The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/germany/euthanasia//trust.revw

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: "By Trust Betrayed" - a review
Summary: Nazi Euthanasia program and discussion of participants
From: Ken McVay 
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Canada
Keywords: Bouhler,Brandt,euthanasia,Gallagher,T4

Archive/File: places/germany/euthanasia/trust.rvw
Last-Modified: 1994/12/06

                              BOOK REVIEW

                        Hugh Gregory Gallagher,

                          "By Trust Betrayed 
   (Patients, Physicians, and the License to Kill in the Third Reich)"
                   New York, Henry Holt & Co., 1990

   In the years 1939-1945, unprecedented numbers of people, most
   falling into one of the groups "Jews", "political dissidents",
   "homosexuals", or "disabled," were put to death in Nazi Germany.
   Hugh Gallagher's latest book tells this story in terms of the last
   of these groups.

   As World War II began in September 1939, Adolf Hitler signed an
   order which was to generate unprecedented opposition in the later
   years of the Third Reich, especially when one con- siders the usual
   consequences of opposition to Hitler.  Hitler authorized Philip
   Bouhler [Reich Leader] and Karl Brandt M.D., to begin an experiment
   in "final medical assistance" for those disabled members of the
   German population judged (by the medical profession) to be
   "incurable." The wording of this secret order was, like all such
   documents, carefully chosen; physicians were "given a license to
   kill," not "authorized to do so." Thus were dozens of Third Reich
   physicians to escape judgement, to continue their practices after
   the War almost as though nothing had happened.

[Ed. note: Information about the T4 program is available via
World Wide Web, URL ""]

   In the couple years following signing of the order, the "Aktion
   T-4" program thus authorized became the experimenta- tion ground
   for killing techniques that were to be effec- tively used against
   Jews in the later stages of the War.  By now, the images of
   Auschwitz and Treblinka taken by Allied photographers at the end of
   the War, are firmly etched in the collective conscious (or
   unconscious, for those who still deny them) of Western society.
   The timing and results of the campaign against disabled Germans was
   to be such, that locations such as Hadamar and Absberg would never
   achieve this same level of notoriety, and images of the more than
   200,000 persons with disabilities thus dispatched, would not find
   their way into Western memory.

   This exercise in "final medical assistance" was played out as the
   ultimate result of two key philosophical concepts, heartily
   embraced in (but not unique to) Germany: Eugenics, and Social
   Darwinism.  To those not familiar with the history behind these
   ideas, Gallagher's book is a good introduction.  One Nazi Party
   official described National Socialism as "applied biology," as
   the Nazi state succumbed to the idea that the biological ideas
   published by Darwin 65 years previously, were the key with which to
   conduct human affairs and strengthen public health.

   The place of the German medical profession in this charade was
   central to the successes of T-4 before it was terminated.  Far
   from being run by two-bit politicians such as Goering or
   Ribbentrop, T-4 was run with the full cooperation of several
   hundred German MDs, with Karl Brandt in technical leadership of the
   program.  Most of the remainder of the approximately 15,000 German
   doctors acquiesced in the program, with opposition from a very
   small minority.  The majority were kept in line with a combination
   of fear, "blood-cement," ostracism, and the "Game of Chicken." Many
   of them were to congratulate themselves on breaking loose from the
   foolish and "unscientific" sentiments of the past which had
   previously served as the check against such behavior, in what was
   surely the ultimate abnegation of the Hippocratic oath.

   Ultimately, German churches were the only effective force which
   stood between persons with disabilities and Aktion T- 4, before the
   War ran its course.  Through the constant opposition of courageous
   personalities such as Bishop August Graf von Galen, who openly
   opposed the euthanasia program and escaped the long arm of the
   Gestapo due to his fame, German public sentiment was finally
   brought to bear against T-4.  Thus, the program became one of
   Hitler's few defeats in German public policy.

   Hugh Gallagher, as a person who was disabled by polio, reflects on
   his experiences of "Otherness," of the Dark Side of man which
   causes discrimination against him and other people like him.  In
   reflecting on these matters and observing that "the feelings
   which drove the German doctors to do what they did are, in fact,
   everywhere," i.e.  the fear of those who are different and loathing
   of the vulnerability of disabled persons, he implies the important
   question: can it happen again, or happen elsewhere?  As he observes
   that eugenics and Social Darwinism were in favor in both Europe and
   the United States during the rise of the Nazis, he implies it is a
   possibility, but never comes out and says so.

   In a sense, Gallagher's excellent research is incomplete without
   some sense of an answer to this important question.  Richard
   Rubenstein has attempted to answer the question in his treatise
   about the Holocaust, "The Cunning of History." After discussing how
   modern society has been able to use secularization and
   rationalization to achieve a bureaucratic objectivity that allows
   the systematization of terror, indifference to personal elements,
   and the achievement of totally dominating slavery (a tradition of
   slavery which, he observes, has been deeply embedded in Western
   civilization since the start of recorded history), Rubinstein comes
   to a startling conclusion: the Holocaust was the expression of some
   of the most profound tendencies of 20th century civilization, and
   they were NOT unique to Germany.  There is no good reason why
   Aktion T-4 could not happen elsewhere under the right conditions; a
   good argument could be made that it would be extreme arrogance to
   argue otherwise.

   Today, the situation we see is merely a matter of degree: poverty
   is just another word for slavery.  Both bureaucracy and the
   dangerous Dark Side of the human psyche are still very much in
   evidence.  The hope for the future is that the concepts of
   "inclusion" and "community" which now represent the leading-edge of
   disability activism, can function as an antidote against these
   long-standing problems.

==> Our thanks to:

Ed Arnold * NCAR * POB 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000 * 303-497-1253(voice)
303-497-{1298,1137}(fax) * internet: * bitnet: era@ncario

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