Aktion T4 and Babi Yar

Aktion T4 and Babi Yar

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 12.23.31Just when you think you know a bit about fascists and their ways, there’s always another story to surprise. Polish dancer and Extermination camp victim, the very beautiful Franceska Mann shot and killed SS officer Josef Schillinger after being made to strip in advance of her execution, she distracted the man with her naked charms long enough to get his pistol from its holster and shoot him in the stomach. A final moment of defiance before she was machine gunned. Better than dying alone?

When considering those times. The thirties and early forties when politicians put forward beliefs that people supported which then became laws and led to consequences. The most dramatic outcome, the ‘Final solution’ has social precursors  that make for interesting reading. Especially with an Orange fascist in the all-white house driven by racist thoughts of ethic cleansing.

Two events I knew little about, to share. The first is Aktion T4. The second is the astonishingly under reported events of 29 and 30 September 1941 in Babi Yar. You can’t make up stuff like this. or what is is about ‘those who ignore the lessons of history……

The term “Aktion T4″ came into use after the war.  Before that German terminology included Euthanasie (euthanasia) and Gnadentod (merciful death). The T4 programme stemmed from the Nazi Party policy of “racial hygiene”, a belief that the German people needed to be cleansed of racial enemies, which included people with disabilities as well as anyone who was confined to a mental health facility. The euthanasia programme was part of the evolution of the policy of administrative murder that culminated in the extermination of Jews of Europe during the Nazi genocides. In his book Mein Kampf (1924), Hitler wrote that one day racial hygiene, “will appear as a deed greater than the most victorious wars of our present bourgeois era”

In October 1939 Adolf Hitler signed a “euthanasia decree” backdated to 1 September 1939 that authorized his personal physician Karl Brandt and Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler to implement the programme. Involuntary euthanasia. The name T4 is an abbreviation of Tiergartenstraße 4, a street address of the Chancellery department set up in the spring of 1940, in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, which recruited and paid personnel associated with T4. Certain German physicians were authorized to select patients “deemed incurably sick, after most critical medical examination” and then administer to them a “mercy death” (Gnadentod)
Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 12.39.51Karl Brandt was a sweetheart. Trained in surgery, Brandt joined the Nazi Party in 1932 and became Adolf Hitler’s escort physician in August 1934.  A member of Hitler’s inner circle at the Berghof, he was selected by Philipp Bouhler, the head of Hitler’s Chancellery, to administer the Aktion T4 euthanasia program. Brandt was later appointed the Reich Commissioner of Sanitation and Health (Bevollmächtigter für das Sanitäts- und Gesundheitswesen). Accused of involvement in human experimentation and other war crimes, Brandt was indicted in late 1946 and faced trial before a U.S. military tribunal along with 22 others in United States of America v. Karl Brandt, et al. He was convicted, sentenced to death, and later hanged on June 2, 1948

The Aktion T4  killings took place from September 1939 to August 1941, during which 70,273 people were recorded as being killed at various extermination centres located at psychiatric hospitals in Germany and Austria, along with those in occupied Poland.  About half of those killed were taken from church-run asylums, often with the approval of the Protestant or Catholic authorities of the institutions.
Several explanations for the programme have been offered, including eugenics, compassion, reducing suffering, racial hygiene, cost effectiveness and pressure on the welfare budget.  After the nominal end of the programme, physicians in German and Austrian facilities continued many of the practices of Aktion T4, until the defeat of Germany in 1945. The unofficial continuation of the policy led to additional deaths by medicine and similar means, resulting in 93,521 beds “emptied” by the end of 1941.  Technology that was developed under Aktion T4, particularly the use of lethal gas to commit mass murder, was taken over by the medical division of the Reich Interior Ministry, along with personnel who had participated in the development of the technology and later participated in Operation Reinhard.  The technology, personnel and techniques developed were instrumental in the implementation of Nazi genocides.

Dr. Karl Brandt, personal physician to Hitler and Hans Lammers, the head of the Reich Chancellery, testified after the war that Hitler had told them as early as 1933—when the sterilisation law was passed—that he favoured the killing of the incurably ill but recognised that public opinion would not accept this. In 1935, Hitler told the Leader of Reich Doctors, Gerhard Wagner, that the question could not be taken up in peacetime, “Such a problem could be more smoothly and easily carried out in war”.

The German eugenics movement had an extreme wing even before the Nazis came to power. As early as 1920, Alfred Hoche and Karl Binding advocated killing people whose lives were “unworthy of life” (lebensunwertes Leben). Darwinism was interpreted by them as justification of the demand for “beneficial” genes and eradication of the “harmful” ones. Robert Lifton wrote, “The argument went that the best young men died in war, causing a loss to the Volk of the best available genes. The genes of those who did not fight (the worst genes) then proliferated freely, accelerating biological and cultural degeneration”.  The advocacy of eugenics in Germany gained ground after 1930, when the Depression was used to excuse cuts in funding to state mental hospitals, creating squalor and overcrowding.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 12.29.26Hoche studied in Berlin and Heidelberg and became a psychiatrist in 1890. He moved to Strasbourg in 1891. From 1902 he was a professor at Freiburg im Breisgau and was a director of the psychiatric clinic there. He was a major opponent of the psychoanalysis theories of Sigmund Freud. Hoche’s body of work on the classification system of mental illness  had great influence.

Hoche was married to a Jewish woman and left his post at Freiburg after National Socialists came to power. He was privately critical of Nazi euthanasia program after it claimed one of his relatives despite its rationale being based on his own ideas. After losing his only son in 1915 he became increasingly taciturn and depressed and his death in 1943 was probably due to suicide

Many German eugenicists were nationalists and antisemites, who embraced the Nazi regime with enthusiasm. Many were appointed to positions in the Health Ministry and German research institutes. Their ideas were gradually adopted by the majority of the German medical profession, from which Jewish and communist doctors were soon purged.  During the 1930s the Nazi Party had carried out a campaign of propaganda in favour of euthanasia. The National Socialist Racial and Political Office (NSRPA) produced leaflets, posters and short films to be shown in cinemas, pointing out to Germans the cost of maintaining asylums for the incurably ill and insane. These films included The Inheritance (Das Erbe, 1935), The Victim of the Past (Opfer der Vergangenheit, 1937), which was given a major première in Berlin and was shown in all German cinemas, and I Accuse (Ich klage an, 1941), which was based on a novel by Hellmuth Unger, a consultant for “child euthanasia

The Ministry used various deceptions when dealing with parents or guardians particularly in Catholic areas, where parents were generally uncooperative. Parents were told that their children were being sent to “Special Sections” for children, where they would receive improved treatment.  The children sent to these centres were kept for “assessment” for a few weeks and then killed by injection of toxic chemicals, typically phenol; their deaths were recorded as “pneumonia”. Autopsies were usually performed, and brain samples were taken to be used for “medical research”. This apparently helped to ease the consciences of many of those involved, since it gave them the feeling that the children had not died in vain, and that the whole programme had a genuine medical purpose.  The most notorious of these institutions in Austria was Am Spiegelgrund, where from 1940–1945, 78,900 children were killed by lethal injection, gas poisoning and physical abuse. Childrens’ brains were preserved in formaldehyde jars and stored in the basement of the clinic and in the private collection of Heinrich Gross one of the institution’s directors, until 2001.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 11.45.30Heirich Gross was a character. Nazi Youth. The full package. Had he lived today he would be in the Trump Cabinet.

The euthanasia program was introduced to the German people as an efficient manner to obtain a Master Race for the Nazi people and an economic relief to families. As Nazi popularity grew and the economy still struggling these options were widely accepted by the German people. Am Spiegelgrund was a youth care facility on the grounds of a mental institution. From the years of 1940 to 1945 it was used for mentally handicapped adults or children. During their stay they suffered numerous forms of torture and up to 800 people were murdered there. Heinrich Gross began in pavilion 15 in November 1940. By 1942 he had killed more children than any other doctor in the hospital. He became the leading psychiatrist and began studying the neurology of mentally handicapped children. With the passing of Aktion T4 the killings increased and Dr. Gross began to harvest the brains of his victims for further study. In 1943 the doctor was called for military service returning pretty regularly for research until his capture in 1945.

In the same year of his overturned manslaughter case Dr. Gross was allowed to resume his research at Rose Hill. In 1955, he completed his training as a specialist in nervous and mental diseases became the head prison doctor or physician in the former Hospital and nursing home Am Steinhof. In 1957 he became the Chief court psychiatrist for men’s mental institutions. Here he worked with the justice system in insanity cases and was the main decision maker in all sterilization cases as well. He got promoted to the management of the “Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the study of the abnormalities of the nervous system” created specially for him in 1968. Dr. Gross worked as a reviewer and for years was considered the most busy court expert in Austria. In 1975 the Republic of Austria aScreen Shot 2017-12-05 at 11.45.22warded him the medal für Wissenschaft und Kunst 1, of which he was stripped in 2003. In 1975 it was realized that he had been involved in illegal killings during the Nazi occupation of Austria. Dr. Gross was stripped of many awards but continued serving as a court expert until he came under investigation in 1997 for 9 counts of murder.

Then there’s Victor
Viktor Hermann Brack (9 November 1904 – 2 June 1948) was the organiser of the Euthanasia Programme, Action T4, where the Nazi state systematically murdered over 70,000 disabled German and Austrian people. Following this, Brack was one of the men responsible for the gassing of Jews in the extermination camps, and he conferred with Odilo Globocnik about the practical implementation of the Final Solution. Brack was sentenced to death in 1947 and executed in 1948.

Then of course, Zyklon B came along, (made by a Jewish chemist) and the Final solution began. IBM provided the data to build the railway lines to the purpose built extermination camps.

 

babi2-05 at 11.57.08But before that happened, there was Babi Yar – a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.  On 29 and 30 September 1941, the Nazis took almost 34,000 Jews to the edge of the Babi Yar ravine and shot them all.
The decision to kill all the Jews in Kiev was made by the military governor, Major-General Kurt Eberhard, the Police Commander for ArmyScreen Shot 2017-12-05 at 11.56.46 Group South, SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch. Sonderkommando 4a soldiers, along with the aid of the SD and SS Police Battalions backed by the local police carried out the orders. 

The massacre was the largest mass-killing under the auspices of the Nazi regime and its collaborators during its campaign against the Soviet Union  and is considered  to be “the largest single massacre in the history of the Germanys ethnic cleansing” to that particular date.

Kurt Eberhard (September 12, 1874, Rottweil – September 8, 1947, Stuttgart) was a German officer. He rose to the rank of Brigadeführer of the SS and in the German army.  Eberhard was given the command over the occupied city of Kiev in Ukraine. He was involved in planning and supervising the Babi Yar massacres during which over 33,000 people were murdered. He was captured by US authorities after the end of World War II, in November 1945, and kept in captivity in Stuttgart. He committed suicide on September 8, 1947

So. Awful things happen when you allow right wing religious fascists to pass laws. And then after those awful things happen, as history shows, awful things happen to those right wing authors.