Life unworthy of being lived

The expression ” life unworthy of being lived ” (in German ” Lebensunwertes Leben “, literally “life unworthy of life”) was incorporated into Nazi rhetoric to refer to sectors of the population which, in accordance with Racial hygiene of the Third Reich , were denied the right to life and therefore, ultimately, to be sterilized or exterminated. The concept of “life unworthy of being lived”, created and propagated since the late nineteenth century, mainly by doctors in organizations around the world in favor of eugenics and euthanasia, was one of the cornerstones of National Socialist ideology and was used By the Nazis to try to justify the Holocaust and the other programs of extermination, like the euthanasia Aktion-T4 , as well as the laws of eugenics . 1 The term first appears in the title of a book of 1920 , Die Freigabe Vernichtung Lebensunwerten der Lebens ( Freedom for the annihilation of life unworthy of life ), written by the psychiatrist Alfred Hoche and the jurist Karl Binding .

Nazi categorization

Those considered “deviants” or “source of social conflict” in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe were classified under this label. The category of deviants included mentally ill , physically disabled , political dissidents , pedophiles , homosexuals , interracial marriages and delinquents . The clergy , communists , Jews , gypsies and Jehovah ‘s Witnesses , among other social groups, were classified as susceptible to generate social conflict . Among all the Jews would soon become the primary policy objective genocidal Nazi. [ Citation needed ]

The concept reached its zenith with the creation of extermination camps , set up to systematically murder those, in the opinion of Nazi ideologists, with lives unworthy to live. It also served to justify experimentation with human beings and programs of eugenics and euthanasia .

See also: Marking system in Nazi concentration camps

Development of the concept

According to the author of Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide ( medical Murder and psychology of genocide ), the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifto , politics suffered over the years a number of revisions and modifications:

Of the five identifiable steps by which the Nazis developed the principle of “life unworthy of being lived,” coercive sterilization was the first. They followed the killing of ‘disabled’ children in hospitals and then ‘disabled’ adults, mostly from asylums, in centers equipped with carbon monoxide devices. This project was extended (in the same centers) to “disabled” inmates of concentration camps and extermination, to finally become mass killings perpetrated within the camps themselves. 1


  1. ↑ Jump to:a b The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide , Dr. Robert Jay Lifton (