Nazi euphemisms

“Euphemisms are place-holders for important concepts. They may disguise a practice which one might abhor if it were given another name. In Nazi Germany …, euphemisms were used to desensitize physicians and society to the horrors of [the killing] program of euthanasia.” [4]

*this is a DRAFT – needs consistent formatting and editing*

14f13 Programm or Sonderbehandlung; code name for T4 after it went “wild” following its official end in 1941, expanded from killing mental patients to include political prisoners, Jews, Poles, Russians, military misfits and deserters, ‘gypsies, and habitual criminals [6]

Abbeförderung (‘dispatch, removal’); killing

abspritzen (‘hose down, sluice”, verb); to kill by injecting Phenol (carbolic acid) into the heart

Altgold jüdischer Herkunft (‘old gold from Jewish sources’); gold teeth extracted from ‘Euthanasie’ victims [4]

arbeitsscheu (‘avoiding work’ adj.); contrived diagnosis to justify killing

Asoziale (asocial people’); scum, socially marginalized: reason to kill

Asylierung (‘admission to asylum’); forced admission with contrived diagnosis  

Auslöschungsakt (‘act of extinguising’); killing

Erholungslager (‘convalescing camp’); facility with crematorium

Menschenhülsen (‘burned-out human husks’); worthless beings, reason to kill; see Binding & Hoche [3]

ausmerzen (‘eradicate, wipe out’); to kill; Dr. Karl Brandt: “Verglichen mit dem großen Sterben” in Stalingrad sei “alles andere Sterben klein” [1]

Ballastexistenzen (‘ballast-existences’); dead weight, wasted lives; reason to kill; see Binding & Hoche [3]

Befundbericht (‘case report’); report sent to Reichsausschuss in Berlin in preparation for killing patients

behandeln (‘to treat’); prescribing sleeping meds and reducing nourishment to hasten infections and death

Behandlungszimmer (‘doctor’s treatment room’); killing room

Bekanntmachungen (‘proclamations, public notices’); posted decrees and notifications, unauthorized removal of one was punishable by death

Brenner (‘burner’); crematorium workers 

desinfiziert (‘disinfected’); killed, example: “amtliche Statistik: Bis zum 1. September 1941 wurden desinfiziert: Personen: 70 723” [1]

drankommen “der kommt auch noch dran” (‘his turn’s coming’); next to die

Duschraum (‘shower facility’); tiled room with fake shower heads through which Carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, entered to kill assembled patients “die nach etwa einer Minute umkippten” [1]

eingeschläfert (‘put to sleep’); killed

Endlösung (‘final solution’), short for Endlösung der Judenfrage, ‘final solution to the Jewish question’, killing all Jews in what has become known as the Holocaust

Enterdungsaktion (‘exhuming action’); removal of bodies from mass graves to cover-up atrocities

Erbgesundheitsgericht (‘Hereditary Health Court’); determines whether or not to sterilize someone

Erbkrankheit (‘inherited illness’); diagnosis to justify killing

Erlass, Ermächtigung (‘authorization’); Hitler’s letter to establish a secret program of ‘mercy killing’ (Gnadentod

erfassen (‘capture, record, catch); round up adults not worth of living, including the mentally ill, alcoholics, asocials, long-term unemployed (so-called arbeitsscheue), etc.

Euthanasie (misuse of the term ‘euthanasia’, from the Greek ‘good death’)

Fettreste (‘fatty remains’); fat from human cadavers to be used in making soap

Forschungsvorhaben (‘scientific research project’) reason for removing victims’ brains

Gehirnpräparate (‘brain tissue’); children’s brains preserved and dissected for research, many still in storage and use well after 1945

geistige Umnachtung (‘mental derangement’); nebulous reason for killing

Gemeinnützige Krankentransport GmbH aka Gekrat or GeKraT (‘Charitable Bus Transport Co.’); cover name f r section responsible for the transport of sick and disabled persons to killing centres

Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Anstaltspflege (‘Charitable Foundation for Institutional Care’); cover name for the T4 program

Giftkur (‘a course of (poison) treatment); killing by poisoning [1]

Gnadentod (‘mercy killing’); expression used in Hitler’s secret authorization for program that came to be known as T4

Häftlings-Euthanasie (‘inmate euthanasia’); concentration camp inmates too sick and unable to work were sent to killing centres after 1941 [6]

Hauptamt II der Kanzlei des Führers (‘central office no. 2, part of Hitler’s chancellery’); cover name for T4 head office under Viktor Brack

Heilen durch Töten” (‘healing by killing’); Nazi doctrine

Heiler und Reiniger der arischen Menschheit (‘healer and cleanser of the Aryan Race’); accolade for Adolf Hitler in Naturärztliche Rundschau, 1936 [4]

Heizanlage (‘heating plant’); crematorium 

Hintertal; pseudonym of Reinhold Vorberg, director of Gekrat, working out of the Hitler’s chancellery; sentenced to 10 years prison in 1968 [2]

Hungerkost (‘hunger diet’); low-nutrient, consisting mainly of over-cooked vegetable broth, causing prolonged starvation

Inhalierraum (‘inhaling or nebulizer facility’); see Duschraum

Kinderfachabteilungen (‘pediatric wards’); killing centres for children

kriegsbedingte Massnahme (‘wartime measure’); reason given to relatives after patients had been transported to Totungsanstalten

lebensunwertes Leben (‘life not worth living’); reason to be killed; see Binding & Hoche [3]

Leichenpredigt (‘funeral sermon’); mock service during after-work staff party [1]

Liquidierung (‘liquidation’); killing

Medikament (‘prescribed medication’); often meant sleeping medication to cause slow death

Meldebogen (‘notification sheet’); disguised as statistical form, in fact individual death warrant on so-called medical grounds 

nachhelfen (‘to help along’): speeding up the dying process

nicht arbeitsfähig (‘unable to work’); sufficient reason to be killed

Idiotie (false diagnosis to justify killing)

nutzloser Esser (‘useless eater’); burdensome lives, reason to kill

Rassenhygiene (‘racial hygiene / purity’)

in Rauch auflösen (‘going up in smoke’); to be cremated 

Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft Heil- und Pflegeanstalten (“Reich collective for healing and care institutions’); cover name for organization responsible for the overall coordination of T4 program [6]

Reichsausschuß zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung von erb- und anlagebedingten schweren Leiden” (‘Reich authority for the scientific registration of patients suffering from inherited and congenital illnesses’); medical board which ruled on life and death without ever seeing the patients

Schizophrenie (fake diagnosis to justify killing)

Schlechtmeldungen (‘report of deterioration of health’); notes sent to family, timed to arrive after the patient’s death 

Sonderbehandlung, Spezialbehandlung (‘special treatment’); killing

Sonderbehandlungsanordnungen (‘special treatment arrangements’); rules to govern killing program

Sonderkost (‘special diet’), see Hungercost

Sonderstandesamt (‘special registry’); a civil registry office set up at T4 headquarter to issue false death certificates 

terminale Experimente (‘medical experiments with deadly outcome’)

T4 (‘Tiergartenstrasse 4’); code for ‘euthanasia’ program, derived from headquarters’ street address in Berlin

Tötungsanstalten (‘killing centres’); health care institutions functioning as clandestine extermination sites  

Tötungsmethode (‘killing method’); by injection, gassing, or starvation

Tötungsvorgang,  (‘killing process’); step-by-step procedure 

Trostbrief (‘letter of condolence); disguised death notice sent to relatives, often signed with fictitious doctor’s name

überzählige Insassen (‘surplus/redundant inmates’); sick concentration camp inmates sent to T4 killing centres; starting in 1941; occasionally referred to as Häftlings-Euthanasie or Invaliden-Aktion [6]

Unfruchtbarmachung (‘to make infertile’); involuntary sterilization

Untersuchung (‘medical examination’); patients transferred from concentration camps (so-called überzählige Insassen) were rarely examined by doctors; camp personnel could fabricate reasons for killing [6]

verlegt, Verlegung (‘evacuated, evacuation’); transport to killing centres

Vernichtung, Vernichtungspolitik (‘policy of destruction’); killing

von der Fortpflanzung ausschalten; vor der Fruchtbarkeit (‘to prevent procreation’); to kill before reaching child-bearing age 

Zentralstelle fur Heil- und Pflegeanstalten (‘central auditing authority for healing and care institutions’); cover name for central office responsible for the establishment and inspection of euthanasia facilities

zur beschleunigten Verwesung – z.b.V. (‘accelerated decomposition’): killing and rapid disposing of body


[1] „Schade um sie – weg mit ihr.“ Der Spiegel, no. 8, 1984, http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-13509157.html
[2] http://www.wikiwand.com/de/Reinhold_Vorberg  
[3] Binding, Karl, and Alfred Hoche. Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens: Ihr Mass und ihre Form. Felix Meiner, 1920. (Have German and English version) 
[4] Mitchell, Ben C. “Of euphemisms and euthanasia: The language games of the Nazi doctors and some implications for the modern  movement.” OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, vol. 40, no. 1, 2000, pp. 255-65.
[5] Haller, Hans. “Die Mörder sind noch unter uns; NS Ärzte – Von der Euthanasie zu Massenvernichtung (I).” Der Spiegel, no. 25, 1968, http://magazin.spiegel.de/EpubDelivery/spiegel/pdf/13529152
[6] Lifton, Robert J. “Die Mörder sind noch unter uns. NS Ärzte – Von der Euthanasie zu Massenvernichtung (II).“ Der Spiegel, no. 26, 27 Jun 1988, pp. 100-12 (109, 112).