Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tiergartenstrasse 4

On my heart today.....
Cemetary at Hadamar Killing Center

Tiergartenstrasse 4, also known as "T4", was Hitler's solution to ridding society of those "unworthy of life", "useless eaters".  Those with defective genes which caused, among a long list of diagnoses, such things as mental illness, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome.

Most of us are familiar with these actions taken during Hitler's reign, but many are not familiar with WHERE these things happened. The entire Balkan region including Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia), Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, etc.,  was included in these murderous acts.

During T4, the "useless eaters" were housed in institutions, hidden away from society. During Hitler's reign, nearly 200,000 people who fit Hitler's description were murdered either by gas or lethal injection. Stalin also took part in genocide, including warehousing and starving to death those with any visible or diagnosable disability. He was a "pitiless mass murderer", according to Norman M. Naimark.

It is this history, what Stalin and Hitler left behind, that causes the same warehousing of those with disabilities in the Balkans that we see today. These ideologies are deep seated in the lawmakers of today. Oppression can take centuries to overcome, and the oppression of Eastern Europe is very recent. Heck, it hasn't even ended in some areas!

I think these are important things to remember about the region. When I go into orphanages and institutions, I try my very best to keep my emotions in check, and remember some of the staff who is working in these facilities has been taught that this is how "these" are treated. Not all facilities are this way. There are some managed by directors who are forward thinking, where staff is trained in therapy techniques, and genuine caring for the residents is seen.

In the coming weeks I will be in several facilities. The level of care received by the residents will vary greatly. Some good, some very bad. Lord, you alone have lead me here for a reason. I stand in awe of you. I ask you to please protect my heart. Let the memories of what I see, the very memories that will sear deep wounds in my spirit, let them serve a purpose for your greater good. Open my heart to those who are most offensive to me; show me how to pray for them. Let me not forget. Give me the strength to share my experiences with wisdom and understanding.  Give me the words to paint a picture of both the horror and the beauty. For there is beauty. Let me find it.


My Girls R Angels said...

Praying along with you, Leah! :)

Melissa said...

I will be praying for you. I can only imagine how hard, and amazing, of an experience you will have.

Difference2This1 said...

Awful :(

Prayers for you on this trip....


Tamara said...

I was thinking of this very thing last night. I just finished reading Zoo Station by David Downing. And it made me realize how similar to Nazi Germany these attitudes are. Except that I read this morning that the people of Germany actually stood up against T4 - unlike the attempted extermination of Jewish people - and he stopped the T4 program. Made me wonder what would have happened had someone stood up for the Jews. And made me wonder how many would have died in T4 if they hadn't. The rate they were murdering children and adults with disabilities was incredible.