Nurses' participation in the euthanasia programs of Nazi Germany

West J Nurs Res. 1999 Apr;21(2):246-63. doi: 10.1177/01939459922043749.


During the Nazi era, so-called euthanasia programs were established for handicapped and mentally ill children and adults. Organized killings of an estimated 70,000 German citizens took place at killing centers and in psychiatric institutions. Nurses were active participants; they intentionally killed more than 10,000 people in these involuntary euthanasia programs. After the war was over, most of the nurses were never punished for these crimes against humanity--although some nurses were tried along with the physicians they assisted. One such trial was of 14 nurses and was held in Munich in 1965. Although some of these nurses reported that they struggled with a guilty conscience, others did not see anything wrong with their actions, and they believed that they were releasing these patients from their suffering.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Euthanasia / history*
  • Germany
  • History of Nursing*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • National Socialism*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Political Systems / history*
  • Professional Misconduct*