Abstract | Background | The Children's Euthanasia Program | The Killings | The "T-4" Adult Euthanasia Program | The "Wild" Euthanasia Programs | Why The Nurses Participated | Analytic Framework for Understanding the Nurses' Participation | Conclusion | References

The Killings

At the specialized centers, children who were designated by the Reich Committee for euthanasia were killed shortly after arrival by medication or were starved to death. In the pediatric unit of Haar, for example, 332 children died of deliberate starvation or by an overdose of Luminal [phenobarbital]. This drug was mixed into the children's food every morning and night until they became unconscious and developed pneumonia. Some were also given injections of morphine and scopolamine (Burleigh, 1994, p. 102).

The nursing staff of the pediatric unit of Haar was led by a senior nurse, Emma D., and two younger colleagues, Emma L. and Maria S. They were forced to swear an oath of loyalty, pledging eternal silence regarding what went on in the clinic, under pain of death. Initially, however, they swallowed the line that what they were doing was scientifically important, rationalizing the high number of deaths as being merely what one might call collateral casualties. Although they sometimes requested transfers, and undoubtedly found the work disturbing, nonetheless they also regarded it as necessary to 'release' the 'regrettable creatures' in their care from their suffering. Like many nurses who worked in these clinics, they received a 25RM-per-month [approximately $80 US] supplementary payment, know pejoratively as 'Schmutzgeld' [dirty money]. The doctors sometimes received a 250RM [approximately $800 US] Christmas bonus. In some clinics (notoriously the Kalmenhof at Idstein), the tensions of the job were soothed by a visit to the wine cellars to mark every fiftieth killing with copious amounts of wine and cider (Burleigh, 1994, p. 104-105).

An estimated 5,000 children were killed during the so-called children's euthanasia program (US Military Tribunal, Transcripts of the Proceedings in Case 1, p. 177, Testimony of Karl Brandt).

© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
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