Patricia Heberer (U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Patricia Heberer (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum): Giving a Face to Faceless Victims: Profiles of Disabled Victims of the Nazi “Euthanasia” Program
Susan Bachrach (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum): Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race
David Forgacs (New York University): Photographing Places of Social Exclusion
Forced sterilization in Germany was the forerunner of the systematic killing of the mentally ill and the handicapped. In October 1939, Hitler promulgated a decree, which empowered physicians to grant a “mercy death” to “patients considered incurable”. This proved a way for the Nazi regime to begin exterminating the mentally ill and the handicapped, thus “cleansing” the “Aryan” race of persons considered genetically defective and a financial burden to society.
The code name for the program was “Operation T4,” a reference to Tiergartenstrasse 4, the address of the Berlin Chancellery offices where the program was headquartered. Physicians, the most highly Nazified professional group in Germany, were key to the success of “T-4,” since they organized and carried out nearly, all aspects of the operation.
Those selected by the review commission of physicians and psychiatrists were bused to killing centers in Germany and Austria. These were walled-in fortresses, mostly former psychiatric hospitals, castles, and a former prison. In the beginning, patients were killed by lethal injection. But by 1940, Hitler, on the advice of Dr. Werner Heyde, suggested that carbon monoxide gas be used as the preferred method of killing. Experimental gas killings had first been carried out at Brandenburg Prison in 1939.