The “killing nurses” or “murderous nurses” of the Third Reich were a group of German nurses who actively participated in the Nazi euthanasia program, also known as “Aktion T4.” The program was designed to exterminate individuals who were deemed “unfit” or “life unworthy of life,” including the elderly, disabled, mentally ill, and others who were deemed a burden on society.
Many nurses who participated in this program had been trained as traditional nurses and were seen to be caring for society. However, the Nazi regime’s propaganda and indoctrination convinced them that they were doing a noble duty by killing those who were seen as a drain on resources and a burden on society.
The nurses’ role in the euthanasia program varied. Others played supportive roles such as helping with transportation or handling paperwork. Some nurses who participated in this program were promoted into higher positions.
Although the exact number of nurses who participated in this program is unknown it is believed that there were thousands. Some of the most notorious killing nurses include Herta Oberheuser, who conducted medical experiments on female prisoners at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, and Irma Grese, known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz,” who was responsible for the murder of numerous prisoners at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Many of these nurses, after the war were tried and found guilty for their crimes. Others received long prison terms, and some received the death sentence. The legacy of the killing nurses of the Third Reich serves as a stark reminder of how easily individuals can be convinced to participate in heinous acts under the guise of “duty” or “obedience.”