Mathilde Ludendorff [von Kemnitz], by Wikipedia

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Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 12/29/18



Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry
Formation February 13, 1917; 101 years ago
Type Scientific institute
Purpose Research in psychiatry
Headquarters Munich, state of Bavaria, Germany, European Union
Key people
Emil Kraepelin (founder)
Parent organization
Max Planck Society
Website (in English)
Formerly called
German Institute for Psychiatric Research

The Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry (German: Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie) is a scientific institute based in the city of Munich in Germany specializing in psychiatry. Currently directed by Elisabeth Binder, Alon Chen and Martin Keck, it is one of the 81 institutes in the Max Planck Society.[1]


The Institute was founded as the German Institute for Psychiatric Research (German: Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Psychiatrie) by King Ludwig III of Bavaria in Munich on February 13, 1917. The main force behind the institute was the psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin.[2][3][4] Substantial funding was received from the Jewish-American banker James Loeb,[5] as well as from the Rockefeller Foundation, well into the 1930s. The Institute became affiliated with the K. W. Society for the Advancement of Science (German: Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften) in 1924.

In 1928 a new building of the institute was opened at 2 Kraepelinstrasse. The building was financed primarily by a donation of $325,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation. Under the leadership of department heads Walther Spielmeyer, Ernst Rüdin, Felix Plaut, Kurt Schneider and Franz Jahnel, the Institute gained an international reputation as a leading institution for psychiatric research.[6]

Rudin, a student of Kraepelin's, took over the directorship of the Institute in 1931, while also remaining head of genetics. As well as fostering an international scientific reputation, the Institute developed close ties with the Nazi regime. Rudin (along with Eugen Fischer of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics) joined expert government committees. Rudin wrote the official commentary endorsing the forced sterilization laws. He was such an avid proponent that colleagues nicknamed him the "Reichsfuhrer for Sterilization".[7][8] Felix Plaut (in 1935) and Kurt Neubürger were dismissed from the Institute due to their Jewish origin.[6][9] Copies of Rudin's lecture notes show that his teaching at the Institute was anti-semitic.[10] The Institute received a great deal of government funding, which was openly designed to further the Nazi regime's aims.[11] Some Institute funds seem to have gone on to support the work of Institute employee Julius Duessen with Carl Schneider at Heidelberg University, clinical research which from the beginning involving killing children.[12][8][13][14]

During the Second World War, the Institute's facilities sustained much damage.[6] After the war, Rudin claimed he was just an academic, had only heard rumours of the killing of psychiatric patients at nearby asylums, and that he hated the Nazis. He was supported by former Institute colleague Josef Kallmann (a eugenicist himself) and famous quantum physicist Max Planck[verification needed] and released with a 500 mark fine.[10]

In 1954 the Institute was incorporated into the Max Planck Society (as successive institution of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften under maintenance of the foundation of 1917). The Institute was divided into an Institute of Brain Pathology and a Clinical Institute, both at 2 Kraepelinstrasse. Twelve years later in 1966, the Institute was renamed as the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. In the same year, a new research clinic was opened in Kraepelinstrasse 10.[6]

In 1984 the theoretical part of the Institute moved to a new building in Martinsried, west of Munich. The Departments of Neurochemistry, Neuromorphology, Neuropharmacology and Neurophysiology were moved there. The Clinical Department, the Departments of Ethology and Psychology remained in Kraepelinstrasse. The independent Research Center of Psychopathology and Psychotherapy were closed.[6]

In 1989 the Institute's building in Kraepelinstrasse was renovated and enlarged with the addition of a new laboratory wing.[6]

In 1998 the theoretical part and the clinical part of the Institute segregated. The theoretical division of the Institute became the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology and the clinical part kept the name "Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry".[6]


The Institute is one of the leading research centers on psychiatry. Physicians, psychologists, and natural scientists conduct research on psychiatric and neurological disorders and on the development of diagnosis and treatment.[15]

Many patients participate in different clinical trails each year. Extensive phenotyping of the patients with analysis of blood and fluid samples, clinical psychopathology and neuropsychological testing, neurophysiological methods, neuroimaging techniques, and protein and gene analyses form the basis to investigate the causation of complex psychiatric and neurological diseases.[15]

The concept of the Institute is based on a suitable balance between clinical and laboratory research. Research groups work on topics such as stress, anxiety, Posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, neurologic diseases, psychopharmacology, schizophrenia, sleep, and other topics.[16]

The Institute consists of a 120-bed clinic equipped with laboratories for research on neuroendocrinology and sleep physiology, several special wards, a dayclinic for depression and psychiatry and various laboratories for cell and molecular biology.[16]

Medical services

The Institute provides medical service for psychiatric and neurological disorders. It has a hospital, dayclinic for depression and psychiatry and several outpatient clinics. The hospital consists of four psychiatric and one neurological ward with 120 beds. It treats about 2000 inpatients per year.[17]

The Institute provides treatment for depression, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, sleep disorders, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Morbus Parkinson, restless legs syndrome, and endocrine diseases.[17]


The following are the primary heads of the institute's respective departments:

Scientific Directors

• Elisabeth Binder (Managing Director)
• Alon Chen

Head of Clinic

• Martin E. Keck
• Matthias M. Weber (Hospital Deputy Head)

Head of Administration

• Hartmut Lingner

See also

• Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (Frankfurt)
• Institute of Psychiatry (UK)


1. "Max Planck Institutes". Max Planck Society. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
2. Engstrom, Eric J., Wolfgang Burgmair, and Matthias M. Weber. "Psychiatric Governance, Völkisch Corporatism, and the German Research Institute of Psychiatry in Munich (1912–26)." History of Psychiatry 27, no. 1/2 (2016): 38-50, 137-52.
3. Engstrom, Eric J et al. "Psychiatrie und Politik im Dienste des deutschen Volkes." In Emil Kraepelin: Kraepelin in München II, 1914-1921, ed. Wolfgang Burgmair, Eric J. Engstrom and Matthias M. Weber, 17-82. Munich: Belleville, 2009.
4. Engstrom, Eric J. et al. "Wissenschaftsorganisation als Vermächtnis." In Emil Kraepelin: Kraepelin in München, Teil III: 1921-1926, edited by Wolfgang Burgmair, Eric J. Engstrom, and Matthias Weber, 17-71. Munich: belleville, 2013.
5. Burgmair, Wolfgang, and Matthias M. Weber. "'Das Geld ist gut angelegt, und du brauchst keine Reue zu haben': James Loeb, ein deutsch-amerikanischer Wissenschaftsmäzen zwischen Kaiserreich und Weimarer Republik." Historische Zeitschrift 277 (2003): 343-378.
6. "History of the Institute". Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
7. Science and Inhumanity: The Kaiser-Wilhelm/Max Planck Society William E. Seidelman MD, 2001
8. The Missing Gene Jay Joseph, 2006, pg142-
9. Hippius, Hanns; Hans-Jürgen Möller; Norbert Müller; Gabriele Neundörfer-Kohl (2007). The University Department of Psychiatry in Munich: From Kraepelin and His Predecessors to Molecular Psychiatry. Springer. p. 94. ISBN 3-540-74016-3.
10. Genetic Research in Psychiatry and Psychology Under the Microscope Jay Joseph. Pg 33-, 48. Original source: Created Nazi Science of Murder Victor H Berstein, 1945, August 21, PM Daily
11. Baltic Eugenics: Bio-Politics, Race and Nation in Interwar Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 1918-1940 : Volker Roelcke: 3. Eliot Slater and the Institutionalization of Psychiatric Genetics in the United Kingdom pg 304
12. Man, Medicine, and the State Pg 73-
13. Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices, Legacies Chapter by V. Roelcke, Pg106
14. Program and practice of psychiatric genetics at the German Research Institute of Psychiatry under Ernst Rudin: on the relationship between science, politics and the concept of race before and after 1993 by V. Roelcke, 2002
15. "Research". Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
16. "Profile". Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
17. "Medical services". Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
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Re: Mathilde Ludendorff, by Wikipedia

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Carl Schneider
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 12/29/18




Carl Schneider (December 19, 1891 in Gembitz, Kreis Mogilno, Province of Posen – December 11, 1946 in Frankfurt am Main), professor at Heidelberg University, (1933–1945)[1] chairman of its department of Psychiatry,[2] director of its clinic, was a senior researcher for the Action T4 euthanasia program.

Schneider is said to exemplify the descent of a distinguished academic psychiatrist into the Nazi worldview. Some described him as having shown great empathy in his psychiatric rehabilitation work, and having a great idealism about transforming the 'horror' of psychiatric patients thought to be regressed, isolated and backward. He would sometimes put forward two possible ways of helping a patient – one of them 'work therapy', and the other to sterilize or kill them.[3]

Schneider joined the Nazi Party in 1932. He defined and elaborated the psychological assumptions of Nazi ideology and science. He coined the term national therapy for ethnic cleansing: ridding the populace of genetic and blood contaminants threatening the psychological and physical health of the German/Aryan population.[4] He collected the brains of murdered Jews,[2] retarded children, and other victims, for research in his clinic and for instruction. He taught a technique of replacing spinal fluid with air, to get clearer x-rays of the brain.[citation needed]

Schneider, along with Konrad Zucker, helped Heidelberg become one of the two leading training centres for the killing of children for theoretically scientific purposes, which went on at thirty clinics for three years.[5]

After the war

At the end of the war Schneider flew out of Heidelberg on the 29 March 1945. The U.S. occupation authorities barred his reinstatement to the university's medical faculty, even before they learned of his role in the euthanasia program. Later Schneider was arrested and moved to Lager in Moosburg . On the 29 November 1946 Schneider was given to the German justice authorities in Frankfurt am Main, to be a witness in the trial against Werner Heyde. Prosecutor said to Schneider, that in a trial his position would be very bad. On the 11 December 1946 Schneider hanged himself in his prison cell (1946) awaiting trial in Frankfurt am Main. His co-workers were not punished and could continue their work.[6] [7] His membership in the Heidelberg academy of sciences was deleted.[8][9][10][11]


1. Shorter, Edward (2005). A historical dictionary of psychiatry. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-517668-1. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
2. Y. A. Adam (March 2007). "Justice in Nuremberg: The Doctors' Trial – 60 Years Later A Reminder". Israel Medical Association Journal. Israel Medical Association. 9 (3): 194&ndash, 195. PMID 17402338. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
3. The Nazi doctors: medical killing and the psychology of genocide pg 122 By Robert Jay Lifton 2000
4. James M. Glass. "Nuremberg Laws: Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity"., Inc. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
5. The Strassmanns: Science, Politics and Migration in Turbulent Times (1793-1993)
6. M. Rotzoll, G. Hohendorf: Die Psychiatrisch-Neurologische Klinik. 2006.
7. Peter Sandner: Verwaltung des Krankenmordes. Der Bezirksverband Nassau im Nationalsozialismus. Psychosozial-Verlag, Gießen 2003, ISBN 3-89806-320-8, S. 932–934, S. 741.
8. Carl Schneider. In: "Mitglieder der HAdW seit ihrer Gründung im Jahr 1909" (in German). Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. Retrieved 2016-06-11.
9. Remy, Steven P. (2002). The Heidelberg myth: the Nazification and denazification of a German university. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 118, 138. ISBN 0-674-00933-9. LCCN 2002069072. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
10. Uwe Henrik Peters, M.D. (2001). "On Nazi Psychiatry" (Fee). Psychoanalytic Review. National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis. 88 (2): 295&ndash, 309. doi:10.1521/prev. Retrieved 2009-10-01. Schneider also committed suicide, in 1946, while in prison waiting for his trial to begin.
11. L Singer (December 3, 1998). "Ideology and ethics. The perversion of German psychiatrists' ethics by the ideology of national socialism". European Psychiatry. Elsevier SAS. 13(Supplement 3): 87s&ndash, 92s. doi:10.1016/S0924-9338(98)80038-2. PMID 19698678. Carl Schneider committed suicide by hanging after his arrest...(subscription required)


• Friedlander, Henry (1995). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-4675-9. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
• Kaplan, Robert M. (2009). Medical Murder: Disturbing Cases of Doctors Who Kill. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74175-610-4. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
• William E. Seidelman (December 7, 1996). "Nuremberg lamentation: for the forgotten victims of medical science". BMJ. BMJ Group. 313(7070): 1463–7. doi:10.1136/bmj.313.7070.1463. PMC 2352986. PMID 8973236.
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Re: Mathilde Ludendorff, by Wikipedia

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Part 1 of 2

Aktion T4
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 12/29/18



Hitler's order for Aktion T4
Also known as T4 Program
Location German-occupied Europe
Date September 1939 – 1945
Incident type Forced euthanasia
Perpetrators SS
Participants Psychiatric hospitals
Victims 275,000–300,000[1][2][3][a]

Aktion T4 (German, pronounced [akˈtsi̯oːn teː fiːɐ]) was a postwar name for mass murder through involuntary euthanasia in Nazi Germany.[4][ b] The name T4 is an abbreviation of Tiergartenstraße 4, a street address of the Chancellery department set up in the spring of 1940, in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, which recruited and paid personnel associated with T4.[5][6][7][c] Certain German physicians were authorized to select patients "deemed incurably sick, after most critical medical examination" and then administer to them a "mercy death" (Gnadentod).[8] In October 1939 Adolf Hitler signed a "euthanasia note" backdated to 1 September 1939 which authorized his physician Karl Brandt and Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler to implement the programme.

The killings took place from September 1939 until the end of the war in 1945; from 275,000 to 300,000 people were killed in psychiatric hospitals in Germany and Austria, occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now the Czech Republic).[9][10][11] The number of victims was originally recorded as 70,273 but this number has been increased by the discovery of victims listed in the archives of former East Germany.[12][d] About half of those killed were taken from church-run asylums, often with the approval of the Protestant or Catholic authorities of the institutions.[14][15] The Holy See announced on 2 December 1940 that the policy was contrary to the natural and positive Divine law and that "the direct killing of an innocent person because of mental or physical defects is not allowed" but the declaration was not upheld by some Catholic authorities in Germany. In the summer of 1941, protests were led in Germany by Bishop von Galen, whose intervention led to "the strongest, most explicit and most widespread protest movement against any policy since the beginning of the Third Reich", according to Richard J. Evans.[16]

Several reasons have been suggested for the killings, including eugenics, compassion, reducing suffering, racial hygiene and saving money.[17][18] Physicians in German and Austrian asylums continued many of the practices of Aktion T4 until the defeat of Germany in 1945, in spite of its official cessation in August 1941. The informal continuation of the policy led to 93,521 "beds emptied" by the end of 1941.[19][20][e] Technology developed under Aktion T4 was taken over by the medical division of the Reich Interior Ministry, particularly the use of lethal gas to kill large numbers of people, along with the personnel of Aktion T4 who then participated in Operation Reinhard.[23] The programme was authorised by Hitler but the killings have since come to be viewed as murders in Germany. The number of people killed was about 200,000 in Germany and Austria, with about 100,000 victims in other European countries.[f]


This poster (from around 1938) reads: "60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People's community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too. Read '[A] New People', the monthly magazine of the Bureau for Race Politics of the NSDAP."

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the sterilisation of people carrying what were considered to be hereditary defects and in some cases those exhibiting what was thought to be hereditary "antisocial" behaviour, was a respectable field of medicine. Canada, Denmark, Switzerland and the US had passed laws enabling coerced sterilisation. Studies conducted in the 1920s ranked Germany as a country that was unusually reluctant to introduce sterilisation legislation.[25] In his book Mein Kampf (1924), Hitler wrote that one day racial hygiene "will appear as a deed greater than the most victorious wars of our present bourgeois era".[26][when?][27]

In July 1933 "Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring" prescribed compulsory sterilisation for people with conditions thought to be hereditary, such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, Huntington's chorea and "imbecility". Sterilisation was also legalised for chronic alcoholism and other forms of social deviance. The law was administered by the Interior Ministry under Wilhelm Frick through special Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichte), which examined the inmates of nursing homes, asylums, prisons, aged-care homes and special schools, to select those to be sterilised.[28] It is estimated that 360,000 people were sterilised under this law between 1933 and 1939.[29]

The policy and research agenda of racial hygiene and eugenics were promoted by Emil Kraepelin.[30] The eugenic sterilization of persons diagnosed with (and viewed as predisposed to) schizophrenia was advocated by Eugen Bleuler, who presumed racial deterioration because of “mental and physical cripples” in his Textbook of Psychiatry,

The more severely burdened should not propagate themselves… If we do nothing but make mental and physical cripples capable of propagating themselves, and the healthy stocks have to limit the number of their children because so much has to be done for the maintenance of others, if natural selection is generally suppressed, then unless we will get new measures our race must rapidly deteriorate.[31][32][33]

Within the Nazi administration, the idea of including in the program people with physical disabilities had to be expressed carefully, given that one of the most powerful figures of the regime, Joseph Goebbels, had a deformed right leg.[g] After 1937 the acute shortage of labour in Germany arising from rearmament, meant that anyone capable of work was deemed to be "useful" and thus exempted from the law and the rate of sterilisation declined.[35] The term "Aktion T4" is a post-war coining; contemporary German terms included Euthanasie (euthanasia) and Gnadentod (merciful death).[36] The T4 programme stemmed from the Nazi Party policy of "racial hygiene", a belief that the German people needed to be cleansed of racial enemies, which included anyone confined to a mental health facility and people with simple physical disabilities.[37]


NSDAP Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler, Head of the T4 programme

Karl Brandt, personal doctor to Hitler and Hans Lammers, the head of the Reich Chancellery, testified after the war that Hitler had told them as early as 1933—when the sterilisation law was passed—that he favoured the killing of the incurably ill but recognised that public opinion would not accept this.[38] In 1935, Hitler told the Leader of Reich Doctors, Gerhard Wagner, that the question could not be taken up in peacetime, "Such a problem could be more smoothly and easily carried out in war". He wrote that he intended to "radically solve" the problem of the mental asylums in such an event.[38] Aktion T4 began with a "trial" case in late 1938. Hitler instructed Brandt to evaluate a family's petition for the "mercy killing" of their son who was blind, had physical and developmental disabilities.[39][h] The child, born near Leipzig and eventually identified as Gerhard Kretschmar, was killed in July 1939.[41][42] Hitler instructed Brandt to proceed in the same manner in all similar cases.[43]

On 18 August 1939, three weeks after the killing of the boy, the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses was established. It was to register sick children or newborns identified as defective. The secret killing of infants began in 1939 and increased after the war started; by 1941 more than 5,000 children had been killed.[44][45] Hitler was in favour of killing those whom he judged to be lebensunwertes Leben (Life unworthy of life). In a 1939 conference with Leonardo Conti, Reich Health Leader and state secretary for health in the Interior Ministry and Hans Lammers, Chief of the Reich Chancellery—a few months before the "euthanasia" decree—Hitler gave as examples the mentally ill who he said could only be "bedded on sawdust or sand" because they "perpetually dirtied themselves" and "put their own excrement into their mouths". This issue, according to the Nazi regime, assumed new urgency in wartime.[46]

After the invasion of Poland, Hermann Pfannmüller said

Für mich ist die Vorstellung untragbar, dass beste, blühende Jugend an der Front ihr Leben lassen muss, damit verblichene Asoziale und unverantwortliche Antisoziale ein gesichertes Dasein haben. (It is unbearable to me that the flower of our youth must lose their lives at the front, while that feeble-minded and asocial element can have a secure existence in the asylum.)[47]

Pfannmüller advocated killing by a gradual decrease of food, which he believed was more merciful than poison injections.[48][49]

Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal doctor and organiser of Aktion T4

The German eugenics movement had an extreme wing even before the Nazis came to power. As early as 1920, Alfred Hoche and Karl Binding advocated killing people whose lives were "unworthy of life" (lebensunwertes Leben). Darwinism was interpreted by them as justification of the demand for "beneficial" genes and eradication of the "harmful" ones. Robert Lifton wrote, "The argument went that the best young men died in war, causing a loss to the Volk of the best available genes. The genes of those who did not fight (the worst genes) then proliferated freely, accelerating biological and cultural degeneration".[50] The advocacy of eugenics in Germany gained ground after 1930, when the Depression was used to excuse cuts in funding to state mental hospitals, creating squalor and overcrowding.[51]

Many German eugenicists were nationalists and antisemites, who embraced the Nazi regime with enthusiasm. Many were appointed to positions in the Health Ministry and German research institutes. Their ideas were gradually adopted by the majority of the German medical profession, from which Jewish and communist doctors were soon purged.[52] During the 1930s the Nazi Party had carried out a campaign of propaganda in favour of euthanasia. The National Socialist Racial and Political Office (NSRPA) produced leaflets, posters and short films to be shown in cinemas, pointing out to Germans the cost of maintaining asylums for the incurably ill and insane. These films included The Inheritance (Das Erbe, 1935), The Victim of the Past (Opfer der Vergangenheit, 1937), which was given a major première in Berlin and was shown in all German cinemas, and I Accuse (Ich klage an, 1941), which was based on a novel by Hellmuth Unger, a consultant for "child euthanasia".[53]

Killing of children

Schönbrunn Psychiatric Hospital, 1934 (Photo by SS photographer Friedrich Franz Bauer)

In mid-1939 Hitler authorized the creation of the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses (Reichsausschuss zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung erb- und anlagebedingter schwerer Leiden), headed by Dr. Karl Brandt, his physician, and administered by Herbert Linden of the Interior Ministry as well as SS-Oberführer Viktor Brack. Brandt and Bouhler were authorized to approve applications to kill children in relevant circumstances,[54][55] though Bouhler left the details to subordinates such as Brack and SA-Oberführer Werner Blankenburg.[56]

Extermination centres were established at six existing psychiatric hospitals: Bernburg, Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Hadamar, Hartheim, and Sonnenstein.[37][57] One thousand children under the age of 17 were killed at the institutions Am Spiegelgrund and Gugging in Austria.[58][59] They played a crucial role in developments leading to the Holocaust.[37] As a related aspect of the "medical" and scientific basis of this programme, the Nazi doctors took thousands of brains from 'euthanasia' victims for research.[60]

Viktor Brack, organiser of the T4 Programme

From August 1939, the Interior Ministry registered children with disabilities, requiring doctors and midwives to report all cases of newborns with severe disabilities; the 'guardian' consent element soon disappeared. Those to be killed were identified as "all children under three years of age in whom any of the following 'serious hereditary diseases' were 'suspected': idiocy and Down syndrome (especially when associated with blindness and deafness); microcephaly; hydrocephaly; malformations of all kinds, especially of limbs, head, and spinal column; and paralysis, including spastic conditions".[61] The reports were assessed by a panel of medical experts, of whom three were required to give their approval before a child could be killed.

The Ministry used deceit when dealing with parents or guardians, particularly in Catholic areas, where parents were generally uncooperative. Parents were told that their children were being sent to "Special Sections", where they would receive improved treatment.[62] The children sent to these centres were kept for "assessment" for a few weeks and then killed by injection of toxic chemicals, typically phenol; their deaths were recorded as "pneumonia". Autopsies were usually performed and brain samples were taken to be used for "medical research". Post mortem examinations apparently helped to ease the consciences of many of those involved, giving them the feeling that there was a genuine medical purpose to the killings.[63] The most notorious of these institutions in Austria was Am Spiegelgrund, where from 1940 to 1945, 789 children were killed by lethal injection, gas poisoning and physical abuse.[64] Children's brains were preserved in jars of formaldehyde and stored in the basement of the clinic and in the private collection of Heinrich Gross, one of the institution's directors, until 2001.[59]

When the Second World War began in September 1939, less rigorous standards of assessment and a quicker approval process were adopted. Older children and adolescents were included and the conditions covered came to include

... various borderline or limited impairments in children of different ages, culminating in the killing of those designated as juvenile delinquents. Jewish children could be placed in the net primarily because they were Jewish; and at one of the institutions, a special department was set up for 'minor Jewish-Aryan half-breeds'.

— Lifton[65]

More pressure was placed on parents to agree to their children being sent away. Many parents suspected what was happening, especially when it became apparent that institutions for children with disabilities were being systematically cleared of their charges and refused consent. The parents were warned that they could lose custody of all their children and if that did not suffice, the parents could be threatened with call-up for 'labour duty'.[66] By 1941, more than 5,000 children had been killed.[45][j] The last child to be killed under Aktion T4 was Richard Jenne on 29 May 1945 in the children's ward of the Kaufbeuren-Irsee state hospital in Bavaria, Germany, more than three weeks after U.S. Army troops had occupied the town.[67][68]

Killing of adults

Invasion of Poland

SS-Gruppenführer Leonardo Conti

Brandt and Bouhler developed plans to expand the programme of euthanasia to adults. In July 1939 they held a meeting attended by Conti and Professor Werner Heyde, head of the SS medical department. This meeting agreed to arrange a national register of all institutionalised people with mental illnesses or physical disabilities. The first adults with disabilities to be killed en masse by the Nazi regime were Poles. After the invasion on 1 September 1939, adults with disabilities were shot by the SS men of Einsatzkommando 16, Selbstschutz and EK-Einmann under the command of SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Tröger, with overall command by Reinhard Heydrich, during the genocidal Operation Tannenberg.[69][k] All hospitals and mental asylums of the Wartheland were emptied. The region was incorporated into Germany and earmarked for resettlement by Volksdeutsche following the German conquest of Poland.[71] In the Danzig (now Gdańsk) area, some 7,000 Polish patients of various institutions were shot and 10,000 were killed in the Gdynia area. Similar measures were taken in other areas of Poland destined for incorporation into Germany.[72] The first experiments with the gassing of patients were conducted in October 1939 at Fort VII in Posen (occupied Poznań), where hundreds of prisoners were killed by means of carbon monoxide poisoning, in an improvised gas chamber developed by Dr Albert Widmann, chief chemist of the German Criminal Police (Kripo). In December 1939, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler witnessed one of these gassings, ensuring that this invention would later be put to much wider uses.[73]

Bunker No. 17 in artillery wall of Fort VII in Poznań, used as improvised gas chamber for early experiments

The idea of killing adult mental patients soon spread from occupied Poland to adjoining areas of Germany, probably because Nazi Party and SS officers in these areas were most familiar with what was happening in Poland. These were also the areas where Germans wounded from the Polish campaign were expected to be accommodated, which created a demand for hospital space. The Gauleiter of Pomerania, Franz Schwede-Coburg, sent 1,400 patients from five Pomeranian hospitals to undisclosed locations in occupied Poland, where they were shot. The Gauleiter of East Prussia, Erich Koch, had 1,600 patients killed out of sight. More than 8,000 Germans were killed in this initial wave of killings carried out on the orders of local officials, although Himmler certainly knew and approved of them.[45][74]

The legal basis for the programme was a 1939 letter from Hitler, not a formal "Führer's decree" with the force of law. Hitler bypassed Conti, the Health Minister and his department, who might have raised questions about the legality of the programme and entrusted it to Bouhler and Brandt.[75][l]

Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. Brandt are entrusted with the responsibility of extending the authority of physicians, to be designated by name, so that patients who, after a most critical diagnosis, on the basis of human judgment [menschlichem Ermessen], are considered incurable, can be granted mercy death [Gnadentod].

— Adolf Hitler, 1 September 1939[36][75]

The killings were administered by Viktor Brack and his staff from Tiergartenstraße 4, disguised as the "Charitable Foundation for Cure and Institutional Care" offices which served as the front and was supervised by Bouhler and Brandt.[76][77] The officials in charge included Dr Herbert Linden, who had been involved in the child killing programme; Dr Ernst-Robert Grawitz, chief physician of the SS; and August Becker, an SS chemist. The officials selected the doctors who were to carry out the operational part of the programme; based on political reliability as long-term Nazis, professional reputation and sympathy for radical eugenics. The list included physicians who had proved their worth in the child-killing programme, such as Unger, Heinze and Hermann Pfannmüller. The recruits were mostly psychiatrists, notably Professor Carl Schneider of Heidelberg, Professor Max de Crinis of Berlin and Professor Paul Nitsche from the Sonnenstein state institution. Heyde became the operational leader of the programme, succeeded later by Nitsche.[78]

Listing of targets from hospital records

Hartheim Euthanasia Centre, where over 18,000 people were killed.

In early October, all hospitals, nursing homes, old-age homes and sanatoria were required to report all patients who had been institutionalised for five years or more, who had been committed as "criminally insane", who were of "non-Aryan race" or who had been diagnosed with any on a list of conditions. The conditions included schizophrenia, epilepsy, Huntington's chorea, advanced syphilis, senile dementia, paralysis, encephalitis and "terminal neurological conditions generally". Many doctors and administrators assumed that the reports were to identify inmates who were capable of being drafted for "labour service" and tended to overstate the degree of incapacity of their patients, to protect them from labour conscription. When some institutions refused to co-operate, teams of T4 doctors (or Nazi medical students) visited and compiled the lists, sometimes in a haphazard and ideologically motivated way.[79] During 1940, all Jewish patients were removed from institutions and killed.[80][81][82][m]

As with child inmates, adults were assessed by a panel of experts, working at the Tiergartenstraße offices. The experts were required to make their judgements on the reports, not medical histories or examinations. Sometimes they dealt with hundreds of reports at a time. On each they marked a + (death), a - (life), or occasionally a ? meaning that they were unable to decide. Three "death" verdicts condemned the person and as with reviews of children, the process became less rigorous, the range of conditions considered "unsustainable" grew broader and zealous Nazis further down the chain of command increasingly made decisions on their own initiative.[83]


The first gassings in Germany proper took place in January 1940 at the Brandenburg Euthanasia Centre. The operation was headed by Brack, who said "the needle belongs in the hand of the doctor."[84] Bottled pure carbon monoxide gas was used. At trials, Brandt described the process as a "major advance in medical history".[85] Once the efficacy of the method was confirmed, it became standardised, and instituted at a number of centres across Germany under the supervision of Widmann, Becker, and Christian Wirth – a Kripo officer who later played a prominent role in the extermination of the Jews as commandant of newly built death camps in occupied Poland. In addition to Brandenburg, the killing centres included Grafeneck Castle in Baden-Württemberg (10,824 dead), Schloss Hartheim near Linz in Austria (over 18,000 dead), Sonnenstein Euthanasia Centre in Saxony (15,000 dead), Bernburg Euthanasia Centre in Saxony-Anhalt and Hadamar Euthanasia Centre in Hesse (14,494 dead). The same facilities were also used to kill mentally sound prisoners transferred from concentration camps in Germany, Austria and occupied parts of Poland.

Bishop Jan Maria Michał Kowalski, killed at Hartheim Euthanasia Centre.

Condemned patients were transferred from their institutions to newly built centres in the T4 Charitable Ambulance buses, called the Community Patients Transports Service. They were run by teams of SS men wearing white coats, to give it an air of medical care.[86] To prevent the families and doctors of the patients from tracing them, the patients were often first sent to transit centres in major hospitals, where they were supposedly assessed. They were moved again to special treatment (Sonderbehandlung) centres. Families were sent letters explaining that owing to wartime regulations, it was not possible for them to visit relatives in these centres. Most of these patients were killed within 24 hours of arriving at the centres, and their bodies cremated.[87] For every person killed, a death certificate was prepared, giving a false but plausible cause of death. This was sent to the family along with an urn of ashes (random ashes, since the victims were cremated en masse). The preparation of thousands of falsified death certificates took up most of the working day of the doctors who operated the centres.[88]

During 1940, the centres at Brandenburg, Grafeneck and Hartheim killed nearly 10,000 people each, while another 6,000 were killed at Sonnenstein. In all, about 35,000 people were killed in T4 operations that year. Operations at Brandenburg and Grafeneck were wound up at the end of the year, partly because the areas they served had been cleared and partly because of public opposition. In 1941, however, the centres at Bernburg and Sonnenstein increased their operations, while Hartheim (where Wirth and Franz Stangl were successively commandants) continued as before. As a result, another 35,000 people were killed before August 1941, when the T4 programme was officially shut down by Hitler. Even after that date, however, the centres continued to be used to kill concentration camp inmates: eventually some 20,000 people in this category were killed.[n]

In 1971, Gitta Sereny conducted a series of interviews with Stangl, who was in prison in Düsseldorf after having been convicted of co-responsibility for killing 900,000 people as commandant of the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps in Poland. Stangl gave Sereny a detailed account of the operations of the T4 programme based on his time as commandant of the killing facility at the Hartheim institute.[90] He described how the inmates of various asylums were removed and transported by bus to Hartheim. Some were in no mental state to know what was happening to them, but many were perfectly sane, and for them various forms of deception were used. They were told they were at a special clinic where they would receive improved treatment, and were given a brief medical examination on arrival. They were induced to enter what appeared to be a shower block, where they were gassed with carbon monoxide (the ruse was also used at extermination camps).[90]

Number of euthanasia victims

The SS functionaries and hospital staff associated with Aktion T4 in the German Reich were paid from the central office at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin from the spring of 1940. The SS and police from SS-Sonderkommando Lange responsible for murdering the majority of patients in the annexed territories of Poland since October 1939, took their salaries from the normal police fund, supervised by the administration of the newly formed Wartheland district; the programme in Germany and occupied Poland was overseen by Heinrich Himmler.[91] Before 2013, it was believed that 70,000 persons were murdered in the euthanasia programme, but the German Federal Archives reported that research in the archives of former East Germany indicated that the number of victims in Germany and Austria from 1939 to 1945 was about 200,000 persons and that another 100,000 persons were victims in other European countries.[24][92] In the German T4 centres there was at least the semblance of legality in keeping records and writing letters. In Polish psychiatric hospitals no one was left behind. Killings were inflicted using gas-vans, sealed army bunkers and machine guns; families were not informed about the murdered relatives and the empty wards were handed over to the SS.[91]

Victims of Aktion T4 (official data from 1985), 1940 – September 1941 [93]

T4 Center / Operation timetable / Number of victims
-- / From / Until (officially and unofficially) / 1940 / 1941 / Total

Grafeneck / 20 January 1940 / December 1940 / 9,839 / — / 9,839
Brandenburg / 8 February 1940 / October 1940 / 9,772 / — / 9,772
Bernburg / 21 November 1940 / 30 July 1943 / — / 8,601 / 8,601
Hartheim / 6 May 1940 / December 1944 / 9,670 / 8,599 / 18,269
Sonnenstein / June 1940 / September 1942 / 5,943 / 7,777 / 13,720
Hadamar / January 1941 / 31 July 1942 / — / 10,072 / 10,072
-- / -- / Total by year [93] / 35,224 / 35,049 / 70,273

Territories of occupied Poland [91]
Hospital / Region / Extermination of mentally ill / Number of victims

Owińska / Warthegau / October 1939 / 1,100
Kościan / Warthegau / November 1939 – March 1940 [94] / (2,750) 3,282
Świecie / Danzig-West Prussia / October–November 1939 [95] / 1,350
Kocborowo / Danzig-West Prussia / 22 Sep 1939 – Jan 1940 (1941–44) [94] / (1,692) 2,562
Dziekanka / Warthegau / 7 Dec 1939 – 12 Jan 1940 (July 1941) [94] / (1,043) 1,201
Chełm / General Government / 12 January 1940 / 440
Warta / Warthegau / 31 March 1940 (16 June 1941) [94] (499) / 581
Działdowo / Ostpreussen / 21 May – 8 July 1940 / 1,858
Kochanówka / Warthegau / 13 March 1940 – August 1941 / (minimum of) 850
Helenówek (et al.) / Warthegau / 1940–1941 / 2,200–2,300
Lubliniec / Oberschlesien / November 1941 (children) / 194
Choroszcz / Bezirk Bialystok / August 1941 / 700
Rybnik / Bezirk Kattowitz / 1940–1945 [94] / 2,000
-- / -- / Total by number [94] / c. 16,153

Technology and personnel transfer to death camps

After the official end of the euthanasia programme in 1941, most of the personnel and high-ranking officials, as well as gassing technology and the techniques used to deceive victims, were transferred under the jurisdiction of the national medical division of the Reich Interior Ministry. Further gassing experiments with the use of mobile gas chambers (Einsatzwagen) were conducted at Soldau concentration camp by Herbert Lange following Operation Barbarossa. Lange was appointed commander of the Chełmno extermination camp in December 1941. He was given three gas vans by the RSHA, converted by the Gaubschat GmbH in Berlin[96] and before February 1942, killed 3,830 Polish Jews and around 4,000 Romani, under the guise of "resettlement".[97] After the Wannsee conference, implementation of gassing technology was accelerated by Heydrich. Beginning in the spring of 1942, three killing factories were built secretly in east-central Poland. The SS officers responsible for the earlier Aktion T4, including Wirth, Stangl and Irmfried Eberl, had important roles in the implementation of the "Final Solution" for the next two years.[98][o] The first killing centre equipped with stationary gas chambers modelled on technology developed under Aktion T4 was established at Bełżec in the General Government territory of occupied Poland; the decision preceded the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 by three months.[99]


Gas chamber in Hadamar

In January 1939, Brack commissioned a paper from Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Paderborn, Joseph Mayer, on the likely reactions of the churches in the event of a state euthanasia programme being instituted. Mayer – a longstanding euthanasia advocate – reported that the churches would not oppose such a programme if it was seen to be in the national interest. Brack showed this paper to Hitler in July, and it may have increased his confidence that the "euthanasia" programme would be acceptable to German public opinion.[55] Notably, when Sereny interviewed Mayer shortly before his death in 1967, he denied that he formally condoned the killing of people with disabilities but no copies of this paper are known to survive.[100]

There were those who opposed the T4 programme within the bureaucracy. Lothar Kreyssig, a district judge and member of the Confessing Church, wrote to Gürtner protesting that the action was illegal since no law or formal decree from Hitler had authorised it. Gürtner replied, "If you cannot recognise the will of the Führer as a source of law, then you cannot remain a judge", and had Kreyssig dismissed.[51] Hitler had a fixed policy of not issuing written instructions for policies relating to what could later be condemned by international community, but made an exception when he provided Bouhler and Brack with written authority for the T4 programme in his confidential letter of October 1939 in order to overcome opposition within the German state bureaucracy. Hitler told Bouhler that, "the Führer's Chancellery must under no circumstances be seen to be active in this matter."[76] The Justice Minister, Franz Gürtner, had to be shown Hitler's letter in August 1940 to gain his cooperation.[77]


In the towns where the killing centres were located, many people saw the inmates arrive in buses, saw the smoke from the crematoria chimneys and noticed that the buses were returning empty. In Hadamar, ashes containing human hair rained down on the town. The T4 programme was no secret. Despite the strictest orders, some of the staff at the killing centres talked about what was going on. In some cases families could tell that the causes of death in certificates were false, e.g. when a patient was claimed to have died of appendicitis, even though his appendix had been surgically removed some years earlier. In other cases, several families in the same town would receive death certificates on the same day.[101] In May 1941, the Frankfurt County Court wrote to Gürtner describing scenes in Hadamar where children shouted in the streets that people were being taken away in buses to be gassed.[102]

Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt in 1920

During 1940, rumours of what was taking place spread and many Germans withdrew their relatives from asylums and sanatoria to care for them at home, often with great expense and difficulty. In some places doctors and psychiatrists co-operated with families to have patients discharged or if the families could afford it, transferred them to private clinics beyond the reach of T4. Other doctors "re-diagnosed" patients so that they no longer met the T4 criteria, which risked exposure when Nazi zealots from Berlin conducted inspections. In Kiel, Professor Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt managed to save nearly all of his patients.[103] Lifton listed a handful of psychiatrists and administrators who opposed the killings; many doctors collaborated, either through ignorance, agreement with Nazi eugenicist policies or fear of the regime.[103]

Protest letters were sent to the Reich Chancellery and the Ministry of Justice, some from Nazi Party members. The first open protest against the removal of people from asylums took place at Absberg in Franconia in February 1941 and others followed. The SD report on the incident at Absberg noted that "the removal of residents from the Ottilien Home has caused a great deal of unpleasantness" and described large crowds of Catholic townspeople, among them Party members, protesting against the action.[104] Similar petitions and protests occurred throughout Austria as rumors spread of mass killings at the Hartheim Euthanasia Centre and of mysterious deaths at the children's clinic, Am Spiegelgrund in Vienna. Anna Wödl, a nurse and mother of child with a disability, vehemently petitioned to Hermann Linden at the Reich Ministry of the Interior in Berlin to prevent her son, Alfred, from being transferred from Gugging, where he lived and which also became a euthanasia center. Wödl failed and Alfred was sent to Am Spiegelgrund, where he was killed on 22 February 1941. His brain was preserved in formaldehyde for "research" and stored in the clinic for sixty years.[105]

Church protests

The Lutheran theologian Friedrich von Bodelschwingh (director of the Bethel Institution for Epilepsy at Bielefeld) and Pastor Paul-Gerhard Braune (director of the Hoffnungstal Institution near Berlin) protested. Bodelschwingh negotiated directly with Brandt and indirectly with Hermann Göring, whose cousin was a prominent psychiatrist. Braune had meetings with Justice Minister Gürtner, who was always dubious about the legality of the programme. Gürtner later wrote a strongly worded letter to Hitler protesting against it; Hitler did not read it but was told about it by Lammers.[106] Bishop Theophil Wurm, presiding the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg, wrote to Interior Minister Frick in March 1940 and the same month a confidential report from the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in Austria, warned that the killing programme must be implemented with stealth "in order to avoid a probable backlash of public opinion during the war".[107] On 4 December 1940, Reinhold Sautter, the Supreme Church Councillor of the Württemberg State Church, complained to the Nazi Ministerial Councillor Eugen Stähle for the murders in Grafeneck Castle. Stahle said "The fifth commandment Thou shalt not kill, is no commandment of God but a Jewish invention".[108]

Bishop Heinrich Wienken of Berlin, a leading member of the Caritas Association, was selected by the Fulda episcopal synod to represent the views of the Catholic Church in meetings with T4 operatives. In 2008, Michael Burleigh wrote

August von Galen

Wienken seems to have gone partially native in the sense that he gradually abandoned an absolute stance based on the Fifth Commandment in favour of winning limited concessions regarding the restriction of killing to 'complete idiots', access to the sacraments and the exclusion of ill Roman Catholic priests from these policies.[109]

Despite a decree issued by the Vatican on 2 December 1940 stating that the T4 policy was "against natural and positive Divine law" and that "The direct killing of an innocent person because of mental or physical defects is not allowed", the Catholic Church hierarchy in Germany decided to take no further action. Incensed by the Nazi appropriation of Church property in Münster to accommodate people made homeless by an air raid, in July and August 1941 the Bishop of Münster, August von Galen, gave four sermons criticizing the Nazis for arresting Jesuits, confiscating church property and for the euthanasia program.[110][111] Galen sent the text to Hitler by telegram, calling on

... the Führer to defend the people against the Gestapo. It is a terrible, unjust and catastrophic thing when man opposes his will to the will of God ... We are talking about men and women, our compatriots, our brothers and sisters. Poor unproductive people if you wish, but does this mean that they have lost their right to live?[112]

Galen's sermons were not reported in the German press but were circulated illegally as leaflets. The text was dropped by the Royal Air Force over German troops.[15][113] In 2009, Richard J. Evans wrote that "This was the strongest, most explicit and most widespread protest movement against any policy since the beginning of the Third Reich".[16] Local Nazis asked for Galen to be arrested but Goebbels told Hitler that such action would provoke a revolt in Westphalia and Hitler decided to wait until after the war to take revenge.[114][15]

A plaque set in the pavement at No 4 Tiergartenstraße commemorates the victims of the Nazi euthanasia programme.

Commemorative plaque on wall on bunker No. 17 in Fort VII.

In 1986, Lifton wrote, "Nazi leaders faced the prospect of either having to imprison prominent, highly admired clergymen and other protesters – a course with consequences in terms of adverse public reaction they greatly feared – or else end the programme".[115] Evans considered it "at least possible, even indeed probable" that the T4 programme would have continued beyond Hitler's initial quota of 70,000 deaths but for the public reaction to Galen's sermon.[116] Burleigh called assumptions that the sermon affected Hitler's decision to suspend the T4 program "wishful thinking" and noted that the various Church hierarchies did not complain after the transfer of T4 personnel to Aktion Reinhard.[117] Henry Friedlander wrote that it was not the criticism from the Church but rather the loss of secrecy and "general popular disquiet about the way euthanasia was implemented" that caused the killing to be suspended.[118]

Galen had detailed knowledge of the euthanasia program by July 1940 but did not speak out until almost a year after Protestants had begun to protest. In 2002, Beth A. Griech-Polelle wrote that,

Worried lest they be classified as outsiders or internal enemies, they waited for Protestants, that is the "true Germans", to risk a confrontation with the government first. If the Protestants were able to be critical of a Nazi policy, then Catholics could function as "good" Germans and yet be critical too.[119]

On 29 June 1943, Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Mystici corporis Christi, in which he condemned the fact that "physically deformed people, mentally disturbed people and hereditarily ill people have at times been robbed of their lives" in Germany. Following this, in September 1943, a bold but ineffectual condemnation was read by bishops from pulpits across Germany, denouncing the killing of "the innocent and defenceless mentally handicapped and mentally ill, the incurably infirm and fatally wounded, innocent hostages and disarmed prisoners of war and criminal offenders, people of a foreign race or descent".[120]
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Suspension of T4 killings

On 24 August 1941, Hitler ordered the suspension of the T4 killings. After the invasion of the Soviet Union in June, many T4 personnel were transferred to the east to begin work on the final solution to the Jewish question. The projected death total for the T4 program of 70,000 deaths had been reached by August 1941.[121] The termination of the T4 programme did not end the killing of people with disabilities; from the end of 1941, the killing of adults and children continued less systematically to the end of the war on the local initiative of institute directors and party leaders. After the bombing of Hamburg in July 1943, occupants of old age homes were killed. In the post-war trial of Dr. Hilda Wernicke, Berlin, August, 1946, testimony was given that "500 old, broken women" who had survived the bombing of Stettin in June 1944 were euthanized at the Meseritz-Oberwalde Asylum.[122] The Hartheim, Bernberg, Sonnenstein and Hardamar centres continued in use as "wild euthanasia" centres to kill people sent from all over Germany, until 1945.[121] The methods were lethal injection or starvation, those employed before use of gas chambers.[123] By the end of 1941, about 100,000 people had been killed in the T4 programme.[124] From mid-1941, concentration camp prisoners too feeble or too much trouble to keep alive were murdered after a cursory psychiatric examination under Action 14f13.[125]


Doctors' trial

After the war a series of trials was held in connection with the Nazi euthanasia programme at various places including: Dresden, Frankfurt, Graz, Nuremberg and Tübingen. In December 1946 an American military tribunal (commonly called the Doctors' trial) prosecuted 23 doctors and administrators for their roles in war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes included the systematic killing of those deemed "unworthy of life", including people with mental disabilities, the people who were institutionalized mentally ill, and people with physical impairments. After 140 days of proceedings, including the testimony of 85 witnesses and the submission of 1,500 documents, in August 1947 the court pronounced 16 of the defendants guilty. Seven were sentenced to death and executed on 2 June 1948, including Brandt and Brack.

The indictment read in part:

14. Between September 1939 and April 1945 the defendants Karl Brandt, Blome, Brack, and Hoven unlawfully, wilfully, and knowingly committed crimes against humanity, as defined by Article II of Control Council Law No. 10, in that they were principals in, accessories to, ordered, abetted, took a consenting part in, and were connected with plans and enterprises involving the execution of the so called "euthanasia" program of the German Reich, in the course of which the defendants herein murdered hundreds of thousands of human beings, including German civilians, as well as civilians of other nations. The particulars concerning such murders are set forth in paragraph 9 of count two of this indictment and are incorporated herein by reference.

— International Military Tribunal[126]

Earlier, in 1945, American forces tried seven staff members of the Hadamar killing centre for the killing of Soviet and Polish nationals, which was within their jurisdiction under international law, as these were the citizens of wartime allies. (Hadamar was within the American Zone of Occupation in Germany. This was before the Allied resolution of December 1945, to prosecute individuals for "crimes against humanity" for such mass atrocities.) Alfons Klein, Karl Ruoff and Wilhelm Willig were sentenced to death and executed; the other four were given long prison sentences.[127] In 1946, newly reconstructed German courts tried members of the Hadamar staff for the murders of nearly 15,000 German citizens at the facility. Adolf Wahlmann and Irmgard Huber, the chief physician and the head nurse, were convicted.

Other perpetrators

Aktion T4 marker (2009) in Berlin

• August Becker, initially sentenced to three years after the war, in 1960 was tried again and sentenced to ten years in prison. He was released early due to ill health and died in 1967.[128]
• Werner Blankenburg lived under an alias and died in 1957.[129]
• Philipp Bouhler committed suicide in captivity, May 1945.[129]
• Werner Catel was cleared by a denazification board after World War II and was head of pediatrics at the University of Kiel.[130] He retired early after his role in the T4 program was exposed but continued to support the killing of children with mental and physical disabilities.[131]
• Leonardo Conti hanged himself in captivity, 6 October 1945.[132]
• Dr. Ernst-Robert Grawitz killed himself shortly before the fall of Berlin in April 1945.[133]
• Dr. Herbert Linden committed suicide in 1945. Overseers of the program were initially Herbert Linden and Werner Heyde. Linden was later replaced by Hermann Paul Nitsche.[134]
• Dr. Fritz Cropp d. 6 April 1984, Bremen. A Nazi official in Oldenburg, Cropp was appointed the country medical officer of health in 1933. In 1935 he transferred to Berlin, where he worked as a ministerial adviser in the Division IV (health care and people care) in the Ministry of the Interior. In 1939, he became Assistant Director; Cropp was involved in the Nazi "euthanasia" Aktion T4 in 1940. He was Herbert Linden's superior and was responsible for patient transfers.[135]
• Dr. Werner Heyde[125] after escaping detection for 18 years, killed himself in 1964 before being brought to trial.
• Dr. Heinrich Gross was tried twice. One sentence was overturned and the charges in the second trial in 2000 were dropped as a result of his dementia; he died in 2005.[136]
• Lorenz Hackenholt vanished in 1945.[137]
• Erich Koch served time in prison from 1950 to his death in 1986.[138]
• Erwin Lambert died in 1976.[137]
• Dr. Friedrich Mennecke died in 1947 while awaiting trial.[139]
• Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse, the governor of Hesse-Nassau, was tried in 1947 at Hadamar for his role in Aktion T4 but was sentenced only to two years' "time served"; he died in 1980.[140]

Aktion T4 memorial at Tiergartenstraße 4, Berlin

• Paul Nitsche was tried and executed by an East German court in 1948.[141]
• Professor Carl Schneider hanged himself in his prison cell in 1946, while awaiting trial.[142]
• Franz Schwede was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1948 and was released in 1956; he died in 1960.[143]
• Dr. Ernst Illing was the director of the Vienna Psychiatric-Neurological Clinic for Children Am Spielgrund, where he killed about 200 children; sentenced to death on 18 July 1946.[144]
• Dr. Marianne Türk was a doctor at Vienna Psychiatric-Neurological Clinic for Children Am Spielgrund where, with Ernst Illing, she killed 200 children. She was sentenced to 10 years prison on 18 July 1946.[144]

The Ministry for State Security of East Germany stored around 30,000 files of Aktion T4 in their archives. Those files became available to the public only after the German Reunification in 1990, leading to a new wave of research on these wartime crimes.[145]


The German national memorial to the people with disabilities murdered by the Nazis was dedicated in 2014 in Berlin.[146][147] It is located in the pavement of a site next to the Tiergarten park, the location of the former villa at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin, where more than 60 Nazi bureaucrats and doctors worked in secret under the "T4" program to organize the mass murder of sanatorium and psychiatric hospital patients deemed unworthy to live.[147]

See also

• Nazi doctors (list)
• Nazi eugenics, the racially based social policies that placed the improvement of the Aryan race at the heart of Nazis ideology.
• Nazi medical experimentation
• Operation Reinhard, men of Aktion T4 provided expertise for building the extermination camps during the Holocaust.
• Aktion 14f13 (1941–44), a Nazi extermination operation that killed prisoners who were sick, elderly, or deemed no longer fit for work
• Racial hygiene
• T4-Gutachter experts selecting victims killed by gas in "euthanasia" centers
• Ich klage an, Nazi pro-euthanasia propaganda film
• Life unworthy of life

Killing centers

• Am Spiegelgrund clinic
• Bernburg Euthanasia Centre
• Brandenburg Euthanasia Centre
• Grafeneck Euthanasia Centre
• Hadamar Euthanasia Centre
• Hartheim Euthanasia Centre
• Soldau concentration camp
• Sonnenstein Euthanasia Centre
• Jewish skeleton collection
• Nazi euthanasia and the Catholic Church


1. As many as 100,000 people may have been killed directly as part of Action T-4. Mass euthanasia killings were also carried out in the Eastern European countries and territories Nazi Germany conquered during the war. Categories are fluid, and no definitive figure can be assigned but historians put the total number of victims at around 300,000.[3]
2. Sandner wrote that the term Aktion T4 was first used in post-war trials against doctors involved in the killings and later included in the historiography.[4]
3. Tiergartenstraße 4 was the location of the Central Office and administrative headquarters of the Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Heil- und Anstalts- pflege (Charitable Foundation for Curative and Institutional Care).[7]
4. Notes on patient records from the archive "R 179" of the Chancellery of the Führer Main Office II b. Between 1939 and 1945, about 200,000 women, men and children in psychiatric institutions of the German Reich were killed in covert actions by gas, medication or starvation. Original: Zwischen 1939 und 1945 wurden ca. 200.000 Frauen, Männer und Kinder aus psychiatrischen Einrichtungen des Deutschen Reichs im mehreren verdeckten Aktionen durch Vergasung, Medikamente oder unzureichende Ernährung ermordet.[13]
5. Robert Lifton and Michael Burleigh estimated that twice the official number of T4 victims may have perished before the end of the war.[21][page needed][19] Ryan and Schurman gave an estimated range of 200,000 and 250,000 victims of the policy upon the arrival of Allied troops in Germany.[22]
6. [24]
7. This was the result either of club foot or osteomyelitis. Goebbels is commonly said to have had club foot (talipes equinovarus), a congenital condition. William L. Shirer, who worked in Berlin as a journalist in the 1930s and was acquainted with Goebbels, wrote in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960) that the deformity was from a childhood attack of osteomyelitis and a failed operation to correct it.[34]
8. Robert Lifton wrote that this request was "encouraged"; the severely disabled child and the agreement of the parents to his killing were apparently genuine.[40]
9. Professors Werner Catel (a Leipzig psychiatrist) and Hans Heinze, head of a state institution for children with intellectual disabilities at Görden near Brandenburg; Ernst Wentzler a Berlin pediatric psychiatrist and the author Dr. Helmut Unger.[61]
10. Lifton concurs with this figure, but notes that the killing of children continued after the T4 programme was formally ended in 1941.[66]
11. The second phase of Operation Tannenberg referred to as the Unternehmen Tannenberg by Heydrich's Sonderreferat began in late 1939 under the codename Intelligenzaktion and lasted until January 1940, in which 36,000–42,000 people, including Polish children, died before the end of 1939 in Pomerania.[70]
12. Several drafts of a formal euthanasia law were prepared but Hitler refused to authorise them. The senior participants in the programme always knew that it was not a law, even by the loose definition of legality prevailing in Nazi Germany.[75]
13. According to Lifton, most Jewish inmates of German mental institutions were dispatched to Lublin in Poland in 1940 and killed there.[82]
14. These figures come from the article Aktion T4 on the German Wikipedia, which sources them to Ernst Klee.[89]
15. Role of T4 "Inspector" Christian Wirth in the Holocaust.[98]


1. "Exhibition catalogue in German and English" (PDF). Berlin, Germany: Memorial for the Victims of National Socialist ›Euthanasia‹ Killings. 2018.
2. "Euthanasia Program" (PDF). Yad Vashem. 2018.
3. Chase, Jefferson (26 January 2017). "Remembering the 'forgotten victims' of Nazi 'euthanasia' murders". Deutsche Welle.
4. Sandner 1999, p. 385.
5. Hojan & Munro 2015.
6. Bialas & Fritze 2014, pp. 263, 281.
7. Sereny 1983, p. 48.
8. Proctor 1988, p. 177.
9. Longerich 2010, p. 477.
10. Browning 2005, p. 193.
11. Proctor 1988, p. 191.
12. German Federal Archive (2013). "Euthanasia in the Third Reich"[Euthanasie im Dritten Reich]. Bundesarchiv. German Federal Archive.
13. German Federal Archive (2013). "Euthanasia in the Third Reich"[Euthanasie im Dritten Reich]. Bundesarchiv. German Federal Archive.
14. Evans 2009, p. 107.
15. Burleigh 2008, p. 262.
16. Evans 2009, p. 98.
17. Burleigh & Wippermann 2014.
18. Adams 1990, pp. 40, 84, 191.
19. Lifton 1986, p. 142.
20. Ryan & Schuchman 2002, pp. 25, 62.
21. Burleigh 1995.
22. Ryan & Schuchman 2002, p. 62.
23. Lifton 2000, p. 102.
24. "Sources on the History of the "Euthanasia" crimes 1939–1945 in German and Austrian Archives"[Quellen zur Geschichte der “Euthanasie”-Verbrechen 1939–1945 in deutschen und österreichischen Archiven] (PDF). Bundesarchiv. 2018.
25. Hansen & King 2013, p. 141.
26. Hitler, p. 447.
27. Padfield 1990, p. 260.
28. Evans 2005, pp. 507–508.
29. "Forced Sterilization". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
30. Engstrom, Weber & Burgmair 2006, p. 1710.
31. Joseph 2004, p. 160.
32. Bleuler 1924, p. 214.
33. Read 2004, p. 36.
34. Shirer 1960, p. 124.
35. Evans 2005, p. 508.
36. Miller 2006, p. 160.
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130. "Professor Werner Catel: Die Medizinische Fakultät" [Enmeshed in the Nazi Euthanasia Program: The Physician Werner Catel] (in German). University of Kiel. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
131. "Werner Catel (1894–1981)". Memorial and Information Point for the victims of the National Socialist »euthanasia« killings. 10 August 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
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134. Sandner, Peter (2003). Verwaltung des Krankenmordes [Administration of Suicides]. Historische Schriftenreihe Des Landeswohlfahrtsverbandes Hes (in German). 2. Gießen: Psychosozial. p. 395. ISBN 3-89806-320-8.
135. Hilberg 2003, p. 1,003.
136. Martens, D. (2004). "Unfit to live". Canadian Medical Association Journal. Canadian Medical Association. 171 (6): 619–620. doi:10.1503/cmaj.1041335.
137. Berenbaum & Peck 2002, p. 247.
138. Hilberg 2003, p. 1,182.
139. Chroust, Peter, ed. (1988). Friedrich Mennecke. Innenansichten eines medizinischen Täters im Nationalsozialismus. Eine Edition seiner Briefe 1935–1947 [Friedrich Mennecke. Interior Views of a Medical Offender in National Socialism: An Edition of his Letters 1935-1947]. Hamburger Instituts für Sozialforschung. p. 8f. ISBN 3-926736-01-1.
140. Petropoulos, Jonathan (2009). Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 67. ISBN 0199212783.
141. Böhm, B. (2012). "Paul Nitsche – Reformpsychiater und Hauptakteur der NS-"Euthanasie"". Der Nervenarzt. Springer-Verlag. 83 (3): 293–302. doi:10.1007/s00115-011-3389-1.
142. L Singer (3 December 1998). "Ideology and ethics. The perversion of German psychiatrists' ethics by the ideology of national socialism". European Psychiatry. Elsevier SAS. 13(Supplement 3): 87, 92. doi:10.1016/S0924-9338(98)80038-2. PMID 19698678. Carl Schneider committed suicide by hanging after his arrest...(subscription required)
143. Nöth, Stefan (1 May 2004). "Antisemitismus". Voraus zur Unzeit. Coburg und der Aufstieg des Nationalsozialismus in Deutschland (in German). Initiative Stadtmuseum Coburg. p. 82. ISBN 9783980800631.
144. Totten & Parsons 2009, p. 181.
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Further reading


• Bachrach, Susan D; Kuntz, Dieter (2004). Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington D.C.: University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC. ISBN 978-0-8078-2916-5.
• Benzenhöfer, Udo (2010). Euthanasia in Germany Before and During the Third Reich. Münster/Ulm: Verlag Klemm & Oelschläger. ISBN 978-3-86281-001-7.
• Binding, K.; Hoche, A. (1920). Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens: Ihr Mass u. ihre Form [The Release of the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life: Their Mass and Shape]. Leipzig: Meiner. OCLC 72022317.
• Burleigh, M.; Wippermann, W. (1991). The Racial State: Germany 1933–1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-39114-6.
• Burleigh, M. (1997). Ethics and Extermination: Reflections on Nazi Genocide. Part II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 113–152. ISBN 978-0-521-58211-7.
• Burleigh, M. (2001) [2000]. "Medicalized Mass Murder". The Third Reich: A New History (pbk. Pan ed.). London: Macmillan. pp. 382–404. ISBN 978-0-330-48757-3.
• Friedlander, Henry (1995). The Origins of Nazi Genocide. From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-2208-1.
• Klee, Ernst (1986). Was sie taten. Was sie wurden: Ärzte, Juristen und andere Beteiligte am Kranken- oder Judenmord [What They Did. What They Became: Doctors, Lawyers and other Partners in the Murder of the Ill and Jews] (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch. ISBN 978-3-596-24364-8.
• Klee, Ernst; Cropp, Fritz (2005). Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Fischer Taschenbücher. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-596-16048-8.
• Ley, Astrid; Hinz-Wessels, Annette (eds.). The "Euthanasia Institution" of Brandenburg an der Havel: Murder of the Ill and Handicapped during National Socialism. Schriftenreihe der Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten. 35. Berlin: Metropol. ISBN 978-3-86331-086-8.
• Werthman, Fredric (1967). A Sign for Cain. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-02-625970-5.


• Ost, Suzanne (April 2006). "Doctors and Nurses of Death: A Case Study of Eugenically Motivated Killing under the Nazi 'Euthanasia' Programme". The Liverpool Law Review. 27 (1): 5–30. doi:10.1007/s10991-005-5345-2. ISSN 0144-932X. PMID 17340766.


• Webb, Chris (2009). "Otwock & the Zofiowka Sanatorium: A Refuge from Hell". Holocaust Research Project. Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011 – via Internet Archive.

External links

• Website with photo of Philipp Bouhler and facsimile of Hitler's letter to Bouhler and Brandt authorising the T4 programme
• United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Final Solutions: Murderous Racial Hygiene 1939–1945
• United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Euthanasia programme
• Nazis euthanasia files made public by the BMJ/British Medical Association: files relating to the 200,000 euthanasia crimes
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