by Rael Strous – Psychiatry Online
The Nazi euthanasia program, code-named “Operation-T4,” set out to eliminate “life unworthy of life.” It rapidly expanded to include individuals with mental illness, with Hitler’s 1939 decree allowing physicians to decide that certain individuals “be accorded a mercy-death.”
These patients included those with schizophrenia, the criminally insane, and the chronically hospitalized. The euthanasia program became the Nazi regime’s first campaign of mass murder against specific populations whom it considered inferior and threatening to the well-being of the Aryan race and the first time in history where psychiatrists sought out to systematically exterminate their patients, with several prominent psychiatrists playing central roles (1-4).
[In 1929, at Nuremberg, Hitler had proposed the annual “removal” of 7000,000 to 800,000 of the “weakest” Germans as a means of rapidly improving …the German race. He also wanted to eliminate millions among the “inferior races that breed like vermin.”]
By 1940, six killing centers designated as euthanasia institutions were established at Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Hartheim, Sonnenstein, Bernburg, and Hadamar.
The Hadamar Psychiatric Institute near Wiesbaden, Germany, code-named “Facility-E,” was refashioned for use as a psychiatry euthanasia facility in November 1940. From mid-January 1941 under Dr. Ernst Baumhard’s direction, with a staff of approximately 100, busloads of patients arrived daily at the killing operation.