top of page
  • Writer's pictureIlka Knüppel

Welcome to the Finding Ruth blog

Hello all! I've decided to create a blog to keep everyone updated on the progress of "Finding Ruth, A Personal Story of Hitler's Secret Euthanasia Program - Aktion T4".

For those of you new to this topic, this is the story of my great aunt, Ruth Rosa Luise Mühlmann, one of the 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.

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 upwards of 300,000 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.”

In 1939, Hitler issued a secret directive to rid Germany of “useless eaters” referring to the thousands of mentally and physically disabled German citizens consider to be a drain on his vision of the perfect Germany – the strong Aryan nation. Thus began the killing of 300,000+ disabled persons, including persons with mental and physical disabilities, juvenile delinquents, Roma and Sinti, and German soldiers from WWI with what we now know as PTSD. The stigma of mentally illness in German society remained so strong for so long that many families never again mentioned their family members who were killed in the secret euthanasia program and many persons have been forgotten to history.

So that brings us to me, an archaeologist who did not know of the existence of her Tante Ruth until I was in her mid-30’s, and who, once I found out, doggedly pursued records of my great aunt through contacting hospitals in Germany, the Bundesarchiv, researching records from the former East Germany and, along with her friend and history contributing writer, Will Prunka, a WWII history buff, slowly dug up the story of Ruth Rosa Luise Mühlmann and the tragically effective euthanasia program of Aktion T4. This book reveals how Aktion T4 was a precursor to the Holocaust through the creation and fine tuning of killing methods in “shower rooms” and the training of persons with expertise in the killing large amount of people which lead to the murder of six million Jews.

Through the miraculous recovery of partial medical records that escaped the destruction by Nazis, photos from old family albums, oral histories, and research trips to Germany, we have revealed the life of Ruth Rosa Luise Mühlmann and recreated her existence, her life, before her murder at the age of 21 in the Bernburg Euthanasia Killing Center.

So stay tuned; more posts will be forthcoming. All this started with only the few words from my grandmother, Ruth’s sister, “The Nazis killed Ruth”.

107 views2 comments



Great job Ilka !



A wonderful thing you are doing!

bottom of page