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.