The head of Belgium’s euthanasia oversight commission, Dr Wim Distelmans, will lead a study tour of Auschwitz in October. Since Dr Distelmans is also Belgium’s leading promoter of euthanasia and its leading practitioner, the tour has already generated some criticism.
Dr Distelmans explains in a brochure that Auschwitz is a symbol of everything that Belgian euthanasia is not: “This site is an inspiring venue for organizing a seminar and reflecting on these issues so that we can consider and clarify confusions.”
However, euthanasia opponents have described the initiative as “shocking”. Writing in MercatorNet, Tom Mortier, from Belgium, and Kevin Fitzpatrick, a British disability activist, observe that Distelmans has finally achieved what they have never done – associating euthanasia with Nazi atrocities.
Dr Distelmans appears to have suffered a severe lapse of judgement. If, hypothetically, an Association of American State Prisons Executioners were to organise a holiday tour of Auschwitz with their wives and partners, staying at an expensive hotel and winding up an exhausting day at one of the best restaurants in Krakow (as Dr Distelmans and his fellow travellers will be doing), would there not be an uproar? What experience would they have gained there? Quicker ways of gassing prisoners? More efficient ways of administering lethal injections? Less painful ways of withdrawing nutrition and hydration? No doubt even their friends and admirers would question their eagerness to be “inspired” at a venue so steeped in horror.
It is widely acknowledged that the Nazi euthanasia program was a trial run for the death camps. It began in 1939 with the mercy killing of a severely disabled child. By the end of World War II, 5,000 sick and “idiot” children had received the blessing of a mercy killing. This experience was so fruitful that it grew into the T4 program for the mercy killing of chronically ill and disabled adults. There were so many of these that Hitler’s mercy killing technicians invented the gas chambers which proved so effective at Auschwitz.
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