The “Euthanasia” Program in Nazi Psychiatry – Reflections on Why Psychiatrists Murdered Their Patients


Munich University of Applied Sciences, Munich, Germany


Between 1939 and 1945 240’000 psychiatric patients were killed by doctors and nurses in psychiatric institutions in Germany. After 1945 started a brief period of intensive research by the Allies preparing the Nuremberg Medical Trials followed by three decades of silence and denial. In the meanwhile we have learned much about the details of the “Euthanasia” Program, about the antecedents of this program (the Nazis opened the door to a discourse which was present in German psychiatry years before), about the perpetrators (they were the elite of German psychiatrists), about the few who objected. In my talk I summarize briefly the different stages of the program, then reflect on what were the conditions which led doctors to voluntarily murder their patients to end with some ethical lessons we can learn from this horrible and atrocious past.