Nothing good could ever be linked to Adolf Hitler. When your last name literally had “hit” in it, then it’s almost a guarantee that you’re bound to cause suffering to people (Okay, maybe not ‘all’ who has “hit” in their last name are evil). Hitler lived up to it, maybe even exceeded. We know he had numerous unspeakable evil experiments in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where over 1.1 million prisoners were killed. Just two years before the holocaust, Hitler’s planners came up with an operation involving disabled children and called it the T4 Program.

Secret Killing Operation

In mid-1939, Hilter and his planners Philipp Bouhler, director of Hitler’s private chancellery; and Karl Brandt, Hitler’s attending physician had a sickening idea: they would euthanize disabled children. The reasoning behind this was that those with illnesses led “burdensome lives” or were “useless eaters” and that funds could be used on those who were not insane or suffering from a terminal illness instead.

And so Hitler approved the creation of the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses. On August 18, 1939, a decree circulated, requiring all doctors, nurses, and midwives to report newborn infants and children under the age of three who showed signs of severe mental or physical disability or at least suspected. Children with intellectual disability, Down’s syndrome, microcephaly, hydrocephaly, and all sorts of malformation were to be assessed by a panel of three medical experts. The program was called Tiergartenstrasse 4 (T4), named after the street where the program’s coordinating office in Berlin was.

Adolf Hitler’s authorization for the Euthanasia Program. (Marcel (Photographer) Derivative work MagentaGreen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Tricking the Parents

Of course, they couldn’t just straight up tell the parents to give their children so they could kill them, so their idea was to trick them into thinking that their children would be sent to “Special Sections” so they could receive special treatments. In reality, the clinics were children’s killing wards, and the victims would be “confined” for weeks and weeks while the medical staff was murdering the children either with starvation or through lethal shots of the toxic phenol. Later on, these children would be reported to have died of pneumonia. Those who refused to send their children were threatened that they could lose custody of all their children or, worse, that they would be called up for ‘labor duty.’

What’s Stopping Them From Increasing The Age Scope?

In the beginning, the program was only meant for infants and babies up to three years old, but perhaps they pondered, “What’s stopping us from increasing the age scope?” and so they started to include the youths up to 17 years old. As per Fuhrer’s directive, the euthanasia program erected gassing facilities in the following areas:

  • Brandenburg, on the Havel River near Berlin
  • Grafeneck, in southwestern Germany
  • Bernburg, in Saxony
  • Sonnenstein, also in Saxony
  • Hartheim, near Linz on the Danube in Austria
  • Hadamar, in Hessen

Guising it as simple and innocent statistical surveys, they distributed questionnaires to all public health officials, public and private hospitals, mental institutions, and nursing homes for the chronically ill and aged to categorize and name patients who were:

  • suffering from schizophrenia, epilepsy, dementia, encephalitis, and other chronic psychiatric or neurological disorders
  • not of German or “related” blood
  • criminally insane or those committed on criminal grounds
  • confined to the institution in question for more than five years
  • Relocation of the people with disability as part of the T4 program. (Pressestelle der Diakonie Neuendettelsau, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Not known to them, their answers would be the terms and basis of how the people of the T4 program would select the people to be euthanized. After gathering the needed data, the T4 functionaries started gathering these older victims from their home institutions and transporting them on buses headed to “clinics.” The patients would then be led to “shower facilities,” which were really gas chambers of pure, bottled carbon monoxide gas. The T4 functionaries cremated the dead bodies in a crematorium attached to the gassing facilities. The ashes would be collected and piled together, placed in urns, and then sent back to their families. These urns came with death certificates stating some made-up reason for death.

Two pages of the death registry at Hadamar listing false causes of death. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park)

End of the T4 Program

Soon enough, the once-secret T4 Program became known to the public. Although not directly admitted, the program and its terms became widespread public knowledge. Protests from both public and private institutions were held, especially by members of the German clergy. More than 250,000 people would die at the hands of the T4 program, because of the controversy, Hitler ordered a stop to the T4 program, but its methods and organization became the basis of the “Death Camps” that killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.