Jim Rakete's photos of disabled particularly poignant on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Jim Rakete's portraits of disability

Human dignity shall be inviolable

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities addresses the issue of applying human rights to differently abled people. The German government its own bureau tasked with implementing the UN statute. Particular emphasis is put on inclusion. Pictured here are Monika Fitze and Karin Kersche.

Jim Rakete's portraits of disability

A matter of equality

These photos come from Jim Rakete's Berlin exhibition "We Are Many" in the Paul Löbe House. The show is part of the 150th anniversary of the Bethel Institution, which has been taking care of young people with epilepsy in the north-western German city of Bielefeld since 1867. Today, the institution is one of the largest charitable outreach organizations in Europe. Pictured here is Jakob Buddenberg.

Jim Rakete's portraits of disability

Resistance among health professionals

When the Nazi regime told the Bethel Institution to euthanize its disabled patients they refused by not listing the names of the patients concerned. Doctors working at the institution rejected the idea of being part of government-mandated "euthanasia," although they were symphatetic to practices of eugenics and sterilization in some cases. Pictured here is Friedhelm Fleischmann.

Jim Rakete's portraits of disability

The stars of the show

Star photographer Jim Rakete explained that encountering people with disabilities in cities like Bielefeld, Berlin, Hanover and Dortmund was a unique experience for him. "These wonderful people we had the privilege of photographing really touched us deeply," he said. Pictured here is Aananthabairavy Pooventhiranathan with Jim Rakete.

Jim Rakete's portraits of disability

The beauty of life

Jim Rakete's photos show people with various disabilities, ranging from epilepsy to mental illness to addiction. There's a moving honesty to the portraits, as they were taken in the subjects' own spaces: their homes, schools and work places. The majority are spur-of-the-moment shots - without any posing or make-up necessary. Pictured here is Amine Öngün.

Jim Rakete's portraits of disability

More participation

About 7.6 million people in Germany have severe disabilities, 84 percent of whom were not born with their conditions. Jim Rakete is giving these people a voice. Vice-President of the Bundestag Ulla Schmidt said Germany's disabled population "still has to struggle to get noticed in any social setting." Pictured here are Katharina und Jakob Buddenberg.

German star photographer Jim Rakete presents arresting portraits of disabled people as Germany marks Holocaust Remembrance Day with a special focus on the victims of the Nazis' "euthanasia" killings.

Germany commemorates the victims of the Nazis' "T4" program at this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. Within this euthanasia program, more than 70,000 disabled people - "burdensome lives" according to Nazi propaganda - were systematically killed.

As German marks the Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, moving portraits of disable individuals by Jim Rakete are being shown at the Paul Löbe House located in Berlin's government quarter. The star photographer captured individuals with a wide variety of both physical and mental disabilities.

Systematic annihilation

The Greek term "euthanasia" literally means "gentle death." In ancient Greece, it stood for a fast, painless death not caused by external forces. The term is highly problematic in Germany even today as the Nazis used it to sugarcoat mass murders.

Even before World War II, eugenics - practices to improve the genetic quality - and Social Darwinism based on notions of natural selection were applied to promote policies known as "racial hygiene." Social Darwinism was the Nazis' justification to kill people they regarded as weak and inferior.

History | 26.01.2017

In October 1939, Adolf Hitler issued a "euthanasia decree," allowing for the killing of people whose lives were not deemed worth living - the first systematic murders in the Third Reich. In the decree, the murders were veiled as "mercy deaths." Children with disabilities and adults suffering from mental or hereditary diseases or syphilis were categorized as not worthy of living, in particular if they belonged to what the Nazis deemed an "inferior race."

The Nazis' 'Aktion T4' and its victims

Hitler's chancellery was to organize and execute the killings, hidden by yet another smokescreen: a specially-created department for medical and nursing institutions (RAG).

The project was called "Aktion T 4," short for the department's address at Berlin's Tiergartenstrasse 4; six centers were set up nationwide.

By 1941, at least 120,000 people both with and without disabilities had been gassed, shot or killed via lethal injection. Their relatives were notified of the alleged sudden, unexpected deaths by special registry offices created on site.

jhi/db/kbm (epd, zukunft-braucht-erinnerung.de, gedenkort-t4.eu)