in confinement, Koller was appointed honorary professor and head of the Institute for medical statistics in Mainz. From 1953 to 1962 he was head of the Department for Demographic and Cultural Statistics with the Federal Office for Statistics. In his function of nestor of medical statistics, Koller obtained the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Federal Distinguished Service Medal) in 1982.
Prof. Dr. Heinrich Wilhelm Kranz (1897-1945), was head of the Institute for Hereditary Health and Racial Hygiene at the university of Giessen and in charge of the office of racial politics of the NSDAP for the Gau Hesse-Nassau. In 1936, he was offered a newly established chair for hereditary and racial research; in 1939, he became rector of the university. In 1942, he took over the Frankfurt university chair left by Prof. Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer.
The Korrektions- und Landarmenanstalt (institution for, correction and poor people from rural areas) Breitenau near Guxhagen was established in 1874 by the Kassel district municipal agency. Pursuant to the 1871 Penal Code, the German labor houses were designed to serve as a "correctional post-confinement" following a sentence on the grounds of beggary, vagabondage, "work shyness", laziness, homelessness or prostitution. The Nazis considerably increased this type of penalty. Pursuant to the "measures for security and improvement", effective from 1934, the confinement in a labor house (up to that time limited to two years) was principally unlimited, i.e. eventually for life. In the annual report of 1933, the direction was happy to notify that the numbers of the inmates of institution of Breitenau had shown a substantial increase "since the Nazi revolution, as a consequence of the effects of the measures taken against beggary". The number of "those to be corrected" had increased from 24 in 1932/33 to 125 in the years 1933/34. Part of those people had been arrested in September 1933 during a so-called "beggar's week", when a raid on homeless persons was. made. Within the scope of the "operation against work-shyness" of the year 1938, 11,000 so-called "work-shy" individuals were arrested by the Third Reich authorities and transferred to concentration camps for labor purposes. Since 1939, some of the Breitenau inmates were used in the prisoners camp Rodgau near Dieburg. A short while after the promulgation of the "Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Disease in Posterity" the Breitenau direction started to systematically screen Inmates for the"hereditarily diseased". Screening for "hereditary health" became a criterion for release. Many of those in confinement had to undergo forced sterilization.
In 1933, an early concentration camp for political prisoners was added to the buildings of the institution. Since 1940, the labor house also served as "concentration institution - and educational labor camp" for people, scheduled be transferred to a concentration camp, and for female prisoners who were under forced labor. The "institution for correction" was finally closed in 1949.
Selma K., 1932
Already in 1932/33 and in 1936/37, Selma K. had been one of the inmates of the mental hospital. In 1937, she was once again committed to the institution for reasons of "unstable psychopathological behavior". On 21st April 1939, the director of the institution told the state criminal investigation department: "Her physical conditions allow along-term confinement in a concentration camp. She is totally fit for both camp and labor." The Nazis considered prostitutes as work-shy, mentally and morally of minor value and also asocial.
Already in May 1933, the respective section 361 RStGB was given a stricter application; subsequently prostitutes became the target of mass-imprisonment Considered as "hereditarily diseased", they became victims, of forced sterilization and "euthanasia", or were committed to labor houses and concentration camps as "ordinary criminals". In spite of this, prostitution principally remained legal.
In 1939, by decree of the Reich Minister of the Interior the war policy ordered the "re-establishment of whorehouses and the barrack-like concentration of prostitutes" for soldiers and "foreign" laborers. Females under forced labor and female prisoners of concentration camps were compelled to prostitute themselves in these institutions.
Pursuant to section 42 b RStGB, "mentally ill" criminals were committed to mental homes. Under the "euthanasia" operation, this group of inmates had already become target victims of the Nazi extermination policy.
The concentration camp Mauthausen was already established only a short time after the annexation. of Austria. The quarry, "Wiener Graben", was a principal argument for its location. Since 1943, several war factories were located there in halls, especially constructed for this reason. More than 200,000 people worked there. About half of the inmates were killed or died from the torments of camp life. By spring 1941, the "euthanasia operation" was extended to the concentration camps. Between April and August 1941, approximately 2,500 prisoners from the concentration camps Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen, Buchenwald and Auschwitz were gassed in the killing institutions Hartheim and Sonnenstein. Many of the victims belonged to the prisoners identified as "asocials". Prof. Werner Heyde, medical head of the "T-4 Operation", described the "asocial" prisoners as the "worst minus variants", "biologically negative" and seldom more than capable to be tamed".
Prisoners Under Forced Labor
During World War II, more than ten million of war-prisoners and people under forced labor were deported to the German Reich and committed above all to war economy and to branches where manpower was lacking. Those incapable of working because of disease, or pregnant women under forced labor, had to be sent to their home-countries. Many of them died from malnutrition in the so-called "repatriates' collecting camps". The Hessian camp "Pfaffenwald" near Bad Hersfeld was one of those institutions. There, forced abortions were also executed.
Since autumn 1942, some individual transports of sick persons, especially from Poland and Russia, went to "euthanasia institutions" where they were killed. The T-4 "Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft Heil- and Pflegeanstalten" (Reich working group of sanatoriums and nursing homes) in Berlin was responsible for the "transfer" of mentally ill individuals, who were first committed to mental hospitals. During the war, all Hessian mental hospitals had both physically and mentally ill forced laborers as inmates. Many of these people suffered from the humiliating treatment by their German employers, from poor nutrition and from homesickness.
Since September 1944, both the Public Health Administrations and the Labor Office as well as the industrial physicians sent mentally ill people under forced labour directly to "collecting points": Hadamar was responsible for the provinces Electoral Hesse and Nassau as well as (or the state of Hesse. The mental hospital was one of the institutions that were both "collecting points" and killing institutions. Between July 1944 and March 1945,583 males and females under forced labor coming from Poland and Russia and 15 people from western European countries were assassinated here under the "euthanasia operation". Among them were numerous cases of tuberculosis.
Request to transport mentally ill East-European workers from the Marburg mental hospital to the collecting place Hadamar, 1st June 1944
In Hadamar, the people that were ill and transported to this location were poisoned by medicine the same evening in a special ward used for that purpose - included among them were also small children.
Alexandra G., 21-year-old Russian worker under forced labor, was committed to the Marburg home hospital after an attempted suicide on 13th January 1944. On 23rd January the same year she died. The mentioned cause of death was; "Schizophrenia combined with heavy excitation, cordial weakness". She was spared the transportation to Hadamar. The body was given to the Marburg dissecting department.
Soldiers, Victims, Old People
In Nazi times, old people in public institutions belonged to those groups of the population for whose care the expenses had to be kept small. Homes for old people, too, had thus to he run "economically". The administrational report of the town of Frankfurt noted in a self-satisfied manner that the municipal authorities of the hospital "zum Heiligen Geist" per 1st October 1934 had also taken over the institution of Köppern. "The purpose of this agreement is to reduce the hospital allowances and thus to reduce the budget of the welfare office. Since 1st October 1934, the hospital allowance for chronically ill persons had already been reduced from 4,10 Reich Marks to 3,70 Reich Marks per day." 347 persons were committed to this institution.
The sharpening of the war in the air over Germany, offered the chance to again take up the "euthanasia operation" in a big style. In order to use the mental hospitals and nursing institutions as "alternate hospitals", the inmates of the institutions that fell under these regulations were systematically transferred" to the "euthanasia" centers. Once again Dr. Karl Brandt was in charge of this operation, now in his high-ranking function as "General commissioner for public health". The assassinations were carried out as "Operation Brandt". Once again people were "transferred" in big, centrally controlled transports to the killing institutions. This new wave now also concerned inmates of homes for old people, persons that suffered from nervous break-downs due to the bombing-raids on German cities, and those who responded to the horror of war by shivering, paralysation or deaf-and-dumbness.
Under the "Operation Brandt" the Eichberg mental hospital took in big numbers of so-called "incurables". In 1943 half of the 1,200 patients in Eichberg consisted of this group. Totally underfed, they hardly had a chance to survive.
Soldier Walter F, 1941
The rifleman Walter P, born in 1908, had been committed from the reserve military hospital Hamburg Wandsbek to the Hamburg-Langenhorn mental hospital because of progressive paralysation. From there he was transported to Hadamar on 8th August 1943, where he died on 30th September from so-called "marasmus and paralysis".
The Nuremberg Medical Trials, 1946
The case „United States of America versus Karl Brandt, et al." was the first of the ,,Nuremberg Trials" before a tribunal consisting of senior American judges.
The indictment filed on 25th October 1946 contained the names of 23 defendants. Point II of the indictment concerned the penal responsibility of the defendants for their execution of brutal medical experiments on inmates of concentration camps, war-prisoners and other persons, as well as crimes committed within the scope of the so-called ,euthanasia" programme that provided for the systematic, and secret assassination of old people, mentally disabled, incurably sick, children showing physical defects, and other persons by gassing, lethal injections and other means in homes for old people, hospitals and institutions." (Indictment (11/9)
The Medical Trial opened on 9th December 1946 and went on until 19th July 1947. 15 defendants, one of them was Karl Brandt, were sentenced to death by hanging, five were sentenced to life imprisonment. The death sentences were put into execution in the prison of Landsberg Am Lech.
On 8th October 1945, the trial concerning the assassin nations of workers from Eastern Europe in Hadamar opened before the military court of the US armed forces in the Landeshaus in Wiesbaden. It took seven days.
The public prosecutor described the occurrences in Hadamar as the most dreadful, disgusting, shameless, inhuman and coward action what the Americans had seen since the occupation. The defendants referred to the orders of Landesrat Bernotat.
Head of administration Alfons Klein tried to justify the murder by emphasizing the danger of infection presented by the Eastern European workers suffering from tuberculosis. On 15th October 1945 all defendants were found guilty.
The head of administration, the senior male nurse and one male nurse were sentenced to death by hanging. The medical director was sentenced to life imprisonment, the other sentences included up to 30 years of prison. The sentences of death were executed; the other convicts were reprieved after having served part of their sentence.
As soon as 1932, Irmgard Huber (born in 1901) began working as nurse and later as a senior nurse in the Hadamar mental hospital. She was admitted during the time of the T-4 operation and was actively involved in killing by medicine.
In 1945, Huber was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment; in 1947 the sentence was reduced to eight years; she served only a part of her sentence.
On 24th February 1947, the second Hadamar Trial opened before the 3rd Chamber of the district court Frankfurt am Main against 25 persons accused of having killed or helped to kill sick Germans in the Hadamar mental hospital. The judgment was rendered on 21st March 1947: the physicians Dr. Hans Bodo Gorgass (second row on the right) and Dr. Adolf Wahlmanh (in the middle) were sentenced to death for at least 1,000 resp. for at least 900 assassinations. Both judgments were, however, commuted to imprisonment; both convicts were reprieved in the fifties. The other defendants were sentenced to imprisonment of up to eight years.
On 2nd December 1946 the proceedings against the defendants of the Eichberg mental hospital began before the district court in Franfurt am Main. The former medical director, Dr. Friedrich Mennecke, the senior physician Dr. Walther Schmidt, one senior nurse, a male nurse and two female nurses were accused of murder. In the judgment rendered on 21st December the same year, the medical director was sentenced to death for mass-murder, his deputy was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in at least 70 cases. The others defendants were sentenced to imprisonment of up to eight years. Dr. Mennecke died in prison a short time later; his deputy was released with seven years of his sentence served.
The Kalmenhof trial opened on 20th January 1947 before the Frankfurt district court; on 30th January the same year the judgment was rendered. The former director Wilhelm Grossmann, the physician Dr. Hermann Wesse and the physician Dr. Mathilde Weber were sentenced to death for murder of an indefinite number of individuals. None of the sentences to death were executed, but commuted into confinement.
Concerning the involvement of the "interim institution" Weilmünster in the "euthanasia operation", no trial was opened before the district court in Frankfurt. The question concerning the active involvement of the institution and of its director in the "transfer programme" was a focus of the enquiries of the Limburg public prosecutor. The medical director said he "was in no way to be blamed". In spite of several reports on chicanery against foster children of the institution and in spite of an extremely high death rate that was assessed for the institution, there were no trials related to "euthanasia" practiced in the mental hospital itself.
Dr. Ernst Schneider (born in 1880) a member of the NSDAP since 1933, was medical director of the Weilmünster mental hospital. Since no proof was brought forward for his active involvement in the "euthanasia operation", he was not convicted.
In December 1946, an American military tribunal (commonly called the Doctors' Trial) tried 23 doctors and administrators for their roles in war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes included the systematic killing of those deemed "unworthy of life", including the mentally disabled, the institutionalized mentally ill, and the physically impaired. After 140 days of proceedings, including the testimony of 85 witnesses and the submission of 1,500 documents, in August 1947 the court pronounced 16 of the defendants guilty. Seven were sentenced to death and executed on 2 June 1948. They included Dr. Karl Brandt and Viktor Brack.Commemorative plaque on wall on bunker No. 17 in Fort VII
The indictment read in part:
14. Between September 1939 and April 1945 the defendants Karl Brandt, Blome, Brack, and Hoven unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly committed crimes against humanity, as defined by Article II of Control Council Law No. 10, in that they were principals in, accessories to, ordered, abetted, took a consenting part in, and were connected with plans and enterprises involving the execution of the so called "euthanasia" program of the German Reich, in the course of which the defendants herein murdered hundreds of thousands of human beings, including German civilians, as well as civilians of other nations. The particulars concerning such murders are set forth in paragraph 9 of count two of this indictment and are incorporated herein by reference.
Also in 1945, seven staff members of the Hadamar institute were tried for the killing of Soviet and Polish nationals, but not for the large-scale killing of German nationals at the institute.Alfons Klein, Karl Ruoff and Wilhelm Willig were sentenced to death and executed, the other four were given long prison sentences
Also in 1945, seven staff members of the Hadamar institute were tried for the killing of Soviet and Polish nationals, but not for the large-scale killing of German nationals at the institute.Alfons Klein, Karl Ruoff and Wilhelm Willig were sentenced to death and executed, the other four were given long prison sentences
Ignorance and Inhibition
During the Nazi period, the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for brain research was in close contact with the heads of "Operation T-4" and, for purposes of research, was supplied with brains of those assassinated. Despite these occurrences, the institute saw public support after 1945.
Its personnel, among them the head of the department for brain tissue pathology in Berlin-Buch, Julius Hallervorden, continued scientific research in central positions, even when the institute changed its name to the `Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung". The district municipal agency of Kassel, obviously ignorant of the occurrences, on recommendation of the medical director of the Marburg mental home hospital, tried hard to provide the institute, which had moved to Dillenburg, with premises. The department for clinical psychiatry and constitutional research came to Marburg. In 1948, the institute was first moved to the physiological institute of the university Giessen and finally to Frankfurt am Main. Until 1957, Hallervorden was head of the department for neuropathology.
Prof. Dr. Julius Hallervorden (1882-1965) said in the Nuremberg Trials: "...those brains offered wonderful material, of mentally poor, deformities and early children's diseases. Of course 1 accepted the brains. It really wasn't my concern where they came from and how they were brought to me:'
Both the physician and the director, of the Kalmenhof institution met with strong support from the population even though everybody knew of the crimes they committed during the Nazi period. Nevertheless, the population called for the revision of the judgments. In 1948, the mayor of Idstein described Dr. Weber as "benefactress without fail" for the benefit of soldiers and war-prisoners. ln 1954, the town of Idstein once again submitted a clemency plea for the physician who was not yet serving her sentence. She was finally released with, two thirds of her sentence served. In 1960, she began practicing medicine again.
Following numerous clemency pleas and a wave of newspaper articles for Dr. Walter Schmidt, the former head of the Eichberg "children's' specialty department" and deputy head of the mental hospital, Schmidt was reprieved by the Hessian state governor and Minister of justice, Dr. Georg August Zinn, and released from prison in 1953. In 1958, Zinn justified his decision vis-à-vis the Society for Christian-Jewish Co-operation: "Judges and public prosecutors, involved in the proceedings (against Schmidt) expressed their opinion, too, that their sentence contributed to sufficiently obtain justice since their judgment had clearly expressed that the acts of the convict were neither an act of true euthanasia nor the execution of legal measures of the government of those days, but criminal injustice:" Zinn also referred to the essentially milder jurisdictions outside of Hesse.
Recognition of the Victims
Immediately after the war, an Association of the Victims of Forced Sterilization and "Euthanasia" was founded with the objective to strive for the concerns of those involved. However, most of its members were not even accepted by the established associations for the victims of persecution. Frustrated, the association finally decided its dissolution.
In 1960, the Reparations Committee of the German Parliament dealt with the issue of compensation claims by this group of victims; however, the result of these deliberations was negative. Those involved remained excluded from the Federal Compensation Law. It was not until 1981 that the Government agreed to establish a fund designed to indemnify individual, cases for their hardships by means of a single payment amounting to up to 5,000 - DM. Since 1988, compensation for the damages to the victims' health could be requested. From spring 1990, inmates of institutions who were subjected to forced sterilization were entitled to obtain monthly allowances amounting to 200 - resp. 100 DM.
The "Bund der "Euthanasie"-Geschädigten and Zwangssterilisierten", founded in 1986, stands up for the recognition of both the victims of forced sterilization and of "euthanasia" as victims of the unlawful Nazi regime. It represents the interests of the victims before the Parliament and the federal states, informs them on their rights, and assists them in submitting applications for support with the authorities.
In the fifties, Hadamar began to remember the persons murdered in this institution. Of course, there were reports from the postwar trials, but the motor for early measures aiming at the memory of the victims in Hesse was the deputy Landesdirektor of the Landeswohi-fahrtsverband Hessen, Dr. Friedrich Stöffler (1894-1982) who had published a first study on the "euthanasia" crimes in Hesse in 1961.
In 1964, the Hadamar cemetery was inaugurated by Kirchenpräsident Martin Niemöller, as a Memorial for the victims of "euthanasia".
Since the beginning of the eighties, dealing with and understanding of the occurrences in the institutions under the Nazi period, and the remembrance of the victims is getting more and more important for both the individual welfare system institutions and the responsible authorities in Hesse. Memorial events and discussions as well as the establishment of reminder and memorial plates are the start of an intensive effort to deal with the crimes of the past.
In 1990, the Hadamar memorial, located in the center of the "euthanasia" crimes in Hesse, was re-organized. In addition to the remaining installations of the gas¥killings of 1941, still very visible and touching, a large-scale exhibition now informs on the occurrences during the Nazi era.
The term "euthanasia" (the beautiful death) was the Nazis' way of preventing criticism of their inhuman attitude toward human worth! Fifty years ago this term represented a separation of fellow human beings by methods we today would find inhuman and unacceptable for a civilized society.
Today the term "euthanasia" often appears in the context of the mercy killing discussion. Does this create some warning signals related to the moral foundation of our society? Where will the present discussion about "euthanasia" lead our society and us in the twenty-first century when the historic use of the term is in such a way disclosed, as it is by this exhibition.
In the beginning of the twenty-first century doctors, health personnel, lawyers and the common man are discussing the separation of genetic disabilities before the disabled child is born.
This raises questions related to the complicated issues around abortion. With our present abortion laws the separation of the "inferior" beings can occur antiseptically and cleanly. When this is used as the only criteria for abortion the question must be raised as to societal value of some human life versus other. Concealed by the term "abortion on medical grounds", a human being - though with disabilities - is not born.
The common wish behind the "euthanasia program" of the Nazis fifty years ago was "only to establish a future society where there should be no people with a genetic disability."
Is the future society that the public health sector in 2001 is preparing for based on the same idea?
A future society where fellow human beings with genetic disabilities no longer exist.
This exhibition raises critical questions that we must discuss and debate as they relate to our history and our future:
Will the absence of people with disabilities in the future make our society more humane and civilised? Or will the pure absence of these fellow human beings make our common future more inhuman?
We would like you to think about this question. It is important for all of us. It is important for what kind of human beings we want to be in the future.
(January 8, 1904 – June 2, 1948
Karl Brandt ) was a German Nazi war criminal. He rose to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer in the Allgemeine-SS and SS-Brigadeführer in the Waffen-SS. Among other positions, Brandt headed the administration of the Nazi euthanasia program from 1939 onwards and was selected as Adolf Hitler's personal physician in August 1934. In 1942, he became Reich Commissioner for Health and Sanitation. He was involved in criminal human experimentation, along with his deputy Werner Heyde and others. After World War II, Brandt was convicted of crimes against humanity. He was hanged on June 2, 1948
On September 1, 1939, Brandt was appointed by Hitler co-head of the T-4 Euthanasia Program, with Philipp Bouhler. He received regular promotions in the SS; by April 1944, Brandt was a SS-Gruppenführer in the Allgemeine-SS and a SS-Brigadeführer in the Waffen-SS. On April 16, 1945, he was arrested by the Gestapo for moving his family out of Berlin so they could surrender to American forces. He was condemned to death by a court in Berlin. Brandt was released from arrest by order of Karl Dönitz on May 2, 1945. He was placed under arrest by the British on May 23, 1945.
Karl Brandt and his wife Anni were members of Hitler's inner circle at Berchtesgaden where Hitler maintained his private residence known as the Berghof. This very exclusive group functioned as Hitler's de facto family circle. It included Eva Braun, Albert Speer, his wifeMargarete Speer, Dr. Theodor Morell, Martin Bormann, Hitler's photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, and Hitler's adjutants (and their wives) and secretaries. As members of this inner circle, the Brandts had a residence near the Berghof and spent extensive time there whenever Hitler was present. In his memoirs, Speer described the familial but numbing lifestyle of Hitler's intimate companions who were forced to stay up most of the night—night after night—listening to the Nazi leader's repetitive monologues or to an unvarying selection of music. Despite Brandt's personal closeness to Hitler, the dictator was furious when he learned shortly before the end of the war that the doctor had sent Anni and their son toward the American lines in hopes of evading capture by the Russians. Only the intervention of Heinrich Himmler and Albert Speer saved Brandt from execution in the war's closing days. However, involvement in euthanasia and human medical experimentation led to his conviction and execution by the Allies on June 2, 1948
Brandt was tried along with twenty-two others at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany. The trial was officially titled United States of America v. Karl Brandt et al., but is more commonly referred to as the "Doctors' Trial"; it began on December 9, 1946. He was charged with four counts: 1) conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity as described in counts 2 and 3; 2) War crimes: performing medical experiments, without the subjects' consent, on prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, in the course of which experiments the defendants committed murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts. Also planning and performing the mass murder of prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, stigmatized as aged, insane, incurably ill, deformed, and so on, by gas, lethal injections, and diverse other means in nursing homes, hospitals, and asylums during the Euthanasia Program and participating in the mass murder of concentration camp inmates; 3) Crimes against humanity: committing crimes described under count 2 also on German nationals; 4) Membership in a criminal organization, the SS. The charges against him included special responsibility for, and participation in, Freezing,Malaria, LOST Gas, Sulfanilamide, Bone, Muscle and Nerve Regeneration and Bone Transplantation, Sea-Water, Epidemic Jaundice, Sterilization, and Typhus Experiments.
After a defense led by Robert Servatius, on August 19, 1947, Brandt was found guilty on counts 2-4 of the indictment. With six others, he was sentenced to death by hanging, and all were executed at Landsberg Prison on June 2, 1948. Nine other defendants received prison terms of between fifteen years and life, while a further seven were found not guilty.
Brandt's excuse as to his criminal actions at his trial was that,"...any personal code of ethics must give way to the total character of the war".
11 September 1899 – 19 May 1945
(11 September 1899 – 19 May 1945)
was a senior Nazi Party official who was both a Reichsleiter (English: National Leader) and Chief of the Chancellery of the Führer of the NSDAP. He was also an SS-Obergruppenführer in the Allgemeine SS who was responsible for the Nazi Aktion T4 euthanasia program that killed more than 70,000 handicapped adults and children in Nazi Germany.
Bouhler was captured in May 1945 by American troops in Austria, and committed suicide shortly after his arrest.
Bouhler was also responsible for activities involving the killing of people. He supervised the development and implementation of the Nazis' early euthanasia program in which mentally ill and physically handicapped people were murdered. Various methods of killing were tried out. The first killing facility was Schloss Hartheim in Upper Austria. The knowledge gained from the euthanasia program was later applied to the industrialized annihilation of other groups of people, such as Jewish people.
In 1942, Bouhler published the book "Napoleon – Kometenbahn eines Genies" ("Napoleon – A Genius's Cometary Path"), which became a favorite of Hitler's. He had also published a National Socialist publication Kampf für Deutschland (Fight for Germany) in 1938.Bouhler and his wife committed suicide at Altaussee, Austria on 19 May 1945 after they were apprehended by American troops. They were both being transported to Dachau concentration camp which was now being used to imprison captured Nazis following its liberation by American forces in April 1945.
In the summer of 1939, the parents of a severely deformed child (identified in 2007 as Gerhard Kretschmar), born near Leipzig, wrote to Hitler seeking his permission for their child to be put to death. Hitler approved this, and authorized the creation of the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses (Reichsausschuss zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung erb- und anlagebedingter schwerer Leiden), headed by Karl Brandt, his personal physician, and administered by Herbert Linden of the Interior Ministry and an SS officer, Viktor Brack. Brandt and Bouhler were authorized to approve applications to kill children in similar circumstances.
Schönbrunn Psychiatric Hospital, 1934. Photo by SS photographer Franz Bauer
Gerhard Herbert Kretschmar
(20 February 1939 – 25 July 1939),
was a German child born with severe disabilities. After receiving a petition from the child's parents, the German chancellor Adolf Hitler authorized one of his personal physicians, Dr Karl Brandt, to have the child killed. This marked the beginning of the program in Nazi Germany known as a "euthanasia program" (Aktion T4) which ultimately resulted in the deliberate killing of about 200,000 people with mental and/or physical disabilities.
Until recently the identity of this child had not been disclosed, although it was known to German medical historians. One German historian,Udo Benzenhöfer, argued that the child's name could not be disclosed because of Germany's privacy laws relating to medical records. In 2007, however, the historian Ulf Schmidt, in his biography of Karl Brandt, published the child's name, the names of his parents, the place of his birth and the dates of his birth and death. Schmidt wrote: "Although this approach [of Benzenhöfer and others] is understandable and sensitive to the feelings of the parents and relatives of the child, it somehow overlooks the child itself and its individual suffering... By calling the child 'Child K', we would not only medicalise the child's history, but also place the justifiable claim of the parents for anonymity above the personality and suffering of the first 'euthanasia' victim." Schmidt did not disclose whether the child's parents are still living.
Gerhard Kretschmar was born in Pomssen, a village south-east of Leipzig. His parents were Richard Kretschmar, a farm labourer, and his wife Lina Kretschmar. Schmidt describes them as "ardent Nazis." Gerhard was born blind, with either no legs or one leg, and with one arm. (The original medical records are lost, and second-hand accounts vary.) He was also subject to convulsions. Brandt later testified that the child was also "an idiot", although how this was determined is not stated.
Richard Kretschmar took the newborn Gerhard to Dr Werner Catel, a pediatrician at the University Children's Clinic in Leipzig, and asked that his son be "put to sleep." Catel told him that this would be illegal. Kretschmar then wrote directly to Hitler, asking that he investigate the case and overrule the law that prevented "This Monster" (as he described his child) from being killed. As was usual with such petitions, it was referred to Hitler's private secretariat (the Kanzlei des Führers), headed by Philipp Bouhler. There it was seen by Hans Hefelman, head of Department IIb, which dealt with petitions. Hefelman and Bouhler showed the petition to Hitler, aware of his frequently expressed support for the "mercy killing" of people with severe disabilities.
Hitler summoned Karl Brandt, one of his personal physicians, and sent him to Leipzig to investigate the Kretschmar case. Hitler told Brandt that if Gerhard Kretschmar's condition was indeed as described in Richard Kretschmar's petition, then he, Hitler, authorised Brandt to have Gerhard killed, in consultation with the local doctors, and if any legal action were taken, it would be thrown out of court. In Leipzig, Brandt examined the child and consulted with Catel and another physician, Dr Helmut Kohl. He also went to Pomssen and saw the Kretschmars. When Brandt informed the Leipzig doctors of Hitler's instructions, they agreed that Gerhard Kretschmar should be killed, although they knew this was illegal
The Pomssen church register says that Gerhard Kretschmar died at Pomssen of "heart weakness" on 25 July. He was buried in the Lutheran churchyard there three days later. Although no medical records exist, and although the testimony of Brandt and Catel after the war was contradictory and evasive, Schmidt believes that Gerhard was killed in the Leipzig clinic with an injection of a common drug such as luminal, and that the church register was falsified to conceal this fact.
First the Polish
The first adults with disabilities to be killed by the Nazi regime, however, were not Germans, but Poles, as the SS men of Einsatzkommando 16 cleared the hospitals and mental asylums of theWartheland, a region of western Poland which was earmarked for incorporation into Germany and resettlement by ethnic Germans following the German conquest of Poland. In the Danzig (nowGda?sk) area, some 7,000 Polish inmates of various institutions were shot, while 10,000 were killed in the Gdynia area. Similar measures were taken in other areas of Poland destined for incorporation into Germany. At Posen (occupied Pozna?), hundreds of patients were killed by means of carbon monoxide gas in an improvised gas chamber developed by Dr Albert Widmann, chief chemist of the German Criminal Police (Kripo). In December 1939, the SS head, Heinrich Himmler, witnessed one of these gassings, ensuring that this invention would later be put to much wider uses.
Others In the Program
17 August 1900 - 31 December 1967
(17 August 1900, Staufenberg, Hesse - 31 December 1967)
was during the Nazi regime in Germany (1933–1945) an SS lieutenant colonel (Obersturmbannführer) and chemist in the Central Reich Security Office (RSHA). He helped design the vans with a gas chamber built into the back compartment used in early Nazi mass murder of disabled people, political dissidents, Jews, and other "racial enemies," including Action T4 as well as the Einsatzgruppen (mobile Nazi death squads) in the Nazi-occupied portions of the Soviet Union. Generally his role was to provide important technical support, but on at least one occasion he personally gassed about 20 people.
In 1959, the public prosecutor's office in Stuttgart began a preliminary investigation into offenses committed by Becker, Albert Widmann andPaul Werner. Becker was condemned to ten years prison, but on 15 July 1960, due to his bad state of health he was released from detention and admitted to the home for the elderly at Butzbach. When in 1967, the State Criminal Court in Stuttgart sent a summons to Becker, it turned out that Becker had been taken out of the Butzbach home on January 3, 1966 by persons unknown, and his current whereabouts could not be determined. On June 16, 1967, the Baden-Wuerttemburg state criminal police agency issued a bulletin to be on the look out for Becker. By then however Becker had been checked into another nursing home where he remained in a state of almost complete mental and physical breakdown. August Becker died on 31 December 1967.
June 19, 1905 – November 28, 1957
(June 19, 1905 – November 28, 1957)
was head of the Section IIa in theKanzlei des Führers in Nazi Germany, and thus one of the main responsible persons for theNational Socialist "Euthanasia"-program Action T4, the annihilation of the Polish Jews in the "Aktion Reinhard", and the experiments with castration by X-Rays in KZ Auschwitz-Birkenau.
In April, 1945, Blankenburg was evacuated from Berlin to Bavaria together with other members of Hitler's Chancellery, among others Viktor Brack. After the end of World War II he hid under the name "Werner Bieleke" (his wife's maiden name) in the Wangen district of Stuttgart. He worked as a bank clerk in Ludwigsburg, and later on as representative for a textile company in Freudenstadt. On February 19, 1949 he got engaged to a nurse. In spite of being wanted by the police from 1945 to his death, he managed to live quietly, even keeping in contact with his parents in an old people's home in Ulm as well as with former colleagues at the Aktion T4.
Blankenburg died in Stuttgart-Wangen and is buried there under the name of Werner Bieleke. At the funeral service numerous former members of the Aktion T4 were present, among others August Dietrich Allers and Erwin Lambert. He had been officially declared dead on December 31, 1945, upon request of his wife in 1956.
August 24, 1900 – October 6, 1945
(August 24, 1900 – October 6, 1945)
was the Reich Health Leader (German: Reichsgesundheitsführer) in Nazi Germany. He was born to a Swiss Italianfather and mother in Lugano, Ticino, Switzerland; his mother later became the ReichMidwifery Leader in Nazi Germany.
Conti later studied medicine in the German Empire. He became active in the völkischmovement, and co-founded an antisemitic paper called Kampfbund (English: struggle league). He took part in the Kapp Putsch in 1920. From 1923 he was a member of the Sturmabteilung (SA), becoming their first physician; one of his patients wasHorst Wessel, who eventually became a martyr of the Nazi Party. In 1925, he promoted "Über Weichteilplastik im Gesicht", a book about facial plastic surgery. In 1927 he left his usual activities and started organizing the National Socialist German Doctors' League (NSDÄB) (German: Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Ärztebund) inBerlin.
He joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) and, as an "old fighter" of the party, he was appointed by Hermann Göring to the Prussian State Council. Conti held the posts and titles of Head of the Reich Physicians' Chamber (German: Reichsärztekammer), Leader of the NSDÄB, and Leader of the Main Office for the People's Health. In 1939, Conti was appointed Reichsgesundheitsführer and State Secretary in the Interior Ministry. In 1944, he was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer (English: General).
After Germany's surrender, Conti was to have been tried his involvement in the Action T4 Euthanasia Program at the Doctors' Trial. However, he hanged himself on his cell on October 6, 1945 (over a year before the trial began).
8 June 1899 – 24 April 1945
(8 June 1899 – 24 April 1945)
Grawitz greeting members of the National Leader's School (Reichsführerschule} of the German Red Cross, February 20, 1939
As Reichsarzt SS and Polizei (Reichsphysician SS and Police), Grawitz advised Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler on the use of gas chambers. Grawitz was also head of the German Red Cross. His wife, Ilse, was the daughter of SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Siegfried Taubert.
Towards the end of World War II in Europe, Grawitz was a physician in Adolf Hitler's Führerbunker. When he heard that other officials were leaving Berlin in order to escape from advancing Soviet armies, Grawitz petitioned Hitler to allow him to leave; his request was refused.
As the Soviets approached, a grenade exploded in Grawitz's house, killing him, his wife and his children. It is assumed that it was suicide in an act that also killed his family. The event was depicted in the 2004 historical film Der Untergang (Downfall), in which he was portrayed byChristian Hoening.
25 April 1902 ` 13 February 1964
Werner Heyde (aka Fritz Sawade)
Professor Werner Heyde during his arrest by a German policeman on 12 November 1959
Heyde completed his Abitur in 1920. From 1922-1925, he studied medicine in Berlin, Freiburg, Marburg and Würzburg and after short placements at the General Hospital in Cottbus and the sanatorium Berlin-Wittenau became assistant doctor at the Universitätsnervenklinik(university psychiatric hospital) in Würzburg. He obtained his licence to practice medicine in 1926, having completed all courses throughout his studies with top ranks.
In 1933, Heyde made the acquaintance of Theodor Eicke, and became member of the NSDAP. One year later, he was appointed director of the polyclinic in Würzburg. In 1935, he entered the SS as medical officer with the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer, and became commander of the medical unit in the SS-Totenkopfverbände. There he was responsible for establishing a system of psychiatric and eugenic examinations and research in concentration camps, and for the organisation of the T-4 Euthanasia Program. Additionally, he also worked as a psychiatric consultant for the Gestapo.
In 1938, he was appointed chief of staff of the medical department in the SS-Hauptamt (headquarters); in 1939, he became professor for psychiatry and neurology at the University of Würzburg, and from 1940 on he also was director of the psychiatric hospital.
He was replaced as head of the T4 program by Paul Nitsche in 1941, but continued his involvement as member of the "department Brack" (after the end of World War II, it was never found out what his role there was).
In 1944, he was awarded the SS-Totenkopfring, and before the end of the war reached the rank of SS-Standartenführer (Colonel).
After World War II, Heyde was interned and imprisoned, but escaped in 1947. He went underground using the alias Fritz Sawade and continued practicing as a sports physician and psychiatrist in Flensburg. Many friends and associates knew about his real identity, but remained silent even as he was an expert witness in court cases.
His true identity was revealed in the course of a private quarrel, and on November 11, 1959, Heyde surrendered to police in Frankfurt after 13 years as a fugitive. On February 13, 1964, five days before his trial was to start, Dr. Heyde hanged himself at the prison in Butzbach.
14 November 1915 – 15 December 2005
(14 November 1915 – 15 December 2005)
was an Austrian psychiatrist, medical doctor and neurologist, best known for his proven involvement in the killing of at least nine children with physical, mental and/or emotional/behavioral characteristics considered "unclean" by the Nazi regime, under its Euthanasia Program. His role in hundreds of other cases of infanticide is unclear. Dr. Gross was head of the Spiegelgrund children's psychiatric clinic for two years during World War II.
A significant element of the controversy surrounding Dr. Gross' activities is that after the children had been murdered, parts of their bodies, particularly their brains, were preserved and retained for future study for decades after the murders. It was only on 28 April 2002 that the preserved remains of these murdered children were finally buried.
The murder programme at Am Spiegelgrund clinic, Vienna, where Gross was a leading doctor, was intended by the Nazis to researcheugenics and accomplish the murder of individuals considered by the regime to constitute life unworthy of life.
There were at least two criminal actions brought against Dr. Gross for his alleged role in these atrocities against children, one a few years after the end of World War II which resulted in a conviction for manslaughter, which was later overturned on a technicality. A more recent attempt to convict Dr. Gross for his involvement in the murders of nine of the children was indefinitely suspended due to a successful claim that, due to his advanced age and alleged senility, Dr. Gross was unfit to stand trial. However, many dispute this claim, since he gave an interview at a coffeehouse shortly after he was found unfit to stand trial, which many submit as evidence that he was in fact, mentally sound and able to understand the charges against him and participate in his defense.
Finally, his Cross of Honour for Science and Art (awarded in 1975) was stripped in 2003.
Dr. Gross' ability to avoid being found criminally liable for the murders he is alleged to be involved in may reflect a combination of luck and political connections, more than a bona fide lack of guilt in this crime. He had been captured by the Soviet army following the war, and thus was unavailable to be tried at Nuremberg, where others involved in the program were punished. The favorable outcomes he enjoyed at his two criminal trials may reflect that, since he was regularly used by the Austrian courts to provide psychological profiles of criminal defendants and to opine on their ability to stand trial (which examinations were revealed by a documentary to have been conducted at an average rate of twice a working day, shedding doubt upon their objectivity and the validity of the opinions expressed), that he perhaps received treatment that could be characterized as preferential or biased in his favor.
26 June 1914~ 31 December 1945
Lorenz Marie Hackenholt
(born 26 June 1914; official death date 31 December 1945) built and operated the gas chamber at the Be??ec extermination camp. In so doing, he personally carried out the murder of hundreds of thousands of people.
Hackenholt was deeply involved in other Holocaust murders, including otherOperation Reinhard camps, and in particular, the murder of mental patients and the disabled in Action T4. Hackenholt was a member of the Nazi SS with the rank ofHauptscharführer (First Sergeant)
In 1933, Hackenholt volunteered for the SS. After joining the SS he was sent to a training school on 1 January 1934. After that he volunteered for service in the army, where he was assigned to the 12th Engineers' Battalion. After two years military service he was discharged, and then joined the SS Death's Head troops. He was a skilled driver and mechanic and, beginning in March 1938, served at Sachsenhausen concentration camp in the motor pool. He also worked as a guard at Sachsenhausen
Action T4, the so-called "Euthanasia Program", lasted from early 1940 until the summer of 1941 when the gassings were stopped on Hitler's orders. In November 1939 Hackenholt was assigned to Action T4, when he was transferred to Berlin for 'special duty'. This special duty was under Viktor Brack. According to Werner Karl Dubois, another camp guard transferred to special duty with Hackenholt:
Photographs of extreme cases of mental illness were shown to us. We were told that ... the institutions from which the mentally ill were to be taken were needed as military hospitals. We were further told that gas chambers were to be built in which the victims would be gassed, after which they would be cremated. We, anyway, would have nothing to do with the killings, we would only have to cremate the corpses.
There were six T4 killing facilities. Hackenholt served in all of them. He drove a bus with the SS staff from facility to facility. He also removed the bodies from the gas chambers and burned them. For a while Hackenholt was a driver for SS-Untersturmführer Dr. August Becker, the T4 chemist who was responsible for delivering bottled carbon monoxide gas from I.G. Farben manufacturing plants to the T4 gas chambers. Hackenholt worked primarily in Grafeneck and Sonnenstei
Hackenholt, who was called "Hacko" by other guards, was a tough, large man who was willing and able to do any task at the extermination camps, although he reportedly balked at cleanup up seeping corruption from bodies rotting in mass graves. At Belzec, where all ages of people were killed, some Jews, because of infirmity or age, could not enter the gas chamber. These people were instead laid down in the mass graves, and, according to the testimony of other guards, shot by Hackenholt. In 1943, when Himmler ordered the mass graves at Belzec to be reopened and the bodies burned, Hackenholt was in charge of the operation. Himmler considered Hackenholt to be "one of the most deserving men of Operation Reinhard" (German: einer der verdientesten Männer der Aktion Reinhard).
In December 1943, Hackenholt and other personnel from Operation Reinhard were transferred to northern Italy (Trieste), where they attempted to find and kill the few remaining Italian Jews. In 1944 Hackenholt was awarded the Iron Cross (Second Class) for his role in Operation Reinhard
Hackenholt disappeared after 1945, and based on an application by his wife was declared dead by a Berlin court on 1 April 1954, with an official date of death of 31 December 1945.
Hackenholt was supposedly killed in Italy in 1945, possibly by execution for selling guns to the partisans. However this was never quite certain. The West German authorities began an investigation in 1959. They were able to locate Hackenholt's wife and mother. Both certified that Hackenholt had not been heard from since the war, and surveillance of the wife's residence showed there were no attempts by him to visit her there. In 1961, the West German police were able to find one Hermann Erich Bauer, who had been in the SS with Hackenholt. Bauer claimed that Hackenholt had definitely survived the war, because he had met him in 1946 near Ingolstadt, Bavaria. Hackenholt was going under a false name that he had acquired from a dead soldier. Bauer's statement was somewhat corroborated by a former Sobibor guard, who likewise said he had met Hackenholt after the war. The West German police conducted an investigation but were not able to locate Hackenholt, or make a firm determination as to whether he might still be alive
June 19, 1896 – November 12, 1986
(June 19, 1896 – November 12, 1986)
was a Gauleiter of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in East Prussia from 1928 until 1945. Between 1941 and 1945 he was the Chief of Civil Administration (Chef der Zivilverwaltung) of Bezirk Bialystok. During this period, he was also the Reichskommissar in Reichskommissariat Ukraine from 1941 until 1943. After the war, Koch stood trial in Poland and was convicted in 1959 of war crimes and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment a year later.
The Soviet Union demanded Koch's extradition, but the British government decided to pass him on to the Polish government instead. On January 14, 1950 he was handed over by the British to a prison in Warsaw, Mokotow, where he remained imprisoned for another eight years before his trial began on October 19, 1958. He faced charges of war crimes for the extermination of 400,000 Poles, but was never indicted for his crimes in Ukraine.
Found guilty of these crimes, he was sentenced to death on March 9, 1959 by the district court in Warsaw for having planned, prepared and organized the mass murder of civilians.
His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment due to ill health, although many believe he was spared because the Russians thought he possessed information about art looted by the Nazis during the war; in particular, information about the whereabouts of the Amber Room ofTsarskoe Selo palace near Leningrad which was dismantled on Koch's direct orders. The Russians believed[ he had ordered parts of this famous room to be hidden on board the Wilhelm Gustloff cruise liner, which was torpedoed and sunk in the Baltic whilst evacuating refugees from East Prussia in early 1945. Salvage attempts by both Russian and Polish diving teams in the 1950s revealed no evidence to substantiate this theory.
Koch appeared in a television report on Königsberg's history in 1986, interviewed by West German journalists in his Polish prison cell. He died of natural causes in prison at Barczewo, Poland (formerly Wartenburg in East Prussia) at the age of 90.
7 December 1909 — 15 October 1976
Erwin Hermann Lambert
(7 December 1909 — 15 October 1976)
was a perpetrator of the Holocaust. In profession, he was a master mason, building trades foreman,Nazi Party member and member of the Schutzstaffel with the rank ofSS-Unterscharführer (Corporal). He supervised construction of the gas chambers for the Action T4 euthanasia program at Hartheim, Sonnenstein, Bernburg and Hadamar, and then at Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps during Operation Reinhard. He specialized in building larger gas chambers that killed more people than previous efforts in the extermination program.
Lambert joined the Nazi Party in March 1933, after Hitler's assumption of power, and first worked within the Party as a Blockleiter in Schildow. Lambert was not yet a member of any of the party's paramilitary organizations.
Late in 1939, the Action T4 program tried to recruit Lambert, who had been recommended by the local office of the German Labour Front. Lambert hesitated to change jobs and leave his ailing mother, but in January 1940, he accepted the program's offer. Lambert was hired to serve as a construction foreman who supervised the other workers; he was "the traveling construction boss of Action T4".Gas chamber at Bernburg, designed by Erwin Lambert
Lambert's primary task was to direct construction work at the T4 killing centers, particularly the construction of gas chambersand crematoria. In testimony Lambert claimed that he merely erected room dividers and installed doors, a claim largely discredited. Since Brandenburg and Grafeneck had already been completed before Lambert joined the T4 program, he worked at Hartheim, Sonnenstein, Bernburg, and Hadamar as the program's "expert for the construction of gas chambers".
After T4's termination, Lambert was posted to Operation Reinhard in Lublin for the purpose of bricklaying assignments which constructed the gas chambers in Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps. At Lublin Lambert joined the SS. During this time, however, his work was often interrupted for further construction jobs in Germany and Austria involving the still-ongoing Action 14f13. With the help of Ukrainian volunteers and condemned Jewish prisoners, Lambert rapidly constructed solid gassing facilities at Sobibor and Treblinka:“ Using his expert knowledge about gassing installations, Lambert was able rapidly to complete all work on the big gas house [in Treblinka]. ” Jews for about two to three weeks. It was sometime in autumn 1942, but I don’t remember exactly when. At that time I was assigned by Wirth to enlarge the gassing structure according to the model of Treblinka.
I went to Sobibor together with Lorenz Hackenholt, who was at that time in Treblinka. First of all, I went with Hackenholt to a sawmill near Warsaw. There Hackenholt ordered a big consignment of wood for reconstruction in Sobibor.
Finally, both of us went to Sobibor. We reported there to the camp commander, Reichleitner. He gave us the exact directives for the construction of the gassing installations. The camp was already in operation, and there was a gassing installation. Probably the old installation was not big enough, and reconstruction was necessary.
Today I cannot tell exactly who participated in the reconstruction work. However, I do remember that Jewish prisoners and so-called Askaries (Ukrainian auxiliaries) took part in the work.
During this time that building was in progress, no transports with Jews arrived.”
In addition, Lambert directed construction at several nearby forced labor camps such as Dohorucza and Poniatowa. Reportedly, Lambert remained an uninvolved expert devoted solely to his work and not interested in the conditions which surrounded it. According to one survivor,Jankiel Wiernik, Lambert avoided looking at dead bodies and treated his Jewish work crew in a professional manner.“ Unterscharführer Herman [sic] was humane and likeable. He understood us and was considerate of us. When he first entered Camp II and saw the piles [of bodies] that had been suffocated by the gas, he was stunned. He turned pale and a frightened look of suffering fell over his face. He quickly took me from the place so as not to see what was going on. With regard to us, the workers, he treated us very well. Frequently he would bring us food on the side from the German kitchen. In his eyes one could see his good-heartedness... but he feared his friends. All his deeds and movements expressed his gentle soul. ”
After the war, Lambert was arrested on 28 March 1962. At the First Treblinka Trial in 1965, Lambert was tried for the first time and sentenced to four years imprisonment for aiding and abetting the murder of at least 300,000 people. Having already served this time, he was allowed to live as a free man. At the Sobibor Trial in 1966, Lambert was acquitted. At the trials Lambert denied involvement in the killing operation and claimed that he merely suspected that the buildings would be used for killing. On 15 October 1976 Erwin Lambert died.
Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse
6 November 1896 – 25 October 1980
Prince and Landgrave Philipp of Hesse
(6 November 1896 – 25 October 1980)
He joined the German National Socialist movement (commonly abbreviated to the Nazis) in 1930, and, when they gained power with the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor in 1933, he became Governor of Hesse-Nassau. He served as governor from 1933. However, he fell out with the Nazis, was arrested in 1943, dismissed as governor the following year and then was sent to a concentration camp, where he remained until being liberated by US forces.
He was a grandson of Frederick III, German Emperor, and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, as well as the son-in-law to Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. His relative Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was named after him on 10 June 1921.
While in Italy, Philipp became impressed by Fascism. On his return to Germany in October 1930, he joined the National Socialist German Workers' Party. In 1932, he joined the Stormtroopers (SA, commonly referred to as the Brown Shirts), and, the following year, his younger brother Christoph joined the Schutzstaffel (SS). Later, his two other brothers also joined the SA. Through his party membership, Philipp became a particularly close friend of Hermann Göring, the future head of the German air force (Luftwaffe).
Following the appointment of Adolf Hitler as the German Chancellor on 30 January 1933, Philipp was appointed Oberpräsident (Governor) of Hesse-Nassau in June 1933. With the electoral success of Hitler's political party, he also became a member of the Reichstag and of the Prussian Staatsrat. Philipp played an important role in the consolidation of National Socialist rule in Germany. He introduced other aristocrats to NSDAP officials and, as son-in-law of the king of Italy, was a frequent go-between for Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He also acted as an art agent for Hitler in Italy.
As Governor of Hesse-Kassel, Philipp was complicit in the T-4 Euthanasia Program. In February 1941, Philipp signed the contract placing the sanitarium of Hadamar Clinic at the disposal of the Reich Interior Ministry. Over 10,000 mentally ill people were killed there. In 1946, Philipp was charged with murder, but the charges were later dropped.
As the war progressed, the attitude of the National Socialist authorities towards members of the German princely houses changed. While at first, they had been happy to use the historic family names to bolster popular support, they now decided to distance themselves even from those princes who had supported them.
In late April 1943, Philipp was ordered to report to Hitler's headquarters, where he stayed for most of the next four months. In May 1943, Hitler issued the "Decree Concerning Internationally Connected Men" declaring that princes could not hold positions in the party, state, or armed forces. The arrest of Mussolini by Philipp's father-in-law King Victor Emanuel in July 1943 made Phillip's position even more difficult. Hitler believed that Philipp and his family were complicit in Mussolini's downfall.
On 8 September 1943, Philipp was arrested. He was stripped of his membership in the party and dismissed from the Luftwaffe. On 25 January 1944, his political disgrace became public when he was dismissed from his office as Governor of Hesse-Nassau.
In September 1943, Philipp was sent to Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was placed in solitary confinement and was not permitted any contact with the outside world. He was, however, granted certain privileges: wearing civilian clothes and eating the same food as the guards.
Philipp's wife Mafalda was arrested and placed under military custody in Rome. She was sent to Munich and Berlin for questioning and eventually to Buchenwald concentration camp where she was housed next to an armaments factory. In August 1944, the factory was bombed by the Allies. Mafalda was seriously injured and died several days later following an operation by camp medical staff.
As the Allies advanced into Germany in April 1945, Philipp was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp. After only ten days, he was transferred to Tyrol along with about 140 other prominent prisoners, where he was liberated by US troops on 4 May 1945 in Niederdorf in the Italian Dolomites
November 25, 1876~ March 25, 1948
Hermann Paul NitscheHouse 16, Schloss Sonnenstein, as a memorial Professor Werner Heyde during his arrest by a German policeman on 12 November 1959
Nitsche received his medical license in 1901 and obtained the title of professor in 1925. Well established, Nitsche was no longer motivated by the prospect of career advancement but rather ideologically committed when he joined Action T4. However, Nitsche did not join the Nazi Partyuntil May 1933, and he was driven not so much by Nazi racial ideology but rather by his own support of racial science and his vision of "progressive medicine".
He was deputy director of the Sonnenstein Clinic from 1913 to 1918 and director of the institution 1928 to 1939. In 1940 he became deputy director of department T4 under Werner Heyde, and his successor as director from the end of 1941.
1891–December 11, 1946
(1891–December 11, 1946), professor at Heidelberg University, (1933–1945) chairman of its department of Psychiatry, director of its clinic, was a senior researcher for the Action T4 Euthanasia program.
Schneider joined the Nazi Party in 1932. He defined and elaborated the psychological assumptions of Nazi ideology and science. He coined the term National therapy for ethnic cleansing: ridding the populace of genetic and blood contaminants threatening the psychological and physical health of the German/Aryan population. He collected the brains of murdered Jews, retarded children, and other victims, for research in his clinic and for instruction. He taught a technique of replacing spinal fluid with air, to get clearer x-rays of the brain.
After the war, the U.S. occupation authorities barred his reinstatement to the university's medical faculty, even before they learned of his role in the euthanasia program. They later arrested him. Professor Schneider hanged himself in his prison cell (1946) awaiting trial in Frankfurt am Main
5 March 1888 - 19 October 1960
(5 March 1888 - 19 October 1960)
With this position Schwede-Coburg, as he was now known – or "Nero" as Pomeranians nicknamed him – swept Pomerania with an iron broom. Under his orders, patients were "removed from asylums, transported to Neustadt... and shot by squads of SS men" in October 1939.
As the Second World War drew to an end, Schwede thwarted a timely and organized evacuation of Pomerania's civil population ahead of theRed Army that was bearing down on them, but managed to get himself onto a ship out of Sassnitz on 4 March 1945 in time to escape toSchleswig-Holstein, where he once again ended up in British custody as a prisoner of war, interned until 1947. Sentenced by a first court inBielefeld to ten years in prison in 1948 for membership in the Nazi Führerkorps, he was later also given ten years' imprisonment by another court in Coburg for abuse of power and grievous bodily harm during the terror in 1933. He was pardoned in 1956, and died four years later in Coburg at the age of 72.
Am Spiegelgrund Clinic
During WWII, Spiegelgrund was a children's clinic led by doctor Ernst Illing and during two years by Dr.Heinrich Gross. Many patients who had been deemed seriously handicapped died in mysterious circumstances. Upon inquiry, they would blame pneumonia or a fatal muscle conniption caused by the mental state of the patient. In reality, the children were being killed by lethal injection and gas poisoning.
After death, the bodies were subjected to medical experiments. Brains and other body parts were removed, placed in formaldehyde jars and stored secretly in the basement for 'research'. After the war, the remains of over 600 children were discovered in the hospital and were buried in a secret memorial service. They were officially put to rest in 2002 and Gross had his Honorary Cross for Science and Art (awarded in 1975) stripped in 2003.
Detailed coverage of the burial ceremony,as well as full background are told in the movie called Grey Matter from 2004.
Dr. Marianne Türk, was a doctor at Vienna Psychiatric-Neurological Clinic for Children Am Spielgrund where together with Ernst Illing, she killed 200 children. She was sentenced to 10 years prison on July 18, 1946
Richard Jenne (died at age 4)
was the last victim to be murdered in Germany's Nazi Euthanasia Program also known as Aktion T4 on 29 May 1945, in the children's ward of the Kaufbeuren-Irsee state hospital in Bavaria, Germany, more than three weeks after troops from the U.S. had occupied the town. The Nazi extermination machine had come full circle using German nationals. For it was in this institution and similar ones, that basic training was provided for those who would run the death camps.
On arrival at Kaufbeuren the Americans had placed the state hospital at Irsee 'off limits' as it had a large sign warning of typhus in the hospital. On July 2 1945 two medical officers inspected the premises where they found over 1500 neglected patients, one was 10 years old and his weight was 2 pounds. The morgue was filled with bodies.The hospital continued for weeks after World War II as a 'wholesale extermination plant' until Allied forces became aware of it.
Dr. Valentin Faltlhauser was the doctor who directed the child euthanasia program at Kaufbauren. He was an advocate of eugenics and a believer in euthanasia as a measure to be undertaken for the "good" of some patients, Faltlhauser became a strong supporter of the Nazi euthanasia program and became a member of the committee T4. Falthaulser directed the killing by lethal injection, often administered by Faltlhauser himself when his staff refused to participate. After Faltlhauser presented his results at a medial conference, "E-Kost" starvation diets (containing no fats or vitamins) were introduced at all German euthanasia facilities in late November 1942.
Sister Wörle, head nurse of the childrens wards at the Kaufbeuren-Irsee mental institution near Munich, killed Richard Jenne by lethal injection. Richard, classified as a feebleminded idiot had been placed on a starvation diet. The death certificate gave was a false record of death, stating he died of typhus. The certificate was intended for dispatch to his parents at Ihringen, Baden.
At the war crimes trial at Wiesbaden, October 1945, in response to questions about the killing of those deemed 'not fit for work' due to physical illness those responsible for the killings repeated the arguments for euthanasia. Dr. Faltlhauser and Sister Wörle justified their actions later as Euthanasia. The nurses of Kaufbeuren received 12 to 21 months imprisonment. Dr. Faltlhauser was imprisoned for 3 years.Sister Worle admitted killing at least 211 minors the same way.
The hospital site has a memorial with the words "In memory of the 2000 patients of the hospital Kaufbeuren-Irsee who were murdered between 1940 and 1945 as victims of Hitler's 'Euthanasia decree'"
December 4, 1899~July 31, 1940
Elfriede Lohse Wächtler
(December 4, 1899 in Dresden - July 31, 1940 in Pirna)
was a German painter of the avant-garde whose works were banned as "degenerate art", and in some cases destroyed, by the Third Reich. She was killed in a former psychiatric institution at Sonnenstein castle in Pirna under Action T4, a forced euthanasia program of Nazi Germany. Since 2000 a memorial center for the T4 program in the house commemorates her life and work in a permanent exhibition.
All of the documents on this Web page were retrieved from the archives of Shamash: The Jewish Internet Consortium. The comments inside the square [ . . . ] brackets were written by Daniel Keren for the Shamash archives.
Letter from chief of institution for feeble-minded in Stetten to Reich Minister of justice Dr. Frank, September 6 1940.
Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals - Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1949-1953, Vol. I, p. 854.
Dear Reich Minister,
The measure being taken at present with mental patients of all kinds have caused a complete lack of confidence in justice among large groups of people. Without the consent of relatives and guardians, such patients are being transferred to different institutions. After a short time they are notified that the person concerned has died of some disease...
If the state really wants to carry out the extermination of these or at least of some mental patients, shouldn't a law be promulgated, which can be justified before the people - a law that would give everyone the assurance of careful examination as to whether he is due to die or entitled to live and which would also give the relatives a chance to be heard, in a similar way, as provided by the law for the prevention of Hereditarily affected Progeny?
Letter from Dr. Wurm, of the Wuerttemberg Evangelical Provincial Church, to Reich Minister of interior Dr. Frick, September 5 1940.
Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression - Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1946, Supp. A, p. 1223.
Dear Reich Minister,
On July 19th I sent you a letter about the systematic extermination of lunatics, feeble-minded and epileptic persons. Since then this practice has reached tremendous proportions: recently the inmates of old-age homes have also been included. The basis for this practice seems to be that in an efficient nation there should be no room for weak and frail people. It is evident from the many reports which we are receiving that the people's feelings are being badly hurt by the measures ordered and that the feeling of legal insecurity is spreading which is regrettable from the point of view of national and state interest.
Letter from Dr. Hilfrich, Bishop of Limburg, to the Reich Minister of Justice, August 13 1941.
Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals - Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1949-1953, Vol. I, p. 845-846.
Regarding the report submitted on July 16 by the Chairman of the Fulda Bishops' conference, Cardinal Dr. Bertram, I consider it my duty to present the following as a concrete illustration of destruction of so-called "useless life".
About 8 Kilometers from Limburg in the little town of Hadamar, on a hill overlooking the town, there is an institution which had formerly served various purposes and of late had been used as a nursing home. This institution was renovated and furnished as a place in which, by consensus of opinion, the above mentioned Euthanasia has been systematically practiced for months- approximately since February 1941. This fact is, of course, known beyond the administrative district of Wiesbaden...
Several times a week buses arrive in Hadamard with a considerable number of such victims. School children of the vicinity know this vehicle and say "here comes the murder-box again". After the arrival of the vehicle, the citizens of Hadamar watch the smoke rise out of the chimney...
The effect of the principles at work here that children call each other names and say "you're crazy; you'll be sent to the baking oven in Hadamar"...
All God-fearing man consider this destruction of helpless beings a crass injustice...
Officials of the State Police, it is said, are trying to suppress discussions of the Hadamar occurrences by means of severe threats...
I beg you most humbly, Herr Reich Minister, in the sense of the report of the Episcopate of 16 July of this year, to prevent further transgressions of the Fifth Commandment of God.
Letter from Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler to SS-Oberfuehrer Brack, 19 December 1940.
Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals - Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1949-1953, Vol. I, p. 856.
I hear there is great excitement on the Alb because of the Grafeneck Institution.
The population recognizes the gray automobiles of the SS and think they know what is going on at the constantly smoking crematory. What happens there is a secret and yet is no longer one. Thus the worst feeling has arisen there, and in my opinion there remains only one thing, to discontinue the use of the institution in this place and in any event disseminate information in a clever and sensible manner by showing motion pictures on the subject of inherited and mental diseases in just that locality.
May I ask for a report as to how the difficult problem is solved?
Extract from the Diary of General Halder, September-November 1941.
Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals - Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1949-1953, Vol. X, p. 1195-1196.
26 September 1941:
h. Mental institutions in Army Group North. Russians regard the feebleminded as sacred beings. Killing them is necessary, nontheless.
Testimony of Brack, regarding gassing of insane people in Germany.
Quoted in "Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals" - Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1949-1953, Vol. I, p. 876-886.
Q: Witness, when adult persons were selected for euthanasia and sent by transport to euthanasia stations for that purpose, by what methods were the mercy deaths given?
A: The patients went to a euthanasia institution after the written formalities were concluded - I need not repeat these formalities here, they were physical examinations, comparison of the files, etc. The the patients were led to a gas chamber and were there killed by the doctors with carbon monoxide gas (CO).
Q: Where was that carbon monoxide obtained, by what process?
A: It was in a compressed gas container, like a steel oxygen container, such as is used for welding - a hollow steel container.
Q: And these people were placed in this chamber in groups, I suppose, and then the carbon monoxide was turned into the chambers?
A: Perhaps I had better explain this in some detail. Bouhler's basic requirement was that the killing should not only be painless, but also imperceptible. For this reason, the photographing of the patients, which was only done for scientific reasons, took place before they entered the chambers, and the patients were completely diverted thereby. Then they were led into the gas chamber which they were told was a shower room. They were in groups of perhaps 20 or 30. They were gassed by the doctor in charge.
Q. What was done with the bodies of these people after mercy deaths were given?
A. When the room had been cleared of gas again, stretchers were brought in and the bodies were carried into an adjoining room. There the doctor examined them to determine whether they were dead.
Q. Then what happened to the bodies?
A. After the doctor had determined death, he freed the bodies for cremation and they were cremated.
Q. After he had freed the bodies, had determined that they were dead, they were then cremated? Is that correct?
Q. There was a crematory built for every one of these institutions?
A. Yes. Crematoriums were built in the institutions.
Q. And these people thought that they were going in to take a shower bath?
A. If any of them had any power of reasoning, they had no doubt thought that.
Q. Well now, were they taken into the shower rooms with their clothes on or were they nude?
A. No. They were nude.
Q. In every case?
A. Whenever I saw them, yes.
Savagery Against the Wretched
According to the theory of eugenics practiced in Nazi Germany, the physically and mentally handicapped were seen as an obstacle to the development of society. This perverted view led to the slaughter of thousands of the handicapped and elderly.
Erna "Sara" Fromm's Passport
Identification Card of Erna "Sara" Fromm, mother-in-law of Henry Oertelt. The front shows the word "Kennkarte" which literally translates "Identification Card". This was strictly a domestic ID document (in Europe, sometimes called an INTERNAL PASSPORT), that was not valid for travelling across the international borders. The "international passport", an entirely different document, required was required for travel to other countries. The German language distinctly differentiates the meaning of these two documents. The "J" for "Jude" was inscribed on international passports beginning in 1938 when Switzerland and Sweden requested such a marking, as their officials were unable to distinguish between German and Jewish names.
(The name "Sara" was forcefully inserted for the purpose of making sure that the reader of the card realizes that the owner of it is a Jewish person. (In that time no German Christian female ever was named with a Hebrew biblical name such as Sara)) Birth: 24 May, 1892 City of Birth: Berlin Profession: Homeworker Unchanging Marks: Missing Changeable: Missing Remarks: None
Important Note: Erna's picture (next to the finger prints). By order for Jews only, care had to be taken that the left ear was not to be obstructed by any hair.
Signed Police Presiden in Berlin, 70th Precint.
KennKarte evacuated from Berlin 10/1/44.
ID Remains valid for time being Aug 23, 1945.
Charlotte Friedman's Survival Story
Holocaust Survivor Tells Story of Escape in American Sign Language Monday, July 4, 2011 By Tamar Runyan
Nonagenarian Charlotte Friedman shared her story of survival during the Holocaust in two silent videos that can be seen on Jewish.TV, the multimedia portal of the Judaism website Chabad.org. Unlike similar films documenting firsthand accounts of survival, Friedman’s story is told entirely in American Sign Language with English subtitles.
Born in 1920, Friedman grew up in Aachen, Germany, and was studying art and fashion in Berlin until kristalnacht in 1938. She and her parents tried to escape to Amsterdam by hiding their Jewish identities, but were captured and sent to an internment camp in Rotterdam, where Friedman helped a nurse care for patients.
“It was not like a concentration camp,” she relates. “It only detained people.”
The family eventually made it to Amsterdam, where Friedman’s parents befriended Anne Frank’s parents. When the Freidmans boarded a ship for America, Edith Frank reluctantly said that she would remain as her husband “didn’t believe [the Holocaust] could happen in Holland.”
“But somehow, it happened,” says Friedman.
Friedman, who today embraces her Judaism, considers herself “very lucky” to have survived, while other deaf people were tortured and killed.
Fred and Doris Fedrid
Simon J. Carmel
Carmel began with the story of Fred and Doris Fedrid, who were imprisoned in the Tarnopol ghetto for two years. Fred Fedrid was one of three tailors that Carmel interviewed whose skill helped them survive in a time when being deaf, disabled or “weak” in some way often meant death.
As a man of the trade, Fedrid always carried scissors with him. As clothing of the era lacked any pockets, he placed the scissors in the band of his wedding ring, concealing them from Nazi soldiers. A great barterer, he would allow other prisoners to borrow his pair in exchange for food or other services.
Unlike other persecuted groups in the Holocaust, the deaf did not have a specific identity badge. Most often the Nazis forced the non-Jewish deaf through sterilization, believing that it would prevent any perpetuation of disability in the Aryan race. (A false belief—only 10% of deaf couples have deaf children.) About 17,500 deaf Germans were sterilized between 1933 and 1945.
Fred Fedrid, however, did wear a pin labeled Taubstuum, meaning “deaf and dumb”—two conditions which do not necessarily go together. Although today pride in sign language and in deaf culture often scorns instructing deaf children to speak and to read lips, oralism saved many deaf from prosecution.
Morris Field, for example, never revealed his disability while passing through a total of five concentration camps. When he spoke, his accent blended him into the crowd of other foreigners. Field once noticed a group of deaf signers communicating with each other in a corner, and debated with himself about whether or not to sign to them that he too was deaf. Field decided against it and found the next day that they all had disappeared. He suspected they were all killed.
Carmel also interviewed artist David Bloch. Block recalls Kristallnacht, when Nazis pounded on his door and shouted that they would arrest him for being a criminal—that is, a Jew. He eventually escaped to Shanghai and became something of an art anthropologist.
He has done pieces reflecting on the Holocaust, including “Reception-Deception,” which is pictured above, depicting a skeletal prisoner playing the violin. Bloch interpreted music at the camps to signal imminent death, even though he could not hear it.
Deaf prisoners also faced a dilemma when they managed to escape or become liberated—they were often denied access to the United States. Carmel related the story of Stanley Teger, whose mother had been outraged when the immigration official refused to admit the young Stanley for fear that deafness was contagious. Some infectious illnesses at the time caused blindness, leading to widespread fear that other disabilities would propagate as well.
Teger’s mother finally goaded Stanley to speak—satisfying the official who still believed in the deaf-dumb correlation. Teger started a new hobby in America as a Statue of Liberty collector.
The deaf did face the same struggles as the Jewish in attempting to conceal their religion. Dr. Eugene Bergmann, who grew up wealthy and became deaf when he a soldier hit him on the head with a rifle, was almost discovered when his leg cramped while he was swimming.
A fisherman rescued him and noticed that something was wrong. He told Bergmann to pull down his pants—a terrifying situation for a circumcised boy in Nazi Germany. The boy pantomimed his deafness and the fisherman let it go. When he ran back home, his parents and brother had disappeared. Bergmann searched for them in the forest and encountered a Polish Resistance soldier, who did not believe he was Jewish.
So Bergmann pulled down his pants and proved it. The soldier let him go. Eventually he became a gun smuggler for the Polish Resistance until the end of the war, when he went searching for his family again at a Jewish center. There they said, “Well you don’t look Jewish. Get out.” He again proved himself by the fact of circumcision, and successfully located his mother and brother.
Auschwitz: The Holocaust, As Seen By A Young Handicapped Child
By Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
Not only did the adults suffer during the Holocaust: the children did, too, and they were treated just as badly. Such as was the case of young Ruben Ostrowicz, a little Jewish boy of Polish extraction, who happened to be born handicapped. This was written prior to his death. (He was gassed to death.)
I am so scared I don't know what to do. I don't know what is to become of me, or my family, and I fear for them.
I don't know why we are here, or what we may have done to have pissed off the people who are in charge of this camp. Ever since we came here, we have been treated very badly, and all I have heard since we have been here are people yelling in a language I don't understand, or people screaming or crying as they were seperated from loved ones. I haven't seen my mama or my papa in days, and I am worried what may have become of them.
I have also been treated very badly, and I have been made to lie on this hard, cold table, while strange men examined me thoroughly and have taken away my crutches and my braces. (I was born with weak legs.) I haven't been able to get around since except by dragging myself around, and when I don't come when they call, they beat me repeatedly, and they laugh when I cry out for help or ask for my braces and crutches, or when they strike me with a thick stick. On bare skin it hurts so horribly, and I am so covered with bruises and cuts it's a wonder I have any skin left after they have beaten me! They call me an "undesirable" (whatever that means, but it can't be good!), and they keep telling me that they have "plans" for me. Whenever I ask what they are going to do, they just laugh in speak in that ugly, gutteral language of theirs and tell me to shut up and to mind my own business.
I have had to have my hair shaved off, and I wear ill-fitting clothes; and I also have had to go around naked; and with other people looking at me, it is uncomfortable, and it makes me very unhappy. It is very cold here in these camps, and people have gotten sick; and disease has ran rampant, and people have gotten so bad they have died. There is typhus about, and I am scared that I will get it next (that is, if I don't get beaten to death or whatever plans the Germans have for me)! I have eaten but very little, and what I HAVE eaten has tasted nasty, and I would much rather eat poop or drink pee than to eat or drink the awful stuff that the Germans leave for us here at the camp!
Life has been very hard for all of us, and every day, I see more and more bodies piling up, or smell the horrifying stench of burning flesh or hair or hear people crying or screaming or see people being beaten, and it is all very scary, especially to a little boy like myself. (I am only eight years old.) It is during these times where I wish I could see my mama or papa again, and I wish I were still at home in Warsaw! I wish I were still at home in my little bed or safe in mama's arms while she would sing to me; I still can remember her telling me that she loved me so much, and that I was her angel! I also remember papa's strong arms and his big, booming laugh; but then the War came, and it changed everything; and now I am here, and I don't know what I may have done to deserve being here at Oswiecim (Auschwitz, as it is known by today)! I am only a little boy who can't walk, and I didn't ask to be captured by the Germans or taken to this strange and awful place where death is so real and horrifying! I didn't ask to be born a Jew, and I certainly didn't ask to be born handicapped! Now it seems that is exactly why I am here, at Oswiecim, at this camp, and I am so scared!!
All I can do now while I wait is pray for God to take me now to Heaven or to ask Him to stop all these killings; I don't know if I can take much more of all the screaming or crying or the sickening smells that fill the air or my nostrils!
(A day after this was written, little Ruben Abraham Ostrowicz was gassed to death. He was all but eight years old, an innocent little victim of the Holocaust. In just three years, over 1.5 million people died just at Auschwitz; but a grand total of anywhere between 6,000,000 and 12,000,000 people perished in the Holocaust.)
Tadeusz was one of i ve children, and the only disabled. Born deaf-mute, he grew up in Borkow near Kielce. His house was destroyed during the war, forcing the family to hide in a series of basements. When the Nazis discovered them they were kicked and beaten. Tadeusz still has nightmares and recalls vividly the taunts and insults he received. His mother never recovered and died shortly after the war.
Tadeusz briely attended school but, without support, he soon had to return to his village. He became homeless and estranged from his family. To this day, he does not know the location of his parents’ graves or what became of his siblings.
He was adopted by a family that saw him seeking shelter. Their own son had been lost in the war. His adopted mother sent Tadeusz to a vocational school. He worked as a shoemaker for 40 years.
Tadeusz indicated to IOM that the most valued benefit for him from HSP was the realization that his sufferings and torments had not been forgotten.
Irena is blind and lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Warsaw, on a monthly income of US$ 187. She has a daughter. During the war, before Irena was born, the Nazis destroyed Irena’s village and beat her pregnant mother. Irena believes this was the cause of her blindness. She somehow remembers the constant search for shelter during the war. Later, Irena went to a school for the blind at Laski, outside Warsaw. It was dii cult for Irena to talk about her wartime experiences. Irena worked for 36 years in a library and publishing house working with both Esperanto and Braille languages. She still volunteers as a teacher of Braille and Esperanto at the Polish Association for the Blind. The publishing house is closed and with it the chance of i nding work has also disappeared.
HSP provided Irena with sugar and l our, beddings, hearing aids and a prosthesis to aid her recovery from cancer surgery. For the i rst time in years she could bake a cake without worrying that she was “wasting” her limited sugar and l our unnecessarily. A blind colleague was invited to share the treat. After receiving the assistance, Irena said she felt like a new person. She now shares her apartment with a new friend, a cat
A shopworker with a disputed schizophrenic diagnosis, Gerda D. was sterilized. Later, she was forbidden to marry by Nazi authorities because of the sterilization. Place and date unknown.