Just in case you hadn’t noticed February 6 to 12 was “Euthanasia week” in the Netherlands. And what better way to mark this, the tenth anniversary of the Dutch right-to-die legislation, than a film festival.
Film buffs will be treated to an array of 35 films, old and new that deal with euthanasia including five premieres — one focussing on the work of the Dutch Right to Die group (NVVE) euphemistically called compassion.
Michael Cook, editor of Bioedge acutely observed that the Nazi film Ich Klage An (I accuse), created in 1941 to encourage the acceptance of euthanasia for the ‘mentally handicapped’ by the SS, is strangely missing from the festivals schedule. Not a celebrated part of European history but, nonetheless, an important one.
If we forget the lessons of history, history itself tells us that we’re doomed to repeat the same errors. The website International Historic Films makes some chilling observations worth noting:
The genesis of the film came from a recommendation by Professor Karl Brandt, a member of the Führer’s entourage, that a picture be produced to persuade the public to accept the policy of euthanasia. The film’s virtually subliminal message is that the state must assume responsibility for the involuntary liquidation of the mentally handicapped. For decades thereafter, German physicians remembered its impact and the debates it stimulated about the morality of medical killing. Reports made by the Sicherheitsdienst (the SS Security Service or SD) following the picture’s release on 29 August 1941 indicate that the film was favorably received, the majority of Germans, as well as most physicians, accepting its argument. Starting in 1939, victims were registered at Hereditary Health Courts, examined, and then transported to specially selected clinics where their lives were terminated.
Little wonder that surveys of people living with disabilities in Europe note their fear about the introduction of any form of state-sanctioned killing. Groups like the NVVE and nation states like the Netherlands and Belgium would seem to suffer a form of selective amnesia. Their silence is like the character Basil Fawlty from the hit British comedy Fawlty Towers: “Don’t mention the war!”