September 21, 2005

Report: Nazis Who Killed People With Mental Disabilities Got Lighter Punishments

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express

GAINESVILLE, FL--Nazis who murdered people with mental disabilities during the 1930s and 40s received much lighter sentences than those who murdered Jews, because many of their accusers were not able to testify or to organize advocates to work on their behalf, and their lives were not seen as valuable even by post-war societies.

That's the conclusion by Shane Stufflet, a researcher at the University of Florida who studied court records of Nazis accused of the crimes.

"If you murdered a Jew, you were much more likely to get a sentence and get a stiffer sentence than if you murdered the mentally handicapped," Stufflet said in a press statement. "The mentally handicapped were seen as a burden on society and so judges, and especially lay judges, did not consider their murders to be as great a crime."

Stufflet found that 57 percent of Nazis who faced trials for crimes against people with mental disabilities were acquitted, compared with just 24 percent of those accused of crimes against Jews. Of those found guilty, less than two percent received life sentences, compared with 11 percent for killing Jews.

None of those who were given life sentences for murdering people with mental disabilities were actually made to serve their time.

More than 200,000 people with mental disabilities - most of them white Europeans - are believed to have been killed during the Third Reich at the hands of Nazis and their sympathizers. Many of the murderers were doctors and nurses who did the killing in hospitals, childrens' homes and other institutions. Adolph Hitler's followers, believing that children and adults with disabilities polluted their "Master Race", experimented on them to perfect the killing methods used later on European Jews.

"Children were either starved or injected with Luminal or morphine and the killings were soon expanded to adults," Stufflet said. "When the Nazis realized they couldn't murder as many people as they wanted in that fashion, they started experimenting with gas."

For instance, German authorities modified basements in six institutions to create gas chambers, with hookups added so diesel trucks could pump in carbon dioxide.

Stufflet said that prejudices against people with mental disabilities are still strong today in Germany because the country has been slow to integrate them into society.

Related: "Nazis Punished More Leniently for Crimes Against Handicapped" (University of Florida)

Posted on September 21, 2005

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