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Nazi “Mercy Killers” Charged in West Germany

July 23, 1962 - More than 17 years after the collapse of the Nazi regime, one of Hitler’s chief planners for the “mercy killings” of the mentally disabled will be brought to trial. The chief prosecutor’s office of the West German state of Hesse said today that Dr. Werner Heyde (pictured), alias Fritz Sawade, has been charged with having shared responsibility in the killing of more than 100,000 persons. Dr. Heyde, formerly head of the Reich Society for Mental Institutions, assumed his alias after World War II and managed to get a job from the state government of Schleswig-Holstein as a psychiatric expert. Evidence at war crimes trials has indicated that about 60,000 inmates of mental hospitals and 140,000 prisoners of concentration camps were killed in the euthanasia program. Two other men were indicted with Dr. Heyde. They are Dr. Gerhard Bohne, who is alleged to have been responsible for the program until April 1940, and Dr. Hans Hefelmann, said to have been a close collaborator of Dr. Heyde. The indictment charges that Dr. Heyde had the last word in writing medical opinions on those selected to be put to death. The trial is expected to begin this fall.

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