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Beginning in October 1939, Adolf Hitler secretly approved an experimental program which by intent and in practice sterilized and removed “undesirable” citizens from the German population. These “undesirables” were German, Jewish, or Gypsy patients who were in most cases handicapped or deemed incurable. It is estimated that the Nazi regime was responsible for over 400,000 sterilizations and over 70,000 deaths from euthanasia from 1933-1945. Despite the fact that many of the “undesirables” were part of German families who supported the Nazis, they were viewed as threats to the Aryan race and were targeted for extinction.

Historians have long wondered why theories on experimental programs designed to sterilize and remove “undesirables” from the population resurfaced after Hitler took office in 1933. While the decision to implement sterilization and euthanasia to protect the Aryan race was influenced by theories on Eugenics long before when Adolf Hitler came into power in 1933, only when Hitler took office were these theories placed into action. Although, the sterilization and “euthanasia” influences from scientific views prior to the Nazi regime did not resurface until after 1933, they were not directly responsible for the atrocities that occurred.

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For it took an economic depression, the spread of Nazi propaganda, the intimidation of an environment of persecution, and the outbreak of World War 2 to trigger efforts made by influential sterilization and euthanasia theorists to protect the Aryan race. Defeat in the First World War and the conditions outlined in the Treaty of Versailles drove Germany into severe economic ruin. During this time cost cutting solutions were explored in all sectors of German society. In 1920 ”The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life”’ was published.

This was written by two German professors named Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche who were the prophets of direct medicalized killing and most influential on Adolf Hitler. Hoche and Binding offered a solution to the economic crisis and justified the killing of human beings who fell into these categories by suggesting that the lives of such human beings were ‘not worth living’, and were ‘devoid of value. ” Their intent was to rid society of the ‘human ballast and enormous economic burden’ of care for the mentally ill, the handicapped, retarded and deformed children, and the incurably ill.

Hoche’s and Binding’s idea of destroying unworthy life was not immediately carried out, but terms such as “Human ballast” and “empty shells of human beings” resurfaced and influenced the sterilization and “euthanasia” programs carried out by the S. S. after 1933. While Hoche and Binding influenced the sterilization and “euthanasia” carried out by the Nazi’s in 1939, it was the destitution of Germans that played a more significant role in the well-being of Germany. A number of nations suffered mass economic depression and looked to eugenics as the solution for their pain and suffering.

The views of Hoche and Binding were revisited in Hitler’s speech at the Nuremberg rally in 1929. Hitler remarked “If Germany were to add one million children per year and remove “700-800,000 of the weakest people then the final result might even be an increase in strength. ” As a result, sharp cuts were made to state mental hospitals in 1930, which caused squalor and overcrowding. The need to cut costs in state funded mental hospitals would never have been explored if not for severe financial ruin which plagued Germany during the 1920’s and early 1930’s.

Desperate times in Germany called for a change in priority between people seen as “fit” and people who were viewed as “unfit. ” Although, the cuts in state funding were influenced by Hoche and Binding not all of the states funding was taken from mental hospitals prior to Hitler taking office in 1933. Only after Hitler took office was when the German government eliminated all funding to state mental hospitals. In the late 1920’s the Nazi party built on sterilization and “euthanasia” practices influenced by Hoche and Binding and turned them into policy once the Nazi party came into power.

Adolf Hitler discussed in “Mein Kampf” a need to make “a new and ruthless choice according to health and strength. ” At the Nuremberg rally in 1929, he stated that if Germany were to add one million children per year and remove “700-800,000 of the weakest people then the final result might even be an increase in strength. ” Hitler also stated that as a consequence of “modern sentimental humanitarianism” Germany was “maintaining the weak at the expense of the healthy. This is consistent with Hoche and Binding’s ideology which regarded these human beings as a “human ballast and enormous economic burden. ” When the Nazi party came into Power in 1933, the propaganda surrounding necessary sterilization and “euthanasia” was manifested into using “euthanasia” programs as preparation for the Holocaust. The development of gas showers was perfected first on the use of undesirables before being used on the Jews. The Nazis demonstrated high priority of racial hygiene in their first effort to rid society of the undesirables was the Sterilization Law of July 14, 1933.

This made sterilization compulsory for those who had hereditary illnesses and those who had the power to decide were the Hereditary Health Courts. Anti-Semitism and “eugenics” were manifested by the Nazis into a much broader scope than Hoche and Binding theorized that resulted into the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. Once the Holocaust began after Kristallnacht, the Action T-4 program was secretly approved by Adolf Hitler in 1939. The T-4 program was used as preparation for mass killings of Jews in order to reduce the side effects of soldiers massacring Jews.

The Nazis efforts stretched out to influence to film as well. Films such as “The Inheritance” in 1935 and “The Victim of the Past” in 1935 depicted the consequences in society from bad hereditary illnesses. The German public was not accepting the idea of “euthanasia” and these films were created as a test in order to gauge public interest of openly performing euthanasia or keeping it secret. The German public never widely accepted these views on eugenics, but this did not stop Hitler and the S. S. rom carrying out their agenda and all killings of the undesirables were kept secret. The influence of theorists such as Hoche and Binding played a prominent role in the Nazis campaign to remove the weak in place of stronger people. However, Hoche and Binding primarily focused on “the mentally ill, the handicapped, retarded and deformed children, and the incurably ill” whereas Hitler and the Nazi government manifested it into a racial hygiene campaign that attacked groups such as the Jews and gypsies who did not fit these categories.

One can assert that if the Nazi party was never in power the influence of Hoche and Binding would never have manifested into the racial hygiene campaign that resulted from Nazi rule. Only when the Nazi party was in power could they pass laws such as the Sterilization act of 1933 because many racial hygiene supporters and theorists flocked to the Nazi government and were given jobs to promote these ideas. Constant exposure in the form of film and posters served as a subliminal message in the minds of Germans. The sterilization nd “euthanasia” programs developed after 1933 were influenced by earlier scientific views on eugenics, but earlier views focused on the mentally and incurably ill, whereas the Nazis focused on subjects who did not fall into these categories and were still capable of contributing equally as any desirable could. Beginning in 1933, the Nazi government set the tone for a move toward a stronger Germany. This came with an environment of persecution that allowed Hitler’s policies on sterilization and euthanasia to take place.

Those in professional positions such as doctors felt pressured to work towards Hitler’s will for career reasons. Many of these doctors worked under physicians appointed by Hitler to carry out specific orders. Hitler employed these physicians not because they were the best person for the job, but because they supported his agenda. Patients lives were weighed by the value they could produce for Germany and if the doctors evaluating these patients did not feel that they could contribute the patient was killed.

The environment of persecution that was created in Germany after 1933 played a more prominent role in the sterilization and “euthanasia” agenda carried out by the German government. This environment enabled professionals who supported Hitler’s racial views to take their careers to new levels by working towards Hitler’s will. The scientific views of Hoche and Binding unquestionably influenced Hitler’s agenda toward racial purity, but the ones carrying out the orders of the S. S. were not necessarily following through on these orders because they believed that these patients were “unworthy. Rather, they were following orders for career opportunities, avoidance of persecution, or even work on the front lines. If more physicians refused to comply with the killing of the mentally ill and undesirables then one can assert that the outcome would have been forever changed. Without qualified physicians it would have been difficult to identify undesirables for elimination and difficult to forge false causes of death without suspicion. The onset of war rapidly approached Germany and this placed Nazi sterilization and euthanasia into full force.

The declaration of World War 2 prompted immediate action from Hitler’s agenda for sterilization and eugenics. Hitler remarked in 1935 that “a war effort required many healthy people, and that the generally diminished sense of the value of human life during the war would make it the best time for the elimination of the incurably ill. ” The war acted as a curtain for secret eugenic programs like the Aktion T-4 because the German public was much more focused on the battles on the front lines than murders of the mentally and incurably ill in Germany.

The war effort allowed the Aktion T-4 program to free up resources such as hospitals, doctors, and nurses for wounded soldiers from battle. The elimination of incurably ill children was well underway before the war had started, but was accelerated and included adults once the war began. Hitler followed through on his agenda on allocating available resources for the strong, who were the soldiers at the expense of the undesirables. However, this was not met without concerns of prosecution from doctors participating in the Aktion T-4 program.

These doctors knew that this was murder and would not participate unless Hitler agreed to conceal their involvement. The scientific views held by theorists prior to 1933 influenced Hitler’s decisions to prioritize wounded soldiers over “unworthy” patients because he had steadily cut costs to state funded mental hospitals. However, the action he took to eliminate all these patients through programs such as the Aktion T-4 program were influenced by World War 2. Hitler felt that he could solve the problem of sterilization and “euthanasia” during the war because attention was directed toward the war effort.

Without the cover of war it is likely the Aktion T-4 program would have not been implemented. Catholic and Protestant clergy suspected the murders of innocent children and would have continued to pursue this issue with more public attention if not having the fear of battle looming and the need to focus attention of lives lost during battle on the front lines. Since the end of World War 1 an emphasis was placed on gender purity because of the hardship Germany faced afterward. This prompted contributions from many theorists including Hoche and Binding who ignited thoughts on sterilization and euthanasia.

These ideas were widely challenged and supported, but with the onset of depression that forced Germany into financial ruin, only then were Hoche and Bindings ideas being seriously considered. They were pushed forward by Adolf Hitler and became instrumental in his campaign on racial purity. Once in power, he created an environment of persecution to help solidify support for the Nazi party and many rushed to side with Hitler for career reasons and fear of persecution. No official programs were instated for “euthanasia” until the World War 2 started.

This became the perfect cover for Hitler to complete his work at the expense of the undesirables who were unable to defend themselves. Although, early scientific views on sterilization and euthanasia played important roles into the creation of the Nazi agenda toward racial hygiene, the circumstances surrounding the issue such as depression, war, and persecution forced action. Had the depression, war, and hostile environment in Germany failed to come together, action against the mentally sick would have remained dormant like it had before 1929.

The Aktion T-4 program was shut down in 1941 because catholic and protestant clergy along with family members of the victims began to suspect what really happened to their children. Workers within the killing centers also released some information at local bars where they became frequent drinkers due to the horrors they were exposed to. However, Hitler likely accomplished his goals of the program by then and directed all his attention toward the Jews. The views introduced by theorists like Hoche and Binding influenced Hitler and resulted in one of the largest massacres in history.

The Holocaust was not what Darwin, Hoche, and Binding had in mind when they introduced their theories. They are not to blame, the people and the circumstances that surrounded sterilization and “euthanasia” before and after 1933 are. History could have been forever changed if any of these circumstances played out differently. BIBLIOGRAPHY David, Henry P. , Jochen Fleischhacker, and Charlotte Hohn. “Abortion and Eugenics in Nazi Germany. ” Population and Development Review 14. 1 (1988): 81-112. JSTOR. Web. 22 Nov. 2011. <http://www. jstor. org. myaccess. library. utoronto. a/stable/1972501>. Dowbiggin, Ian. A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine. Lanham, MD [u. a. : Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. Print. Kallert, Thomas W. , Juan E. Mezzich, and John Monahan. Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry: Clinical, Legal and Ethical Aspects. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Print. Kallert, Thomas W. , Juan E. Mezzich, and John Monahan. Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry: Clinical, Legal and Ethical Aspects. Chichester, Print. Kemp, N. D. A. Merciful Release: the History of the British Euthanasia Movement.

Manchester, UK: Manchester UP, 2002. Print. Keown, John. Euthanasia Examined: Ethical, Clinical and Legal Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print. Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Profile in Power. Harlow, England: Longman, 2000. Print. Lifton, Robert J. "GERMAN DOCTORS AND THE FINAL SOLUTION. ” The New York Times 21 Sept. 1986. The New York Times. Web. 22 Nov. 2011. <http://www. nytimes. com>. Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic, 2000. Print. Proctor, Robert. Racial Hygiene: Medicine under he Nazis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000. Print. Proctor, Robert. Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000. Print. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Lifton, Robert J. “GERMAN DOCTORS AND THE FINAL SOLUTION. ” The New York Times 21 Sept. 1986. The New York Times. Web. 22 Nov. 2011. . [ [ 2 ]Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Profile in Power. Harlow, England: Longman, 2000. Print. pg. 146. [ [ 3 ]Keown, John. Euthanasia Examined: Ethical, Clinical and Legal Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. P. 128. [ [ 4 ]Keown, John.

Euthanasia Examined: Ethical, Clinical and Legal Perspectives. P. 128. [ [ 5 ]Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic, 2000. P. 47. [ [ 6 ]Kemp, N. D. A. Merciful Release: the History of the British Euthanasia Movement. Manchester, UK: Manchester UP, 2002. P. 125. [ [ 7 ]Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Profile in Power. Harlow, England: Longman, 2000. P. 254. [ [ 8 ]Kemp, N. D. A. Merciful Release: the History of the British Euthanasia Movement. Manchester, UK: Manchester UP, 2002. P. 125. [ [ 9 ]Kemp, N. D. A.

Merciful Release: the History of the British Euthanasia Movement. Manchester, UK: Manchester UP, 2002. P. 125. [ [ 10 ]Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic, 2000. P. 74. [ [ 11 ]Kallert, Thomas W. , Juan E. Mezzich, and John Monahan. Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry: Clinical, Legal and Ethical Aspects. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. P. 164. [ [ 12 ]Kallert, Thomas W. , Juan E. Mezzich, and John Monahan. Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry: Clinical, Legal and Ethical Aspects. Chichester, P. 165. [ [ 13 ]/p>

Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic, 2000. P. 78. [ [ 14 ]Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic, 2000. P. 48. [ [ 15 ]Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. P. 49. [ [ 16 ]Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic, 2000. P. 57. [ [ 17 ]Kallert, Thomas W. , Juan E. Mezzich, and John Monahan. Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry: Clinical, Legal and Ethical Aspects.

Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. P. 164. [ [ 18 ]Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic, 2000. P. 50. [ [ 19 ]Proctor, Robert. Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000. P. 189. [ [ 20 ]Dowbiggin, Ian. A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine. Lanham, MD [u[u. a. : Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. P. 93. [ 21 ]Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic, 2000. P. 75.

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