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Citation on Binding and Hoche in “From Genesis to Genocide” by Stephan Chorover.

The year 1920 also marks the opening in Germany of an explicit discussion of the intentional killing of patients deemed unworthy to live, in a book called The Release and Destruction of Lives Devoid of Value.  Its authors, Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, were distinguished scholars, a jurist and a psychiatrist, respectively.  Almost four years before Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, Binding and Hoche were advocating the killing of “worthless” people under the protection of the state.  Both those who are “mentally completely dead” and those who “represent a foreign body in human society” are listed as persons ‘who cannot be rescued and whose death is urgently necessary.”  Hoche, professor of psychiatry and director of the psychiatric clinic at Freiburg from 1902 to 1934, decried as “erroneous thinking’ the idea of showing sympathy for “lives devoid of value.”  And Binding, professor of jurisprudence at Leipzig University, anticipated that although errors in judgment, diagnosis, and execution might be made, the consequences of such mistakes were bound to be inconsequential, compared to the social benefits that would eventually accrue:  “Humanity loses so many members through error that one more or less really hardly makes any difference.”[1]

Stephen L. Chorover, From Genesis to Genocide:  The Meaning of Human Nature and the Power of Behavior Control (Cambridge, Mass:  The MIT Press, 1979), 98.


[1] Cited by Waldinger, High Priests of Nature, p. 69.