What You Need To Know:
(B, V, N, M) Powerful investigation of the misuse of the mass media of entertainment to shape society by the humanist National Socialists; euthanasia perpetrated by the National Socialists, subjects receive electroshock treatment & shots in the arm; brief nudity of dead bodies; and, disturbing scenes of mentally ill patients.
The documentary SELLING MURDER takes a disturbing look at one of the most dreadful tragedies in human history: the National Socialist Party’s use of movies to convince the German people of the need to exterminate physically and mentally ill people in World War II era Germany. The Party’s use of the mass media of entertainment to persuade the populace of the legitimacy and necessity of such programs, though elementary by modern propaganda standards, is quite chilling.
While the attempted annihilation of Jews by the National Socialist’s is well-documented, the atrocities did not stop with the Jewish race. Also at the mercy of the evil Hitler regime, and the main focus of this documentary, is a group that has been somewhat overlooked: the mentally and physically ill of Germany.
In 1939, Hitler ordered the killing of the mentally and physically disabled, labeling them as “life unworthy of life.” His reasoning was that the cost of keeping them alive in asylums and hospitals was too great. The real reason, however, stemmed from the government’s determination to eliminate any threat to their ideal of producing a superior race.
Six “hospitals” were set up by a government agency, T4, assigned to carry out this evil plot. The victims were collected and bused to the hospitals and then immediately thrown into the gas showers. In order to cover-up the truth of the operation, the T4 assessors sent notices to relatives of “inoperable” patients lying about how they died. When citizens began to figure out the story, they would be threatened and imprisoned by the Gestapo.
The majority of the film deals with how T4 covered up their operation and the films they produced to spread their propaganda to the masses. Actual unedited footage portraying mental patients as “existence without life” show the mentally ill in straight-jackets, banging their bodies against walls and gazing emptily into space. Special lighting techniques were used to portray them as ghastly, further adding to the notion that mental illness was evil and needed to be eliminated.
Some of these original films were lost during the war, however two scripts which were saved were reproduced for this documentary in order to show the techniques T4 employed to influence the ideals of the general populace into accepting their euthanasia program. These films discuss the burdening cost of caring for the sick, as well as the idea that patients would actually find deliverance through death without pain or struggle, even calling them “mercy killings.” Scientists and professors were used in the films to authenticate this twisted ideology.
SELLING MURDER is an intriguing true story of how the concept of mass murder was sold to the German public as a merciful, necessary deliverance for the physically and mentally ill. Actual footage of doomed patients and naked, dead bodies in mass graves makes this terrible tragedy depressingly real. Looking into the innocent eyes of the victims and realizing their horrific fate is numbing. It is amazing how such an atrocity could be twisted and turned into something “merciful.”
Actual footage from Dr. Joseph Goebbels’s famous feature film I ACCUSE is included in this documentary. I ACCUSE was the movie that turned the German people from being 80% pro-life and anti-euthanasia to 60% pro-mercy-killing. the impact of I ACCUSE is proof positive of the power of movies and the other mass media of entertainment to change attitudes and encourage murder.
Although very informative and well-produced, SELLING MURDER uses the same scenes several times, and the reenactments tend to drag. Most of the dialogue is in German, so subtitles are use extensively. However, the combination of footage, reenactment and interview is well edited. Interviews with those who escaped death, as well as relatives of those who did not, bring the story to a personal level and serve to remind viewers that this kind of tragedy should never happen again.
SELLING MURDER is must viewing for every moral person concerned about the use of the mass media of entertainment to influence societal behavior. Similarities between the National Socialist use of film and contemporary television programs about Dr. Kevorkian, abortion and euthanasia are frightening. Two weeks before this documentary ran on the Discovery Channel, a network television program examined the killing of patients by doctors in the Netherlands. The rationalization for these wholesale murders of patients in the Netherlands were all too similar to the Nazi propaganda in SELLING MURDER. At a time in our history when we have lost our moral moorings and euthanasia statutes are being presented to the voters in several states, SELLING MURDER is an important insight into the misuse of the media by those who want to engineer society. Perhaps, this documentary will lend perspective to the right-to-life issue in our own country.