The first victims of the Konzentrationslager, concentration camps, were largely the political opposition to Hitler: the Social Democrats, the intellectuals, the communists.
"The first concentration camps in Germany were established soon after Hitler's appointment as chancellor in January 1933. In the weeks after the Nazis came to power, The SA (Sturmabteilungen; commonly known as Storm Troopers), the SS (Schutzstaffel; Protection Squadrons—the elite guard of the Nazi party), the police, and local civilian authorities organized numerous detention camps to incarcerate real and perceived political opponents of Nazi policy.But as brutal as they were, these first concentration camps were meant to remove and intimidate opposition to the regime. We must never forget how the people of conscience among the German people were cowed into submission, to remove and silence their voices and serve as an example to the rest.
German authorities established camps all over Germany on an ad hoc basis to handle the masses of people arrested as alleged subversives. The SS established larger camps in Oranienburg, north of Berlin; Esterwegen, near Hamburg; Dachau, northwest of Munich; and Lichtenburg, in Saxony. In Berlin itself, the Columbia Haus facility held prisoners under investigation by the Gestapo, the German secret state police, until 1936."
The first victims of mass murder were the disabled, the emotionally impaired, and the unproductive. Hitler personally signed an order to begin the 'mercy killings' of men, women and children who were in state run hospitals and schools, and even in private care. The reason they were murdered is that they were deemed to be too expensive to live, too unrproductive, too much of a drain on the people and the state. This even included people with what today might be considered treatable and transitory mental illnesses such as depression. If you showed the wrong kinds of weakness, you were disposed of, and often brutally by starvation.
Why have most of us never heard about this? For two or three reasons perhaps.
First, of course, is that the weakest, then as it is now, have few to rise up and speak on their behalf against the power of an over-reaching State and the sociopaths among us. Where is the lobby that speaks on behalf of the poor and the disabled, the sick and the defenseless? Yes, the churches and different groups may speak out, but they are easily marginalized and overwhelmed by slogans and insults.
Second, the sad truth is that this first mass killing compromised the greater part of the German professional class: the lawyers, the doctors, the nurses, the economists, the media, and other ambitious placeseekers.
People who knew what was happening either approved or pretended not to see it. It was a very poor career decision to oppose such a policy, especially since as I noted above the most visible opponents of the new regime were being carted off to Dachau starting in 1933.
And German propaganda was weighing heavily from early days on the notion that some people were not fit to live in a society that must be economically and physically tough. They hardened the peoples' hearts, slowly but surely. The needs of 'the State', which was really a gang of self-absorbed sociopaths caught in the will to power and riches, resembling thugs and gangsters, were judged to be the highest priority.
Officially starting in 1935, although the actual persecution began in 1933, homosexuals were considered to be unproductive members of society.
The Nazis believed that male homosexuals were weak, effeminate men who could not fight for the German nation. They saw homosexuals as unlikely to produce children and increase the German birthrate. The Nazis held that inferior races produced more children than 'Aryans,' so anything that diminished Germany's reproductive potential was considered a racial danger.Of course all of this line of thinking found its full fury in some of the most horrific organized mass killings in human history, primarily of the Jews, and to some extent the Slavs. Although it certainly included other non-Aryan groups like gypsies. It was a terrible and horrible act. It is hard to imagine where and how far it might have gone if it had not been finally stopped.
But people also tend to forget that although there was organized murder on a large scale beyond any question, the camps were also important hubs of slave labor, with the weakest being murdered outright, and the rest slowly worked to death in the war factories and special projects. Always the decisions had a strong economic element of 'practicality.' It was the triumph of utilitarianism and madness.
Like most terrible and horrible acts, it did not begin with a single event, a single decision. It began with a profound intolerance for other people, ideas and dissent; and then, when it found its political footing and felt more confident, it found the will to murder the weakest, the most vulnerable, and those who had no one to speak for them. And its unquenchable thirst for power, money and blood was unleashed. For when all the laws of God and men have been knocked down and flattened, who then can stand when the cold winds blow across the land.
This is how a nation and a people can begin their long and painful descent into barbarism and bestiality: by a program to stifle dissent, and then to use the media and the journals to harden the hearts of the people with fear, and corrupt practical ideas about who is or is not 'worthy of life,' marginalizing the poor, the vulnerable, and the different.
People craft romantic images of themselves and their group as strong and more cunning and ruthless than most, exceptional, like predators entitled to their prey. And so over time they become truly distorted and corrupt, grotesques, and make themselves into beasts.
This is how it is always with the will to power. And in the end it only serves itself, consuming all.
Aktion T4 - A Timeline of the Nazi Euthanasia Program