• Germany's news in English

Glass memorial honours Nazi disabled victims

AFP/The Local · 2 Sep 2014, 17:22

Published: 02 Sep 2014 10:39 GMT+02:00
Updated: 02 Sep 2014 17:22 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"This is a day we have long awaited," Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said before an audience of around 600 guests at the city's Philharmonie concert hall near the Tiergarten park.

The hall is located near the now-demolished offices where more than 60 Nazi bureaucrats and doctors once worked in secret to implement the so-called T4 euthanasia programme.

Activists who had campaigned for a memorial since 2007 "had to fight not only against [people] forgetting but also against powerful opponents - science organisations that denied any participation in the 'euthanasia' murders and protected scientists who became criminals, Wowereit said.

"More than 70 years after these crimes, we finally owe these people a place in the memory of our families and a place in the collective memory of our country," said Sigrid Falkenstein, the niece of a learning-disabled victim, Anna Lehnkering.

The glass wall is the fourth and likely the last memorial to distinct groups of Nazi victims. It stands near a memorial to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust constructed in 2005, and two more to a million Roma and Sinti victims as well as homosexuals murdered by the Nazis.

"It was long overdue," added Lorena Endler, who works for Stolpersteine-Berlin, an organization that embeds small brass remembrance blocks into pavements outside houses where Holocaust victims lived before their deportation and murder.

First major extermination programme 

The T4 programme began in 1939. Between January 1940 and August 1941 about 70,000 people died in what the Nazis deemed "mercy killings" of unfit members of society. Victims were mainly sent to gas chambers or killed by lethal injection in death camps in Germany and Poland.

The programme was ostensibly shut down in 1941, partly due to protests by the church, but continued in secret. Historians estimate that between 200,000 and 300,000 people were murdered.

Uwe Neumärker, director of the Holocaust memorial foundation in Berlin, said the slaughter of patients and residents of care homes marked "the first systematic mass crime of the National Socialist regime".

"It is considered a forerunner of the extermination of European Jews," he said before the inauguration.

Only few of the killers were brought to justice after the war, despite high-profile trials like those of doctors at Nuremberg in 1946-47. Many of the implicated medical professionals simply continued with their careers.
Meanwhile many victim's families only learned years later what had happened to their loved ones.

Hartmut Traub fought back tears as he paid tribute to his uncle Benjamin, a schizophrenic who was murdered in a gas chamber in 1941 at the age of 27.

Based on his own research in recent years, he offered a haunting account of his uncle's death.
"Benjamin stood wedged with 63 other naked men in the narrowest of spaces.
The doors closed," Traub said. "Carbon monoxide streamed from the 'faucet' of the showers. Benjamin felt sick. He lost consciousness. After a few minutes he and his 63 comrades in suffering suffocated on the gas."
After the inauguration speeches, people were offered white roses to lay by the blue glass as a symbol of remembrance. Many teared up while laying the flowers, including some with disabilities and also relatives of the T4 programme victims. 
Story continues below…
The memorial has been designed to accommodate visitors in wheelchairs, and includes audio commentary for the blind, videos with sign language for the deaf, and simplified texts for the learning disabled.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Parents who don't get nursery spot for kid entitled to pay
Photo: DPA

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that parents whose children don't receive placements in nursery care are entitled to compensation.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd