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Nazi Euthanasia

DW staff (ls)November 22, 2008

German historians are compiling a register of 9,000 mentally ill people killed by the Nazis as part of Hitler's euthanasia policy. Berlin's Freie University and Brandenburg's memorial trust are leading the project.

Hitler gives a speech on Dec. 2, 1938 in Reichenberg
Hitler ordered more than 100,000 mentally ill people to be killedImage: AP

Hitler first outlined his Nazi euthanasia campaign, which would later be called Operation T4, in his book "Mein Kampf." Believed to have claimed 70,000 victims between January 1940 and August 1941 alone, the idea behind Operation T4 was disseminated through Nazi propaganda films depicting the mentally or terminally ill as "useless mouths to feed."

Financed by the German lottery, the university in Berlin and the state of Brandenburg's memorial trust, which is located in the town of Brandenburg, have decided to lead the one year project because they feel the issue of euthanasia during Hitler's reign has not received the proper attention it deserves.

"We have wanted to do this for years, but the state archives and many of the necessary information sources only became available after German re-unification," said Guenter Morsch, a researcher at the Brandenburg memorial trust.

Revisiting the horror

It is believed that more than 100,000 people, most of whom were previously unidentified, were euthanized under Operation T4 during Hitler's reign. Researchers say exposing this horror is an important step for Germany as it continues to delve into its Nazi past.

Berlin symphony musicians play at the Holocaust memorial in Berlin on May 9, 2008
Registers and memorials, like this tribute to Holocaust victims in Berlin, hold great importance for GermanyImage: AP

"Firstly, it's a dignified way to remember the deceased, secondly, it's a service to the families left behind, thirdly it's important for general historical research, and fourthly it will serve an educational purpose," Morsch explained.

He also said the town of Brandenburg was the location where the first mentally ill Jews were killed.

"Too few people are aware of how significant this town was during the Jewish Holocaust," he said.