(blocks created by Lucy Iles Horner)
The Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Diseases oversaw the preparation of a registration form designed to elicit the information it regarded useful in determining which persons were “worthy of help” and which were “useless lives” and thus candidates for “final medical assistance.”
Thousands of copies were printed and distributed to long-term hospitals, sanitariums, and asylums. A cover letter from Dr. Leonardo Conti, chancellor of sanitariums and nursing homes, directed attending physicians to complete the forms immediately and return by January 1, 1940. The purpose of the form was explained as “the necessity for a systematized economic plan for hospitals and nursing institutions.”
THE COVER LETTER
To the Head of the Hospital for Mental Cases,
Or his deputy in Kaufbeuren.
With regard to the necessity for a systemized economic plan for hospitals and nursing institutions, I request that you complete the attached registration forms immediately in accordance with the attached instruction leaflet and return them to me. If you yourself are not a doctor, the registration forms for the individual patients are to be completed by the supervising doctor. The completion of the questionnaire is, if possible, to be done on a typewriter. In the column “Diagnosis” I request a statement, as exact as possible, as well as a short description of the condition, if feasible.
In order to expedite the work, the registration forms for the individual patients can be dispatched here in several parts. The last consignment, however, must arrive in any case at this ministry at the latest by 1 January 1940. I reserve for myself the right, should occasion arise, to institute further official inquires on the spot, through my representative.
Per proxy: Dr. Conti
To be noted in completing questionnaire:
All patients are to be reported who –
1. Suffer from the following maladies and can only be employed on work of a mechanical character, such as sweeping, etc., at the institution:
Epilepsy (if not organic, state war service injury or other cause),
Paralysis and other syphilitic disabilities refractory to therapy, Imbecility, however caused,
Huntington’s chorea and other chronic diseases of the nervous system; or
2. Have been continuously confined in institutions for at least five years, or
3. Are in custody as criminally insane, or
4. Are not Germany citizens or not of German or unrelated stock according to their records of race and nationally.
The separate questionnaires to be completed for each patient must be given consecutive numbers.
Answers should be typewritten if possible.
Latest date for return:
Diagnosis should be as precise as possible. In the case of traumatically induced conditions, the nature of the trauma in question, e.g., war wounds or accidents at work, must be indicated.
Under the heading “exact description of employment” the work actually done by the patients in the institution is to be stated. If a patient’s work is described as “good” or “very good” reasons must be given why his release has not been considered. If patients on the higher categories of diet, etc., do no work, though they are physically capable of employment, the fact must be specially noted.
The names of patients brought to the institution from evacuation areas are to be followed by the letter (V).
If the number of Forms I sent herewith does not suffice, the additional number required should be demanded.
Forms are also to be completed for patients arriving at the institution after the latest date for return, in which case all such forms are to be sent in together exactly one month after the date in question, in every year.
Registration Form 1
To be Typewritten
Name of the institutions:
Surname and Christian name of the patient:
Date of Birth:
Later place of residence:
Unmarried, married, widow, widower, divorced:
Army service when? 1914-18 or from 1/9/39
War injury (even if no connection with mental disorder): Yes/No
How does war injury show itself and of what does it consist?
Address of next of kin:
Regular visits and by whom (address):
Guardian or nurse (name, address):
Responsible for payment:
Since when in institution:
Whence and when handed over:
Since when ill:
If has been in other institutions, where and how long:
Blood relations of unsound mind:
Clinical description (previous history, course, condition: in any case ample data regarding mental conditions):
Very restless? Yes/No
Incurable physical illness? Yes/No
Schizophrenia: Fresh attack:
Epilepsy: Psychological alteration:
Average frequency of the attacks:
Therapeutics (insulin, cardiazol, malaria, permanent result Salvarsan, etc., when?) Yes/No
Admitted by reason of par. 51, par. 42b German Penal Code, etc., through:
Former punishable offenses:
Manner of employment (detailed description of work):
Permanent/temporary employment, independent worker? Yes/No
Value of work (if possible compared with average performance of healthy person)
This space to be left blank
The Aktion T4 was conjured, administered, and maintained by a small number of physicians. To prevent resistance, secrecy was of utmost importance, and the penalty for leaking information about Aktion T4 was death.
Military information was requested because leaders of Aktion T4 felt strongly that veterans should be exempt from the program . . . not in appreciation for their military service, but because of their belief that military morale would plummet were word to ever get out that veterans who were disabled as a result of their military service were murdered because of the loss of limbs or sanity. Turns out they were right to fear retaliation. When news that amputees and shell-shocked veterans of World War I were being murdered, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel complained to Hitler, and in the way of the major furor that ensued, murders of veterans ceased.
It was unclear – especially at the time these forms were sent out – how the information requested on this form was to be used. A commonly heard rumor held that the state was looking for additional laborers and planned to take people from the institutions and put them to work. Based on this rumor, some physicians exaggerated the condition of their patients in hopes of avoiding work recruitment and instead keeping them in the institution that could provide the care they needed. What they actually did, as we now know, was seal the fate of their patients.
With information gleaned from these forms, the 10-15 assessing physicians ran what was little more than a kangaroo court. Without benefit of law or precedent, the assessing doctors decided who would live and who would die. Two red X’s at the bottom of a patient’s form was a sure and swift death sentence.
Notice anything missing from the process? Besides the elements of compassion and humanity, I mean. The assessing physicians did not solicit further information from the attending physicians, from loved ones, or from the patient. They were only required to read the forms and make an evaluation on what they read. Words on paper. That’s all that was required to determine who lives and who dies. It’s unthinkable, unfathomable, isn’t it?
The base of our quilt blocks is white (to represent the paper, the forms) bearing two red X’s (representing the death sentence).
i’ve begun digging into research about the Aktion T4 – the euthanasia program through which the 70,273 physically, mentally, and emotionally disabled people we commemorate in The 70273 Program were murdered – and I’ve decided that I’m not willing to wait the eons it might very well take me to complete my research and pull it together in term paper form, so I’ll be sharing bits and pieces here on the blog as we go along, even as I continue to dig around for information in the background. (Who wants to read a term paper anyway, right?) I’ll categorize the information, and I’m sure some organizational structure will appear eventually. For now, though, bitesize bits and pieces.
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Information about the assessment form gleaned from transcripts from the Nuremberg trials
Truth is hard to accept yet we can accept it. Seeing the whole rather than only the selective pieces, we can turn our weeping gaze towards everyone involved here. Not one or another, all. Can we grow hearts large enough to take in the truth with compassion? Our lives depend upon it. Thank you for putting this out here in the very air, in the electronic impulses that also course through my heart.
My heart breaks for those doctors who were trying to save their patients by exaggerating their disabilities. Bite-size is fine. There’s only so many tears I can shed in a day and still feel that the earth can keep turning with the weight of evil on this planet – then and now. Hard reading. The love in this project and your vision keeps me from sinking with it x