UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Ballast existences" : the disabled, Jews and Nazi genocide Mitchell Nielsen, Jill


This thesis examines the social construction of disability in the Third Reich and the interrelationship between Nazi euthanasia and the Holocaust through a comparative analysis of the historiography and using key theories from the field of disability studies. I argue that constructions of disability form an essential part of the creation of a Nazi philosophy that sought to alter fundamentally and irrevocably the biological and racial makeup of Europe. The bio-racial philosophy of the Third Reich had its origins in the eugenics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and the early development of racial hygiene precepts. Eugenics and racial hygiene were radicalized under Nazi rule to create a philosophy that was hyper-concerned with the blood purity of the German Volk. This ideology was implemented first with a program of euthanasia (Aktion T4). The genocide of the disabled was, in many ways, prototypical to the development of the Final Solution. A comparative analysis shows that there were overlapping phases in the genocide of the disabled and the Holocaust, particularly with respect to the killing of the Jewish mentally ill, the targeting of mentally ill patients in the East, Aktion 14f13 and the construction of the death camps, particularly during Aktion Reinhardt.

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