May 2nd - Day of Remembrance and Resistance
International Commemoration 2004
A video of the event in Bernburg:
Press reports / Presseberichte:
Neues Deutschland, May 4: English / Deutsch
Frankfurter Rundschau, May 22: English / Deutsch
Psychminded Britain: English
Yediot Achronot: English /
May 2, 2004: IAAPA erects a memorial glass plaque in the crematorium next to the gas shower at the Bernburg Psychiatric Institution to honor the victims of psychiatry. The following is the text, which appears in four languages: English, German, Hebrew and Polish to symbolize the nationalities of the first victims of the murders
Gathering here from the whole planet we dedicate this memorial plaque to the memory of all those murdered by doctors and psychiatrists in Germany, Austria and Poland from 1939 to 1948.
A psychiatric diagnosis was their death verdict.
Remembering these past victims, we are aware that even today state supported coercive psychiatric laws and practices violate human rights worldwide.
Our struggle will continue until all members of the human family enjoy their basic rights to life, liberty and human dignity.
Photo: Hagai Aviel
Photo: Hagai Aviel
BERNBURG PSYCHIATRIC INSTITUTION CELLAR PLAN
Photo: Roman Breier
Photo: Hagai Aviel
This 2nd of May is the 6th anniversary of the Verdict of the Foucault Tribunal, where for the first time psychiatry was put on a public trial by those it persecuted.
The idea to devote a day to Remembrance and Resistance which was first initiated in Berlin, became later a national event and since last year it was taken up by groups world wide.
Today we are here in the memorial site of the Bernburg psychiatric institution, Germany, next to the gas shower. This is one of the six psychiatric institutions where in 1940 the killing factory by German medical doctors began.
From 1940 - 1941 groups of psychiatric prisoners from various institutions, and from 1941 until 1943 groups of jews from concentrations camps who were selected by medical professionals, were brought to this hospital to be exterminated.
The medical doctors were the missing link between psychiatric discrimination and racial ideology to the genocide from 1939 to 1948. This was a radical biologicalization of politics: the denying of the legal status of "human being" from certain groups in society based on medical-biological grounds. The aim of the medical doctors was to cut off any future of their victims, first in a violent penetration into the body by forced sterilization and humiliating them by declaring them "biologically unfit", and than accelerating the process by mass murder in gas showers.
Our aim in this event is to use memory as an active tool in constructing the moral of oppressed groups in their struggle for regaining human rights and human dignity, and by that to forge a link between us, living human rights activists, and the murdered victims of psychiatry.
If memory should be allowed to be used only as an obscene peephole into a chamber of horror it will serve to hide the guilt of the perpetrators and the continuing denial of the victims dignity. This "remembrance serves in order to forget".
We ask for five minutes of silence.
May 2, 2004. In memory of the medical mass murder in Germany under National Socialism, a bouquet of flowers was laid on the T4 memorial placque and a minute of silence was held.
Photo: Graeme Becque
Photo: Graeme Becque
The memorial in Toronto for the victims of eugenic mass murder in Germany, was very simple and well attended, considering the weather and short notice. Even though it was blustery and had been raining heavily all morning, there were 14 people there. This included several people whom Ididn't know before, but who had heard about the event through email and public announcements, as well as a passerby who stopped and joined us in remembering our brothers and sisters who were murdered because of their
The Toronto event was held in front of the Cenotaph in downtown Toronto at Old City Hall, which is where the November 11 Remembrance Day events are always held every year. Fortunately, the rain was in between downpours when our memorial was held. Graeme took photos of the event and Don brought his tape recorder to preserve it on tape.
Shortly after 12 Noon the memorial began with the reading of the statement which the International Association Against Psychiatric Assault composed and plans to have placed next to the Bernburg killing centre in Germany. Then, the statement which members of Psychiatric Survivor Archives, Toronto composed and approved for this memorial was read out. (It was posted on this list-serve on April 23.) Copies of the PSAT statement were handed out to participants and to a few passersby. A minute of silence was observed at
the conclusion of this statement. Then, white carnations and daisy flowers were placed below the stone cenotaph inscription "1939-1945".
The statement below, written by two members of Psychiatric Survivor Archives-Toronto
PSAT Statement for the International Commemoration for the Victims of Eugenic Mass Murder Toronto May 2, 2004, 12:00 noon in front of Old City Hall, War Cenotaph
"Well, are you again looking for new victims, you mass murderers?" These words were spoken by a female psychiatric patient to a group of doctors who were involved in the eugenic mass murder campaign in Nazi Germany between 1939-1945. At Noon on May 2, 2004 there will be a gathering in Toronto in front of the Cenotaph at Old City Hall in downtown Toronto as part of the International Commemoration of the Victims of Eugenic Mass Murder. This memorial is taking place in Germany, Holland, Chicago and Toronto to remember those people who perished because of their diagnostic label in a society which viewed them with contempt. We will gather to remember these victims of eugenics policies and urge vigilance against the poisonous hatred that gave rise to their murders, malignant ideas which did not die with the Third Reich.
Between 1939-45, at least 200,000 men, women and children were murdered due to eugenic policies first promoted by medical professionals who received the active support of the of the German state. The victims were psychiatric patients and people with developmental and physical disabilities.
Ideas, which led to this barbaric eugenics policy, did not originate in the mind of Adolf Hitler. Instead, he supported what others had been promoting long before his assumption of power. Doctors and political activists on both the left and right in Germany, the United States and Canada, among other countries, publicly supported the forcible sterilization and, in some cases, outright murder, of people with disabilities. Leading psychiatrists, such as Canadian C.K. Clarke (1857-1924), expressed their support for eugenics long before the Nazi period saw the most draconian application of these ideas anywhere in the world. Indeed, in 1942, after the eugenic mass
murders had commenced and became known inside and outside of Germany, the "American Journal of Psychiatry" published the views of psychiatrist Foster Kennedy who advocated the murder of so-called "defective" children. In an editorial, the APA journal fully supported his murderous ideas. By this time, eugenics practices had a long history outside of Germany.
Legislation, first in Indiana in 1907 and eventually in 30 states, saw the passing of sterilization laws with at least 60,000 victims in the United States over the next six decades. Alberta (1928) and British Columbia (1933) also passed eugenics laws with approximately 3,000 people sterilized in both provinces combined, by the early 1970s. Eugenic mass murder did not take place in North America as it did in Nazi Germany. But the ideas, which led to the killings in Germany, had, as its inspiration, the writings and legal advocacy of leading members of the medical, judicial and political elite in North America and Germany long before the Nazis came to power.
Psychiatrists, especially professors of psychiatry and psychiatric department heads, played leading roles in planning and dministering the eugenic mass murder program. The first people targeted in the systematic mass killing of specific groups of people under Hitler were disabled children and psychiatric patients. Most victims were murdered in 6 German-psychiatric "killing centres": Hadamar, Hartheim, Grafenek. Sonnenstein, Brandenburg, and Bernburg. The method of killing in Nazi Germany included gassing, injections, starvation and various other forms of abuse. The murderers were doctors, nurses and attendants who were not ordered to carry out this policy but did so as willing volunteers. Historians have shown that there was no coercion by Nazi officials of hospital staff to kill people with disabilities. These clinical murderers viewed psychiatric patients and people with developmental disabilities as "life unworthy of life". This policy was first implemented with the compulsory sterilization law of July 1933, introduced less than six months after Hitler assumed power in Germany. Forced sterilization was eventually imposed on up to 400,000 Germans who were categorized as having mental and physical disabilities.
Between 1939-1941, 70,000-80,000 people were murdered in gas chambers in mental institutions in Germany. They were targeted as "worthless" members of society. These eugenic victims were the first to die in gas chambers under Nazi rule. The murderers who established this method of killing people in asylums would proceed to transfer their barbaric "expertise" to the death camps of Poland where the Jews of Europe became their primary victims. From 1941-45 other methods of murder besides gassing were employed on people in mental institutions. An unknown number of psychiatric patients and people with developmental disabilities were also murdered in Eastern Europe in the wake of German invasions. Only a few of the medical murderers were ever punished during the post-war period.
There are people who still think the world would be better off without psychiatric patients or people with disabilities, including psychiatrists who search for a "gene" for schizophrenia, for example. There is a direct link between these ideas and the eugenic ideas from the early 20th century where people believed to have supposedly "defective" hereditary traits are viewed as a "burden" on society.
Today, May 2, 2004, we join in remembering all victims of eugenics mass murder in Nazi Germany. Above all else, we recognize these men, women and child victims of eugenics policies as HUMAN BEINGS whose life and memory are as valuable and cherished as that of all victims of tyranny during this terrible period in world history. Just as is said of the six million Jews, and millions of others, such as Roma people, homosexuals, and Slavs, we say in regard to psychiatric patients and all people with disabilities who were murdered under the Nazis and their accomplices: "Never Again!"
Please take one minute of silence to remember the 200,000 victims of eugenics mass murder between 1939-1945.
Psychiatric Survivor Archives, Toronto
see photos at: http://psat.0catch.com/may2
This is the third year of ICC-EMM's memorials. The first memorials were held in December of 2002 and the second in May 2003. Discouraged by lack of support I was almost not going to hold a memorial this year, but you folks who prepared memorial activities in Chicago and Toronto, and of course Hagai and René in Germany, encouraged me to go through with it.
I requested a permit for Museum Square like the previous times. At the last minute on Thursday (as Friday, April 30 is a national holiday, the queen's birthday) City Hall phoned and told me that the permit was rescinded due to construction work on Museum Square. Heineken Square was recommended instead. I agreed, but moved the date to May 3 as Heineken Square is deserted on Sundays.
Heineken Square is behind the Heineken brewery, which today is used only to usher around groups of tourists. It is near the crowded Albert Cuyp Street market. Cuyp was a painter. Almost all of the streets in this part of town are named after famous painters. When a decade ago Heineken Square was totally renovated, the city fathers were faced with a dilemma. They had to give the square a new name. A city ordinance required all new streets and squares to be named after women, but they realized that no matter what they named it, people would continue calling it Heineken Square. The problem was solved by the discovery that brewer Heineken had a female cousin whose last name was also Heineken, and who painted. Nobody I know knows her first name or has any idea what she painted or where such a painting might be viewed.
Having totally failed to attract attention the previous times, this year I prepared a black poster with white letters that read: 'They were people too. Who will commemorate them?' In Dutch it's a near rhyme. The poster did the trick. Curious people came up to me and asked who these people were. Only one person admitted to not knowing anything about this sorry history. Several people rightly connected it to headline news of the past week. Politicians have proposed making a law requiring mildly mentally disabled people, who according to them are the most problematic because they live in the community like normal people, to 'be advised' that they shouldn't have children. One woman who works in a nursing home discussed the Dutch euthanasia law, which she supports. A very young woman related the good news that she was taught about the T4 program in school. One man complained that the war was a long time ago (though he himself must have already been born at the time) and the memorials should stop. There was also somebody who said he thought the murders were a good idea, and he wished Amsterdam would likewise be cleaned up of its undesirables. Such unpleasantry is part and parcel of activism.
Mira de Vries
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