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?