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How far was the Nazi Euthanasia Programme based on racial purity theories?

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Introduction

Luke Vaggers History Coursework 12/02/03 How far was the Nazi Euthanasia Programme based on racial purity theories? While the actual program of 'euthanasia' was initiated by Hitler in 1939 the whole idea of racial purity, Social Darwinism and eugenics had been on the rise In Europe and more importantly Germany for quite some years. The issue that called for the commencement of the program was in fact written at the end of October but was predated 1st of September to coincide with the start of the war, as it was interestingly enough seen as a paralleled war by the Nazis. The idea that Hitler and the Nazis were striving for of a perfect 'Aryan race' throughout their rule is a strongly supported one, illustrated in Mein Kampf, the euthanasia programme was the next logical step in the purification process before the extermination of the Jews which both rid Germany of the socially and genetically inferior. However there are undoubtedly other factors that played a useful part in the decision making process of the initiation of the euthanasia programme, such as economics i.e. how important the financial gain was to the state and the German people. In the 1920's particularly, books were published such as the 'Permission for the destruction of worthless life' written by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche that emphasised the financial gain that would come (especially important during war time) from the extermination of the so called 'inferior' especially those that were institutionalised. The origins of the mentality behind these exterminations of the weak are important to look at in regard to why the euthanasia programme ever started up. Charles Darwin's 'The origin of species' in 1859 was of great importance in the development of biological determinism and attempts to give racism a scientific foundation. ...read more.

Middle

This belief along with the sterilization law of 1933 would make it seem that the Nazis were just trying to rid the population of genetic diseases, which is a racial purification; further progressions just consolidate the story. He used science to justify anti-Semitism. Sterilization moved onto alcoholics, depressives and people with learning difficulties when there was no proof at all that these illnesses were hereditary, their actions were not backed by science and they knew this. The phrase " eugenics began as a utopian scientists promise to improve all mankind and became the Nazi rationale for mass murder", taken from 'Science and the Swastika' a TV documentary, sums it up perfectly. At the base of almost all Hitler's actions was the idea that the German 'blonde haired' and 'blue eyes' race was superior and that this was the Germany that should be promoted and extended through the extermination of the weak. The whole story of the reasoning behind his doings can really be concluded with his eventual move onto the extermination of the Jews in the holocaust, the Jews were simply the next step in a logical scheme to purify Germany. The fact that the holocaust was undoubtedly a question of racial purification helps support the evidence of his reasoning behind previous moves, in that he had the cleansing of the German race always on his mind. The T-4 (code name for euthanasia headquarters) expertise and facilities were transformed after first exterminating the weak, disabled and outcasts into the beginnings of the long process of the killing of the Jews and of all of Germanys impurities. Chapter 2 The idea that economics played an influential role must also be recognised, the fact that by exterminating institutionalised patients a lot of money would be saved, space would be made and doctors would be freed up to help elsewhere is an interesting one. ...read more.

Conclusion

The original sterilization law of 1933 paved the way for further development into the euthanasia programme and later the holocaust. There were of course differences between the euthanasia program and the holocaust, sterilization and the euthanasia program could be passed off in the time of war, however the extermination of an entirely healthy race could not. However the ideology that undermined the law of 33 and the program of 1939 did go some way in explaining their next move be it an unjustified one. Hitler, who was at the centre of all this was unarguably hooked on the idea of a perfect race illustrated in Mein Kampf and understood when analysing the period in which he grew up. Also simply from his actions such as setting up organisations such as RuSA, with laws like that of the Nuremberg and with recorded 'raves' of his, the argument that the movement was solely based on racial purity theories is a particularly realistic one. Although, to say that the issue of economics was an irrelevant one would be false, it is true that large proportions of evidence of this being an influential factors is from propaganda but merely by the fact that films, speeches and books were written about the idea proves that it was very much on their minds. This interpretation becomes a much more significant one in the second phase of the euthanasia programme when the development of war has had a real effect on the country. Like many a story in history there are of course two sides two a story, but the way Hitler and the Nazis ruthlessly went about the extermination of all Germans that weren't in his mind perfect leads to a stable conclusion that this underlying belief of Hitler's played a part in almost all decisions made by the Nazis not least in the commencement of the euthanasia programme in 1939. ...read more.

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