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[disabilitystudies] An extract from "The Men behind Hitler"

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  • keith armstrong
    Hello Just to start a discussion going here is an extract from The Men behind Hitler by Bernhard Schreiber. Keith Project T4. Extract from The Men behind
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 27, 1999
      Hello

      Just to start a discussion going here is an extract from
      "The Men behind Hitler" by Bernhard Schreiber.

      Keith

      Project T4.
      Extract from "The Men behind Hitler" by Bernhard Schreiber


      There is not a great deal known about T4 in comparison with
      other aspects of Nazi Germany and the second World War; what
      little is known is difficult to verify and amongst the accounts,
      there is conflicting or contradictory data. T4 in fact was the
      Fuhrer Chancellery and the initials T4 came from the full
      address which was Tiergartenstrasse 4, Berlin. However it is
      important to bear in mind two factors when attempting to
      appreciate the lack of information.



      T4 was the source of orders and measures which were "Geheime
      Reichssache" (Secret Reich Matters), those involved who served
      as tools in its execution were bound by silence. The euthanasia
      programme was considered to be one of these and this is one of
      the reasons why there is so little information, with much of it
      conflicting, concerning its workings and its relation with the
      Chancellery itself.



      A second factor to be borne in mind is that the whole thing was
      planned with great care prior to the signing of the
      authorisation by Hitler and in fact meetings involving top
      German psychiatrists had been taking place some months prior to
      the date of his authorisation. As it was a very thorough
      programme, the creators were sufficiently foresighted to take
      steps to cover their tracks and conceal the evidence. One of
      their more brilliant ideas was to finally assign the personnel
      who had been trained in the euthanasia institute and who later
      went on to much bigger things, to theatres of war where their
      survival was most certainly to be minimal. Many of the
      personnel were assigned to the Yugoslav front where Tito's
      partisans had a reputation for never taking prisoners and a
      great many of them died there.



      The "Project T4" was fully integrated into the organisational
      structure of the Reich and fell under section llb. "Mercy
      -death of the Chancellery of the Fuhrer" (KdF). It was divided
      into two departments, the administrative one headed by Phillip
      Bouhler, a shadowy figure "once described as the dictator of
      the dictators" and the medical section headed by Hitler's
      personal physician Dr Karl Brandt.



      In the middle of 1939, the end phase of the administrative
      preparations of the euthanasia programme was started. It dealt
      with keeping it secure and secret. The German people were under
      no circumstances or become suspicious and the project was to
      roll without any interference. It was therefore necessary to
      disguise the activities as much as possible.



      Questionnaires had already been prepared by the psychiatric
      committee and advisers and in October these were sent to the
      mental institutions of Germany. These questionnaires required
      answers to a number of questions including name, marital status,
      nationality, next of kin, whether regularly visited and by whom,
      who bore the financial responsibility and how long in the
      institution, how long sick, diagnosis, chief symptoms, whether
      bedridden, whether under restraint, whether suffering from an
      incurable sickness or complaint and whether a war injury or not
      . And what was the race of the patient. These questionnaires
      were sent out by one of front groups which operated under T4.



      In classic psychiatric style four front group had been set up to
      shield the actual source of the operations in T4 from scrutiny.
      The idea being that essentially T4 itself would issue orders to
      the front group who would then carry out the necessary measures.
      Anybody seeking to trace back the administrative chain, say
      from a hospital where patients were being taken to be murdered
      would arrive at one of these four front groups and the chances
      of getting any further back than that were very small.



      The front group which sent out the questionnaires, had them
      returned and handled them, was named Realms Work Committee for
      Institutions for Cure and Care. This became the Headquarters
      for the whole of the organisation and was started for this
      purpose.



      There was a parallel organisation, another front group devoted
      exclusively to the killing of children, for obviously some
      specialisation was needed in this area and the front group
      catered for those who had knowledge and experience of children.
      It operated under the ambiguous name of Realms Committee for
      Scientific Approach to Severe Illness due to Heredity and
      Constitution. In association with these two organisations were
      the Charitable Company for the Transport of the Sick which
      transported patients to the killing centres and the Charitable
      Foundation for Institutional Care which was in charge of making
      the final arrangements.



      The decree of the Reich Ministry of the Interior of August 18,
      1939, which introduced the requirements for registration of
      "deformed new-borns" was a great advantage to the children
      project. At first this applied only to the children up to the
      age of 3, but after 1941, this project included youths to the
      age of 16.



      These four cover organisations safeguarded the project T4, the
      Reich Chancellery and the euthanasia committee from unwanted
      discoveries. Those who took the initiative were very secure and
      if anyone had attempted to retrace the administrative chain let
      us say, from an institute, whose patients were moved to killing
      institutes, he would probably have reached one of the four cover
      organisations. The chances that he would get much further were
      very small.



      Ironically, the relatives of the patients were charged with the
      cost of the killing, without however being informed as to what
      they were paying for. The questionnaires having been sent out
      were completed by the psychiatrists, doctors in charge of the
      patients in the asylums.



      When the questionnaires came back, they were evaluated by
      members of the psychiatric and professional members of T4 who
      were mainly leading professors of psychiatry in German
      Universities. The whole business was in keeping with the
      euthanasia programme in that no one was ever actually examined
      in person, in direct violation of any normal medical approach or
      standards, especially when one considers that life or death hung
      on the decision of the psychiatrist evaluating. Processing of
      the questionnaires was done very rapidly, for example one expert
      between November 14th and December 1st 1940 evaluated 2,109 of
      them.





      -----------------------------------------------------------------

















      At the beginning of the euthanasia programme, and for some time
      during it, Jewish people were very carefully excluded from
      amongst the people who were being accorded "a blessed release
      from their sufferings". The reason apparently was that such a
      worthwhile fate was obviously not to be given to Jewish people,
      "that only Germans would benefit by such a humane measure."



      At the time the questionnaires went out, or perhaps even
      earlier, a number of mental hospitals or convenient buildings
      were being converted for their later use and were to be the
      killing centres and schools for murder.. Death chambers were
      erected in the buildings disguised as shower-baths and
      crematoriums both of which were identical to those later to be
      established in "the Jew-killing centres in Poland".



      There appears to have been six principal death institutes and
      murder schools and these

      were:

      Grafeneck

      Hadamar

      Hartheim (in Austria)

      Brandenburg

      Bernberg

      Sonnestein, the hospital of the super-expert Dr Nitsche.



      The system seems to have worked in the following fashion:-



      On the basis of the replies to the questionnaires the Institute
      from which they had been returned were notified that a number of
      patients were to be moved, allegedly to make available beds for
      the war wounded, or to be moved for better treatment. A number
      of reasons were made known or put around as the reason for
      removal. These patients were collected by the front
      organisation, Charitable Transport Company for the Sick which
      then took them to one of these killing centres where they were
      exterminated within a few hours of their arrival. As a further
      camouflage they were not always taken directly to the killing
      centre on some occasions they were taken to an intermediate
      hospital where people were led to believe that they were there
      to be placed under observation.



      The total number of victims of the euthanasia programmes
      difficult to determine but as there were 300,000 to 320,000
      mental patients in 1939 and only 40,000 in 1946 it would seem
      that the figure of 275,000 deaths mentioned in the Nuremberg
      Trials was reasonable accurate.



      The victims were not confined to mentally incurable patients as
      the programme progresses and gained momentum other undesirables
      were included. It was obviously too great an opportunity to be
      missed to not included anyone else who wasn't worthy of life.
      Amongst those caught up in the dragnet for the murder institute
      were "psychotics, schizophrenics, patients suffering from the
      infirmities of old age as well as epileptics" Other patients
      having a variety of organic neurologic disorders including the
      various forms of infantile paralysis (POLIO) Parkinsonism,
      Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and brain tumours. We also know
      that children were disposed of similarly, when the orphanages
      and reformatories were searched for further candidates.



      It should be borne in mind that according to one expert at least
      50% of the patients murdered would, if allowed to survive would
      have been able to recover and lead useful lives.



      As we have seen T4 went into a great deal planning to disguise
      its operations and those of the killing centres as ordinary
      mental hospitals and this was testified to in the Nuremberg
      Trials by Viktor Brack, the chief of the whole section ll of KdF
      and therefore one of the main persons responsible for the smooth
      execution of the euthanasia programme. At the Nuremberg Trials
      he testified that patients walked calmly in with their towels
      and stood with their little pieces of soap under the shower
      outlets waiting for the water to start running.



      ------------------------------------------



      I have been able to find more material on some murder
      institutions than others, but the following account could be
      taken as fairly representative of the other five murder
      institutions. Hartheim was situated near Linz which was in
      turn also close to Hitler's birthplace in Austria.



      It was an old castle dedicated as an asylum to the poor, feeble
      minded and stupid in 1898. Hartheim, in company with the other
      institutions, not only served as a murder institute for the
      disposal of mental patients but also functioned as a murder
      school for personnel. The medical directors in charge of
      Hartheim were two doctors, Dr Rudolf Lohnauer an Austrian who
      later became an expert in 14f13 of which we will hear more later
      and Dr Georg Renno. They took their orders direct from T4 and
      were responsible for the "medical " training of personnel. The
      training of staff was designed to harden the personnel
      psychologically to the experience of having to exterminate and
      observe the deaths of tens of thousands of people day after day,
      week after week, apart from any technical training they were
      given. However from later activities in the operation of the
      death chambers and crematoria it was obvious that they were
      being schooled for bigger and better things in the workings of
      the third Reich. Most of the personnel concerned in these later
      activities had passed through one of these murder schools.



      The administrative official in charge at Hartheim was captain
      Christian Wirth a former policeman who had been selected by T4
      to supervise the training. Apart from being places for
      disposing of unwanted mental patients and to train personnel
      these institutions also provided scientific testing grounds for
      the perfection of the murder techniques as devised by the
      psychiatrists in the euthanasia committees of T4. The deaths of
      the victims were clinically studied, photographed and perfected.
      In the war crimes trials that took place after the war in
      Germany, it was proved that in the death camps of Treblinka
      Belzec and Sobibor special photographers also took pictures of
      people being gassed just as they had at Hartheim and other
      institutes. in addition experiments took place with various
      gases to perfect the most effective one. During these tests
      psychiatrists with stop watches would observe the dying patients
      through the peepholes in the cellar door which served as a gas
      chamber in Hartheim and the length of the death struggle was
      clocked down to one tenth of a second. Slow motion picture were
      taken and studied by the psychiatric experts at T4 in Berlin.
      People's brains were photographed to see exactly when death had
      occurred. Nothing was left to chance. The psychiatrists were
      very thorough.



      The actual training of the students proceeded in an orderly
      progression of familiarisation. At first they watched the
      experiment as observers, as their training progresses they
      graduated to participation in the actual murders by conducting
      the patients into the chambers, releasing the gases, watching
      during the death struggle and finally, ventilating the chambers
      and removing the bodies. the selection of the students was
      conducted by the high ranking Nazi officials who were personally
      and directly responsible to the Fuhrer Chancellery.



      The whole operation was shrouded in very tight security.
      Everybody involved realised that there could be no slip ups -
      there could be no leakage of information because they weren't
      dealing with "sub-humans or Jews", these victims were Germans
      and Austrians and the reaction of the public would be very
      strong. And in fact when the programme later became obvious to
      the inhabitants in the vicinity of the murder institutes there
      was an outcry against it.



      Obviously after so much familiarity with the deaths of the
      victims the students became insensible to the cries and pleas of
      the murdered. In the process of their being hardened the
      students were observed closely by their teachers who noted their
      reactions and made reports on the students' progress. If the
      students were able to observe and participate in the murders of
      their own nationalities even though they were deformed or mad
      and were German or Austrian nationality how much easier it would
      be to do the same to the "sub-humans".



      Students who didn't complete the course because they cracked,
      couldn't go on with it or were unsuitable were sent to the war
      front from where the Commander in charge of the unit would
      assign them to a suicide squad. This would account for the lack
      of people with conscience willing to come forward to testify to
      what they had been involved in.



      The total number of victims at Hartheim is difficult to estimate
      but at the Dachau trial in 1947, testimony was given that from
      "30 - 40 unwanted humans" were treated in the cellars every
      day. As Hartheim was in operation for about three years that
      would account for about 30,000 people. Hartheim also had
      another purpose. It served as a safety valve when executions
      taking place in nearby concentration camps such as Mauthausen
      and Dachau became more than the staff could manage. Victims
      were sent to Hartheim and "dispatched" there. Later towards the
      end of the war Hartheim became just another place for
      extermination, its staff and personnel having been assigned to
      other duties. It was well situated for use in the euthanasia
      programme, lying near a railway but not too close and around the
      castle were a few little houses and farms. It was 27 km from
      Linz and from there only another 23 km from Mauthausen.



      Schooling of the personnel produced perfect murderers who were
      used to the smell of burnt flesh and had been taught how to
      trick people being led to their death and how to steel
      themselves against the crying and pleading of victims. Pupils
      were naturally rewarded not only with alcohol and women which
      were always kept handy for them but also received medals.
      Usually these were the Iron Cross second class and unlike other
      awards which had noted in the register the reason for their
      being given in. these cases, "Gehelme Reichssache" (secret Rich
      matter) was noted in the appropriate column.



      One of the murder institutes, Hadamar, achieved some notoriety
      at the time of the euthanasia programme. In December 1939 a
      member of the Court of Appeals of Frankfurt on Main wrote to
      the Minister of Justice complaining about the situation. He
      said that among the population there were constant discussions
      over the question of the destruction of the socially unfit
      especially in places where there were mental institutions.
      Vehicles used to transport the mental patients from the
      Institutes were converging on Hadamar things had reached such a
      state that even the children were calling out s they passed that
      "they are taking some more people to be gassed."



      The writer had obviously found out enough to be able to describe
      in his letter that there were stories circulating about
      transported victims being immediately stripped to the skin,
      dressed in paper shirt and forthwith taken to a gas chamber
      were they were liquidated with hydrocyanic acid gas and the
      bodies reported to be moved by conveyor belt, to the
      crematorium, six bodies to a furnace. He also went on to
      recount rumours about future victims and believed that these
      would include the inhabitants of Homes for the Aged and others.
      Interestingly the psychiatrist charge of Hadamar was Dr Adolf
      Wahimann an active member of the German mental hygiene movement
      who had demonstrated cardiazol-shock treatment to delegates from
      the European Mental Hygiene Reunion which took place in Munich
      in 1938.



      This was not however the only letter of complaint and many more
      followed when the never ending smoke that filled the skies in
      the vicinity of the institutes indicated that something was
      obviously terribly wrong.. Various members of the communities
      (usually people of some standing) sent complaints to whoever
      they thought could be in a position to act.



      The main source of complaints appear to have come from the
      Church and protests were raised by various bishops and cardinals
      usually addressed to the Ministry of Justice. The Bishop of
      Limburrg for instance addressed a complaint to the Ministry
      concerning the Institute of Hadamar and it was very similar to
      the one by the member of the Court of Appeals mentioned earlier
      when children were calling out as the vans arrived only now
      parents were even threatening that if they weren't quite bright
      they would be put in the ovens at Hadamar.



      Obviously with the mounting protests the whole operation was
      receiving far too much publicity and it was at this point in
      about December 1941 that a change in procedure occurred.. And
      here we come to another of the myths with which this period is
      littered. It was commonly believed that as the protests grew
      they came to the ears of the Fuhrer who ordered an end to the
      killings. However be that as it may, the killings did nor stop,
      they simply took on another form. Many of the writers and
      articles dealing with this period state that the programme
      ended. What actually happened was that the same aims were
      procured by different means. The gas chambers were no longer
      used and the crematoria fell into disuse. These were replaced
      by lethal injections and even starvation, the bodies being
      disposed of by mass burial.



      As far as the psychiatrists were concerned it was business as
      usual and the euthanasia programme continued throughout the war.
      In Bavaria it continued even until a few days

      after the war when children were still being murdered. If
      Hitler did order an end to

      euthanasia murders, their continuance only goes to show how
      determined the psychiatrists were to pursue their own aims
      regardless of his wishes.



      Special Action 14f13



      After the State had been relieved of their ghastly burden of so
      many of these undesirables, mental patients and useless -
      eaters, the operation still under the direction of eminent
      mental health psychiatrists in T4 was expanded under the code of
      14f13. From being limited to mental hospitals and institutions
      it now embraced German and Austrian inmates and Jews in
      concentration camps who were sick or invalid usually as a result
      of the conditions extant in these places. The starting date for
      the operations of commissions of 14f13 appears to have been some
      time in December. 1941. Special commissions composed of
      psychiatrists attached to the Berlin staff of T$ were dispatched
      to the concentration camps to clear the medical bays and sick
      quarters by way of selection of ill and undesirables. Patients
      selected were usually dispatched to one of the killing centres
      and disposed of immediate there.



      At Auschwitz, around this time about 800 patients in the
      infectious block were sent to the death chambers. Testimony was
      given at Nuremberg after the war by the S.S. camp doctor

      at Dachau that at the end of 1941 a commission composed of 4
      psychiatrists under the leadership of Professor Doctor Werner
      Heyde SS Standartenfuhrer and lecturer in neurology and
      psychiatry at Wurzburg University arrived at the camp and
      immediately proceeded to their business. They selected several
      hundred patients incapable of work who were then transported to
      the gas chambers and disposed of. The decision for selection
      rested upon the incapacity of the prisoners to work. Jews were
      disposed of much more easily by the declaration that they were
      enemies of National Socialism.



      Evidence is shown in a letter written by Dr Fritz Mennecke a
      member of the commission dated November 25th 1941 which he wrote
      from Buchenwald, another concentration camp which they visited.
      The letter was addressed to his wife and gave a brief account of
      his clinical duties on the commission during the day: "At noon
      we took time off for lunch then we continued our examinations
      until 4 pm. I examined 105 patients whilst Muller took 78 so
      that we finished off the first lot of 183 questionnaires. The
      second lot consisted of 1200 Jews who were not examined and it
      was enough to pick out from their documents the reason for their
      arrest and enter it in the questionnaires."



      Apart from the people already covered the action was extended to
      include adults and children in many Polish asylums. However
      there is little evidence available to me at the moment regarding
      these particular murders and this is a very fruitful area to be
      examined in the future. Apart from the psychiatrists themselves
      involved in the programme others also took advantage of the rare
      opportunity of so many specimens offered them. One of these was
      a brain specialist Dr Julius Hallervorden, director of the
      Kaiser Wilhelm institute in Dillenberg Hessen-Nassau, who had
      the good luck to be able to obtain hundreds of brains from the
      killing centres for use in his laboratory. These brains were
      from mental patients who had been killed by carbon monoxide gas.
      he freely admitted that he himself had initiated this
      collaboration in the euthanasia programme and stated, " I heard
      that they were going to do that and so I went up to them and
      told them "Look here now boys, if you are going to kill all
      these people at least take the brains out so that the material
      could be utilised." They asked me How many can you examine ?"
      and so I told them "An unlimited number the more the better." So
      I gave them instructions for removing the brain and the
      fixatives, jars and boxes and then they came bringing them in
      like the delivery van from the furniture company.. The
      Charitable Transport Company for the Sick brought the brains in
      batches of 150-250 at a time... There was wonderful material
      among those brains, beautiful mental defectives, malformations
      and early infantile diseases. I accepted those brains of
      course. Where they came from was really none of my business."



      The development of occurrences up to this time shows plainly
      that there were no limits to the enthusiasm that the
      psychiatrists in Berlin felt for T4. How patriotic they must
      have considered themselves when they then decided to put their
      brave teams into action in the East to help the wounded in ice
      and snow. As Dr Fritz Mennecke told his wife in a letter dated
      12th January 1942.



      "since the day before yesterday a large delegation from our
      organisations headed by Herr Brack is on the battlefields of the
      East to help in saving our wounded in the ice and snow. They
      include doctors, clerks, nurses and male nurses from Hadamar and
      Sonnestein, a whole detachment of 20-30 persons. This is top
      secret. Only those persons who could not be spared were
      excluded. Professor Nitsche regrets that the staff of our
      institution at Eichberg had to be taken away so soon."



      This quote speaks for itself when one considers who was
      "helping" the wounded in the ice and snow. It becomes evident
      that the German soldiers in the East had to fight three fronts,
      the Russian Army, the partisans and the enemies in their own
      ranks. As if the war killing was not enough, now special
      committees were put into action to relieve the wounded German
      soldiers from their painful existence. The soldiers thus were
      not only in a fix strategically but also morally , if they were
      wounded, how could they be "helped"?



      translated by H.R, Martindale0



      Extract from "The Men behind Hitler" by Bernhard Schreiber



      It is my desire that this book be distributed as widely as
      possible; and thus I hereby not only give my consent, but urge
      the distribution, translation, publication, reprinting and
      quoting of this book in part or in whole by any person, group or
      organisation that may wish to so do.



      Unfortunately, my financial situation made it impossible to
      distribute this book as widely as I would have liked and I hope
      that the step I have taken will inspire others to actively
      participate in this German warning to the world.



      Bernard Schreiber
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