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From: John.Morris@UAlberta.CA (John Morris)
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Subject: WWII Letter Warned of Nazi Abuses
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 20:46:01 GMT
Organization: University of Alberta
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July 30, 1999

WWII Letter Warned of Nazi Abuses

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The death notices appeared in German newspapers in
suspicious numbers in the fall of 1940, twenty-two in two weeks, and
the families placing them used strikingly similar phrases about the
fates of their loved ones, patients in mental asylums. 

"After days of uncertainty we received the unbelievable news of the
sudden death of my beloved wife, the mother of our little Christa,"
said one. 

"After anxious uncertainty, I received from Grafeneck in Wurttemberg
the unbelievable news that my beloved husband, our dear son-in-law and
brother-in-law, the glass handicraftsman ... closed his dear eyes
forever," said another. 

On they went, "unbelievable" deaths after periods of "uncertainty." 

In their bewildered sorrow, these families were uncovering a Nazi
horror. They were signaling to fellow citizens that terrible acts were
going on in the sanitariums of southern Germany. The U.S. vice consul
in Leipzig, Paul Dutko, understood what was happening and cabled

But recently declassified documents do not show anything was done
about that warning and others in the months before Germany's
"euthanasia" programs became undeniably known and the full weight of
the Holocaust descended. 

"Details so far gathered concerning these notices give them a
'Frankenstein' setting; their attendant circumstances, described in
this despatch, are fantastic and gruesome," Dutko wrote in his October
1940 cable. 

"Opinion has been expressed that incurable mental patients of Germany
are being eliminated in this manner to reduce mouths to feed and that
this is but a beginning." 

Documents found in the National Archives by the Simon Wiesenthal
Center, a Los Angeles research organization named after the famed Nazi
hunter, point to a series of early communications by U.S. officials
about Nazi Germany's systematic killing of its own mentally ill or
deformed citizens. 

In one German letter, an anonymous correspondent wrote to NBC in New
York saying thousands of mental patients were being killed monthly in
southern Germany. 

Hurry, the correspondent wrote, "and with your expressions of horror
prevent further murders!" 

"Humanity will thank you." 

The letter ended up a month later in high offices of the War
Department, along with a U.S. military intelligence officer's written
opinion that the correspondent was right. But again no evidence of
further action was found in the record. 

Historians are divided on whether the United States could have saved
many victims of asylum killings before entering the war in December
1941, either by sending diplomatic protests to Berlin or by disclosing
what it knew earlier and mobilizing public opinion against it. 

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Los Angeles center, said Thursday a
strong condemnation from the United States "would have possibly
changed Hitler's approach to how much he could get away with. ...
Hitler may not have been able to put across his Final Solution." 

Washington knew early in 1940 that Germany was deporting Jews to
Poland and did not believe they were going to labor camps as claimed,
Hier said. But officials decided not to protest because they did not
want to drag the United States into war. 

Hier said the same attitude apparently prevailed when evidence of
asylum murders came in, before the publication of eyewitness reports
in the summer of 1941. 

Suspicions about what was going on in asylums spread through much of
Germany, in part because even Catholics were being cremated, despite
opposition to cremation by bishops. 

The asylums would cremate the bodies before the families were notified
of the deaths, then give them the ashes. 

Dutko in his cable wrote about the "dark and deep secrecy surrounding
the Castle of Grafeneck," one of the asylums secured by the Black
Guard -- Hitler's notorious SS. 

Delivery trucks would drive away at breakneck speed, he said. Leipzig
was awash with fears fed by the death notices in the three local

"A feeling of horror and complete insecurity has begun to set in." 

 John Morris                                
 at University of Alberta  

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