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Philipp Bouhler (11 September 1899 - 19 May 1945) was a Nazi German government official, SS-Obergruppenführer, head of the Führer's Chancellery and leader of the euthanasia programme, the so-called Aktion T4.
Bouhler was born in Munich to a retired colonel and spent five years in the Royal Bavarian Cadet Corps. He took part in the First World War and was badly wounded. From 1919 to 1920, he studied philosophy for four semesters and in 1921 became a contributor in the publishing house that put out the Völkischer Beobachter. Already by autumn 1922 he had become second secretary of the NSDAP. After the failed Beerhall Putsch in Munich and the subsequent refounding of the Party in 1925, he became Reich Secretary of the NSDAP. After the seizure of power in 1933, he became Reich Leader and Member of the Reichstag for Westphalia.
One year later, Bouhler became Police Chairman of Munich, and only a month later, he was appointed head of Adolf Hitler's Chancellery, a post specially created on 17 November 1934 that was first and foremost set aside for Party business. In this job, for instance, secret decrees might be prepared, or internal business managed, before being brought before Adolf Hitler. Bouhler was moreover Chairman of the Official Party Inspection Commission for the Protection of National Socialist Literature (Official German title: Der Chef der Kanzlei des Führers und Vorsitzender der Parteiamtlische Prüfungskommission zum Schutze des NS-Schrifttums), which determined which writings were suitable for Nazi society, and which were not.
Bouhler's post was one of the internal communication points through which Hitler handled foreign agencies' awkward or personal tasks. He took care of letters from ordinary people containing requests for material help, godfatherhood, job procurement, clemency, readmittance to the NSDAP, or birthday wishes for Hitler. Furthermore, he was responsible for Hitler's private correspondence.
Besides that, lists and appraisals of German and Germany-based professors were compiled.
Bouhler was, however, also responsible for some especially thorny missions. The most important among these was the implementation of the euthanasia programme. For this, his job gave him manpower under his direct orders. First, mentally ill and physically handicapped people were murdered, and various methods of killing were tried out, for instance gassing. The first killing station was Schloss Hartheim in Upper Austria, which was expropriated in 1939 and redeveloped in 1940 as a killing centre for the southeast of the Reich.
Likewise, personnel and equipment for the death camps, in which Jews were to be gassed, were put in Poland. On 24 August 1941, on Hitler's orders, Bouhler had to bring the euthanasia programme into operation, as the overt pressure to do so became ever greater.
In 1942, Bouhler published the book "Napoleon - Kometenpfad eines Genies" ("Napoleon - A Genius's Cometary Path"), which would become Hitler's favourite reading. In the same year, 92 euthanasia programme associates were consulted for help with the so-called Aktion Reinhardt as they were considered specialists in killing for the industrialized annihilation of human beings. He also published a National Socialist publication Kampf für Deutschland (Fight for Germany) in 1938.
Bouhler, who himself always kept in the background, came to put the burden of the course of the war ever more on Hermann Göring. At the same time, this caused tension with Hitler's most trusted men, such as Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler. Among Göring's followers, it was thought that Bouhler, who had by now wound up in prison, should be sent to Dachau concentration camp after serving his sentence. On 19 May 1945, Bouhler killed himself.
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