University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • "Euthanasia" crime in Hadamar

    "Euthanasia" crime in Hadamar

    The occurrence

    The 'euthanasia" crime in Hadamar

    hadamar killing centre The Hadamar Killing Centre with the smoking chimney of the crematorium, 1941
    Photo taken secretly

    On 13th January 1941, the first transport of mentally sick and disabled persons arrived from the psychiatric hospital Eichberg at the newly established killing centre Hadamar near Limburg. After a few hours, the patients were killed by gas, their remains were burnt in the crematorium. Until August of the same year, more than 10.000 people were killed in the gas chamber of Hadamar. This crime was falsely called "euthanasia", meaning mercy killing. In their records, the perpetrator's coldly spoke of "disinfection", thereby simply identifying the persons killed as vermin.

    Adolf Hitler's "decree on euthanasia", Berlin 1939
    Written on his private stationary

    hitler decree

    "Officially "the systematic killing of inmates of psychiatric hospitals in the German Reich began with Hitler's "Decree on Euthanasia ". Mass killing of sick people had, however, taken place before in Pomerania and Western Prussia. The debates on the implementation of the "extermination of life unworthy of life "did not start later than July 1939. Only in October of the same year did Hitler sign the authorisation as a secret decree on his private stationary, thereby evading all legal rules and governmental agencies. Upon his urging, a copy of this document was handed to Dr. Franz Gürtner, Reich Minister of justice, only on 27th August 1940 by T4 leader Philipp Bouhler.

    Dating back the "decree" to 1st September 1939 was done on purpose: since the war was also the beginning of the extermination of European Jewry, it was easier to trigger a "campaign" against sick and disabled persons for whom there should be no room in the victorious Reich. The "decree "did not have any legal force. It is true that there were debates on a law concerning "euthanasia in the case of incurably sick persons" until the autumn of 1940. However, the proposal was then rejected by Adolf Hitler who wanted total secrecy in this matter. Although this killing operation was illegal according to Nazi law, the courts - with the exception of a few courageous but unsuccessful judges - did not intervene.

    Philipp Bouhler, no date

    phillip bouhler

    Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler (1899-1945), Head of the Reich Chancellery, joined the NSDAP as early as 1935. He was responsible both for the killing of disabled children within the scope of the so-called "children euthanasia "and also for the killing of inmates of institutions pursuant to the "euthanasia "decree. Bouhler was also involved in the extermination of Jews in Poland. He committed suicide in 1945.

    Karl Brandt, no date

    Since 1934, Prof. Dr. Karl Brandt (1904-1948) was Hitler 's personal doctor. He too was involved in the killing of disabled children under the"children euthanasia' procedures. In 1942, he was appointed commissioner general for health and sanitary matters. In this function he was particularly responsible for the killing of inmates of institutions and hospitals from the bombed towns in 1943/44, the beds of which were needed for military hospital purposes ("Operation Brandt "). In 1947, Brandt was sentenced to death as war criminal. He was executed in 1948.


    Tiergartenstraße 4 in Berlin, 1940

    Tiergartenstraße 4 in Berlin (the original building was destroyed in Allied bombing but the address is now the home for the Berlin Philharmonia).

    The organization of the "euthanasia programme"

    Under the direction of Bouhler and Brandt, and in connection with the Reich Ministry of Interior, the killings were implemented by four camouflage organizations established for that purpose: The "Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Anstaltspflege "(Charitable Foundation for Institutional Nursing), the so-called "Stiftung ", supplied the personnel; the "Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft Heil-und Pflegeanstalten "(RAG)(Reich Task Force of Sanatoriums and Nursing Homes) organized and supervised the medical questionnaire procedures and gave an expert opinion on the data provided by the inmates of the institutions; the "Gemeinnützige Krankentransportgesellschaft" (Gekrat)(Charitable Ambulance Service)transported those to be killed to the killing institutions; the "Zentralverrechnungsstelle Heil-und Pflegeanstalten "(ZVSt) (Central Clearing Agency for Sanatoriums and Nursing Homes)cleared the expenses for each individual killing procedure.