Euthanasia Program (T4)
Before killing hundreds of thousands in concentration camps, a “euthanasia” program was enacted “which targeted for systematic killing mentally and physically disabled patients living in institutional settings in Germany and German-annexed territories” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2011).
This program was known as T4, after the planning headquarters at Tiergartenstrasse 4. The name T4 was mostly used by the officers as a type of code name for the program. Philipp Bouhler and Karl Brandt began leading the euthanasia program around 1939. The program first ordered midwives to report any infant or child, age 3 and under, who was mentally or physically disabled. When these children were reported, physicians would encourage parents to admit their children to special pediatric centers. These centers were actually killing facilities for these children, and parents would received falsified documents reporting their child had died. Soon, any patient up to the age of 17 was murdered, and plans were formulated to spread the euthanasia program to cover all age groups. It is estimated that about 5,000 children were murdered during this program. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2011)
Victims of the euthanasia program were at first killed by starvation or lethal injection, but another method was later created by Bouhler and Brandt- the gas chambers. A total of six facilities were created for the murders of mentally and physically disabled (usually institutionalized): Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Bernburg, Hadamar, Hartheim, and Sonnenstein.
Patients at institutions were selected in a secretive manner. Surveys were sent out to collect data from doctors about their patients, which were used to select individuals and transfer them from their home institutions, to one of the killing facilities. Once patients arrived, they were murdered that same day in gas chambers, and later cremated. Similar to beginning of the euthanasia program, families would receive falsified documents (usually a death certificate and the cause of death) along with an urn. Even though T4 was meant to be secret, it quickly became public knowledge and Hitler stopped the program in 1941. According to records, a total of 70,273 disabled patients were murdered. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2011)
While T4 was technically over, the child euthanasia programs still continued, and institutionalized patients were killed by other, less obvious means. These means were adopted from the child programs, using starvation, lethal injections, and drug overdose. By the end of the war, an estimated 200,000 people were murdered under the euthanasia program. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2011)
For further research on euthanasia:
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum