Friday, March 25, 2005

Chilling


In October of 1939 amid the turmoil of the outbreak of war Hitler ordered widespread "mercy killing" of the sick and disabled.

Code named "Aktion T 4," the Nazi euthanasia program to eliminate "life unworthy of life" at first focused on newborns and very young children. Midwives and doctors were required to register children up to age three who showed symptoms of mental retardation, physical deformity, or other symptoms included on a questionnaire from the Reich Health Ministry.

A decision on whether to allow the child to live was then made by three medical experts solely on the basis of the questionnaire, without any examination and without reading any medical records.

Each expert placed a + mark in red pencil or - mark in blue pencil under the term "treatment" on a special form. A red plus mark meant a decision to kill the child. A blue minus sign meant a decision against killing. Three plus symbols resulted in a euthanasia warrant being issued and the transfer of the child to a 'Children's Specialty Department' for death by injection or gradual starvation.

The decision had to be unanimous. In cases where the decision was not unanimous the child was kept under observation and another attempt would be made to get a unanimous decision.

The Nazi euthanasia program quickly expanded to include older disabled children and adults. Hitler's decree of October, 1939, typed on his personal stationary, enlarged "the authority of certain physicians to be designated by name in such manner that persons who, according to human judgment, are incurable can, upon a most careful diagnosis of their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death."

Questionnaires were then distributed to mental institutions, hospitals and other institutions caring for the chronically ill.

Patients had to be reported if they suffered from schizophrenia, epilepsy, senile disorders, therapy resistant paralysis and syphilitic diseases, retardation, encephalitis, Huntington's chorea and other neurological conditions, also those who had been continuously in institutions for at least 5 years, or were criminally insane, or did not posses German citizenship or were not of German or related blood, including Jews, Negroes, and Gypsies.


Human beings cannot be trusted with such decisions. Once we start down the road we don't seem to be able to stop ourselves. We mean well, most of us, but we always end up going too far. History repeats, nothing is new, we keep running over the same old ground.

On August 3, 1941, a Catholic Bishop, Clemens von Galen, delivered a sermon in M√ľnster Cathedral attacking the Nazi euthanasia program calling it "plain murder." The sermon sent a shockwave through the Nazi leadership by publicly condemning the program and urged German Catholics to "withdraw ourselves and our faithful from their (Nazi) influence so that we may not be contaminated by their thinking and their ungodly behavior."

As a result, on August 23, Hitler suspended Aktion T4, which had accounted for nearly a hundred thousand deaths by this time.

The Nazis retaliated against the Bishop by beheading three parish priests who had distributed his sermon, but left the Bishop unharmed to avoid making him into a martyr.

However, the Nazi euthanasia program quietly continued, but without the widespread gassings. Drugs and starvation were used instead and doctors were encouraged to decide in favor of death whenever euthanasia was being considered.


I'm afraid we won't be able to stop the pendulum this time either. Oh yes, there are those who want to get this started again, you can bet on it. All in the name of freedom.

No comments: