Aktion T4 was the involuntarily euthanasia of mentally disabled person during the Nazi Germany period. mentally disabled person where brought to asylums. At the asylums the disabled were checked by specialized doctors. These doctors determined if patients were to be euthanized. the euthanasia was called a gnadentod (death of mercy).
If it was decided that a patient felt within the euthanasia criteria he or she was brought to a aktion T4 euthanasia center. at the center they were killed by injection or gassing using a van.
Also in Poland mentally disabled were actively killed. Especially prior to the war with Russia “operation Barbarossa”. Many asylums were cleared of their patient to make room for battle wounded soldiers
Aim of aktion T4
Aktion T4 is a postwar term coined to describe the involuntarily euthanasia of people. People selected for euthanized were mentally disabled, elderly and people with hereditary diseases. These people where called: living unworthy of life. The program was led by Philip Bouhler, Karl Brandt and Viktor Brack.
Aktion t4 was aimed to to sustain racial purity. Nazi ideology postulated that the Germanic race was the race on the world best fit for survival with superior hereditary traits, called the ubermensch. In order to keep the Germanic race pure and superior it was important to weed out the “weaker” people. This idea was not only living within Germany. In the 1920-30’s it was a scientific field of research, called eu-genetics. The principle was to remove negative inheritory traits within a population of people by sterilization of the peoples carrying those diseases. A law for sterilization of disabled people and a-social people was already enacted in 1933, prior to the switch to active euthanasia of these peoples.
Waiting for war
Although, from Hitlers perspective the sterilization was not enough. He deemed the disabled to be a burden of society, needed to be relieved. However, the nazi inner circle did recognize that openly speaking of euthanizing the disabled would not be accepted by the general population. Therefore they waited with the implementation of the euthanasia just before the invasion of Poland. This in hope that the news about war would cover up the euthanasias. The mandate to start Aktion t4 by Hitler can be traced back to the 1st of September, with the invasion of Poland starting at the exact same day. Some people also made the euthanasia of disabled also freed needed beds for wounded soldiers.
The process of euthanasia started by selecting disabled people fitting the criteria. At first mainly childres were euthanized, adults followed only later.All doctors and midwives were ordered to report known patients with disabilities. The selection was done in intermediate asylums, see map, by a panel of doctors. When a majority voted for euthanasie the person was selected to be transported to a euthanasia center, see map, or brought to poland.
After the closure of the polish campaign the first euthanasia centers became active. The first to open was grafeneck. In total 6 main euthanasia centers were active. Medical experiments pointed out that gassing patients with carbon mono-oxide was the easiest and cheapest way to kill multiple patients at a time. The gas was derived from either combusted canisters with pure carbon mono-oxide or by a “gas van”. A gas van is a truck in which the exhaust can be linked with a sealed room in the back of the truck. During action T4 70.000 peoples were killed, before it was officially stopped due to complains from the german people. Secretly the program was continued till the end of the war and it is estimated that a total of 300.000 disabled people are killed in this manner.
The methods used in for killing the disabled people were later used in the extermination camp gas chambers. Most people know the gassing of people using zyklon B in Auschwitz. The method was actualy a later development of the most used method to kill people: Carbon mono-oxide gassing.