Suspected victims of Nazi euthanasia found in Austria

Austria announced plans to exhume graves containing the remains of 220 suspected victims of Nazi Germany's infamous euthanasia programme yesterday after building workers unearthed a mass of human bones in the grounds of a psychiatric hospital.

The discovery of what are thought to be some of the last hidden graves containing the remains of the tens of thousands of mentally and physically disabled people murdered by the Nazis, was made by workers digging up a yard in the grounds of a hospital in Hall, in the Austrian Tyrol, on Monday.

Officials were shocked by the discovery. Tyrol's governor, Günther Platter, said he was "deeply shaken" and pledged to set up a commission of experts to investigate. "There can be no cover-up. This dark chapter in our history must now be thoroughly examined," he said.

Tilak, the state-owned construction firm whose workers stumbled across the remains, said an initial examination of the graves by experts had established that they contained the remains of people buried between 1942 and 1945. "There are suspicions that the dead were at least partially victims of the Nazi euthanasia programme," the company said in a statement.

The hidden graveyard was discovered close to the psychiatric department of the hospital in Hall, where no recent digging work had been undertaken. All construction work was halted yesterday to allow the investigation to be carried out. "We owe this to the victims and their relatives," Mr Platter said. He said the exhumation of the remains would start in March to give the frozen ground time to thaw.

Historians said the graves were located in a former hospital cemetery that had been abandoned after the Second World War.

It had been previously assumed that Schloss Hartheim – a psychiatric clinic near Linz where 30,000 patients were murdered – was the only hospital in Austria to practise euthanasia.

Nazi Germany launched its euthanasia project in 1939 in an attempt to rid the so-called Master Race of those deemed "unworthy of life". An estimated 275,000 men, women and children with mental or physical disabilities were systematically murdered under the programme. Several euthanasia practitioners went on to run Nazi death camps.

The project had its headquarters in Berlin's Charitable Foundation for Cure and Institutional Care and was run by Philipp Bouhler, the head of Adolf Hitler's private Chancellery, and Dr Karl Brandt, the Nazi leader's personal physician.

Doctors, midwives and nurses throughout the Third Reich were compelled to inform the authorities of all newborn children displaying the symptoms of severe disabilities or hereditary diseases. Thousands of handicapped adults and children were held in psychiatric clinics, where they were murdered by staff, who either starved their charges to death or injected them with poison. Relatives then received letters of condolence, faked death certificates and urns containing the victims' ashes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Sport
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
football
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas