On July 6, I already had cause to add to the pastoral letter the
following explanation: for some months we have been hearing reports
that, on the orders of Berlin, patients from mental asylums who have
been ill for a long time and may appear incurable, are being
compulsorily removed. Then, after a short time, the relatives are
regularly informed that the corpse has been burnt and the ashes can
be delivered. There is a general suspicion verging on certainty,
that these numerous unexpected deaths of mentally ill people do not
occur of themselves but are deliberately brought about, that the
doctrine is being followed, according to which one may destroy
so-called 'worthless life,' that is, kill innocent people if one
considers that their lives are of no further value for the nation
and the state.
I am reliably informed that lists are also being drawn up in the
asylums of the province of Westphalia as well of those patients who
are to be taken away as so-called 'unproductive national comrades'
and shortly to be killed. The first transport left the Marienthal
institution near Münster during this past week.
German men and women, section 211 of the Reich Penal Code is still
valid. It states: 'He who deliberately kills another person will be
punished by death for murder if the killing is premeditated.'
Those patients who are destined to be killed are transported away
from home to a distant asylum presumably in order to protect those
who deliberately kill those poor people, members of our families,
from this legal punishment. Some illness is then given as the cause
of death. Since the corpse has been burnt straight away, the
relatives and also the criminal police are unable to establish
whether the illness really occurred and what the cause of death was.
However, I have been assured that the Reich Interior Ministry and
the office of the Reich Doctors' Leader, Dr. Conti, make no bones
about the fact that in reality a large number of mentally ill people
in Germany have been deliberately killed and more will be killed in
The Penal Code lays down in section 139: 'He who receives credible
information concerning the intention to commit a crime against life
and neglects to alert the authorities or the person who is
threatened in time...will be punished.'
When I learned of the intention to transport patients from
Marienthal in order to kill them, I brought a formal charge at the
State Court in Münster and with the Police President in Münster by
means of a registered letter which read as follows: "According to
information which I have received, in the course of this week a
large number of patients from the Marienthal Provincial Asylum near
Münster are to be transported to the Eichberg asylum as so-called
'unproductive national comrades' and will then soon be deliberately
killed, as is generally believed has occurred with such transports
from other asylums. Since such an action is not only contrary to the
moral laws of God and Nature but also is punishable with death as
murder under section 211 of the Penal Code, I hereby bring a charge
in accordance with my duty under section 139 of the Penal Code, and
request you to provide immediate protection for the national
comrades threatened in this way by taking action against those
agencies who are intending their removal and murder, and that you
inform me of the steps that have been taken."
I have received no news concerning intervention by the Prosecutor's
Office or by the police...Thus we must assume that the poor helpless
patients will soon be killed.
For what reason?
Not because they have committed a crime worthy of death. Not because
they attacked their nurses or orderlies so that the latter had no
other choice but to use legitimate force to defend their lives
against their attackers. Those are cases where, in addition to the
killing of an armed enemy in a just war, the use of force to the
point of killing is allowed and is often required.
No, it is not for such reasons that these unfortunate patients must
die but rather because, in the opinion of some department, on the
testimony of some commission, they have become 'worthless life'
because according to this testimony they are 'unproductive national
comrades.' The argument goes: they can no longer produce
commodities, they are like an old machine that no longer works, they
are like an old horse which has become incurably lame, they are like
a cow which no longer gives milk.
What does one do with such an old machine? It is thrown on the scrap
heap. What does one do with a lame horse, with such an unproductive
No, I do not want to continue the comparison to the end--however
fearful the justification for it and the symbolic force of it are.
We are not dealing with machines, horses and cows whose only
function is to serve mankind, to produce goods for man. One may
smash them, one may slaughter them as soon as they no longer fulfil
No, we are dealing with human beings, our fellow human beings, our
brothers and sisters. With poor people, sick people, if you like
But have they for that reason forfeited the right to life?
Have you, have I the right to live only so long as we are
productive, so long as we are recognized by others as productive?
If you establish and apply the principle that you can kill
'unproductive' fellow human beings then woe betide us all when we
become old and frail! If one is allowed to kill the unproductive
people then woe betide the invalids who have used up, sacrificed and
lost their health and strength in the productive process. If one is
allowed forcibly to remove one's unproductive fellow human beings
then woe betide loyal soldiers who return to the homeland seriously
disabled, as cripples, as invalids. If it is once accepted that
people have the right to kill 'unproductive' fellow humans--and even
if initially it only affects the poor defenseless mentally ill--then
as a matter of principle murder is permitted for all unproductive
people, in other words for the incurably sick, the people who have
become invalids through labor and war, for us all when we become
old, frail and therefore unproductive.
Then, it is only necessary for some secret edict to order that the
method developed for the mentally ill should be extended to other
'unproductive' people, that it should be applied to those suffering
from incurable lung disease, to the elderly who are frail or
invalids, to the severely disabled soldiers. Then none of our lives
will be safe any more. Some commission can put us on the list of the
'unproductive,' who in their opinion have become worthless life. And
no police force will protect us and no court will investigate our
murder and give the murderer the punishment he deserves.
Who will be able to trust his doctor any more?
He may report his patient as 'unproductive' and receive instructions
to kill him. It is impossible to imagine the degree of moral
depravity, of general mistrust that would then spread even through
families if this dreadful doctrine is tolerated, accepted and
Woe to mankind, woe to our German nation if God's Holy Commandment
'Thou shalt not kill,' which God proclaimed on Mount Sinai amidst
thunder and lightning, which God our Creator inscribed in the
conscience of mankind from the very beginning, is not only broken,
but if this transgression is actually tolerated and permitted to go
Cardinal Clemens von Galen - August 3, 1941