Aktion T4

The Action T4 ( 1939 – 1941 ) was a program called euthanasia , 1 2 created and executed under the primary responsibility of doctors and nurses during the Nazi regime to kill persons identified as incurably ill, children with hereditary defects or adults unproductive. It is estimated that between 200,000 and 275,000 people were systematically killed, although more moderate sources place them at 70,273 victims. 3 4 The name T4 comes from the headquarters of the organization executing these plans, which were located in Berlin on the Tiergartenstraße 4 (Zoo Street, number 4).

The program was conducted at six centers in Germany and in Austria annexed: Grafeneck ( Baden-Wuerttemberg ), Brandenburg , Bernburg ( Saxony-Anhalt ), Hartheim (Austria), Sonnenstein (near Pirna , Saxony ) and Hadamar (near Limburg , Hesse ).


Among those killed men and women of all ages they were from children , who were the first killed – 5 6 to the elderly. There were among them mentally ill and carriers of hereditary diseases or defects, according to medical criteria. For example, certain degrees of epilepsy could lead to the murder of the patient, his euthanasia .

The victims of the Aktion T4 were people who, according to the current medical criteria, consequently propagated by the Nazi ideology, were considered and presented as lives unworthy of being lived and whose murder was an action of both compassion towards the patient and the benefit of the Community in general ( Volksgemeinschaft ). 5 Thus, attempts were also made to obtain the support of the population for this type of medical program, such as mass sterilization of patients and euthanasia. The propaganda emphasized that those people, besides living a life unworthy to live, would represent an economic burden and an impediment to the future of Germany and its “race.”

Actions to carry out these medical programs, such as intense propaganda, began long before the Nazi regime. The Nazi euthanasia program, Aktion T4, has an intimate relationship, both from the ideological-political and economic-financial point of view, 7 with international organizations and the international medical movement in favor of eugenics and with the respective legislation and programs Such as the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland and Switzerland, during the first half of the century, such as the massive sterilization of people identified as hereditary patients. XX [ citation needed ] .

The Aktion T4 program was functional to the specific purposes and interests of the German economy at that time. For example, such sanitary resources (beds, staff, etc.) and possible budgetary savings could be reoccupied or redirected towards other economic needs, determined mainly by the war and occupation of the countries of Eastern Europe, which began shortly after starting The Aktion T4 euthanasia program. In fact, the euthanasia program also extended to certain Nazi concentration camp prisoners, who showed marked physical deterioration and were not used either for forced labor in the field or for medical experimentation, and were selected for euthanasia by The medical staff and sometimes sent to the gas chambers already implemented in hospitals and psychiatric. This operation was called by the Nazis as Aktion 14f13, the prelude to the implementation of mass extermination camps such as Auschwitz , where methods were used – now on an enlarged scale – and in certain cases also the medical and health personnel of the Aktion-T4. Precisely, as mentioned above, it was stressed and emphasized repeatedly (for example, in the respective propaganda) that these medical programs, such as euthanasia and eugenics, constituted a sanitization of the society necessary for the good health of The economy, because all these eliminated people were considered and presented as a burden to society.


The Aktion T4 program was widely accepted by all physicians, with very few reservations and no real resistance, although the nurses’ guild strongly rejected the program, but were involved because it was part of the health system. 8 On the contrary, it was resistance and popular pressure, mainly on the part of those affected (relatives, relatives, patients, etc.) and also from some religious circles, both Catholic and Protestant, which led to the official declaration Suspended the program in 1941, but that did not imply the dismantling of the established organization to develop these plans nor the cessation of the murders in their centers. The children’s program continued officially and the mass murder of adults and elders proceeded in a less centralized and more secretive manner, giving doctors more room for maneuver and broader faculties – less bureaucratic requirements – to carry out the extermination objective. In this second phase there were more murders than in the first. The issue even extended beyond the end of the war and the Nazi regime, as some doctors continued to kill people still after the Allied occupation [ citation needed ] .

There are several examples of the opposition of some religious circles, for example, that of the German bishop Clemens August von Galen (1878-1946) who publicly confronted T4 action through pastoral and other writings. According to documents published after the end of the war, the Nazi regime decided not to execute the bishop until after the final victory , to avoid that he became a martyr of the resistance. 9 So did other Catholic priests, like Bernhard Lichtenberg , dean of the Berlin cathedral ; Some were imprisoned for it; Lichtenberg himself died when he was transferred to a concentration camp. This resistance and opposition along with those of the affected people (relatives, patients) even managed to provoke the opposition or at least the criticism of some judges and some Nazi militants against the euthanasia program.


  1. Back to top↑ As euthanasia was tried and condemned. The accusation against the doctors responsible for the program was based on the fact that euthanasia, as such, should be considered from the legal point of view punishable as murder. In this regard, reference may be made to the respective dissertations in the Nuremberg Trials , an example: Nuremberg Military Tribunal, Vol I, Pag. 806
  2. Back to top↑ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, The Doctors Trial: Apart from the prosecution of war crimes trials before the Military Court of Nuremberg, October 1946-April 1949 :

    […] the execution of the so-called “euthanasia” program of the German Empire […]

  3. Back to top↑ Human massacres
  4. Back to top↑ Donna F. Ryan, John S. Schuchman, Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe , Gallaudet University Press 2002, 62. can also refer to the records of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal.
  5. ↑ Jump to:a b Henry Friedlander. The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. Chapel Hill and London: The North Carolina University Press, 1995. [1] . ISBN 0-8078-2208-6 .
  6. Return to top↑ Robert J. Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide p.50 and 51
  7. Back to top↑ Bernard Schreiber, The Men Behind Hitler
  8. Back to top↑ Lifton, pag. 80
  9. Back to top↑ «Cardinal von Galen beatified, Hitler’s opponent» . Deutsche Welle 09.10.2005 . 2005 . Consulted on December 9, 2007 .