Nazis Killed the Mentally Ill

A response to: Benedict XVI Remembers Kristallnacht

The persecution of the Jews by the Nazis must be remembered by us all so that such an atrocity never happens again. All life is of value and must be respected no matter what race, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, political persuasion, or disability of each person.

It is not so well-known that the Nazis set out to exterminate people with mental and physical illnesses. They conducted forced sterilizations beginning January of 1934, with an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people with a diagnosis of «feeblemindedness» — schizophrenia and epilepsy — being sterilized. Many people died from these operations, especially women.

In October of 1939 Hitler began a euthanasia program with the aim of exterminating the mentally ill and the handicapped. People with mental illnesses and people with handicaps were considered «useless eaters» and «life unworthy of life.» The Nazis began the killings with lethal injections and starvation, and went on to killing in gas chambers.

It is estimated that 200,000 to 250,000 people with mental illnesses, mental disabilities, and physical handicaps were murdered from 1939 to 1945 by Hitler and the Nazis.

We must remember the Jews who have suffered countless persecutions through the centuries. They are our fathers and mothers in faith and their God is our God.

We must also respect all those who have suffered in every age. All people deserve to be treated with dignity, value and love, even those who face life with challenges and disabilities like mental illnesses.

Anne Thompson

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Person with a mental illness

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