Austria to exhume possible Nazi-era mass grave at psych hospital
January 5th, 2011
01:13 PM ET

Austria to exhume possible Nazi-era mass grave at psych hospital

Austrian officials plan to exhume a mass grave near a psychiatric hospital that could contain victims of the Nazis' so-called euthanasia program.

Officials in the western Austrian city of Hall told UPI that they will begin digging in March, when the ground thaws. The process could take two years.

The Irish Times reported that construction workers at the hospital, about 6 miles east of Innsbruck, found 220 decomposed bodies while they were excavating the site for a new building.

Though Christian Haring, a director at the hospital, which is still in operation, told the Times it was unclear whether all the bodies were of euthanasia victims, historian Oliver Seifert told UPI that the bodies were buried between 1942 and 1945.

Seifert further told the Guardian in London that the death rate of patients at the hospital spiked toward the end of World War II, even though the hospital was not officially included in the Third Reich’s euthanasia program.

“We know that murder was actively carried out at other psychiatric institutions, by overdosing patients, neglect or undernourishment,” Seifert told the newspaper.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum says Adolf Hitler’s attending physicians “began to organize a secret killing operation targeting disabled children” in 1939. It was broadened to include disabled adults later that year, the center says.

The program was officially discontinued after an outcry from the public and church officials, but the Times reported that the practice continued unofficially until the war ended.

Experts told the Times that as many as 200,000 people – many of them physically or mentally disabled – are estimated to have been killed.

Hartheim Castle near Linz was occupied Austria’s most notorious euthanasia facility, the site of an estimated 30,000 killings, the newspaper reported.

Scientists exhuming the bodies in Hall will try to determine the identity and cause of death for each victim, and the hospital is asking anyone who believes their relatives are among the victims to come forward.

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Filed under: Austria • Crime • Germany • Human rights • War
soundoff (249 Responses)
  1. Bull

    The Third Reich at War by Richard J.Evans.It gives good detail about these programs.At the time,VERY little was said by anybody , no big outcry . If a person said too much,it was off to a camp they went. If the church said too much,they would be a target.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      Actually, there was an outcry and they did suspend the program (officially anyway).

      January 5, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      Thank you for the book recommendation. For the past month, to give me a proper perspective of our current trying times, I have been reading about the Third Reich and the Holocaust from every viewpoint available (camp survivors from Germany, Poland, Romania; German Jewish citizens forced into hiding; the Jewish children sent to England; Simon Wiesenthal's post-war work to bring to justice the perpetrators; and so on). We are so fortunate, we need to sincerely count our blessings everyday.

      January 5, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • UUMMMM

      I would also recommend "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". Long book to read, but a good read as well.

      January 5, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      AmericanNightmare-just what are you saying? We should take correctly action against the Jews again? That what it sounds like.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      he was not a mad man? he was only a leader of angry people? - what logical person could have such an opinion. mass killing of disabled members of society does not make you a mad man? you probably don't end relationships very often, you seem to be a very understanding person...

      January 5, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lorne

      An excellent book...

      January 5, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • wolffie is good that you are reading about this period in history. As you read pay attention to how so many allowed themselves to be influenced by fear and propaganda; Hitler did not do it all on his own.

      January 5, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      Wolffie, that is the question. Hitler didn't do it alone, but had the eager help of sincere followers, some of whom exist even today, to judge from some of the comments made here. They ruthlessly eliminated all opposition, political and civilian, in order to enforce compliance. In fact (I just learned), they were the first to say, "You're either with us or against us," which is why there was a collective gasp when Geo. Bush said it after 9/11.

      January 5, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • skullnrose

      Nazis' "so-called" euthanasia program? What a news site like CNN is not sure it happened?

      January 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stop the madness

      Sad to think this happens in each generation. What's striking is that the Germans were educated more than most...but fear & revenge are powerful forces of influence. Everytime a leader comes to the head who says they have the answers then the followers follow. Enough!

      January 5, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oz

      The Nazi program to "euthanize" mentally retarded childred was give the code name "Operation T4" which refers to Tiergartenstrausse 4, the Berlin address of the Chancellory Headquarters assigned to this task. The actual number of victims is estimated at between 200,000 and 250,000. The Holocaust Museum in Washington has several exhibits devoted to this subject, but be warned that they are quite disturbing.

      January 5, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • OutPatient

      @skullnrose – I'm no fan of CNN and have no reason to defend what is usually their sloppy, shoddy reporting, but this time they're correct. The Merriam-Webster definition of euthanasia is "the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy." What the Nazis was simply murder, but they called it euthanasia..

      January 5, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Golberg

      I recommend the "holocaust industry" by Norman Finkelstein

      January 5, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barry

      If you think the books mentioned so far are scary read the National Socialist , NAZI , Manifesto and then read the USA Patriot Act. Except for a few words here and there they read almost identical to each other. Anybody that thinks we have a Free and open society in the United States should tell the rest of us where they get their drugs.

      January 5, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry M

      "Austrian officials plan to exhume a mass grave near a psychiatric hospital that could contain victims of the Nazis' so-called euthanasia program."

      Quoting CNN here, I am stunned to the core at the phrase above. SO-CALLED Nazi euthanasia program? Really CNN, I did not think I would find an article here that leads with the presumption that the Holocaust didn't happen. In other words, Holocaust Denial. And from a respected US news outlet–up till now.

      Disgraceful "journalism" CNN. I seriously doubt that CNN will share my post here, but I had to write it...

      January 7, 2011 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. Watch

    it's going to happen again.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • UUMMMM

      Watch: It has happened, look at Bosnia and Africa...the most recent.

      January 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sidewinder

      I hope you aren't counting Rwanda in your Africa comment. That tribal stuff is on such a different level. Not that it's okay, it's just really different when you get the voodoo involved.

      January 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stevelb1

      It happened in Cambodia and Bosnia since then too.

      January 5, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • LP

      Of course Rwanda is included in that. More than a million people were exterminated in that conflict. In the Bosnian conflict in the early 90s there were concentration camps and mass war crimes against women. It has happened again and it will continue to do so until men are no longer in charge.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • BrownAmerican

      JomoDaMusicMan is an idiot

      January 5, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Marlin

    wow.. your laughing at this? Seriously?

    Regardless, I wonder just what percentage of the central european population was killed by the butchers programs.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MikeT

    Fascism: The gift that just keeps on giving. I might be worth it to dig up all the Nazis that were hung at the end of WW II and hang them again each time something like this is found.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • specter

      Lets dig up the nazis from Nuremberg and turn their bones over to voodoo priests. that they may be cursed and enslaved by devils for all eternity.

      January 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ELB

      The Nazis tried at Numerburg were creamated and the ashes where scattered in secrete to prevent the graves from becomeing shrines.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • OhPinion

      Have rope, will travel.

      January 5, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    What the hell is wrong with you people? What is funny about any of this?

    January 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • suesark

      I absolutly agree! People are sick sometimes. Maybe it's maniacle laughter on their part because the truth of what happened is so horrifying they can't wrap their little pea-sized brains around it!

      January 5, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • webs

      I dont see anyone laughing.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • EvoDevo

      I don't see anyone laughing either. Get a grip!

      January 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • OutPatient

      @Chris - Here in the town where I live the schools are all back in session after the holidays, but it would seem from the juvenile tone of comments today that's not the case everywhere. Our schools may be lousy, but at least they keep a lot of the creeps off the street.

      January 5, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mfStrat

    A moment of silence, please, for those people. We can never cease to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bob Renaud

    To Yeah... You are an idiot !

    January 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • wjk

      if he is an idiot, what does that make you when you cannot even respond to a message correctly?

      January 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lee

    65 years on and just when you think you've seen the worst of the Nazis, you stand corrected...

    January 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dan in Colo

    The person laughing at this story probably would've been a euthanasia victim in that era.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Veritas

    We really dont know the extent of the atrocities of hitlers war. that some people doubt the holocaust is a sign that they are dillusional. It happened period. lets hope and pray it never happens again. there but for the grace of God....

    January 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      One way to make sure it doesn't happen again is to constant remind everyone what happened AND ITS HORRORS. This is why Blacks in American is always talking & complaining about SLAVERY. SO WE CAN STAND UP AND SAY IT LOUD, NEVER, NEVER, AGAIN

      January 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidMichael

      Slavery is alive and well and occurring in the U.S. among other countries. I don't hear much of an outcry.

      Let us all not forget that the number of people Stalin and Company killed dwarfs what Hitler did, when he dilled three times as many as Hitler. Why the seeming silence for that atrocity?

      January 5, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    This is so lame

    January 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Patrick

    A lot of these "hospitals" were a part of the Nazi's T4 program which was a secretive program designed for the "mercy-killings(and I use the term lightly) of undesireables – the mentally ill, physically handicapped etc. These "hospitals" were used to train or indoctrinate what would later be execution camp personnel including the mass death camps such as Sobibor and Belzec as well as the more well known concentration camps at Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen etc. In these hospitals "orderlies" would experiment with gas and lethal injections to determine which were most effective. Teh results from these programs then became part of the Nazi's systematic mass murder......
    God have mercy on the souls of the poor victims of these evil men & women

    January 5, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Quincy9

      When I think of it, visualize it, speak of it I have more tears than I ever thought that I had. My soul hurts and I'm ashamed of humanity. Ignorance and hate are, unfortunately, unique to humans. God forgive us all.

      January 5, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disaffected Ex-Lefty

      Patrick, you exemplify what is wrong with religion. First off all why would you ask "God" to have mercy on the souls of such evil people. I think Nazis are generally beyond even God's mercy. Second, why would you ask "God" (let alone trust him/her/it) for anything, as if "God" did so much to prevent those very same people from doing such awful things. Where was your damn "God" during the Third Reich?

      January 25, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Common Sense

    Who says they were mental patients?Being towards the end of the war 1942-45 more closely to 45 I think.They could be military or civilian graves from combat or air raids.The mentally ill were euthanized before the war or in the beginning and were cremated on site.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Marc

    And the greatest nightmare from history lives on...

    January 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ahmadinejad

    So maybe the holocaust existed after all. Oops.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • emigdio

      Mahmoud, is that you?

      January 5, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
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