By Caleb Williams, Staff Writer
The Nazi euthanasia programs, which used starvation, gas chambers and Phenobarbital overdoses to kill its victims, grew out of the pseudoscience of eugenics that did not come from Germany, but largely the United States.
Dr. Susan Benedict, from the University of Botswana, spoke Tuesday about the “steps to the final solution” in the Third Reich, and specifically about the sterilization and euthanasia programs that led to the death or concentration camps usually associated with the Holocaust.
“The handicapped were not only devalued but stigmatized greatly,” Benedict said. “So, more than 350,000 people were sterilized in Germany.”
In addition to sterilization models that were actually narrower in Germany than in the United States, Benedict described Commander of the Nazi Party Adolph Hitler’s plans to begin euthanasia in the event of war.
“He planned for it to coincide with war because people would be distracted by the war effort,” Benedict said, “and people would see the need to divert money away from institutionalized patients to soldiers in the war effort.”
Benedict said in his book “Mein Kampf,” Hitler wrote of eugenics: “People who are physically and mentally unhealthy or unworthy must not perpetuate the suffering on their children.”
After a few technical difficulties with her projector, Benedict showed some examples of the propaganda used by the Nazis to “socialize the people into expecting not only sterilization, but eventually euthanasia.”
One example Benedict showed was a math problem from a high school textbook that asked students to calculate how many houses could be built for the same amount of money that was used to build an institution, while another showed a strong Aryan German man holding up two deformed people.
“The right to live must be earned,” Benedict quoted from a written by a lawyer and a physician during this time.
“Destroying lives not worth living would be humane, and the elimination of these lives was not a crime, but was permissible and even beneficial,” Benedict said of the book’s themes.
After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler began three phases of killing as part of his eugenics campaign.
The first, a children’s euthanasia program, began with a written request from the father of a deformed child to the Chancellor.
“From 1939 to 1945, between five and seven thousand children were killed,” Benedict said, adding that midwives who reported children with afflictions received an 80-cent bonus.
Parents were tricked into relinquishing their children, Benedict said, by nurses who promised excellent care for their children and a chance to “be able to go back to work.”
“After the children were admitted, they basically were starved to death,” Benedict said. “They would cut down their food until the children went into a coma. They would then notify the parents by mail that ‘your child died yesterday, but we had to go ahead and cremate your child because there was a hazard of contagious disease’” Benedict said. “The parents had no way of investigating.”
After the children’s euthanasia program, Germany instituted the T4 program – a similar program for adults.
Patients at the six killing centers were euthanized, as well as patients who were brought from over centers on buses with their windows painted over.
“The patients were never admitted to the hospital. They came in, they were given a very cursory examination by a doctor, and then they were taken outside to walk into the basement to the gas chamber,” Benedict said.
Benedict emphasized that doctors and nurses did not have to euthanize people, but were allowed to at their discretion.
Benedict said of one of the facilities that “there was no way people could not know something awful was going on there.”
“The children of the town and other towns would taunt each other with: ‘Be good, or you’ll get on the gray bus and you’ll go up the chimney’ because soon after the gray bus would arrive, black smoke would come up the chimney,” she said.
Following the death of 70,273 people, the T4 program ended and was succeeded by “wild euthanasia,” which did the same thing with a different method, Benedict said.
“Patients were killed individually,” she said. “[They] were taken one-by-one to the so-called ‘special rooms’ and they were overdosed and buried on the grounds.”