University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • An Afterword

    An Afterword

    The term "euthanasia" (the beautiful death) was the Nazis' way of preventing criticism of their inhuman attitude toward human worth! Fifty years ago this term represented a separation of fellow human beings by methods we today would find inhuman and unacceptable for a civilized society.

    Today the term "euthanasia" often appears in the context of the mercy killing discussion. Does this create some warning signals related to the moral foundation of our society? Where will the present discussion about "euthanasia" lead our society and us in the twenty-first century when the historic use of the term is in such a way disclosed, as it is by this exhibition.

    In the beginning of the twenty-first century doctors, health personnel, lawyers and the common man are discussing the separation of genetic disabilities before the disabled child is born.

    This raises questions related to the complicated issues around abortion. With our present abortion laws the separation of the "inferior" beings can occur antiseptically and cleanly. When this is used as the only criteria for abortion the question must be raised as to societal value of some human life versus other. Concealed by the term "abortion on medical grounds", a human being - though with disabilities - is not born.

    The common wish behind the "euthanasia program" of the Nazis fifty years ago was "only to establish a future society where there should be no people with a genetic disability."

    Is the future society that the public health sector in 2001 is preparing for based on the same idea?

    A future society where fellow human beings with genetic disabilities no longer exist.
    This exhibition raises critical questions that we must discuss and debate as they relate to our history and our future:

    Will the absence of people with disabilities in the future make our society more humane and civilised? Or will the pure absence of these fellow human beings make our common future more inhuman?

    We would like you to think about this question. It is important for all of us. It is important for what kind of human beings we want to be in the future.

    - Tor Oskar Jorgensen