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Death and Deliverance: 'Euthanasia' in Germany, c.1900 to 1945 Paperback – January 27, 1995

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From Kirkus Reviews

A chilling documentation of what happened in Germany when the Nazis seized power and put their ideas on eugenics and euthanasia into action. Burleigh (International History/London School of Economics; coauthor, The Racial State, not reviewed) points out that the Nazi program began with a humanitarian rationalization: Mentally and physically disabled children were subject to ``mercy killing'' as a form of deliverance. Soon, however, ``mercy killing'' evolved into the elimination of ``life unworthy of life'' as the Nazi killing machine expanded to include more and more victims, and as political, legal, moral, and religious opposition was quashed by the fear of reprisals and totalitarian power. Burleigh demonstrates how Nazi eugenics perverted German medicine and science: Scientists approved the sterilization of some 400,000 people between 1934 and 1945 to eradicate ``degenerative heredity'' in order to ``improve the race.'' Doctors, particularly psychiatrists, were encouraged to falsify medical records, give lethal injections, starve patients, and use other creative means of murder while ignoring the age-old dictum of the physician, ``Do no harm.'' Burleigh also details how asylum populations were decimated as managers, bureaucrats, lawyers, doctors, nurses, and other professionals, corrupted by monetary awards and promotions, played their parts in the Nazi murder industry. Daily killings became routine as Nazi propagandists extolled social Darwinism. Burleigh describes how victims were targeted, including Jews, foreigners, enemies of the Reich, gypsies, and those who lacked ``labor values.'' Occasional accounts of humanity brighten the grim story, as medical Schindlers saved patients from death by listing them as valuable workers who were badly needed. After the war, some of the Nazi eugenicists, tried at Nuremberg and in German courts, were executed, while others received light sentences. Most melted into the general population under new identities. A notable contribution to the history of Nazi Germany--and a sobering reminder of what can happen when the claims of science, bureaucracy, and expertise go unchallenged. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Indictment is brilliantly combined with memorial ... he restores personality to individuals deemed unworthy of life. History writing is rarely this moving, or so admirably, effectively moralistic.' David Cesarani, The Guardian

'Everyone ought to read it ... It is difficult to believe that this account could be improved upon ... '. Anthony Storr, The Times

'Death and Deliverance is humane, tough-minded, thoroughly researched, and breaks new ground in some neglected areas ... the book is refreshinlgy free of intellectual jargon and cant without over-simplifying the isues involved.' Jeremy Noakes, University of Exeter

'Starkly written and impressively researched, it focuses on the lives of the victims, the administrators and medical personnel, and on public repsonses. This is a distinguished historical contribution.' Paul Weindling, University of Oxford

'This is the most illuminating discussion of the Nazi 'euthanasia' programme yet published. The thorough documentation and chilling quotations bring out the extent of the complicity of the medical profession, and the extent to which the programme was ideologically driven. It is also a powerful study of the way propaganda can make the unthinkable seem normal. The 'euthanasia' programme is too little known, and the lessons to be learnt from this book are important.' Jonathan Glover, University of Oxford

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First edition. edition (January 27, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521477697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521477697
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,361,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Burleigh is the author of Blood and Rage, Earthly Powers, Sacred Causes, and The Third Reich, for which he was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 1997
Format: Paperback
An extraordinary and deeply moving book. Burleigh documents in meticulous and scholarly detail the mass murder of psychiatric patients, and exposes the obscene justification of this as "mercy killing" (incidentally providing a fascinating and horrifying survey of the way in which the Nazi "euthanasia" program helped create the bureaucratic machinery later used to run the concentration camps). Instead of allowing the sheer weight of numbers to render the victims anonymous, he uses haunting photographs and details of some of the murdered adults and children to "bring them to life" and make vivid the humanity which the Nazis were unable to see. Anyone interested in the rights of the mentally handicapped and mentally ill should read this book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kate on September 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Difficult to read, but important as so many books covering this period tend to focus on the 'Final Solution' and ignore the 70,000+ who were killed because of their mental disorders, birth defects, congenital malformations and diseases and injuries that resulted in loss of productivity. This text is important because it lays out the historical factors that lead first to the eugenics movements and Germany's eventual sterilization policies which were bolstered by the forced sterilization policies in the U.S. and moved toward the 'life unfit for life' philosophy that was being intellectually discussed by both the right and left leaning philosophers, to the eventual killing through starvation, injection and gassing of people held in asylums and hospitals.
These policies did not happen merely because of the madness of the National Socialist Policies, but in a intellectual debate on what it is to be human which was being held across national boundaries, whose arguments supported the ideas of the Nazi Party on genetic superiority, and the purification of the volk that would make up the Germany of the future.
The methods and the secrecy of these systematic killings did not come from demands on high, as the some histories would have one believe, with participants acting in fear of their lives and under duress.
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By Catherine Klimenkov on August 20, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A long and painful book very academic book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Winifred Hinson on June 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The best English language book available on Nazi euthansia...Burleigh's ironic style and meticulous research make a difficult subject a pageturner...
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