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Hannah Mount
Professor Kleinmann
TRS 225 01
30 March, 2016
Euthanasia in Nazi Germany
Human life is priceless yet very expensive to maintain and in
hard economic times, life can be seen as a luxury. In the 1920s
Germany was facing extreme economic hardship due to the outcome
of World War I. Under this pretext the idea was proposed that life costs
money and the killing of useless lives (the sick and disabled) would
save money. This was not just a post-war idea; during World War I
patients in asylums were very low on the list to receive food and
medical supplies. For decades the only lives that were deemed worth
saving were healthy Aryan ones and everyone else was viewed as a
financial burden.
In October of 1939 Hitler ordered the implementation of Aktion
T-4, the Nazi euthanasia program meant to terminate life unworthy
of life but commonly referred to as mercy deaths. The code name
Aktion T-4 was a reference to the address of the Berlin Chancellery
offices where the base was for the program, Tiergarten Strasse 4. In an
attempt to make the connection between the war effort and these
mercy deaths obvious to the public, the date that Hitler put this

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project into effect was falsified and September 1, 1939 was picked to
line up with the German invasion of Poland.
At first the program was targeted towards infants and children up
to the age of three. Questionnaires from the Reich Health Ministry were
given to doctors and midwives that they would use to assess children
for mental illnesses, physical deformities, and various other symptoms
that could make a child unfit for life. Then the questionnaires were sent
to three medical experts and, without ever physically seeing the child
or their medical history, they would decide whether they got to live or
not. Each expert would place a red + or blue - under the section of
the form labeled treatment. A red + meant death and a blue -
meant life and if each expert gave the child a +, a euthanasia
warrant was issued. The child would then be killed by lethal injection or
starvation, but the decision to kill had to be unanimous or the child
would be kept and observed until a unanimous decision could be
Physicians were the most Nazified group in Germany. Three
of the main organizers of T-4 were Dr. Karl Brandt (one of Hitlers
personal physicians), Philip Bouhler (Hitlers Chancellery Chief), and Dr.
Werner Heyde (psychiatric consultant to the Gestapo). German
physicians were not puppets to Hitler and the Nazi regime, they were
active participants helping initiate these inhumane practices. In the
beginning, death was by lethal injection but in 1940, Dr. Werner Heyde

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suggested a new preferred means of killing, carbon monoxide gas.
Gassing had first been used at the Brandenburg Prison in 1939. At
Brandenburg, the gas chambers were disguised as showers, complete
with faux showerheads. After death the bodies were cremated, and
these practices were later utilized in the extermination camps.
Physicians would forge death certificates with fake names and causes
of death and letters of condolences to be sent to relatives of the