Nazi propaganda slide contrasting how far 5.50 German Marks will go. The cost of feeding one person with a hereditary disease for one day is the same as it would cost to feed an entire family of healthy Germans.
The Nazis wanted to create a society of healthy and strong individuals that could make Germany the dominant power on the planet. There was no place in this vision for the weak and feeble. Germans that were disabled and could not contribute to society were a burden that had to be removed. More than 100,000 disabled Germans were murdered in the Nazi "Euthanasia"’ program - mercy killings.
The Nazi mass murder of disabled people can be traced to a field of science called Eugenics. Eugenics was very popular in the late 19th century. It was also quite popular in the United States until the Second World War. The central idea is that healthy individuals should be allowed to have families and "unhealthy" individuals should be prevented from doing so. Allowing unhealthy people to have children would weaken societies. This approach has also been called "Social Darwinism" – survival of the fittest in society. Tens of thousands in the United States were sterilized in the first part of the 20th century in such programs.
German doctors and scientists were not strong supporters of the Eugenics idea before the Nazis came to power. But the Nazis felt that Eugenics was an important scientific concept. Unlike Eugenics programs in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the Nazis were willing to kill people. In other places, sterilization was the preferred method. Though the Nazis sterilized hundreds of Black Germans to prevent them from having children, more than a hundred thousand fellow citizens were less fortunate. They were murdered in what has been called the "dress rehearsal for the Holocaust." The Nazis saw Germany and the German race as a single organism. Any part of the "body" that was unhealthy would have to be removed.
The Euthanasia program started in Germany in late October 1939. It was part of a larger "racial hygiene" campaign, which called for the elimination of less-than-perfect human beings. It took place at a time when the deadlines were about war, so few people noticed what was happening to the disabled. The program authorized doctors to kill those who were considered to be "undesirable." Doctors would examine hospital and clinic records to find patients who were deemed "incurable." They would then mark their forms with a "+", which meant they should die.
In the first years of the program, victims were told they needed to take a shower before having a physical examination. Instead of water, poisonous gas was released. The bodies were quickly burned in crematoria that were attached to the building where they were murdered. Between 70,000 and 100,000 Germans were killed between 1939 and 1941.
Usually, relatives of the disabled would receive a notice that their child or sister or mother had died of natural causes, such as a severe bout of the flu. They would also be sent a bill to cover the costs of taking care of the "sick" person.
The program officially ended in 1941, when churches and concerned citizens complained, but it simply continued in secret after that. But large gassing facilities were replaced by lethal injections and drug overdoses. In total between 200,000 and 300,000 disabled were murdered.
The killing of the disabled gave the Nazis practice in mass murder methods. These experiences were very helping in perfecting the methods used to kill millions of innocent people in the 1940s.