The mentally and physically disabled were systematically targeted in wartime Nazi Germany. Sadly, this group had faced discrimination before this time too.
Forced sterilisation of the disabled had taken place around the world, including 30,000 in America between 1907 and 1939. During World War I in Germany, patients in asylums had ranked low on the list for rationing of food and medical supplies, and as a result, many died from starvation or disease.
The handicapped were viewed as useless and a threat to Aryan genetic purity andunworthy of life. Propaganda distributed by the Nazi regime dehumanised and stigmatised the mentally and physically handicapped.
The Third Reich created the “T-4” program, involving the euthanasia of mentally or physically disabled Germans and Austrians. Those who were not euthanised were forcibly sterilised.
Often, handicapped infants and small children were delivered lethal injections and deadly doses of drugs.
Hitler suggested it “was the best time for the elimination of the incurably ill”, as he believed not many Germans wanted to be reminded of those individuals that did not measure up to their concept of a “master race”.
The cover of New People (featured above), the monthly magazine from Bureau for Race Politics of the NSDAP shows a physically disabled individual, seated with the menacing hand of a medical professional on his shoulder. Next to it, large letters proclaim, "60,000 Reichsmarks is what this person suffering from a hereditary disease costs the People's community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, this is your money too."
More than 200,000 disabled people were murdered by Nazi Germany.
After 1945, several doctors and administrators were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for their role in the Nazi euthanasia programmes.