“Life Unworthy of Life” and other Medical Killing Programmes

“During the Third Reich a minority of medical practitioners and public health officials in positions of authority, following an authorization decreed by Adolf Hitler in August 1939,directly implemented a policy of extermination respecting segments of the population who were diagnosed as suffering from severe mental and/or physical dysfunction. A much larger percentage of these groups were complicit directly or indirectly in the programme. Scholars habitually refer to this as the ‘Euthanasia’ programme, the term appearing with some regularity in the titles of academic treatises on this thrust of Nazi demographic policy. Two examples are Michael Burleigh’s Death and Deliverance, subtitled ‘Euthanasia’ in Germany 1900-1945 (Cambridge University Press, 1994), and Dick de Mildt’s more recent In the Name of the People… which carries the sub-subtitle The ‘Euthanasia’ and `Aktion Reinhard’ Trial Cases (Martinus Nijhoff, 1996)

Goosesteppin’ link

“Although both Burleigh and Mildt necessarily refer to killings and extermination, the consistent use of the term ‘euthanasia’ in this context is somewhat misleading. The Chambers Dictionary includes in its definitions “the act or practice of putting painlessly to death, esp in cases of incurable suffering.” The Shorter Oxford Dictionary refers to “a quiet and easy death,” and the “action of inducing” the same. However, the “incurable suffering” that the underlying ideology that rationalised the killings referred to was not that of the patient-victims, but that of the policy originators, their willing bureaucratic assistants, and those who directly handled the victims, whether transporting them, channeling them into gas chambers, injecting them with morphine-scopolamine, or managing their slow and agonising starvation; an efficient synergy of those Lifton referred to as the “killing professionals” and the “professional killers”. Their demise was not painless, quiet or easy. Many were not suffering from any mental or physical dysfunction aside from the physical consequences arising from having fallen into Nazi hands, as was the case with respect to those Poles and Russians who were exterminated in some of the same institutions used for eliminating those with mental or physical handicap. The dying rituals and procedures applied under the auspices of this “programme” were invariably identical to those that obtained in the extermination camps. The underlying objective was the same-the eradication of unwanted segments of the populace. In both instances no term other than murder is congruent with the circumstances. Nazi legal experts had held that:

unless a “law for annihilation of valueless lives” “(“Gesetz zur Vernichtung lebensunwürdigen Lebens”) was promulgated, these killings were illegal because a law against killing was still on the statute books of Germany, which provided that whoever killed somebody else with premeditation should be punished by death.” (Alexander, p.34-see below)

The fact that the enveloping conceptual framework was medico-demographic rather than xenophobic-racist, as it was respecting the Jews, should not obscure the fact that both derived sustenance from the same source, a desire to be rid of unacceptable others, a socially induced drive that was given free reign in a political framework that placed no limitations on goal attainment, and where those classified as being outside the framework of moral consideration were considered unworthy of being treated as anything other than expendable and replaceable objects. This same environment permitted medical experiments on individuals with no consideration as to the impact that these might have on their wellbeing or longevity.”

“The fact that the enveloping conceptual framework was medico-demographic rather than xenophobic-racist” that was the state sanctioned flip of thought that allowed the genocide etc.

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