Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953

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9780870818097: Confronting the

Years before Hitler unleashed the “Final Solution” to annihilate European Jews, he began a lesser-known campaign to eradicate the mentally ill, which facilitated the gassing and lethal injection of as many as 270,000 people and set a precedent for the mass murder of civilians. In Confronting the “Good Death” Michael Bryant analyzes the U.S. government and West German judiciary’s attempt to punish the euthanasia killers after the war.

The first author to address the impact of geopolitics on the courts’ representation of Nazi euthanasia, Bryant argues that international power relationships wreaked havoc on the prosecutions.

Drawing on primary sources, this provocative investigation of the Nazi campaign against the mentally ill and the postwar quest for justice will interest general readers and provide critical information for scholars of Holocaust studies, legal history, and human rights. Support for this publication was generously provided by the Eugene M. Kayden Fund at the University of Colorado.

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About the Author:

Michael Bryant is Professor of History and Legal Studies at Bryant University.

Review:

...[T]he most comprehensive and nuanced analysis of these trials to date; he outlines not only the history of the trials, but also the legal issues surrounding the prosecution of euthanasia crimes, the history of euthanasia in Germany, and the T-4 program’s relationship to the Final Solution” during the Second World War. Bryant links these interrelated questions seamlessly, drawing for the reader a clear picture of the contingencies that led eventually to the spectacular failure of the euthanasia trials. ... [A] masterful work that enriches tremendously the growing body of literature on postwar trials of Nazi perpetrators. Bryant’s expert juggling of legal, political, and historical complexities provides the reader with an excellent introduction to the euthanasia program, the Final Solution, early postwar American and West German law, and the ultimate victory of national interests over justice.”
Holocaust & Genocide Studies

Bryant’s book offers a unique series of insights into the post-WWII redefinition of euthanasia, after mercy killing’ had served the Nazis as a crucial prelude to the gassings of Jews and other groups. The work will be of great use to legal historians and to Holocaust scholars from all fields, as well as to the general public interested in human rights issues.”
Dr. Janet Ward, co-author of German Studies in the Post-Holocaust Age

"Combining the expertise of a historian and a lawyer, Michael Bryant has written a compelling account of how considerations of power and national interest subverted the prosecution of the killers of thousands of helpless persons. Readers will be shaken by Bryant’s account of the fragility of justice and the ways in which law can be used to excuse murder."
Dr. Robert C. Kunath, Associate Professor of History, Illinois College

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