Aktion T4: The Nazi Party’s First Mass Murder Program

Female Aktion T4 victim lying in an open casket at the Hadamar Psychiatric Institute

The Nazi Party is most infamously known for perpetrating the Holocaust, a mass genocide of eleven-million “undesirables” during the reign of Hitler. However, many of the methods used during the Holocaust, including the use of the gas chamber, was developed during the Nazi’s first mass murder program: Aktion T4.


Aktion T4 Nazi propaganda poster which reads: 60,000 RM This is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money, too.

Aktion T4, which predated the Holocaust by two years, was an involuntary euthanasia program established by Adolf Hitler that focused on eliminating “life unworthy of life”. This program, which lasted from September 1939 until August 1941, was led by Philipp Bouhler, director of Hitler’s private chancellery and Karl Brandt, Hitler’s attending physician. Countless German doctors, psychiatrists, and nurses became willing participants in the murder of 70,273 people deemed “incurably sick” with severe psychiatric, neurological or physical disabilities; At least 5,000 of those killed were physically and mentally disabled children.
After a “mercy death” was authorized by a patient’s physician or psychiatrist, they would be sent to an “extermination center” to be killed; Usually,  patients were killed with lethal gas, in groups of up to sixty at one time. Others were starved to death or given an overdose of prescription medication. These “extermination centers” were located in psychiatric hospitals throughout Germany, Austria, and Nazi-occupied Poland. At least half of the more than seventy-thousand deaths took place in church-run asylums.

Frau Rau

Mrs. Frau Rau, one Aktion T4 victim, was admitted to a clinic for depression and anxiety. She was ultimately diagnosed with incurable schizophrenia and, without her family’s knowledge, taken to an “extermination center” in the Hadamar Psychiatric Clinic.  Rau was taken into the basement where she was killed with carbon monoxide gas. In the Hadamar Psychiatric Clinic alone, over ten thousand mentally and physically disabled people were murdered. Frau Rau’s doctors told her family she had died due to “complications from warts on her lip”; Years later, they finally learned the truth.

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