Ernst Klee

Ernst Klee

Cover of 'The Good Old Days': The Holocaust Through the Eyes of the Perpetrators and Bystanders by Ernst Klee (1991) et alii
Born 15 March 1942
Frankfurt am Main
Died May 18, 2013(2013-05-18) (aged 71)
Frankfurt am Main
Occupation Historian, author
Genre World War II
Notable works 'The Good Old Days': The Holocaust Through the Eyes of the Perpetrators and Bystanders

Ernst Klee (15 March 1942, Frankfurt am Main – 18 May 2013, Frankfurt am Main)[1] was a German journalist and author. As a writer on Germany's history, he was best known for his exposure and documentation of the medical crimes of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, much of which was concerned with the Action T4 or involuntary euthanasia program. He is the author of The Good Old Days': The Holocaust Through the Eyes of the Perpetrators and Bystanders first published in the English translation in 1991.

Life and work

Klee was first trained as a sanitary and heating technician. Afterwards, he caught up on his university entrance requirements and then studied theology and social education.

As a journalist in the 1970s, he looked at socially excluded groups, such as the homeless, psychiatric patients and the disabled. During this period, he collaborated with Gusti Steiner, who laid the foundation for the federal German emancipatory movement of the disabled at that time.

In 1997, he received the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis ("Scholl Siblings Prize") for his book, Auschwitz, die NS-Medizin und ihre Opfer (Auschwitz, Nazi Medicine and Their Victims). In 2001, the city of Frankfurt am Main honored Klee with the Goetheplakette (Goethe Medal) for his book, Deutsche Medizin im Dritten Reich. Karrieren vor und nach 1945 (German Medicine in the Third Reich. Careers before and after 1945). The explanation states that Klee's works "are suitable to support civil freedom, moral and intellectual courage, and to give important impetus to current awareness." Klee's commitment to the importance of disabled people was the decisive factor in the former Westfälische Schule für Körperbehinderte (Westphalian School for the Physically Disabled) in Mettingen being renamed the Ernst-Klee-Schule in his honor in 2005.[2]

Klee wrote for the weekly newspaper, Die Zeit. There were 27 articles by him between 1974 and 1995.[3] In 2003, he wrote an article criticizing the omission of Nazi activity in the career details of those mentioned in the Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie ("German Biographical Encyclopedia")[4] or his description of the relationship of German artists to the Nazi extermination camps in German-occupied Poland.[5] Contemporary author Karl-Heinz Janßen wrote on 27 February 1987 about Klee, "Contemporary historical research ignores this subject [of medical crimes during the Nazi period]; [...] if it were not for the free-lance journalist, Ernst Klee, who went to the effort of reading thousands of case files and rummaging through archives of institutions, almost nothing would be known today about one of the most horrible atrocities of this century."

Klee died in his hometown of Frankfurt am Main at the age of 71 after a long and severe illness.


Action T4 programme participant called Hartheim Euthanasia Centre, the focus of Klee's World War II research (ISBN 3-596-24327-0), 2005 photo


Selected works in German:


Selected awards


  1. "Historiker Ernst Klee ist tot"
  2. Scans of several newspaper articles on the renaming of the school and Klee's visit there Retrieved 27 May 2010 (German)
  3. "50 Jahre Berichterstattung über NS-Verbrechen von Ärzten in SPIEGEL und ZEIT" (PDF) ("50 Years of Reporting about Nazi Crimes of Doctors in Der Spiegel and Die Zeit), dissertation for Diplom, 1997 (German)
  4. "DBE: Von deutschem Ruhm" (DBE: Of German Fame), Die Zeit, 25 September 2003, No. 40. Retrieved 27 May 2010 (German)
  5. "Heitere Stunden in Auschwitz" (Happy Hours in Auschwitz), in Die Zeit, No. 5, 25 January 2007 (German)

External links

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