71 years ago yesterday

I’m three and a quarter hours too late, but better late than never: I thought I’d commemorate the passing of one Mirjam Sara P., who was recorded as having died on May 27, 1941 as a result of the Nazis’ T4 Program. T4 targeted people with mental retardation, mental illness and/or various deformities and infirmities, and as many as 275,000 people may have died between 1939 and 1945.

Mirjam wasn’t mentally ill so much as a brat. Oh, and she was Jewish. She ran away from home repeatedly as an adolescent, lied to people, stole, couldn’t hold a job and didn’t do well in the numerous residential placements (in group homes, hospitals, etc.) they tried for her. She and her mom and stepfather moved from Germany to Palestine in 1933, when she was fifteen and already known as a handful. She caused so much trouble in Palestine that they had her deported back to Germany (!) in 1936, but that didn’t make her change her ways. She was jailed, then put in a mental hospital, which she escaped from only to find herself jailed again for petty theft. After her release she was carted off to the mental hospital again, then to one of the T4 death institutions.

I say she is “recorded as having died on May 27” because a lot of times the T4 places delayed reporting people’s deaths so they could continue to get money from the state for housing and feeding those people. I don’t know Mirjam’s last name. My sole source for the story was a book called One Life by Tom Lampert, and he just used the initial, presumably to protect her privacy and that of her family. In any case it’s a very sad story. Mirjam may not have been a terribly likable person but she didn’t deserve that kind of death.

I read in my history books about people who lived long ago, and I feel a moral obligation to make sure others know about them. Learn from history or find yourself repeating it, etc. Not too long ago I got into an argument in the comments section of an online magazine with a guy who said “R-persons” (meaning retarded people) and “autisms” (meaning those on the autistic spectrum) were “not human beings.” This guy wasn’t a troll, either. I checked his account on the website, and he was a regular commenter, and his comments were ordinary enough. I think he truly believed what he was saying. Just how slippery is the slope that leads from that kind of thinking to the actual construction of euthanasia centers?

2 thoughts on “71 years ago yesterday

  1. Kat May 28, 2012 / 8:01 pm

    It is pointless to argue with people online because it always escalates into who can yell louder to prove a point. I honestly think that everyone is entitled to whatever they want to say/believe. if it chafes someone else, I guess that comes with the territory. Drives me nuts on news sites when everyone has a viewpoint and the total set that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Knock yourselves out. If that is what you want to think, okies. Never heard of this case but there are others out there that message boards bring out the worst in people.

    • Meaghan May 28, 2012 / 8:09 pm

      The article the guy commented on was about an autistic child who was being abused by his special education teachers. They got away with it by saying “he’s autistic, you can’t believe a word he says” until Dad wired the kid and recorded the teachers saying horrible things to him.

      I know everyone is entitled to their opinion and to speak their opinion, but I also think everyone is entitled to try to change someone’s mind. If it wasn’t for efforts to change people’s minds about, say, slavery, we’d still be living in the moral twilight of slavery. Now just about everyone agrees slavery is an abomination, but for most of human history people found it acceptable.

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