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July 5, 1995

Death and Deliverance: 'Euthanasia' in Germany, c. 1900-1945

Author Affiliations

Brooklyn College City University of New York New York, NY

JAMA. 1995;274(1):80-81. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530010094044

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Convention has defined the Holocaust as the mass murder of the European Jews, who were killed simply because they were Jews. This definition is accurate in that it draws a distinction between Jews whose murder as a group was based on their heredity and Jews who were persecuted and killed as individuals for their political affiliation, religious beliefs, personal lifestyles, or resistance activities. But this definition is misleading if it excludes others also murdered on the basis of heredity, as, for example, the European Gypsies. Furthermore, the Nazi regime also excluded, persecuted, and murdered institutionalized patients suffering from mental and physical disabilities, who were consigned to extermination as a biological group; heredity determined their fate as much as it did that of Jews and Gypsies. In fact, the handicapped were the first victims killed on the assembly line in Nazi Germany. The technique of mass murder using gas chambers and

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