The Shoah of the disabled. Where everything beganby Ivano Abbadessa - 2013.01.28
Every year, on 27 January, the world celebrates the ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Day’ in honour and in memory of the victims of Hitler’s omnipotence fury. However, most people are not aware that the Nazi genocide started from disabled people. Persons with handicaps were the first guinea pigs designated for all extermination, sterilization and euthanasia techniques – later applied also to homosexuals, gypsies and political opponents – that finally culminated in the Holocaust of the Jewish population. An extermination, accurately organized, of all those considered as ‘different’ by totalitarianism.
Sterilization, internment and deportation campaigns of people with disabilities started already in 1933, in the months immediately after Hitler’s rise. The ‘Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring’ became one of the rules of inspiration for Nazism to address the regime’s racial and eugenic legislation. After an intensive sterilization campaign, in the second half of 1939, they proceeded to systematically kill young people and adults with disabilities. The National Socialist ideology considered these persons as imperfect human beings, and their lives as not worth living. The sadly known T4 project, which led to the death of thousands of German disabled citizens, stopped in 1941 when Hitler, urged by churches pressure and murders’ public resonance, declared achieved the first phase of elimination of handicapped people.
The ideology leading to the extermination of people with physical and mental disabilities were based on apparently reasonable reasons at that time, scientifically and economically convenient. It was also based on the belief that there is a margin beyond which existence cannot be considered as worth living. As war fronts were enlarged in Europe, the extermination of people with disabilities did not spare the nations occupied by the Third Reich military force. In Italy too, there are dramatic witnesses over the deportation in extermination camps of disabled people hospitalized in psychiatric institutes.
Auschwitz gates finally opened on 27 January 1945, when the Red Army Soviet troops entered the small Polish city during the offensive towards Berlin. It was the last and, as according to some historians, the most perfect Nazi killing centre. The whole extermination enterprise, however, had started many years before with the murder of the most helpless human beings, patients with disabilities deemed to be ‘unworthy of life’.