Aktion T4  

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Aktion T4 was a postwar name for mass murder through involuntary euthanasia in Nazi Germany. The name T4 is an abbreviation of Tiergartenstraße 4, a street address of the Chancellery department set up in the spring of 1940 in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, which recruited and paid personnel associated with T4. In October 1939 Adolf Hitler signed a "euthanasia note" backdated to 1 September 1939 which authorized his physician Karl Brandt and Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler to implement the programme.

The killings took place from September 1939 until the end of the war in 1945, and 275,000 to 300,000 people were killed at various extermination centres at psychiatric hospitals in Germany and Austria, along with those in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now the Czech Republic). The number of victims was originally recorded as 70,273 people, but this number has been increased by the discovery of victims listed in the archives of former East Germany. About half of those killed were taken from church-run asylums, often with the approval of the Protestant or Catholic authorities of the institutions. The Holy See announced on 2 December 1940 that the policy was contrary to the natural and positive Divine law and that "the direct killing of an innocent person because of mental or physical defects is not allowed", but the declaration was not upheld by some Catholic authorities in Germany. In the summer of 1941, protests were led in Germany by Bishop von Galen, whose intervention led to "the strongest, most explicit and most widespread protest movement against any policy since the beginning of the Third Reich", according to Richard J. Evans.

Several reasons have been suggested for the programme, including eugenics, compassion, reducing suffering, racial hygiene, economy, and pressure on the welfare budget. Physicians in German and Austrian facilities continued many of the practices of Aktion T4 until the defeat of Germany in 1945, in spite of its official cessation. The unofficial continuation of the policy led to additional deaths by medicine and similar means, resulting in 93,521 "beds emptied" by the end of 1941. Technology that was developed under Aktion T4 was taken over by the medical division of the Reich Interior Ministry, particularly the use of lethal gas to kill large numbers of people, along with the personnel who had participated in the development of the technology and later participated in Operation Reinhard.

The technology and personnel developed were instrumental in implementing the Holocaust. The programme was authorized by Hitler but the killings have since come to be viewed as murders in Germany. The number of people killed was about 200,000 in Germany and Austria, with about 100,000 persons victims in other European countries.

See also

Killing centers





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