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This poster (from around 1938) reads: "60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People's community during his lifetime. Read '[A] New People', the monthly magazine of the Bureau for Race Politics of the NSDAP." The T4 programme stemmed from the Nazi Party policy of "racial hygiene", a belief that the German people needed to be cleansed of racial enemies, which included people with disabilities as well as anyone who was confined to a mental health facility.The euthanasia programme was part of the evolution of the policy of administrative murder that culminated in the extermination of Jews of Europe during the Nazi genocides.
This issue, according to the Nazi regime, assumed new urgency in wartime.After 1937 the acute shortage of labour in Germany, arising from rearmament, meant that anyone capable of work was deemed to be "useful" and thus exempted from the law and the rate of sterilisation declined. Karl Brandt, personal physician to Hitler and Hans Lammers, the head of the Reich Chancellery, testified after the war that Hitler had told them as early as 1933—when the sterilisation law was passed—that he favoured the killing of the incurably ill but recognised that public opinion would not accept this.In 1935, Hitler told the Leader of Reich Doctors, Gerhard Wagner, that the question could not be taken up in peacetime, "Such a problem could be more smoothly and easily carried out in war".The eugenic sterilization of persons diagnosed with (and viewed as predisposed to) schizophrenia was advocated by Eugene Bleuler, who presumed racial deterioration because of mental and physical cripples in his Textbook of Psychiatry: The more severely burdened should not propagate themselves…If we do nothing but make mental and physical cripples capable of propagating themselves, and the healthy stocks have to limit the number of their children because so much has to be done for the maintenance of others, if natural selection is generally suppressed, then unless we will get new measures our race must rapidly deteriorate.Für mich ist die Vorstellung untragbar, dass beste, blühende Jugend an der Front ihr Leben lassen muss, damit verblichene Asoziale und unverantwortliche Antisoziale ein gesichertes Dasein haben.
(It is unbearable to me that the flower of our youth must lose their lives at the front, while that feeble-minded and asocial element can have a secure existence in the asylum.) The German eugenics movement had an extreme wing even before the Nazis came to power.
Robert Lifton wrote, "The argument went that the best young men died in war, causing a loss to the Volk of the best available genes.
The genes of those who did not fight (the worst genes) then proliferated freely, accelerating biological and cultural degeneration".
In his book Mein Kampf (1924), Hitler wrote that one day racial hygiene, "will appear as a deed greater than the most victorious wars of our present bourgeois era".
The idea of sterilising those carrying hereditary defects or exhibiting what was thought to be hereditary "antisocial" behaviour was widely accepted.
The killings took place from September 1939 to August 1941, during which 70,273 people were recorded as being killed at various extermination centres located at psychiatric hospitals in Germany and Austria, along with those in occupied Poland.