Eugenics and National Socialist Health Policy

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The health policy-related objective of the National Socialists was the creation of a 'genetically pure', hereditarily healthy and able-bodied German 'people'. This goal was to be attained by eradication – and therefore the exclusion of 'inferior traits' from reproduction – on the one hand, and by targeted measures to foster the production of 'genetically healthy' and 'high-quality' members of the people on the other. Instructions from the National Socialist state in this regard were followed by the health authorities.

On 14 June 1933, the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring was passed as one of the first laws of the National Socialist regime. Consequently, forced sterilisation represented one of the most important measures towards negative eugenic selection. As of 1 January 1940, this law also came into effect in the 'Ostmark'. In the opinions of Nazi ideologists, the measures involved in forced sterilisation did not extend far enough, since they would not show results until after generations. The objective was to completely eradicate the so-called 'inferiors'.

Adolf Hitler gave Reichsleiter Bouhler and his personal physician Dr Brandt the 'Gnadentoderlass' (Euthanasia Order), according to which, 'those who are considered terminally ill in light of the possibilities available to mankind can be granted death by euthanasia following a critical assessment of their conditions.' This 'order' represented the basis for formation of the organisation and the execution of the Nazi euthanasia intentions, but no legal legitimisation was ever created.
The headquarters of the organisation was established in Berlin at Tiergartenstrasse 4, whence its nickname 'T4' stems. The term 'Action T4' became popular following the war to refer to the euthanasia campaign.