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Irmgard Huber, the former chief nurse at the Hadamar Institute, confers with counsel during a session of the Hadamar euthanasia facility trial in Wiesbaden, Germany.

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    Irmgard Huber, the former chief nurse at the Hadamar Institute, confers with counsel during a session of the Hadamar euthanasia facility trial in Wiesbaden, Germany.
    Irmgard Huber, the former chief nurse at the Hadamar Institute, confers with counsel during a session of the Hadamar euthanasia facility trial in Wiesbaden, Germany.  

Pictured on the right is Alfons Klein, the former director of the Institute.


    Irmgard Huber, the former chief nurse at the Hadamar Institute, confers with counsel during a session of the Hadamar euthanasia facility trial in Wiesbaden, Germany.

    Pictured on the right is Alfons Klein, the former director of the Institute.
    1945 October 09
    Wiesbaden, [Hessen] Germany
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
    Event History
    The Hadamar Institute, near Wiesbaden in Hessen-Nassau, was one of six hospitals and sanitoria in Germany and Austria in which the Nazi euthanasia program was carried out. Founded in 1883 as a correctional institution for released prisoners, Hadamar converted into a mental health facility in 1906. During the early years of the Nazi regime, conditions steadily deteriorated due to overcrowding, poor food rations and reduced nursing care. In late August 1939, Hadamar ceased operating as a mental health facility and was turned into a military hospital. The following year, in November 1940, it was remodeled for use as a euthanasia facility. Code-named Anstalt E (Facility E), Hadamar went into operation as a killing center in mid-January 1941 under the direction of Dr. Ernst Baumhard. For the next eight months busloads of patients arrived daily at the facility and a staff of approximately 100 ran the killing operation. After the victims were offloaded, they were ushered into a reception room where they were weighed and photographed before being led to the gas chamber, disguised as a shower room, in the cellar of the Institute. Between January and August 1941, more than 10,000 disabled adults were gassed and cremated at Hadamar. The gassings stopped abruptly on August 24 following an order by Hitler. The installations in the cellar were dismantled and the rooms converted back to sickrooms. However, after a hiatus of one year, the facility was reactivated as a euthanasia-killing center in August 1942. For purposes of concealment, it also operated as a normal sanitorium. During this phase of the euthanasia program, death was inflicted by lethal overdose of medication or by starvation. The bodies were buried in mass graves disguised as single graves located behind the building. The staff of the Hadamar Institute continued to put its patients to death until shortly before liberation by American troops on March 26, 1945. In addition to the mentally and physically disabled, who were its chief victims, thousands of others met their end at Hadamar, including healthy Jewish Mischling children (the children of mixed marriages), tubercular Eastern European forced laborers (Ostarbeiter), German geriatric patients, and disabled German soldiers.

    [Sources: Heberer, Patricia. "T4 and Hadamar: The Systematic Murder of German Patients as a Training School for the 'Final Solution'" (unpublished article, April 5, 2002); "Hadamar," Aktion Reinhardt Camps. (22 February 2003).]

    There were two main postwar trials that addressed the crimes committed at the Hadamar euthanasia facility near Limburg an der Lahn: the 1945 Wiesbaden trial and the 1947 Frankfurt am Main trial. The first, the case of "The U.S. v. Alfons Kelin, et al.," was tried by Judge Advocate Leon Jaworski before a military commission at the district court in Wiesbaden. The trial, which ran from October 8-15, 1945, sought to determine the culpability of seven Hadamar employees in the deaths of 476 Polish and Russian forced laborers that occurred between July 1, 1944 and April 1, 1945. Though close to 15,000 German nationals were killed at the Institute between 1941 and 1945, the American military commission did not have jurisdiction over crimes committed by Germans against other Germans. The seven defendants were: (1) Alfons Klein, Hadamar director; (2) Dr. Adolf Wahlmann, chief physician; (3) Heinrich Ruoff, chief male nurse; (4) Karl Willig, assistant male nurse; (5) Adolf Merkle, bookkeeper; (6) Irmgard Huber, chief female nurse; and (7) Philipp Blum, doorman, switchboard operator, and cemetery caretaker. All seven were found guilty. Klein, Ruoff and Willig were sentenced to death and hanged on March 14, 1946 in the Bruchsal prison near Karlsruhe. Wahlmann was sentenced to life imprisonment, and Merkle, Huber and Blum were given prison terms ranging between 25 and 35 years. The second Hadamar trial before the Frankfurt Criminal Division 4, took place February 24-March 21, 1947. In this case 25 defendants were indicted for the murder or accessory to murder of 10,000 German nationals at the Hadamar Institute. Only 11 of the 25 accused were convicted. The two main defendants, Dr. Adolf Wahlmann (chief physician) and Hans Bodo Gorgass (gassing physician) received death sentences that were later commuted to life imprisonment. The third named defendant Irmgard Huber (chief female nurse) received an eight-year prison term, while the others received sentences ranging from two to five years. None of the surviving Hadamar offenders served their full sentences. The last was released from prison in1958.

    [Source: Heberer, Patricia. "Exitus Heute in Hadamar: The Hadamar Facility and Euthanasia in Nazi Germany." (unpublished Ph.D . dissertation, University of Maryland, 2001), pp.472-542.]

    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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    National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
    Copyright: Public Domain
    Provenance: International News Photos
    Source Record ID: 1027076 (?)

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    Record last modified:
    2004-09-23 00:00:00
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