The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/germany/euthanasia//brandt.001

Archive/File: places/germany/euthanasia/brandt.001
Last-Modified: 1994/08/25

    **********  Extracts from the testimony of Karl Brandt **********

  DR. SERVATIUS:  Witness, you are charged with participation in the
Euthanasia Program.  I shall show you the decree of 1 December [1 September
1939].  (NO-630, Pros. Ex. 330.)  Please describe how this decree came
  DEFENDANT KARL BRANDT:  After the end of the Polish campaign in about
October, the Fuehrer was at Obersalzberg.  I was called to him for some
reason which I can no longer remember and he told me that because of a
document which he had received from Reichsleiter Bouhler, he wanted to
bring about a definite solution in the euthanasia question.  He gave me
general directives on how he imagined it, and the fundamentals were that
insane persons who were in such a condition that they could no longer take
any conscious part in life were to be given relief through death.  General
instructions followed about petitions which he himself had received, and he
told me to contact Bouhler himself about the matter.  I did so by telephone
on the same day, and I then informed Hitler about my conversation with
Bouhler.  Thereupon he drafted a formulation of this decree, not in the
form we have here, but in a similar form, and certain changes were made.
My request was that a precaution be introduced because of the medical
participation, and I used an expression for this which was familiar to me
from expert opinions.  It stated that euthanasia could be carried out on
persons and then comes the formulation "who are incurable with a
probability bordering on certainty."  Since this formulation was strange to
him, "on the most careful diagnosis of their condition of sickness" was
added.  Therefore when this decree was signed about the end of October, the
text read as follows:  "Reichsleiter Bouhler and Dr. Brandt are charged
with the responsibility of extending the authority of certain doctors, to
be designated by name in such a manner that persons, who, according to
human judgment, are incurably sick, can, on the most careful diagnosis of
their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death."
  Q:  Did you talk to Bouhler?
  A:  At first I only talked to Bouhler on the telephone and even after the
decree was signed I did not talk to him immediately but sent the signed
decree to him in Berlin.
  Q:  And what was Hitler's idea of enthanasia?  What did he understand by
  A:  The decisive thing for him was also expressed here in the decree,
namely, that incurably sick persons - actually it should have read insane
persons - other persons were absolute exceptions - could be accorded a
mercy death.  That is, therefore, a measure dictated by purely humane
considerations, and nothing else could be thought under any circumstances,
and nothing else was ever said to me.
  Q:  You said that the Fuehrer gave you the assignment on the basis of a
telephone call from Bouhler?  The call from Bouhler could not have been the
only reason.  There must have been others.
  A:  It was not a telephone call.  There was some kind of a documentary
incident which was decisive.  It may be that the Fuehrer already had these
documents or that Bouhler spoke to him again about them.  I don't know
exactly.  But this was not the cause of the Euthanasia Program being
started.  In his book, "Mein Kampf," Hitler had already referred to it in
certain chapters, and the law for the "prevention of the birth of children
suffering from hereditary diseases" is a proof that Hitler had definitely
concerned himself with such problems earlier.  The law for the "prevention
of the birth of children suffering from hereditary diseases" is actually a
law which followed the events.  It certainly arose because children with
congenital diseases existed.  Proof that this is a problem which affects
the whole world lies in the fact that similar laws with similar formulation
and contents have been passed in other countries.
  Dr. Gerhardt Wagner, who was Dr. Conti's predecessor, discussed these
questions at the Party rally in Nuernberg.  I did not talk to Gerhardt
Wagner at that time and had nothing to do with these things.  However, I
hear now that in 1935 Gerhardt Wagner had a film made presenting the
problem of the insane.  Apparently the film was made in asylums with insane
  Q:  Witness, did not the requests received by Bouhler and the Fuehrer
play a certain part?
  A:  Request to this effect were certainly constantly received by Bouhler,
and the Chacellery of the Fuehrer always received such things.  I only know
that these request were afterwards passed on to the Reich Ministry of the
Interior.  I myself know of one request which was sent ot the Fuehrer
himself through his adjutant's office in the spring of 1939.  The father of
a deformed child approached the Fuehrer and asked that this child or this
creature should be killed.  Hitler turned this matter over to me and told
me to go to Leipzig immediately - it was in Leipzig - to confirm the fact
on the spot.  It was a child who was born blind, an idiot - at least it
seemed to be an idiot - and it lacked one leg and part of one arm.
  Q:  Witness, you were speaking about the Leipzig affair, about this
deformed child.  What did Hitler order you to do?
  A:  He ordered me to talk to the physicians who were looking after the
child to find out whether the statements of the father were true.  If they
were correct, then I was to inform the physicians in his name that they
could carry out euthanasia.
  The important thing was that the parents could not feel themselves
incriminated at some later date as a result of this euthanasia - that the
parents hould not have the impression that they themselves were responsible
for the death of this child.  I was further ordered to state that if these
physicians hould become involved in some legal proceedings because of this
measure, theser proceedings would be quashed by order of Hitler.  Martin
Bormann was ordered at the time to inform Guertner, the Minister of
Justice, accordingly about this case.
  Q:  What did the doctors who were involved say?
  A:  The doctors were of the opinion that there was no justification for
keeping such a child alive.  It was pointed out that in maternity wards
under certain circumstances it is quite natural for the doctors themselves
to perform euthanasia in such a case without anything further being said
about it.  No precise instructions were given in that respect.
  Q:  What this problem of deformities dealt with anywhere else?
  A:  The problem of deformities was probably discussed before this Leipzig
case.  However, in the course of the summer it was worked on in more
concrete form, first of all by the Ministry of the Interior.  In this case,
Dr. Linden participated as a special consultant, probably as representative
of Dr. Conti - who became Reich Minister for Health after the death of his
predecessor Wagner, and then afterwards State Secretary in the Ministry of
the Interior.
  Q:  Who was Dr. Linden?
  A:  Dr. Linden was Ministerialrat in the Reich Ministry of the Interior.
He was a doctor and was the competent official who was later in charge of
this office for the mental institutions, perhaps he already was at the
time, I don't know exactly.  Later on, during the treatment of the
euthanasia question he was appointed exponent of all these matters.
  Q:  What was the procedure at the time?  Was Hitler informed about all
these matters?
  A:  In August 1944 he ordered me to participate in a conference which
took place between Dr. Linden, Mr. Bouhler, and some other people.  The
question of the registration of these deformities was discussed, and also
how to set about this registration.  Dr. Linden, on behalf of the Ministry
of the Interior, submitted pertinent documents, questionaires, etc., which
were then discussed once more in detail.  It was the preparatory work for
the Reich Committee for the Registration of Serious Hereditary and
Constitutional Diseases, which was subsequently established.
  MR. MCHANEY:  Now, Witness, this is the first time that I have ever heard
mentioned in connection with the Euthanasia Program that anybody's consent
had to be obtained, and I take it that it is a rather fundamental matter.
Are you ready to swear to this Tribunal that the Reich committee never
performed euthanasia on children without obtaining the consent of the
parents of the child?
  DEFENDANT KARL BRANDT:  I said yesterday that the approval of the parents
was necessary for the euthanasia of children, and I am of the opinion that
such approval was actually given.
  Q:  Was the approval written approval or verbal approval?
  A:  That I don't know.  I cannot say.
  Q:  Have you ever seen any written approval?
  A:  I believe that during the first period when this authorization was
submitted for signature to Bouhler and to me, all the other papers were
together with it, such as approvals, etc.  It may be that during the later
period we were only concerned with the authorization papers and that the
other papers were left with the Reich committee.  However, I did see such
letters of approval but I don't believe that they were in writing in every
case.  I think they were partly given orally through the local physician or
some other agency which dealt with the case.
  Q:  Well, Witness, let's look at this letter again.  I find some
difficulty in reconciling your testimony about the necessity of consent by
the relatives of the child with what's written here in this letter.  For
example, the third line reads:  "It seems that the relatives of Anna Gasse
tried to obtain her release by every possible means."  If, Witness, it was
necessary to obtain consent, why was there any question about releasing
Anna Gasse?
  A:  I cannot say that either.  According to my opinion, the child could
not be kept in an institution if the parents wanted it at home.
  Q:  And the last sentence which reads, "If from a medical point of view
such release is warranted, one could perhaps take into consideration
whether one should not perhaps comply with such request in the interest of
the good reputation of the institution."  Don't you find that language
just a bit restrained. Witness?
  A:  Yes.  I think it is very restrained.

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.