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Giving voice to the silent and silenced victims of Aktion T4.

This is the story of my great aunt, Ruth Rosa Luise Mühlmann, one of the upwards of 300,000 persons with disabilities killed in Hitler’s secret euthanasia program, Aktion T4.  Starting in 1939, Hitler directed two top military officers to begin a program to rid Germany of “useless eaters” to coincide with Hitler’s invasion of Poland.  Psychiatric hospitals in Germany were scoured for patients fitting the selected criteria.  German doctors filled in the patient forms and German citizens drove the buses taking the patients to one of six euthanasia killing centers built in secrecy.  Patients were herded into ‘shower rooms’ by German nurses. 

A number of these killing centers were built by Edwin Lambert who went on to infamy as the builder of the shower rooms at numerous concentration camps.  Gas dosages were adjusted in order to perfect their killing techniques.  The skills the workers learned in the killing of persons with disabilities were then employed in the Holocaust for the extermination of six million Jews. 

Little is known of the euthanasia programs for several reasons.  The deaths occurred at the beginning of WWII so there was little chance of obtaining information even if the families of the patients killed had been given accurate information; instead, families were sent letters with false dates of death and invented causes of death chosen from the official list of 61 possible causes.  The social stigma of disability kept most German families from speaking out and the few that did had their remaining family threatened. And, there were no survivors of Aktion T4. Other patients in the hospitals who were cognizant enough to notice the disappearances were not able to report what they knew due to their isolation in the hospital and their disabilities. These silent and silenced victims of Aktion T4 were largely forgotten by history. 

As the Holocaust researcher Suzanne Knittel wrote, “Since there were no survivors of the Aktion T4, there can only be vicarious witnesses – giving voice to these silent and silenced victims.”

The installation of Tante Ruth's stolperstein at Walbecker Strasse 37 in Magdeburg, Germany:

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