To what extent did the Euthanasia Programme contribute to the gassing of Jews in extermination camps?

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University) 2013 17 Pages

History Europe - Germany - National Socialism, World War II



Section A: Plan of Investigation

Section B: Summary of Evidence
Hitler’s Evolutionary Ideology
Economic Incentives
Gassing Facilities and Methods

Section C: Evaluation of Sources

Section D: Analysis

Section E: Conclusion

Section F: List of Sources


Section A: Plan of Investigation

The Nazi Euthanasia Program was mass murder program, predating the Final Solution by approximately two years. Its policy was not viewed as a means to mercy death; it aimed to restore the racial integrity of German nation by eliminating “life unworthy of life”: individuals, who, because of psychiatric or physical disabilities represented genetic and economic burden of German society. This essay investigates: To what extent did the Euthanasia Program contribute to gassing of Jews in extermination camps?

The scope of research is in the years of 1939-1945. Impacts of Hitler’s evolutionary ideology, economic incentives and gassing technologies will be presented. Subsequently, the essay will analyse the strengths and weaknesses of two sources: Richard Weikart’s Hitler ’ s Ethic and Testimony of Euthanasia survivor Friedrich Zawrel. A conclusion will then be reached based on evaluation of evidence and appraisal of the sources.

Section B: Summary of Evidence

Hitler's Evolutionary Ideology

In 1933, the Ministry of Justice released a memorandum, propos[ing] that “it shall be made possible for physicians to end tortures of incurable patients in the interests of true humanity”.1 To Aryan race, these [people] were “genetically highly defective and of inferior value to the People ’ s Community.”2 Getting rid of “inferior” Jews to make room for the “superior” Germans was part of the natural evolutionary process.3 In 1940, the basis for this practice [was] that in an efficient nation there should be no room for weak and frail people.4 Physicians may destroy life in interest of a “higher good."5 The war provided medical professionals in conducting these murderous programmes in the name of regeneration of the Fatherland.6 Goebbels justified this practice in his diary in 1942, writing: “ Nature is dominated by the law of struggle. ” 7 Dr. Hermann Pfannmüller chose to starve [patients] to death, ridding Germany of a burden for the healthy body of [their] Volk.8 Like those who planned physical annihilation of Jews, the planners of “euthanasia” imagined a racially pure and productive society and embraced eliminat[ion] of those who didn’t fit their vision.9 Instead, Dr. Wurm wrote in 1940: “the feeling of legal insecurity is spreading which is regrettable from the point of view of national and state interest. ” 10

Economic Incentives

If an individual was unable to be productive, his death was viewed as “humane”.11 Friedrich Zawrel’s testimony shows the reality: “I have given a few bread leftovers to a pleading person, a sick person, and this was a crime in the Third Reich. ” 12 By 1945, Hitler intended the T413 Program to free up resources, especially money and hospital space, for the German war effort.14 Back in 1916, the actual cost in relief for one of [“unproductive”] families was estimated at over $2,000,000 [8,400,000 RM], as there were at that time 2000 members of that socially unworthy clan.15 In 1939, the average yearly cost for maintaining idiots has been 1,300 marks “for an unproductive purpose”.16 A statistician in the Interior Ministry wrote a report in 1941 calculating that by killing about 70,000 disabled people, the T4 program would ultimately save over 885 million marks over a ten-year period.17 In addition, economic justification was supported by Goebbels’ propaganda, manipulating the masses with posters18, films like “I Accuse”19 or by changing curriculum, i.e. math examples: “The construction of a lunatic asylum costs 6 million RM. How many houses at 15,000 RM each could have been built for that amount? ” 20

Gassing Facilities and Methods

In October 1939, Hitler issued "Führer decree" authorizing Reich Leader Philip Bouhler and Dr. Karl Brandt with medical killing.21 The T4 program had served as testing ground for killing methods, and each “euthanasia” facility constructed gas chambers as the most efficient method for mass killing.22 Brack claims that “the patients were led to gas chamber, which they were told was a shower room, 23 and were killed by the doctors with carbon monoxide gas. ” 24 In 1942, Hitler authorised the extension of “mercy killing” to Concentration Camps.25 The killers in euthanasia [clinics] of Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Hartheim, Sonnenstein, Bernburg, and Hadamar also staffed the killing centers at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.26 This killing expertise of the T4 perpetrators proved useful in 1941 for the upcoming Aktion Reinhard, the mass murder of Jews.27 Also, to facilitate the “Final Solution”, gas chambers from T4 psychiatric hospitals were dismantled and shipped to Poland.28 By 1943, there were 24 main death camps such as Dachau, Treblinka, Buchenwald, and Auschwitz engaged in ethnic cleansing [in] Concentration Camps.29 Dr. Friedrich Menecke reported after one of his concentration camp trips that “he had seen his former patients in Auschwitz”.30 Zawrel claims that even children in Spiegelgrund knew that “the Nazis kill all the retards. ” 31

Section C: Evaluation of Sources

Weikart, Richard. Hitler's ethic. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

The source was produced by Richard Weikart, a prominent American historian, professor at California State University and senior fellow for the Centre of Science and Culture of the Discovery Institute. Weikart has produced a number of monographs dealing with the topic, such as From Darwin to Hitler.

Hitler ’ s Ethic is a secondary source, whose purpose is to address proper analysis and comprehensive coverage of German history. It provides historians, anthropologists and Darwinists insight into Hitler’s pursue of biological improvement of human race.

The value of this source is in its quality and reliability. Weikart drew from a range of authentic primary sources, including Hitler’s private records and unpublished German documents from Hitler’s library. Moreover, Weikart is an expert on Social Darwinism and Nazi Germany, therefore this source is considered valuable.

The limitation of this source is the hindsight bias of 64 years that may have distorted Weikart’s picture of the past since his American bias and inexperience of the Second World War provide him with no emotional connection to the event. Moreover, the book shows mainly evolutionary morality and ethics in Hitler’s procedures, just a partial picture of huge Nazi complexity, not focusing enough on economy and gassing system.

Zawrel, Friedrich. Interview of Spiegelgrund Survivors. GedenkStaetteSteinhof. 2012. Web. 23 Nov 2013. <http://gedenkstaettesteinhof.at/en/interviews/videos/Fr iedrich-Zawrel >

This source’s origin is an Austrian Friedrich Zawrel (1929), survivor of the Nazi child-euthanasia in Spiegelgrund Facility. At the time, they considered him and his parents a sick child. The interview was conducted in 2012 for Spiegelgrund victims‘ exhibition in Vienna.


1 Unknown. "Nazis Plan to Kill Incurables to End Pain; German Religious Groups Oppose Move."New York Times. 8th Oct. 1933. Web. 21 Nov 2013.


2 Zawrel, Friedrich. Interview of Spiegelgrund Survivors. GedenkStaetteSteinhof. 2012. Web. 23 Nov 2013. <http://gedenkstaettesteinhof.at/en/interviews/videos/Friedrich-Zawrel >

3 Weikart, Richard. Hitler's ethic. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print. pp. 194.

4 Dr. Wurm. “Letter to Dr. Frick 5 Sept. 1940.” 1940. TS. Florida Center for Instructional Technology, Florida. Web. 23 Nov 2013. <http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust/resource/document/DocEuth.htm>

5 Gardella, John E.. "The Cost-Effectiveness of Killing: An Overview of Nazi "Euthanasia"."Medical Sentinel, 4. 4 (1999): 132-135. Web. 23 Nov 2013. < http://www.jpands.org/hacienda/article21.html>

6 Bachrach, Susan. "In the name of public health-Nazi racial hygiene."New England Journal of Medicine, 351. (2004): 417--419. Print. pp. 419.

7 Goebbels, Joseph. The Goebbels diaries. 1942. Web. 22 Nov 2013. <http://www.remember.org/witness/links.sp.goeb.html>

8 Gardella, John E.. op. cit.

9 "Euthanasia Program."Ushmm.org, 2012. Web. 1 July 2013.


10 Dr. Wurm. op. cit.

11 Douglas, Pelton. Review of Robert Proctor, Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988. pp. 10.

12 Zawrel, Friedrich. op. cit.

13 Euthanasia Program named after Tiergartenstraße 4 in Berlin

14 Weikart, Richard. op. cit. pp. 181.

15 Robie, Theodore Russel. "Towards Race Betterment."Birth Control Review, XVII. 4 (1933): 93-95. Web. 21 Nov 2013. < http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/05/04/is-eugenics-reemerging-if-so-what- would-happen-to-these-heroes-with-special-needs/>

16 Gardella, John E.. op. cit.

17 Aly, Götz, Karl Heinz Roth, Edwin Black and Assenka Oksiloff. The Nazi census. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004. Print. pp. 97.

18 see appendix 1 and 2

19 "Euthanasia in Nazi Germany - The T4 Programme | The Life Resources Charitable Trust."Life.org.nz, 2013. Web. 23 Nov 2013. <http://www.life.org.nz/euthanasia/abouteuthanasia/history- euthanasia6>.

20 "Nazi Propaganda Example #1 of 4: Math Textbook Questions."Www2.facinghistory.org, n.d. Web. 23 Nov 2013. <http://www2.facinghistory.org/Campus/rm.nsf/61A7F88FF16FBD9585256E8E001178AC/A3F0966 ED25644E385257180005E5D71?OpenDocument>.

21 see appendix 3

22 Weikart, Richard. op. cit. pp. 188-189.

23 Brack, Viktor. Testimony regarding gassing of insane people in Germany. Quoted in "Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals" - Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1949-1953, Vol. I, p. 876-886. Web. 23 Nov 2013. <http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust/resource/document/DocEuth.htm>

24 ibid.

25 Baranowski, Shelley. Nazi empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print. pp. 256.

26 Friedlander, Henry. The origins of Nazi genocide. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. Print. pp. 22.

27 Bottger, Joerg. Review of Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. H-Holocaust, H-Net Reviews, 2000. pp. 4.

28 Douglas, Pelton. op. cit. pp. 11.

29 "Euthanasia in Nazi Germany - The T4 Programme | The Life Resources Charitable Trust."op.cit.

30 Friedlander, Henry. op. cit. pp. 166.

31 Zawrel, Friedrich. op. cit.


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Title: To what extent did the Euthanasia Programme contribute to the gassing of Jews in extermination camps?