Murder vs. Killing (specifically, euthanasia)

Marta Russell ap888 at
Fri Aug 27 10:33:01 PDT 1999

rc-am wrote: citation from Girorgo Agamben's _Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life_ , Stanford Uni. Press, 1998 (cut)

> the irony perhaps, is that the physicians found guilty of crimes against
> humanity at the Nuremberg trials were put to death; but not such a
> contradiction perhaps if you follow Agamben's argument of the connection
> b/n the decisions on life/death and sovereignty -- that the assertion of
> an Allied victory (of its sovereignty) had to include a spectacular
> decision to kill.

According to Lifton and Proctor and Hugh Gallagher, the physicians that killed disabled people - which extended well beyond the mentally ill to include anyone with a physical impairment plus over 5,000 children - were not found guilty of the crime of killing at Nuremberg. Only physicians who had carried out experiments and caused deaths in the concentration camps were convicted. The over 275,000 murders staged in gas chambers (prototype for Poland's) in some of Germany's most respected hospitals or by lethal injection and starvation in wards were never vindicated.


>From Beyond Ramps:
At the Nuremberg trial Dr. Brandt defended his actions saying that euthanasia was "out of pity for the victim and out of a desire to free the family and loved ones from a lifetime of needless sacrifice". He emphasized that Hitler's proclamation was not an "order to kill" children but gave physicians the right to do so if the patient was "incurably sick."23

Baby Knauer was not "incurably sick." She had multiple disabilities; with prosthetic devices and training in braille, her ability to function in the world would only have been limited by what the world would allow. Disabled people who were employed an thus no "burden" to their families were also indiscriminately slaughtered.

The Nuremberg court avoided the euthanasia of the disabled by shifting the debate. The court said, "The evidence is conclusive that almost at the outset of the program non-German nationals were selected for euthanasia and extermination . . .We find that Karl Brandt was responsible for, aided and abetted, took a consenting part in, and was connected with plans and enterprises . . .in the course of which murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures and other inhumane acts were committed [against non-German nationals]. To the extent that these criminal acts did not constitute war crimes they constituted crimes against humanity"24 (italics mine).

The original victims of Nazi cleansing were not non-German individuals but the German disabled. Some interpret the killing of disabled people as the beginning of the Jewish holocaust, but the murders of thousands of disabled people represented a holocaust of its own. The logic for killing us was distinct from the rationale for killing other identity groups.

The Nuremberg court did not view disabled people as equal citizens against whom it would be illegal to commit a crime. The treatment of disabled people by the court was discriminatory; no reparations were ever made to the families of those killed, no one was punished for their murders.

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