Ansbach (Mittelfränkische Landes-, Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Ansbach)
The Kinderfachabteilung in Ansbach existed between December 1942 (as the
last one of three in Bavaria) and March 1945. Its medical director was Dr.
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).
Of 303 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 criminal investigations of Hans Hefelmann in 1961. In the mid 1960s
state prosecutors began investigating Dr. Schuch, Dr. Asam-Bruckmüller, and
a head nurse. This investigation did not 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 follows:
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 publication 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.
At 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 prosecutorial dealings with the
perpetrators after WWII.
There 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 anniversary of the clinic in 2002. It has
approximately 200-250 visitors annually, but it is only accessible in the
company of the museum director and typically to groups
(as well as during the annual open house; "see here). Apart
from presenting a series of artifacts 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 investigations.
Most recently, the 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).
In 2010, the exhibit "In memoriam" (by Dr. v. Cranach) was shown in Ansbach.
Panels on the Ansbach facility and its involvement in Nazi medical
malfeasance, including one about the special children's ward, by Daniel
Goltz were included (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 her fate.
In 2013, a puppet show on Friedrich Zawrel (see Kinderfachabteilung
Spiegelgrund) was shown in town (see here).
The current (2015) website of the clinic addresses
the clinic's past succinctly, including the "Kinderfachabteilung" (here).
Benzenhöfer, Udo. 2003. "Genese
Struktur der 'NS-Kinder- und Jugendlicheneuthanasie.'" Monatsschrift
für Kinderheilkunde 151: 1012-19.
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 Mittelfranken." Praxis
der Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie 50:192-210.
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 15:173–185.
Topp, Sascha. 2004. “Der ‘Reichsausschuss zur
wissenschaftlichen Erfassung erb- und anlagebedingter schwerer Leiden’:
Zur Organisation der Ermordung minderjähriger Kranker im
Nationalsozialismus 1939-1945.” Pp. 17-54 in Kinder in der
NS-Psychiatrie, edited by Thomas Beddies and Kristina Hübener.
Berlin-Brandenburg: Be.bra Wissenschaft.
———. 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..
Weisenseel, Reiner. 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 Erlangen-Nürnberg.
———. 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 16 Feb. 2015