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“‘One category of Frick’s contribution … deserves special
notice,’ Robert Kempner asserted to the court. ‘This is the
systematic killing of persons regarded as useless to the German war
machine, such as the insane, the crippled, the aged, and foreign
laborers who were no longer able to work.’

The euthanasia action had had its wellspring in a passage of Mein
Kampf: ‘The right of personal freedom recedes before the duty to
preserve the race. There must be no half measures. It is a half
measure to let incurably sick people steadily contaminate the
remaining healthy ones. This is in keeping with the humanitarianism
which, to avoid hurting one individual, lets a hundred others
perish. If necessary, the incurably sick will be pitilessly
segregated — a barbaric measure for the unfortunate who is struck
by it, but a blessing for his fellow men and posterity.’

Implementation of this philosophy had begun on July 14, 1933, the
same day that the Fu”hrer Principle had been promulgated, when the
cabinet enacted ‘The Law for the Prevention of Offspring with
Hereditary Diseases,’ providing that ‘Anyone who is suffering from
a hereditary disease can be sterilized by a surgical operation.’

Though the law established a ‘eugenics court’ to which a
sterilization order could be appealed, the procedure was a fiction.
As in so many of the other Nazi measures the appearance of legality
served merely to cloak the dehumanized application of Hitler’s
aberrant concepts.

In the summer of 1937, a year after Hitler remilitarized the
Rhineland, he had ordered the secret roundup and sterilization of
all the ‘Rhineland bastards’ — children fathered by the French and
Belgian occupation troops. Neither their parents nor guardians were
informed, and no public acknowledgement of the action was ever
permitted. As was the case throughout the Nazi regime in all the
various professions, Hitler had no difficulty finding doctors,
nurses, and hospitals to execute his designs.

During the same period that Hitler decreed the Rhineland
sterilizations, a German medical economist pointed out, in an
article entitled ‘The Fight Against Degeneration,’ that the care of
a deaf-mute or cripple cost 6 marks a day, that of a reform school
inmate 4.85 marks, and that of a mentally ill or deficient person
4.50 marks. The average earnings of a laborer, on the other hand,
were only 2.50 marks, and those of a civil servant 4 marks daily.
(The exchange rate at the time was about forty cents — 2.50 marks
to the dollar.) The economist lamented: ‘The state spends far more
for the existence of these actually worthless compatriots than for
the salary of a healthy man, who must bring up a healthy family,’
and hinted that it was too bad that a more radical program than
sterilization could not be employed.

The economist’s dissertation took on added meaning upon the
outbreak of the war, when the Nazis earlier elimination of Jewish
physicians generated a medical crises. (Approximately ten percent
of doctors in Germany and half in Austria had been Jewish.) Because
of Hitler’s neglect of the civilian economy, jampacked, rundown
institutions for the aged, the insance, and physically and mentally
handicapped were turning into veritable snakepits. ‘In connection
with the limited space, this question of euthanasia came up,’ Dr.
Hermann Pfannmu”ller, chief psychiatrist at the Egglfing-Haar
Asylum near Munich, related to Major John J. Monigan, a … New
Jersey lawyer who had responsibility for investigating euthanasia
and medical experiments. For three thousand patients there had been
only fifteen doctors, and some of these had been diverted to care
for war casualties.

Writing a report on what was required to maintain the patients,
Pfannmu”ller’s superior, the director of Egglfing-Haar, expressed
the opinion: ‘These days when our worthy men must make the hard
sacrifice of blood and life teach us impressively that it is not
possible on economic grounds to continue operating the
installations of living corpses. The conception is unbearable for
me that, while the best young men lose their lives at the front,
the tainted asocial and unquestionably antisocial in the
institutiions have a guaranteed existence.’

Such and opinion fitted in completely with that of Hitler and his
personal physician, Dr. Karl Brandt, the Reich Commissioner for
Health and Sanitation. Early during the campaign in Poland, Brandt
suggested to the Fu”hrer the necessity of weeding incurables out of
the institutions.

When the Reich Public Health Director, Dr. Leonardo Conti, and Hans
Lammers, the state secretary and chief of the Reich (government)
Chancellery, proved too bureaucratic and legalistic to work out
practical implementation of such a program, the Fu”her put it in
the hands of Brandt and the director of his personal chancellery,
Philip Bouhler.

‘Reichsleiter Bouhler and Dr. Brandt,’ Hitler wrote, ‘are charged
with the responsibility of expanding the authority of certain
officially appointed doctors, so that after a critical diagnosis
incurable persons may be granted a mercy death.’

Hitler vested operational authority for the exterminations in
Himmler, who was immediately to close down the institutions in the
annexed portion of Poland and liquidate the inmates.

In Germany itself, the first category of unfortunates to be
victimized were the so-called _Ausschusskinderer_, translatable
either as ‘committee children’ or ‘garbage children,’ who had
previously been institutionalized or sterilized. On October 12, the
SS expropriated the Grafeneck crippled children’s institution….
Under the supervision of Christian Wirth, criminal police
commissioner of Wu”rttemberg, the children of Grafeneck were killed
with overdoses of drugs secreted in their food. If they would not
eat, they were dispatched with suppositories or injections. Setting
up a front organization, the Public Corporation for Nursing Homes,
Bouhler and Brandt sent questionnaires, to be filled out for every
patient, to all child-care institutions in Germany. On the basis of
the completed questionnaires, children who were considered
‘incurable’ or had hereditary diseases were picked for ‘Besonderes
Heilverfahren’ (special healing procedure) and transported to
Grafeneck and a half-dozen similar installations subsequently set
up throughout Germany….

Then, early in 1940, with the liquidation of the children well under
way, the exterminations were expanded to adults. Every institution
caring for the mentally or physically afflicted was required to
fill out patient questionnaires. One the basis of these,
commissions of doctors and medical students made the selections for
transportation — soon, in fact, the selection became pro forma,
and the asylums were cleared en masse.” (Conot, 204-207)

Work Cited

Conot, Robert E. Justice at Nuremberg. New York: Harper & Row,

Last-Modified: 1994/03/05