Persecution Of Disabled People In Nazi Germany


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  • Thank you so much you helped me heaps with my essay
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  • my names zoe (:
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  • Zoe, I swore I had commented on this weeks ago! I think I typed it on word and forgot to put it on here. Oops!

    I have continually been amazed by fact, ever since this fellowship began. And, Zoe, viewing this presentation was no exception! I learned so much.

    First of all, I had an image in my mind that the Nazis just entered mental institutions and grabbed people who they deemed 'unworthy of life.' I had not known that personal doctors could make recommendations. How betrayed I might feel; how disillusioned I would be if my doctor reported by deafness as a reason for me to die! They were DOCTORS!

    And I am so bewildered that any man (Knauer) would ever request that his child be killed. This just seems utterly inhuman to me. Also, I was shocked by how the Nazi’s treated children’s lives so lightly.

    The fact that there were target figures for death is especially unsettling. I had not known that the Nazis had been so calculating, so mathematical in executing their plan: one fifth is a significant fraction. It goes to show the extent to which the Nazis utterly dehumanized the people they targeted.

    And the last quote is chilling, yet gushing with warm tears.
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  • I found myself re-reading the definition you gave for the Eugenics movement because I hadn't separated it in my mind as pertaining to that movement. Rather, Eugenics and Disability In the early 1900s, the eugenics movement the viewing of others as “subnormal, immoral, and criminal as well as a burden to society and a treat to civilization' sounds like how any perpetrator views their victim in a genocide.

    To find anyone 'unworthy of life' as Hitler's physician did the baby is quite a claim to make.

    I appreciate your closing quote about dehumanization because it speaks not only to the fact that perpetrators dehumanize their victims, but they the perpetrators are dehumanized and animalistic in the process.

    Thanks, Zoe. This was really easy to follow and very informative about something we don't hear much about!
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  • Zoe,

    This presentation is extremely well-crafted and well-researched. I will admit that it was very disturbing to learn about this horrible aspect of the Holocaust--and, unfortunately, just as Liat discussed, a highly under-observed aspect as well.

    It is interesting to observe how what initially started out as forced sterilization soon evolved into a sickening abuse of eugenics theory, particularly with the case of the baby and whether or not it should be allowed to live. In essence this abuse of the disabled can serve, in a sense, as a representation of the overall crimes of the Nazi regime against those they felt to be 'lesser' beings: Jews, disabled, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses, the list goes on.

    It is a shame that the larger public perception of the Holocaust does not more often include and disabled adults and children, not to mention homosexuals as well (whom I am currently reading about in 'The Men With The Pink Triangle').
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Persecution Of Disabled People In Nazi Germany

  1. 1. Persecution of Disabled People in Nazi Germany Zoe Gross
  2. 2. Eugenics and Disability <ul><li>In the early 1900s, the eugenics movement gained popularity in many Western countries, including Germany and the United States. Eugenicists viewed the disabled as “subnormal, immoral, and criminal as well as a burden to society and a treat to civilization.” This view of disabled people made sense to many Germans at the time. Although there was a well-established disabled culture in Germany prior to the Nazi era, disabled people occupied “stigmatized, isolated, and marginalized” place in German society. (The same can be said for their place in other Western countries at that time.) </li></ul>
  3. 3. Sterilization <ul><li>On July 14, 1933, the Nazi government passes a new law: people who are “hereditarily ill” must be compulsively sterilized. In this definition, the Nazis include anyone affected by “congenital feeble-mindedness”; schizophrenia; manic depression; hereditary epilepsy, blindness, or deafness; Huntington’s disease; “serious physical deformities”; or chronic alcoholism. This law was based on the idea that all of these conditions are genetic and that these genes cannot be allowed to pass on. </li></ul><ul><li>The text of the law stated: “Whereas the hereditarily healthy families have for the most part adopted a policy of having only one or two children, countless numbers of inferiors and those suffering from hereditary conditions are reproducing unrestrainedly while their sick and asocial offspring burden the community.” </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>After a doctor recommended a patient be sterilized, the case was reviewed by the Nazi Hereditary Health courts. </li></ul><ul><li>Most scholars agree that over 300,000 people were sterilized during Nazi rule. Available data suggests that most were handicapped. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Euthanasia <ul><li>The term euthanasia traditionally applies to the voluntary assisted suicide of people with painful terminal diseases. However, eugenicists changed the definition to refer to what they considered “life unworthy of life.” The Nazi euthanasia program began with the Knauer case, which took place during the winter of 1938-9. Knauer, a German citizen, wanted his hospitalized baby, born with birth defects, to be killed. He wrote a letter to Hitler asking for his assistance. Hitler sent his physician, Karl Brandt, to assess the child’s worthiness to live. Brandt found the baby unworthy of life, and killed him. </li></ul><ul><li>Hitler then authorized Brandt, and Philipp Bouhler (head of the Chancellery to the Fuhrer) to deal with future letters in the same way. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Brandt and Bouhler then created a committee which investigated children under care of three different pediatricians and decided whether they should live or die. All of this was done under false pretenses of scientific study. The children sentenced to die were then sent to “special clinics” and either injected or starved to death. At least 5, 200 minors were killed in this manner. </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>During the summer of 1939, Hitler gave orders to begin euthanizing adults as well. Another committee was created. This committee’s “experts” assessed forms sent in from German asylums and clinics, and decided who should live and die. They worked based on the guideline that a fifth of patients being treated “in residential form” should be euthanized. Adult victims were loaded onto buses and sent to killing centers, where they were gassed. Ashes were then sent to their relatives, along with fake letters which attributed the cause of death to some sudden, asymptomatic disease. However, due to clerical errors (for example, a family receiving two urns of ashes when they only had one relative in an asylum), the euthanasia program soon became an open secret. </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>On August 24, 1941, Hitler halted the official euthanasia program – most likely because the target figure of deaths had been surpassed. At this point, 93,251 people in total had been killed in the euthanasia program. </li></ul><ul><li>After 1941, euthanasia was decentralized and carried out in asylums themselves, through starvation or lethal injection. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Medical Experimentation <ul><li>At Hartheim, one of the killing centers, disabled people were used in experiments to perfect gassing techniques for later use in concentration camps. “Physicians with stopwatches observed the dying patients through the ‘viewing window’ in the chamber door, and the length of the death process was timed to one-tenth of a second.” They also took slow-motion pictures for later study At killing centers, the victims’ corpses were often mutilated and dissected, with brains and other organs being sold to scientific institutions. Any gold teeth found were melted down for profit. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Treatment in Concentration Camps <ul><li>Disabled prisoners were singled out with special markings, such as an armband which read “Blod” – the German word for feeble-minded. Deaf prisoners wore metal pins saying “deaf and dumb.” Some prisoners were forced to wear signs reading “I am a Moron!” At the camps, disabled people were often selected for medical experimentation. Josef Mengele, a chief physician at Auschwitz, killed and dissected people with dwarfism, sometimes as young as two years old, supposedly “to discover the hereditary causes of dwarfism in order to prevent its occurrence among German offspring.” In 1941, mentally ill, disabled, and sick prisoners were transferred from concentration camps to the killing centers formerly used in the euthanasia program, and gassed there. At least 20,000 people died this way. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>“ For you, the word human is no longer applicable… you are guilty of a crime toward me. You abused me. You had me sterilized, killed and destroyed so I can’t have a child. You did not really understand what a human being is.” </li></ul>
  12. 12. Works Consulted <ul><li>Gellatey, Robert and Stoltzfus, Nathan. Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. </li></ul><ul><li>Burleigh, Michael and Wipperman, Wolfgang. The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945 . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. </li></ul><ul><li>Evans, Suzanne E. Forgotten Crimes: The Holocaust and People With Disabilities. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2004. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Image Sources <ul><li> </li></ul>