Hartheim Euthanasia Centre

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The first mass murder by means of gassing by the Nazi regime did not happen in the concentration camps The first gassings in Germany took place in January 1940 at the Brandenburg Euthanasia Centre.

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However it was the Hartheim Euthanasia centre which was the main centre to carry out the ‘T4 Program’ the mass murder of the physically and mentally disabled. It didn’t take much to be branded ‘Disabled’ Initially it was ‘sold’ under the motto of mercy killings for the ‘incurably ill’ , several rationales for the program had been offered, including eugenics, compassion, reducing suffering, racial hygiene, cost effectiveness and pressure on the welfare budget.

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https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/04/08/forgotten-history-the-t-4-holocaust-victimsthe-killing-of-the-disabled/

Hartheim castle, situated in the village of Alkoven near Linz in Austria, and close to the Mauthausen concentration camp, originally dated from the ninth century

In the spring of 1940, remodelling works to adapt the castle to become a euthanasia centre were finished within a matter of weeks; the residents were subsequently distributed amongst other care facilities in the district of Oberdonau. They were to become the first victims of the Hartheim Euthanasia Centre.

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The first transport reached Hartheim on 20 May 1940. Between 1940 and 1944, round 30,000 people with physical and mental disabilities as well as with mental illnesses were murdered. Some of them were patients from mental institutions and residents of homes for the disabled and care facilities, whereas others were prisoners from the concentration camps in Mauthausen, Gusen and Dachau, as well as forced labourers.

Hartheim Euthanasia Centre was under the medical direction of Dr Rudolf Lonauer, a psychiatrist from Linz. Pictured below with his family.

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He was responsible for the deaths of victims, determining the causes of death, keeping patient records and representing the Landesanstalt Hartheim (Hartheim State Institution) to third parties. Rudolf Lonauer was also the medical director of the District Sanatorium and Nursing Home Niedernhart in Linz, which served as a holding station for victims on their way to Hartheim. Rudolf Lonauer committed suicide in May 1945.

The deputy medical director was Dr Georg Renno, who managed to disappear after 1945, but was re-captured in 1961.

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Charges were filed in 1967, but the trial was discontinued in 1970 due to reports of the defendant being in poor health. Georg Renno died a free man in 1997.

The administrative technical director of Hartheim Euthanasia Centre was Christian Wirth, a policeman from Württemberg, who had already worked at the Nazi euthanasia centres in Grafeneck and Hadamar. In his function as the ‘office manager’, he was the head of the Special Register Office, which had been established in Hartheim.

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Moreover, he was responsible for keeping records of and sending urns, making local police reports and corresponding with the ‘transferring institutions’.

A total of approximately 60 to 70 people were employed at Hartheim Euthanasia Centre. In addition to the nurses, who had the most contact with the victims and normally accompanied them on the busses, employees who were responsible for issuing and sending condolence letters and death certificates and sending urns as part of their administrative duties, represented the majority of the staff. Most of them also lived at the castle. Schoberstein Manor in Weißenbach on Lake Atter was available as an excursion destination for the staff at Hartheim. In addition, evening parties and group outings were organised as compensation for the staff of the castle – often together with their colleagues from the concentration camp in Mauthausen.

The death certificates were issued at Hartheim’s Special Register Office, which was located at the castle. False records were purposefully kept regarding the reason, date and place of death in order to mislead relatives and hamper investigations.

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Pulmonary tuberculosis was a popular reason of death, since it was a communicable disease that made it necessary to burn the corpse immediately. The system of exchanging files amongst the euthanasia centres contributed to the success of this cover-up action.

Not everyone who knew of the killings of those considered ‘unworthy of life’ remained silent. One such example is Franz Sitter, who was transferred from Ybbs an der Donau to work as a nurse in Hartheim in October 1940. He demanded to be immediately relieved of his professional duties, which was also the case. Afterwards, Sitter was sent back to Ybbs. On 6 February 1941, Franz Sitter was called to the front. He survived the war and returned to his profession as a nurse.

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In Alkoven itself, a resistance group centred round brothers Karl and Ignaz Schuhmann and Leopold Hilgarth came together and gave a rallying cry for resistance against the Nazi regime by means of graffiti and flyers. The group was betrayed, and Leopold Hilgarth and Ignaz Schuhmann were executed in Vienna on 9 January 1945.

Picture below is of Leopold Hilgarth(sitting down)

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Aktion Erntefest-The Murder of 43,000 Jews

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Today marks the 76th anniversary of Aktion Erntefest.(German: for Operation Harvest Festival) a mass shooting action by the SS conducted at the Majdanek concentration camp and its subcamps, its purpose was to liquidate the remaining Polish Jews in the Lublin reservation and the Lublin Ghetto, including its entire slave-labour camp workforce. The operation took place on 3 November 1943.Approximately 43,000 Jews were killed on the orders of Christian Wirth and Jakob Sporrenberg .

 

Aktion Erntefest was the last operation of  Operation Reinhard,the codename given to the secretive German Nazi plan to mass-murder most Polish Jews in the General Government district of German-occupied Poland.

Operation Harvest Festival was the single largest German massacre of Jews in the entire war. It surpassed the notorious massacre of more than 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar outside Kiev by 10,000 victims. It was exceeded only by the 1941 Odessa massacre of more than 50,000 Jews in October 1941, committed by Romanian troops.

The timing of the operation was apparently in response to several efforts by surviving Jews to resist the Nazis (for example, the uprisings at the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps, and armed resistance in the Warsaw, Białystok, and Vilna ghettos). The SS feared additional Jewish-led revolts in the General Government,ahead of the Soviet counter-offensive. To prevent further resistance the SS decided to kill most of the remaining Jews who were employed in slave-labor projects of the Ostindustrie (Osti) enterprise owned by the SS, while imprisoned at the Trawniki, Poniatowa, and Majdanek concentration camps with subcamps in Budzyn, Kraśnik, Puławy, Lipowa and others.The inmates were ordered to dig anti-tank trenches unaware of their true purpose.

 

The Orpo police formation tasked with performing Aktion Erntefest had prior experience in the area. It was involved with the liquidation of the ghettos in the Lublin district of the General Government from which the same targets originated.

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.”Erntefest” was the largest single-day, single-camp massacre of the Holocaust under direct German occupation,totalling 43,000 in three nearby locations It began at dawn on 3 November 1943. The main camp as well as the Trawniki and Poniatowa subcamps of the Majdanek extermination camp were surrounded by SS and the Reserve Police Battalion 101 (a unit of the German Order Police from Hamburg) augmented by a squad of Hiwis called “Trawniki men” from Ukraine.

 

 

The Jews were taken out of the camps in groups and shot layer upon layer inside the pits dug specifically for this purpose. The burial site resembled a solid mass of women’s and men’s bodies heaped together… with legs and arms interlinked.

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At Majdanek, Jews were first separated from the other prisoners. They were then taken in groups to long and deep trenches and shot one-by-one under the leadership of pathological killer Erich Muhsfeldt .

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At the main camp, 18,400 Jews were killed on 3 November 1943. Jews from those other slave labor camps in the Lublin area were also taken to Majdanek and shot simultaneously. Music was played through loudspeakers at both Majdanek and Trawniki to drown out the noise of the mass shooting. The killing operation was completed in a single day at Majdanek and Trawniki. At Poniatowa the shootings took two days, because in one of the barracks Jews staged a revolt. To stamp it out the SS set it on fire and the killings went on as planned.

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The Hermann Graebe testimony.

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Herman Friedrich Graebe or Gräbe, (June 19, 1900 – April 17, 1986) was a German manager and engineer in charge of a German building firm in Ukraine, who witnessed mass executions of the Jews of Dubno on October 5, 1942 by Nazis. Following the war he wrote a famous and horrifying testimony.

“My foreman and I went directly to the pits. Nobody bothered us. Now I heard rifle shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds. The people who had got off the trucks – men, women and children of all ages – had to undress upon the order of an SS man who carried a riding or dog whip.

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They had to put down their clothes in fixed places, sorted according to shoes, top clothing and undergarments. I saw heaps of shoes of about 800 to 1000 pairs, great piles of under-linen and clothing.

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Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other, said farewells, and waited for a sign from another SS man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand. During the fifteen minutes I stood near, I heard no complaint or plea for mercy. I watched a family of about eight persons, a man and a woman both of about fifty, with their children of about twenty to twenty-four, and two grown-up daughters about twenty-eight or twenty-nine. An old woman with snow white hair was holding a one year old child in her arms and singing to it and tickling it. The child was cooing with delight. The parents were looking on with tears in their eyes. The father was holding the hand of a boy about ten years old and speaking to him softly; the boy was fighting his tears. The father pointed to the sky, stroked his head and seemed to explain something to him. At that moment the SS man at the pit started shouting something to his comrade. The latter counted off about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth mound. Among them was the family I have just mentioned. I well remember a girl, slim with black hair, who, as she passed me, pointed to herself and said, “twenty-three years old.” I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave.

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People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people shot were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was nearly two-thirds full. I estimated that it already contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an SS man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy-gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette. The people, completely naked, went down some steps which were cut in the clay wall of the pit and clambered over the heads of the people lying there to the place to which the SS man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or wounded people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay beneath them. Blood was running from their necks. The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot.”

Graebe later provided vital testimony in the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, invoking bitter persecution from many of his countrymen. To escape the hostility, Graebe moved his family to San Francisco in 1948, where he lived until his death in 1986. Hermann Graebe was honoured as a ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Yad Vashem.

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MH17

On July 17th 2014 Flight MH17 was cowardly brought down near Torez in the Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine, approximately 25 miles from the Russian border.

Thus far no one has claimed responsibility for this crime. One of the things I find really disturbing is the way some people are dismissing this as if it was an accident, it wasn’t it was a crime carried out by cowards.

Although there is no concrete evidence as such everything is pointing to Russia.

Bellingcat, a citizen journalism group, says it has identified up to 100 Russian soldiers from a Kursk-based air defence unit who may have knowledge of the movements of the missile launcher that destroyed the Boeing 777 on July 17, 2014.

About 20 of those individuals would “likely have had direct involvement” in the deployment to east Ukraine that led to the shoot down and  298 civilian deaths.

The fact that Russia has vetoed a full investigation in to this attack, doesn’t , in my opinion, put them in a great light.That said the Ukranian government also has a lot to answer for.

My aim is not to put the blame to anyone, my aim is for justice to be done for the victims. I’d written a poem for the victims and have pledged to regularly post this poem on several social media outlets to make sure the victims aren’t forgotten.

298 a number that we always will remember
298 lives that have been lost
298 of friends and family members.
298 souls eternally loved

 

298 ambitions and dreams cut short
298 innocent moments in time
298 families that need our support
298 victims of 1 brutal crime

 

298 new stars in the sky
298 reasons to pray
298 tears to cry
298 respects to pay

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