Memory & Action
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Memory & Action

Disability Awareness Month: Remembering the Nazis’ First Victims of Mass Murder

Robert Wagemann, a physically disabled Jehovah’s Witness child, sits on his hospital bed in Berlin, circa 1942–43. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Robert Wagemann

Robert Wagemann was just four years old when his mother overheard Nazi doctors discussing plans to kill him because of his shattered hip. German officials falsely claimed that Helene Melanie Lebel died from a mental health episode, but she was actually gassed because of her disability.

During World War II, some medical professionals murdered patients who threatened the Nazis’ ideal of a “pure” German race. Life was cut short for an estimated 250,000 people under this program. In this digital program, learn about the victims — and the perpetrators, who instead of protecting their patients, ended the lives of those with mental and physical disabilities.

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