The Origins of Nazi Genocide

From Euthanasia to the Final Solution

By Henry Friedlander

448 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 halftones, 28 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4675-9
    Published: September 1997
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6160-8
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6860-2
    Published: November 2000

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Awards & distinctions

1997 German Studies Association-DAAD Book Prize

1996 Bruno Brand Award, Simon Wiesenthal Center

Tracing the rise of racist and eugenic ideologies, Henry Friedlander explores in chilling detail how the Nazi program of secretly exterminating the handicapped and disabled evolved into the systematic destruction of Jews and Gypsies. He describes how the so-called euthanasia of the handicapped provided a practical model for the later mass murder, thereby initiating the Holocaust.

The Nazi regime pursued the extermination of Jews, Gypsies, and the handicapped based on a belief in the biological, and thus absolute, inferiority of those groups. To document the connection between the assault on the handicapped and the Final Solution, Friedlander shows how the legal restrictions and exclusionary policies of the 1930s, including mass sterilization, led to mass murder during the war. He also makes clear that the killing centers where the handicapped were gassed and cremated served as the models for the extermination camps.

Based on extensive archival research, the book also analyzes the involvement of the German bureaucracy and judiciary, the participation of physicians and scientists, and the nature of popular opposition.

About the Author

Henry Friedlander was professor of history in the department of Judaic studies at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and coeditor of the 26-volume Archives of the Holocaust Series.
For more information about Henry Friedlander, visit the Author Page.


"Well researched, remarkably balanced in its judgments, and full of fresh insights. It deserves the widest possible readership."--Journal of Modern History

"Friedlander has written an excellent piece of historical research which establishes the similarities of the fates of three victim groups."--Jewish History

"Is it possible to present novel views and materials on the origins of the German mass murder of the Jews? Henry Friedlander, a historian . . . and a survivor of Auschwitz . . . succeeds in doing so. . . . The book should be read by . . . medical students and doctors. It is a must for psychiatrists."--Benno MÅller-Hill, Journal of the American Medical Association

"Indispensable for undergraduate and graduate students of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany."--History: Reviews of New Books

"Well-researched and wide-ranging. . . . The most detailed scholarly inquiry into the management and mechanics of the euthanasia operation yet published. Ten or fifteen years ago, it was rare to see a historian drawing links between the Final Solution and the murder of Germany's handicapped. . . . Friedlander's elucidation of the important continuities of technique and personnel gives us valuable new insights into the inner workings of Nazi genocide."--Robert N. Proctor, American Historical Review

"Admirably researched. . . . One of the distinguishing features of this study is the meticulous description of the administration of the euthanasia program."--Gordon A. Craig, New York Review of Books