Euthanasia( Program)


Euthanasia( Program)
   Taken from the Greek meaning “helping to die.” The Nazi turn to genocide did not begin with the Jews or Poles but with its own citizens in the Euthanasia Program. The Nazis believed that three groups threatened the racial hygiene of the nation: those deemed unfit by virtue of a handicap, the Gypsies, and the Jews. During the 1930s, the handicapped were initially sterilized, but at the start of the war, the policy shifted to one of “mercy” killing. Nazi Germany commenced its policy toward the unfit in July 1933 with the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. In line with eugenic theory, which was current on both sides of the Atlantic, the German law allowed for the sterilization of persons suffering from such acute problems as epilepsy, chronic alcoholism, manic-depressive psychosis, and other maladies thought to be incurable hereditary illnesses. By 1937, 200,000 people had been sterilized. In 1935, a law prohibited marriage between partners who had serious infectious diseases or hereditary illnesses. Nazi propaganda, through film and textbooks, depicted the mentally ill and the physically deformed as threats to the Reich, as well as an expense for the nation. Prior to the outbreak of war in September 1939, Adolf Hitler authorized the Eu thanasia Program, with the intention of killing “life unworthy of life.” By spring of 1939, the program focused on the killing of the mentally deficient and physically deformed children. Approximately 5,000 “racially valueless” children were killed as a result. The Euthanasia Program was intensified following the invasion of Poland in September 1939. Hitler authorized physicians and medical aides to participate in the process, which resulted in the murder of their incurably ill patients. The operation, known as the T-4 program (T-4 refers to the street address, 4 Tiergarten Strasse, where the facilities of the Euthanasia Program were located), gassed its victims in rooms camouflaged as shower stalls. The bodies were then cremated. The estimate is that more than 100,000 people were killed in this manner. Many of those who were part of the T-4 operation were members of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and subsequently were assigned to the death camps, where their experience in the operation of the gas chambers and crematoria was put to use in the murder of the Jews and other victims of Nazi Germany.
   The medical personnel involved did not appear particularly disturbed by their participation in the Euthanasia Program. Rather, they appeared to believe that by eliminating “life unworthy of life,” they were cleansing the nation of disease much as a surgeon removes a cancer. The Euthanasia Program ostensibly was halted in September 1941, when relatives of the deceased protested the deaths of their loved ones. The protest was joined by the churches, and as a consequence, Hitler promised to terminate the program but the killings continued under a more effective disguise until the end of the war.
   See also Condolence Letter.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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