Hitler's First Victims

Beth Griech-Polelle
Historian Beth Griech-Polelle examines Nazi Germany’s chilling prelude to Auschwitz and other notorious death camps: forced sterilization of the mentally and physically disabled and the use of gas chambers and crematoriums to murder tens of thousands under the guise of euthanasia.
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Reception: 
6 pm
Program: 
6:30 pm

Before opening Auschwitz and other notorious death camps, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi German adherents carried out a grim and deadly prelude. In an effort to eliminate the mentally and physically disabled, they subjected hundreds of thousands to forced sterilization and killed tens of thousands under the guise of euthanasia. The latter entailed the use of gas chambers disguised as showers and adjacent crematoriums for the burning of bodies.

Historian Beth Griech-Polelle examines those programs and the role that the “euthanasia” project, in particular, played in developing the technology employed later by the Nazis to murder large numbers of people with frightening efficiency.

Griech-Polelle is the Kurt Mayer Chair in Holocaust Studies in the Department of History at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and author of Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust: Language, Rhetoric and the Traditions of Hatred. It was released in January 2017.

The event, co-presented by the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, precedes International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. It commemorates the Allies’ liberation of more than 7,000 Auschwitz prisoners on that date in 1945.