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Šimůnek/Schulze (Publisher)
Nazi 'Euthanasia' in the Reich District of Sudetenland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia 1942—1945

The 'Euthanasia'-Killing Facility Pirna-Sonnenstein in Saxony and the Murder of Mentally Ill and Disabled People from the Reich District of Sudetenland, 1940—1941

Boris BÖHM

The lunatic asylum in Pirna-Sonnenstein, located in Saxony close to the northern border of Bohemia, was one of the six killing facilities established in Germany in 1940 and 1941 and mandated to a specially created agency — 'T4' headquarter — located at Tiergartenstraße 4, Berlin and attached to the Office of the Führer (Kanzlei des Führers). In the spring of 1940, the Berlin 'T4' headquarter built the extermination facility in the former lunatic asylum that was closed in 1939. Special gas chamber and crematorium were installed in the basement of what had been previously a men’s pavillon, namely building C16. By the end of June 1940 the killing center was ready for operation. On the whole, about 100 people were employed here between 1940 and 1941: Physicians, nurses, drivers, office staff and policemen. Thus became Pirna-Sonnenstein one of the most infamous places of Nazi attrocity in the entire region of Saxony.
As far as it is known today, at least 14751 people were killed in this single Nazi killing facility between June 1940 and August 1941 when Hitler decreed a stop of organised 'euthanasia' killing. Most of the victims were mentally ill or physically disabled patients. In addition about 1031 concentration camp prisoners of Jewish, Polish, Czech and German origin were killed here during the so called 'special treatment 14f13' (Sonderbehandlung 14f13), which also took place in Pirna-Sonnenstein in the summer of 1941.
In addition to its immediate purpose, the Pirna-Sonnenstein killing center served as preparation for the organization, technology and staff involved later on in the 'final solution' (SHOAH) of European Jews.
Men and women of all ages were murdered at Pirna-Sonnenstein as well as hundreds of children and juveniles. Most of those patients came here from various regions of Saxony (Sachsen), Thuringia (Thüringen), Franconia (Franken), Silesia (Schlesien), East- and Westprussia (Ost- und Westpreußen) and last but not least also from border regions of Bohemia and Moravia (Sudetenland).
Having more than 50 public and private health care institutions, nursing homes and hospitals for handicapped, mental disabled and older people, the former Reich District of Sudetenland (Reichsgau Sudetenland) was directly involved in the programme of Nazi 'euthanasia' as opposed to the rest of Bohemian and Moravian territory, the so called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren).
Special registration forms (Meldebögen) for more than 5000 patients were sent from 'T4' headquarter in Berlin and filled out by the Sudeten German lunatic asylums and nursing homes to notify particular mental illnesses in 1940 and 1941.
The Reich District of Sudetenland was one of the catchment areas of the Nazi 'euthanasia' institution in Pirna-Sonnenstein. Exactly 237 patients were deported from the lunatic asylums in Troppau (Opava) and Sternberg (Šternberk na Moravě) to the "storage" sanatorium Zschadraß in Saxony in April 1941 and murdered in Pirna-Sonnenstein extermination facility within the months of May and July 1941.
In all probability in particular cases there were transports sending the patients directly from the lunatic asylums in Troppau (Opava) in December 1940 and Sternberg (Šternberk na Moravě) in May 1941 to the extermination facility in Pirna-Sonnenstein too.
In those transfer-deportations also patients with Czech nationality were included although it was against the official predefinitions of the 'T4' headquarter in Berlin.

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The Murder of Mentally Ill and Disabled People in the Nazi 'Euthanasia'-Killing Facility Hartheim in Upper Austria, 1940—1941


Hartheim castle is a renaissance-building built in the early 17th century located in Upper Austria (Oberösterreich) near the city of Linz. At the end of the 18th century it was moved into the ownership of the aristocratic family Starhemberg. In 1896 property was given as a present by the owner Camillo Prince of Starhemberg to the 'Oberösterreichischer Landeswohltätigkeitsverband' (Regional Charity Association) located in Upper Austria that was founded in four years before.
In 1898 this society created a home for 'Schwach- und Blödsinnige, Cretinöse und Idioten' (Mentally Defective and Feeble-Minded, Cretins and Idiots), which was the derogatory usage for disabled people in those days. This asylum for mentally and multi handicapped people was in charge of the sisters of the order 'Barmherzige Schwestern vom Hl. Vinzenz von Paul' (Merciful Sisters of St. Vincence of Paul) until the beginning of the Nazi 'euthanasia' programme.
Nearly nine months after the incorporation of Austria by the German Reich, the original 'Oberösterreichische Landeswohltätigkeitsverband' was transformed on December 10th, 1938 due to the new laws concerning public associations. In February 1939 Hartheim Castle, the farm belonging to it as well as the stock was seized by the Nazi authorities and came into the property of the self-government (Gauselbstverwaltung) of the 'Gau Oberdonau' (Regional District of Upper Austria). At that time 191 disabled people and 17 nuns lived and worked in the castle.
Subsequently Hartheim Castle was chosen in Berlin as an institution within the scope of the new Nazi 'euthanasia' programme and in March 1940 the patients were moved to other homes in Upper Austria.
During the following weeks the Castle was adapted for the implementation and maintenance of the mass murder of handicapped people (and later of prisoners of concentration camps) by gas. The first transports of the victims arrived in May 1940. They came from homes and clinics of the nearby region, among them a considerable number of the former residents of the Castle.
During the period of the killings in Hartheim Castle between 1940 and 1944, up to 70 persons worked in the castle. Alongside the administrative, office staff and security personnel were carers and sister, drivers, workmen, general helpers, all employed in the execution by medical means and mass murder. After 1945 only a few were brought to justice. The director of the euthanasia institution in Hartheim was the psychiatrist Dr. med. Rudolf Lonauer (1907-1945), born in Linz, who also served as the director of the psychiatric clinic Niedernhart in Linz.
With a few exceptions the transports, most of them approached Hartheim by railway, from the different homes and clinics of Bavaria, all parts of todays Austria and some parts of todays Czech Republic and Republic of Slovenia, arrived in Linz and the victims temporarily came to the clinic Niedernhart. After a short time they were brought to Hartheim by special busses and were killed within a few hours by gas. Rudolf Lonauer also killed hundreds of patients in his hospital by medicaments, most of them after the official stopp of the 'T4'-Action on August 24th, 1941. He and his wife committed suicide on May, 5th 1945 after poisoning their children.
During the first phase of the Nazi 'euthanasia' programe (1940-41) over 18 000 people were killed in Hartheim. After the mentioned stop in August 1941 up to 10 000 concentration camp prisoners from Mauthausen, Gusen and Dachau judged to be unfit for work were gassed in the Castle.

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The 'Action T4' in the Reich District of Sudetenland on Examples of the District Lunatic Asylums in Sternberg [Šternberk na Moravě], Troppau [Opava] and Wiesengrund [Dobřany] Based on the File R179 of the Bundesarchives Berlin, 1939—1941

Stephanie SCHMITT — Petra FUCHS — Gerrit HOHENDORF — Maike ROTZOLL — Annette HINZ-WESSELS — Paul RICHTER

After the conference of Munich in 1938 the northern and northernwestern territorries of the former Czechoslovakia were annected to the Third Reich. In this area was created the called Reich District of Sudetenland [Reichsgau Sudetenland].
Both in this area and in the whole Great German Reich the systematically organized extermination of mentally or physically handicaped people was realized since special reports about the patients of lunatic asylums in 1939 had to be sent to the secret part of the Office of the Führer in Tiergartenstraße 4 in Berlin [Kanzlei des Führers].
Major contingent of the patients hospitalized in the three most important lunatic asylums in the Reich District of Sudetenland — Sternberg [Šternberk na Moravě], Troppau [Opava] and Wiesengrund [Dobřany] — were reported and got their judgements during the Action 'T4' in 1940–41 on the basis of these reports. The patients chosen for the death were transported to the killing-centers Pirna-Sonnenstein (Germany) and Hartheim (Austria). There the victims got their 'special treatment', what meant nothing else but their murder with carbon monoxide and burning their corpses to ashes afterwards.
During the first period of the organized mass killing action of patients, the so called Action 'T4' in 1940 and 1941, more than 70 000 patients have been exterminated, whereas in total during 1939–45 including the Action 'T4', the 'Wild Euthanasia' in 1941–45, the 'Aktion Brandt' in the same period and the special 'Action 14f13' (prisoners in the concentration camps) the killing of 'useless' patients demanded life of more than 216 000 people.
Approximately 300 files of victims of the Action 'T4' from the Reich District of Sudetenland have been analysed to answer the question when the 'T4'-transports started and where these transports were directed. Also the criteria of the Action 'T4'-selection were researched in the files. Several examples of concrete victims shall allow a more specific view of the different persons murdered during the Action 'T4' in the Reich District of Sudetenland.

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Planning of Nazi 'Euthanasia' in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in Context of the Public Health and Population Policy of German Authorities, 1939—1942


The expansion of the programme of Nazi 'euthanasia' to the territory of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, depended primarily on national and racial criteria. According to these, the treatment of individual patients or groups of patients resident in a total of 25 lunatic asylums was supposed to diversify in 1939–42.
While adult patients of Czech nationality and Protectorate citizenship were supposed to be preliminarily fully exempted from Action 'T4' until the fall of 1942, patients of German nationality and both Reich German and Protectorate citizenship numbering about 230 000 persons were supposed to be included on the pretext of centralising their care under German authority. The lunatic asylum in Kosmonosy (Kosmanos) was designated to serve as a focal point of the operation. It was transferred under local Sudetengerman authority in Liberec (Reichenberg), and a new German director (K. Bergl) was appointed in November 1940. In the summer 1941 he also functioned as a local contact person, with whose help the emissary of the 'T4' head office in Berlin (C. Schmalenbach) assembled together lists of German patients from Protectorate, and in much the same way later prepared the organisation of their transports into the killing centre. These lists and transports were in the process of being completed until the very end of the organised phase of Action 'T4' in August 1941, and though in all likelihood no transports left, their intended destination was probably the killing centre of Pirna-Sonnenstein in Saxonia.
Neverthless, between 1939 and 1941 the victims of the Action ‘T4’ became several patients of Czech origin, who were left in the lunatic asylums of the Sudeten German region like Šternberk na Moravě (Sternberg), Opava (Troppau) and Dobřany (Wiesengrund) after 1938.
The intention of extending the programme of 'euthanasia' to children and juveniles in the sense of the so-called 'Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses' (Reichsausschuß zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung erb- und anlagebedingter schwerer Leiden), in fact Führer's Office (Kanzlei des Führers, KdF), on the territory of the Protectorate is documented in summer months of 1942. The Berlin head office wanted to include both German and Czech children, as well as children from nationally mixed families. In the context of Germanisation and population policy of the German occupying authorities, however, these categories were supposed to be exempted by order of the State Secretary Karl H. Frank (1898–1946). Whether and to what extent it remained so until the end of the war, is a question that needs to be answered by further research.
At the same time all lunatic asylums in the Protectorate were included into the long-term planning of the Berlin 'T4' head office.
Key decisions of K.H. Frank as well as the close collaboration of his office staff in the preparation of transports of German patients in 1941, points to the irreplaceable role and responsibility of local occupation authorities in the execution of the Nazi programme of 'euthanasia'. No less important, however, was the role of representatives of local German administration in mid-ranking positions of state public health administration.

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Jewish Lunatic Patients from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia between the Nazi 'Euthanasia' and Holocaust, 1939—1945


Just like in Germany, Jewish mental patients from the territory of the Reich District of Sudetenland and Protectorate Jews of German nationality were in 1939–41 included to some extent in the transports which were part of 'Action T4'. By best estimates, there were several dozens of them. Largest numbers of victims of 'Action T4' from the Czech Lands were deported to institutions in the Saxon town of Pirna-Sonnenstein and the Upper Austrian place of Hartheim. Patients got there either via Austrian institutions (Ybbs, Steinhof) or via the Sudetengerman Regional Lunatic Asylum in Dobřany (Wiesengrund).
Most Protectorate patients of Jewish origin were not, however, affected by the 'Action T4'. Just like the rest of Jewish population in the Protectorate, they were first gradually segregated from the non-Jewish patients. Since 1939/40 protectorate lunatic asylums started establishing so-called 'Jewish departments' (Juden-Abteilungen), and their residents were eventually concentrated in two Protectorate institutions. Patients from the Bohemian part of Protectorate found themselves in the Lunatic Asylum in Prague-Bohnice (Praha-Bohnice), and patients from the Moravian part of Protectorate were since 1941 housed in the Lunatic Asylum in Kroměříž (Kremsier). In addition to state institutions, a few Jewish patients were also found in Church institutions (Víceměřice, Kelč) and in institutions of the Jewish Community (Jüdische Kultusgemeinde) in Prague. Among the most important of these were the Home for the Feeble-Minded in Prague-Hloubětín (Nervenheim in Prag-Tiefenbach) and the Home for the Feeble-Minded (Nervenheim) in Dlouhá Street, also in Prague.
Starting with 1941, the relevant Nazi authorities (Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung, RSHA der SS, Amt des Reichsprotektors etc.) saw a 'solution' to the situation of mentally ill Jewish patients as part of the overall 'final solution of the Jewish question' within the Protectorate. That is, they were to be deported to the Terezín (Theresienstadt) Ghetto, eventually further east. Yet, several hundred Jewish patients died in various institutions even before deportations of the Jewish population of the Protectorate had started.
About 322 Jewish patients were placed in individual deportation transports in groups. Relevant German authorities decided which institution for the mentally ill should be placed in which transport. First ones to reach the Terezín ghetto were the patients gathered in Kroměříž. They were transported mainly in April, June and July 1942 to the Ghetto. Most Jewish patients from Prague-Bohnice were transported to the Ghetto in July 1942. Their physicians and nurses of Jewish origin were transported with them. In the Ghetto, former patients of lunatic asylums were housed mainly in the former 'Kavalierkaserne'. According to most witnesses, this was one of the worst buildings in the ghetto, quite unsuitable for permanent occupation, and even less suitable for housing a psychiatric ward, which was headed by MUDr. Artur Schönfeld.
Patients who survived in the Ghetto Theresienstadt were not long after their arrival placed in the transports heading further east. Almost 55% of these were then either shot or gassed in mobile gas chambers near by the town of Maly Trostinec in Byelorussia. One of the very first transports which included mentally ill Jewish people was, however, headed to Lodz (Łódz; Litzmannstadt). Among the transports from Terezín which were headed east stands out the 'Dx' transport of March 20, 1944 since it is the only one which contemporary materials describe as 'psychiatric'. Another particular feature of this transport was the inclusion of one Danish citizen: Danes were otherwise exempted from deportation from Theresienstadt. According to news propagated by the ghetto authorities, this transport was heading to the Polish camp of Cholm (Chełm).
Jewish patients from the German Reich, especially those from the asylum in Bendorf-Sayn, were also deported to the Terezín Ghetto.
A deportation of Jewish patients from lunatic asylums of the Protectorate to the Ghetto Terezín and their subsequent transportation further east resulted, in fact, in an almost total 'solution of their question'. Only a handful of them survived the war and the end of Nazi occupation. Most of these were only partly Jewish or married to Gentiles.

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Decentralised 'Euthanasia' and 'Action Brandt' in the Reich District of Sudetenland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, 1942—1945


Hitler’s decision of August 1941 whereby he halted the elimination of psychiatric patients by gassing within the Action 'T4', did not, in fact, end their liquidation. The apparatus of the Berlin 'T4' headquarters remained in existence, that is, it was adapted in such a way that the elimination of 'lives unworthy of living' could and would continue in a de-centralised manner. Führer's Office (Kanzlei des Führers; KdF), which functioned during the Action 'T4' as the main headquarters, lost at this time some of its influence. Its members therefore looked for support and patronage to institutions and persons who, in the meantime, gained influence. This was also the case of one of the two deputies responsible for the Action 'T4', Karl Brandt, who was in 1941 given by Hitler a new function, one of a so-called Reich Commissioner for Sanitation and Health Care (Reichskommissar für das Sanitäts- und Gesundheitswesen).
The period after August 24, 1941 is with respect to the programme of Nazi 'euthanasia' seen as its second, decentralised phase. Up to now, some 30 to 40 hospitals and lunatic asylums are known to have been involved in this phase. These institutions were found both in Germany proper and in occupied territories. In the Reich District of Sudetenland, the second phase involved the lunatic asylum in Dobřany (Wiesengrund) by Pilsen, while in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia it was the lunatic asylum in Kosmonosy (Kosmanos), that was led by German director.
The development which led from Action 'T4' of 1939-41 to the second phase of Nazi 'euthanasia' programme was far from straightforward. One of the most important factors that played a role in the transfer of patients, which were in the Nazi Germany planned and carried out on large scale ever since 1941, was the increasing destruction of German cities by air bombardment. Mentally ill and disabled patients were often transferred to very far-removed regions mainly in order that the institutions that previously housed them could be used for other purposes. Transfers affected mainly those institutions where patients were after the official halt of Action 'T4' killed by over-doses, lack of care, starvation, etc. Decision on evacuation of individual institutions lay within the political management of crisis-management mainly with K. Brandt. However, because other protagonists of the former Action 'T4' were also involved — such as the transport department of the Berlin headquarter 'T4' (Gekrat), which organised the transfer of patients for the purpose of their elimination — sometimes the name 'Action Brandt' ('Aktion Brandt') is also used. Despite the continuity of these events with the Action 'T4', there existed at that time no centrally managed extermination programme within which patients would be liquidated en masse in specially appointed institutions adapted for such a purpose.
Consequences of air bombardment and large-scale transfer of patients, which started in about mid-1943, led to attempts to reinstitutionalise the 'euthanasia' programme of 1939–41. These efforts did not, however, succeed at any time before the end of the war. Attempts to eliminate patients of psychiatric institutions and lunatic asylums centres by starvation and lack of care within the programme of de-centralised 'euthanasia' can be viewed as testifying to efforts at lowering nursing standards which started in the pre-war period, rather than as a confirmation of a successful re-institutionalisation of Action 'T4'. In any case, however, in the period after August 1941 another approximately 100,000 patients in institutional care died of unnatural causes.

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