14 Murder by Starvation

The mass killing at Steinhof 1940-45
14.1 List of victims from Hamburg
14.2 Hans Bertha
14.3 Leonardo Conti and Karl Brandt
14.4 Statistics on transports from Mönchen-Gladbach
14.5 Letter suggesting deportation of mentally sick
14.6 Letter concerning a transport from Hamburg
14.7 Excerpt from Steinhof's death registry
14.8 Electroshock device
14.9 Dr. Emil Gelny

After the termination of the 'T4 Programme' in 1941, euthanasia was continued in individual institutions until 1945. Above all, it was the Wagner von Jauregg-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt 'Am Steinhof' which developed into a centre of organized mass killing in the Vienna region. The clinic was overcrowded, understaffed and the patients neglected. Added to this was a scarcity of drugs and food and the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, dysentery and typhoid. The combination of hunger and infectious diseases proved particularly disastrous.

Victims of these conditions were mostly those patients who were brought to Steinhof in collective transports from institutions in the Rhineland and Hamburg. The intensification of Allied air raids was taken as a reason to evacuate clinics and sanatoria in endangered areas. But in fact the transfers only served to disguise the increasing rate of patient mortality. Of the 550 patients transferred to Vienna-Steinhof from Hamburg, Bad Kreuznach and Mönchengladbach, more than 450 died by the end of 1945; this corresponds to a death rate of over 80%.

Between 1941 and 1945 more than 3,500 patients fell victim to the organized mass mortality at Steinhof. Euthanasia was intensified, particularly, under the leadership of the committed National Socialist Dr. Hans Bertha, who became director of the institution in 1944: the mortality rate rose from 13.9% (1941) to 22.14% (1944) and reached its climax at 42.76% in 1945.

Institutional killing carried out on the initiative of doctors in individual institutions did not only occur at Steinhof; in other Austrian clinics too, drugs, injections, withdrawal of food, etc. served as a means to murder. An especially brutal policy reigned in the Lower Austrian clinics at Gugging and Mauer-Öhling, where Dr. Emil Gelny, provisional director since 1943, killed almost 600 patients single-handedly, for instance by means of a specially constructed electric-shock device.