Crippen remembers the 300,000 disabled people murdered during WW2

I was recently given the opportunity to work on the D4D’s ongoing research project that is investigating, amongst other subjects, the question of eugenics and the horrendous experiments conducted on disabled people between 1942 and 1945.

This article discusses sensitive subject matter, so please only read it if and when you feel comfortable to do so and take care of yourself when you do.


Contributions to the project include harrowing accounts of disabled people ripped from their lives in the peaceful pre-war Holland into the nightmare that followed Germany’s invasion of their country during the second world war. One account in particular concerned Dutch university Professor Alexander Katan. He is remembered by fellow prisoner Josef Herzler, who was one of the few people to survive the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria:

“I especially remember a Dutch professor (Alexander Katan). He was a phenomenon of a person. If I were to describe his appearance, I have to say that he had dwarfism … He was very intelligent. He was a university professor and spoke seven languages fluently.”

Another inmate recalls how Professor Katan was displayed in the corner of the (concentration camp) block … all day long. Lots of Nazi SS men and doctors, also from other camps, came to see him … various medical experiments were conducted on him and after several months he was killed with an injection to the heart. Afterward, photographs of his skeleton were displayed.

It is now part of public record that by the end of World War II, an estimated 300,000 disabled people, including those with a mental illness or a learning disability had been gassed or starved, their fates hidden by phony death certificates and then largely overlooked among the many atrocities that were to be perpetrated by Hitler’s Third Reich in the years to follow. Many of these people were murdered by doctors from most of the occupied countries to further work on the Nazi’s Euthanasia and Eugenics programs.

A monument, outside of the Willem Arntsz Hoeve, a German mental hospital [sic] is all that remains to mark the atrocities inflicted upon mentally ill and learning disabled people there during the 1940s. It consists of a large, shaped sheet of reflective metal with the words:

‘They died like snow before the sun – 1942 to 1945’.

Lest we forget.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software Two haggard-looking white males wearing striped prison uniforms with a black triangle sewn onto their left breast are standing against a wall, On the wall is a sign that reads ‘ Achtung – behindert zum bearbeites’ (which roughly translated means ‘Attention – processing of disabled people’). On the ground by them are two big containers with ‘Giftige Chemikalien’ and a skull and cross bones painted on the front (roughly translated this means ‘poisonous chemicals’). Some yellow liquid is leaking from one container. A piece of text runs along the bottom of the cartoon with the words: ‘ between 1942 and 1945 it is estimated that 300,000 disabled people were murdered by doctors acting on behalf of the SS.’

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