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Adolf Hitler ordered cessation of Operation T4, the killing of patients in mental hospitals and other institutions for disabled and dependent human beings, on this date in 1941, in response to public protests in Germany. “Meticulous records discovered after the war,” according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “documented 70,273 deaths by gassing at the six ‘euthanasia’ centers between January 1940 and August 1941. (This total included up to 5,000 Jews; all Jewish mental patients were killed regardless of their ability to work or the seriousness of their illness.)” Counting “euthanasia” programs that continued outside Germany, the total number of victims is probably a quarter of a million. The program was secret; German families of victims were told about other causes of death. But word got out, and protests came from church leaders (Catholic and Protestant), some judges, and the families of victims. “Gas chambers from some of the . . . killing centers were dismantled and shipped to extermination camps in occupied Poland,” according to the Museum. “In late 1941 and 1942, they were rebuilt and used for the ‘final solution to the Jewish question.’ Similarly redeployed from T-4 were future extermination camp commandants Christian Wirth, Franz Stangl, Franz Reichleitner, the doctor Irmfried Eberl, as well as about 100 others — doctors, male nurses, and clerks, who applied their skills in Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor.” “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.” --U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.