Beginning in the late 1930s, the National Socialism government of Germany began a program of killing individuals with mental or physical disabilities. A secret committee was formed for compulsory registration of all children with serious hereditary and congenital illnesses. Special pediatric units were established in approximately 30 institutions where these children would be admitted and eventually killed by starvation or an overdose of medication. Approximately 5,000 children were killed. In 1939, the so-called "euthanasia" programme was expanded to include adult patients in psychiatric hospitals. Eventually six killing centres were established. Gas chambers were built and patients were transferred to these institutions to be killed. Nurses were responsible for helping with the transports and for ensuring the patients were comfortable and were deceived about what was about to happen to them. These nurses then often rode the empty bus back to the home institution, bringing the patients' belongings to be returned to their families. By August 1941, knowledge of the killings had spread to the general public and Hitler called for the programme to end.
This, however, did not end the killings. The gas chambers were dismantled and taken to the concentration camps, but the killing of psychiatric patients continued at many institutions throughout the Reich. Over 70,000 people were killed at the established "killing centres" and in psychiatric hospitals, with an estimated 10,000 being killed by nurses. This book offers a pioneering and startling historical analysis of the ways in which nurses were involved in and central to the success of the Nazi "euthanasia" program.
@context:1. Nursing in Nazi Germany 2. Paving the Way to 'Euthanasia' 3. The 'Euthanaisa' Programs 4. Specific Sites 5. Post-war Justice 6. Analytic Framework for Understanding Motivation 7. Comparison to Models Proposed to Explain the Participation of Others 8. Relevance to Contemporary Nursing