Rather than a prologue, Henry Friedlander views the institutionalized killing of the handicapped by Nazi doctors as an integral part of the Holocaust. In chilling detail, The Origins of Nazi Genocide traces the mass exterminations of Jews and other victim groups back to the first secretive murder of a handicapped child in a state-run euthanasia clinic. With little popular opposition, the killing of the handicapped evolved into the Final Solution, the methods of euthanasia foreshadowing the extermination of millions.
The Third Reich labeled those of its citizens who deviated from the physical “Aryan” ideal through congenital illness as “life unworthy of life” and a threat to “race hygiene.” These included the blind, deaf, epileptic, physically deformed, chronically ill, and the mentally impaired. In a top secret order dated September 1, 1939, Hitler personally authorized a program of killing the mentally and physically handicapped, beginning with the children. Based on mandatory registration forms forwarded to local public health offices by midwives and family doctors, experts (“Gutachter”) determined whether a child was to be transferred to a state institution and killed by lethal injection. Friedlander writes, “A simple plus sign (+) indicated inclusion in the program and thus the killing of the child; a simple minus sign (-) indicated exclusion, meaning the child could continue to live.” The first killings took place as early as October 1939.
Soon the euthanasia program was greatly expanded to include adult victims. Code-named “T4” after the location of the administrative headquarters at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin, the program was carried out at several killing centers. There, the Germans experimented with various killing agents to replace lethal injections, by then considered too slow and “cumbersome” to deal with the large number of victims. According to Dr. Karl Brandt, head of T4, Hitler personally approved killing by gas as the most “humane” method of mass extermination. With this step, methods conceived and developed under the T4 program at euthanasia centers such as Sonnenstein and Hadamar became the precursor to the streamlined process used to murder millions at extermination camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka. In fact, until concentration camps built their own facilities to kill large numbers of prisoners at one time, the SS used the existing gas chambers at selected T4 centers for that purpose. In addition, a substantial number of extermination camp personnel - such as Irmfried Eberl, physician and later commandant at Treblinka - passed through the euthanasia program, a ready pool of staff experienced in the methods of mass killing.
The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution contains numerous tables and extensive notes. The book also features a detailed bibliography, including archival documents, court records, and published documents.
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|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|Note on Language||xxi|
|1. The Setting||1|
|2. Excluding the Handicapped||23|
|3. Killing Handicapped Children||39|
|4. Killing Handicapped Adults||62|
|5. The Killing Centers||86|
|6. Toward the Killing Pause||111|
|7. The Expanded Killing Program||136|
|8. The Continued Killing Program||151|
|9. The Handicapped Victims||164|
|10. Managers and Supervisors||187|
|11. Physicians and Other Killers||216|
|12. Excluding Gypsies||246|
|13. Killing Handicapped Jews||263|
|14. The Final Solution||284|