During the Holocaust

Propaganda was a large part of the Nazi effort to euthanize the mentally ill during the holocaust.  This idea was sparked by the Nazi belief in “survival of the fittest.”  This refers to the belief that “inferior people” (mentally ill) should not reproduce in order that the “superior people” (Aryan race) would be the only humans.  It was a common label to call the mentally and physically ill “life unworthy of life.”  The Nazis used many different forms of propaganda to promote this idea of social Darwinism.  However, all of the propaganda used during the holocaust was used in order to scare people.  They would warn people about the costs of maintaining the mentally ill in asylums like this photo taken from a filmstrip made for Hitler Youth.

Also, they would use images of real mentally ill people in an asylum to scare people, or deformed children to encourage people that the mentally ill should not reproduce like in this photo.

"...because God cannot want the sick and ailing to reproduce."

However, much of the propaganda used by the Nazis were films.  One of these films, Das Erbe, (The Inheritance) presents the idea of natural selection and then describes the cost/benefit analysis of the rights of asylum patients.  Other films, such as Erbkrank, shown below, (The Hereditary Defective) and Opfer Der Vergangenheit (Victims of the Past) showed video footage of the mentally ill in order to warn people about the dangers of letting them remain and how natural selection would have eliminated them from the gene pool.

The use of propaganda throughout the holocaust in order to show the public how the mentally ill were bad for society was effective.

If you would like to learn more about the use of propaganda about the mentally ill throughout the holocaust, please click on the links below.

Medicine, ethics, and the Third Reich

Nazi Propaganda Films

Introduction to Nazi Euthanasia 

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – People With Disabilities


To learn about views toward mental illness after the Holocaust click here



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