Special Treatment

General Usage in German Wartime Documents

The German term Sonderbehandlung (special treatment) and other related terms, such as Sonderaktion (special operation) and Sondermaßnahme (special measure) appear on numerous occasions in original German wartime documents.

In a general context of the Second World War, German documents containing the term “special treatment” could have both beneficial as well as detrimental implications. In the latter case, the term was sometimes used as a euphemism for executions or murder. Some of these documents were introduced as such during the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal (Documents NO-905, 1944-PS, 3040-PS). However, these have nothing to do with Jews as such. Document 3040-PS, for instance, ordered that serious crimes ought to be punished with special treatment, to be carried out “with the noose” (IMT, Vol. 31, pp. 500-512, here pp. 505-507).

In his Nuremberg testimony, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the last chief of Germany’s Department of Homeland Security (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA), stated that the term “special treatment” usually referred to “a death sentence, not imposed by a public court but by an order by Himmler” (IMT Vol. 11, p. 336). In this regard, Document 3040-PS states that special treatment, meaning execution, needed to be approved by the RSHA (IMT, Vol. 31, p. 505), while Document NO-905 discusses responsibilities when deciding such applications.

Examples for beneficial meanings of that term are:

  • the exemption from resettlement of minorities friendly to the Germans (660-PS);
  • the preferential treatment of Ukrainian women who can be Germanized and who were to be employed as household helpers in Germany (025-PS);
  • the gentler treatment of eastern populations in contrast to a tough military attitude (1024-PS);
  • release from imprisonment (1193-PS);
  • better food supplies for Baltic and Ruthenian people (EC-126);
  • Germany’s concentration-camp regulations stipulated that “inmates of honor” (usually high-ranking politicians of occupied countries) had to be “treated specially,” meaning they were privileged.

This last example was confirmed Kaltenbrunner during his Nuremberg testimony, according to which “special treatment” for captured dignitaries of hostile countries meant lodging in luxury hotels with regal service (IMT, Vol. 11, pp. 338f.).


The “mercy” killing of severely mentally disabled patients during the Third Reich – called Program 14 f 13 by the German bureaucracy – was temporarily extended during the war to encompass also permanently severely disabled patients in Germany’s wartime camps, and as such referred to on occasion as “special treatment.” However, a manpower shortage gradually changed that attitude. An order to all camp commandants dated 26 March 1942 specified that “every inmate worker must be maintained for the camp” (1151-PS). A little more than a year later, on 27 April 1943, Himmler ordered that frailness and physical infirmity can no longer be reasons for such special treatment (NO-1007):

“The Reichsführer SS and Head of the German Police has decided in principle that in the future only mentally ill prisoners may be processed by the medical boards created for Program 14 f 13.

All other prisoners unfit for work […] are in principle exempt from this program. Bedridden prisoners should be assigned work that they can perform in bed.”

This implies, of course, that up to then inmates physically unfit for work were not in principle exempt from getting culled like injured cattle, if a medical board had decided so. However, camp documents show that euthanasia decisions, while not rare, were not made in large masses. (See Mattogno 2016a, pp. 88-91.)

Special Treatment of Jews

Particularly pervasive is the term “special treatment” in documents connected with the Third Reich’s treatment of the Jews. However, in most cases, this term did not mean execution. The richest documentation in this regard has been preserved for the Auschwitz Camp. These documents, however, never mention mass killings. The orthodoxy asserts that code words were used for this, such as “special treatment,” “special measures,” “special actions,” etc. But a thorough study of hundreds of documents containing these buzz word shows that all of them, without exception, find an innocuous explanation, if seen in their proper documental and historical context. (For details on this, see Mattogno 2016a & 2016d).

The starting point is that every deportation of Jews from their point of origin via Auschwitz, either to forced-labor deployments or to resettlements, was called “special operation” (Sonderaktion). In fact, the Third Reich’s way of treating the Jews differently than anyone else was called “special treatment.” Hence, anything in connection with Jews could and often did receive the term “special” attached to it, because the Jews were not normal concentration-camp inmates, who were usually criminals, PoWs or regime opponents. That did not imply per se that a document having that term refers to something murderous.

Document on Special Treatment, Zentralsauna
“Project: PoW Camp Auschwitz (Implementation of Special Treatment)”. Auschwitz Camp, document of the Central Construction Office, dated 29 October 1942. Here page 5 (cropped at the bottom): Entry 13b) contains the cost estimate for the four crematoria with morgues, furnaces, ventilation systems and chimneys (but no gas chambers), with no use of any “special” term. Entry 16a) contains the cost estimate for the inmate shower and disinfestation facility, later nickname Zentralsauna, here labeled as “Disinfestation facility, for special treatment” (“Entwesungsanlage für Sonderbehandlung”).

Another large complex of Auschwitz documents containing “special” terms stand in connection with large construction efforts to improve the hygienic, sanitary and healthcare situation at Auschwitz. (See the entries on Eduard Wirths and Birkenau for details.) These were “special (construction) measures” meant to save inmate lives. They stood in connection with “Implementation of Special Treatment” of the Jews, as a detailed project description for the construction of the Birkenau Camp states. However, the only building in that project description that is explicitly designated for “special treatment” is the large inmate shower and disinfestation facility, later nicknamed Zentralsauna. This building served to save lives as well, not take them. The crematoria, where the orthodoxy insists “special treatment” through mass gassing occurred, do not carry any “special” term in this project description. (See the illustration.)

A series of documents shows that certain inmates were marked with “SB” in registries. The orthodoxy insists that these inmates had been selected as unfit for work in order to get killed. However, a close analysis of these and other documents shows that this cannot be true. Foremost, many documents prove that sick inmates were regularly registered in many documents without any sign of them getting killed, and many documents prove that the camp authorities usually spared no efforts to cure sick inmates, and even to care for many who were incurable.

Other cases of the innocuous use of “special” terms are distorted in a ludicrous way by some orthodox historians to “prove” homicide. Here is the most-striking example: Around Christmas and New Year of 1942/43, the Auschwitz Camp was still on lockdown due to the raging typhus epidemic. As a consequence, not even the almost 1,000 civilians working in that camp were allowed to go on holiday leave. When they learned about this in mid-December, they organized a camp-wide strike. In reaction, the camp Gestapo interrogated all civilian workers to find out what the issue was and how to solve it. They called this a “special operation [Sonderaktion] for security reasons encompassing all civilian workers.”

One orthodox historian, following the dogma that “special” terms mean murder, decided that the Gestapo started killing these civilian workers to break their strike. But this was not so, as later documents prove. First, the strike was resolved by granting these civilians a two-week vacation over the holidays. And second, the day after the “special action” was over, all civilian workers happily reported back to work. (See Mattogno 2016d, pp. 98f., for details of this case; see Mattogno 2016a and 2016d in general for more details on this special topic.)

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