dawn of the dead: hitler murders the mentally ill

While looking into the infamous Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany, I unearthed this memo, known as “Action T4.”  Dated 1 Sep 1939, and signed at Berlin by Adolf Hitler, it authorized the euthanasia of those with incurable medical conditions—mainly the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

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

Philipp Bouhler was Hitler’s Chief of Chancellery and an SS officer.  He was captured after the war and committed suicide by cyanide pill on 19 May 1945 while in a U.S. internment camp in Austria.


His colleague Dr. Karl Brandt, a surgeon and SS officer, was tried by a U.S. military tribunal and hanged on 2 Jun 1948 at Landsberg Prison in Bavaria.


Estimates of those euthanized under the program, officially or in secret, range up to 200,000.  The method of death was Carbon Monoxide gas or lethal injection.  Hitler personally approved the use of gas as Brandt suggested it was the most “humane” method of extermination.

The Nazis isolated the mentally ill.  Patients were transported to gassing sites in buses with windows painted black.  The buses were manned by SS personnel wearing white coats to deceive patients into believing they would receive medical services.  Patients were usually euthanized within 24 hours after arrival at a gassing site.

At Hartheim Euthanasia Centre near Linz in Austria, one of six gassing sites, at least 18,269 patients had been euthanized by Aug 1941, using a gas chamber disguised as a shower with a capacity of 150 persons.  The bodies were cremated and the ashes scattered in the confluence of the rivers Danube and Traun at Linz.

(View of Danube River at Linz.  A postcard backdrop for murder.)

“Action T4” was part of an overall “racial hygiene” program intended to purge Aryan society of the weak and undesirable.  The Nazis feared the public would react negatively and deliberately selected the mentally ill and developmentally disabled to inaugurate the program as their unsuitability for life was easily depicted in propaganda.

(Nazi propaganda slide containing photographs of mentally ill and developmentally disabled patients, part of a campaign to prepare the public for the euthanasia program.  The patient at the top is wearing a straitjacket with his arms tied to the bench.  Undoubtedly such shots were staged to make the subjects appear as cretinous as possible.  “Idioten!” is German for “Idiot!”)

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

The physically and mentally handicapped were viewed as “useless” to society, a threat to Aryan genetic purity, and, ultimately, unworthy of life. At the beginning of World War II, individuals who were mentally retarded, physically handicapped, or mentally ill were targeted for murder in what the Nazis called the “T-4,” or “euthanasia,” program.

The Nazis used these unfortunate people as guinea pigs: the knowledge gained in killing them was later applied in the wholesale slaughter of Jews, Gypsies, and political prisoners in the death camps.

8 Million murders later, on 30 Apr 1945, Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun committed suicide in their private apartment in a Berlin bunker.  The Russians claimed to have recovered the cremated remains.  Like most of his victims, Hitler has no grave.

Above: Memorial dedicated on 2 Sep 2014 in Berlin for the victims of the Action T4 program.  The memorial features a wall of blue glass which is “an abstract, yet vivid way of showing visitors just how easily a group of fellow humans and even neighbours could be separated and isolated, just like those living a ‘life unworthy of life’ were isolated and killed during the Nazi dictatorship.  Architect Ursula Wilms has said that the blue glass wall symbolises the sky and stands for the victims of the extermination programme.”  The glass wall allows us to see one another when previously we were hidden.

Revised June 25, 2016

~ by Jeffrey Thomas Chipman on May 28, 2016.