Ansbach (Mittelfränkische Landes-, Heil- und Pflegeanstalt
<"Kindereuthanasie" in Ansbach im Nationalsozialismus>
The Kinderfachabteilung in Ansbach existed between December 1942 (as
the last one of three in Bavaria) and March 1945. Its medical director
Hubert Schuch, and the physician responsible for the special children's
ward were Dr. Irene Asam-Bruckmüller (she died in 2000) and Dr.
Prießmann (he committed suicide after WWII).
children admitted to the "special children's ward," 156 died. 144
extant medical records of the dead children indicate a range in age
from one week to 16 years. In at least 86 cases the brains of the
children were sent to the pathology dept. in Eglfing-Haar (itself a
site of a children's ward) and from there to German Research Institute
for Psychiatry (Kaiser-Wilhelm institute) in Munich for
Source: Fitz, p. 137.
The location of the "special children's ward" was house 15, which was
torn down and replaced by a modern building in 1965.
Dr. Asam-Bruckmüller was briefly interrogated by American authorities
in Nuremberg in 1946, and the state attorney's office in Munich
investigated Dr. Schuch in 1947-48. Both physicians were witnesses
in the trial proceedings against Hans Hefelmann in 1961. In
the mid 1960s state prosecutors began investigating Dr. Schuch, Dr.
Asam-Bruckmüller, and a head nurse. This investigation did
lead to a criminal convictions in court as both individuals were not
considered capable of standing trial.
In February 1946, Dr. Leusser, the director the clinic, had described
the "euthanasia" killing of children during National Socialism as
In the years 1943
and 1944 a number of children, who stood at the bottom of the scale of
idiocy and for the most part displayed severe physical deformities and
who could be
expected to perish
sooner or later through bedsores or pneumonia, were killed by putting
[them] to sleep with luminal. [quoted in Hohendorf 2007-2008, pp. 33-34]
In the late 1980s, important developments occurred at the clinic
that led to the first
on the subject and the
display of two plaques. Dr.
Reiner Weisenseel wrote his dissertation under Dr.
Athen, then the director of the Ansbacher
Bezirkskrankenhaus, on the involvement of the clinic in Euthanasia
crimes, including the operation of the Kinderfachabteilung. In 1988 two
members of the Green Party as well as the regional diet
(Bezirkstag) were horrified to find portraits of physicians
involved in Nazi euthanasia crimes among the honorary display of
medical personnel in the administrative building, and they successfully
petitioned to have these portraits removed.
Since 1992 a plaque hangs in the entry hall way of the administrative
building. It reads: "In the Third Reich the
Ansbach facility delivered to their death more than 2000 of the
patients entrusted to it as life unworthy of living: They were
transferred to killing facilities or starved to death. In their own way
many people incurred responsibility." It continues: "Half a century
later full of shame we commemorate the victims and call to
remember the Fifth Commandment." The active killing of
children specifically transferred to
the clinic to be murdered is not noted. The plaque does not
address that that
euthanasia victims were not only starved or transported to gassing
facilities but actively killed with barbiturates on site.
around the same time (in 1990) a historian, Diana Fitz, was
commissioned by the Ansbach town council to provide a detailed study of
"Ansbach under the swastika." The study was published in 1994 and was
much more widely and easily available than Dr. Weisenseel's
dissertation in 1990. Dr. Fitz's study includes a chapter on the Heil-
und Pflegeanstalt, with sections on "children's
euthanasia" and the prosecutorial dealings with the perpetrators after
is a permanent exhibit on psychiatry (Psychiatrie-Dauerausstellung) on
the premises in Haus 10 (see here). It was established on occasion of the
celebration of the 100th anniversery of the clinic in 2002. It has
approximately 200-250 visitors annually, but it is only accessible in
of the museum director and typically to groups (as well as during the annual open
house; "see here). Apart
from presenting a series of artefacts from past psychiatric
practice, including various medical instruments and an authentically
preserved padded room, one room has several displays that inform about
the clinic's involvement in medical crimes during WWII. Based on Dr.
Weisenseel's investigations, two displays address the clinic's role in
the "children's euthanasia program" and the outcome of the criminal
Most recently, a memorialization of victims has commenced on the
Day of the Dead (Totensonntag), on which the first names of the
youngest victims are read aloud. A detailed flyer on an expanded web site about the history of the facility informs
visitors about the site and the Nazi crimes (see here).
A new memorial was put in place in 2012. It consists of a steel plate
on a square platform. The plate tilts backwards, meant to reflect the
seriousness of the crime (or its legacy). It can also cast a large
shadow (indicative of how this part of Ansbach's past has been dealt
with, or not, and how it is still relevant today). Engraved in the
plate are 2,000 lines, reflective of the banality of evil (the
bureaucratic approach to killing). The lines are individually set, to
portray that the individuality of each of the 2,000 victims and his or
Benzenhöfer, Udo. 2003. "Genese
und Struktur der
'NS-Kinder- und Jugendlicheneuthanasie.'" Monatsschrift für Kinderheilkunde
Laass, Francoise. 2008. "Ein Blick
zurück: Psychiatriedauerausstellung in
Ansbach." KOM: Die
Mitarbeiterzeitung [der Bezirkskliniken Mittelfranken] 11, 4: 14.
Fitz, Diana. 1994. Ansbach unter dem Hakenkreuz.
Ansbach: Stadt Ansbach.
Hohendorf, Gerrit. 2007-2008. "The Representation
of Nazi 'Euthanasia' in German Psychiatry 1945 to 1998: A Preliminary
Survey." Korot 19: 29-48.
Nedoschill, Jan and Rolf Castell.
2001. "'Kindereuthanasie' während der
nationalsozialistischen Diktatur: Die 'Kinderfachabteilung' Ansbach in
der Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie
Puvogel, Ulrike, and Martin Stankowski. 1996. Gedenkstätten
für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, vol. 1. 2d ed. Bonn:
Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. Available at http://www.bpb.de/files/5JOYKJ.pdf.
Steger, Florian. 2006. "Neuropathological Research at the 'Deutsche
Forschungsanstalt fuer Psychiatrie' (German Institute for Psychiatric
Research) in Munich (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute): Scientific Utilization
of Children’s Organs from the 'Kinderfachabteilungen' (Children’s
Special Departments) at Bavarian State Hospitals." Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Topp, Sascha. 2004. “Der
wissenschaftlichen Erfassung erb- und anlagebedingter schwerer Leiden’:
Organisation der Ermordung minderjähriger Kranker im
Pp. 17-54 in Kinder in der NS-Psychiatrie,
edited by Thomas Beddies and Kristina Hübener. Berlin-Brandenburg:
———. 2005. "Der
'Reichsausschuß zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung erb- und
anlagebedingter schwerer Leiden': Die Ermordung minderjähriger Kranker
im Nationalsozialismus 1939-1945." Master's Thesis in History,
University of Berlin..
1990. "'Euthanasie' im NS-Staat: Die Beteiligung der Heil- und
Pflegeanstalt Ansbach an den 'Euthanasiemassnahmen' des NS-Staates."
M.D. Diss., Medical College, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität
———. 1999. "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt
Ansbach." Pp. 143-57 in Psychiatrie
im Nationalsozialismus: Die Bayerischen Heil- und Pflegeanstalten
zwischen 1933 und 1945, edited by M. von Cranach and H.-L.
Siemen. Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag.
Last updated March 8, 2013.