That Was Then . . . This is Now?  A Nazi Nightmare

That Was Then . . . This is Now? A Nazi Nightmare

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
October 2, 2006

A horrible discovery was made last week near the German town of Menden. The lack of media attention about this in the United States should serve as an alarm in itself.

As Deutsche Welle reports, the skeletons of twenty children and five adults were found as a cemetery site was being excavated. It appears that these skeletons represent victims of the Third Reich’s policy of euthanizing persons with handicaps or other problems.

As the paper reports, the site is very near to the location of a World War II hospital run by Adolf Hitler’s personal physician, Dr. Karl Brandt.

From the paper’s report:

The children, aged from one to seven years, were found alongside the bodies of five adults, Hans-Bernd Besa-von Werden, a spokesman for the district administration said.

Investigations of two of the children’s skulls indicated the victims might have been handicapped.


Some 70,000 people with physical or intellectual disabilities perished in the euthanasia program, which the Nazis believed was necessary to cleanse the German people of racially unsound elements.

Those who were deemed “unworthy to live” by showing symptoms of mental retardation or physical handicap were sent to the so-called killing facilities, where they were murdered by lethal injections or exposure to carbon monoxide gas.

The Nazi euthanasia program, which became an open secret in the Third Reich, was officially terminated in 1941 in the wake of protests from members of the German clergy.

The practice, however, clandestinely continued until the end of World War II with an ever wider range of victims, which included geriatric patients, bombing victims and forced laborers.

Karl Brandt, who was in charge of the program, was executed for war crimes in 1948.

The German practice of euthanizing those considered unworthy of life did not begin with the Third Reich. German doctors began the practice under the liberal Weimar Republic, with doctors defining those considered inferior as Lebensunwerten Lebens — life unworthy of life.

Those identified as Lebensunwerten Lebens were simply killed — sometimes after being subjected to inhumane medical experiments.

How is this definitively different from the current practice of selecting out “inferior” embryos or of aborting “defective” babies in the womb? These, too, are assaults on human dignity. How long will it be before some later generation excavates our own moral landscape?

The truly frightening aspect of all this is the fact that the German people allowed it to happen. The logic of euthanasia is so seductive and the concept of Lebensunwerten Lebens is so convenient. Simply define those difficult to care for as unworthy of life. Select one racial profile to be considered superior to all others. Sacrifice human dignity for the promise of a perfect race — free from all those we would rather not see.

We can’t say that it can’t happen. Consider this — why are so few babies with Down syndrome born today? Imagine what Dr. Brandt could have done with today’s prenatal genetic tests.

Clearly, a good many modern Americans have bought into Dr. Brandt’s logic to some degree. The past haunts us because it is not safely put away. The past threatens to erupt into the present in the form of modern euthanasia. This is a Nazi nightmare taking a new and seductive form.

[The photo is of Dr. Karl Brandt at his trial for crimes against humanity.]

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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