This paper surveys the measures taken against mental patients in Germany during the National Socialist regime. It covers the eugenic sterilization programme, the killing of handicapped children, the so called Action T4 (the killing of adult psychiatric patients) and the second phase of Action T4 after its official termination, i.e. between 1941 and 1945. The possible social and political causes of these measures, and the attitude of German psychiatrists to them are discussed. In particular, attention is drawn to a prevalent fear of national degeneration, to social Darwinism, and the ideas of Binding & Hoche on ‘permission for the extermination of worthless life’.
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