Students Staff

27 May 2016

The Nazi 'Euthanasia' killings and the Holocaust - investigating the connections

The systematic murder of disabled people under the Nazi regime and its links to the Holocaust will be investigated at a three-day international conference in Germany supported by the University of Essex.

The idea for the conference, which will take place from Friday 10 June to Sunday 12 June, emerged from Volume 5 of the international journal The Holocaust in History and Memory, edited by Professor Rainer Schulze, which focused on the Nazi ‘Euthanasia’ killings of disabled people.

The conference will honour the work of historian and Holocaust survivor Henry Friedlander and journalist and film-maker Ernst Klee, who published influential work on the systematic killing of disabled people under the Nazis.

Professor Schulze, Emeritus Professor in the Department of History at Essex, is one of the co-organisers and will chair a panel discussion on Sunday on ‘The long shadow of history – dealing with disability after 1945’. He said that the theme of the conference remained vitally important today.

He said: “In Germany, there is still immense mistrust and anger on the side of disabled organisations about decades of ignoring and deliberately overlooking the fate of disabled people during the Nazi regime and the crimes committed by German physicians.

“Disabled people have been ‘forgotten victims’ of the Nazi regime. The journal The Holocaust in History and Memory attempts to broaden the discussion of the Holocaust to include topics and groups of victims all too often left out; exploring the ramifications up until the present time. This conference continues that work.

“Without losing sense of the origin of the term ‘Holocaust’ and the significance of the Holocaust for the European Jewry, through the journal and now hopefully through this conference we are opening up discussions about the Holocaust and the other groups who were persecuted under the Nazis.

“Disabled people remain marginalized and are one of the first groups hit by austerity measures. There are deeply ingrained prejudices against disabled people in mainstream societies everywhere, but also insecurity about how to interact with them.”

The conference will look at the philosophy, ideology, techniques and perpetrators of the ‘Euthanasia’ killings. Professor Schulze pointed out that the mass killing by gas used by the Nazis in the ‘Final Solution’ was developed and tested against disabled people.

The conference has been organised through a partnership between the Memorial ‘House of the Wannsee Conference’ Berlin, the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité, the Memorial to the Victims of Euthanasia Murders in Brandenburg/Havel, the Foundation of Lower Saxony Memorials, the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum, the University of Essex, the Association Against Oblivion, and the Centre for Historical Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. and.

The first two days of the conference will take place at the ‘Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz’, where on 20 January 1942 ‘the Final Solution of the Jewish Question’ was discussed. The final day of the conference is held at Brandenburg, one of the centres of the ‘Euthanasia’ killings, now a memorial site and educational centre.

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