Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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with high-ranking administrators to organize a structure for the project; and prominent academic administrative doctors sympathetic to the regime were called in to maintain and administer this medicalized structure. It was decided that the program was to be secretly run from the Chancellery, though the health division of the Reich Interior Ministry was to help administer it. And for that purpose an organization was created: the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Diseases (Reichsausschuss zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung von erb- und anlagebedingten schweren Leiden). The name conveyed the sense of a formidable medical-scientific registry board, although its leader, Hans Hefelmann, had his degree in agricultural economics. That impression was maintained in a strictly confidential directive (of 18 August 1939). by the minister of the interior to non-Prussian state governments. The directive stated that, “for the clarification of scientific questions in the field of congenital malformation and mental retardation, the earliest possible registration” was required of all children under three years of age in whom any. of the following “serious hereditary diseases” were “suspected”: idiocy and mongolism (especially when associated with blindness and deafness); microcephaly; hydrocephaly; malformations of all kinds, especially of limbs, head, and spinal column; and paralysis, including spastic conditions.19

Midwives were required to make these reports at the time of birth (with a portion of the report filled in by a doctor, if present), and doctors themselves were to report all such children up to the age of three. District medical officers were responsible for the accuracy of the reports, and chief physicians of maternity clinics and wards were all notified that such reports were required.20 The reports took the form of questionnaires that originated in the Reich Health Ministry. At first simple, they were expanded considerably in June 1940 by participating doctors to go beyond specific illness or condition and to include: details about the birth; elements of family history, especially concerning hereditary illness and such things as excessive use of alcohol, nicotine, or drugs; a further evaluation of the condition (by a physician) indicating possibilities for improvement, life expectancy, prior institutional observation and, treatment, details of physical and mental development, and descriptions of convulsions and related phenomena.21 The wording of the questionnaire and the essential absence of a traditional medical history and record led many physicians and district medical officers to assume, at least at first, that affected children would merely be registered for statistical purposes. (Hefelmann later testified that the diseases were broadly described in order to disguise the reason for the duty to report.)22

Three central medical experts* were then required to make their
* The medical experts consisted of four outside consultants and two members of the “euthanasia” bureaucracy. The consultants were Werner Catel, the professor of psychiatry at the Leipzig clinic where the Knauer child had been treated; Professor Hans Heinze, head of the state institution at Görden near Brandenburg, which had a large children’s division;  the pediatric psychiatrist Ernst Wentzler of Berlin, and the ophthalmologist-author Helmut Unger. The institutions led by three of these men eventually became part of the child-“euthanasia” network; indeed Görden was its first and most important establishment. The representatives of the “euthanasia” bureaucracy were Brandt and Linden.
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
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