- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

MENDEN, Germany — The skeletal remains of at least 51 persons — many of them children — have been unearthed, and authorities suspect some were killed by the Nazis because they were disabled and considered worthless by the regime.

Prosecutors, acting on a tip from an aging witness, have opened a murder investigation despite the difficulty of finding conclusive evidence more than 60 years after the end of World War II and the likelihood that those responsible are dead.

“As long as we have even the slightest indication that the children were victims of the Nazi euthanasia program, we will keep on investigating,” prosecutor Ulrich Maass said yesterday.

Forensic specialists have spent the past several days exhuming the remains in western Germany from a Roman Catholic cemetery in Menden’s Arnsberg district.

Twenty-two of the skeletons appeared to be of children ranging from newborns to 7-year-olds. Some showed signs of physical or mental disabilities, such as those associated with Down syndrome, he said.

Mr. Maass, a prosecutor at the Dortmund-based Central Office for Investigation of Nazi-era Crimes, said he had begun a criminal investigation for at least 22 counts of murder.

Others, including the 29 adults found in the grave, could have been killed in Allied bombing raids or in flooding after the British bombers known as the “dambusters” destroyed the dam in the Moehne Valley in 1943, he said.

Prosecutors hope that several witnesses will be able to help the case, including an elderly woman who worked during the war in the nearby Wickede-Wimbern Hospital where Mr. Maass suspects the children were killed.

“A hospital administrator and a doctor are also still alive,” he said.

According to the initial results of the investigation, the bodies were buried in two cemeteries in Menden between January 1944 and April 1945. In the chaos of the final months of the war, Mr. Maass said the hospital workers appeared to have given up regular burial in favor of hurriedly casting bodies into a mass grave.

About 200,000 people, many of them children, who were deemed unfit were killed under the Nazis as part of a vast Europe-wide program, according to the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

Karl Brandt, Adolf Hitler’s personal physician, led the program that was designed to purify the German race. Brandt was convicted along with other Nazi doctors at the Nuremberg trials after the war and executed.

According to Harald Jenner, a German historian, up to 8,000 minors died in facilities for the disabled between 1939 and 1945. Another estimated 70,000 disabled or mentally ill adults were deliberately killed under a secret Nazi program code-named T4 in specially established death camps in 1940-1941.

In 2005, remains thought to be of 34 Jews who died doing slave labor for the Nazis were found at an airfield near Stuttgart. The remains were reburied at the site for religious reasons.


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