In fear of the frail : the treatment of the disabled at the Eichberg asylum for the mentally ill in Nazi Germany / by Markus Benedikt Kreitmair.
The National Socialist era was a terrifying time for Germany's disabled population. The purpose of this work is to provide a detailed case study of the campaign launched by the German Government against its handicapped people. This thesis outlines the history of an asylum, the Eichberg located in the Rheingau. Records from the Eichberg trial, autobiographical accounts of pertinent cases, administrative records of the institution, and interviews with survivors and residents of the Rheingau are the sources upon which this study is based. Special emphasis is given to the recollections of the Eichberg's victims and victimizers. Beginning with a discussion of Wilhelmine and Weimar culture, this work shows that the impetus for the extermination and abuse of disabled people preceded National Socialism. This thesis then gives a detailed account of how the directors of the asylum exploited their patients through starvation, slavery, torture, and murder. It becomes apparent that the horrors of the Eichberg were motivated not only by the ideological interests of the regime and economic interests of the local community, but also by the professional ambitions of the asylum's directors. This work concludes by examining the immediate post war era, where one of the asylum's directors, Dr. Schmidt, stood trial for his crimes. Far from being seen as criminal by the people of the Rheingau, he was embraced by them as a victim himself—as a benevolent medical practitioner doing his best to preserve life under difficult circumstances. That the local community, the press and the judiciary could so easily accept the weak arguments posited in Schmidt's defense proves that the handicapped of post-war Germany were given far from a fresh start, but still faced significant prejudice—prejudice born of fear.
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