The Holocaust Began With People With Disabilities

People often describe the horrors of the Holocaust, discussing what was done to the Jewish people. We should not forget the hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities that were exterminated by the Nazis. This, of course, is not intended to belittle what happened to Jews and other races, just to mention a little known aspect of the Holocaust.

This post is a reprint of Scott Lissner’s email to the DS-HUM mailing list. I publish it here (with permission) because it is important to say it, and Scott said it better than I could, and much more succintly.

70 years ago today what became known as the T4 Program, and arguably the Nazi Holocaust began

What became known as the T4 Program, and arguably the Nazi Holocaust began 70 years ago today. Hitler’s euthanasia decree, dated September 1, 1939, read as follows:

"Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. Brandt are charged with the responsibility for expanding the authority of physicians, to be designated by name, to the end that patients considered incurable according to the best available human judgment [menschlichem Ermessen] of their state of health, can be granted a mercy death [Gnadentod]."

This effort began in 1933 less than six months after Hitler became chancellor with the “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases” This law established a policy mandating the sterilization of anyone with suffering from diseases considered hereditary including mental illness, cognitive disabilities, physical deformity, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and severe alcoholism. The scientific and social basis for Nazi eugenics program was largely imported from the eugenics movement in the United States where laws in twenty-nine states forced sterilizations on more than 30,000 people between 1907 and 1939.

Forced sterilization and the systematic killing of the disabled where Germany’s first steps in the Holocaust The T4 euthanasia program was both a rehearsal and justification for Nazi Germany’s subsequent genocidal policies. Extended the ideological justification for eliminating the “unfit” from society to other categories of perceived “genetic” threat to society. The gas chambers and accompanying crematorium designed for the T4 campaign where later utilized to murder Jews, Roma, Sinti and other undesirable and the architects of the T4 program became key figures at among killing centers of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka

Further Information:

L. Scott Lissner,
University ADA Coordinator
Associate, John Glenn School of Public Affairs
Lecturer, Knowlton School of Architecture, Moritz College of Law & Disability Studies
Office Of The Provost, The Ohio State University

© L. Scott Lissner – 2009