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The Holocaust and disabled people: Timeline

by Ian Cook

17th October 2008

This timeline charts the important dates in the history of disabled people during the period of the Holocaust.

January 1933

The Nazi party (NSDAP) takes power in Germany.

14 July, 1933

"The law for the prevention of progeny with Hereditary Disease" calls for the sterilisation of all people with diseases that the Nazis thought of as hereditary, i.e. mental illness, learning disabilities, epilepsy, blindness, deafness. Even alcoholism is covered by the law.

Also in 1933

The Third Reich starts to issue propaganda against disabled people. The term "useless eaters" is used to highlight their burden on society.


The T4 Program begins. Disabled people are now killed rather than merely being sterilised.
An emaciated survivor stands naked between rows of beds at the Hadamar Institute. © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM)

1940 - 1941

An estimated 70,000 disabled people are killed under the T4 Program. Most of these are large-scale killings using poison gas - a forerunner of the killing program of Jews, which became known as 'The Final Solution'.

August 1941

Cardinal Galen publicly reveals the facts of the T4 killing program in a sermon delivered at St Lamberti Church in Munster. Hitler orders the suspension of the program as a result of growing public concern, plus pressure from the church and the judiciary.

1941 - 1945

Killings of disabled people continue in secret. Death is by lethal injection or starvation, as the poison gas installations are removed from killing centres.


A propaganda film entitled Ich Klage An (I Accuse) highlights the idea of a "mercy killing". A woman who has MS is killed by her doctor husband, who uses the Nazi arguments to justify such killings.


The Wansee conference transfers staff from the Euthanasia Program to Operation Reinhard - planning the deportations and killing of millions of Jews.


Allied troops liberate Auschwitz, and the details of Nazi genocide finally come to light.
Photograph © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).


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