Clemens August Graf von Galen
- I encouraged them, each who was able, to serve the Fatherland...I have done this [volunteered] because I believe I must be a good example for my community.
- Galen to his mother, August 3 1914.
- And now go and serve your fatherland.
- von Galen, to the philosopher Josef Pieper when he went to say farewell to the bishop, having been drafted into the German army in 1943. Pieper remarked; I was somewhat baffled; it was a long time since I had heard such words, but on his lips they were by no means a mere pathetic cliché; he meant them in all seriousness;they were to be taken literally. See Beth A. Griech Polelle, Bishop Von Galen, p. 20.
"...these unfortunate patients must die but rather because, in the opinion of some department, on the testimony of some commission, they have become 'worthless life' because according to this testimony they are 'unproductive national comrades.' The argument goes: they can no longer produce commodities, they are like an old machine that no longer works, they are like an old horse which has become incurably lame, they are like a cow which no longer gives milk.
What does one do with such an old machine? It is thrown on the scrap heap. What does one do with a lame horse, with such an unproductive cow?
No, I do not want to continue the comparison to the end--however fearful the justification for it and the symbolic force of it are. We are not dealing with machines, horses and cows whose only function is to serve mankind, to produce goods for man. One may smash them, one may slaughter them as soon as they no longer fulfil this function.
No, we are dealing with human beings, our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters. With poor people, sick people, if you like unproductive people.
But have they for that reason forfeited the right to life?
Have you, have I the right to live only so long as we are productive, so long as we are recognized by others as productive?
If you establish and apply the principle that you can kill 'unproductive' fellow human beings then woe betide us all when we become old and frail! If one is allowed to kill the unproductive people then woe betide the invalids who have used up, sacrificed and lost their health and strength in the productive process. If one is allowed forcibly to remove one's unproductive fellow human beings then woe betide loyal soldiers who return to the homeland seriously disabled, as cripples, as invalids. If it is once accepted that people have the right to kill 'unproductive' fellow humans--and even if initially it only affects the poor defenseless mentally ill--then as a matter of principle murder is permitted for all unproductive people, in other words for the incurably sick, the people who have become invalids through labor and war, for us all when we become old, frail and therefore unproductive.
Then, it is only necessary for some secret edict to order that the method developed for the mentally ill should be extended to other 'unproductive' people, that it should be applied to those suffering from incurable lung disease, to the elderly who are frail or invalids, to the severely disabled soldiers. Then none of our lives will be safe any more. Some commission can put us on the list of the 'unproductive,' who in their opinion have become worthless life. And no police force will protect us and no court will investigate our murder and give the murderer the punishment he deserves.
Who will be able to trust his doctor any more?
He may report his patient as 'unproductive' and receive instructions to kill him. It is impossible to imagine the degree of moral depravity, of general mistrust that would then spread even through families if this dreadful doctrine is tolerated, accepted and followed.
Woe to mankind, woe to our German nation if God's Holy Commandment 'Thou shalt not kill,' which God proclaimed on Mount Sinai amidst thunder and lightning, which God our Creator inscribed in the conscience of mankind from the very beginning, is not only broken, but if this transgression is actually tolerated and permitted to go unpunished.
Cardinal Clemens, August 3, 1941 see Von Galen Against the Nazi Euthanasia
Quotes about von Galen
- It is just not true that, in the summer of 1933, when the name Galen was announced as the new Bishop, the whole diocese broke out in rejoicing...Nor is it the case that Galen was immediately recognized as being a great opponent of the despotic regime. On the contrary,the pugnacious pastor of St Lambert's was regarded, to put it bluntly, as a Nazi.
- Josef Pieper, No One Could have Known, 93.