Source: The Nuremberg Trials Project; Evidently, this was to be submitted in the defense of Karl Brandt, but was not.
Perhaps a letter submitted to the editor of a German newspaper, “Neurnberger Nachricten”? Date unknown–January, 1947 on the original source document. Clearly written after 1933, and cannot be after 1945, since the National Socialists are still in power. Paragraph 218 was a longstanding prohibition against abortion in Germany that the Nazis retained; it is sometimes overlooked why they retained it. It certainly wasn’t because it respected human life! Certain humans, yes. The inferior humans? They could get as many abortions as they pleased. In the letter below, the writer takes issue with the law, but not because the writer is concerned about the welfare of Jews and blacks and others that the Nazis did allow to get abortions.
Misery More powerful than Paragraphs
In all Germany paragraph 281, which subjects the interruption of pregnancy to punishment, has become the cause of lively discussions. Voices in favor of keeping it on, abolishing or amending it are heard. The “Neurnberger Nachricten” to-day published a letter from a reader, who considers the radical abolition of this paragraph as a necessary step for the economic recovery of Germany:
It cannot be foreseen when the present hopeless living conditions in Germany will improve. Thus, as the only remedy to alleviate distress, there remains the gradual adaptation of the numbers of the population to the economic efficiency. While two western civilised nations, England and France, despite their rich colonial possessions, have remained at a population level of 40 million or have even dropped their numbers, the population of Germany has grown without interruption for the last 100 years. The blame rests with the National Socialist, militariat and clerical population policy which has prevented all possibilities of a voluntary, healthy and responsible limitation of the birth rate and has subjected it to heavy punishment.
Nothing has changed in this respect up to now. In Germany not only the interruption of pregnancy is punished but also the manufcture and the sale of birth control articles. In spite of misery which cries to heaven, the birth-rate still exceeds the death-rate in Germany. For instance in the city of Neurnberg there are three births to every two deaths! In smaller town and in the country the birth rate probably exceeds the death rate to an even greater degree. Such a development may be gratifying in a thinly populated country, rich in material resources. In the German of to-day it is a madness and a crime.
In order to counter this development efficiently, the immediate manufacture or possible import of medicaments and appliances suitable for the prevention of pregnancy, is necessary. Paragraph 219, which subjects the interruption of pregnancy to punishment, ought to be abolished immediately, ie, the governments of the Landor should ask the Control Council for its intervention.
Medical and ethical objections are raised against the abolishment of the paragraph 218. In regard to the medical objections, it can be stated that proper instructions to the population on contraceptive measures and provision with the suitable means would make a surgical operation a rarity. Further, operations must, of course, only be allowed to be carried out by physicians and every woman must be told previously about possible harm to her health.
The number of secret abortions was estimated in Germany before 1933 at 1 million annually. As these abortions were performed almost exclusively by lay-men on account of paragraph 218 and of its up-holders, it can be worked out easily that serious harm to health and even cases of death has occurred. With operations performed by specially trained doctors the element of danger could at any rate be reduced materially. At the present time, however, it is of essential importance that probably undernourishment is doing greater harm to the health of pregnant women and growing children than any abortion would do.
The ethical objections are absolutely unfounded and cannot be answered for by a responsible conscience. Is it perhaps ethical to give birth to children who in consequence of underfeeding remain weak and sickly human beings? Illegitimate children, desperate juvenile parents, are forced motherhood, distress, social ostracism and suicide ethical? It would be equally naive to believe that paragraph 218 would force people to absolute sexual abstinence. The birth rate clearly indicates the contrary. If sexual intercourse in itself is considered unethical, one should be consistent enough to subject it to punishment, for otherwise, by paragraph 218, entirely innocent children are punished who are born into need and misery.
Would it not be more ethical if only human beings would be born in Germany, who are welcome to their parents? Then there would also be a guarantee that these human beings would be brought up with love and would grow up to be valuable personalities.
Does the German nation still want to impress the world by its great numbers? We should rather distinguish ourselves by the ethical quality than by the numerical quantity of our people. So much has been said about the freedom of the individual in democracy. The citizen is supposed to play his part in deciding the great and the small affairs of state. And he should not be allowed to take part in his most important and most personal decision: that on the number of his children?
It is impossible to talk about the freedom of the individual and at the same time expect a woman to bear children against her will.
Whatever could be said against the abolition of paragraph 218, all such reasons are invalid in view of the dreadful distress in which the German nation is living to-day.