Public Mental Health Practices in Germany
Sterilization and Execution of Patients Suffering from Nervous or Mental Diesase
Leo Alexander, Major, M.C., AUS
CIOS Item 24
Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee
Sterilization of patients suffering from nervous and mental diseases fell gradually into disuse in Germany, as it had fallen into disuse in those American states who had enacted sterilization laws long before the arrival of the Nazis to power in Germany.
A policy of extermination by execution of patients suffering from mental illness was in effect in Germany from January 1940 until May 1945. From January 1940 to July 1941, groups of patients - usually 70-150 at a time - were taken to special killing centers and killed by gas. This system was discontinued in July 1941 for two reasons: the first was that simultaneous killing of a large number of patients coming from the same community led to indignation on the part of relatives and others, and the second reason was that the large SS staff required for the mass killings was gradually taken into the Waffen SS to bolster the German reserves drained by the Russian campaign. Subsequently, mental patients were killed in small groups of 3-16 daily by intravenous injections with scopolamine and morphine, or by starvation on special starvation wards. In investigating these activities it was found that the killing facilities at special mental institutions were also used for the disposal of weakened and emaciated, but mentally normal, slave workers and prisoners of war, mostly Russians and Poles.
The killing of mentally defective children was carried out in special childrens houses, likewise from 1940 until the conquest of Germany in 1945. The killer personnel received special supplements to their regular salaries.
The following individuals are implicated in the killings and are listed here for the convenience of the War Crimes authorities:
It is interesting in this connection to recall Dr. Kleists statement that Bernotat in his argument with him referred to the fact that the policy of treatment of the mentally ill which he carried out came directly from Hitler himself. This brought to mind a statement about Hitler which Professor Kurt Schneider in Munich had made to me. Professor Schneider told me that he had met Hitler once when he came to his hospital ward at the Schwabinger Krankenhaus, in order to visit an elderly patient suffering from arteriosclerotic mental deterioration and confusion, who had been an old party member, whom Hitler knew in the early days of his political activity. Dr. Schneider stated that he was revolted by the gushing way in which Hitler overdid his concern over this patient in the presence of the patient and of his own entourage, since he felt it was definitely not genuine. Dr. Schneider went on to say "to meet Hitler was a distinctly unpleasant experience. The most unpleasant thing about him was the rigid stare with which he tried to stare out anyone whom he met". This stare had an embarrassing quality to Dr. Schneider. Hitler seemed over-sure of himself and had the "typical German combination or rather juxtaposition of sentimentality and brutality". In the presence of the patient and his entourage he over-did the show of gushing concern for the mentally sick man, while for people in the abstract, especially the sick in general, he had no love, compassion or use whatsoever. He thought of them merely in a cold, calculating way.
19 August 1945
Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences