By Michael Kaufman
Results of a new Harris poll reveal just how successful the hatemongers of the far right have been in influencing the thinking of rank and file Republicans. High percentages of Republicans polled agreed with statements that President Obama is “racist,” “anti-American,” “wants the terrorists to win,” and “wants to turn the sovereignty of the United States to a one-world government.” Many agreed that the president is a “domestic enemy,” the same term used by Marine Lance Corporal Kody Bittingham last year in his letter of intent to assassinate the president. Bittingham called his plan “Operation Patriot.”
I was particularly struck by the news that 38 percent of Republicans agree that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did.” The attempt to link Obama with Hitler came to the fore early in the “tea party” events and in the organized disruptions of local town hall meetings on health care. When followers of Lyndon LaRouche came to Warwick last year to petition against health care reform, their heavy handed use of Nazi imagery, including a doctored photo depicting Obama arm in arm with the Nazi Fuhrer, sparked outrage among many local residents. But many others gladly signed their petitions, donated money, and honked their horns in approval as they drove by. Robert Krahulik, a leading Republican honcho in Warwick, was compelled to write a letter to the editor of one of the local weekly newspapers denying a link to the activities. Another letter is in order now.
Let us be clear: Whether one agrees or disagrees with health care reform, the likening of Obama’s policies to Hitler’s is so outrageous as to be almost beyond words. Not surprisingly, the less-educated the Republican, the more likely he is to agree with the preposterous statements. Thus, a brief lesson on health care in Hitler’s Germany seems worthwhile. Thanks to Michael J. Franzblau, M.D., for providing the information that follows.
By the time Hitler came to power in 1933 there were already 23 chairs of “racial hygiene” in German Universities. As early as 1908 one of the “fathers” of the racial hygiene theory, Dr. Eugen Fischer, became so concerned that German settlers in West Africa were cohabiting with native women and producing babies of mixed race that he got the German government to revoke the citizenship rights of the German settlers. He also published an article suggesting that the children were basically inferior and should be given only the barest of economic support, with the hope that they would die. Fischer would go on to play a significant role in the continuing evolution of racial hygiene and its place in German health care for the next 30 years.
Under Hitler, racial hygiene became the basis for many laws. The first, passed in 1933, required all members of the federal government to be Aryans. All Jews who held government jobs had to leave public service. The second was the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring. It mandated the sterilization of all Aryan Germans who had schizophrenia, bipolar-disorder, Huntington’s Chorea, intractable epilepsy, chronic alcoholism, or “asocial behavior” (opposition to the Nazi Party). The basis for the law was “negative eugenics,” a plan to discourage procreation among those who were viewed as a threat to the purity of the sacred German germplasm.
All physicians were required to report patients meeting the criteria to a central authority. Loyal Nazi physicians sitting on genetic health courts then ordered the sterilizations. Approximately 250 of these courts were established. The sterilizations were carried out in local hospitals throughout Germany (with no record of opposition from the German Medical Association). The program lasted six years, during which 400,000 Aryan Germans were sterilized and 2,000 died. The program ended in 1939 in spite of the pleas of Fischer and other racial hygienists that it not stop until approximately 15 percent of the Germans were sterilized.
Next came the infamous Nuremburg laws to ensure racial purity, one of which forbade Aryans to have sexual relations with Jews. German physicians became expert witnesses and some made a good living testifying as to the racial origins of their clients on the basis of physiognomy. This became a subject in medical schools and in continuing medical education courses for German doctors.
A national campaign was instituted to encourage more Aryan births. As an incentive, any woman giving birth to eight or more children was awarded a gold medal; if she gave birth to six she received a silver medal; and for four, a bronze.
Meanwhile, as Hitler and his cronies planned for the conquest of Europe, they worried that there would be inadequate hospital facilities to care for wounded German soldiers. Hence was born the T-4 Program, so named because it was drafted at Tiergartenstrasse 4. T-4 was a carefully conceived plan to kill all inmates in German mental institutions who could not work for the Fatherland. The phrases “Useless Eaters” and “Lives Not Worth Living” were effectively used to convince the medical profession, and the general public, that this form of “euthanasia” was in the best interest of the nation. In addition, Aryan German children with severe birth defects or disabilities were included in the program.
Organization of the T-4 program required the resources of the national German government, local health officers and physicians generally, who had to report the mental patients or children who met the criteria. The decision to kill the adults was made in Berlin by three eminent psychiatrists reviewing questionnaires sent to them from all over Germany. The children were selected in the same manner by three pediatricians.
The program was well planned. Six “Healing Centers” were established throughout Germany. Transportation by bus or rail was provided. The methods of killing included starvation, phenol and alcohol cardiac injections, and carbon monoxide gas delivered in hermetically sealed rooms built to simulate shower rooms. Volunteer physicians were involved in the process at every step of the way.
When the T-4 program ended, 400,000 inmates of mental institutions were killed, as were between 70,000 and 200,000 children. Heinrich Himmler, who as head of the S.S. was responsible for the programs, was pleased.
The T-4 program can be viewed as the research and development program for the mass exterminations of Jews and others in concentration camps in Poland and Germany that followed. Many of the same physicians, nurses, and technicians who participated in the T-4 Program were transferred to the East in the early 1940’s to use their skills in mass extermination.
Any comparison between these Nazi atrocities and health care reform in the United States is obscene. Anyone who says President Obama is doing “many of the things that Hitler did” is an uneducated moron. The Harris poll tells us there are a lot of them out there. I wonder how many have guns.
Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.