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While it is well known that the Nazi war machine included the systematic annihilation of millions of Jews in gas chambers, both portable and structural, few people are aware that it also included a program of euthanasia for tens of thousands of disabled individuals, both Jews and non-Jews. The Nazi euthanasia program is an example of discrimination and racism as social policy and was instrumental in carrying out Adolf Hitler's plan for developing a superior race - one that eliminated the Jews as well as the mentally and physically disabled from the German population. Although totals vary from one report to the next, some estimates suggest that as many as 120,000 infants, children and adults with physical and mental disabilities were put to death under the Nazi euthanasia program. In most cases, the individuals targeted for euthanasia were those who were already institutionalized however once the euthanasia program became public knowledge in Germany, there were cases where non-institutionalized people with physical and mental disabilities were identified or reported to authorities by others. It is important to note that it was not intended for the public at large to be responsible for the identification of physically and mentally challenged individuals. On the contrary, most of those individuals targeted for the Nazi euthanasia program were identified by German psychiatrists and administrators of mental institutions who were recruited or required to participate.
Nazi Purification Research
Many people were persecuted in Nazi Germany for many different reasons. Under Hitler, the Nazi regime transformed social and political issues, like those embodied by the following:
- The Jewish population
- Asocial behavior and sexual deviance
- Biological problems
In Hitler's view, homosexuals, Jews, the Sinti and Roma, ethnic minorities, psychiatric patients and hereditary ill people threatened the well being of the German people. The Nazis treated these people like fatal diseases that could only be cured through racial purification. And this cure was administered through coercive sterilization, euthanasia, segregation, and concentration for supposedly 'hygienic' reasons, to direct medical killing and genocide.
The above description of Hitler's rationalization for so-called racial purification is in direct opposition to every ideal discussed in The Republic, including justice and freedom. First, most of those who were targeted by the Nazi Party were German citizens and therefore they were due certain justice from the state, for according to Plato. Plato contends that justice is the virtue "that makes the growth of other virtues possible in the political body and, while it is present, it is their salvation" (Plato). In other words, if a state is not just, it cannot experience the other virtues necessary for the establishment of a Platonic Republic.