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Close-up of Richard Jenne, the last child killed by the head nurse at the Kaufbeuren-Irsee euthanasia facility.

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    Close-up of Richard Jenne, the last child killed by the head nurse at the Kaufbeuren-Irsee euthanasia facility.
    Close-up of Richard Jenne, the last child killed by the head nurse at the Kaufbeuren-Irsee euthanasia facility.


    Close-up of Richard Jenne, the last child killed by the head nurse at the Kaufbeuren-Irsee euthanasia facility.
    May 1945
    Kaufbeuren, [Bavaria; Munich] Germany
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
    Event History
    The Kaufbeuren-Irsee sanitorium (Kreis Heil-und Pflegeanstalt bei Kaufbeuren), opened in 1876, was an important medical facility for the treatment of mentally and physically disabled people. During World War I, it served as a military hospital for "shell shocked" and severely disabled soldiers. In 1929, the physician Valentin Faltlhauser, a specialist in the treatment of "war neurotics," became Kaufbeuren's director. An advocate of the eugenics movement and a believer in euthanasia as a measure to be undertaken for the "good" of some patients, Faltlhauser became a strong supporter of the Nazi euthanasia program known as Aktion T-4. In 1939-40, he became a member of the committee formed to bring all psychiatric institutions into the T-4 registration program. Under this program, a form for each psychiatric patient in German institutions had to be filled out and sent to Berlin. Physicians in the T-4 program reviewed each case and determined which patients were "useless eaters" who were "unworthy of life." These patients were then marked by sanitorium personnel to be later transported by special buses to gassing facilities such as Grafeneck and Hartheim. Kaufbeuren-Irsee became a transfer point for patients from all over Germany destined for these Euthanasia centers. In August 1941, Adolf Hitler himself ordered the gassing program stopped so as not to alienate the German population in time of war. One year later, however, the killing resumed at Kaufbeuren-Irsee, this time by lethal injection, often administered by Faltlhauser himself when his staff refused to participate. Starvation was another method used to kill patients during this time. Patients killed by starvation were placed on diets containing no fats or vitamins. After Faltlhauser presented his results at a medial conference, "E-Kost" starvation diets were introduced at all German euthanasia facilities in late November 1942, although not all staff complied with the regimen. Killing by injection and starvation continued at Kaufbeuren-Irsee under the direction of Faltlhauser through the summer of 1945, several months after the American occupation of Schwabia in April. Seeing typhus warnings posted on the doors of the facility, the Americans did not enter Kaufbeuren until July, when it was found that all records of the killing operations had been destroyed. Faltlhauser and the nursing staff were arrested and tried for "assisted murder." The nurses received 12 to 21 months imprisonment. Faltlhauser was imprisoned for 3 years. After his release, he was stripped of his license to practice medicine.

    [SOURCES: Ernst T. Mader, Das erzwungene Sterben von Patienten der Heil-und Pflegeanstalt Kaufbeuren-Irsee (1992); Michael von Cranach and Hans-Ludwig Siemen, eds., Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus. Die Bayerischen Heil-und Pflegeanstalten (1999).]

    The euthanasia program was the Nazi regime's first campaign of industrialized mass murder against specific populations whom it deemed inferior and threatening to the health of the Aryan race. Code-named "Operation T4" for the Berlin street address (Tiergarten 4) of its headquarters, the euthanasia program targeted mentally and physically disabled patients, a population that the Nazis considered "life unworthy of living" (lebensunwertes Leben). The euthanasia killings began in August 1939 with the murder of disabled infants and toddlers. Headed by Philipp Bouhler, the chief of the Fuehrer's chancellery, and Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal physician, the children's euthanasia program involved the selection and transfer of children identified as disabled by physicians, nurses and midwives, to special children's wards established at more than 20 hospitals. In these medical wards health care workers killed at least 5,000 children by administering lethal doses of medication or through starvation. This program was later expanded to include older children. The next phase of the euthanasia program involved the killing of disabled adults residing in institutional settings in the Reich. To accommodate this much larger population, T4 technicians created killing centers where the disabled were murdered in gas chambers and their bodies burned in crematoria. Six killing facilites were established in 1940 at Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Hartheim, Sonnenstein, Bernburg and Hadamar. Public protests from the church and the judiciary ultimately forced Hitler to halt the gassing in August 1941. However, this did not end the euthanasia program. The killing of disabled children continued unabated, and the murder of disabled adults was restarted in August 1942, utilizing the methods of lethal overdose and starvation. Known as "wild" euthanasia, this phase of the program continued until the final days of the war. In all, "Operation T4" claimed at least 200,000 lives.

    [Sources: Freidlander, Henry. "Euthanasia," in Laqueur, Walter, ed, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001, pp. 167-172; Heberer, Patricia. "T4 and Hadamar. The Systematic Murder of German patients as a Training School for the 'Final Solution'." (unpublished article, April 5, 2002).]

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    Photo Source
    National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
    Copyright: Public Domain
    Source Record ID: 238.5.3-Brandt Case, Pros. Ex. ?

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    Record last modified:
    2013-06-25 00:00:00
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