It beggars belief that the leader of the free world and the world’s policeman, the President of the United States, thinks that torture is not a bad thing. On the campaign trail he insisted several times that torture works and that even if it didn’t “they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.”
Now that he is in office, however, Mr Trump seems to be having a two-way bet. While personally in favour of waterboarding, he is deferring to the opinion of his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, a tough and experienced soldier, who says that it does not work. In this way, he keeps faith both with voters who want him to be tough on terrorism and voters who want him to rebuild the military.
So the upshot of this week’s confusing news about a draft executive order from the President permitting “enhanced interrogation” techniques is that no one really knows what he believes. But it is an ominous sign that Mr Trump’s moral compass is so weak that he resiles from repudiating torture, keeping it in reserve as a potential vote-winner. In a civilised society which respects human dignity, torture should be absolutely unthinkable.
Under Aktion T-4, people were gassed or given a lethal injection and cremated since 1939 in six killing facilities in Germany and Austria. This helped the Nazi regime to refine its system for processing millions, rather than just thousands of victims.
During the ceremony, a few relatives of victims related their stories. A philosopher, Hartmut Traub, narrated the story of his 27-year-old uncle Benjamin, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which had virtually became a death sentence in Nazi Germany. In 1941 he was taken on an “outing” with 60 other inmates of a mental institution to Hadamar where they were executed with carbon monoxide. Gold teeth and the brains of more interesting “specimens” were removed. "For six months, the dark clouds from the crematorium hung over the city, plainly visible for all to see," said Hartmut Traub.
After the war many families tried to repress the stories of their murdered relatives. "For a long time, the euthanasia victims were the forgotten victims," Maike Rotzoll, Deputy Director of the Institute for the History and Ethics of Medicine in Halle, told Deutsche Welle. "That's why it's enormously important for us that this ceremony took place in the Bundestag. I think it's also enormously important for the relatives, who experienced the topic being taboo for so many years, to be allowed to speak and for this group of victims to be honoured in this way."
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