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Monday, March 26, 2012


When the National Socialist Workers’ Party (the Nazi Party) took control of Germany in the early 1930’s, they moved forward with their effort to create a biologically “pure” population.
One result was a policy called the “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.” It called for the sterilization of all persons who suffered diseases considered hereditary. These included retardation, depression, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and alcoholism. The Law stated, “Whereas the hereditarily healthy families have for the most part adopted a policy of having only one or two children, countless numbers of inferiors and those suffering from hereditary conditions are reproducing unrestrainedly while their sick and asocial offspring burden the community.”
Forced sterilizations were launched in 1934 and an estimated 400,000 people were sterilized under this law. Most of the victims were diagnosed with feeble-mindedness (mental retardation) followed by schizophrenia and epilepsy. The primary methods were vasectomy and tubal ligation. A majority of the patients were pure “German” between 20 and 40 years old. The Law did not target racial or religious groups as such (e.g. Jews) but Gypsies and homosexuals, who were considered asocial, were included. Only the Catholic Church opposed the program while most Protestant Churches accepted or cooperated.
But this wasn’t the worst part. Forced sterilization was only the first step in the killing of the mentally ill and the handicapped. A “euthanasia” program followed shortly with the goal of exterminating from the Aryan race all people considered genetically defective, and a financial burden on the German society.
The Nazis, somewhat concerned with public reaction, never proposed a formal euthanasia law. Instead, they created a secret program called “Operation T4.” Under the premise of a survey, all public and church run nursing homes were required to complete questionnaires about the state of health, and capacity for work, for all adult patients in their care. The completed forms were surrendered to expert (Nazi) assessors to review. These authorities were expected to process a great number of forms very quickly. They would mark a red “+” for each person to be executed or a blue “ - “ for each person to be spared. All Jewish patients were automatically given the red “+” regardless of the seriousness of their illness.
People to be executed were collected and sent to killing centers across Germany. At first lethal injections were used but this was too slow. During 1940, the Nazis switched to carbon monoxide gas to increase their efficiency. Corpses were removed from the gas chambers, gold teeth extracted, and burned in crematoriums. Death certificates listed false causes of death. Letters of condolences were sent by the government to the relatives. That year over 70,000 mentally ill and handicapped people were executed.
The secrecy of Operation T4 rapidly evaporated. Obvious record falsification was discovered. Some religious and civic leaders protested the killings which pressured Hitler to discontinued Operation T4 in 1941.
The killing centers in Germany were disassembled and shipped to Poland. Where they were re-erected in extermination camps to expedite the “final solution.” The experience gained in the execution of the retarded and handicapped in Germany served the Nazis well in the later, more massive holocaust. The euthanasia of the handicapped did not end however. From 1941 to 1945 it existed out of the limelight and became decentralized. This new super-secret program was called “Code 14f13” and executed another 20,000 people. In total 250,000 retarded and handicapped patents were executed during the Nazi regime.

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