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Male psychiatric nurses implicated in 'euthanasia'.

I HAVE recently been undertaking informal research into the role played by male psychiatric nurses in Germany's "euthanasia" programme and the subsequent "extermination" programme in Poland during the Nazi regime. I have always had an interest in the area because of my professional training and out of historic interest.

Through general reading I learnt that male nurses had transitioned through these programmes, but I could find no named individuals. Eventually, I found two names and therefore contacted an acknowledged expert in this area for assistance. She is professor of nursing at the Medical University of South Carolina, Susan Benedict. She, like me, had heard about the involvement of nurses but had no knowledge of specific individuals. However, through extensive searches I have determined, at this point, that of the 120 male staff sent from the "euthanasia" programme to set up and organise the operation of the first three main extermination camps, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, at least 23 were male psychiatric nurses. The others were not "professional" people, eg medical staff, who are more widely known by the general public as perpetrators, due to the "experiments" undertaken on involuntary inmates at camps such as Auschwitz.

Indeed, the 120 personnel from the "euthanasia" programme tended to be cooks, tradesmen, photographers, policeman and "burners" (crematoria workers) who had serviced the euthanasia apparatus. Of course this core group of 120 "experts" oversaw the work of many more Ukrainian guards etc when they arrived in Poland and organised the running of previously mentioned "extermination" camps.

The "euthanasia" programme (a euphemism for highly organised, covert, Government-directed murder) accounted for the death of tens of thousands of German psychiatric and psychopaedic patients, as well as individuals who were deaf and suffered from conditions such as epilepsy.

The number murdered at the three aforementioned "extermination" camps is estimated to be two million Jews and 50,000 gypsies--one third of whom were children. These are enormous numbers of people. That their murders should have been orchestrated by a "core group" of 120 Germans and Austrians is amazing in itself. That nearly 20 percent of that same group were male psychiatric nurses is, until now, a little known, and certainly uncollated, fact. A fact I believe, which should have significant resonance for all nurses today in terms of day-today ethical issues and practices and a duty to articulate concerns where they believe clients are vulnerable or open to possible exploitation. There are many more questions about these 23 individuals. I have varying degrees of biographical data in regard to each individual.

I anticipate undertaking academic research regarding these briefly discussed facts, but would welcome any comments or assistance anyone might have in regard to these revelations. My contact details are:

Graham Smith, RMN, RGON,

BHSc, PGDip [Mental Health]

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Title Annotation:letters
Author:Smith, Graham
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:May 1, 2003
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