Werner Catel

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Werner Catel
Born (1894-06-27)June 27, 1894
Mannheim,Baden-Württemberg
Died April 30, 1981(1981-04-30) (aged 86)
Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein
Nationality German
Employer University of Leipzig, University of Kiel, Action T4
Known for Child euthanasia program during WWII, Action T4
Title Doctor

Werner Catel (27 June 1894 – 30 April 1981), Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Leipzig, was one of three doctors considered an expert on the programme of euthanasia for children and participated in the Action T4 "euthanasia" program for the Nazis, the other two being Carl Hans Heinze Sennhenn and Ernst Wentzler.

In early 1939 a farm labourer called Richard Kretschmar requested Catel's permission to euthanize one of his children, now identified as Gerhard Kretschmar, who had been born blind and deformed. Catel deferred the matter and suggested the father write directly to Hitler for permission. Hitler subsequently sent Dr. Karl Brandt to confer with Catel and decide on a course of action. On July 25, 1939 the child was killed.

The T4 program was influenced by a popular book written in 1920 by Alfred Hoche and Karl Binding. Catel as part of this program was surely influenced by it, too. In his 1962 publication, "Grenzsituation des Lebens" (Border situations of life), Catel argued for the reintroduction of euthanasia. As had Binding and Hoche, Catel identified three possible types of euthanasia.

  • Reine Euthanasie:

"Real" euthanasia was seen as the killing of a person who was suffering from so much pain, that an ever increasing amount of pain reducing drugs had to be administered. This consequently lead to the person's death.

  • Euthanasie im engeren Sinne:

The killing of a patient whose illness "according to medical experience" is so bad "that there is no hope of recovery", but whose death is also not to be expected in the near future. (See terminal sedation)

  • Euthanasie im weiteren Sinne:

The "extermination of the life of an "idiot child" or an adult in a similar condition. Catel defined "idiot children" as being "such monsters ... which are nothing but a massa carnis"(Martin Luther), have no personality or spiritual soul (Guardini), are unable to make decisions (Thomas More) or are unable to communicate with their surroundings.(Alfred Hoche)

After the war Catel took charge of the Mammolshöhe Children's Mental Home near Kronberg, where he continued to rally for the euthanasia of children deemed beyond hope. In 1949 he was found to have committed no grave crimes by a denazification board in Hamburg, and became attached to the University of Kiel in 1954. There was talk after his death in 1981, of establishing a Werner Catel Foundation with $200,000 of unclaimed money left after his death, but the idea was finally dismissed in 1984.

See also[edit]

Trivia[edit]

  • Catel was the first physician to describe what is now known as Lesch-Nyhan syndrome
  • His obituary controversially stated that he acted "in many ways, to the welfare and well-being of sick children."