Justice Minister Gürtner Receives Order From Hitler to Kill Mental Patients

Reich Minister of Justice Franz Gürtner is shown a facsimile of Adolf Hitler's written order to kill mental patients. This is the only known instance of Hitler having personally written and signed an order for murder.

The killing of mental patients is already well underway by this point, but even so Hitler has avoided putting his name to anything. That he was forced to in this instance is an indication that, at the time, there was still enough rule of law to make the development of institutionalized mass extermination difficult without some sort of official authorization.

The order which Franz Gürtner sees is this one, written in October 1939 but backdated to September 1939:

"Reich Leader [Philipp] Bouhler and Dr. med. [Karl] Brandt are charged with the responsibility of enlarging the competence of certain physicians, designated by name, so that patients who, on the basis of human judgment [menschlichem Ermessen], are considered incurable, can be granted mercy death [Gnadentod] after a discerning diagnosis."

Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler, the head of Hitler's private chancellery, and Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal physician, were the directors of Operation T4 (Aktion T-4), the organized extermination of mental patients in Nazi Germany.

Even with such an order, not everyone is willing to go along with the killings. One who protests is Judge Lothar Kreyssig, the only German judge to raise any sort of objection to the T4 euthanasia program, and Franz Gürtner informs him:

"If you cannot recognize the will of the Führer as a source of law, as a basis of law, then you cannot remain a judge."

Kreyssig is suspended soon after this and forced to retire next year.

In just under one year from today, Hitler will order an end to Operation T4 due to the growing civil unrest and criticism, mostly at the instigation of religious leaders.


Nazi euthanasia murders in Hadamar

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