Action T4

Article

July 1, 2022

Action T4 (German Aktion T4) was a secret program of the extermination of affected people in Nazi Germany and its territories, which was ideologically based on the Nazi doctrine of "racial hygiene" (Rassenhygiene). The systematic extermination of the victims began in 1939, and was officially ended in 1941 after protests initiated by representatives of the Catholic Church. In reality, however, the program secretly continued, albeit much more slowly, until the final defeat of Germany. In total, about 200–250 thousand people were killed in the years 1939–1945. T4 is an abbreviation of the Berlin address where the management responsible for the program was located - Tiergartenstraße 4.

Euthanasia of children

The prelude to the T4 operation was a top-secret decree of the Reich Ministry of the Interior of 18 August 1939, according to which all midwives and chief maternity physicians were to report to the Imperial Committee for scientific detection of severe genetic and hereditary diseases all newly born disabled or deformed children. This event also included children under 3 years of age. The age limit then shifted during the war to 16-17 years. For these purposes, a uniform form was created, which was then handed over to the medical team, which decided on the life or death of the children. This team included Werner Catel, Professor of Pediatrics at the Leipzig Clinic, Hans Heinze, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Berlin, and Ernst Wentzler, Child Psychiatrist and Head of the Berlin-Frohnau Clinic. They made decisions on the basis of written documents and evaluated the children with a + (death) or - (life) sign. The decision on euthanasia had to be unanimous. In case of an ambiguous result, an additional investigation was carried out. The children were killed in specialized children's wards set up for this purpose. The first such department was established in Görden near Brandenburg under the leadership of Hans Heinz. Gradually, other centers of childhood euthanasia were established in Germany, Austria and Poland. As children were killed, one of the doctors reported during the post-war trials: if they were older than ten years, then a third dose at noon. The lethal dose of this sleeping powder is 0.4 g per day for adults, 0.1 g for school-age children and 0.05 g for children under three years of age. The powder was added to food to suppress its bitter taste. [Pokud] If the child was so sleepy that he could not swallow, he was given an enema medicine. As a result of persistent unconsciousness and shallow breathing, pneumonia developed after two to five days, the course and symptoms of which, such as severe bronchitis, nasal pus secretion, lung murmurs or fever, were recorded in the medical record. […] An autopsy was performed after the child's exit; confirmed that more than 90 percent of the causes were lobar pneumonia and tracheobronchitis. ”Similarly, about 5,000 children and adolescents died in specialized children's wards. Others died with adults as part of the T4 event. Children have also been abused as experimental objects for scientific research. These included research into preventive vaccination for tuberculosis and brain research.

Adult euthanasia

Preparations for the implementation of adult euthanasia began in the summer of 1939. On October 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler signed an order for euthanasia, which dates back to September 1. The order was addressed only to a narrow circle of initiates. A team of experts was assembled to continue deciding on the lives and deaths of "worthless individuals." It included, for example, Max de Crinis, Werner Heyde, Berthold Kihn, Paul Nitsche, Carl Schneider and, among others, people associated with the euthanasia of children such as Werner Catel