I want to deal with aspects of Nazi crimes that do not involve Jews or only involve them in a peripheral way. These are the forgotten victims, those that exist outside of what is acknowledged as the Holocaust. The first group I will write about is the disabled, targeted in ways and for much longer than Jews.
The Nazi regime specifically targeted the disabled soon after Hitler became Chancellor. The Reichstag enacted the "Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Heredity Diseases" on July 14th, 1933. This law established "Eugenics Courts" that determined whether or not an individual would be sterilized. An individual could apply to do this voluntarily, a legal representative could do it (with the consent of a court guardian), a state physician or the head of an asylum. Once a decision for sterilization was made the law forced the patient to undergo surgery, even against that person's will (except in cases of self application). The courts ordered and carried out the "Hitler cut" on about 400,000 people, ending in 1945.
Now it's true that many countries had eugenics laws, including the certain US states. But, no one sterilized as many people as the Nazi regime did.
In 1939, with war on the horizon, the situation turned grim for the disabled. It started with a child named Gerhard Kretschmar, a child born deformed. The child's father petitioned Hitler for permission to end his son's life. Hitler sent his personal physician, Karl Brandt, to examine the child. Brandt agreed that the child deserved death and the child was given a lethal injection. On August 18th, 1939 the Ministry of Interior informed all doctors, nurses and midwives to report children under the age of three who exhibited signs of a disability.
The onset of war brought active measures against the disabled. Encouraged by his doctors, Hitler signed a decree in October of 1939 (backdated to September 1st, 1939) authorizing the murder of the disabled. At first this targeted children and later extended to adults. The program of Euthanasia, codenamed T-4, initially used starvation and lethal injections to murder the disabled. Looking for more efficient to kill, the doctors hit on gassing the disabled to hasten the killing process.
There were six gassing installations set up, the most infamous being Hadamar. The other installations existed at Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Bernberg, Sonnenstein and Hartheim. These installations used bottled carbon monoxide to murder the disabled, the bodies cremated and then death certificates sent to relatives.
The project took place in secret but this could not be maintained. German citizens quickly made the connection between the vans carrying the inmates to the institutions and the stench of burning flesh that occurred soon afterward. Relatives received death certificates with obvious errors, including a rather infamous incident where the cause of death was acute appendicitis when the victim had their appendix removed years before. Also, those doctors, nurses and orderlies involved began talking about their experiences with friends and loved ones.
Church leaders and private citizens began complaining openly about what was going on and in August, 1941 the Catholic bishop August von Galen delivered a sermon against the practice. The bishop was too public a figure to silence and Hitler ordered T-4 ended. However, the focus shifted to
concentration camp inmates under Action 14f13 and the killing of other disabled persons quietly continued. The use of gas chambers stopped and the resumption of lethal injections and starvation during this quieter phase.
All told about 75,000 people died during the initial phase, with a total of about 275,000 dying during the course of the war (the practice of killing the disabled continued on the Eastern Front).