Icon by Jorge MurielThe Euthanasia Programs

Euthanasia, otherwise known as "mercy killings", is the terminating of ones' life because of an illness; and if this person was not able to make the decision for themselves, the decision was done by a relative. When the Nazis got hold of euthanasia, they turned the meaning into the "destruction of worthless life." If they did not see you fit, or of use to them, they would terminate you. The idea of the "destruction of worthless life" did not first come from Hitler and his Nazi party, it came from a man named Professor Karl Binding. He wrote his views and ideas in his book entitled Permission for the Destruction of Worthless Life, Its Extent and Form, which was published around the 1920's. In his book, he writes about 'living burdens', that translates into German as Ballastexistenzen. According to Binding three certain groups should be killed. The first group being those who had eventually painful terminating illnesses. The second group was the "incurable lunatics", in other words, those in mental institutions, because of the fact that they were too expensive to take care of. Finally, the last group of people were those through certain circumstances lose their "consciousness" (Binding).
Handicapped prisoners photographed for propaganda

Handicapped prisoners photographed for propaganda purposes. Photo from USHMM Archives.


Hitler in order to justify euthanasia, gave it a Darwinist Twist. "Since human life was a struggle for the survival of the fittest, then 'performance' had to be an essential requirement for all its citizens."

Hitler complete warrant for his "mercy killings" when a man, whose last name was Knaurer, sent a letter, pleading with him asking that he terminate the life of a child that was suffering because of certain deformities and mental problems. Here, Hitler seized the chance, and called upon Dr. Brandt to take charge of this "mercy killing".

The 'Euthanasia' Program for Children

Hitler organized in 1933, a top secret committee, called the KdF, Kanzlei des Führer, to head this program. the two main leaders of this committee were Bouhler, and Dr. Hefelmann. In order to disguise the KdF, they came up with a fictitious committee called "The Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious Hereditarily and Genetically Based Illnesses" in short it was known as the "Reich Committee." maternity homes were established for all women. The mid-wives were instructed to inform the KdF, all those who were born with problems. Problems such as deformities, paralysis, idiocy, and much more. there were three officials involved with the decision making, of whether a child was fit to live or die. These men were Prof. Hans Heinze, Prof. Werner Catel, and Dr. Ernst Wentzler. they would place a "+" sign if the child was condemned to die, a "-" sign if the child was allowed to live.


Jewish children during "medical experiments" performed on them by Nazi doctors.


If they were not certain, they would write observational. The parents of the children were told that their children were going to be taken to help them get better, and if the parents of the child did not want them to take their child away, they would question their validity as parents. They would talk about maybe placing them in other homes, with other guardians. In these facilities, the children were given regular medicine , but in an overdose matter that would cause the children to develop pneumonia, and die from it. Then the records showed that the child died of natural causes. Also, they were used for chemical experimental testing. The SS, Gestapo, and the police provided most of the medicine needed. In the beginning of this program the ages which these experiments were going on were from 1-3 years of age. Then it progressed to 1-5 and more, until it reached the teens. Due to the fact that a great number of records were lost, it was said that 5,200 children were killed through this program, but it is more likely,there were a higher number of them killed.

The 'Euthanasia' Program for Adults

The 'euthanasia' program for adults started in 1939, under the direction of Dr. Leonardo Conti. It was demanded that all the patients in asylums, such as hospitals and mental institutions, be reported to the Reich Interior Ministry. Especially those who suffered from such diseases as Huntington's, Chorea, paralysis, epilepsy, and schizophrenia, just to name a few. Just as the children, the adults were given symbols to determine their fate. a red "+" was for a patient the was condemned to die. The blue "-" means that they are being allowed to live. And those who were indecisive, they would give you a "Z" or a "?". The Fuhrer's Chancellery would meet just to see and discuss what kinds of doses would be deadly. They talked over about morphine, scopolamine, prussic acid, and carbon monoxide. Gassing the people was one of the most destructive plans they came up with . At a time one could kill and would kill 150 people at one shot by gassing them. as mentioned before, 100,000 people were said to have gone through this program and were killed, but a lot of records were destroyed. therefore there is not an accurate total. Also taking in consideration that even after the war ended they still kept on practicing this for a little while longer.