When you think T4, you think thyroid test. It also has a much darker meaning. This program was called Aktoin T4 program or the T4 Program. T4 stands for Tiergartenstrasse 4. This was the Nazi’s effort, disguised as a euthanasia program, to kill ill, mentally disabled, physically disabled, “emotionally distraught” and elderly people. The word euthanasia means good death. Adolf Hitler started the program in 1939. It officially ended in 1941 but did not really stop until Nazis were defeated in 1945. This was Nazi Germany’s first program of mass killings. They wanted to restore the racial “integrity” of Germany.
During October 1939, Hitler authorized his personal doctor and the chief of the chancellor of the Fuhrer to kill people “unworthy of life.” This order was backdated to September 1, 1939. This was the day World War II started. This was to make it appear it was a war time action. Dr. Karl Brandt adn Chancellory Chief Philipp Bouhler were “charged with responsibility for expanding the authority of physicians . . . so that patients considered incurable, according to the best available human judgement of their state of health, can be granted a mercy killing.”
|Nazi Dr. Karl Brandt|
In the first few months of the T4 program, it involved the entire German psychiatric community. A new agency was created. It was headed by physicians. A mandate was established to kill anyone who has a “life unworthy of living.” Some of these physicians were active in the study in eugenics. They saw this as “applied biology.” The Nazi regime was on board with this with enthusiasm.
To be included in the program, it did not only include genetic conditions. One requirement was if the person was a financial burden. The victims of this program were referred to as “burdensome lives” and “useless eaters.”
In the spring and summer months of 1939, the T4 program’s directors ordered a survey of all mental health institutions, hospitals, and homes for patients who were chronically ill. These conditions included schizophrenia, epilepsy, dementia, encephalitis, other chronic psychiatric or neurological disorders, not ethnically German, “criminally insane” or with criminal history, and those who have been institutionalized for five years or longer. This also included disabled children. Medical experts reviewed the forms sent to T4. This happened throughout all of Germany. They did not go over the patients medical records. By this they decided who would live or die.
|Hitler’s authorization for the Euthanasia program|
How were they killed? At first it was starvation and lethal injection. Later during the program, they chose poisonous gas. They preferred this method. They liked the gas chambers disguised as showers. The gas was provided by pharmacists.
|Inside of a gas chamber in 2000|
The administrators of this program built six killing centers in Germany and Austria. They were called Hartheim, Sonnenstein, Grafeneck, Bernburg, HAdamar and Bradenburg. The Nazi Military (SS) were responsible for transport. They wore white lab coats to keep the image of the victims going for a medical procedure. The program staff informed the familues of their loved ones being transferred to the killing centers. Visits were not permitted. After they were killed, the families received sympathy letters, forged death certificates which were signed by doctors and urns containing ashes.
Buses used to transport patients from the Eichberg hospital near Wiesbaden to Hadamar euthanasia center. The windows were painted to prevent people from seeing those inside. Germany, between May and September 1941.
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|Buses that were used to transport patients from Eichberg Hospital to Hadamar|
There were some physicians who protested. Some did refuse to fill out the forms. The catholic church protested the mercy killings when they did nothing when they found out that Jews were being murdered for being Jewish. Count Clemens August von Galen, the bishop of Muster, openly protested this and argued that it was the duty of Christians to oppose the taking of human life, even if it meant risking their own lives.
|Hadamar Death Register|
|Inside of a crematorium photo taken in year 2000|
|Outside of a crematorium. Photo taken in 2000.|
Training doctors to be killers took time and a charade of scientific justification. When the Nazis were in power, the Bavarian minister of health said that psychopaths and the “mentally retarded” and other “inferior” people to be killed. Since they had this policy at concentration camps, they authorized this in about one year. They did this by ordered negligence by withholding food and medical treatment.
On August 24, 1941 the program appeared to stop. The program was underground and continued in secret for the remainder of the war. In the first two years, 70,000 people were killed. The program ended when the Nazis were defeated. The program killed a total of 200,000 or more. There is a theory that this program was concurrent with the escalation of the Holocaust (Shoah). This was part of Hitler’s “final solution.”
This is a very dark part of our history and it must not be forgotten. This is the very definition of ethnic cleansing. As us Jewish people say “Never forgive. Never forget”
Photos from my March of the Living Trip