Part two. Read part one here. These excerpts are from a sermon delivered by Bishop von Galen on 3 August 1941 in which he addresses the murder of innocent patients. The Aktion T4 programme had been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of mentally ill and physically handicapped people. Although he spoke during the war, his words have a special resonance and some striking parallels can be drawn with today (murder of the elderly in care homes and forced vaccination without informed consent). Von Galen was one of the theologians who significantly influenced the original German White Rose group in its actions and the content of their leaflets.
I am reliably informed that in hospitals and homes in the province of Westphalia lists are being prepared of inmates who are classified as “unproductive members of the national community” and are to be removed from these establishments and shortly thereafter killed. The first party of patients left the mental hospital at Marienthal, near Münster, in the course of this week.
The patients who have been selected for killing are removed from their home area to some distant place. Some illness or other is then given as the cause of death. Since the body is immediately cremated, the relatives and the criminal police are unable to establish whether the patient had in fact been ill or what the cause of death actually was. I have been assured, however, that in the Ministry of the Interior and the office of the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Conti, no secret is made of the fact that indeed a large number of mentally ill persons in Germany have already been killed with intent and that this will continue.
We are concerned with men and women, our fellow creatures, our brothers and sisters! Poor human beings, ill human beings, they are unproductive, if you will. But does that mean that they have lost the right to live? Have you, have I, the right to live only so long as we are productive, so long as we are recognised by others as productive?
If the principle that men is entitled to kill his unproductive fellow-man is established and applied, then woe betide all of us when we become aged and infirm! If it is legitimate to kill unproductive members of the community, woe betide the disabled who have sacrificed their health or their limbs in the productive process! If unproductive men and women can be disposed of by violent means, woe betide our brave soldiers who return home with major disabilities as cripples, as invalids! If it is once admitted that men have the right to kill “unproductive” fellow-men — even though it is at present applied only to poor and defenceless mentally ill patients — then the way is open for the murder of all unproductive men and women: the incurably ill, the handicapped who are unable to work, those disabled in industry or war. The way is open, indeed, for the murder of all of us when we become old and infirm and therefore unproductive. Then it will require only a secret order to be issued that the procedure which has been tried and tested with the mentally ill should be extended to other “unproductive” persons, that it should also be applied to those suffering from incurable tuberculosis, the aged and infirm, persons disabled in industry, soldiers with disabling injuries!
Then no man will be safe: some committee or other will be able to put him on the list of “unproductive” persons, who in their judgment have become “unworthy to live”. And there will be no police to protect him, no court to avenge his murder and bring his murderers to justice.
Who could then have any confidence in a doctor? He might report a patient as unproductive and then be given instructions to kill him! It does not bear thinking of, the moral depravity, the universal mistrust which will spread even in the bosom of the family, if this terrible doctrine is tolerated, accepted and put into practice. Woe betide mankind, woe betide our German people, if the divine commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”, which the Lord proclaimed on Sinai amid thunder and lightning, which God our Creator wrote into man’s conscience from the beginning, if this commandment is not merely violated but the violation is tolerated and remains unpunished!
“Thou shalt not kill!” This commandment from God, who alone has power to decide on life or death, was written in the hearts of men from the beginning, long before God gave the children of Israel on Mount Sinai his moral code in those lapidary sentences inscribed on stone which are recorded for us in Holy Scripture and which as children we learned by heart in the catechism.
The eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not lie.” How often is it shamelessly and publicly broken!
The seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not steal”. Whose possessions are now secure since the arbitrary and ruthless confiscation of the property of our brothers and sisters, members of Catholic orders? Whose property is protected, if this illegally confiscated property is not returned?
The sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Think of the instructions and assurances on free sexual intercourse and unmarried motherhood in the notorious Open Letter by Rudolf Hess, who has disappeared since, which was published in all the newspapers. And how much shameless and disreputable conduct of this kind do we read about and observe and experience in our city of Münster! To what shamelessness in dress have our young people been forced to get accustomed to — the preparation for future adultery! For modesty, the bulwark of chastity, is about to be destroyed.
And now the fifth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill”, is set aside and broken under the eyes of the authorities whose function it should be to protect the rule of law and human life, when men presume to kill innocent fellow-men with intent merely because they are “unproductive”, because they can no longer produce any goods.
But with those who continue to provoke God’s judgment, who blaspheme our faith, who scorn God’s commandments, who make common cause with those who alienate our young people from Christianity, who rob and banish our religious, who bring about the death of innocent men and women, our brothers and sisters — with all those we will avoid any confidential relationship, we will keep ourselves and our families out of reach of their influence, lest we become infected with their godless ways of thinking and acting, lest we become partakers in their guilt and thus liable to the judgment which a just God must and will inflict on all those who, like the ungrateful city of Jerusalem, do not will what God wills.
O God, make us all know, in this our day, before it is too late, the things which belong to our peace!
Read the full sermon here (scroll to bottom third of page): http://churchinhistory.org/pages/booklets/vongalen(n).htm