Review of the week
Ministering to the Fatherland
By: John Quin, consultant physician, BMJ 2007;335:261 (4 August):
Why did a trauma surgeon with an interest in humanism become Hitler’s personal physician? The new fascinating biography of Karl Brandt, by Ulf Schmidt.
Karl Brandt, Hitler’s Reich Commissioner for Health and Sanitation, the man behind the notorious T4 euthanasia programme.
Brandt came to a dictator’s attention by his medical intervention at a car accident. His ascent at the court was swift; he was popular with Eva Braun and the ladies; socially skilled he counted fellow professional Albert Speer as his friend.
By 1939 Hitler, in a written statement, charged Brandt “with the responsibility of enlarging the powers of specific physicians, designated by name, so that patients who, on the basis of human judgement, are considered incurable, can be granted mercy death after the most careful assessment of their condition.”
Today Hans Scharoun’s wonderful 1963 Philharmonie building, where the great and the good come to listen to Sir Simon Rattle’s mighty orchestra, sits close by Tiergartenstrasse 4. However, in the early 1940s this address was the headquarters of Aktion T4, the euthanasia programme, which would ultimately claim the lives of an estimated 70,000 people.
The death of the mentally ill or the physically handicapped for the likes of Brandt, “freed society from a financial, emotional and even aesthetic burden.” They “eliminated sickness by eliminating the sick.”
At the Nuremberg Trials Brandt said: “it was never meant to be murder.”
If you want to read the extract JUST CLICK HERE.