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          Hitler's Unwanted Children: Children with Disabilities,
          Orphans, juvenile Delinquents and Non-Conformist Young
                          People In Nazi Germany

                                                             Sally M. Rogow

(c) Sally Rogow 1998
E Mail: rogow @

[Page 1]

                        Hitler's Unwanted Children
                              Sally M. Rogow

          Half a century old, the Holocaust still mocks the idea
          of civilization and threatens our sense of ourselves as
          spiritual creatures. Its undiminished impact on human
          memory leaves wide open the unsettled and unsettling
          question of why this should be so. (Langer, 1994 p.
          The years of disaster have enmeshed all of us in guilt
          deeply enough, as it is, and the task of the day is to
          find bridges that will lead us to deeper insight.
          (Mitscherlich and Mielke, 1947, p. 151)

Childhood in Nazi Germany was cast in the mythic illusion of a super race.
Children who did not meet the social or biological criteria Of " perfect"
children were removed from their homes and communities, isolated in
institutions, hospitals, work and concentration camps, and many thousands
were murdered (Aly, 1993; Burleigh, 1994; Friedlander, 1994; Peukert,
1987). It is a myth that only children with severe disabilities were killed
or that the killings stopped in 1941; the last child was killed almost a
month after the war was over. Unwanted children were orphans, children in
care because of emotional or behavior problems, adolescent nonconformists
as well as children with physical disabilities or mental handicaps (in
addition to Jewish, Gypsy and non-white children). The campaign to remove
unwanted children from the community was not only the result of Nazi racial
biology and eugenics, it was part and parcel of the effort to impose
control and conformity on the entire German population. In a climate of
social chaos, economic

[Page 2]

depression and poverty, the Nazis created an economy of privilege and
conflicting spheres of jurisdiction. By persecuting selected groups of
people , they were able to establish ;a: system of thought control that
reached deeply into family life (Peukert, 1987). Terrorist tactics were
used against German families, secret police and the SS were involved in
isolating and transporting children to their deaths in psychiatric
hospitals and institutions.

The Nazis were expert at the creation of power groups that robbed their
opposition of public voice or power. A small tightly knit group of
university medical scientists and psychiatrists, who planned and
administered the euthanasia killings, dominated university departments,
wrote and reviewed articles for one another's journals and never bothered
to consult their colleagues. Fewer than 200 physicians participated
directly in medical crimes, but several hundreds more were aware of what
happening. Under conditions of absolute power, careerism, greed, and
arrogance, vulnerable children become victims and once venerable
institutions became slaughter houses. Well known schools, hospitals and
institutions were changed from places of learning, healing and
rehabilitation into work camps, prisons and execution chambers. The claim
that German parents approved of the murders of their disabled children is
challenged by the hundreds of cases that were brought to courts accusing
hospitals and institutions of negligence and causing the deaths of their
children. Even during the war, there was so much unrest and so many appeals
that in 1941, Hitler intervened with an edict that prohibited parents from
bringing charges against hospitals and asylums. In the process of
persecuting people with disabilities, one of the finest and

[Page 3]

most comprehensive system of rehabilitative education in the world was

              Rehabilitative Education in Pre-Hitler Germany

During the Weimar years, children with a variety of learning and
developmental problems were being integrated into community schools long
before it became standard policy in North America. When children with mild
mental handicaps were routinely being isolated in closed institutions in
Britain, the U.S. and Canada, German educators believed that they should be
kept with their families, exposed to the world and live and work in the
community (Safford & Safford, 1996). Only children with severe and
debilitating conditions were sent to institutions in Germany.

Children were kept in their homes and communities by organizing special
classes in community schools. These classes were considered transitional
and whenever possible children were returned to regular classes (Safford &
Safford, 1996). In 1922, there were 1,670 special classes serving 34, 300
students in 305 German towns (Becker, 1982). Children who were too weak or
too W to go to school were visited by teachers in their homes.

Community day schools (Hilfschule) served children with more severe
developmental disabilities and learning problems. Their purpose was to help
them "lead rewarding lives" and not become "a burden on the community"
(Becker, 1985, p. 91). In 1927, there were 1,027 Hilfschule located in
German cities. The Hilfschule organization (Verband der Hilfschulen
Deutschlands), provided one of the first European teacher training programs
for special education teachers.

[Page 4]

The belief that social deprivation was the cause of delinquency and
behavior problems led to the development of community-based guidance
centers and treatment programs. August Aichorn, a pioneer educator shared
Anna Freud's belief that family life is far superior to life in an
institution. Aichorn provided treatment to troubled youth in community
settings. He established "Das Rauch Hause" in Hamburg where young people
lived in small groups with a counselor. Aichorn's treatment model was
copied by other European countries as well as North America (Safford and
Safford, 1996).

Education for children with blindness or deafness in Germany existed for
more than a century. The first school for deaf children was established in
Leipsig in 1778; (Institute for the Mute and other Speech Disordered
Persons). In 1806, the first school for blind children was established at
Steglitz, near Berlin by Dr. August Zeune. By the 1920's there were schools
for blind or deaf children in each of the German states (Lander). Children
were usually admitted to residential schools at seven years of age, but
many residential schools offered kindergarten programs.

Early childhood education for blind children was established in Germany in
1862, when William Riemer, established the Preschool for the Blind in
Hubertsburg, Saxony. Riemer spoke of the importance of early childhood
education at the first congress of teachers of the blind in 1873. Germany
was one of the first countries in Europe to provide government sponsored
public education for very young blind instead of relying upon charities
(Lowenfeld, 198 1). The government also supported a comprehensive academic

[Page 5]

that became a gateway to university education for blinded young people. The
Carl StrehI School was established in Marburg and had its own braille
printing center and braille library (Britz, 1983).

Open Air Recovery" schools were opened in the 1920s for children recovering
from polio (an all too common illness at the time). These schools were
built in the mountainous regions and other rural settings (Safford &
Safford, 1996). Religious schools, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish that
served children with a variety of disabilities were supported by the
government and received state funding. Educational reform in the Weimar era
may not have achieved all, that the educational reformers had hoped, but it
made significant contributions towards ensuring that all children received
an education and emphasized the importance of child development in the
preparation of teachers. Under Nazi jurisdiction and leadership
comprehensive and inclusive schools disappeared. Teachers who had been
proponents of inclusive education were blamed for the social problems that
were evident in many German schools.

          "These so-called institutional practitioners" are also
          wont to say that this comprehensive form of education
          will cause lower elements to be pulled up by the better
          elements. Our response to that is to cite the simple
          fact that one rotten apple can infect all the sound
          ones around it." ( Nazi official cited by Peukert,
          1987, p.231).

The Campaign Against The Vulnerable: The Scientific Excuse  Nazi policy
sought justification in a science that was shaped by political priorities
and pseudo racial and genetic beliefs (Peukert.

[Page 6]

1987). Nazi bioscience and racialism were woven into all aspects of the
social, health, and educational policies. Cloaked in the terminology of
Social Darwinism and eugenics, the persecution of vulnerable people was
justified on the grounds that they threatened the health of the German
nation. Social Darwinism and eugenics and its claim that social problems
could be solved by preventing people with mental handicaps or psychiatric
illnesses from having children had advocates in Europe and North America
and led to the involuntary sterilization of people with mental handicaps in
27 states in the U.S. and several Canadian provinces and European
countries. In Nazi Germany, eugenics became state policy and a means of
population control. Nazi biogenetic concepts also included social
usefulness, (the ability to work) and conformity as measures of the worth
of a human life and led to the division of entire German population was
into two groups, "those who had genetic value" and those "who did not"
(Peukert, 1987). The claims of being scientific gave justification to
terroristic policies.

          The results of our science had earlier attracted much
          attention (both support and opposition) in national and
          international circles. Nevertheless, it wig always
          remain the undying, historic achievement of Adolf
          Hitler and his followers that they dared to take the
          first a-ail blazing and decisive steps towards such
          brilliant race-hygienic achievement in and for the
          German people. In so doing, they went beyond the
          boundaries of purely scientific knowledge. He and his
          followers were concerned with putting into practice the
          theories and advances of Nordic race conceptions ...
          the fight against parasitic alien races such as Jews
          and Gypsies ... and preventing the breeding of those
          with hereditary diseases and those of inferior stock"
          (Ernst Rudin, 1934, The archive of Racial and Social
          Biology cited in Frei, 1993, p. 122).

[Page 7]

Laws and decrees were issued to ensure that only people who could prove
their genetic value could marry and produce children. The law for the
Prevention of Progeny of the Genetically Unhealthy (1933) legislated
mandatory sterilization of persons with mental handicaps or mental
illnesses and The Marriage Law of 1935 prohibited persons with "hereditary
illnesses" to marry. Blindness, deafness, physical disabilities and mental
handicaps were designated hereditary illnesses. Social non-conformity,
delinquency, and emotional problems were attributed to "inferior genes"
Arbitrary criteria such as suspected mental handicap, poor work habits, and
delinquency were also used in the system of social selection (Peukert,
1987). Nazi biogenetics served as a powerful means of enforcing conformist
social behavior.

                    The Campaign Against the Vulnerable

In 1934, 181 Genetic Health courts and appellate Genetic Health Courts were
created for the sole purpose of enforcing Nazi health laws and decrees
(Peukert, 1987). These courts were attached to local civil courts and
presided over by two physicians and a lawyer. All physicians were required
to register every case of genetic pathology with the courts and failure to
do so was punishable. The reports were filed in specially created data
banks (Burleigh, 1994).

Public health officials, teachers, and social workers were also required to
report children suspected of having a disability or emotional problem. The
search for people with hereditary illnesses was relentless; every large
institution became a regional catchment

[Page 8]

area and sent officials to the homes of every person reported to have a
hereditary illness (Burleigh, 1994). When no genetic cause for a condition
could be found, the term "congenital?? was substituted for "hereditary."
Consistent with all other forms of Nazi persecution, the campaign to
eliminate everyone with a mental handicap or physical disability was
intense. Hitler himself was deeply involved in the plan that culminated in
the murder of children and adults with disabilities. Hitler ordered the
making of propaganda films to persuade the public of the necessity of
eliminating people with genetic defects. The film " Victims of the Past "
was made on Hitler's explicit orders and he made sure the film was shown in
Germany's 5,300 cinemas. Special lighting effects distorted features so
that people with disabilities were portrayed as grotesque and could only
survive at the expense of healthy people (Doino, 1995). Propaganda films
reveal how much the Nazis condemned those who they regarded as socially or
politically unacceptable.

                        The Economics of Exclusion

The destruction of schools and the impoverishment of residential
facilities, institutions and asylums diverted money to new children's
hospitals, free summer camps and other benefits that helped to convince the
German public that the Nazis had their best interests at heart (Aly, 1993).
Generous family allowances and public health care was provided from monies
taken from special schools and institutions, welfare agencies, health
insurance, guardianship courts, municipalities, private charities, and from
families with

[Page 9]

children who had any type of disability (Aly, 1993). Beginning in 1941,
families with children with disabilities were denied family allowances and
often had to pay the funeral expenses of their murdered children (Burleigh,

Dr. Ernst Wentzler, one of the chief architects of the children's killing
program, built a modem children's clinic in Berlin with funds appropriated
from Catholic Sisters who looked after children with mental handicaps (Aly,
1993). WentzIer was not ignorant about the emotional needs of children and
planned his clinic in consultation with pre-school teachers and decorated
the rooms in pastel colors. WentzIer, one of the key architects of child
murder, killed unwanted children in his Berlin clinic (Aly, 1993).

          "Expropriation from 'enemies of the state and
          destruction of unusable people were both preconditions
          and complementary elements of the new, cheery, reformed
          German children's hospital" (Aly, 1993, P. 186).

                             Community Aliens

Non-conformist behavior was an important criterion for exclusion and
removal from the community. Considerable sections of young people held
themselves aloof from what National Socialism had to offer. At the very
moment when the Hitler Youth established itself as a compulsory service, it
came up against the apathy and rejection by many young people who were
persistent in passive or active insubordination. The greater the demand for
conformity, the more attractive alternative social groups became.
Rebellious youth

[Page 10]

groups offered meaningful social identities and cultural expressions to
young people between the ages of 14 and 18 years of both working and middle
class backgrounds (Peukert, 1987). By the end of the 1930s, thousands of
young people were refusing to participate in Nazi youth groups. The largest
groups were the "Edelweiss Pirates" and the "Swing Movement".

The Edelweiss Pirates were adolescent boys from working class families, who
refused to submit to the massive pressure of the Hitler Youth and created
their own cultural forms and modes of action which made it possible for
them to create a meaningful attitude to everyday life and repudiate
National Socialist society. Through their dress and demeanor they
emphasized their differences and even provoked public fights with Nazi
youth gangs. An armory of repressive measures were brought against them,
they were imprisoned or placed in reform schools, labor and youth
concentration camps (Peukert, 1987).

The "Swing Movement, appealed to adolescents from wealthy or middle class
homes. The swing boys and girls were apolitical; they had money to spend on
clothes and nightclubs where they indulged their love of "jitterbugging"
and American jazz. The swing movement was informal and Swing Clubs sprang
up in the bigger cities. Members preferred casual dress and let their hair
grow, they admitted Jewish youth and refused to join Nazi youth activities.
The swing groups outraged Himmler, who ordered them to be rounded up and
sent to the Moeringen concentration camp near Goettingin (Peukert, 1987).
In 1944. there were 1,231 adolescents in the Moeringen Youth Protection
Camp and very few were released. Those

[Page 11]

who reached their 18th birthday in the camp were sent to psychiatric
hospitals and many were victim of "euthanasia" (Peukert, 1987).

In addition to non-conformist youth, troubled children and young people who
posed problems to the authorities by running away, or committing delinquent
acts were designated "Community Aliens". The "Law on the Treatment of
Community Aliens" was put into effect in 1940 and authorized keeping young
people under surveillance, putting them in prison or sending them to work
camps. (Peukert, 1987).

          "In a self accelerating process in which morality was
          progressively discarded, the scholars followed the
          direction of their ideas with fatal consequences: from
          the approximately 360,000 compulsory sterilizations ...
          to the mass murders of an ever widening euthanasia
          programme, behind which the monstrous contours of a
          Final Solution of the social question were beginning to
          emerge" (Frei, P. 1224.

The laws and regulations governing the treatment of "unwanted" children
were enforced by all- powerful special authorities appointed by and
responsible only to Hitler. These authorities replaced and circumvented
traditional local government agencies. As a result there was constant
conflict between administrative agencies and increasing chaos and rivalry
which led to a growing reliance on extreme measures (Peukert, 1987).
Control over the educational system was given high priority as a way of
controlling and bringing young people into conformity with the aspirations
of the Reich.

[Page 12]
                          Schools Under the Nazis

Schools were a primary target for control and their administration was
placed in the hands of the party faithful. By 1938, the German school
system was brought under the total control of the central government and
removed from the jurisdiction of the individual states or Lander (Huebner,
1962). Bernard Rust, an unemployed school teacher, was appointed Minister
of Education. (Mayer, 1966). Rust had been dismissed from the school system
for unprofessional conduct during the Weimar period (Mayer, 1966). The
entire educational system was politicized, but primary and special schools
received the most attention, secondary schools reached only about a quarter
of German students and were more difficult to change (Mayer, 1966).

New textbooks and curriculum guides were full of Nazi propaganda, hateful
racist stereotypes and myths of Aryan superiority (Mosse, 1966). Fuehrer
worship was encouraged and even traditional fairy tales were rewritten to
portray Hitler as the hero-rescuer. In "Sleeping Beauty it was Hitler, not
the prince, who awakened the princess. The works of the poet Heinrich Heine
were banned, except for his classic poem "The Lorelei" which appeared with
the note "author unknown" (Mosse, 1966).

Almost every single reform made during the Weimar Republic was abolished
along with provisions for educational opportunities for disadvantaged and
disabled children (Peukert, 1991). Comprehensive schools that included
classes for children with learning problems were closed, parent-teacher
associations were made powerless,

[Page 13]

corporal punishment was reintroduced and progressive teaching methods were
discouraged. Early childhood and kindergarten systems were also brought
under government control and church and privately sponsored kindergartens
were banned. The Froebel Association which pioneered early childhood
education m Germany was forced to disband (Tietze, Rossback and Ufemann,
1989). It was a common sight to see three year olds marching and waving
flags in a military parade.

Famous private schools, like the Waldorf School, known for humanist and
progressive policies were closed. The first Waldorf School was established
in Stuttgart in 1919 and the many Waldorf schools established in other
European countries and North America were modeled after the school in
Stuttgart. The school was dosed in 1935 (Murphy, 1991)..
          "Always a thorn in the side of the Nazis, the Waldorf
          school was harassed and plagued by constant
          injunctions. Soon the existence of the first grade was
          forbidden, in an attempt to throttle the school from
          below. When this proved too slow, the authorities
          closed down the school completely" (Murphy, 1991,

Church schools were taken over by the state despite the protests of
Catholic parents who fought against making all schools non-denominational.
Public meetings were held to give the appearance of consultation, but
dissent and protest were ignored. Parents who did not attend the meetings
were counted as supporters (Huebner, 1962; Miklem, 1939; Mosse, 1966;
Peukert, 1987).

[Page 14]

          In the years of its rise the movement little by little
          brought the community's attitude toward the teacher
          around from respect and envy to resentment, from trust
          to suspicion. The development seems to have been
          inherent; it needed no planning and had none. As the
          Nazi emphasis on nonintellectual virtues (patriotism,
          loyalty, duty, purity, labor, simplicity, "blood",
          "folkishness') seeped through Germany, elevating the
          self esteem of the little man ", the academic
          profession was pushed from the very center to the very
          periphery of society. (Mayer, p. 112, 195 5).

Teaching, once a highly respected profession in Germany had little status
in Hitler's Germany. Educators who were pioneers in rehabilitative
education were carefully screened to ensure they followed the new policies.
Traditional teacher organizations (including special education teachers)
were disbanded and replaced by Nazi associations. Teachers were employees
of the state, civil servants, who like other state employees had to prove
they were "Aryans" and submit a table of their ancestors. Miklem, 1939).
The secret police made sure that teachers obeyed the new regulations and
did not express criticism or personal opinions on public policies. They
were ready and willing to listen to children's reports and many teachers
found themselves at the mercy of children's spitefulness and
misunderstanding (Bollnow, 1987). In some jurisdictions all teachers were
required to join the Nazi party in order to maintain their positions.
Another blow to the teaching profession was the abolition of professional
chairs of education at the universities. During the Nazi era there was
little educational research (Bollnow, 1987). For many years after the war,
young people avoided the teaching profession because they believed that
acts of intellectual

[Page 15]

autonomy lead to conflict with school administrators and government
(Bollnow, 1987).

Schools began to face a severe shortage of qualified teachers with the
military draft and beginning of the war. Untrained helpers were brought in
to substitute for qualified teachers; school helpers as they were called)
were only required to have completed intermediate schools; most were not
graduates of secondary schools (Samuel and Thomas, 1949).

Social control was exercised through the free recreational afterschool
programs and Nazi youth groups. Reverence for the Fuehrer and Fatherland,
obedience and conformity were enforced and many parents were uncomfortable
with the way their children were being indoctrinated. Many parents
considered that Nazi youth activities undermined their authority and
encouraged defiance. Youth activities were given preference over family and
church activities. Disagreements, conflict, misunderstanding and even open
enmity between children and parents were not uncommon (Mosse, 1966).

By 1938, public protest was punishable and parents who opposed the new
order had to resign themselves to their children's participation
(Oestreich, 1947; Miklem, 1939). Membership in a Nazi youth group was
necessary to qualify for apprenticeships or admission to universities and
technical schools (Mosse, 1966). No child with a disability was able to
participate in a recreational programs. As schools were reorganized,
special classes were d and the comprehensive system of rehabilitative

[Page 16]

that was far in advance of that in most other countries was shattered.

                 Rehabilitative Education Under the Nazis
Comprehensive schools, special classes, and treatment programs were viewed
by the new educational authorities as the "debris of the past." "a waste of
money" (Peukert, 1987). Almost as soon as the Nazis came to power, the
number of day and residential schools were reduced and special classes in
community schools were disbanded. By 1941, the day schools for children
with learning problems and mental handicaps had almost disappeared entirely
and those that remained had become training centers for streetsweepers,
domestic workers and garbage collectors (Becker, 1985). The remaining
special schools were deprived of funds at the same time as they had to
register an increasing number of students (Mochel, 1981).

Standards of care in residential schools and institutions rapidly
deteriorated, state inspections became perfunctory or suspended entirely
and Jewish children were expelled (Burleigh, 1994: Friedlander, 1994).
Gustaf Leeman, an unemployed school teacher and a "party reliable"), was
appointed leader of the newly formed association of special education
teachers. Leeman relentlessly carried out state biogenetic policies.
Special education teachers were required to deliver their students for
sterilization procedures. No one with a mental handicap was allowed to live
or work in the community without first submitting to sterilization
(Burleigh, 1994).

[Page 17]

Teachers and administrators were required to write detailed reports on each
of their students and describe their work abilities. Students who could not
or would not perform the arduous and physically demanding labor were
expelled from day schools. Teachers who disagreed with the new policies
left the profession (Becker, 1985)

In order to remain in a day school, students were required to pass state
intelligence tests which were tests of acquired knowledge, not innate
ability (Burleigh, 1994; Friedlander, 1994). The tests measured knowledge
of geography and history, which many students in regular schools couldn't
answer. In addition, to ensure that as few children as possible could pass
the tests, they were made increasingly difficult for those who were able to
provide correct answers to standard questions ( Burleigh, 1994). Several of
the psychiatrists who ~e involved in the planning and administering of the
euthanasia (killing) programs admitted that many normal children would not
be able to provide correct answers to the questions on the revised tests
(Aly, 1994; Burleigh, 1994). Some teachers tried to protect their students
by teaching them the answers to test questions (Burleigh, 1994).

Children who did not pass the tests were classified as "severely mentally
handicapped" or "feebleminded" and were transferred to designated state
institutions or psychiatric hospitals. The nurses and attendants at the
state institutions observed newly arriving children who spoke fluently,
talked about their lives and their family members. These observations did
not prevent them from being described as "hopeless cases" despite the fact
that many children were capable of reading and writing. Reports on expelled

[Page 18]

contained comments such as "child does not know his arithmetic, he can only
add, or "child can only read simple sentences" (Aly, 1993).

          Residential Schools For Children who were Blind or Deaf
Blindness and deafness were regarded as "hereditary illnesses" whether or
not they were caused by a genetic condition. Children who were under five
years of age when the Nazis came to power were sent directly to state
institutions. Deafness is more difficult to detect at birth, but as soon as
it became apparent, the child was registered by the genetic health court
and reported to the authorities. Pre-school programs for blind or deaf
children were eliminated.

Long established residential schools faced an increasing number of social
and economic restraints and like other residential schools, schools for
blind or deaf students faced sharply reduced budgets and increased
populations. Many residential schools were closed, Jewish students were
expelled and Jewish teachers were discharged. (Some of the schools had been
established by Jewish educators). The institute for the deaf in Camberg and
the school for the blind in Wiesbaden were the first to be closed. In some
jurisdictions blind or deaf students were subject to sterilization
procedures and vocational training was stressed.

Most teachers at residential schools for blind or deaf students were men
who were obliged to serve in the military, resulting in an acute teacher
shortage and school closures. When schools were closed, their buildings
were sold or leased to youth organizations (Burleigh, 1994). As the war
progressed, almost all residential

[Page 19]

schools located in the bigger cities were closed. A teacher for the deaf
brought his students to his home, where they worked with him on a farm for
the duration of the war (Loewe, 1996).

Schools for Children with Mental Handicaps No group of children were as
vulnerable to abuse as children with mental handicaps. Gregor Ziemer, the
American director of the international school for children of diplomats,
described a school for mentally handicapped boys. The "Erbhof', a
hereditary estate, near Leipsig was a residential school for boys with
mental handicaps and was guarded by a stormtrooper.

          "Inside the wall I saw buildings in an open square, but
          no agricultural activities, and no animals. It ~ noon;
          all noise seemed to come from one building. We entered
          it. At long tables, clean but without tablecloths, sat
          about a hundred boys from seven to ten, dressed in blue
          slacks and loose jackets. (Ziemer, 1941 p.78)

The grim atmosphere of the school made a deep impression on Ziemer. As he
sat watching the sad faced boys, Abels, a Nazi public health official,
explained that the boys were kept alive until they were ten years old.
Those who could become street cleaners or do other jobs were put to work.
The others were killed in the Hitler Kammer (Hitler Chamber), a small
detached hut on the school grounds that contained a single bed and a
medicine chest (Ziemer, 1941).

[Page 20]

Most of the residential schools that were administered by Catholic orders
or Protestant church groups were dosed and their students transferred to
state institutions. The only religious schools that remained in operation
were located in rural areas.

          "As in all other phases of life, so in the sphere of
          charitable activity, all true love, all reverence, even
          the awe of death, "s ground to dust under the heels of
          SA and SS boots. (Paul Oestreich, 1947, pp. 92-94).

                   Juvenile Homes and Treatment Centers

Nazi biogenetic theory encouraged social welfare workers to attribute
everything that went wrong with their programs to the "genetic" faults of
the children in their care (Peukert, 1987). Disturbed, delinquent or
defiant behavior and all the failures of the social welfare system were
blamed on the untreatability of child clients. Child welfare administrators
separated the "successful" from the unsuccessful" welfare cases and moved
lonely and rejected children out of the welfare system into state
institutions and work. camps (Peukert, 1987). Most of these children were
wards of agencies and wardship courts were often not informed about the
transfers of children from orphan homes or treatment facilities, causing a
multitude of legal problems, confusion and chaos. Children who were wards
of social welfare agencies, like children with physical disabilities or
mental handicaps, had no effective protection.

          The halfhearted, even indifferent attitude which at the
          best was expressed with ineffectual contradiction,

[Page 21]

          constitutes one of the lowest depths to which the
          judiciary has sink, which demonstrates that it no
          longer had any independent status in the Nazi state and
          had finally degenerated to the level of a branch of the
          NSDAP, as it was then formulated" (Majer, 1994, p.26).

                        Forced Institutionalization
It was important to the Nazi state that unwanted children were placed in
controlled institutions, where they could be used as slave labor and/or
murdered. The murder of mental patients and other people with disabilities
served to free hospital beds for wounded soldiers and keep the costs of
welfare programs as low as possible. Parents (including those who were
members of the Nazi party) mere coerced, cajoled and finally forced to
institutionalize their children (Burleigh, 1994). lies and deception
combined with regulations and decrees served to ensure that parents
committed their children to designated institutions. Other factors were
also at work to ensure institutionalization of children. Because families
with children with disabilities were deprived of family allowances, many
families could not afford to provide the care their children required.
Fearing loss of all services, parents committed their children in the
belief that they would be better served in an institution than at home
without treatment. In addition, the regulation that banned children with
any type of disability from treatment in ordinary pediatric hospitals (even
for ordinary illnesses) effectively forced parents to institutionalize
their children. Public health officials, responsible for enforcing the
institutionalization of children with disabilities, persuaded dubious
parents with promises that their

[Page 22]

children would receive the most advanced and expert therapy on open wards
((Heiniansberg and Schmidt, 1993).

Parents who refused to put their children into institutions were accused by
these same officials of neglecting and depriving their children of needed
treatment Persistent refusal often resulted in threats; parents were told
that if they did not institutionalize their children they would lose their
guardianship rights (Burleigh, 1994). Single mothers who refused to part
with their children found themselves assigned to contractual labor, which
in the end, forced them to surrender their children (Freidlander, 1994).

As the war progressed, the numbers of children needing social and welfare
services increased and directors of welfare facilities, orphanages and
other treatment centers were strongly advised to transfer children to
designated state institutions and psychiatric hospitals, where they were
assured the children would receive proper treatment, education and healthy
recreational activities (Gallagher, 1990). As soon as children were
transferred, they were assigned to work in the kitchens, laundries, and to
cleaning and staff. Children as young as 12 and 13 worked full time for
long hours with no pay.

Institutions that had been known for their successful rehabilitation
programs like Kalmenof -at -Idstein (in Saxony), an institution founded by
enlightened clerics and philanthropic Jewish businessmen, were taken over
by the state and transformed into work camps and killing centers. Kalmenof
established to serve children with psychiatric illnesses, neurological
disabilities or mental

[Page 23]

handicaps became one of the main child killing centers (Aly, 1993). The
director, Dr. Spornhauer was ejected from the grounds by a squad of SS men,
while the new director', Dr. Miller, looked on holding a revolver. Jewish
doctors and nurses were dismissed and the staff were obliged to belong to
Nazi organizations and participate in Nazi celebrations and parades
(Burleigh, 1994). Miller immediately increased the numbers of patients and
sharply reduced the staff and Kalmenof became nothing more than a work
camp. Children who tried to escape were severely punished (Gallagher,

In most state institutions, the sharply reduced budgets combined with
overcrowding created unhealthy and unhygienic conditions. In 1938,
Professor Kleist of the University of Frankfurt protested the fact that one
physician was responsible for 400 to 500 patients. This meant that children
were rarely examined or given therapy or treatment (Burleigh, 1994).

                     Daily Life in State Institutions

Forced institutionalization and transfer of children from religious and
private schools, orphan homes and treatment centers caused massive
overcrowding. By 1940, child populations in institutions had doubled or
tripled. There were 600 children at Hadamar on children's wards built for
300 (Burleigh, 1994). The institutions were not prepared for the numbers of
children crowding the wards. There were not enough beds and newly admitted
children had to sleep on unhygienic straw mattresses. There were not enough
wheelchairs or mobility aids and children who were unable to walk

[Page 24]

were kept in their beds or highchairs or lay on mats on the floor
(Friedlander, 1994).

Many of the new nurses and attendants were unsuitable people with little
child-care experience. Professional nurses who were active trade union
members were dismissed and their places taken by former domestic or farm
workers, recruited from the ranks of unemployed members of the SA, Nazi
women groups or the League of German Maidens. They had little understanding
of the children in their care and grateful for employment, they simply
followed orders (Burleigh, 1994). The new staff were assigned to look after
so many children that it was impossible to give more than cursory attention
to individual children. If a child became ill, he or she was often not
treated (Burleigh, 1994).

Malnutrition and hunger were common, the standard diet consisted of
turnips, potatoes and a few slices of bread. There was so little food in
some institutions that kitchen workers brought food from their homes
(Burleigh, 1994). After the war, newly appointed directors found children
looking like half corpses (Friedlander, 1994). Life in the asylums took on
a military character, ecclesiastical asylums as well as state institutions
reflected the "Fuehrer" and the politicization of institutional life
(Burleigh, 1994).

          "At Marieberg on summer evenings, the handicapped
          pupils marched in 'neat order through the asylum
          courtyard and out into the grounds. From there one
          Hitler song after another rang out until the onset of
          night put an end to the singing" (Burleigh, 1994, p.5
[Page 25]

The emotional toll on children was enormous; fear, resistance and rebellion
were silenced with drugs, electric shocks, and beatings. Letters from
children to their parents have been discovered and ten of their anguish,
loneliness and despair.

          Dear Mother,
          The have brought me here.. Dear Mommy. I do not want
          to stay with these people. I want to go free. I do not stay here.
          Please come and get me.
          (translated from German records cited in 30.9.1988 "Frankfurter
          Algemeine Zeitung").

The lives of institutionalized children were further brutalized by visits
from members of the SA, SS, Hitler Youth and League of German Maidens who
were taken m tours of institutions. These visitors regarded these tours as
"freak shows" and there were many instances of nasty and brutal behavior
towards the children who lived in the institutions (Aly, 1993; Burleigh,
1994). More than 20,000 visitors came to the EgIfing -Haar institution. Dr.
Pfannmuller, the director, took his visitors to the wards and lectured them
( in front of the children) about the necessity of killing disabled for the
good of the nation". Pfanmuller advocated killing children long before the
child euthanasia program was put into effect and used starvation as his
preferred method (Burleigh, 1994).

                         Parents Were Also Victims
After the children were committed, parents discovered how little control or
influence they had over their children's lives. They had no choice about
which institution or hospital their child was sent, many children were sent
so far from their homes, that parental visits

[Page 26]

were difficult. Several institutions discouraged parent visits altogether.

Many parents became suspicious When they received official reports which
exaggerated the degree of their child's disability or were contrary to
their knowledge about their child and were contradicted reports they had
been given by family doctors. Children who were speaking and playing
independently at home were described as incapable of speech and "severely
feebleminded (Burleigh, 1994). An eleven year old boy whose parents were
persuaded to commit him because his mother could no longer pick him up to
bathe him, was an avid reader and spoke fluently. He was able to feed
himself, but the reports his parents received described him as totally
helpless and severely feebleminded (Burleigh, 1994). It was mainly in the
case of children who were severely disabled that reports "re consistent
with parents information. Many, many parents questioned the reports the
reports they received. Suspicion heightened when parents who managed to
visit their children. When they saw the thin emaciated bodies of children
who only a few weeks earlier had been chubby and robust or noticed the
bruises on arms and legs they complained loudly to the nurses, attendants
and directors. Heartbroken parents "re told that their child was refusing
to eat or was hurting him or herself (Friedlander, 1994).

Desperate parents were frustrated in their efforts to bring their children
home. When they arrived at the institution to take their child home, they
were told that their child had been moved to another place (Burleigh,
1994). Parents who thought they were placing their children for temporary
care or treatment were also

[Page 27]

unable to get their children released. Persistent parents were stonewalled
and threatened with legal actions. Very few children were released.

Children who were transferred to state institutions from religious homes
and schools were moved from place to place without informing their families
where they were located. Parents simply received official form letters
telling them their child was in transit and would be sent to another
unnamed institution (Burleigh, 1994). Many parents could not keep track of
their children. The real purpose of forced institutionalization became
evident after 1939, with the initiation of the killing programs.

           The Euthanasia Programs in Hospitals and Institutions
Murdering children was a high priority on Hitler's agenda. In 1939 a few
days after war was declared, Hitler issued the decree which gave physicians
the authority to murder children. The decree was issued in war time to
minimize the effects of public and church protest (Kogen, et al, 1993). The
killing program was refered [sic] to as the . Program or "mercy death" the
Nazi euphemism for murder. Other terms such as "disinfection" and "Special
handling" (Sonderbehandlung) were also used (Aly, 1993). The child program
was planned first, but it was soon followed by the adult program which also
included children.

The Chancellery of the Fuehrer ( the Kdf, the Kanzlei des Fuehrer)
appointed the physicians who operated the child program under the name of a
fictitious organization, the "Reich committee for the

[Page 28]

Scientific Registration of Severe Hereditary Ailments". (Burleigh, 1994;
Friedlander, 1994).

          Thus, from the very beginning, the true aims of these
          powers to kill-which furthered racial and political
          goals and the protection of the domestic and wartime
          economy by the extermination of 'inferior races' and
          'human ballast' unfit for work-were hidden behind the
          justification of a "mercy death'. (Kogon, Langbein and
          Rueckerl, 1993, p. 16).

Despite the claim that the German population supported the killing [of]
"useless" people, a heavy curtain of secrecy surrounded the euthanasia
programs. Everyone involved was sworn to secrecy and was required to sign
an oath of loyalty and promise not to talk about the killing programs.
Employees who talked about the killing "action" were reported to the
Gestapo and were punished with imprisonment (Kogon, Langbein and Rueckerl,
1993). The Euthanasia programs claimed more than a quarter of a million
lives of children and adults who lived in Germany's hospitals, institutions
and asylums (Aly, 1993).

Pediatric Killing Wards The university professors, scientists and
physicians who planned the euthanasia murders were handsomely rewarded with
generous research grants, university appointments and unlimited authority
(Burleigh, 1994; Friedlander, 1994). Young newly graduated physicians did
the killing on the children's wards, but they were encouraged and supported
by psychiatrists like Dr. Werner Villinger who was a well known professor
of Psychiatry at the

[Page 29]

University of Breslau. Villinger was known for his work on the
psychological and social problems of children and youth and his .
participation on the Reich committee persuaded the young doctors that there
was nothing wrong with killing children. Dr. Hans Heinze, psychiatrist and
chief administrator of Brandenberg- Goerden, opened the first children's
killing ward in 1940. The physicians who did the killing were trained at
Goerden and learned how to administer injections of poisons. Twenty-one
additional pediatric filing wards were opened in other hospitals and
institutions. Jewish and Gypsy children were killed in many of the same
institutions, notably Hadamar Mitscherlich and Mielke, 1947).

The physicians who supervised the killing wards were rewarded with career
advancement, university posts and extra bonuses of 250 Reichsmarks (RMs).
Their duties enabled them to avoid military service. Nurses also received
monthly supplementary payments (25 RM). (Burleigh, 1994). The 400
physicians and nurses who administered death were the backbone of the
killing programs (.Burleigh, 1994; Kogon et al, 1993 ;Gallagher, 1990).

The physicians on the killing wards were for the most part young and
ambitious and had little experience or knowledge of the children in their
care. Nevertheless they had almost complete authority over the selection of
child victims. They were so eager to meet quotas that they ignored their
own guidelines and made random arbitrary choices.(Burleigh, 1994; Aly,
1993). Children with cerebral palsy, Downs' syndrome, or blindness were
singled out for "mercy killing". If Helen Keller had lived in Germany she
would not have survived. Parents were never informed that their child was

[Page 30]

dying until death was imminent and too late for them to visit (Burleigh,

In some jurisdictions, officials from the institutions drove around the
countryside to the smaller homes and picked out frail children and those
with mental handicaps for transfer to the killing institutions. Dr. Leonard
Glassner from the Austrian institute at Valduna jokingly referred to this
procedure as "taking up a collection on the street' (Kogon et al, 1993,
p.33). Infants were routinely murdered despite the advice of the older
psychiatrists who cautioned that diagnoses of severity made in infancy were
questionable (Burleigh, 1994). Ernst WentzIer murdered hundreds of babies
in his Berlin clinic. Children as young as three years of age were killed
in gas chambers at Eichberg and Hadamar (Aly 1993).

Children who lived in the hospitals and institutions knew about the
killings. A nurse at Kalmenof-Idstein testified to the awareness of the ten
year old children on her ward.

          Everyone talked about it, even the children talked
          about it. They were all afraid to go to the hospital.
          They were fearful that they would not come back. It was
          a general rumor. The children played a coffin game. We
          were astonished that the children understood. "
          (Friedlander, 1994, p. 170)

The "mercy deaths" were neither quick nor merciful; they were long,
drawn-out and painful. Child victims suffered pneumonia and other
debilitating illnesses before they died (Burleigh, 1994).

                          Experiments on Children

[Page 31]

Children with cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions or Downs
syndrome were used as subjects of "scientific" experiments by physicians
and their students. Many a doctoral dissertation was based on the
experiments performed on living conscious children. Their blood and spinal
fluids were drawn and replaced with air so that clear x- rays could be
taken of their brains. Children were injected with drugs, sugar and other
chemicals to test their reactions. Generous research grants were given to
support this kind of research. Dr. Heinze, one of the planners of child
euthanasia, performed experiments on many children before he killed them
(Friedlander, 1994). .

After the experiments were completed, the children were "disinfected"
(killed) (Burleigh, 1994). Brains and other body organs were removed and
sent to university research laboratories. Dr. Julius Hallevorden, a
neuropathologist, collected brains and boasted of the wonderful material he
had obtained from "defectives." (Aly, 1994). (His collection of children's
brains was used until 1990, when the samples were buried in the Munich
cemetery). Parent permission was never obtained for these experiments and
parents mere not informed of the real cause of their children's deaths.

         Children and Young People In The Adult Euthanasia Program

The "experts" on the Adult Euthanasia Reich committee were in a hurry to
complete the process of extermination. They selected their victims from the
questionnaires that directors of hospitals and institutions were required
to file on every patient (Burleigh, 1994). A

[Page 32]

few directors attempted to protect patients by not filling out the forms.
These efforts were futile. When the Reich committee did not receive the
completed questionnaires, they sent a commission of medical students and
secretaries to the institution to complete and collect the questionnaires.
Dr. Rudolph Boeck, chief physician of the Neuenettslau institution
protested that the commission carried out its duties in a manner
"contradictory to all accepted medical practice" and did not examine even
one of the 1800 patients (Kogon et al, 1993, p.22).

Patients selected for the adult program (including children) were taken by
bus to transit institutions for temporary stays before being transported to
the killing institutions. A few directors at the transit institutions
attempted to prevent further transfer by claiming the patients were good
workers. A few public health physicians tried to prevent transfers to
killing wards. Professor Walter Creutz, Health official in the Rhineland
resisted Nazi policies with other colleagues and called a secret meeting to
work out a strategy of sabotage. They saved lives by labeling their
patients fit for work, releasing them, calling their relatives to take
their family members home and even hid them in the woods on days that the
transport buses were scheduled (Gallagher, 1990). After the war, a court in
Dusseldorf found that 3,000 to 4,000 lives were saved by physicians who
gave false reports on their patients. (Kogon et al, 1993). A number of
judges in the courts responsible for legal guardianship attempted to
countermand orders to transfer children under their legal guardianship
without success (Burleigh, 1994). A few directors of special schools also
refused to comply. Heinrich Hermann, a Swiss

[Page 33]

citizen who was director of an institute for the deaf refused to comply
with Nazi policies.

Children were transferred from religious homes and asylums to the killing
wards in gray buses with darkened windows. Those who lived near the
institutions with killing wards were aware of what was taking place. The
sisters who lived and taught at the Ursberg Home for children with mental
handicaps stood by with tears in their eyes as they stood by helplessly
while the SS men hustled children onto the transport buses that would take
them to Grafeneck and Hadamar. A sister of the Ursberg Home wrote,

          Some of the patients hung on to the nuns for dear life.
          It was terrible. They felt what was happening. It was
          especially terrible with the girls. They knew
          instinctively that there was something bad going on.
          They cried and screamed. Even the helpers and the
          doctors cried. It was heartbreaking. (Gallagher, 1990,
          pp. 109-110).

Government officials claimed that parents willingly consented to the e . of
their children, but parental consent was rarely obtained (Klee, 1986). When
parents received the official letters informing them of their children's
deaths they accused the hospitals and institutions of neglect or
deliberately causing death- The death notices were form letters.

          As you have certainly already been informed your
          daughter,__________  transferred to our establishment
          by ministerial order. It is out painful duty to inform
          you that your daughter died here on __________of
          influenza, with an

[Page 34]

          abcess on the lung. Unfortunately all efforts made by
          the medical staff to keep the patient alive proved in
          We wish to express our sincere condolences at your
          loss. You will find consolation in the thought that the
          death of your daughter relieved her from her terrible
          and incurable suffering.
          According to instructions from the police, we were
          obliged to proceed immediately with the cremation of
          the body. This measure is intended to protect the
          country from the spread of infectious diseases, which
          in time of war pose a considerable danger The
          regulations must, therefore be strictly adhered to.
          Should you wish the urn to be sent to you - at no
          charge - kindly inform us and send us the written
          consent of the cemetery authorities. If we do not
          receive a reply from you within a fortnight, we shall
          make arrangements for the burial of the urn. Please
          find enclosed   copies of the death certificate to be
          presented to the authorities. We suggest that you keep
          them in a safe place.
          Hell Hitler (Kogen et al, p. 29)

The letters of condolence were signed by the physicians at the euthanasia
facilities using pseudonyms to avoid contact with grieving parents. The
cause of death that was listed was false and sometimes a false date were
noted in the file. All files were kept at the T4 headquarters, but towards
the end of the war, they were sent to the Hartheim institution to be
destroyed by a shredder.

Hundreds of grieving parents accused the hospitals and institutions of
neglect. Many went to the institution to find out the real cause of their
child's death. At Grafeneck, the old castle was guarded by black-coated SS
men who refused to let relatives enter. Newly painted signs had warnings to
'Weep Away" 'Tanger of Pestilence" (Aly, 1993). Grief-stricken and
frustrated, parents appealed to the courts and tried to bring legal actions
against the

[Page 35]

hospitals and institutions. In response, Hitler issued a legal decree 1941
preventing parents from bringing legal actions against institutions

Parents found another way of protesting and placed obituary notices in
local papers to attract public attention.

          (Shirer, 1947, p. 572).

Shirer drew attention to the wording of these notices, "After " the
cremation had taken place, we received the sad news .... and noted that the
Germans had become used to reading between the lines 'm their heavily
censored newspapers. Relatives were warned not to talk publicly about the
deaths of their children. It took courage to publish these death notices in
the hopes of attracting public attention to the murder of their relatives
(Shirer, 1946)

After the war thousands of cases were brought before the German courts
(Burleigh, 1994). Parents of children who were sent to institutions because
of delinquency or rebellious behavior were most

[Page 36]

in shock. Their children had no physical illnesses or disabilities. The
mother of a teen-aged boy who was murdered in Kalmenof-Idstein testified
before the court in 1947.

          "One day my son took his savings and ran away to
          Frankfurt, where the police arrested him. just After
          that, he was sent to Mulheim for observation. Four
          weeks later I was informed he was to be sent to Idstein
          for an examination of his mental state. Then I said
          that he was not insane. Three or four weeks afterwards
          perhaps, the child was released and sent home. In two
          weeks they came back to get him and send him to Mulheim
          for observation, and then eight days later to Idstein.
          Perhaps eight days later I received a telegram telling
          my son had died on the 11th of December at 430 in the
          afternoon" (Aziz, p.128).

                            The End of Secrecy

People who lived near the institutions and hospitals knew that people were
being murdered inside. In spite of extensive efforts to maintain strict
secrecy, rumors and suspicion spread rapidly. The grey buses with their
curtained or painted windows and the smoking chimneys did not go unnoticed
by the local populations. In the small town of Apsberg, the people of the
town stood and wept as they watched people the buses carry away people they
knew (Gallagher, 1990).

Every few days the buses arrived at the gates of Hadamar, an institution
named after the small town in which the institution was located. Children
who lived near Hadamar were overheard to tease one another with the words.
"You're not quite bright, they'll put you in the oven at Hadamar".
(Mitscherlich and Mielke, p. 108). The children referred to the buses as
"killing crates" (Kogon et al, 1993).

[Page 37]

The people of Hadamar saw the steady arrival of the buses and the smoke
pouring out of the chimneys; they could smell the strange odors in the air.
Friends and neighbors sympathized with parents and joined the protest. the
protest. Peasant women refused to sell fruit to staff who worked in the
institutions (Freidlander, 1994). Protests were written by representatives
of the churches, public administrators and private persons (Kogon et al
1993). The Nazi government responded by attempting to tighten secrecy and
punish protesters. Pastor Paul Gerhard Bratine (director of the
Hoffnungstaler hospitals and vice president of the Central Committee of the
Protestant Home Mission) protested that the " mass methods used so far have
quite evidently taken in many people, who are to a considerable degree of
sound mind." (Mitscherlich and Mielke p. 107). Bratine was arrested by the
Gestapo. The head of the institution at Stetten, Dr. Schlaich, called for a
law that would give families the right to voice their opinions concerning
the fate of their loved ones (Mitscherlich and Mielke, p. 111). He was
ignored. Protests continued to mount. Prominent religious leaders who
protested were removed form their positions and some like Bernard
Lichtenberg, Provost of St. Hednig's Cathedral in Berlin were arrested.
Lichtenberg was persistent in his protests and sent copies of his letters
to the Chancellery. The elderly priest was arrested and sentenced to two
years m prison and was transferred to Dachau 1943. He died of heart failure
on the train to Dachau. Dr. Meltzer, director of the church run institution
in Saxony ( property of the church's Inner Mission) was removed from his
position (Nuremburg documents, NO 3817). In a famous sermon, the Bishop of
Munster, Clemens Count von Galen

[Page 38]

protested the "mercy killings." and hundreds of copies of his sermon were
dropped by British airplanes flying over Germany.

By 1941, the killings had caused go much unrest that Herr Schlegelberger,
Secretary of State in the Reich Ministry of justice warned that "Confidence
in the German medical profession, especially the administration of mental
institutions, is being severely shaken" (Peukert, 1987, p. 113). Even
Heinrich Himmler,, referring to the institution at Grafeneck, acknowledged
the public unrest and said, "The public temper is ugly and in my opinion
there is nothing to do but to stop using this particular institution"
(Peukert, 1987, p. 113).

Hitler made a show of yielding to public pressure and ordered Karl Brandt
to "stall" the adult euthanasia" program. The gas chambers were dismantled
and reassembled at BeIze [sic], Maidenek and Treblinka. Overall however,
the protests simply drove the killing operations into deeper secrecy and
the killings continued as "wild euthanasia" (Burleigh, 1994). Child
euthanasia was never interrupted. The last child was killed on May 2 9,
1945, 2 1 days after Germany lost the war. The equipment for the gas
chambers was moved to the death camps in 1941, but the killings continued
with starvation, poisons and shootings. After 1941, the killing operations
were less centralized and killings took place in residential schools and
smaller facilities. Many killing ward physicians were later sent to
administer the slaughter in the death camps (Friedlander, 1994).

The Nazis extended their extermination policies to the countries they
occupied. Children in Austria, Poland and other conquered nations did not
escape the euthanasia programs. One of the largest

[Page 39]

euthanasia centres outside of Germany was the Steinhof children's wing at
the Speigelgrund hospital in Austria. The wartime staff of the hospital
were almost all Nazi Party members and the case histories in the hospital
vault reflect the variety of child victims, children who stuttered or had a
harelip or any other minor deformity were killed. They were killed by
starvation or poison or left outdoors to freeze. . Only in Holland did
physicians as a group refuse to cooperate. Dutch physicians had the
foresight to resist before one step was taken and they acted unanimously
(Cranford, 1992)

Jewish children living in hospitals and institutions were all murdered.
Older Jewish children and young adults were sent to Theresientstadt. At one
point there were over a thousand Jewish blind people living there. Jewish
blind ex-servicemen were not allowed to keep their guide dogs. Leo Hass
painted a chronicle of their lives in Theresienstadt and smuggled his
drawings out of the camp with the help of Czech policemen.


After the war virtual silence surrounded the slaughter of unwanted
children. There were very few published accounts of child murders. Most of
the physicians and nurses who played major roles in the euthanasia programs
continued in their positions as if nothing unusual had taken place.
Although many records had been destroyed, sufficient evidence remained and
the facts cannot be denied. Court records, and accounts of parents and
guardians fill in the blanks. Unwanted children were victims of Nazi
prejudice and racism and exterminating them was one of Hitler's priorities.

[Page 40]

and confusion were everywhere and parents were helpless to protect their
children. As control was increasingly centralized, even the guardianship
courts responsible for children's welfare were robbed of jurisdiction or
influence. Bit by bit the full story coming to light and proving once
again, that vulnerability is not caused by disability; it is nurtured by
every act whereby a human life is devalued.

Dependence on government funding and failure of professional groups to
resist Nazi policies made schools and institutions vulnerable to Nazi
policies. The refusal to fund schools and programs developed during the
Weimar years combined with the corruption of educational leadership that
destroyed humane schools and progressive educational and treatment
programs. The total infiltration of educational and social institutions
made total social control possible. No child or family was safe from

Leadership of educational institutions was placed in the hands of ambitious
fanatics, Nazi bureaucrats, chosen for their faithfulness to the party
line, rather than their competence as educators. Bernard Rust was a failure
as a teacher and was dismissed from a secondary school in Hanover for a
serious offence in 1930. It is noteworthy that the pattern of corruption of
schools and destruction of Christian schools were far less successful in
rural districts, where people knew and trusted one another (Samuels and
Thompson, 1949).

Among the 250,000 to 350,000 people who were murdered in the Nazi
euthanasia programs, at least one fourth were children and young adults.
More than 5,000 infants and young children were murdered in pediatric
wards. This number does not include the children who were murdered in
smaller residential facilities and

[Page 41]

treatment homes and those who were included in the adult euthanasia.

The rebuilding of rehabilitative education in Germany has been a long
process and Germany never regained its prominence or its leadership in the
field. Although today services have been restored, German children and
young people with disabilities continue to struggle for community
acceptance. There are echoes of the Nazi past taking place in Germany,
where people in wheelchairs have been abused by neo-Nazi bully boys. "Under
Hitler, you would have been gassed." they were told (The Boston Globe,
1993) More than 1,000 German citizens with disabilities have reported
harassment, physical and verbal abuse. Group homes have been attacked and
children attending a church camp at a seaside resort were made to leave the
beach (Gallagher, 1990). Parents continue to protest discrimination against
their children in the schools. In most European countries advocacy groups
and associations have been organized by people with disabilities, but these
organizations are not as activist in Germany as they are in other
countries. The Catholic and Protestant churches have set up many monuments
in remembrance of children who lost their lives.

Friedlander (1994) traced the continuity between the euthanasia programs
and the Holocaust. Hitler created a reign of terror that is unmatched in
history. Although the Nazi victimization of vulnerable children was unique
in its organization, its mercilessness and its bureaucratic efficiency, its
perversion of science for political gains, it is a lasting reminder of the
perils of

[Page 42]

making value judgments on human life, of separating science from humanity,
of disempowering families and of giving total control over the lives of
children with disabilities to those who devalue them. Public attitudes that
demean children with disabilities and deny them inclusion in the life of
the community continue to sow the seeds of discrimination and abuse. The
refusal to recognize the rights of disabled people too often shape the
experience of disability (Humphries & Gordon, 1992).

[Page 43]

Racial Hygiene. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, Ch4, 156-237

Aziz, P.(1976) Doctors of Death, Vol 4 Geneva, Switzerland: Ferni

Becker, K.P. (1985) Educational Rehabilitation of the Handicapped in the
German Democratic Republic and in the United States of Ameica: an Overview,
NY: Perganion Press.

Britz, K (1978) Gifted visually handicapped children at school, Paper given
at the Conference of International Association for the Education of the
Visually Handicapped, Paris, France, 1978.

Burleigh, M. (1994) Death and Deliverance: Euthanasia in Germany 1900-1945.
Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press

Cranford, R.E. (1992) The contemporary euthanasia movement and the Nazi
euthanasia programs: Are there meaningful similarities? In A.L. Caplan,
(Ed) When Medicine Went Mad: Bioethics and the Holocaust. Totowa, Nj.
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