27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Holocaust Memorial Day encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide. Six million Jews were murdered, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution.
Everybody blames Hitler for all the things that happened during World War II. But, I`m not so sure that is the right thing to do. We see even today that many politicians, PMs, and Presidents are puppets. What if Hitler was a puppet too?
It is very clear to me that someone fed Hitler with a lot of information. That`s exactly what’s going on. We see the puppet on the scene, but not all those that are working behind the scenes. And what about all the people in Germany that voted for him?
We all know that Hitler and the Nazis killed millions of people. In the beginning, they killed people with bullets, but then they used gas. But, wait a minute. There is a very important story here, that almost nobody is talking about; the healthcare system, doctors, and nurses.
After WWI ended in 1918, Germany went through severe economic hardships, and the nation saw the rise of different political factions and ideals. One group that emerged was Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party.
There was rampant inflation at that time. There was great poverty, and social disadvantage because of the reparations which had to be paid back after the treaty of Versailles. The money was devalued, and they saw a strong leader that was restoring order.
The Nazi party had an idea about superior race and began a period of racial hygiene laws. The basis for Hitler`s plan of racial hygiene was a concept called EUGENICS, which is the pseudo-science of developing a superior race.
This is what`s interesting to me, because, before Hitler came to power, across the world the whole theory of eugenics was something that many nations already had embraced.
Eugenics is the belief that through selective breeding, whether it`s cows, sheep, or people, through selective breeding positive eugenics is the ability to breed offspring that will carry the best traits. The theory of Eugenics, how people should be allowed to breed, to the benefit of the human race and those who weren`t fit and healthy, should not be allowed to have children.
The propaganda was everywhere, and it`s not surprising that the nurses in the Nazi era got caught up in all this. The propaganda was everywhere. About killing people who were considered «life unworthy of life». «Useless feeders» was the term they used.
The nurses were the ones who held the children while they were being killed. They gave them the overdoses of drugs. They were the ones who put them out on the verandas to die of hypothermia. The nurses were also the ones who withheld the feeding, so the children would die of starvation.
Caught on in England, the United States, Japan, Scandinavia, Germany was NOT at the forefront of this. The Nazis actually learned much of their Eugenics initially from the United States. We also know that Henry Ford supported Hitler with millions of dollars.
Some of these Eugenic health care policies were developed in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These U.S policies were emulated by Germany and incorporated into the governing philosophy of applied biology.
There were laws in a book in Virginia that said you could sterilize people. The Nazis took their 1933 sterilization law and mimicked it after the U.S law. There was a time in which there were letters in the U.S journals saying; «Look at the Nazis have gotten ahead of us, we better catch up».
When Hitler came along with his racial theories, he realized that these Eugenics was a really good idea, and he manipulated it to fit his racial theories, all mixed in with the jews, the gypsies, and everybody else who was considered racially inferior.
All of this would lead to an appalling era in world history called Holocaust. A period of persecution and mass murder.
The Holocaust has been defined as the 12 year period, from Hitler`s rise to power in 1933, until the end of the war, in 1945.
It was government planned, government-supported mass extermination or mass killing.
While it was targeted towards the Jewish people, there were many other groups of individuals that suffered during the Holocaust. Hitler convinced the German people that the Jews were their enemy and the cause of their problems. He then created an atmosphere of racial intolerance and hatred of people deemed to be racially inferior.
Every genocide, whether it`s Rowanda or Holocaust, begins with «We» versus «Them».
Hitler used the jews and other people as scapegoats for all that was wrong in Germany. Particularly the economic woes. So, he set up the «We» versus «Them.» He institutionalized that.
In 1933, the Nazi government passed the Nurnberg laws for the protection of hereditary health. This legalized involuntary sterilization. Nazi doctors sterilized 400,000 citizens against their will. «Eugenized» 200,000 disabled German children and adults, and created the gas chambers and crematoria that were used for the mass murder of six million Jews, Poles, and gypsies.
Without the full support of physicians, scientists, and nurses, the Holocaust, as it unfolded, could never have happened.
In the U.S, there were laws that could require that people be sterilized against their will. Sterilization laws were widespread in the U.S. Most notably in Indiana and North Carolina. But other states including California and Virginia, allowed sterilization, even into the 1970s.
In fact, in the early 20th century, the U.S led the world in compulsory sterilizations.
A very famous law was passed in Virginia that said it was okay to sterilize the retarded. It was brought before the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said; «three generations of imbeciles are enough». He said it was okay to sterilize.
In the U.S, it didn`t go further. But in Germany, it became the leading ideology. Then it was implemented into action.
Hitler promised the German people they were creating the Master Race.
The Master Race would have been the Nazi’s view of a blond, blue-eyed, healthy person, who had no genetic defects and who was pure Aryan.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Germany`s medical community was considered the best in the world.
You weren`t a real doctor in the U.S unless you went to Germany to study, and when you came back and said; «you know, I studied in Germany,»
With all this, it came to some arrogance and some feeling that «we are so superior to everybody else».
Germany was at the forefront. They had the best teaching of anatomy and physiology in medicine. Germany was very advanced, not only in the medical field, but Germany was the best civilization among the European countries.
It was the height of technology, the height of science, and how was it possible that these people
became mass murders?
The majority of nurses were not members of the Nazi Party. However, to have a job in Germany, a nurse had to belong to one of several nursing organizations. There were five organizations for nurses.
Among these, the National Socialist Nurses and the Red Cross Nurses swore an oath of allegiance to Hitler. Additionally, the Protestant Nurses’ organization said that it «greets National Socialism with an open heart.»
Surprisingly, more physicians, percentage-wise, joined the Nazi Party than the population in general. The physicians were probably taken with the fact that we can use our science to improve the human race.
Many physicians and nurses enthusiastically supported the Nazi regime and were involved in all aspects of the Holocaust. About 40% of German physicians were in the Nazi Party while the lawyers and teachers and the other white-collar professions joined in much lesser numbers.
If you didn`t join the Nazi Party, there was no retribution.
Using inflammatory propaganda, Hitler and the Nazis began a campaign against the Jews. Bad things happened to the jews. They were discriminated and Jewish children could no longer go to regular schools.
People cannot keep their jobs at the university, or other professions. Hitler said; «follow me. Never mind God, never mind religion, just follow me. Do what I am asking you to do.»
Since the regime was totalitarian and they were very good at public campaigns and propaganda, and they had enough scientists and physicians that were already marching to the drum.
Propaganda is an extremely powerful way to convince people of their way of thinking.
Germany`s medical establishment began to support the Nazi Party, except for Jewish doctors, who were ostracized.
The official journal of the German Medical Association started to have a swastika on their journal.
They got rid of all the Jewish physicians, authors, people in the office of all the different associations or societies very quick. In five or six years, they got them out of all the academic and professional establishments.
Social Darwinism said;» we need to eliminate this inferior person that was handicapped, that was maybe mentally disturbed. We want a healthy, thriving society. In Germany, the proponents of the Eugenic movement were the most prominent, the most powerful establishment. The legal system became Nazified immediately.
It required lawyers, it required doctors, bureaucrats, and administrators, but many of the nurses were the ones who carried out the injections.
For a long time, the nurses were the agents of the physicians and the physicians of the Nazi period were agents of the State.
That`s very important because physicians were no longer asked to care for patients but to care for the state. The German Volk.
What was good for the state, was not good for an individual patient.
Obedience was still a part of the way nurses were taught, and the way we taught. So, it`s not surprising that the nurses in the Nazi era got caught up in all this.
Euthanasia programs were established in Nazi Germany in which children and adults were killed if they were considered unfit for life and were a burden on the State. The true meaning of euthanasia would be the mercy killing of a person with their permission or their request, however, this was not the case in Nazi Germany. These killings were without consent. They were murders.
In the 1920s, German lawyer Karl Binding and German psychiatrist, Alfred Hoche co-authored the book; «The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life.» This book greatly influenced Hitler`s thinking about euthanasia.
Everybody had that propaganda thrown at them. It was common. It was everywhere. It espoused the idea that people who were in some way deficient should be killed so they didn`t carry on the defective genes, and so that they weren`t a burden on the State.
Once you accept that humans can be dehumanized, eventually you can engage in exterminating. This was a gradual powerful and unfortunately very effective process in Germany.
The Nazi euthanasia program first started in 1939 as a means to eliminate handicapped children. You have families, who because of all the propaganda are believe that having a child with negative traits is a bad thing. It`s bad for the health of Germany.
They were killing children with disabilities, children with down syndrome, children with cardiac anomalies, children with cerebral palsy, children who didn`t develop normally, who were considered to be «useless feeders.» That was the term used.
Public health nurses would go to the families and promise them, «if you will give your children to us, your child will get the best care,» so people were falsely led to believe that and relinquished their children.
The nurses were involved in the killing of children by giving them overdoses, by taking them outside knowing that it was going to contribute to their death. The nurses killed their own patients.
How could the nurses come to believe that killing was a legitimate part of their caring role which they did? The propaganda around the whole idea of killing people for the good of the State was profound, even down to children doing exercises in their school books on how much it costs to keep people with a disability, for example.
Midwives and physicians were mandated by German law to report any infant born with a birth defect and the infant would be placed in an institution. Mid-wives were paid for each birth that they reported. Mid-wives were licensed.
One dividing point is in Germany the notion that the health of the public is more important than the
health of the individual. So, consequently removing an unhealthy element was seen as good.
In September 1939, a decision was made to develop an adult euthanasia program for patients in psychiatric facilities. Hitler picked the date to coincide with Germany`s invasion of Poland.
To expand it to include adults the only way we`re going to make this acceptable is to say we need these hospital beds for the war wounded. Why should the state pay to keep totally disabled people alive when our young guys who are sent to the front need to come back home and have cared?
The name of this killing organization was T-4. Eventually, six killing centers were established. The medical staff was ordered to fill out questionnaires to evaluate whether their patients should live or die.
Patients were placed in gas chambers that looked like showers. Then lethal carbon monoxide was pumped into the chambers, killing the patients.
You have to justify and rationalize what you`re doing because you`re doing it, but they actually believed it, and they actually believed that what they were doing was saving the Volk from its contamination, from the infection, that there was a disease, and the disease was handicapped and infirm, and that they needed to be cured through killing. Healing through killing.
They were told they were being transferred. The nurses packed their clothes, their lunch, rode with them on the buses. The hospitals, these six, had specially constructed, kinda breezeways that the buses would go through so the patients could be unloaded into the hospitals, without being viewed by the community.
However, it didn`t take long for the communities near these hospitals to realize what was going on. People would see the buses. The buses were unique. They were painted grey and the windows were
painted over and so forth.
Buses would arrive and within a very short period of time, this acrid smoke would be billowing out of the chimneys. Each hospital had an apartment to write condolence letters to the families. And there were mix-ups.
They would write and say, «We`re sorry to tell you your Uncle Hans died of appendicitis, and maybe he`d already had his appendix removed. People were becoming quite knowledgeable about what was going on.
Even children would taunt other children, saying; «they`re going to put you on the grey bus. You`re going to go up the chimney.» As knowledge of the gassing of patients became widespread, the decision was made to end the T-4 «euthanasia» program in August 1941. This, however, did not end the killing of patients.
The children`s euthanasia program continued unabated until the end of the war.
After the T-4 program, physicians were granted permission to provide a merciful death to any person they deemed to be suffering. These killings which took place at many hospitals throughout the Third Reich were known as «wild euthanasia» or decentralized «euthanasia» and were carried out on an individual basis rather than by gas. Patients, usually selected by physicians but killed by nurses, were administered overdoses of sedatives.
More people died in «wild euthanasia» than in T.4. Why did the nurses follow orders to kill? The doctors dictated the killings but the nurses were the ones who did it. Sometimes, the nurses decided to take things into their own hands and kill the patients because they knew they were going to die anyway, so «he was suffering, so I`ll do it now.»
The Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and polish jews were rounded up into ghettos and later moved to other institutions for medical experiments. A decision was made by the Nazis in January of 1942 at the Wannsee Conference to go further with the Final Solution and move the jews into death camps.
There were four camps that were specifically created as death camps. It was Belzec, Chelmno, Treblinka, and Sobibor. There were two additional concentration camps that developed a killing portion. That would be Majdanek and Auschwitz.
Some skilled workers were kept alive to work in the camps. The infrastructure the know-how and the personnel of the six T-4 centers were actually transferred to Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, and they have been the first gas chambers.
Some of the same doctors and nurses who were involved in the euthanasia program took the gas chambers down and reassembled them in the east in Poland at the concentration camps where doctors were selected at the ramps and were involved in supervising the gassings and killings.
So, physicians were involved in all aspects.
Ravensbruck, located in Germany, was a camp for women. Most of them were Polish. There were some jews there, but most of the women were dissenters or women who had caused trouble to the Nazis when the Nazis occupied Poland.
Ravensbruck was located close to one of the largest and most important hospitals in Germany where a lot of research was going on. Reinhard Heydrich was the Nazi protector of Czechoslovakia, who in 1942 was killed by a bomb. He died from the infection of the wounds that he got.
Hitler demanded that doctors should find a cure for these deadly infections.
Ravensbruck, which was close by, had all these women there that they used as lab rats, basically. The women were operated on by the surgeons from this hospital. They had things like wounds created in their legs that were filled up with sawdust, dirt, ground glass to see what would happen to the wound, how wounds developed, how bone became infected. Some of these women were sent to the gas chambers afterward. They were killed.
Some of the women died of course from the experiments. Some of them survived to give testimony in the trials. But nurses were definitely involved in those experiments.
Many German physicians and nurses participated in medical experiments related to racial hygiene in the concentration camps and hospitals. One of the worst was Dr. Josef Mengele. A member of the S.S.
The jews didn`t know where they were and where they were going, but there were rumors in Hungary for four years after the Nazi occupation, that Jews were going to Germany and being killed. The German pharmaceutical company was very heavily involved in the experiments in Auschwitz.
According to the Auschwitz Museum, at least 1,500 sets of twins were used by Mengele in his experiments. Less than 200 survived.
They were truly monsters. The stuff that happened was horrendous. There is no way, ethical justification for much of what they did under the name of medical science, it was done totally without informed consent.
The people used as lab rats had no choice. They were often killed immediately afterward.
In the sterilization experiments performed at Auschwitz, it was often the nurses who would select and prepare the patients for the experiments.
Then they assisted whatever the physicians needed the nurse assistant to do, and kept it secret from the patients as to what was going to happen. Given false assurance that everything is going to be alright. We`re taking good care of you, they said.
At Dachau, a variety of unethical medical experiments were made using the prisoners as guinea pigs. Some of the cruelties are almost unbelievable. The victims were German, Czech, and Polish. Gypsies who have deprived the food and given only brackish yellow seawater for days resulted in, of course, excruciating pain and foaming at the mouth in most cases. Madness.
They did experimentations where they would keep people in freezing temperatures until they were almost dead. Revive them, and then expose them again. They lowered the temperature, raised the temperature again until they froze, and died.
And then they took them directly to the autopsy table in what they call terminal experiments. And so they did low-pressure studies where they took concentration camp prisoners and put them into specially designed rooms where they sucked out the oxygen. Let in the oxygen until their lungs exploded and they died in terminal experiments.
There were studies of bones and muscle and infectious diseases. They were trying out new antibiotics, so they took concentration camp prisoners and cut open filleted, and infected their legs and wounds to create simulated wounds.
We know that the sterilization program, the mercy killing program, and the unlawful atrocious human experimentation program was masterminded, planned, suggested, and implemented by physicians.
Dr. Josef Mengele was able to escape from Germany after the war and avoided apprehension by authorities. Dr. Josef Mengele was the worst that we never got. Mengele`s family was a very wealthy manufacturer in Bavaria. They managed to hide him until they could get him out.
Dr. Mengele lived in South America until 1979 when he reportedly drowned while swimming at a resort in Brazil.
Finally, in May 1945, the war in Europe ended when the Germans surrendered to the Allies, and the guns were silent. After the war, the Allies conducted the famous Nurenberg Trials, and the world became aware of the atrocities of the Nazi doctors and nurses.
We don`t know the figures of the nurses who were involved, because they were the workforce in these hospitals. Some nurses killed themselves and some were hanged. Under the trial, some of the nurses said; «I thought I was relieving people from their suffering.»
Others said; «These people had no life at all,» or «I needed to keep my job.» Many of the nurses said; «I was just following orders.»
Just following orders was not going to be an acceptable defense to murder or genocide. One of the things that came out of Nurnberg was the notion that everybody is responsible for their own actions.
Not all of the nurses under the Third Reich were compliant with the Nazi ideology. One Austrian SS nurse, Maria Stromberger, showed great compassion toward prisoners at Auschwitz. She heard about what happened in Auschwitz, and couldn`t believe it. «We`re a good and moral people. We wouldn`t do this,» she said.
She helped the victims and smuggled ammunition into the prison camp. Se saved many lives.
Perhaps the most famous of the trials held at Nurnberg before an International Military Tribunal was the so-called «Medical Case» or the «Doctors trial.»
Karl Brandt who was the chief physician of Hitler said; «I did what`s needed to be done. What we did was good», he said. We made German people healthier, he said. So, people were convinced that they were doing something positive in all these atrocities.
23 physicians and scientists were tried for crimes against humanity.
Crimes against humanity was a new concept which was whether it be wartime or not wartime, there are certain things beyond the pale that we are going to hold people accountable. So, genocide was a classic example of a crime against humanity. So, the doctors went on trial.
The prison camps were centers of inhumane experiments, mass murder, and extermination.
Spiegelgrund is still a large, active hospital in Vienna. During the Holocaust, it consisted of a children`s ward, and became infamous for the euthanasia of the children there. The brains of many of these children were saved for years in the basement of Spiegelgrund.
Although current healthcare in the U.S is regarded as among the best in the world. There are elements that should cause us to reflect upon the similarities to German medicine in the 1930s.
It`s important for nurses today to look back to the history and know about it, because unless we know, we can`t stop it from happening again, and it will happen again.
Today, nurses are involved in the legal euthanasia of patients in Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland. Nurses are also involved in executions in countries where the death penalty is legal.
How does any person know what is right from wrong? You have to have a moral compass. If somebody doesn`t have any morals, it`s very difficult for them to understand or judge for their own knowledge what is wrong and what is right.
But if it hurts another human being, it is morally wrong
Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it. And that is exactly what is happening. We are dealing with the same issues today and we always need to be alert. We see nurses that are not speaking out about errors about the doctors even today.
After the Holocaust, the motto was; «Never again, never again should Holocaust happen.» Learning about the Holocaust is a very powerful way to learn empathy and compassion. Only by educating people that we must learn to live in peace and harmony with each other, regardless of skin and color or the economic situation.
The question is how did one of the most advanced societies in art, music, theatre, writing, and medicine become mass murders?
It`s easy to believe the Holocaust could never be repeated. The factors leading up to it are not unique to Germany. They are human factors that are present in every country, every culture, and every generation.
If it could happen in one of the most advanced societies in human history, it can happen again anywhere. It`s up to each of us to learn from the past and be ready to interrupt the forces that may try to exploit the few for the benefit of the majority.
We have a similar situation today. Politicians, PMs, and Presidents are speaking to you live on TV. They tell you what to do. But they aren’t experts. In other words; they are told what to say. In other words; we all need to trust experts, like physicians, doctors, nurses, and big pharma.
But today, we have a lot of unwaxed people around the world protesting against Covid-19 restrictions because they are skeptical of the vaccine. What would it be like if everybody in the world said yes to everything the experts say? If people in Germany were more skeptical in the ’30s and ’40s, they would have saved millions of lives.
This story is interesting because Germany at that time in the ’30s was the most advanced society in art, music, theatre, writing, and medicine, so how did they become mass murders? Don`t blame Hitler. And what about all the German people? Did they sleep, or maybe they were silent by fear?