Before covering the history of the next inhuman action of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is worth mentioning one fact that, for various reasons, they try not to remember too much. For a long time in historiography, there was an opinion that the Germans, in the situation with Hitler's power, were on the verge of mass insanity and were simply intoxicated with the new orders and prospects for the country's development. Autobahns were built, military production expanded, unemployment was eradicated, the territory of Germany grew at the expense of new countries - all these bonuses were in serious contrast to the times that followed the signing of the Versailles Treaty. Intoxicated by Hitler's charisma, the Germans simply did not seem to know about the concentration camps, executions and the Holocaust.
However, at least one episode of the history of the Third Reich destroys the entire beautiful story about the "innocence" of the civilian population. The secret program for the euthanasia of persons with physical and mental disabilities T4 (Aktion Tiergartenstraße 4), which started in Germany in 1939, managed to cause discontent among the population in two years. Moreover, the dissatisfaction was expressed in such a manner that Hitler ordered to cover up the project in the country. This decree, of course, did not apply to the occupied territories - there, as soon as the hands of the Nazis reached, they continued to shoot patients in psychiatric hospitals. So, could simple burghers resist the Gestapo, Hitler and maddened killer doctors? So, it was possible to raise a wave of popular indignation at the inhuman conditions of existence of Jews and prisoners of war in concentration camps?
Perhaps the real quintessence of a typical caring citizen of the Third Reich was the Bishop of Munster, Clemens August, Count von Galen. In 1941, he gave three sermons against the Gestapo (13, 20 July and 3 August), in which he resented the arrests, confiscations and the T4 program. The sermons later became famous.
“For several months now we have been receiving information that mentally ill patients who have been ill for a long time and, possibly, seem incurable, are being forcibly taken away from psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes by order from Berlin. As a rule, shortly thereafter, relatives receive a notification that the patient has died, the body has been cremated, and they can collect the ashes. There is almost complete confidence in society that these numerous cases of sudden death of the mentally ill do not occur by themselves, but as a result of premeditated murder. Thus, the doctrine is realized that it is possible to interrupt the so-called invaluable life, that is, to kill innocent people when it is believed that their life is no longer valuable for the people and the state. A monstrous doctrine justifying the murder of innocent people, in principle, lifting the ban on the violent killing of disabled people who are no longer able to work, cripples, incurable sick, frail people!"
- read the bishop in the August sermon.
The German underground, including the "White Rose", adopted his opposition slogans, which, as it turned out, hit the mark - ordinary citizens were quite agitated.
However, von Galen cannot be called a pacifist - he openly supported Hitler's aggressive policy, especially, as he put it, against the communist plague in the east. The bishop was also silent when, since 1934, more than 500 thousand “unfit” citizens of various nationalities were forcibly sterilized in the country. Von Galen's influence on the masses (and the entire Catholic leadership of the country) was so great that even the Gestapo did not dare to touch the "Munster Lion". The priest, who openly divided people into two classes, was able to safely wait for the end of the war, become a cardinal in 1946, and in 2005 be numbered among the blessed.
Killing out of compassion
German psychiatrists, eugenics and those simply not indifferent to the racial purity of the nation since the late 30s have been impatiently rubbing their hands, waiting for official permission for large-scale genetic cleansing in the country. As mentioned in the previous article, the Germans fell ill with eugenic hysteria after the successful implementation of similar programs in the United States and Scandinavia. The most unpleasant thing in this story is that the doctrine of the selection of the human race was actually discredited only by the Nazis. The world community, having learned about the inhuman application of the principles of eugenics in the Third Reich, forever branded a marginal science. If there were no eugenics in the Nazi program, it is likely that you and I would now live in a world where every 10th or 20th would be sterilized for medical reasons. And I am not exaggerating: the Swedes refused sterilization only in the 70s of the XX century. To the credit of the Soviet leadership, Stalin in a harsh manner mowed down the first shoots of eugenics in the country, but I'll tell you about this some other time.
The formal reason for organizing the massacres of genetically objectionable citizens for Hitler was a letter from a kind-hearted German, in which he asked for permission to kill his hopelessly ill son. Permission was given, while at the same time they untied the hands of a whole cohort of doctors, nurses and scientists who were so burdened by the insane, the elderly with dementia, encephalitics and many other unfortunate people. Hitler wrote in a document in October 1939:
"Reichsleiter Bowler and Dr. Brandt have been appointed by me as responsible commissioners for the expansion of the number of doctors by name in order to ensure" death of pity "for incurable, as common sense suggests, patients with an appropriate medical opinion regarding their condition."
What conclusions could be expected from doctors who, since 1936, have passed racial hygiene as an exam in universities and in refresher courses? It must be said that the medical community has been preparing the ground for the physical destruction of mentally ill people since 1937, when they began to reduce the nutritional norms for the respective patients. Some hospitals spent only 40 pfennigs per day per patient. At the same time, the official propaganda of the Nazis at the forefront of racial hygiene put precisely the economic effect of destruction - the posters were full of appropriate financial calculations. And the extensive racial cleansing within the Aryans did not come as a surprise to the German people. Back in 1929, that is, before coming to power, Hitler broadcast in Nuremberg at the party congress:
"If in Germany a million children were born annually and 700-800 thousand of the weakest of them were eliminated, then in the end it would probably even lead to a build-up of strength."
In many ways, Hitler's decree on the deployment of the T4 program was also associated with the expectation of a large number of wounded from the fronts of World War II - extra beds in the rear were vital. That is why the date of the start of euthanasia is September 1, 1939, although the Fuhrer signed the order almost two months later. As part of the program, German doctors for the first time practiced killing people in gas chambers and on car platforms. In particular, in Poland one could see deadly vans with the inscriptions: "Imperial coffee gesheft".
The "brain center" of the T4 action was the branch of the Berlin Reich Chancellery at 4 Tirgantenstrasse, which is why the specific name of the program appeared. In fact, no examinations of patients in most cases were carried out - it was enough for three experts to write "defective" on the basis of the patient's questionnaire, and his fate was decided. Each doomed received the stamp of the "Imperial Society of Medical and Welfare Workers," or RAG, which disguised legalized euthanasia. By the way, euthanasia had no legal status. Until the very end, Hitler did not give permission from the justice system to formally formalize the possibility of killing in the legal field of Germany.
Those sentenced to destruction were taken from hospitals in special vans of the Non-Commercial Hospital Transport - Limited Liability Company (Gekrat), which featured tightly painted windows. According to complex schemes, in order to confuse local residents, patients with intermediate stops were taken to Brandenburg, Pirn, Grafeneck and other places equipped with gas chambers. After the killing procedure, the bodies were cremated, and the relatives wrote something like:
“It is with regret that we have to inform you that on February 10, 1940, your daughter (son, father, sister) unexpectedly died as a result of toxic diphtheria. Her (his) transfer to our medical institution was a measure of wartime."
Many were not satisfied with such formulations and they began to dig deeper, bombarding the relevant departments with inquiries and complaints. Then in the ministerial circles of the Third Reich, rumors began to circulate about the wide popularity of the T4 program among the people, largely due to the measures of excessive secrecy. Besides, Bishop von Galen added oil, voicing the aspirations of millions of Germans:
“Since it is permissible to eliminate useless people, what will become of our gallant soldiers, who will return with severe battle wounds, crippled, disabled ?! Then, therefore, to kill all of us when we are old and weak, and therefore useless."
Fear of the prospect of their own old age made the burghers raise their heads in just civil protest.