Hartheim Killing Facility

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Hartheim Castle in 2005

The Hartheim Killing Facility (German: NS-Tötungsanstalt Hartheim) was a killing centre that Nazi Germany used to kill people with disabilities during World War II. The Nazis' ideas about eugenics said that people with disabilities were "life unworthy of life. Hartheim was one of six "euthanasia centres" the Nazis set up for their T4 Euthanasia Programme. Their goal was to get rid of all of Germany's people with disabilities. The killing centre was housed in Hartheim Castle in Alkoven, near Linz, Austria.

Hartheim statistics[change | change source]

In June 1945, after the United States took over Austria, an American soldier found the Hartheim statistics in the Castle. This was a 39-page report written about the T-4 Euthanasia Programme (Aktion T4). It was meant to be seen by other Nazis in the program only. In the report were monthly counts of how many people with mental and physical disabilities were "disinfected" (gassed to death) in the Nazis' six euthanasia centres.[1] In 1968 and 1970, an ex-employee said that he had to put together the material at the end of 1942.[2] The Hartheim statistics included a page that said that "disinfecting [killing] 70,273 people with a life expectation of 10 years" had saved food in the value of 141,775,573.80 Reichsmarks.[3]

Numbers killed in the first extermination phase in Hartheim[change | change source]

According to the Hartheim statistics, between May 1940 and 1 September, 1941, a total of 18,269 people were killed in the gas chamber at Hartheim:[4]

Year 1940 1941 Total killed
Month May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug
Deaths 633 982 1,449 1,740 1,123 1,400 1,396 947 943 1,178 974 1,123 1,106 1,364 735 1,176 18,269

These statistics only cover the first extermination phase of the Nazi's euthanasia programme, Action T4. Hitler officially ended that program because of protests, but secretly he kept killing people with disabilities. He also kept killing people he did not like right up to the end of the war.

In all it is estimated that a total of 30,000 people were executed at Hartheim. Among those killed were sick prisoners, prisoners with disabilities, and prisoners from concentration camps. The killings were carried out by carbon monoxide poisoning.

14 f 13 "Special Treatment" programme[change | change source]

Just three days after the formal end of Action T4, a lorry arrived at Hartheim with 70 Jewish inmates from Mauthausen concentration camp. The inmates were killed at Hartheim.[5] The Hartheim killing centre achieved a special reputation, because it was where the largest number of patients, and the most concentration prisoners, were gassed. Their numbers are estimated at 12,000.[6]

Prisoners at Mauthausen who were no longer able to work, especially in the quarries, and "politically undesirable" prisoners were brought to Hartheim to be executed. These victims included:

From 1944 on, T4 doctors no longer picked out sick, elderly, or disabled prisoners to be killed. Instead, the Nazis' new goal was to free up space in the Mauthausen camp quickly, so they would send groups of women to Hartheim to be killed.[7] Other transports came from the concentration camp of Gusen, and probably also from Ravensbrück, during 1944. These transports were made most of women with tuberculosis and women who had been labeled mentally ill.[8]

Doctors[change | change source]

Viktor Brack testifies in his own defence at the Doctors' Trial in Nuremberg in 1947

Adolf Hitler's order from 1 September 1939 approving the start of the T4 Programme only mentioned doctors. Because of this, the Action T4 organisers, Viktor Brack and Karl Brandt, ordered that only medical doctors could execute sick patients. Doctors controlled the poison gas in the euthanasia centres. Many doctors used fake names in records about the people they killed.

From 1940 to 1945, Rudolf Lonauer was the head doctor at Hartheim, and Georg Renno was the Deputy head doctor.

Niedernhart holding station[change | change source]

The Action T4 Euthanasia Centres had temporary holding stations for victims. For example, many trucks carrying victims to Hartheim would stop at the Niedernhart Mental Institute in Linz, where Rudolf Lonauer was the senior doctor, as he was at Hartheim. At Niedernhart, victims were mainly killed by starvation or medical overdose (by giving deadly amounts of medicine). Patients would be put into categories. Some would be chosen and taken to Hartheim to be killed.

Victims[change | change source]

People with disabilities[change | change source]

The Nazis thought that many different groups of people, but especially people with disabilities, were "life unworthy of life."[9][10][11] They killed children and adults in their Euthanasia Centers.[9] These victims included:[10][11]

Clergy[change | change source]

Bus which took victims to Hartheim

Almost 350 priests were killed at Hartheim. These victims included 310 Polish priests, seven Germans, six Czechs, four Luxemburgians, three Dutch, and two Belgians. Many of them were taken from the Priest's Block in Dachau concentration camp.[12]

Dachau's chaplain, Hermann Scheipers, was also moved to the camp's invalid's block, so he could be taken to Hartheim as well. Scheipers' sister—who had kept in touch with Schiepers by mail—tracked down Dr. Bernsdorf, who was in charge of the clergy imprisoned in the Priest's Block. She told him that, in Münsterland, many people knew that imprisoned priests were sent to the gas chambers. After the conversation, Bernsdorf telephoned the commandant's office at Dachau. Scheipers reported that on that same day, 13 August 1942, he and three other German clergymen were saved from being sent to Hartheim. They were moved from the invalid's block, where the Schutzstaffel (SS) sent prisoners when they were going to be sent to another camp. The four clergymen were sent back to the priest's block.[13]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Page from the Hartheim Statistics (accessed on 22 November 2010)
  2. Zur Fundgeschichte siehe: Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat, p. 478 and note 23. For the location of the originals see also: Friedlander: Der Weg zum NS-Genozid, p. 518 f. in note 99.
  3. Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat, p. 24.
  4. Klee: Dokumente zur Euthanasie, p. 232 f.
  5. Klee: Euthanasie“ im Dritten Reich, p. 266.
  6. Klee: Euthanasie im Dritten Reich, p. 290.
  7. Klee: Euthanasie im Dritten Reich, p. 292.
  8. Helm, Sarah, 'If This Is A Woman. Inside Ravensbrück: Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women', pp.453-455.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Close-up of Richard Jenne, the last child killed by the head nurse at the Kaufbeuren-Irsee euthanasia facility". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved July 29, 2011.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Evans, Suzanne E. (2004). Forgotten crimes: the Holocaust and people with disabilities. Ivan R Dee. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-56663-565-3.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Friedlander, Henry (1995). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-2208-1.
  12. Zamecnik, Stanislav (2007). Das war Dachau. pp. 219–222. ISBN 978-3-596-17228-3.
  13. Scheipers, Hermann (1997). Gratwanderungen: Priester unter zwei Diktaturen. Benno. ISBN 978-3-7462-1221-0.