BERLIN (Dec. 18)
The names of people killed under the Nazi “euthanasia” program have been read aloud here.
For three days starting Monday, Rene Talbot of Berlin, Aviel Hagai of Israel and other volunteers have been reading aloud the names of Germans selected for extermination as “worthless” under the Nazi program that preceded the mass murder of Jews and others.
On Tuesday, they stood in a damp snowfall, reading names aloud as holiday shoppers crossed Wittenberg Platz.
Behind them was a Holocaust memorial naming the most famous of the Nazi concentration camps, with the admonition to “never forget these places of horror.”
The names were released by an archive in the former East Germany..
Before the mass extermination of Jews and others began in Nazi death camps, more than 300,000 people, many with physical or psychological handicaps, had been put to death under the euthanasia program.
A batch of 31,161 names were released by the German Federal Archive only last week, after they had been computerized, said Hagai, chairman of the Israeli Association Against Psychiatric Assault. The files had been kept in East Germany because they were in the Soviet Zone after the war.
“There is a growing understanding that the Shoah started with this abuse by psychiatry,” said Talbot, co-chair of a German organization opposed to the abuses of psychiatry.
Very few people made legal claims against Germany, he said, “because of shame over the brand of having a genetic disease.”
“The same happened to women who were sterilized,” Hagai said. “The shame that they were somehow defective did not allow them to state what had happened to them after the war.”
The two said they hope to repeat the reading at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
The response from passers-by has been limited, Talbot said.
“But five minutes ago, a woman came and listened to the reading and said, ‘That’s my family name! Unbelievable!’ ” Talbot said.
Emerging from the nearby subway station, Robert Bowness-Smith stopped to listen as Hagai and Talbot were in the middle of two pages of Muellers.
“Now, after all these years, people are talking about it,” said Bowness-Smith, a retired English teacher who lives in Berlin. “Really, it’s late.”