Hartheim Euthanasia Centre

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Hartheim Castle in 2005
Collection bus and driver
Viktor Brack testifies in his own defence at the Doctors' Trial in Nuremberg in 1947

The Hartheim Euthanasia Centre (German: NS-Tötungsanstalt Hartheim) was a killing centre involved in the Nazi euthanasia programme, also referred to as Action T4. The killing centre was housed in Hartheim Castle in the municipality of Alkoven, near Linz, Austria.

Hartheim Statistics[edit]

In June 1945, during investigations by US Forces into the former gassing facility at Hartheim, the American investigating officer Charles Dameron broke open a steel safe in which the Hartheim statistics were found. This was a 39-page brochure produced for the internal purposes of the Nazi euthanasia programme (Aktion T4), and contained monthly statistics of the gassing of mentally and physically handicapped patients (called "disinfection" in the document) carried out in the six euthanasia institutions on the territory of the Reich.[1] In 1968 and 1970 an ex-employee of the establishment revealed, as a witness, that he had to compile the material at the end of 1942.[2] The Hartheim statistics included a page on which it was calculated that "disinfecting 70,273 people with a life expectation of 10 years" had saved food in the value of 141,775,573.80 Reichsmarks.[3]

Numbers killed in the first extermination phase in Hartheim[edit]

According to the Hartheim statistics, a total of 18,269 people were killed in the gas chamber at the Hartheim euthanasia centre in the period of 16 months between May 1940 and 1 September 1941, as follows:[4]

1940 1941 Total killed
May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug
633 982 1,449 1,740 1,123 1,400 1,396 947 943 1,178 974 1,123 1,106 1,364 735 1,176 18,269

These statistics only cover the first extermination phase of the Nazi's euthanasia programme, Action T4, which was brought to an end by Hitler's order dated 24 August 1941 after protests by the Roman Catholic Church.

In all it is estimated that a total of 30,000 people were executed at Hartheim. Among those killed were sick and disabled persons as well as prisoners from concentration camps. The killings were carried out by carbon monoxide poisoning.

14 f 13 "Special Treatment" programme[edit]

Just three days after the formal end of Action T4, a lorry arrived at Hartheim with 70 Jewish inmates from Mauthausen concentration camp who were subsequently executed there.[5] The Hartheim killing centre achieved a special notoriety, not just because it was where the largest number of patients were gassed, but because as part of Action 14f13 Hartheim was also the institution in which the most concentration camp prisoners were executed. Their numbers are estimated at 12,000.[6]

Prisoners at Mauthausen who were no longer capable of working, especially in the quarries, and politically undesirable prisoners were brought to Hartheim to be executed. In the papers these transfers were disguised with terms like "recreation leave". The entries under "sickness" included "German-haters", "communist" or "Poland fanatic". From 1944 on, the prisoners were no longer selected by T4 doctors; the objective was simply to gain space in the Mauthausen camp quickly.[7] Other transports came from the concentration camp of Gusen and possibly also from Ravensbrück.

Death doctors[edit]

The Action T4 organisers, Viktor Brack and Karl Brandt, ordered that the execution of the sick had to be carried out by medical doctors because Hitler's memorandum of authorisation of 1 September 1939 only referred to doctors. The operation of the gas tap was thus the responsibility of doctors in the death centres. However, during the course of the euthanasia programme, the gas cocks were occasionally operated by others in the absence of the doctors or for other reasons. Also, many doctors used pseudonyms rather than their real names in the documents.

The following death doctors worked in Hartheim:

  • Head: Rudolf Lonauer: 1 April 1940 to April 1945
  • Deputy head: Georg Renno: May 1940 to February 1945

Niedernhart holding station[edit]

The Action T4 euthanasia centres had intermediate holding stations for victims. For example, many lorries carrying victims to their destination at Hartheim went via the Niedernhart Mental Institute in Linz, where Rudolf Lonauer was the senior doctor, as he was in Hartheim. There victims were mainly killed by starvation or medical overdose. Time and again, patients were screened and categorised, then a bus was filled with the chosen victims and driven to Hartheim.

Move of euthanasia head office to Hartheim and Weissenbach am Attersee[edit]

In August 1943 a result of the air war the head office for the Nazi Euthanasia Programme was moved from Tiergartenstrasse 4, Berlin, to the Ostmark region, which was then humorously described as the air raid shelter of the Reich. The statistic and documents by Paul Nitsche[8] – correspondence, notices and reports ended up in Hartheim (office department, accounts office) and the Schoberstein Recreation Centre near Weißenbach am Attersee (medical department) – presumably as part of the move of the T4 head office.[9]

Victims[edit]

Well-known victims[edit]

  • Bernhard Heinzmann (1903–1942), German Roman Catholic priest
  • Friedrich Karas (1895–1942), Austrian Roman Catholic priest
  • Jan Kowalski (1871–1942), Polish bishop of the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites
  • Ida Maly (1894–1941), Austrian artist
  • Gottfried Neunhäuserer (1882–1941), Austrian Benedictine father
  • Friderika "Friedh" {Reichler} Roth {1900-1940} widow of writer Joseph Roth
  • Werner Sylten (1893–1942), Evangelical theologian

The clergy[edit]

A total of 310 Polish, seven German, six Czech, four Luxemburg, three Dutch and two Belgian priests were killed. Many of them were transported from the Priest's Block in Dachau concentration camp.[10] The chaplain, Hermann Scheipers, was also moved to the Invalid's Block, in order to be taken to Hartheim. Scheiper's sister — who stayed in contact by letter — tracked down a certain Dr. Bernsdorf, employee of the RSHA Berlin-Oranienburg, who was responsible for the clergy imprisoned in the Priest's Block. She confronted him with by stating that, in Münsterland, it was an open secret that imprisoned priests were sent to the gas chamber. Bernsdorf apparently became very nervous during the discussion and telephoned the Commandant's Office at Dachau. Scheipers reported that it was on that same day, the 13 August 1942, that there was a response: he and three other German clergymen were moved from the Invalid's Block (where the SS assembled prisoners for onward transportation) back to the Priest's Block.[11]

Hartheim T4 staff[edit]

Christian Wirth as Sturmbannführer


Those chiefly responsible for recruiting the lower-ranking staff, according to subsequent witness statements, were the two Gau inspectors, Stefan Schachermayr (1912–2008[14]) and Franz Peterseil (1907–1991), as well as Adolf Gustav Kaufmann (1902–1974), head of the inspection department of the T4 central office in Berlin. [15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Page from the Hartheim Statistics (accessed on 22 November 2010)
  2. ^ Zur Fundgeschichte siehe: Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat, p. 478 and note 23. For the location of the originals see also: Friedlander: Der Weg zum NS-Genozid, p. 518 f. in note 99.
  3. ^ Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat, p. 24.
  4. ^ Klee: Dokumente zur Euthanasie, p. 232 f.
  5. ^ Klee: Euthanasie“ im Dritten Reich, p. 266.
  6. ^ Klee: Euthanasie im Dritten Reich, p. 290.
  7. ^ Klee: Euthanasie im Dritten Reich, p. 292.
  8. ^ See also Friedlander: Der Weg zum NS-Genozid, p. 518 f. in noteg 99.
  9. ^ Organisationschema der NS-Euthanasie. Auslagerung der Aktion T4 nach Hartheim im August 1943. – from an account in: Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat, p. 168 f.
  10. ^ Stanislav Zámečník, Comité International de Dachau (ed.): Das war Dachau. Fischer-Taschenbücher, Vol. 17228, Die Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 3-596-17228-4, S. 219–222.
  11. ^ Hermann Scheipers: Gratwanderungen. Priester unter zwei Diktaturen. 3rd ed. Benno-Verlag, Leipzig 1997, ISBN 3-7462-1221-9.
  12. ^ Peter Schwarz: Der Gerichtsakt Georg Renno als Quelle für das Projekt Hartheim. In: Jahrbuch. Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes, Vienna 1999, p. 80–92. – full text online.
  13. ^ a b Klee: Deutsche Medizin im Dritten Reich, chapter 10: Österreich.
  14. ^ Barbara Tóth: Der Handschlag – die Affäre Frischenschlager-Reder. Dissertation. University of Vienna, Vienna 2010, p. 43. – full text online (pdf).
  15. ^ Josef Goldberger: Euthanasieanstalt Hartheim und Reichsgau Oberdonau. Involvierung von Verwaltungs- und Parteidienststellen des Reichsgaues Oberdonau in das Euthanasieprogramm. In: Mitteilungen des Oberösterreichischen Landesarchivs, Vol. 19. Oberösterreichisches Landesarchiv, Linz, 2000, p. 359–373. – full text online (pdf).

Sources[edit]

  • Henry Friedlander, Johanna Friedmann (trans.): Der Weg zum NS-Genozid. Von der Euthanasie zur Endlösung. Berlin-Verlag, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-8270-0265-6. – Inhaltsverzeichnis online (pdf).
  • Heinz Eberhard Gabriel (ed.), Wolfgang Neugebauer (ed.): Vorreiter der Vernichtung? Von der Zwangssterilisierung zur Ermordung. Zur Geschichte der NS-Euthanasie in Wien, Vol. 2. Böhlau, Vienna, 2002, ISBN 3-205-99325-X. – contents online (pdf).
  • Mireille Horsinga-Renno, Martin Bauer (trans.): Der Arzt von Hartheim: Wie ich die Wahrheit über die Nazi-Vergangenheit meines Onkels herausfand. rororo paperback. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg, 2008, ISBN 978-3-499-62307-3. – text online.
  • Brigitte Kepplinger: Die Tötungsanstalt Hartheim 1940–1945. 21 pages. o. J., o. O. – full text online (pdf).
  • Brigitte Kepplinger (ed.), Gerhart Marckhgott (ed.), Hartmut Reese (ed.): Tötungsanstalt Hartheim. 2nd expanded edition. Oberösterreich in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Vol. 3. Oberösterreichisches Landesarchiv, Linz 2008, ISBN 978-3-900313-89-0. – description of contents online (pdf).
  • Ernst Klee (ed.): Dokumente zur Euthanasie. (Original ed. from 1985). Fischer-Taschenbücher, Vol. 4327. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 1997, ISBN 3-596-24327-0.
  • Ernst Klee: Deutsche Medizin im Dritten Reich. Karrieren vor und nach 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-10-039310-4. (Chapter 10: Österreich).
  • Ernst Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat: die Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens. unabridged edition, 12th ed. Fischer-Taschenbücher, Vol. 4326. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 2009, ISBN 3-596-24326-2.
  • Ernst Klee: Euthanasie im Dritten Reich. Die Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens. fully reworked edition. Fischer-Taschenbücher, Vol. 18674, Die Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 2010, ISBN 978-3-596-18674-7. – Inhaltstext online. (formerly under the title: Euthanasie im NS-Staat).
  • Walter Kohl: Die Pyramiden von Hartheim. Euthanasie in Oberösterreich 1940 bis 1945. Edition Geschichte der Heimat. Steinmaßl, Grünbach, 1997, ISBN 3-900943-51-6. – Inhaltsverzeichnis online (pdf).
  • Walter Kohl: "Ich fühle mich nicht schuldig". Georg Renno, Euthanasiearzt. Paul-Zsolnay-Verlag, Vienna, 2000, ISBN 3-552-04973-8.
  • Kurt Leininger: Verordnetes Sterben – verdrängte Erinnerungen. NS-Euthanasie in Schloss Hartheim. Verlagshaus der Ärzte, Vienna, 2006, ISBN 978-3-901488-82-5.
  • Tom Matzek: Das Mordschloss. Auf den Spuren von NS-Verbrechen in Schloss Hartheim. 1. Auflage. Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna, 2002, ISBN 3-218-00710-0. (Description of contents).
  • Johannes Neuhauser (ed.): Hartheim – wohin unbekannt. Briefe & Dokumente. Publication P No 1 – Bibliothek der Provinz. Bibliothek der Provinz, Weitra, 1992, ISBN 3-900878-47-1.
  • Franz Rieger: Schattenschweigen oder Hartheim. Roman. (Zeitkritischer Roman). Styria, Graz (u.a.) 1985, ISBN 3-222-11641-5. (Ausgabe 2002: ISBN 3-85252-496-2).
  • Jean-Marie Winkler, Gazage de concentrationnaires au château de Hartheim. L'action 14f13 en Autriche annexée. Nouvelles recherches sur la comptabilité de la mort, éditions Tirésias - Michel Reynaud, Paris, 2010 (ISBN 9782915293616)


Other literature see main article: Nazi Euthanasia Programme or Action T4


Audio and video[edit]

  • Tom Matzek: Das Mordschloss. Eine Dokumentation über die Gräuel in Schloss Hartheim. TV programme by ORF, 2001, Brennpunkt. 1 videocassette (VHS, ca. 45 minutes). S. n., s. l. 2001. [B 1]

Footnote to "Audio and video"[edit]

  1. ^ Permalink Österreichischer Bibliothekenverbund, Description of contents.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°16′52.17″N 14°06′49.50″E / 48.2811583°N 14.1137500°E / 48.2811583; 14.1137500