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14 July 1933: Sterilisation of Germans with disabilities

On 14 July 1933, just a few months after the Nazi Party’s rise to power, a law was put into effect which allowed for the forced sterilisation of Germans with physical or mental health conditions assumed to be hereditary.

Propaganda against disabled people. Image: © USHMM

The Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases included conditions such as deafness, schizophrenia, epilepsy, ‘feeblemindedness’, blindness, severe hereditary physical deformity and severe alcoholism.

This was one of the Nazis’ first steps in attempting to ‘protect the racial integrity’ of the German nation.

Some deaf and disabled people were subject to forced sterilisation and abortion and many were murdered by medical professionals in the T4 Euthanasia programme which saw approximately 200,000 disabled children and adults killed in specially created gas chambers.

The Nazis targeted a range of people they regarded to be untermenschen (sub-human) and subjected them to a variety of measures including imprisonment, forced sterilisation and murder.