Sunday, 1 January 2012

‘Life Unworthy of Life’: ‘Euthanasia’ in the Third Reich. Paul Weindling conducts Inner Circle Seminar 176 (22 April 2012)

Alfred Hoche (1865–1943)
Karl Binding (1841–1920)

Irmfried Eberl (19101948)

‘Life Unworthy of Life’

Euthanasia’ in the Third Reich

Paul Weindling
Inner Circle Seminar No.176
introduced by
Anthony Stadlen
Sunday 22 April 2012
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This is the first of two seminars on psychiatry and psychotherapy in the Third Reich. Today we focus on psychiatry. During the second world war, German doctors exterminated 250,000 ‘mentally ill’ and disabled adults and children whom they categorised as life unworthy of life’. The book Allowing the Extermination of Life Unworthy of Life (1920), by lawyer Karl Binding and psychiatrist Alfred Hoche, had called for such medical mass murder to be legalised. The Nazi government never did legalise it, but in 1939 Hitler wrote a secret memorandum that the law against it would not be enforced. Officially, in 1941, the programme was stopped. Doctors (such as the psychiatrist Irmfried Eberl), now expert in medical killing, were transferred from this so-called ‘euthanasia’ programme to apply their skills in death camps where Jews, Gypsies and others were exterminated (Eberl became the first commandant of Treblinka death camp). But the ‘euthanasia’ murders continued until the end of the war, and even beyond it, as a ‘eugenic’ measure and to provide body parts for research.

Paul Weindling, Wellcome Trust Research Professor in the History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University, is a world expert on Nazi ‘eugenics’, ‘euthanasia’, and other medical atrocities. He is author of Health, Race and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism 1870–1945 (1989) and many other books. Today, he will guide us through the history of the Nazi ‘euthanasia’ murders, and will discuss his latest findings. He will ask whether these murders were an isolated ‘Nazi’ aberration or, rather, a logical consequence of a philosophy of medicine and psychiatry that is still pervasive and even dominant today.

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ (

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £50, others £135, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water and liquorice allsorts included; payable in advance; no refunds unless seminar cancelled

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857 E-mail:

For further information on seminars, visit

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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