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Werner Catel Nazi Professor of Neurology

Werner Catel (1894-1981), Nazi Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Leipzig, was one of three doctors considered an expert on the programme of euthanasia for children and participated in the T-4 Program for the Nazis, the other two being Hans Heinze and Ernst Wentzler. He was also tied to Hellmuth Unger.

Life of Werner Catel

After the war he took charge of the Mammolshöhe Children's Mental Home near Kronberg, where he continued to rally for the euthanasia of children deemed beyond hope. In 1949 he was found to have committed no grave crimes by a denazification board in Hamburg, and became attached to the University of Kiel in 1954. There was talk after his death in 1981, of establishing a Werner Catel Foundation with $200,000 of unclaimed money left after his death, but the idea was finally dismissed in 1984.

Euthanasia during the National Socialist regime

One documented case in which Catel was involved took place in 1938. A father identified only as 'Kressler' or 'Knauer' requested Catel's permission to euthanize one of his children, currently in the University's care, who had been born blind and deformed; Catel deferred the matter and suggested the father write directly to Hitler for permission - and Hitler subsequently sent Dr. Karl Brandt to confer with Catel and decide on a course of action. On July 25, 1939 the child was killed.

Euthanasia after the Second World War

The fall of the NS regime also meant the end of the T 4 euthanasia program. The T 4 program was influenced by a popular book written in 1920 by Alfred Hoche and Karl Binding. Catel as part of this program was surely influenced by it too. In his 1962 publication, "Grenzsituation des Lebens" (Border situations of life), Catel argued for the reintroduction of euthanasia. As had Binding and Hoche, Catel identified three possible types of euthanasia.

  • Reine Euthanasie:

"Real" euthanasia was seen as the killing of a person who was suffering from so much pain, that an ever increasing amount of pain reducing drugs had to be administered. This consequently lead to the person's death.

  • Euthanasie im engeren Sinne:

The killing of a patient whose illness "according to medical experience" is so bad "that there is no hope of recovery", but whose death is also not to be expected in the near future. (See terminal sedation)

  • Euthanasie im weiteren Sinne:

The "extermination of the life of an "idiot child" or an adult in a similar condition. Catel defined "idiot children" as being "such monsters ... which are nothing but a massa carnis" (Martin Luther), have no personality or spiritual soul (Guardini), are unable to make decisions (Thomas More) or are unable to communicate with their surroundings.(Alfred Hoche)

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