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Seattle Catholic
A Journal of Catholic News and Views
1 Apr 2005

From Hadamar to Woodlawn

by Steve O'Brien

Terri Schiavo
Terri Schiavo

The prolonged torture and murder of Terri Schiavo by starvation has illustrated in high relief America's culture of hate and savagery. Last month in this space, I wrote that Terri would be liquidated by judicial fiat and that she was just one of the first in a coming line. Everything has played out true to form. "Judge" George Greer, tired of granting what amounted to stays of execution, had her feeding tube removed on March 18 so that she would slowly starve to death. Her parents have worked like Trojans to get various courts, the U.S. Congress and the President to intervene, all to no avail.

Unfortunately, what has been done to that innocent Catholic woman is an old story that is once again new. Many governments have used the withholding of food to exterminate people who were deemed less than human. From a tyrannical government's perspective, starvation is preferable to, say, machine-gunning victims since there is no cost for ammunition nor expenditure of police and soldier labor to carry out the killings. In the 1930s, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin exterminated millions of people in the Ukraine, a breadbasket of Russia, by confiscating every crumb of food. He then traded the stolen grain to the West for weapons.

The murder of Terri is not (solely) a monetary issue for the judge, the husband and the lawyer. No, this means more than just a lucrative cash payday, with book and movie rights, etc. This woman must die as a matter of ideology and as such she and her killers closely approximate the victims and perpetrators of the Nazi-era holocaust. Though there is a huge bibliography on the subject, most people have been deceived into believing that all of Adolf Hitler's victims were Jews, gassed at concentration camps. In truth, the earliest victims were primarily Christians, killed by medical doctors and scientists in hospitals or "sanatoriums." The subjects had physical defects such as blindness or deafness or were mentally "retarded" or "braindead". Anything sound familiar?

The zeal for eradicating people classed as sub-humans did not originate in the fevered brow of the madman from Linz. The pseudo-science called "eugenics" by its founder, Englishman Francis Galton, was tied from inception to the theories of Charles Darwin, Galton's cousin. Eugenics was the logical extension of the concepts of "natural selection" and "fitness" propounded in Origin of Species. Eugenics however, was the application of these concepts to human beings. The transmission of these ideas from Darwin's mind to Hitler's smoking chimneys can be easily traced.

The flowering of eugenic theory occurred right here in the good ol' USA and for an understandable reason. By the late 19th century, large numbers of Catholics, first from Ireland and Germany and then southern and eastern Europe had immigrated to America. The Protestant ascendancy compensated for the loss of their religious and political monopoly by declaring themselves genetically superior to the lower orders swarming into the cities. In the real world, the supermen were not "breeding" enough to keep up with the inferior races, so eugenic theorists switched focus from "passive" domination to the idea of eliminating the sub-humans through sterilization, abortion and, when possible, through "mercy killing." Now does anything sound familiar?

Nazi theorists around Hitler in the 1920s and early 30s, when he and the party came to power, had been inundated with these ideas by American professors, doctors, and the seminal "right to die" lobby. Some American eugenicists were even given honors and awards by the Nazi state. Hitler, an uneducated man, combined his lifelong furies with these harebrained theories piped into his ears and determined to bring them to fruition.

Like those who just completed killing Terri, all it took was to put the plan into action and hope there was no resistance by the Christian populace. When the war began in 1939, Hitler ordered his program of mass murder begun. The initial killings were to take place at several sanatoria including Brandenburg, Sonnenstein, Hartheim, and the infamous Hadamar. Hitler himself coined terms and phrases which provides the dialogue for contemporary pro-death advocates such as Michael Schiavo's lawyer George Felos. Two favorites were phrases applied to the mentally disabled — these creatures were "life unworthy of life" and "useless eaters." The government program established to dispatch these "useless eaters" was dubbed Operation T4. A good volume on the subject is Crying Hands: Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany by Horst Biesold with an introduction by Henry Friedlander.

The author points out that the first victims killed at the state hospitals were mentally disabled children whose parents were led to believe that they would be given tender care. "In the wards the children were killed through the use of medication, usually overdoses of standard barbituates, but sometimes also through starvation." (Italics mine). The program was then extended to disabled adults. Gas chambers and crematory ovens were installed right on the premises of the sanatoria to accommodate the larger numbers being processed. Guillotines were likewise used to behead specimens slated for dissection.

After about 80,000 victims had been murdered, Hitler issued a cease and desist order, not because he had suddenly grown merciful, but because the killings had become public knowledge and the Catholic bishops and some Protestant pastors were objecting loudly. Still, the authors note, "The killing of the disabled continued unabated in Poland and the occupied Soviet Union where public opinion did not matter. Even inside Germany where the murder of disabled children had not been stopped, the murder of disabled adults soon resumed. But henceforth they were killed in selected state hospitals through starvation, overdoses of medication, or deadly injections. As these killings occurred in regular hospitals and were spread over a longer period of time, public knowledge was limited and popular opposition was muted." Eventually some of the doctors and technicians involved in the T4 Operation against the disabled graduated to bigger and better things, meaning bigger and better gas chambers and crematoria at the huge death camps. Yet killings of the helpless at various locations went on until the end of the war.

Of course there are significant differences between the killing programs of Nazi Germany and neo-pagan America — comparisons which are unfavorable to America. For instance, while the Nazi hierarchy enthusiastically endorsed abortion for the slave races, the implementation of abortion in Germany never approximated the size of the abortion industry in modern America. Also, the current prevalent philosophy that recreational abortions are somehow an "inalienable right" goes far beyond anything in the Nazi creed. Regarding euthanasia, at the present time there is not an organized T4 style program directed by an all-powerful Fuhrer, but a catch-as-catch-can game whereby any soulless dunce in judicial robes may order the execution of the innocent disabled without trial. There is absolutely no constitutional basis for this but many Americans have deluded themselves into believing it and so the judges act with impunity.

The other primary difference is the abject failure of the modern Catholic Church bureaucracy to speak and act counter-culturally. The moral miasma enveloping the bishops and most of the priesthood is a far cry from the Church under Pius XII in the 1940s. Over the weeks that Terri, a Catholic woman, lay starved by the government, the bishops spoke out against executing even the vilest criminals yet dummied up about the agonizing torture/murder being carried on every news channel 24 hours a day. The ambiguous statements from a scant few bishops were so tepid that even the pro-death crowd didn't seem to mind.

On another of those days that Terri lay dying by minutes, Sean O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, was harangued by local women and a "feminist theologian" to wash their feet. Ever a courageous shepherd, he asked Rome for a ruling, got a "do whatever feels right" answer from the seat of authority and of course did the wrong thing. Now what if O'Malley, rather than scour the feet of the local harpies, instead followed the example of his brother Franciscan, Maximillian Kolbe? Kolbe, like Terri, was tortured by starvation, he in the "Hunger Bunkers" of Auschwitz. His serenity over several weeks unnerved his Nazi captors to the point that they finally finished him off with carbolic acid. If Kolbe was a Franciscan bishop in America today, would he do as Sean did or would he go to Terri's bed of pain to wash her feet? Very likely. Would he cower before the truncheons and whips of the police? Fear the spit and curses of the ACLU? Not likely.

The lies and drivel about Terri's killing will never end. Let's be emphatic about the truth. Terri was murdered; murdered because a lawless judge, an execrable lawyer and a whoring husband wanted her dead. Her killing was a crime against humanity just as surely as if she had been a victim of Hitler's extermination sanatoriums. Her body, like those unfortunates, is to be incinerated in a crematory oven.

In America, the New Order is here and there are few people interested in arresting its progress. Catholics should be most concerned but comparatively few are. All too many bishops and priests are primarily interested in pursuing their pleasures wherever and with whomever they can find them. The laity are too fixated on twanging banjoes and wailing "Kumbaya" to hear the screams, or in Terri's case, the moans of the state's victims. A few good people did speak out this time but there won't be as many next time and the process of eradicating "useless eaters" and "life unworthy of life" will get easier and easier. So you see, the way from Hadamar to Woodlawn hospice, Pinellas Park, Florida is really a very short road indeed.


Steve O'Brien is a history professor and writes the Biography Department for The Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition. He is also the author of Blackrobe in Blue: The Naval Chaplaincy of John P. Foley, S.J. 1942-1946, available at

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