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Disability, Nazi Euthanasia, and the Legacy of the Nuremberg Medical Trial

Emmeline Burdett
Disability, Nazi Euthanasia, and the Legacy of the Nuremberg Medical Trial
ISBN: 978-1-68585-283-2
ISBN: 978-1-68585-977-0
2024/181 pages/LC: 2023036952
Disability in Society


During the Nuremberg Medical Trial (1946-1947), the perpetrators of the Nazi euthanasia program were barely prosecuted. The program, also known as Aktion T4, was essentially a campaign of mass murder, designed to cleanse society of individuals who were deemed undesirable: incurably ill, physically or mentally disabled, or simply old. Emmeline Burdett's close reading of the trial transcript and her careful parsing of the legacy of Aktion T4 are the genesis of this revealing book.

Set against the backdrop of the experiences of people with disabilities during the Nazi era and then the unfolding of the medical trial, at the heart of Burdett's book is an exploration of the subsequent impact of the program—how it has influenced debates about euthanasia and related ethical issues across decades. In a sweeping narrative, she shows how both the dismissive attitude that many commentators have had to the program and the assumption by many disability activists that it is relevant to every disability-related ethical issue (i.e., the Nazi analogy) continue to have harmful, even catastrophic, repercussions. 


Emmeline Burdett's scholarship focuses on issues related to disability. She is coeditor of Public Disability History.


  • Disability Studies and Holocaust Studies: Exploring the Link.
  • The Nazi Euthanasia Program and the Nuremberg Medical Trial.
  • How the Nuremberg Medical Trial Was Reported.
  • Debating Euthanasia: The 1950s and 1960s.
  • Grappling with the Slippery Slope: The 1970s and 1980s.
  • A Transformative Decade? The 1990s.
  • Looking Back to Move Forward: Disability Activism Today.