It was probably inevitable that the T4 killing project would be extended to the concentration camps, but the program under which that was done, bearing the code name 14f13, has always been something of a mystery. From the standpoint of this study, we may view this program as a key means of linking the direct medical killing we have been discussing with the medicalized killing in the concentration camps - that is, linking the Nazi version of "euthanasia" with genocide.
When, due to growing public disquiet, the euthansia program was officially halted in August 1941, Operation 14 f 13 was not affected.
Mr. Willi Dressen, in his chapter on "Euthanasia" in the book Nazi Mass Murder: A Documentary History of the Use of Poison Gas, writes:
The process of picking out those concentration camp prisoners who were unfit for work began in the spring of 1941. This operation had been the subject of an agreement between Himmler and Bouhler. Because of the abominable living conditions in the concentration camps, more and more prisoners were falling ill. So as not to overburden the camps and to avoid causing undue unrest among the prisoners, T4, with its equipment and specialized personnel, was given the responsibility of getting rid of invalids. Bouhler informed Brack, who briefed T4 and saw to it that all the necessary measures were taken.
The operation aimed at eliminating the invalids was referred to by Himmler and the inspector of concentration camps as "special treatment 14 f 13." For security reasons, code words were used for the various ways in which concentration camp inmates died. The classifications were taken from the case notes used by the inspector's office. For example, cases of natural death were given the code "14 f 1"; suicides or accidental deaths "14 f 2"; being shot while trying to escape "14 f 3"; and execution "14 f I." In April 1941, by order of Himmler and under the code name "14 f 13," the "euthanasia" of prisoners - the "special treatment of sick or infirm prisoners" - began.
From the start of the operation the T4 organization regularly sent medical commissions to the camps to select and list prisoners for liquidation. Often prisoners in good health and fit for work were also put on the lists, if someone in authority was interested in getting rid of them. This was particularly true of Jewish prisoners. Declaration forms based on these lists were filled out by the camps and presented to the physicians of the T4 commission. The physicians sometimes saw the prisoners, depending on the case, but did not give them a thorough examination, and they indicated their decision with a cross in the box provided on the form.
Convoys of these 'invalid' prisoners would be sent to "convalescent camps" (as they were sometimes represented to the victims) such as Bernburg, Hartheim and Sonnenstein to be gassed with carbon monoxide.
If the Nazi Mass Murder book is anything to go by, the documentary evidence for the existence and operation of the 14 f 13 program is quite thin. Much of the evidence apparently comes from the trials of two German doctors; Dr. Mennecke, tried after the war in 1946, and Dr. Schumann, eventually brought to trial in 1970.
Two important documents which have survived are both interesting for the fact that they give instructions which seek to restrict the extent of the operation.
The first is a letter from the Inspector of Concentration Camp's Office, dated 26 March 1942 and sent to the commandants of all the camps, including Auschwitz:
A camp commandant's report [from Gross-Rosen] has made it known that of 51 prisoners selected for special treatment 14 f 13, 42 had "again become fit for work" after a certain time, so that it was no longer necessary to apply special treatment to them. This case clearly shows that the regulations were not observed at the time of the prisoners' selection. Only those categories of prisoners referred to in the regulations should be brought before the medical commission, particularly those who are no longer fit to work.
In order to accomplish the work loads assigned to the concentration camps, it it necessary to keep in the camp all prisoners who are fit for work. The camp commandants are asked to pay particular attention to this.
The other is the previously referred to April 1943 order sent on behalf of the WHVA by SS-Brigadefuhrer Gluecks:
"The Reichsführer SS and Chief of the German Police has decided after consultation, that in the future only mentally sick prisoners may be selected for action 14-F-13 by the medical commissions appointed for this purpose.
"All other prisoners incapable of working (tubercular cases, bedridden cripples, et cetera) are to be basically excepted from this action. Bedridden prisoners are to be drafted for suitable work which they can perform in bed.
"The order of the Reichsführer SS is to be obeyed strictly in the future.
"Therefore requests for fuel for this purpose are unnecessary."
It is claimed that a new phase of the program began on April 11 1944, when an order re-authorised the earlier practice of killing prisoners unfit for work. The selections, however, would now be carried out by the camp doctors themselves, doing away with the need for medical commissions. The ‘Hartheim “euthansia” facility became the sole destination for the ‘invalid transports’, with those at Bernburg and Sonnenstein having been closed down in 1943.
The number of prisoners who were killed during the history of the program is not known, but has been estimated in the region of 20,000. For Auschwitz, a definite figure is claimed: 575 prisoners were transferred to the Sonnestein facility on 28 July 1941.
Ms. Czech’s Calender for that day reads:
A special commission created on Himmler’s orders arrives at Auschwitz to select prisoners within the framework of the “Euthanasia Program” for the incurably ill, extended in 1940 to Jews and in the middle of 1941 to prisoners of concentration camps. The committee inspects all invalids, cripples, and chronically ill who have previously been chosen by the camp administration under the pretext of shifting them to another camp for easier work. One member of this special doctors’ committee is Dr. Horst Schumann, who has directed the Grafeneck Euthanasia Institute in Wurttemberg since August 1939 and, after its dissolution, served as director of a similar institution in Sonnenstein near Pirna. Most of the selected prisoners come from what was then called Block 15, the convalescent block, where sick and exhausted prisoners and those incapable of working are sent when an SS doctor no longer wants them to remain in the prisoners' infirmary. Some of these prisoners have registered voluntarily because of the rumor circulating in the camp that inmates chosen for this transport are to be transferred to a sanitorium. Altogether, 573 inmates, most of them Poles, are chosen. At the last moment, two German BV prisoners who have participated eagerly with the SS men in killing prisoners are added to the transport: Johann Siegruth (No. 26), the one-armed head Capo of the lumber yard, and Ernst Krankemann (No. 3210), the Block Senior of Block 11 and Capo in the road construction labor squad. Following Dr. Schumman's orders, the transport is sent to Sonnerstein under the direction of Roll Call Leader Franz Hossler. A report to Hoss that Hossler makes after his return states that the prisoners were gassed in a bathroom where carbon monoxide gas was introduced through the showerheads.
For this entry, reference is made to the Hoess trial, witness accounts, prisoner memoirs, and perhaps most importantly, to a record of a transport of 575 inmates to Dresden.