The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/germany/euthanasia//program.09

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
From: Ken McVay 
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: The "end" of T4 - moving into high gear
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Canada
Keywords: T4

Archive/File: places/germany/euthanasia program.09
Last-modified: 1993/04/25

     T4 - The camouflage organization created for the medical killing of 
     adults was known as the Reich Work Group of Sanatoriums and Nursing 
     Homes (Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft Heil- und Pflegeanstalten, or RAG).  
     It operated from the Berlin Chancellery, at Tiergarten 4, hence 
     the "T4" code name.

In time, word of the Nazi T4 program (medical killing on a vast scale)
filtered down into the general population, and resistance began to emerge.
In time, after scathing denouncements by clergy, and even Werner Moelders,
a Catholic Luftwaffe pilot and war hero (who threatened to return his
decorations if the `euthanasia' program was not halted), the decision was
made to respond....

"Nazi leaders faced the prospect of either having to imprison prominent,
highly admired clergymen and other protesters -- a course with consequences
in terms of adverse public reation they greatly feared -- or else end the
program. The latter was essentially the recommendation of Himmler, who
noted that the secret was no longer a secret, though added, `If operation
T4 had been entrusted to the SS, things would have happened differently,'
because `when the Fuehrer entrusts us with a job, we know how to deal with
it correctly, without causing useless uproad among the people.'<51> Hitler
apparently gave Brandt a verbal order on or about 24 August 1941 to end or
at least `stall' operation T4.<52> But the killing of mental patients did
not end: mass murder was just beginning.

What was discontinued was only the visible dimension of the project: the
large-scale gassing of patients. T4 officially ceased as a program, but
that turned out to be still another deception. Widespread killing continued
in a second phase, sometimes referred to in Nazi documents as `wild
euthanasia' because doctors -- encouraged, if not directed, by the regime
-- could now act on their own initiative concerning who would live or die.<1>

While the regime ordered most of the gas chambers dismantled (to be
reassembled, as it turned out, in the East), it did nothing to stop the
ideological and institutional momentum of medical killing. The regime's
clear message, in fact, was that the killings were to go on, but more
quietly. And more quiet killing meant more isolated, individual procedures.
Doctors acted on their personal and ideological inclinations, along with
their sense of the regime's pulse. That pulse emanated no longer from the
Chancellery, which bowed out along with T4 itself, but from the Reich
Interior Ministry and its national medical subdivision. There were changes
in geographical location, but the regime continued to make transportation
arrangements, required that patients' deaths be recorded centrally, and in
some cases maintained T4 experts in a partially supervisory role. Patients
were now killed not by gas but by starvation and drugs, the latter method
in particular rendering the killing still more `medical.'

The children's program was not included under the T4 `halt.' Killing
methods did not have to be changed: drugs and starvation, and not gas, had
been employed from the beginning. The killing of children had been
considerably less visible, taking place as it did on wards in smaller
facilities without the telltale evidence of noxious smoke and odors that
stemmed from large-scale gassing. The programs had been based more on
presumed eugenic and scientific grounds than on direct economic ones (the
children did not work and ate less) and had not created the degree of
public controversy that adult killing had. If anything, the reporting
methods for ostensible abnormalities became more systematic. Research
efforts, mostly post-mortem studies, also became more systematic, as
sometimes happened in adult `wild euthanasia.' Not only did hte regime
remain closely invovled, but the greater part of the killing of children
took place after the official ending of the `euthanasia' project. What did
become more `wild' was the method of deciding which children should be
killed. Now even the pretense of review boards of `expert opinion' was
abandoned: any child considered in some way impaired, and sent though the
administrative system to any of the `special pediatric units' of the
original project, was still fair game. Beyond that, institutional doctors
could proceed according to their own inclinations.

Adult `wild euthanasia' involved more radical changes for psychiatrists. No
longer operators of gas chambers, they returned to the familiar terrain of
syringes, oral medications, and dietary prescriptions of achieving the same
end. From the regime's medical bureaucracy came the continuing message that
mental patients were `useless eaters,' burdens on the state and its war
effort, `life unworthy of life.' Permission to kill was clear enough, even
if a little indirect. As one psychiatrist later testified, `In conversation
with other participants in the program I learned that there would be no
fuss if some physician or other in an institution stood ready to kill a
patient by injection or overdoes, if he was convinced that the patient's
extinction was desirable.' And there was a partial merger of child and
adult `euthanasia' programs as the age limit of the children's program was
raised to sixteen years: `to some extent this expansion was to offer a
substitute for the cancelled program.'<2> There were, in fact, documented
cases of patients of about that age who had managed to survive the official
end of the adult `euthanasia' program only to be fatally reclassified as a

<52> Hefelmann testimony, 6-15 September 1960, Heyde Trial, pp. 681-82. See
     also p. 680
<1>  Ernst Klee, "Euthansie" im NS-Staat: Die "Vernichtung lebensunwerten
     Lebens" (Frankfurt/M: S. Fischer, 1983, p. 440)
<2>  Friedrich Mennecke, quoted in Alexander Mitscherlich and Fred Mielke,
     "Doctors of Infamy: The Story of the Nazi Medical Crimes" (New York:
     Henry Schuman, 1949) p. 116

Extracted from--------------------------------------------------- 
THE NAZI DOCTORS: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide.
Lifton, Robert Jay,       London: Papermac, 1986 (Reprinted 1990)

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