The T-4 Program
Origins, Planning & Staff
Origins of T-4
Until WWI, eugenics in Germany and the U.S. ran parallel courses. By the middle of the 1930's, more than half the states in the United Sates had passed laws that authorized the sterilization of "inmates of mental institutions, persons convicted more than once of sex crimes, those doomed to be feeble-minded by 10 tests, 'moral degenerate persons,' and epileptics." In the famous Carrie Bell case, the Supreme Court upheld the Virginia law ordering her compulsory sterilization and "presaged the arguments used later to justify eugenic killings in Nazi Germany."
The idea of enforcing “racial hygiene” had been an essential element of Hitler’s ideology from its earliest days. Hitler seems to have had a lifelong horror of mental illness and physical deformity. In his discussions with Bouhler and the head of the Reich Chancellery, Hans Lammers, Hitler referred to people who “perpetually dirtied themselves” and who “put their own excrement in their mouths.”
More generally, Hitler frequently used medical metaphors for those he sought to remove from the German “racial community” – he referred to the Jews as a bacillus which must be killed or a cancer which must be excised. Likewise, he saw the disabled as a “diseased element” in the German racial body. In the minds of Hitler and other Nazis, the need to “cleanse” the German race was inseparable from the rest of the Nazi project.
Although "Blood Protection Laws" were a crucial steppingstone toward the final solution, Jews and Gypsies were not the immediate targets. The exclusion of Jews, a significant group of German people, took a number of years. The sterilization of the handicapped, however, could begin immediately, and in 1934 the courts imposed sterilization in 62,463 cases. By 1939, the period of sterilization was ending, the period of the killings had begun. Although the party and the state sometimes struggled over who had the final say-so in implementing "euthanasia," the killing system depended on the cooperation of bureaucrats, physicians, nurses, and staff, all of whom deluded the parents of those who were killed to the financial gain of the state. Many physicians were eager to use the deaths to advance their own training as well as their economic and professional status; the euthanasia killings served as a laboratory for the "advancement of science."
The outbreak of war thus opened up for Hitler the possibility of carrying out a policy he had long favoured. The war also gave this issue a new urgency in the eyes of the Nazi regime. People with severe disabilities, even when sterilised, still needed institutional care. They occupied places in facilities which would soon be needed for wounded soldiers and people evacuated from bombed cities. They were housed and fed at the expense of the state and took up the time of doctors and nurses. All this the Nazis found barely tolerable even in peacetime, and totally unacceptable in wartime. As a leading Nazi doctor, Dr Hermann Pfannmüller, said: "The idea is unbearable to me that the best, the flower of our youth must lose its life at the front in order that feebleminded and irresponsible asocial elements can have a secure existence in the asylum."
When the burden of killing many more handicapped adults than children required more efficient means than narcotics and starvation, gas chambers were "invented" and, in many cases, constructed on hospital grounds. This unique invention developed to lure the victims, kill them on an assembly line, and process their corpses was "the institutionalized killing center that Nazi Germany bequeathed to the world." The victims were marked prior to gassing so that their gold dental work could be extracted.
Planning schedule outlining the set-up and function of Personnel and Offices of T4
See the [Organizational Chart] for a visual representation
Hitler authorizes the personnel in charge of the euthanasia program.
Chief of KdF: Philipp Bouhler. Dr. Karl Brandt (Hitler’s personal physician). Tasks: definition of those to be killed; operational instructions; advise accordingly; authorise and licence physicians to kill.
Head Quarters 11 of KdF (State and Party Affairs). Chief Officer: Oberdienstleiter Viktor Brack (pseudonym: ‘Jennerwein’). Deputy: Werner Blankenburg (pseudonym: ‘Brenner’).
Office: Reichskanzlei (Voss strasse). Tasks: substitution and back-up of the Chief Officer; non medical personnel, administration; selection of operating personnel; selection of euthanasia locations.
Specific Offices: Office 11a. Office 11b. Office 11C. Chief Officers: Blankenburg/Dr. Hans Hefelmann (deputy: Richard von Hegener) Reinhold Vorberg (‘pseudonym: ‘Hintertal’). Duties: selection and appointment of non medical personnel for the organisation of ‘Aktion T4: organisation of children’s euthanasia and transportation.
Head Quarters (‘T4’). Manager, Dieter Allers. Offices: Tiergartenstrasse 4, Columbus House, Potzdamer Platz 1.
Medical Department: Professor Werner Heyde, from 1941, Professor Paul Nitsche. Bureau Department: Dr. Gerhard Bohne, from 1941, Dr. Friedrich Tillman. Transport Department KdF: Reinhold Vorberg. Major Economics: Dr. Schneider, from 1941, Dr. Schmiedel. Inspectorate: Dr. Haus, Dr. Oels. Calculations Office: Dr. Adolf Kaufmann, Dieter Allers. Duties and Tasks: Interview doctors and relevant experts, registrations issues.
All administration after the killing in the euthanasia centers; registry office; hereditary matters; photographic department; courier office; transport and maintenance; finance and salaries; buildings and supplies, including gas and poisonous medicines; appeals; liquidation of valuable property including gold from the teeth of victims; installation and inspection of euthanasia centers; liaison with local authorities and party offices.
Letter-head camouflage. Pseudonyms: Reich’s Labour Community Healing and Nursing Homes; Mutual Patient Transport Ltd; Mutual Foundation for Nursing Homes; from 1942, Central Calculation Office for Healing and Nursing Homes. From 1943, Hartheim Bureau Home.
Public Appearance at: ‘Transfer of patients’; T4 Personnel Managers; Budget accounts; NSDAP Treasurer; transparency of costs.
Euthanasia Centers: Pseudonyms: Grafeneck ‘A’; Brandenburg ‘B’; Bernburg ‘Be’; Harthein ‘C’; Sonnenstein ‘D’; Hadamar ‘E’. Letter Head: County Nursing Home.
Home Office: Secretary-General Dr. Leonard Conti.
Department 1V Health Service; Administrator, Dr. Herbert Linden: Contact and liaison with the Home Office and the KdF. From October 1941: Reich's Commissioner for Healing and Nursing Homes.
Reich’s Governor for the health administration of the regions (‘Gau’).
Reich’s Committee for scientific research of hereditary and predisposition severe diseases. Resident experts: Professor Werner Catel; Professor Hans Heinze; Dr. Ernst Wentzler.
Children’s Department (of Healing and Nursing Homes). Duties: Selection and bringing to death of children and youth.
Health Offices: State Doctors. Duties: Administration and submission of registration forms.
Healing and Nursing Homes (with children’s departments). Duties: Deportations as part of ‘Aktion T4’; decentralized killing in homes (hunger, infections, medicines etc.); transportation as part of ‘Aktion Brandt’.
University and Research Institutes (Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, University of Vienna). Duties: Cooperation and liaison with other departments on human grounds; supply and preparation of skeletons and human remains.
Murdering of prisoners as part of Aktion ‘14f13’ in cooperation with the Inspector of Concentration Camps (KZ) of the RFSS, the SS-WVHA and the KZ’s concerned.
1943/4: Murder of sick and unfit patients among the ‘eastern’ labor brigades in conjunction with the labor offices.
A brief resume of staffing as set out (alphabetically).
Mid-level bureaucrats or desk murderers (Schreibtischtäter), best describes the motley clique that administered and managed T4. A surprisingly small number of individuals organized and ran not only T4, but also the Reinhardt killing centres. What is extraordinary is the recruiting system adopted to fill the top and middle order of high profile management posts. Very much like the recruitment of the Reinhardt personnel via T4, they were a mixture with no particular emphasise or required expertise. Five of them: Brack, Blankenburg, Hefelmann, von Hegener, and Vorberg, were also working for the KdF but with additional remuneration, were persuaded to split their time accordingly. The management installed in T4 resembles musical chairs rather than a well-oiled department overseeing the Reich’s most closely guarded secrets.
Many of these unexceptional men were of a similar age, born between 1900 and 1910. The majority came from middle class families. Five received post graduate education: Bohn (with a doctorate) and Allers became lawyers; Hefelmann received a doctorate in agriculture; Brack obtained a diploma in economics, and Schmiedel a diploma in engineering. Others received average secondary school education and appear to have possessed no specific aspirations. None of the above showed any interest in furthering a programme of state murder.
The one single thread that holds these men together would appear to be their political affiliation to the Nazi party and their commitment to euthanasia. All appeared to have embraced Nazi ideology, including its racial and eugenic components. These men were innovators who operated the first technical killing centres. Leading KdF functionaries did not sit in their officers and direct operations from their desks. They were hands-on supervisors who travelled widely to T4 centres and the killing centres in the east to inspect the results of their deadly work.
Despite war crime trials, denazification tribunals and concerted actions by others, medical institutions, as late as 1990, held specimens and brains of 33 children and youths killed in 1940 at Brandenburg-Görden and held by Research Institutes in Germany. As is demonstrated both here and elsewhere, the German medical profession under the Nazi regime has much to answer for.
SS-Sturmbannführer Dieter Allers executed substantial influence as manager of T4.The daily administration of T4 was left to Allers insofar as the co-ordination, selection, and appointment of personnel were concerned. Allers remained prominent within Nazi “euthanasia” and genocidal policies from 1941 until the end of the war.
The recruitment of personnel for middle and lower management appears to have been quite informal, often just by word of mouth between friends or relatives already in the “euthanasia” service, or by senior officials nominating a particularly favoured individual.
As an illustration of the recruiting procedures adopted and the development of a typical career path, we can examine the appointment of Dieter Allers himself, who, by chance, found himself at the centre of T4 operations.
In 1939, Allers, a young lawyer, was sent to Poland as an army training sergeant. In November 1940, his mother met Werner Blankenburg in the street.
When she told him that her son was in the army, Blankenburg offered to give Allers a job at the KdF and arranged for his discharge from the military. In January 1941, Allers was appointed managing director of T4 by Brack. )
Representatives from T4 and the KdF were also frequent visitors to the centre of operations in Lublin and to the death camps. Although he later denied this,
Allers, who was the liaison and trouble-shooter between Reinhardt, the KdF and T4, occupied an office in Lublin
When SS-Scharführer Hans Girtzig was appointed Quartermaster to Reinhardt, it was only after his posting that he became fully aware of Bełżec’s purpose. When Christian Wirth ordered him to the ramp to unload Jewish ‘resettlement’ transports, Girtzig refused. Wirth detained him, locked him under guard in his quarters and threatened to send him to a KZ. Girtzig maintained his position and invited the KZ option. What Wirth would have eventually decided to do with Girtzig is not known, but the situation was saved for both men with the arrival at the camp of the T4 managing director, Dieter Allers. Allers calmed the situation by advising Girtzig to hold on, as Wirth would be leaving the camp very shortly. Wirth did in fact leave two days later, on 19 August 1942, when he was appointed Inspector of Reinhardt camps.
When Christian Wirth was killed in Italy in May 1944, seven months after Reinhardt had closed, Allers replaced him. From spring 1944 Allers was the leader of a special action in Triest. In this capacity he was in charge of the Camp La Risiera, in the borough of San Saba in Trieste, which was equipped with gassing and cremating facilities. In La Risiera, Italian and Yugoslavian Jews were kept captive and were subsequently either killed in the camp or deported to Auschwitz. Allers married his secretary who worked for him in T4 and at Schloss Hartheim. Allers was director and the main-stay in the secret SS member’s aid organisation, ‘Die Stille Hilfe’.
One of the mourners at Werner Blankenburg’s funeral was Dieter Allers who had settled in Hamburg after the war. Arrested by the British army, he was interned in the former concentration camp at Neuengamme, just outside the city, until 1947. Rearrested the following year, Allers was released in 1949. In spite of the German authorities being well aware of his wartime role as the managing director of T4, Allers, as a former lawyer, eventually found employment as a corporate lawyer with the Hamburg dockyard administration, and in this capacity assisted several former T4 employees in finding lodgings and jobs in Hamburg.
During the 1960s and 1970s Allers was taken into custody several times and appeared before a number of courts, both as a defendant and witness. His last appearance as a defendant was during 1967-69, together with Adolf Kaufmann, the T4 establishment’s inspector, and two other former T4 officials. By the end of 1967, only Allers was left in the dock, the others having been released on ‘health grounds’ - Kaufmann because his doctor advised that ‘stress might bring on a heart attack’. In 1969 Allers was sentenced to eight years imprisonment, of which he served only two years as the court deducted the time he had spent in Allied internment after the war. The sentence was imposed only in connection with his leading role in the ‘euthanasia’ operation.
Although several defendants and witnesses at various trials stated that they had seen Allers not only in Lublin, but also in the death camps at Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka, Allers would only admit to visiting Lublin to meet Globocnik and Wirth, but denied that these meetings had anything to do with Reinhardt. Dieter Allers’ personal involvement in Reinhardt was never proved in court. He died in Hamburg in 1978.
Born in 1909, Becker was trained in business. He served in the Kassel government until he was recruited by Dr Herbert Linden, a close relative, to run the finance office of T4 under Dieter Allers. He dealt with all correspondence with relatives and others who were paying for patients who had already been killed. He joined the Nazi party in 1937. He was so successful running the accounts that he was known by his colleagues as ‘Million Mark Becker (Millionen-Becker).’
Deputy to Brack, he was born in 1905 and joined the Nazi party and the SA in 1929. He worked in sales before joining the KdF. Recruited Dieter Allers to T4. Blankenburg was present, with others, when gassing and injection demonstrations were conducted at Brandenburg in the winter of 1939-40.
SS-Oberführer Viktor Brack, the former head of Hauptamt II at the KdF and the leading figure in the T4 and ‘Reinhardt’ exterminations, had been arrested in 1945 and indicted as a main defendant at the ‘Doctors’ Trial in Nuremberg in 1947. When asked about Christian Wirth, Brack remained silent. Condemned to death by the International Military Tribunal, he was hanged at Landsberg prison on 2 June 1948.
Werner Blankenburg had been declared officially dead at the request of his wife by a magistrates court in Berlin-Tempelhof after the war. The date of his death was given as 31 December 1945. In actual fact, since the summer of 1945, Blankenburg had been living in lodgings in Stuttgart under the alias ‘Werner Bieleke’, purporting to be a ‘foot slogger' returned from the war.
As ‘Werner Bieleke’, Blankenburg worked as an insurance company representative, first in Ludwigsburg, and then in the Black Forest town of Freudenthal, and in spite of being on the ‘most wanted’ list of war criminals he travelled all over West Germany for his firm. In 1950, the Stuttgart Kriminalpolizei took an interest in the wartime past of ‘Herr Bieleka’ and he quickly disappeared into the Swabian Alps, south of the city.
There he sought refuge with a former comrade from T4 in the market town of Münsingen, only 3 km from the former killing centre at Grafeneck castle. On his return to Stuttgart about a year later, Blankenburg resumed his travels as an insurance representative.
Werner Blankenburg, alias Bieleke, died on 28 November 1957 in Stuttgart. His funeral at the Michaelskirche in Stuttgart-Wangen was attended by several old comrades from T4 who were secretly filmed by the Kriminalpolizei.
In spite of his last wish that he should be buried under his real name, Blankenburg lies in grave No. 2058, rows 5-6, under the name of Werner Bieleke.
Hon. Professor and specialist in dermatology. Deputy to Leonardo Conti, Chief Physician of the Reich. Noted for his autobiographical book, Arzt im Kampf (‘Physicians in Struggle’, 1942). Acquitted at the Nürnberg Doctor’s Trial.
Bohne, Gerhard (Dr)
Born 1902. The son of a railway inspector. He studied at the University of Cologne, graduating in 1928 with a doctorate in jurisprudence. Served in the Civil Service and served as an administrative judge in the government economics department. He joined the Nazi party in 1932 and the SA in 1934, switching to the SS in 1935. In 1939 served as the first manager at the T4 Central Office (Zentral dienststelle).
Disillusioned with apparent corruption in T4, Bohne resigned in the summer of 1940, charging Brack and his associates, as well as many of the T4 physicians, with corruption and disreputable behaviour. He was replaced by Dieter Allers. The process of killing continued as no one was indispensable. Fled to Argentina after the war, from where he was deported to West Germany to stand trial in 1968. He was acquitted.
Although Bouhler was titular head of the whole T4 operation, in fact he had little to with it unless his authority was needed in dealing with other government agencies.
Brandt dealt only with the medical aspect of the operation, and continued to run his medical practice. Heinrich Lammers was head of the Reich Chancellery with Martin Bormann, head of the Party Chancellery. Committed suicide on 19 May 1945.
SS-Sturmbannführer. He created the administrative structure for adult “euthanasia.” He did not, however, have enough KdF personnel to staff T4 and therefore had to hire people for these jobs. He recruited them through a network of personal contacts and party connections. No one was forced to participate; all joined voluntarily (see Allers above).
Although Brack and Blankenburg oversaw the operation from their offices at the KdF, it was Gerhard Bohne and later Dietrich Allers who exercised substantial influence and held the reins of power within T4. Brack was a major contributor to the mass sterilisation programme, and was instrumental in the transfer of T4 staff to Aktion Reinhardt. He was a life long supporter of euthanasia and as early as 1930, engaged in dialogue about the subject with others in the United Kingdom.
After the war, Brack assumed the identity of Hermann Ober (his wife’s family name). Despite working in agriculture and keeping a low profile, he was arrested on 20 May 1945 in Stuttgart under the name Ober and released but was re-arrested in 1946 and was indicted with other medical grandees (Doctor’s Trial). Brack denied throughout his interrogation that he was anti-Semitic and any involvement in the killing of Jews.
He maintained that he ‘supported euthanasia out of ethical conviction which differed fundermentally from ‘Völkermond’ (genocide) as unleashed by Himmler and Globocnik’. He was hanged in Landsberg prison on 2 June 1948.
Brandt, Karl (Professor)
SS-Obersturmbannführer. Karl Brandt, who like Conti was an ardent second generation Nazi, emerged from more distinguished medical and university connections to become the dominant medical figure in the “euthanasia” programme as well as in medical experiments. He was a particular friend of Albert Speer (Armaments Minister) who probably knew him better than any other Nazi official.
It was Brandt’s fiancé, Anni, a German swimming champion admired by Hitler, who in 1932 introduced Karl Brandt to the Führer. Months later Hitler appointed Brandt doctor-in-residence, and in March 1934, together with Göring, was a witness at the Brandt wedding.
Following the so-called “Knauer child” affair, Brandt was authorised by Hitler, who did not want to be publicly identified with the “euthanasia” project, to proceed in the same way in similar cases: that is, to formalise a programme with the help of the high-ranking Reich leader Philipp Bouhler, chief of Hitler’s Chancellery.
This ‘test case’ was pivotal for the two killing programmes – of children and of adults. Dr Ludwig Stumpfegger succeeded Brandt when Hitler dismissed him in 1945.
Hitler's favourite doctor, Karl Brandt, and the chief of Hitler's private chancellery, Philipp Bouhler, headed the top-secret “euthanasia” programme.
Brandt and Brack emerge as the main protagonists.
Brandt had been charged by Hitler to improve wartime surgical services, which resulted in experimentation to test drugs and surgery as the more aggressive solution to wounds and infections. On 16 April, 1945, despite his loyal service to Hitler since 1934, his overseeing of “euthanasia” medical experimentation since 1939, and his co-ordination of civilian and military medical services since 1943, he was dismissed by Hitler. Some say his dismissal was over policy disagreements but others point directly to alleged treason.
Albert Speer, who was close to both Brandt and Hitler, had no doubt that Brandt’s downfall was due to the fact that he evacuated his wife and child to Thuringia, where the arrival of the British was imminent. When this move by Brandt came to the notice of Hitler, Brandt’s arrest was ordered for court-martial proceedings and subsequent execution.
During his interrogation and pre-trial manoeuvrings, Brandt argued that ‘the euthanasia program was medical in its aims, but that Aktion 14f13 (in which he disclaimed involvement) was racial and political’. In the confusion of the latter part of the war, Brandt survived Hitler’s rage but was later sentenced to death in the Doctors’ Trial at Nürnberg. He was hanged at Landsberg prison in 1948.
Academics in medicine and psychiatry had from the beginning participated in the planning and implementation of the “euthanasia” killing programme. Professor Werner Catel was no exception. Catel served as a senior expert for children’s “euthanasia” and occupied the chair in paediatrics at Leipzig.
After the war and despite opposition, Catel continued to practice in Germany, experimenting on tubercular children in 1947-8 in the Ferdinand-Sauerbruch Hospital in Wuppertal-Elberfeld, testing TB therapy. By all accounts he was a reckless operator, as two patients died as the result of his work.
Dr. Leonard Conti:
Reich Physician Leader and holder of the newly created appointment of State Secretary for Health. High up in the Nazi hierarchy, he moved easily among the close advisers to Hitler’s inner circle.
Perhaps this was his downfall, as shortly after his appointment he was replaced at the instigation of Philipp Bouhler. However, it was Karl Brandt, Philipp Bouhler, and Leonard Conti who were the main protagonists in the early actions of the killing operation at T4.
Born in Austria, 1889. Died, 1945. A forceful and outspoken Nazi within the German psychiatric establishment. In 1939 he succeeded Karl Bonhoeffer to the psychiatric chair at Berlin and Charité Hospital. It is thought by many that he provided Hitler with the wording for the original “euthanasia” decree: Crinis was a careful operator who was able to influence events within the “euthanasia” programme but remain incognito and in the shadows of government.
Like many of his university colleagues at this time, he was a convinced supporter of “euthanasia’s” eugenic or philosophical necessity. He had been involved in anti-communist and Freikorps activities since late 1918, joined the Nazi Party in 1931, and fled to Germany in 1934 following the failed putsch against the Dollfuss regime, in which he may have been involved.
From 1936 he was active in both the SS and SD. As with his low profile during the “euthanasia” programme, he camouflaged these SS/SD affiliations and activities. He was active in the SS Race and Resettlement Office and, in 1941, became medical director of the Ministry of Education. SD duties took him out of Germany for secret military espionage operations in Holland.
A benevolent, likeable individual, even charismatic, he strode the stage of Nazism until his demise on 1 May 1945 in the prescribed Nazi manner by swallowing cyanide.
He worked in the T4 Personnel Office (Personalabteilung) and hired the staff needed for operations at headquarters and the killing centres.
Hefelmann, Hans (Dr )
Hefelmann was born in Dresden in October 1906 and was thirty-two years old when he assumed a central place in the Nazi regime’s first massive killing operation. Son of a textile manufacturer, Hefelmann received his doctorate in agriculture in 1932. He had joined the Nazi party in February; by 1932 he had joined the staff of the economics department at Nazi headquarters, switching to the KdF in January 1936.
Appointed head of Office 11b in 1937, he directed this department as well as children’s “euthanasia”, until his call-up by the army in 1943. In 1942, Bouhler recommended Hefelmann for a war decoration; like many others involved in killing operations, Hefelmann was decorated for his service behind enemy lines. He was awarded the War Service Cross Second Class. According to Henry Friedlander, Hefelmann provided the intellectual basis for implementation of special tasks important to the war effort and assigned by the Führer.
Hegener, Richard von
He was the son of an army officer, and was born in September 1905 in East Prussia. After graduation in 1923 he worked for the Dresden Bank. He joined the Nazi party in 1931 and in 1937, joined the staff of the KdF. He also received the War Service Cross Second Class. It is interesting to note that both Hefelmann and Hegener had no medical training whatsoever, but it was they who decided which reported cases merited the special attention of the medical experts and forwarded the selected forms to them for a decision.
Heinze, Hans, (Professor)
Heinze was a specialist in psychiatry and neurology who headed the state hospital at Brandenburg-Görden. He joined the Nazi party in May 1933 and later joined the KdF child “euthanasia” group on the recommendation of Herbert Linden. Heinze was now one of the KdF experts, who included Werner Catel and Ernst Wentzler. He was later recommended (by Dr. Herbert Linden) to join other distinguished medical grandees collaborating in the planning of adult “euthanasia”.
On 5 October 1940, Heinze and Irmfried Eberl, later commandant of Treblinka and the medical director of Brandenburg killing centre, met with Julius Hallervorden (Director, KWI Brain Research Department) and other colleagues, to arrange for the examination of brains removed from victims killed at Brandenburg.
By all accounts it is believed that Heinze was an enthusiastic terminator of life for the betterment of medical research. In addition to his routine “euthanasia” operations, Heinze took a special interest in children with cerebral palsy. He sent children to be killed at a prototype gas chamber in Brandenburg prison. As Brandenburg prison was in the Soviet zone when Heinze was arrested in October 1945, he was dealt with by their courts and sentenced to seven years hard labour in March 1946.
Head of the T4 medical office. Born in 1902, he received his medical licence in 1926 and his speciality certification in psychiatry and neurology in 1929. He served as a senior physician (Oberarzt) in the psychiatric clinic and lecturer of the University of Wüzburg.
In 1933 he was embroiled with the SS when he was requested to treat Theodor Eicke, a high ranking SS officer and associate of Himmler (Eicke’s positions included appointment as the commandant of KZ Dachau, inspector of concentration camps and commander of the Waffen SS death head units). This period opened career doors for him.
In May 1933 he joined the Nazi party, and in June 1936 he entered the SS as a captain (Hauptsturmführer). Heyde’s career accelerated: adviser in psychiatry to the Gestapo: consultant to Eicke’s concentration camp administration investigating hereditary diseases among the camp prisoners: appointed chair of psychiatry at Würzburg.
Arrested post-war but escaped in 1947. Under the alias Fritz Sawade he practiced as a sports physician and psychiatrist in Flensburg until 1959. He was imprisoned but committed suicide before the start of his trial in 1964.
SS-Unterscharführer. Born 1903, a farmer by profession. Joined the Allgemeine SS in 1934 and the Nazi party in 1937. Assistant medical doctor from 1939 and camp doctor at the Buchenwald concentration camp. On one occasion Hoven was arrested by the SS anti-corruption team for allegedly poisoning material witnesses testifying against the former camp commandant. He was a key figure in medical crimes, operating under Brack and Brandt of the KdF.
A perpetrator of typhus experiments, he was convicted of war crimes. Hoven was sentenced to death and hanged on 2 June 1948.
Kaufmann, Adolf Gustav
Born 1902 in the Polish part of the Austrian Empire, and served during World War 1. He joined the illegal precursor of the Austrian Nazi party and SA in 1923. Post Anschluss served as party inspector in Pomerania. In 1940, his personal friend Brack recruited him for work with T4. Kaufmann worked directly under Brack and reported to him daily.
He was responsible for liaising between “euthanasia” and other government bodies. He selected, refurbished, and maintained the “euthanasia” centres, looked to the welfare of the staff and generally ensured that each establishment ran smoothly and was fit for its allotted purpose. It was Kaufmann who initiated the T4 rest centre in Weissenbach at the Attersee in the Austrian Salzkammergut vacation area. It should not be forgotten that Reinhardt staff, serving in the east, were all part of this establishment and their everyday personal needs were registered and provided via T4.
Linden, Herbert (Dr)
A career civil servant responsible for state hospitals and nursing homes as well as the implementation of the sterilisation, race and marriage laws. He was born in Konstanz, Baden, in September 1899. He received his medical licence in 1925, and joined the Nazi party in November of that year. He was active in children’s “euthanasia” and represented his colleagues in Hitler’s inner circle when major decisions were reached with regard to “euthanasia” in general.
Linden rapidly progressed through the ranks to Ministerialdirigent and later Reich plenipotentiary for state hospitals and nursing homes. An obscure individual, who used his close contacts and relatives to fill the posts within T4. On the 27 April 1945, he committed suicide.
Robert Lorent was born in 1905, worked in agriculture. He joined the Nazi party in 1930 and the SA in 1932, where he worked as a business administrator. Another of Brack’s personal contacts, he was head-hunted to lead the central finance office of T4.
Lorent was also assigned and served at the Bełżec death camp.
The successor to Heyde at the T4 medical Office. Born in 1876, received his medical licence in 1901 and was appointed professor in 1925. Joined the Nazi party in May 1933 and was a committed supporter of eugenics and “euthanasia” and had participated in the early killing experiments.
He was the Director of the Sonnenstein state hospital in Saxony. His commitment was based less on Nazi ideology than on his support for racial science and on his vision of ‘progressive medicine’. Was executive secretary (Geschäftsführer) of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Munich until 1939.
His recruitment to the KdF was via many avenues: party credentials, availability, friendships, nepotism, and required skills. Tried by an East German court and executed 25 March 1948.
The following were all in some way friendly or related to Viktor Brack:
He worked in the T4 Personnel Office (Personalabteilung) and hired the staff needed for T4 operations at headquarters and at the killing centres.
He was born 1903 and joined the Nazi party in 1923. An administrator by profession who served in the welfare department of the Cologne district government (Oberregierungsrat). On the recommendation of Dr. Herbert Linden, Tillman joined the KdF as an administrator, a position which co-ordinated the efforts to hide the killings.
This involved misleading relatives and the various agencies involved in committing patients and paying for their care. The clerical work involved such matters as writing death notices, returning personal belongings and arranging burials. Tillman chaired the meetings of local T4 office managers and on one occasion used this opportunity to ‘watch a gassing’.
Charged by a West German court in connection with the “euthanasia” programme, he died when he either fell or jumped from a building in February 1964.
Vorberg, Reinhold (pseudonym ‘Hintertal’)
Vorberg was another official from Brack’s KdF office who occupied a key position in T4. Born in 1904, received an average education. Became a member of the Nazi party in 1929. Was employed as a self employed jewellery salesman until 1935 when he joined the KdF, probably through the intervention of his cousin Viktor Brack.
Head of the T4 Transport Office, Inc. (Gemeinnützige Kranken-Transport G.m.b.H.), abbreviated to `Gekrat’. Often travelled with Werner Blankenburg to inspect the T4 killing centres. Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by a West German court.
As a leading figure and chief physician of the Reich, Wagner headed both the Reich Physicians’ Chamber and the Party medical structures and favoured a visionary ideological medicine that was racist.
Socially and clinically oriented (the Nazi version of a ‘people’s medicine’), and distrustful of academic medicine and pure science, Wagner was active in formulating and explaining the sterilisation programme, and it was to him that Hitler first (1935) told his plans for extensive “euthanasia” killings; indeed, Wagner was considered by some Germans to have been the ‘godfather of the “euthanasia” programme’.
When he died in 1939, he was replaced by Leonardo Conti, a more bureaucratic figure who held a health post in the Interior Ministry, though also possessing the credentials of an ‘old medical fighter.’
Wentzler, Ernst, (Dr)
A paediatric psychiatrist, he was an associate and fellow conspirator with referees Catel and Heinze (above). He secured his own experimental killing ward at his private children’s clinic in Berlin.
Action Reinhard Perpetrators of Genocide who began in T-4
Born 26 May 1900. He served in World War 1 where he was badly wounded and became a prisoner of war for two years. He was a member of the SA from 1933. After joining the Nazi Party he was employed as a driver and later transferred to the SS-Death’s Head Unit Brandenburg.
After training at the SS-School Oranienburg he was posted as a driver and guard to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He remained there until the autumn of 1939, when he was summoned to Berlin (T4) and selected for training within the euthanasia programme at Hadamar. He joined T4 with his friend Lorenz Hackenholt, who would later operate the gas engine at Bełżec:
"It is clear to me that in the camp murder was committed. What I have done was only to assist in the murder. If I were found to be guilty it would be justified, murder is murder. We are all guilty. The camp had a chain of command and if one link were to refuse to co-operate then the whole system would collapse...we did not have the courage to disobey orders."
In T4, Dubois was attached to the transport division and drove one of the buses that delivered patients to Grafeneck, Brandenburg, Hadamar and Bernburg euthanasia killing centres. He was active as a ‘burner’ and also transported corpses and urns. In April 42, he was posted to ‘Organisation Todt’, in Russia. After his service in Russia he was posted to Reinhardt where he served at Bełżec until June 1943, and was later transferred to Sobibór.
At Sobibór he supervised the Waldkommando and undertook general duties at the ramp, including the shooting of sick and old Jews at the Lazarett. He was badly wounded in the Sobibór revolt. In September 1943, he was transferred with the others to Italy. Acquitted at the Bełżec trial in Munich in 1963 64, but re-arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment at the Sobibór trial in Hagen in 1966. Dubois died in l973 before an additional charge for crimes at Bełżec could be brought against him.
Hans Otto Gustav Girtzig
SS-Quartermaster (logistics), then ‘cremator’ and ‘burner’ of corpses (euthanasia), finally SS-Scharführer at Bełżec. Girtzig:
I enlisted in December 1939. With others from my company I was ordered to report to ‘the Charitable Foundation’, Berlin. I was sworn to secrecy and ordered to report to Grafeneck Psychiatric Institution where I met Oberhauser and Schwarz, who told me what was going on.
Girtzig received an elementary school education. On leaving school and up until 1933, he worked and trained in the retail clothing trade in Berlin. In 1933 he joined the Allgemeine - SS with which he had been associated since 1931-2. In 1937, he was employed with the District Political Leadership Office for the Brandenburg District. In 1939, he enlisted in the SS where he trained as a Quartermaster.
Without any explanation he was given marching orders to report to the ‘Charitable Foundation’ Tiergartenstrasse, 4 in Berlin (T4). Here Girtzig received an identical reception as Fuchs (sworn to secrecy), was given travel expenses and told to report to Grafeneck Psychiatric Institution, where he arrived on 27 December 1939.
In the reception office at Grafeneck he was met by Joseph Oberhauser and later, Gottfreid Schwarz. These three men were all SS NCOs. Initially, Girtzig organised a canteen facility and procured stores until the arrival some days later of an inflow of male and female psychiatric nurses.
"All the newcomers were called together and lectured by medical staff as to their forthcoming duties. The mentally ill were to be granted a mercy death. This was to be a very important task, defined by a Reich law, which was also in the interests of the patients. The activity was designated a ‘State Secret’ and, as such, was not to be talked about - not even among the members. We were advised of the consequences of violations of this obligation to secret duty."
Girtzig soon found out that Wirth was the resident ‘Registrar’ and wore the uniform of captain in the Stuttgart police. He further stated that all the police personnel (uniformed and CID) came from Stuttgart, and that the SS personnel were engaged as ‘burners’ and ‘disinfectors’. Girtzig, like the others, was transferred between institutions depending on the flow of patients and at the whim of Wirth. It was clear to Girtzig that Wirth was the operational head of the euthanasia complex.
In early January 1942, Girtzig was working in Hartheim when 20 of the staff, male nurses and drivers, were ordered to Berlin, where they joined others destined for medical duties in Minsk rendering aid to the wounded. They remained in Minsk dealing with the German wounded until March, 1942. When the emergency was over, they returned to Hartheim where Girtzig remained until late summer of 1942. In July he received further orders and was transferred to Lublin. Travelling with him to the East, were 15 other male nurses, including Gustav Wagner and Robert Jührs.
In Lublin Wirth divided them up for duty between the three Reinhardt camps. Girtzig went to Bełżec and Wagner to Sobibór. At this time, Girtzig said, he had no idea of what was waiting for him. The only pleasure he had was meeting up with his colleagues from T4. Comradeship proved to be a binding asset and a blessing to these men. They appear to have accepted their situation and could deal with it; providing they were together, life could be tolerated.
Girtzig had no conception of the euthanasia programme, nor any choice regarding his participation in it. He also had no choice concerning service in Russia or with Wirth in Bełżec. Girtzig stated that when he arrived in Bełżec in mid-summer of 1942, which was at the beginning of the accelerated resettlement period, he had fallen out with Wirth within days and was punished accordingly by being taken out of the office where he worked to take charge of the kitchens and the 20 Jewesses that worked there.
When Dr Dieter Allers (T4 Administrator) visited the camp, Girtzig told him of his problems with Wirth. Allers advised him to stick it out, as Wirth would be gone in a few days. Within days Wirth had taken up his post as Inspector of all three Reinhardt camps (1.8.1942). SS-Hauptsturmführer Gottleib Hering replaced him. However, from then on, Girtzig remained fully integrated within the murder system.
When Bełżec was finally closed in the summer of 1943, Girtzig and the rest of the SS garrison were transferred from temporary duties elsewhere to Trieste, Italy. He recalled that Schwarz, Wirth, Reichleitner and Gringers were all shot dead, allegedly by partisans. The Ukrainian Schmidt committed suicide. When the war ended he was taken prisoner and eventually released.
Josef Kasper Oberhauser
SS-Oberscharführer (KZ Dachau and Sachsenhausen), then ‘cremator’ and ‘burner’ of corpses and unofficial deputy to Wirth (euthanasia), finally SS-Untersturmführer at Bełżec and Reinhardt Inspectorate Lublin.
"As to the question of whether the SS had any possibility to get away from their unpleasant posts, there was no possibility because of SS-Major Wirth and his personality characteristics. His permanent features were an iron hardness, unconditional obedience of and belief in the Führer, absolute heartlessness, and ruthlessness.
These characteristics and signs were already apparent during the euthanasia operation where I got to know him. But he was never so much in his element as during the murder of the Jews. I was overcome with a deep depression when I learned around Christmas 1941, that Wirth was to be appointed as camp commandant in Bełżec and I would be assigned to him."
A secret conversation took place between Blankenburg and Wirth about a healthy member of T4 taking upon himself the care of another T4 member ill with fever. The meaning behind this was to prevent the sick patient from blabbing out anything about the state of affairs in the camps while in a delirious fever. I learned of this conversation from Wirth personally. He was in a talkative mood and had just come back from meeting Blankenburg and Globocnik. What Wirth told me came as no surprise. The goings on in the camp were secrets of the highest category.
Oberhauser enlisted in the SS (Totenkopfstandarte ‘Brandenburg’) and was a member the NSDAP. In September 1939, he was posted to ‘Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler’. In 1940, he was ordered to Grafeneck Institution and also served in Brandenburg and Bernburg gassing centres, where he took a leading role alongside his mentor, Wirth. In November 1941, he was assigned to AR in Lublin and was a personal confidant of Wirth. With the exception of Wirth and perhaps Globocnik, Oberhauser was the individual closest to the murder of the Jews in all of the three death camps.
Oberhauser was the key man in Bełżec. At the camp’s inception Oberhauser brought the first guard detachment from Trawniki. These guards were Ukrainian and Volksdeutsche. He acted on many occasions as deputy commandant in Wirth’s absence. When Wirth left Bełżec on 1August 1942 to take up his position as Inspector of all three Reinhardt camps, Oberhauser went with him to act as liaison between Wirth and Globocnik. On Himmler’s instructions he was promoted to Untersturmführer in June 1943, and left for Italy in September 1943 with the AR garrison.
After the war Oberhauser returned to Munich where he worked as a barman until he was hunted down for his implication in the euthanasia programme and membership of the SS. In 1948, the Magdeburg Landesgericht sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment. He was amnestied in April 1956, and released. On his release from prison he again worked as a barman in Munich. He was investigated further about the Bełżec crimes and eventually arrested. In 1965, he was sentenced to four years six months imprisonment as an accessory to the common murder of 300.000 people and for his role in the common murder of 150 Jews.
Oberhauser was the only member of the Bełżec SS garrison ever to be sentenced for a crime committed in Bełżec. On his release from prison, he returned to Munich where he once more worked as a barman in a beer hall. However, the Risiera Trial (Italy/Post Reinhardt) surfaced with more allegations against Allers and Oberhauser.
The trial of those responsible for crimes perpetuated in the Rice Mill ended in Trieste in April 1976, more than 30 years after the end of the war. Two of those accused were Allers, and Oberhauser. Allers died before the conclusion of the trial in 1975 and Oberhauser was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Italian court in absentia.
He owned a brewery in Monaco in complete freedom Although he tried to live in some obscurity, Oberhauser was tracked down by Claude Lanzmann to a bar in Munich during the making of Lanzmann’s documentary film ‘SHOAH’. Oberhauser, like Wirth, was one of the hard core SS in Bełżec and was a principal protagonist in carrying out the murder of Jews in all three AR camps. He died in November 1979.
At the time of their secondment to T4, these men had been recruited to the KZs, under the authority of the Concentration Camp Inspectorate (Inspektor der Konzentrationslager [IKL]). It is in these KZ establishments, that these personnel became enmeshed in and indoctrinated by the camp leadership regarding brutality, and desensitised as to their own feelings as well as to the torments of their charges. They had been well prepared, having learnt the art of torture and terror, which they took with them to T4 and Reinhardt. Here they applied their expertise to the innocent and in so doing, accepted the inevitable consequences for their actions.
There was a subtle difference between their social structure in the KZ set-up and the new establishments of T4 and Reinhardt. By their secondment out of the IKL to duty under the umbrella of the KdF/T4 and their later duty on behalf of the KdF/HHE (AR), these men found themselves isolated from their previous amenable domestic and amenable social environment. During that time they had tortured or killed in the camps with impunity and then retired to the normality and stability of their homes and their family accommodation within the KZ compounds. This was the norm for the staff in all the KZs under the IKL and the later Economic
Division of the RSHA (Wirtschaftsverwaltungshauptamt [WVHA], unlike the circumstances in which they were now involved. No such considerations for a stable family life existed in T4 or Reinhardt, where these men, despite generous regular furloughs when they could return home to Germany, were kept isolated in the eastern territories of Poland.
Only Franz Stangl appears to have breached this strict regulation, when his wife and children were given special permission to visit him at Sobibór. This apparent concession of Globocnik’s in Lublin, permitting Stangl’s family to visit, did not go unnoticed in the ranks and enforced the view that their shared situation in the genocide was sealed. The rank and file of perpetrators also realised this predicament, and like Stangl, they too feared for the consequences of any dissent.
From the beginning the safety of their families, from the beginning, had been used as an overt threat against any rebellion. The perpetrators found themselves isolated and sought companionship to deflect their fears. At Bełżec, the SS garrison were all accommodated together, sharing on a communal basis the village houses littered along the main Bełżec - Sobibór Lubelski road. It was perhaps this fact of male communal living and the sharing of the deeds that was the crucial factor that welded them together as one unit, and at the same time enabled them to murder thousands of innocent people every day.
MALE NURSES of T4
Five of our selection (of nine) of Bełżec staff was male nurses, and their progression from their duties in T4 to Reinhardt is now reviewed:
Gley went from male nurse to transport and patient care (euthanasia gassing), and thence to SS-Oberscharführer at Bełżec.
"In late 1939, I was working as a male nurse when I was summoned for special duty to ‘Columbus House’ (T4). I did not know the reason. I was sworn to secrecy and ordered to report to Grafeneck Psychiatric Institution. "
Heinrich Gley, born 16 February 1901. He received an elementary school education. On leaving school he worked as a farmhand until 1919. From 1919 until 1924, he voluntarily served in the army and obtained the rank of sergeant. After leaving the army he was casually employed until 1929, when he married (Helena Hoppner). There were five children from the marriage.
In 1929, as the result of an introduction by his wife, he obtained employment as a male nurse. During the annexation of Austria he was recalled for army service but released as soon as the emergency subsided and he returned to nursing.
In late 1939, while working as a male nurse, he received a summons: ‘from some prominent gentleman in Berlin who had my personal file in front of him’. A few days later he received a further summons for ‘special duty’ and was instructed to report to Columbus House, Berlin (T4) on 4 January 1940. Gley, together with the others assembled, was sworn to secrecy and ordered to report to Grafeneck Castle (euthanasia institution)
On arrival at Grafeneck he was instructed that his duty as a male nurse was the transportation of patients. Gley remembered meeting Dr Eberl, other physicians, and 4 SS NCOs, who he refers to as the ‘burners’ and ‘disinfectors’ (Oberhauser, Schwarz, Irrmann, and one other). In the kitchen he met the resident cook, Kurt Franz. In short the core of the Bełżec SS garrison.
In about September 1942, he, together with others, was ordered back to Berlin and then to Lublin where he was met by Wirth and taken to Bełżec. Although he had worked in a “mercy killing” centre and knew that patients were being gassed, like his relocated companions he had no idea of the purpose for which he was transferred to Lublin.
He only knew that he was destined for Bełżec was when Wirth took him there. By this time Wirth was Inspector of all three Reinhardt camps and Hering was now commandant of Bełżec.
The explanation given by Gley, i.e. that he had no idea of what he was getting into (which is corroborated independently by Stangl, Fuchs, Girtzig, and others), in no way excuse him from complicity in mass murder, as he maintained in court throughout his trial. To the contrary, from the evidence of other former SS, and by his own admissions coupled with the photographic material seized by post-war investigators from Kurt Franz, there is no doubting his guilt.
There are two photographs of Gley: 1, in uniform drinking beer with Gottlieb Hering, camp commandant at Bełżec - probably an off duty scene after having jointly participated in the murder of several thousand Jews.
2, a photograph of Gley in uniform carrying a riding crop, probably taken at Bełżec. Both photographs show him with a cheerful disposition and part and parcel of the murder scene. In Gley’s opinion, Hering was just as bad as Wirth. One could not argue with either of them. If someone did, as he had done at T4, Hering gave them what he (Hering) termed as ‘hard probation’. That is, the more gruesome jobs.
In Bełżec, ‘hard probation’ was Lazarett duty, killing the old, sick, and children, who could not make it to the gas chambers. Gley, this qualified nurse, armed with a machine pistol (MP-38) and a 9 mm Beretta, shot the innocent victims into the pits.
Gley remained with the Bełżec SS garrison until the spring of 1943 when he was transferred to the Poniatowa labour camp together with Hering and Schluch. In Poniatowa as in Bełżec, Gley mixed his murder duties as in Bełżec with attending to the sick in the camp hospital, questioning the surgeons and sometimes participating in operations. In 1943, when Poniatowa was liquidated, he joined the other Reinhardt staff for Italy. He returned to Berlin (T4) in 1944, where he was released from further duty on 2 August.
He was immediately called up for service in the Waffen-SS, where he remained until the end of the war with the rank of SS-Unterscharführer. He was discharged from POW status on 29 December 1947, when he returned to Münster and worked as a bricklayer. At the time of his arrest on 8 May 1961, he had retired. He was acquitted at the Bełżec trial.
Robert Jührs, went from male nurse to patient care (euthanasia gassing), then to SS-Unterscharführer at Bełżec and Sobibór. Jührs:
"I have no idea how and why I was selected for duties at T4. When I realised what my duties were to be, I made several attempts to be transferred, but with no luck."
He was born 17 October 1911, Frankfurt. He received an elementary school education. He was a member of the NSDAP and SA. During the 1930s he worked as an unskilled labourer, caretaker, and usher at the Frankfurt opera and office clerk. He was then employed as a male nurse until 1941, when, like the others mentioned, he was summoned to Berlin, taken into the euthanasia programme and posted to Hadamar in June of that year.
He stated that he attempted to be taken out of Hadamar but his applications met with no response. He was later posted to Lublin where he was selected for duties in Bełżec.
Jührs, like the others, states that he had no idea of the murder programme in Bełżec until he actually arrived there. He was in Bełżec from June 1942 until March 1943. He performed duties throughout the camp including the supervision of the ramp area and incoming transports. Like Gley, another supposed caring nurse with a machine pistol; he shot many Jews at the Lazarett.
With some justification (his opinion), he added in his statement, ‘I can say with absolute certainty that not a single one of them suffered’. Jührs remained in Bełżec for some months but was later transferred to Sobibór where he carried out similar duties.
After a short stay in Berlin due to illness, he returned to duty before being transferred to the Dorohucza (near Trawniki) labour camp, where he remained until the killing of the remaining Jews of that camp. Jührs returned to Sobibór to supervise the dismantling of the camp and the shooting of the remaining Jewish workers. In early December 1943, he returned to Berlin on home leave.
In late December, he received orders to join the rest of the Bełżec garrison in Italy. He was acquitted at the Bełżec trial in Munich in 1963-64, and was also acquitted at the Sobibór trial.
Karl Alfred Schluch, went from male nurse to patient care (euthanasia gassing), then to SS- Scharführer at Bełżec and Sobibór.
"In June 1940, I was a male nurse in Germany. Without any reason, I was ordered to T4, where I was sworn to secrecy and ordered to Grafeneck Psychiatric Institute. After a short posting to Minsk at the end of 1941, I returned to Grafeneck. In March 1942, I was ordered with others to Lublin for special duty. In June 1942 I was posted to Bełżec."
Karl Schluch was born 25 October 1905. He received an elementary school education. On leaving school he worked as a farm labourer. In 1930, he trained as a male nurse and passed the state nursing examinations with credit. On 20 March 1936, he married.
On 13 June 1940, without any notice or reason, he was summoned to Tiergartenstrasse, 4, Berlin (T4), where he reported to the administration. At T4 he received a preliminary introduction, was sworn to secrecy and given travel orders to report to Grafeneck. On arrival at Grafeneck he met up with others who had undergone the same process. In the spring of 1941, he was transferred to the Hadamar Institution, where he was engaged within the euthanasia programme.
In December 1941, together with other nurses he was ordered back to Berlin and then posted to Minsk where he was part of the medical team attending to the German wounded. In March 1942, with other medical personnel he was ordered to Lublin. Again, this man had no information regarding what lay behind this order.
In Lublin Wirth selected him for duty in Bełżec where he remained as part of the SS garrison. At Bełżec, from June, 1942 until August 1943 he supervised the Ukrainian guard, and because of his quiet reassuring manner, this dedicated nurse of days gone by was selected by Wirth for duty at the undressing barracks and at the funnel that led to the gas chambers, answering the doubts and fears of the Jewish victims.
In January 1943, due to illness, he was transferred to Lublin and Berlin for treatment. In spring 1943, he returned to Bełżec for a few weeks then he accompanied Hering and Gley to the Poniatowa labour camp, where he supervised the Ukrainian guard detachment. Schluch was present when the camp was liquidated and all of the 5,000 Jewish inmates were shot during the Enterfest action (November 3).
In late November 1943 he also joined the rest of the Bełżec SS garrison for service in Italy, fighting against the partisans. After the war ended he remained as a POW until 6 July 1945. On his release he found employment as a farm labourer and builder. In 1952, he re-entered the nursing profession and remained so employed until the date of his arrest on 10 November 1961. He was acquitted at the Bełżec trial 1963-64
"In 1939, I was a male nurse when I received an emergency duty summons to report to the ‘Charitable Foundation’. I was later sent to Grafeneck. When I found out that patients were being killed I tried to get out, but I was threatened with being sent to a concentration camp."
Heinrich Unverhau, born 5 June 1911. He received an elementary school education. On leaving school he trained as a plumber and metalworker, but due to an industrial accident became a musician. In 1934, he entered the nursing profession. He was a member of the NSDAP and SA. In December 1939, he received an emergency duty summons to report to the ‘Charitable Foundation for Institutional Care’, Tiergartenstrasse, 4, Berlin (T4).
Unverhau reported on 15 January 1940, and, like the others mentioned above, was sworn in, given preliminary information and posted first to Grafeneck and then to Hadamar. He recalled that he was told that due to the imminent campaign against France, the mentally ill in the institutions were in an endangered area and were to be brought from that area to the interior of Germany for their safety. He stated that he had no idea what was going on in these institutions.
Initially, Unverhau acted as escort for patients transported to Grafeneck and Hadamar, then progressed to administering sedatives to patients. In this gradual process of introduction to the final phase, he escorted patients into the gas chambers and dealt with the disposal of the bodies and the victim’s property. He stated that when he realised what was going on, i.e. the gassing of mental patients, he objected, but was threatened with a KZ (concentration camp).
This was no idle threat: Wirth had already sent two male nurses (Kainer and Arudt) to KZ-Sachsenhausen for 6 months for refusing to obey his orders; moreover, they had broken the oath of silence by talking about the euthanasia programme in the bar. Both men were, however, reinstated in T4. Wirth further punished them by giving them some of the more gruesome tasks at the institute, including the dissection of the head of gassed patients and the removal of the victim’s brain for Professor Heyde. Kainer was later posted to Treblinka where he shot himself after crossing Wirth once again.
According to Unverhau, many of the T4 personnel and the SS had at sometime attempted to be transferred to front-line duties. The first priority was to get away from the work they were expected to do, and the second was to get away from Wirth. This attitude was continually present throughout the euthanasia and death camp period. There is no reason to doubt the truth of this for the majority of personnel, as there is ample evidence to support it. A few, a very few, were not so concerned, and carried out these duties with cruelty and enthusiasm, but all agreed that it was senseless attempting to undertake an exit.
Unverhau joined his stream of comrades, firstly being posted to Russia, and secondly to Bełżec. His term of duty in Bełżec was from June 1942 to November 1942. In Bełżec, Wirth placed him in the clothing shed, where he supervised the Jewish workers sorting the personal property that had been collected from the transported victims. He also worked within the murder programme at the ramp, the undressing barracks, and the funnel. Desperate to get out, Unverhau approached Berlin direct for a transfer but was turned down. This brought on the wrath of Wirth, who castigated him in front of the SS garrison, drew his pistol on him, and transferred him from the clothing area to the cremation area.
In May 1943, Unverhau was transferred to Sobibór where he remained until the camp was closed and all AR personnel were transferred to Italy. After the war he was acquitted at the Grafeneck euthanasia (1948), Bełżec (1963-64) and Sobibór (1965 Hagen) trials, at the latter of which he was accused of murdering 72,000 Jews.
Ernst Zierke, went from male nurse to patient care and photographic technician at Grafeneck and Hadamar until the ‘stop’ order, when he joined other T4 personnel operating with Operation Todt in Russia. He was then posted as an SS-Unterscharführer to Bełżec and Sobibór.
"I was a male nurse when I was summoned to Berlin. I was ordered to Grafeneck Psychiatric Institution. I was later transferred to Hadamar. With the others I was posted to the Russian front and then on to Lublin and then Bełżec there was no possibility of getting out."
Ernst Zierke was born 16 May 1905. He was a male nurse and blacksmith by profession. He had been a member and sympathetic supporter of the Nazi Party since 1930. A devout Christian, he regularly attended the Evangelical church. He received an elementary school education, leaving school at the age of 13 to work locally as a woodsman and later as an apprentice blacksmith. In 1934, he changed his employment and entered the nursing profession.
In December 1939, when working at a psychiatric institution as a male nurse, he was summoned to Berlin. Like the others mentioned, he was interviewed and sworn to secrecy, then immediately ordered to Grafeneck. Zierke joined the rest of his comrades and carried out his euthanasia duties until subsequently being transferred to the Hadamar Institution.
In December 1941, he too, was transferred to the Russian front. In March 1942, he returned to nursing duties until the summer of 1942. He was then ordered back to Berlin and posted to AR Lublin, where he was selected by Wirth to go to Bełżec.
In Bełżec, Wirth assigned him to the ramp, unloading Jews off of the transports. It wasn’t long before he was fully integrated into the murder system in all parts of the camp. . He also participated in the execution of the last group of Jewish workers. When Bełżec closed down, Zierke was transferred to the Dorohucza labour camp, near Trawniki.
When this camp officially closed, he stayed on with Jührs to supervise the dismantling of the buildings. His last posting was to Sobibór (together with Jührs and Wagner) to complete the dismantling of the camp and the shooting of the last remaining work Jews before joining the other perpetrators in Italy.
At the end of the war he spent some months in a POW camp before being released to return home. His wife and children were living in the Russian zone of occupation, so Zierke stayed with his sister in the American zone. The family remained parted until the date of his arrest on 31 January 1963. He was acquitted at the Bełżec trial in Munich in 1964, and released from custody during the Sobibór trial in Hagen on health grounds.
We have dealt with the semi-military and professional cadres and I now want to review those men who were brought into T4 from a predominantly civilian environment. Why were they selected and for what purpose? There is a sundry mix of expertise from which we will attempt to find their relevance within the scheme of things.
Erich George Fuchs, went from mechanic to patient care (driver to Dr Eberl, the physician in charge of the Brandenburg and Bernburg euthanasia institutions), then as an SS-Unterscharführer to Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka. Fuchs:
In 1939, I was a driver for the State Commissioner for the Party when I was summoned to the Labour Office of the ‘Charitable Foundation for Institutional Care’ in Berlin. I had no idea the reason for this. It was only after a few weeks when I was in Bernburg and met the SS NCOs and nurses, that I knew the enormity of the situation.
Erich Fuchs was born on 19 April 1902. He was a resident of Berlin and a mechanic and driver by trade. He was of previous good character. He received an elementary school education. After leaving school he entered the motor engineering trade and became a very skilled mechanic with petrol and diesel engines and passed a number of advanced driving ability tests. He was married in 1930.
There were three children from the marriage, two of whom died in infancy. (Fuchs was selected for T4 because of his expertise in petrol and diesel engines, and was thus an essential part of the team in relation to the installation and general maintenance of the gas producing engines.)
Between 1928 and 1933 he worked as a driver for a Jewish publishing company (Ullsteins) in Berlin. He testified that the publishing company was taken over by the state in 1933. In the same year he joined the NSDAP and SA, working as the personal driver for the State Commissioner of the Party in Berlin until 1939.
In December 1939, Fuchs was summoned, with other candidates to the labour office of the ‘Charitable Foundation for Institutional Care’, Tiergartenstrasse 4, Berlin (T4) where he appeared before a selection board. He was chosen and sent to the chief of personnel for further instructions. According to Fuchs, he had no idea why he was there. Being sworn to secrecy for no apparent reason further compounded the mystery.
He was given orders to report to the Brandenburg Institution immediately to take up his employment as a driver...It was only when he had been at Brandenburg for a few days, and had met other SS NCOs and male nurses, that the full enormity of his position hit him. Fuchs was appointed personal driver to Dr Eberl, the physician in charge of the euthanasia stations at Brandenburg and Bernburg. During his stay, he was privy to the “mercy killing” of patients and the operations of the ‘burners’ and ‘disinfectors’, whose activities were carried out in a building adjacent to the main premises.
After a few weeks, Fuchs was transferred to the Bernburg Institution where he worked in the motor pool. It was here in Bernburg that he witnessed the gassing of 50 mental patients by Dr Eberl and came into contact with Wirth, whom he recognised as the officer in charge of the ‘disinfectors’, ‘burners’ and ‘drivers’. He also became very friendly with Professor Heyde, who at the time was carrying out experiments with the brains of the gassed mentally ill.
In the winter of 1941, Fuchs, together with others (he mentions Niemann, Grateschutz, Borowski, and Barbl, all of whom would serve in the AR camps), was selected by Wirth and taken by lorry to Bełżec, where he met Schwarz, Oberhauser, and Thomalla, the three SS personnel who had supervised the building of the camp. It was in Bełżec that Fuchs learned of his duties - to murder Jews. Wirth had told him, ‘all the Jews were to be killed’. Fuchs, according to his evidence now found out the reason for his posting - he was to install the gassing systems in Bełżec.
In his interrogation, Fuchs appears to have accepted full complicity when he refers to the first gassings: He stated that about 1,000 Jews were brought into the camp on a transport, which was then divided up into groups of 50 - 80. Wirth then lied to them about first showering prior to engaging in their future work, before taking them to the gas chambers. Fuchs witnessed three further similar incidents at about the same time, each transport comprising 1,000 Jews. Fuchs, it appears, although brought in for temporary guard duty, observed all this while working in the motor pool in Bełżec. According to his own admissions he was only personally involved in one gassing of 40 Jewesses.
By the very nature of his expertise, Fuchs was called upon by Wirth on a number of occasions to deal with problems arising with the gassing facilities in the camp. He was also called upon by Wirth to go to Lvóv in the spring of 1942 and pick up the gassing engine for the Sobibór camp. On this occasion he was assisted by Stangl and Erich Bauer (Sobibór), with whom he returned to Sobibór, and with the guidance of the KdF chemist, set up the gassing engine at the rear of the newly built gas chamber building.
At first, the engine failed to start, but after Fuchs fiddled around with the ignition and valves to set the correct engine revolutions, it sprang into life. Wirth and Stangl were both present when Wirth selected 25 Jewish prisoners who just happened to be standing nearby, forced them into the gas chamber and gassed them Sobibór was commissioned.
In July 1942, Fuchs was again sent by Wirth to fix and install a gassing engine, this time at Treblinka. Fuchs contradicted this, and stated that he went there to install a lighting generator in the murder area and only stayed for about three days. The evidence from the Ludwigsburg files tells a different story, and as an SS-Scharführer, it is apparent that he was in Treblinka working on the gassing system.
It does appear that from here onwards he was suffering some kind of mental anguish, as he went on sick leave for several weeks, and then requested to be relieved from his AR duties. He stated that his nerves were in shreds. He was told that his relief was not possible, but after an examination by an SS doctor, he was certified unfit for duty and transferred to Riga, where he was put in charge of the motor pool. In Riga he met a T4 colleague, (Karl Schluch) who admonished him for talking about the murders; he should keep absolutely silent or he was ripe for the KZ, or worse. In 1944, Fuchs deserted from Riga and returned to Berlin, where he surrendered himself. In Berlin he divorced his first wife, re-married, and divorced his second wife later the same year. He was recalled to duty and placed in an SS-Panzer Regiment where he served out the war.
Fuchs re-married for a third time shortly after the war in Koblenz, but his third wife died in 1954. There were no children from any of the marriages. He remained in Koblenz, living alone with no family. At the time of his arrest, he was working as a representative in the motor industry. Regarding the crimes against humanity he had knowingly committed, he said the following:
It was the greatest crime. One should have found another way to get rid of the Jews. Many are the nights I have not slept; I still see the pictures, naked people; naked corpses, people who had committed no crime. I thought sometimes of reporting myself to Ludwigsburg. But I lacked the courage. Today, I have to say that I should have tried to get away from there earlier - but the possibility to get away scarcely occurred. The voice of my conscience tells me today that I should have done something else. But I did not know how to then! One had to do everything there that one was told; finally one was so dulled that one no longer had any feelings about it. It was only in Berlin that I first found the courage that had earlier been wanting.
Fuchs, from humble beginnings like the others, would become enmeshed in genocide as a willing partner in the Bełżec crimes, and as the mechanical expert was made an intrinsic cog in the machinery that would install and maintain the gassing engines in Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka.
Acquitted at the Bełżec Trial in Munich in 1963 64. He was rearrested and sentenced to four years imprisonment at the Sobibór Trial in Hagen in 1966. Fuchs was married for the sixth time during the trial. He died in 1984.
At the time of writing the above (2000), only two former Bełżec SS guards were known to be still be alive in Germany: Robert Jührs, aged 86 and by then totally blind, who lived in Frankfurt-am-Main; and Kurt Franz, aged 84 - released in 1993 from prison for crimes committed at Treblinka - who lived in Düsseldorf. Both have since died.
Used with full permission of the author Robin O'Neil.
"Origins of T-4" Section
The Origins of Nazi Genocide from Euthanasia to the Final Solution Henry Friedlander, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995
Copyright: CL & Robin O'Neil H.E.A.R.T 2007