March 12, 2009 / 6:22 PM / 10 years ago

New exhibition shows Nazi killing of handicapped

Picture shows a general view of the Glass Courtyard at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, in this file photo from September 20, 2007. REUTERS/Juedisches Museum Berlin/Jens Ziehe

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - An exhibition opened at the Jewish Museum in Berlin on Thursday which shows how the Nazis persecuted and killed thousands of mentally and physically handicapped people.

In their attempt to free Germany of its “human ballast,” the Nazis enforced sterilization on around 400,000 people until the end of World War Two, and in Germany and Austria alone, over 210,000 handicapped and mentally ill were murdered.

“The systematic killing and forced sterilization can be seen as the beginning of the Holocaust by the Nazis,” said Cilly Kugelmann, programme director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

The museum features propaganda posters and films which encouraged healthy mothers to have more children and warned them against mingling with “sick” people.

The exhibition also shows how numerous psychiatric patients died as a result of medical trials by the Nazis.

“My father had a limping leg and some trembling in his hands as a result of a serious fever when he was 17,” said 75-year-old Helmut Bader, who attended the opening.

“He was mentally 100 percent stable, but they took him away to a psychiatric clinic and later killed him with gas,” Bader said, adding he was three years old when his father was murdered.

The exhibition also explains Nazi methods to measure and recognize what they considered inferior people, including anthropological studies, measure manuals and various skulls.

Reporting by Franziska Scheven, editing by Paul Casciato

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