Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

‘The First To Go’ – The Killings Of Disabled People During WWII

13 Oct 2009I came across a video of a play called ‘The First To Go’ written by British actor, Nabil Shaban (pictured above); who like myself, suffers from Brittle Bones and is confined to a wheelchair. The stage production tells the story of the murders carried out by Adolf Hitler against disabled people in WWII.

Nabil stars in the play as Siegfried, a wheelchair bound man who was born with Brittle Bones. In one scene, he’s in an institution and has been sentenced by Hitler to die because of his disability. Hitler wanted all disabled people who were institutionalised for at least 5 years to be killed.

He described people with disabilities as ‘unproductive consumers’, ‘useless eaters’ and said ‘destroy all the weeds which take all the goodness but give nothing in return’. He had also said, ‘if they are not employable or only employable to do simple machine work, they must die’.

There were ‘Killing Centres’ which were first created to cull all disabled people, there were 6 ‘Killing Centres’ and there were approximately 30 deaths an hour that took place in them.

One of Hitler’s goals was to get rid of all the tainted genes that existed to create an uncontaminated gene pool for a ‘perfect’ race, saying that ‘we haven’t just maintained an unworthy life, we’ve allowed it to multiply’.

They used many disabled people as human guinea pigs for cruel medical testing and had such well known methods of killings as the gas chamber, euthanasia and lethal injection, among others. A man called Karl Brandt was the evil genius behind Hitler’s Euthanasia project. There was also a Dr Josef Goebbels, who was born with a club foot, he chose to hate all disabled people and was the mastermind behind the propaganda campaign that was for euthanasia.

One noted disabled hero was Claus Van Stauffenberg, he only had one eye and was missing an arm, but made an attempt to blow up Hitler.

I have always been fascinated in the stories surrounding Hitler, perhaps because he had no regard towards the lives of those who were disabled and wanted them all to die. It makes me think, if I lived in Germany during WWII, would I have had any chance of survival and also makes me so grateful to have been born in a time where the views towards disabled people have changed so much, not as much as a lot of us would like, but a lot better than those of WWII and certainly moving in the right direction, more and more each day.

I am not discussing this blog to badmouth Germans in anyway, (I am half German myself), but to explore what it would have been like for those unfortunate disabled souls who lost their lives and had no chance at all.

To view the video that talks about the killings of the disabled people in WWII and how they were regarded, click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIDT-TuRPFc and to view a part of the play featuring Nabil Shaban, click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ezwZmf5I_0.


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Previous Comments

Kristin Nelson from Wisconsin posted on 19 Apr 2011
The desire for a perfect society was not limited to just Nazi Germany. Surprisingly, the United States in the early 20th Century also tried to CR-EATE the perfect society through the eugenics movement, and measures taken by the U.S. were adopted by the Nazis during WWII. The website www.EugenicsArchive.Org says, Elements of the American eugenics movement were models for the Nazis, whose radical adaptation of eugenics culminated in the Holocaust. Medical historian Martin Pernick has written several articles about the Eugenics Movement. In an article for the American Journal of Public Health Volume 87, Number 11 for November 1997 entitled Eugenics and Public Health in American History he explains how the movement happened in America. The Eugenics Movement began in the early 1900s, and was a desire to improve heredity and genetics. Eugenicists considered illness and disability as natural SE-LECTion, where the unfit were eliminated. They saw how in the Darwinian theory of evolution, the process of natural SE-LECTion was often slow and painful. As a result, many eugenicists felt that their role was to be a faster and more efficient form of the SE-LECTion process. They considered eugenics to mean artificial SE-LECTion (Pernick, 1768). This artificial SE-LECTion involved sterilization and euthanasia, ways to keep the imperfect from reproducing. A major eugenicist was a man named Dr. Harry Haiselden. Dr. Haiselden was a physician who practiced in Chicago, IL. He thought that his role as a physician gave him the authority to decide whether an infant deserved to live based on physical fitness after birth. At least six babies died because of his personal judgment that they were eugenically imperfect. Dr. Haiselden was supported by several other professionals. Some supporters drew a parallel between eugenics euthanasia and the practice of killing infectious animals to protect public health (Pernick, 1769). Dr. Haiselden and his supporters felt they were doing society a favor by eliminating these unfit babies. Eugenicists were able to justify their actions by claiming that it was for the betterment of society.Pernick advises that the history of the eugenics movement should be a warning for modern science. He wrote, Eugenics was not an isolated movement whose significance is confined to the histories of genetics and pseudoscience. It is an important and cautionary part of past public health and of general medical history as well (Pernick, 1770).www.EugenicsArchive.org also echoes this warning saying The philosopher George Santayana said, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. This adage is appropriate to our current rush into the gene age, which has striking parallels to the eugenics movement of the early decades of the 20th century. Eugenics was, quite literally, an effort to breed better human beings by encouraging the reproduction of people with good genes and discouraging those with bad genes.

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