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


Following the end of World War II, some nurses were tried with the physicians they had assisted (United States National Archives and Records, Record Group 338, Case File 12-449, US v. Alfons Klein; Testimony of Pauline Kneissler, Document NO-470 US Military Tribunal Case Number 1, Tribunal 1, US v. Karl Brandt et al). When the Russians invaded and found the conditions at Obrawalde, they made the senior nurse, Ratajczak, reenact the killings. She, along with an orderly, were shot a few days later (Ebbinghaus, 1987, p. 218). The other nurses of Obrawalde were later tried for the killings. On March 12, 1965, "all fourteen women accused in the Munchner Schwesternprozess (nurses' trial at Munich) were proven not guilty because of acting as an accessory to murder" (Ebbinghaus, 1987, p. 246).

It may never be possible to fully understand the participation of nurses in crimes that would seem to be unthinkable today yet their participation must continue to be studied so that nursing never again finds itself in the role of killer. Proponents of the "slippery slope" argument hold that the involvement of health care professionals in assisted suicide could begin the downward decline into voluntary euthanasia then involuntary euthanasia. Others believe that the circumstances in Nazi Germany will never be replicated, thus making the recurrence of the involvement of nurses and physicians in killings impossible.

© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
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