The federal government and the city of Berlin unveiled on Tuesday a monument for the victims of what the Nazis called "euthanasia" at a ceremony in the central Tiergarten park.
The open air installation, which comprises a 24-meter (80-foot) glass panel, is meant as a symbol to inform people about the scope of the euthanasia murders and their "repercussions that reach to the present day."
Federal culture secretary Monika Grütters said the monument reminded of the Nazis' "inconceivably inhumane distinction between 'life worth living' and 'life not worth living'," adding that it also served as a warning not to view life in such utilitarian terms.
Victims' relatives and other political figures gathered in Tiergarten for the ceremony, at the site of a now-demolished villa at Tiergartenstrasse 4. More than 60 Nazi bureaucrats and doctors worked in secret there under the "T4" program to organize the mass murder of sanatorium and psychiatric hospital patients.
The monument is made of blue glass and contains information panels detailing the Nazis' campaign to exterminate the sick, the physically and mentally handicapped as well as people branded social "misfits."
In 1940 and 1941, around 70,000 people were killed as part of the Nazis' official euthanasia program. It was cancelled in August 1941, following public protests, but the killings continued under wraps. Various methods of execution were employed, including gas, forced starvation and poison.
"In contrast to the etymology of the word euthanasia [Greek: "easy death," eds.], the victims died a horrible death," Adolf Bauer, chairman of Germany's council for disabled persons, told DW.
"We welcome this memorial greatly, as it will serve as a means never to forget the Nazi crimes committed against disabled people," he added.
A total of 300,000 people deemed not worthy of life by the Nazis are believed to have been murdered. Neither West nor East Germany ever compensated the victims' families or the survivors, and critics had been long calling for official recognition of the injustices.
glb/cd (AFP, dpa, epd)