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In Jonathan Littell's novel Les Bienveillantes (English title: The Kindly Ones) the fictional protagonist meets, in 1943, a man employed with the Aktion T4, the organization behind the "euthanasia" murders. In the novel, this person claims that he had killed disabled German soldiers on the eastern front in '41 & '42 (IIRC using a gas van). I'm not sure if the book specifically mentions wether the victims needed psychatric hospitalization, care for physical diabilities or both.

Until 1941, around 70.000 people where murdered in the Aktion T4*. Around 5.000 of these where traumatized Veterans of WWI (Doctors would claim their condition was in same way inherited, german link) Then the murders were officially discontinued, but in reality continued using different means. Many of the key personnel where sent to the newly occupied areas to aid the in the Shoa. So far Littell's version fits the facts known to me. However I had never heard of the Nazi regime killing it's own in this way.

In general, Jonathan Littell seems to have put a huge amount of research into his novel and I'm not aware of criticisms that he got major facts wrong. However, if true it would underscore points made by Browning and Aly in books I've read so it's surprising to me that I never heard about it.

Did the Nazis murder disabled, maimed or heavily traumatized soldiers on the eastern front, using personnel and methods from the Aktion T4?
When and How did this project start and end?

*AFAIK the name Aktion T4 was not used during the war.

  • A possible avenue of research would be the biographies of T4 personnel. As ShimonBm pointed, it may have applied to soldiers that would need long-term psychatric hospitalization – mart Jun 28 '17 at 5:40
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    In general, the Germans treated their soldiers, with physical or mental wounds very well as a matter of respect. The people killed by Aktion T4 tended to be in a non-aryan or 'undesirable' (by their definition) group, and this is notable as it was the first organized effort by the nazis to rationalize killing people they didn't like... later to be expanded dramatically. I believe the author mischaracterizes the activities of Aktion T4, and misses what that group represents... a precursor to the holocaust. – tj1000 Jun 29 '17 at 12:48
  • The people killed in "Aktion T4" were mentally or physically handicapped by birth. – jjack Dec 5 '17 at 3:33
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Technically, soldiers and members of the Nazi party, however wounded, were exempt from the euthanasia decree, but this exemption was frequently overlooked. Both wounded soldiers (particularly those who had experienced nervous breakdown) and members of the Nazi party who were no longer "functioning", were murdered as part of the T4 program.

See Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (University of North Carolina Press 1995), 174ff. Friedlander brings examples of how the technical exemption from euthanasia that applied to war veterans and to members of the Nazi party was frequently overlooked, and that occasionally wounded soldiers (sometimes decorated), and sometimes even members of the Nazi party, were also killed.

The German doctors genuinely believed euthanasia to be a moral good. They continued murdering patients even after they were occupied by the Allies at the end of the war. Why should they make an exemption for anybody, if what they are doing is (in their opinion) medically required?

Note: Friedlander looks at the killing of WWI veterans and Nazi party members on those pages. I am trying to find an English-language reference for the executions of soldiers on the Eastern front, but so far only have a German article. It occurred in 43 and 44, and was part of the "wild" (ie: decentralised) euthanasia. According to one academic to whom I've spoken, it never occurred in gas vans, but was always through the administration of drugs. They tried not to do it, but in situations in which patients were traumatised, suicidal, wetting the bed and suffering shell-shock, euthanasia was considered appropriate.

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    Can you give some specific references (pg numbers), or can you give some quotes? Amazon has a limited 'look inside' but we have to know where to look. – justCal Jun 29 '17 at 0:52
  • Of course I can't seem to see the pgs. 174-175 which seem to be the relevant pgs. (sorry, missed the ff.) – justCal Jun 29 '17 at 1:43
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    Is the article available online? I don't mind German and I'm not opposed to admitting I simply did not know better when I wrote my answer :) – nvoigt Jun 29 '17 at 8:01
  • I'd also be very interested in the article (and also read German). Seems that Littel at least got the time and the methods wrong. – mart Jun 30 '17 at 7:16
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    The article does not appear to be available online. It is by Wolfgang Petter and is entitled "Zur nationalsozialistischen »Euthanasie«: Ansatz und Entgrenzung". It can be found on pp814-826 of Der Zweite Weltkrieg (ed. Wolfgang Michalka; 1997). – Shimon bM Jul 5 '17 at 6:02
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Trying to validate a fictional character is often difficult, best done usually by trying to get the authors opinion directly. In this case I think it highly unlikely, however.

This page on the continuation of the T4 program, Action 14f13, in later years shows that the labor shortage was of prime concern (emphasis mine).

A year later, the deteriorating war situation required further restrictions on selections, to ensure that every able-bodied worker could be put to work in the war economy. On April 27, 1943, Glücks presented a new circular decree with instructions to retire only those prisoners who were mentally ill or disabled.

This decree stated:

'The Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police has decided that in the future, only mentally ill prisoners may be retired by the doctors' panel assembled for Action 14f13. All other incapacitated prisoners unable to work (those sick with tuberculosis, bed-ridden cripples, etc.) are categorically excluded from this operation. Bed-ridden prisoners shall be groomed for corresponding work that they can perform from bed. In future, the order of the Reichsführer-SS is to be heeded closely. The fuel requirements for this purpose are therefore dropped. — Glücks[8]'

So I doubt any systemic extermination of wounded soldiers would have been allowed, since, as shown above, even bed-ridden prisoners were expected to work for the war effort.

Some discussion here as well.

  • If at all the murders I'm asking about happened in '41 & '42 (preceding years to '43) – mart Jun 28 '17 at 5:53
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Did the Nazis murder disabled or maimed soldiers on the eastern front, using personnel and methods from the Aktion T4?

No

While there is no way to prove a negative and the eastern front was so large and vast that individual actions of any kind are imaginable, there has been no known sanctioned murders of German soldiers based on their level of fitness.

It would have been been a huge blow to morale of both troops and civilians. And by 1943, basically "morale" was all they had left.

Also, T4 never actually targeted physically wounded people. There were enough WWI veterans that they would not dare to try. It targeted people with mental disabilities in mental hospitals. People that could not defend themselves and had little support from the community. So there is no relation at all between T4 and wounded front-line veterans.

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    I don't think this answer is correct. AFAIK, soldiers who had nervous breakdowns and required long-term psychiatric hospitalisation were, in some cases, simply euthenased. – Shimon bM Jun 27 '17 at 23:18
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    I've updated the question after @ShimonbM hint, as WWI vets with psychological problems had been murdered in T4. Also if at all the murders I'm asking about happened in '41 & '42 (preceding years to '43) – mart Jun 28 '17 at 5:51
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    @ShimonbM Do you have any source for that? – nvoigt Jun 28 '17 at 6:24
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    -1 for including fallacy like "the fact alone that he decided things instead of trusting his experienced generals speaks for this" . In any country highest strategic decisions are made on political level, and for military matters Hitler did consult generals . – rs.29 Jun 28 '17 at 19:55
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    @nvoigt - Yes. See Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (1995), 174ff. Friedlander brings examples of how the technical exemption from euthanasia that applied to war veterans and to members of the Nazi party was also frequently overlooked, and that occasionally wounded soldiers (sometimes decorated), and sometimes even members of the Nazi party, were also killed. – Shimon bM Jun 29 '17 at 0:37
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I want to add a source that I think supports Shimon Bm's answer.

In an order dated 9. Feb. 1943, chief army medic (Chef des des Heeressanitätswesens, Generalarzt) Siegfried Hanloser, made provisions to murder Soldiers.

The Order, titled "Über die Behandlung von Soldaten mit hysterischen und psycchogenen Reaktionen" - "Treatment of soldiers with hysterical or psychological reactions", stated:

"Kriegshysteriker, die durch Behandlung nicht symptomfrei gemacht werden können, sind in den Lazarettabteilungen der Heil- und Pflegeanstalten unterzubringen"

Which translates as:

"Hysterics, whom can't be freed of symptoms by treatment, are to be put into the hospital division of the sanatoriums and care institutions"

At this point, "sanatoriums" referred to the places where the Euthanasia murders were committed. By the same time, shell shocked survivors of the bombings were also murdered the same way, often days within their arrival in the hospitals.

ETA: Source is Götz Aly - Die Belasteten.

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