Karl Brandt

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Karl Brandt
Karl Brandt SS-Arzt.jpg
Brandt as a defendant at the Doctors' trial
Born(1904-01-08)8 January 1904
Died2 June 1948(1948-06-02) (aged 44)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
OccupationPersonal physician of German dictator Adolf Hitler
Employer Adolf Hitler
Known forReich Commissioner for Health and Sanitation
Title SS-Gruppenführer in the Allgemeine SS /
SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS
Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party
Anni Rehborn (m. 1934)
ChildrenKarl Adolf Brandt (born 4 October 1935)

Karl Brandt (8 January 1904 – 2 June 1948) was a German physician and Schutzstaffel (SS) officer in Nazi Germany. Trained in surgery, Brandt joined the Nazi Party in 1932 and became Adolf Hitler's escort doctor in August 1934. [1] A member of Hitler's inner circle at the Berghof, he was selected by Philipp Bouhler, the head of Hitler's Chancellery, to administer the Aktion T4 euthanasia program. Brandt was later appointed the Reich Commissioner of Sanitation and Health (Bevollmächtigter für das Sanitäts- und Gesundheitswesen). Accused of involvement in human experimentation and other war crimes, Brandt was indicted in late 1946 and faced trial before a U.S. military tribunal along with 22 others in United States of America v. Karl Brandt, et al. He was convicted, sentenced to death, and later hanged on 2 June 1948. [2]

Physician professional who practices medicine

A physician, medical practitioner, medical doctor, or simply doctor, is a professional who practises medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments. Physicians may focus their practice on certain disease categories, types of patients, and methods of treatment—known as specialities—or they may assume responsibility for the provision of continuing and comprehensive medical care to individuals, families, and communities—known as general practice. Medical practice properly requires both a detailed knowledge of the academic disciplines, such as anatomy and physiology, underlying diseases and their treatment—the science of medicine—and also a decent competence in its applied practice—the art or craft of medicine.

<i>Schutzstaffel</i> Major paramilitary organization of Nazi Germany

The Schutzstaffel was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in Nazi Germany, and later throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II. It began with a small guard unit known as the Saal-Schutz made up of NSDAP volunteers to provide security for party meetings in Munich. In 1925, Heinrich Himmler joined the unit, which had by then been reformed and given its final name. Under his direction (1929–45) it grew from a small paramilitary formation to one of the most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany. From 1929 until the regime's collapse in 1945, the SS was the foremost agency of security, surveillance, and terror within Germany and German-occupied Europe.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.


Early life

Brandt was born in Mulhouse in the then German Alsace-Lorraine territory (now in Haut-Rhin, France) into the family of a Prussian Army officer. [3] He became a medical doctor and surgeon in 1928, specializing in head and spinal injuries. [4] He joined the Nazi Party in January 1932, and first met Hitler in the summer of 1932. [5] He became a member of the SA in 1933 and a member of the SS on 29 July 1934; appointed the officer rank of Untersturmführer . [5] From the summer of 1934 forward, he was Hitler's "escort physician". Karl Brandt married Anni Rehborn (born 1907), a champion swimmer, on 17 March 1934. They had one son, Karl Adolf Brandt (born 4 October 1935).

Mulhouse Subprefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Mulhouse is a city and commune in eastern France, close to the Swiss and German borders.

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Alsace-Lorraine Territory created by the German Empire in 1871

The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871, after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle department of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east of the Vosges Mountains. The Lorraine section was in the upper Moselle valley to the north of the Vosges.

Career in Nazi Germany

In the context of the 1933 Nazi law Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses (Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring), Brandt was one of the medical scientists who performed abortions in great numbers on women deemed genetically disordered, mentally or physically handicapped or racially deficient, or whose unborn fetuses were expected to develop such genetic "defects". These abortions had been legalized, as long as no healthy Aryan fetuses were aborted. [6]

Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring or "Sterilisation Law" was a statute in Nazi Germany enacted on July 14, 1933, which allowed the compulsory sterilisation of any citizen who in the opinion of a "Genetic Health Court" suffered from a list of alleged genetic disorders – many of which were not, in fact, genetic. The elaborate interpretive commentary on the law was written by three dominant figures in the racial hygiene movement: Ernst Rüdin, Arthur Gütt and the lawyer Falk Ruttke. The law itself was based on a 'model' American law developed by Harry H. Laughlin.

Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it can survive outside the uterus. An abortion that occurs without intervention is known as a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. When deliberate steps are taken to end a pregnancy, it is called an induced abortion, or less frequently "induced miscarriage". The unmodified word abortion generally refers to an induced abortion. A similar procedure after the fetus has potential to survive outside the womb is known as a "late termination of pregnancy" or less accurately as a "late term abortion".

The Aryan race is a racial grouping that emerged in the period of the late 19th century and mid-20th century to describe people of Indo-European heritage.

On 1 September 1939, Brandt was appointed by Hitler co-head of the Aktion T4 euthanasia program, with Philipp Bouhler. [7] Additional power was afforded Brandt when on 28 July 1942, he was appointed Commissioner of Sanitation and Health (Bevollmächtigter für das Sanitäts- und Gesundheitswesen) by Hitler and was thereafter only bound by the Führer's instructions. [8] He received regular promotions in the SS; by April 1944, Brandt was a SS- Gruppenführer in the Allgemeine SS and a SS- Brigadeführer in the Waffen-SS. [2] On 16 April 1945, he was arrested by the Gestapo for moving his family out of Berlin so they could surrender to American forces. Brandt was condemned to death by a military court and then sent to Kiel. [5] He was released from arrest by order of Karl Dönitz on 2 May. He was placed under arrest by the British on 23 May.

<i>Aktion T4</i> Nazi Germanys "euthanasia programme" with 275,000–300,000 victims

Aktion T4 was a postwar name for mass murder through involuntary euthanasia in Nazi Germany. The name T4 is an abbreviation of Tiergartenstraße 4, a street address of the Chancellery department set up in the spring of 1940, in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, which recruited and paid personnel associated with T4. Certain German physicians were authorised to select patients "deemed incurably sick, after most critical medical examination" and then administer to them a "mercy death". In October 1939, Adolf Hitler signed a "euthanasia note", backdated to 1 September 1939, which authorised his physician Karl Brandt and Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler to implement the programme.

Philipp Bouhler German general

Philipp Bouhler was a senior Nazi Party functionary who was both a Reichsleiter and Chief of the Chancellery of the Führer of the NSDAP. He was also the SS official responsible for the Aktion T4 euthanasia program that killed more than 250,000 handicapped adults and children in Nazi Germany, as well as co-initiator of Aktion 14f13, also called "Sonderbehandlung", that killed 15,000–20,000 concentration camp prisoners.


Gruppenführer was an early paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party (NSDAP), first created in 1925 as a senior rank of the SA. Since then, the term Gruppenführer is also used for leaders of groups/teams of the police, fire departments, military and several other organizations.

Brandt's medical ethics

Brandt's medical ethics, particularly regarding euthanasia, were influenced by Alfred Hoche, whose courses he attended. Like many other German doctors of the period, Brandt came to believe that the health of society as a whole should take precedence over that of its individual members. Because society was viewed as an organism that had to be cured, its weakest, most invalid and incurable members were only parts that should be removed. Such hapless creatures should therefore be granted a "merciful death" (Gnadentod). [9] In addition to these considerations, Brandt's explanation at his trial for his criminal actions – particularly ordering experimentation on human beings – was that "... Any personal code of ethics must give way to the total character of the war". [2] Historian Horst Freyhofer asserts that, in the absence of at least Brandt's "tacit" approval, it is highly unlikely that the grotesque and cruel medical experiments for which the Nazi doctors are infamous, could have been performed. [10] Brandt and Hitler discussed multiple killing techniques during the initial planning of the euthanasia program, during which Hitler asked Brandt, "which is the most humane way?" Brandt suggested the use of carbon monoxide gas, to which Hitler gave his approval. Hitler instructed Brandt to get in touch with other physicians and begin to coordinate the mass killings. [11]

Alfred Hoche German psychiatrist

Alfred Erich Hoche was a German psychiatrist well known for his writings about eugenics and euthanasia.

Life in the inner circle

Brandt at right, following Hitler and Martin Bormann Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H0422-0502-001, Berlin, Beisetzung Oberst Werner Molders.jpg
Brandt at right, following Hitler and Martin Bormann

Karl Brandt and his wife Anni were members of Hitler's inner circle at Berchtesgaden where Hitler maintained his private residence known as the Berghof. [2] This very exclusive group functioned as Hitler's de facto family circle. It included Eva Braun, Albert Speer, his wife Margarete, Theodor Morell, Martin Bormann, Hitler's photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's adjutants and his secretaries. Brandt and Hitler's chief architect Albert Speer were good friends as the two shared technocratic dispositions about their work. Brandt looked at killing "useless eaters" and the handicapped as a means to an end, namely since it was in the interest of public health. Similarly, Speer viewed the use of concentration camp labor for his defense and building projects in much the same way. [12] As members of this inner circle, the Brandts had a residence near the Berghof and spent considerable time there when Hitler was present. In his memoirs, Speer described the numbing lifestyle of Hitler's inner circle, forced to stay up most of the night listening to the insomniac Nazi leader's repetitive monologues or to an unvarying selection of music. Despite Brandt's closeness to Hitler, the dictator was furious when he learned shortly before the end of the war that the doctor had sent Anni and their son toward the American lines in hopes of evading capture by the Russians. [2] Only the intervention of Heinrich Himmler, Speer, and the direct order of Admiral Doenitz after Brandt had been captured by the Gestapo and sent to Kiel in the war's closing days, saved him from execution. [2]

Berchtesgaden Place in Bavaria, Germany

Berchtesgaden is a municipality in the Bavarian Alps of southeastern Germany. It is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km (19 mi) south of Salzburg and 180 km (110 mi) southeast of Munich. To the south of the city, Berchtesgaden National Park stretches along three parallel valleys.

Eva Braun Longtime companion and later wife of Adolf Hitler

Eva Anna Paula Hitler was the longtime companion of Adolf Hitler and, for less than 40 hours, his wife. Braun met Hitler in Munich when she was a 17-year-old assistant and model for his personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann. She began seeing Hitler often about two years later. She attempted suicide twice during their early relationship. By 1936, she was a part of his household at the Berghof near Berchtesgaden and lived a sheltered life throughout World War II. Braun was a photographer, and she took many of the surviving colour photographs and films of Hitler. She was a key figure within Hitler's inner social circle, but did not attend public events with him until mid-1944, when her sister Gretl married Hermann Fegelein, the SS liaison officer on his staff.

Albert Speer Minister of Armaments and War Production in Nazi Germany

Albert Speer was the Minister of Armaments and War Production in Nazi Germany during most of World War II. A close ally of Adolf Hitler, he was convicted at the Nuremberg trials and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Trial and execution

Brandt on trial, 20 August 1947 Karl-Brandt.jpg
Brandt on trial, 20 August 1947

Brandt was tried along with twenty-two others at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany. The trial was officially titled United States of America v. Karl Brandt et al., but is more commonly referred to as the "Doctors' Trial"; it began on 9 December 1946. He was charged with four counts:

  1. Conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity as described in counts 2 and 3;
  2. War crimes: performing medical experiments, without the subjects' consent, on prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, in the course of which experiments the defendants committed murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts. Also planning and performing the mass murder of prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, stigmatized as aged, insane, incurably ill, deformed, and so on, by gas, lethal injections, and diverse other means in nursing homes, hospitals, and asylums during the Euthanasia Program and participating in the mass murder of concentration camp inmates;
  3. Crimes against humanity: committing crimes described under count 2 also on German nationals;
  4. Membership in a criminal organization, the SS. The charges against him included special responsibility for, and participation in, Freezing, Malaria, LOST Gas, Sulfanilamide, Bone, Muscle and Nerve Regeneration and Bone Transplantation, Sea-Water, Epidemic Jaundice, Sterilization, and Typhus Experiments. [13]

After a defence led by Robert Servatius, on 19 August 1947, Brandt was found guilty on counts 2-4 of the indictment. With six others, he was sentenced to death by hanging, and all were executed at Landsberg Prison on 2 June 1948. [2] Nine other defendants received prison terms of between fifteen years and life, while a further seven were found not guilty. [14]

While on the gallows, Brandt remarked: "It is no shame to stand upon the scaffold. This is nothing but political revenge. I have served my Fatherland as others before me ..." His speech was cut short when a black hood was placed over his head. [15]

See also


  1. Ben-Amos, Batsheva. "Karl Brandt: The Nazi Doctor. Medicine and Power in the Third Reich (review)" . Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Hamilton 1984, p. 138.
  3. Schmidt: Hitlers Arzt, Berlin 2009, ISBN   978-3-351-02671-4
  4. Lifton, Robert Jay (1986). The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. United States: Basic Books. p. 114. ISBN   0-465-04905-2 . Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  5. 1 2 3 Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 296.
  6. 1935: Das Gesetz zur Änderung des Gesetzes zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses Archived 2012-02-10 at the Wayback Machine führt eine von der nationalsozialistischen Haltung zu Eugenik und Sterilisation motivierte Option auf Schwangerschaftsabbruch bei einer zu Sterilisierenden (Sechs-Monats-Fristenregelung) ein. Formale Bedingung für eine straffreie Abtreibung war unter anderem die "Einwilligung der Schwangeren"; in der Praxis dürften die Wünsche und Vorbehalte von als "minderwertig" definierten Frauen allerdings oft missachtet worden sein.
  7. Thompson, D.: The Nazi Euthanasia Program , Axis History Forum, March 14, 2004. URL last accessed April 24, 2006.
  8. Götz Aly, Peter Chroust, and Christian Pross, eds., Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), p. 76.
  9. Lifton (1986). The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, p. 64
  10. Horst Freyhofer, Nuremberg Medical Trial (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2004), 51.
  11. NARA, RG 238: Interrogation of Karl Brandt, 1 October 1945 p.m., p. 7. As found in Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution by Henry Friedlander (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), p. 86.
  12. Lifton, (1986) The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, p. 115.
  13. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the United States Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, 15 vols. See vol 1 and 2, Karl Brandt: The Medical Case (Washington DC: National Archives and Records Service, 1951-1952).
  14. "Nuremberg Tribunal Indictments" (PDF). U.S. Library of Congress.
  15. Annas, George J. (1995). The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code. United States: Oxford University Press. p. 106. ISBN   0-19-507042-9 . Retrieved 2015-03-03.

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