The first Targeted, the last Commemorated

Friday was Holocaust Memorial Day. On January 27 1945, Allied troops liberated the Auschwitz Death Camp.
A few months ago, I learnt something that gave me a new picture on the Holocaust. It was the story of a baby named Gerhard Kretschmar.
Gerhard Kretschmar was a German child born blind, with either no legs or one leg, and with one arm. His parents, both Nazis, petitioned Hitler to allow him to be euthanased. Hitler consented, and on 25 July 1939, Gerhard was murdered. In October 1939, Hitler signed a “euthanasia decree” backdated to 1 September 1939 that set up the programme of involuntary euthanasia now known as Aktion T4.
Aktion T4 was the true beginning of the Holocaust. A lot of the excuses (I refuse to call them justfications) for the program were also applied to the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and other “undesirables”. Advertisements depicting the disabled as a drain on resources were run. Many of the technologies later used in the Death Camps were first implemented in Aktion T4. The term “Life unworthy of life” was first used to refer to the physically and mentally disabled. After strong protests by the German Catholic and Protestant churches, on 24 August 1941 Hitler ordered T4 cancelled. Despite this, the murders continued right up till the end of the war. The last victim of Aktion T4, Richard Jenne, was murdered on 29 May 1945.
In 1944, an Austrian psychiatrist named Hans Asperger described autism. Asperger’s Syndrome is now used for high-functioning autistic individuals. It has been hypothesised that Asperger played up the advantages of autism to safeguard his patients and prevent them from being killed. I find this plausible. It is almost certain that Asperger, as a psychiatrist, would have been aware of Aktion T4 and what it entailed.
In 2014, the German National Memorial to the people with disabilities murdered by the Nazis was dedicated. Once again, the disabled were the first to be persecuted and the last to be commemorated.


About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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