On This Day … 01 September

Events

  • 1939 – Adolf Hitler signs an order to begin the systematic euthanasia of mentally ill and disabled people.
  • 2004 – Random Acts of Kindness Day (New Zealand).

Aktion T4

Aktion T4 was a postwar name for mass murder by involuntary euthanasia in Nazi Germany. The name T4 is an abbreviation of Tiergartenstraße 4, a street address of the Chancellery department set up in early 1940, in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, which recruited and paid personnel associated with T4. Certain German physicians were authorised to select patients “deemed incurably sick, after most critical medical examination” and then administer to them a “mercy death” (Gnadentod). In October 1939, Adolf Hitler signed a “euthanasia note”, backdated to 01 September 1939, which authorised his physician Karl Brandt and Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler to implement the programme.

The killings took place from September 1939 until the end of the war in 1945; from 275,000 to 300,000 people were killed in psychiatric hospitals in Germany and Austria, occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now the Czech Republic). The number of victims was originally recorded as 70,273 but this number has been increased by the discovery of victims listed in the archives of the former East Germany. About half of those killed were taken from church-run asylums, often with the approval of the Protestant or Catholic authorities of the institutions.

The Holy See announced on 02 December 1940 that the policy was contrary to divine law and that “the direct killing of an innocent person because of mental or physical defects is not allowed” but the declaration was not upheld by some Catholic authorities in Germany. In the summer of 1941, protests were led in Germany by the Bishop of Münster, Clemens von Galen, whose intervention led to “the strongest, most explicit and most widespread protest movement against any policy since the beginning of the Third Reich”, according to Richard J. Evans.

Several reasons have been suggested for the killings, including eugenics, racial hygiene, and saving money. Physicians in German and Austrian asylums continued many of the practices of Aktion T4 until the defeat of Germany in 1945, in spite of its official cessation in August 1941. The informal continuation of the policy led to 93,521 “beds emptied” by the end of 1941. Technology developed under Aktion T4 was taken over by the medical division of the Reich Interior Ministry, particularly the use of lethal gas to kill large numbers of people, along with the personnel of Aktion T4, who participated in Operation Reinhard. The programme was authorised by Hitler but the killings have since come to be viewed as murders in Germany. The number of people killed was about 200,000 in Germany and Austria, with about 100,000 victims in other European countries.

And now something slightly more positive.

Random Acts of Kindness Day

Random Acts of Kindness Day is a day to celebrate and encourage random acts of kindness.

“It’s just a day to celebrate kindness and the whole pay it forward mentality”, said Tracy Van Kalsbeek, executive director of the Stratford Perth Community Foundation, in 2016, where the day is celebrated on 04 November 4.

It is celebrated on 01 September in New Zealand and on 17 February in the US.

Background

  • The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK) was founded in 1995 in the US.
  • It is a non-profit headquartered in Denver, Colorado.
  • Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) day began in 2004 in New Zealand.

What is a Random Act of Kindness

A random act of kindness is a nonpremeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world.

Suggested Activities

  • Pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  • Buy extra at the grocery store and donate it to a food pantry.
  • Buy flowers for someone (postal worker, grocery store clerk, bus driver, etc.).
  • Help someone change a flat tire.
  • Post anonymous sticky notes with validating or uplifting messages around for people to find.
  • Compliment a colleague on their work.
  • Send an encouraging text to someone.
  • Take muffins to work.
  • Let a car into the traffic ahead of you.
  • Wash someone else’s car.
  • Take a gift to new neighbors and introduce yourself.
  • Pay the bus fare for the passenger behind you.

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