"I was ordered by [Reichsamtsleiter Viktor] Brack to attend the first euthanasia experiment in the Brandenburg asylum near Berlin. I went to the asylum in the first half of January 1940. Additional building work had been carried out especially for the purpose. There was a room similar to a shower room which was approximately 3 metres by 5 metres and 3 metres high and tiled. There were benches round the room and a water pipe about 1" in diameter ran along the wall about 10 cm off the floor. There were small holes in this pipe from which the carbon monoxide gas poured out. The gas cylinders stood outside this room and were already connected up to the pipe. The work on this installation had been carried out by the SS Main Building Office in Berlin . . . .
There were already two mobile crematoria in the asylum with which to burn the corpses. There was a rectangular peephole in the entrance door, which was constructed like an air raid shelter door, through which the delinquents could be observed. The first gassing was carried out by Dr. [Albert] Widmann personally. He turned the gas tap and regulated the amount of gas . . . .
As far as I can remember, among the prominent personalities who were there were: the doctors already mentioned, Professor Dr. [Karl] Brandt, the Fuehrer's personal physician, and a detective [Kriminalkommissar SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Christian], Wirth, at that time head of the homicide branch in the Stuttgart police department and later head of the Hartheim asylum near Linz. For this first gassing about 18-20 people were led into this 'shower room' by the nursing staff. These men had to undress in an anteroom until they were completely naked. The doors were shut behind them. These people went quietly into the room and showed no signs of being upset. Dr Widmann operated the gas. I could see through the peephole that after about a minute the people had collapsed or lay on the benches. There were no scenes and no disorder.
After a further five minutes the room was ventilated. Specially assigned SS people collected the dead on special stretchers and took them to the crematoria. When I say special stretchers I mean stretchers specially constructed for this purpose. They could be placed directly on the ovens and the corpses could be pushed into the oven mechanically by means of a device without the people carrying them coming into contact with the corpse. These ovens and the stretchers were also constructed in Brack's department . . . .
Following this successful test, Brack -- who was naturally also present and whom I forgot to mention -- said a few words. He expressed satisfaction with the test and emphasized once again that this action must only be carried out by doctors according to the motto -- 'syringes are a matter for doctors'. Finally, Dr. Brandt spoke and reiterated that doctors alone should carry out this gassing." (Nazism 2, #739)
"For some months past, insane, feeble-minded and epileptic patients of state and private medical establishments have been transferred to another institution on the orders of the Reich Defense Council. Their relatives, even when the patient was kept at their cost, are not informed of the transfer until after it has taken place. Mostly they are informed a few weeks later that the patient concerned had died of an illness, and that, owing to the danger of infection, the body had to be cremated. On a superficial estimate several hundred patients from institutions in Wuerttemberg alone must have met their death in this way, among them war-wounded of the Great War.
Owing to numerous inquiries from town and country and from the most variegated circles, I consider it my duty to point out to the Reich Government that this affair is causing a particular stir in our small province. Firstly because one of the institutions concerned, Grafeneck castle, to which the patients are delivered and where a crematorium and registrar's office have been set up, is in Wuerttemberg . . . . The castle lies on a height on the Swabian Alb in a sparsely populated forest district. With all the more attention does the population of the surrounding area follow the events that take place there. The transports of sick persons who are unloaded at the small railway station of Marback a.L., the buses with opaque windows which bring sick persons from more distant railway stations or directly from the institutions, the smoke which rises from the crematorium and which can be noticed even from a considerable distance--all this gives all the more rise to speculation as no one is allowed into the castle . . . . The manner [emphasis in original] of action is already sharply criticized in these circles; there is much talk, in particular, of deceptions which occur in this connection. Everybody is convinced that the causes of deaths which are published officially are selected at random. When, to crown everything, regret is expressed in the obituary notice that all endeavors to preserve the patient's life were in vain, this is felt as a mockery. But is, above all, the air of mystery which gives rise to the thought that something is happening that is contrary to justice and ethics and cannot therefore be defended by the Government with full publicity like other necessary and severe war measures. This point is continually stressed -- by simple people as well -- in numerous written and oral statements which come to us. It also appears that very little care was taken, at the first at any rate, in the selection of the patients destined for annihilation. They did not limit themselves to insane persons, but included also persons capable of work, especially among the epileptics . . . .
I can imagine, Mr. Minister, that this protest will be regarded as embarrassing. Hardly dare I express the hope, either, that my voice will be heard. If, nevertheless, I have made this declaration, I have done so primarily because the relations of the compatriots affected expect such action from the leaders of a church. I am also, however, moved by the thought that his action may perhaps give rise to a serious examination and to the abandonment of this path. Dixi et salvari animam meam!" (Tyranny on Trial 323)
"The measures which are at present being applied to mental patients of all kinds have led to the rise of a feeling of absolute legal insecurity among wide circles of the population. Such patients are transferred from the institutions, without obtaining the consent of their relations or guardians, to other institutions from which after a short time notification follows that the persons concerned have died of some kind of disease. In view of the multitude of death notifications, the people are convinced that these patients are done away with . . . .
Because of the absolute secrecy and impenetrability in which measures are carried out; not only the wildest rumours arise among the people (for instance, that people who cannot work because of age or wounds received in the Great War, have been done away with or are also to be done away with), but also they get the impression that the selection of the persons affected by this measure is done in a completely arbitrary manner.
If the State really wants to carry out the extermination of these patients or certain kinds of mental diseases, should not a clear law--openly accounted for to the people--be published, a law which would give every single person the guarantee of a careful examination of his liability to die or right to live, and would also give relatives the chance to be heard, as in the case of the law for the prevention of the transmission of hereditary diseases?
With regard to the other patients entrusted to our institutions, I urgently beg you to do all you can to get the execution of these measures suspended, at least until a clear legal position has been created." (Terror on Trial 324)
The surrounding facts, circumstances and related correspondence make it clear that this "evacuation" was, in fact, an execution of mental patients who had been transferred from eastern Prussian hospitals to the concentration camp at Soldau. (Fleming 21)the so-called Sonderkommando Lange, assigned to me for special tasks, was detached to Soldau in East Prussia from 21 May to 8 June, 1940, as per agreement with the Reich Main Security Office [RSHA]. During this period, it successfully evacuated 1,558 mental patients from the Soldau transit camp."
"The direct killing of an innocent person because of mental or physical defects is not allowed. With the decree of 2 December 1940 the Holy Office replies to the following
Question: Whether it is permissible on the basis of an order by the state authority directly to kill those who, although they have not committed a crime worthy of death, nevertheless cannot be of any further use to the nation and are rather a burden for the nation and an hindrance to its energy and strength.
Answer: No, since it is against the natural and positive law of God. His Holiness Pope Pius XII has approved and confirmed this decision of the cardinals in his audience on 1 December and ordered its publication." (Nazism 2, #757)
"All God-fearing men consider this destruction of helpless beings as crass injustice. And if anybody says that Germany cannot win the war, if there is yet a just God, these expressions are not the result of a lack of love of fatherland but of a deep concern for our people. The population cannot grasp that systematic actions are carried out which in accordance with Par. 211 [the murder statute] of the German criminal code are punishable with death! High authority as a moral concept has suffered a severe shock as a result of these happenings. The official notice that N. N. had died of a contagious disease and that for that reason his body has to be burned, no longer finds credence, and such official notices which are no longer believed have further undermined the ethical value of the concept of authority.
Officials of the Secret State Police, it is said, are trying to suppress discussion of the Hadamar [a mental hospital and euthanasia facility] occurrences by means of severe threats. In the interest of public peace, this may be well intended. But the knowledge and the conviction and the indignation of the population cannot be changed by it; the conviction will be increased with the bitter realization that discussion is prohibited with threats but that the actions themselves are not prosecuted under penal law.
I beg you most humbly, Herr Reich Minister, in the sense of the report of the Episcopate of July 16 of this year, to prevent further transgressions of the Fifth Commandment of God." (Terror on Trial 325-6)
During the Third Reich a minority of medical practitioners and public health officials in positions of authority, following an authorization decreed by Adolf Hitler in August 1939,directly implemented a policy of extermination respecting segments of the population who were diagnosed as suffering from severe mental and/or physical dysfunction. A much larger percentage of these groups were complicit directly or indirectly in the programme. Scholars habitually refer to this as the 'Euthanasia' programme, the term appearing with some regularity in the titles of academic treatises on this thrust of Nazi demographic policy. Two examples are Michael Burleigh's Death and Deliverance, subtitled 'Euthanasia' in Germany 1900-1945 (Cambridge University Press, 1994), and Dick de Mildt's more recent In the Name of the People... which carries the sub-subtitle The 'Euthanasia' and `Aktion Reinhard' Trial Cases (Martinus Nijhoff, 1996)
Although both Burleigh and Mildt necessarily refer to killings and extermination, the consistent use of the term 'euthanasia' in this context is somewhat misleading. The Chambers Dictionary includes in its definitions "the act or practice of putting painlessly to death, esp in cases of incurable suffering." The Shorter Oxford Dictionary refers to "a quiet and easy death," and the "action of inducing" the same. However, the "incurable suffering" that the underlying ideology that rationalised the killings referred to was not that of the patient-victims, but that of the policy originators, their willing bureaucratic assistants, and those who directly handled the victims, whether transporting them, channeling them into gas chambers, injecting them with morphine-scopolamine, or managing their slow and agonising starvation; an efficient synergy of those Lifton referred to as the "killing professionals" and the "professional killers". Their demise was not painless, quiet or easy. Many were not suffering from any mental or physical dysfunction aside from the physical consequences arising from having fallen into Nazi hands, as was the case with respect to those Poles and Russians who were exterminated in some of the same institutions used for eliminating those with mental or physical handicap. The dying rituals and procedures applied under the auspices of this "programme" were invariably identical to those that obtained in the extermination camps. The underlying objective was the same-the eradication of unwanted segments of the populace. In both instances no term other than murder is congruent with the circumstances. Nazi legal experts had held that:
unless a "law for annihilation of valueless lives" "("Gesetz zur Vernichtung lebensunwürdigen Lebens") was promulgated, these killings were illegal because a law against killing was still on the statute books of Germany, which provided that whoever killed somebody else with premeditation should be punished by death." (Alexander, p.34-see below)
The fact that the enveloping conceptual framework was medico-demographic rather than xenophobic-racist, as it was respecting the Jews, should not obscure the fact that both derived sustenance from the same source, a desire to be rid of unacceptable others, a socially induced drive that was given free reign in a political framework that placed no limitations on goal attainment, and where those classified as being outside the framework of moral consideration were considered unworthy of being treated as anything other than expendable and replaceable objects. This same environment permitted medical experiments on individuals with no consideration as to the impact that these might have on their wellbeing or longevity.
Acknowledging some situational and ideological commonalities underlying the diverse killing projects undertaken by the leadership corps of the Third Reich, does not amount to identity. As Katz has recently noted, a distinction needs to be drawn between those programs designed "to protect the health of the Aryan race" [those covered by the Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases, amendments to the criminal code relating to sexual dysfunctions and the extermination of the mentall and physically afflicted], and those programs designed to protect the Aryan "bloodstock" against the external threat of racial poisoning:
The threat that [inferior racial groups represent] is not that of a "diseased gene" within the otherwise "healthy" Aryan body, but rather that of a racial admixing that will-if enacted-eventuate in the disappearance of a "pure" Aryan biological community, with all the sociopolitical and normative consequences that such racial "pollution" would produce." (The Holocaust: A Very Particular Racism. Steven T Katz. In M Berenbaum and A J Peck (eds.) The Holocaust and History: The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed, and the Reexamined. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998, p.59)
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