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    Involuntary sterilization in Germany from 1933 to 1945 and some consequences for today.

    Pfafflin F; Gross J

    International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. 1982; 5(3-4):419-23.

    An examination of the aftermath of the law, passed by the German Reichstag in 1933 and providing for the involuntary sterilization of persons with hereditary disease, lead the authors to the conclusion that the tradition that gave rise to the Nazi movement continues into the present but in a more sublimated form. The Law on the Prevention of Hereditary Diseases in Future Generations mandated the sterilization of persons with inborn mental deficiences, schizophrenia, manic-depressive insanity, epilepsy, Huntington's disease, hereditary blindness or deafness, and severe physical deformities. The courts frequently extended the law to include gypsies, alcoholics and other persons defined as antisocial. As a result of nonpublic hearings in specially designated Heredity Health Courts, presided over by a judge and 2 medical experts, it was estimated that 200,000-350,000 persons were involuntarily serilized between 1933-1945. In 1945 the law was repealed, but unlike other Nazi legislation this law was viewed as having been lawfully enacted and orders issued under the law remained valid. retrials could be obtained by the victims, but the retrials determined only whether the legal provisions of the 1933 law had been met. Many victims do not seek retrials because they are ashamed of being sterilized and branded as having a hereditary disease. In recent years, compensations have been awarded to the victims but only if they are willing to come forward and apply. The medical and psychiatric experts are still caught up in the same thought patterns that brought the law into reality as evidenced by their willingess to develop retrial reports using criteria from the 1933 law. Furthermore, when the authors sought access to the case files one of te Heredity Health Courts in Hamburg, they were refused permission for 2 years despite their willingness to protect the identity of victims. The authors attributed these difficulties to the fear of exposure by experts and judges who were involved in these cases. The authors no have access to the files and are examining the cases. Their findings will be reported at a later date.
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