My Day Begins
Even though I lack
the strength of lions and their courage,
and am but Adam's fragile rib
graced with a mystical spirit.
a blazing fire,
totally alive, Life itself.
Hildegard of Bingen
What is the opposite of life? What is the opposite of good?
When I was a child, my curiosity was piqued by the Nazi's. Were they bad people? Were the Germans bad people? How could they be fooled, and how could I avoid being fooled in the same way? Pretty big thoughts for a third grader. It's probably why my family referred to me as the "forty-year-old midget" in an 8 year old body.
Not until we once again went to the Holocaust Museum this year, so my husband could see it, did the answer come.
For brevity's sake, I am not going to be fact based, but more opinionated than might suit some. For brevity's sake, I will only consider myself with the institutionalized, who were the canaries in the coal mine. It was with the 3000 children and 70,000 adults that the "final solution" killing machine was perfected.
In the early 1900's, an academic ideology based on Eugenics led to the legalization of sterilization for many handicapped in the United states.
Don't allow the unfit to breed...simple concept, eh?
Hitler, having a life-long fear of the handicapped, decided that not until the country was filled with the hysteria of war, would he begin a plan to rid Germany of the unfit by "mercy killing". He made this decision in 1935. Otherwise, he knew the people would not sanction it, it must be done under the cover of war and in secrecy. Of course, sterilization, which was acceptable in the U.S., began in 1934, long before the war. As always, there is the initial victim, Carrie Bell.
When the war started on September 1, 1939, the machinery to kill the handicapped was in place and... (within a month)...the killings began. Actually, the first martyr was a baby named Knaur whose father petitioned Hitler in 1938 to have his severely disabled son killed. Hitler decided to act, and instructed his escorting physician (Karl Brandt), to authorize the the euthanasia. (It only takes a spark, to get a fire going...). In October of 1939, Hitler authorized a post-dated (September 1, 1939)"authorization"(note: not "law" which would have legally sanctioned the killings and left the killers free from litigation)
It is interesting to note, Hitler chose people who shared the same ideology as he to "man" the killing machines. It began with Psychiatrists, heads of respected institutions, who sanctioned Eugenics. Next, medical doctors, who made the "medical choices" by "scientific" tests, then lawyers (who started noticing their clients falling off the face of the earth)...and police officers who manned the everyday nurses, secretaries, and common workers who normally did the actual killing under the authority of the higher ups. These were not everyday people, THEY WERE SPECIAL PEOPLE, who rid their consciences of blame because somebody in authority told them it was okay! (Forgive gallows humor, it's how the Jews deal with it, so I am in good company. Also, get used to "quotes", and recognize them for what they are: euphemisms.)
So there you have it. The killers were not everyday people, they were SPECIAL!! They were CHOSEN losers who couldn't make it to the top without help, without licking the hand of the Fuhrer! They were now IMPORTANT and tied to a powerful leader!
Of course, the parents and doctors who lived with the children were at the bottom of it...troublemakers one and all...and very few were like Mr. Knaur who wanted his child dead. Therefore, they had to be lied to.
Institutions were forced by law to "register" appropriate cases involving hereditary deformations (harelips, for God's sake), and mental retardation for "clarification of scientific questions." (italics mine) The Reich sent out a decree that explained to them the reason why these listed children were being moved to different hospitals was that the state hospitals were really OPEN WARDS FOR THE EXPERT CARE OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH" ! (capitalization mine)and that refusal to commit the child, once all the facts had been explained, might lead to the Reich to have to investigate whether such a refusal is a transgression to the right to custody. That usually shut them up. And if they wanted to take their children out of the hospital, they were sent to contractual labor, whereby the parent would have little choice but to commit the child.
The neatest thing the Nazi's did? The parents were not allowed to visit the children in the hospitals because the children, of course, would need to adapt to their new surroundings. Even though the children died within days of arriving at the OPEN WARDS FOR THE EXPERT CARE OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH" ! (capitalization mine), they waited a couple of weeks before sending a note home that announcing the loved one had died of some tragic disease. Junior medical experts scrutinized the dead bodies for some believable affliction and lied on all of the death reports. They had to. I have taken the liberty of violating copyright rules, because I can't do justice to the author, Henry Friedlander's words...