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Ansbach (Mittelfränkische Landes-, Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Ansbach)


Ansbach on a map 
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 neuropathological research.

Picture of house 15 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.
Commemorative plaque in Ansbach
Author's picture

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.

Display on euthanasia crimes Second display on euthanasia crimes
Author's pictures

display on children's euthanasia 1 display on children's euthanasia 2
Source: Museum

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).

new memorial in Ansbach Source: http://www.bezirksklinikum-ansbach.de/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf_Dateien/121125_Einweihung_Mahnmal.pdf

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).

Map of Ansbach sites of crimes
Source: http://www.bezirksklinikum-ansbach.de/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf_Dateien/Flyer-61_Gedenkorte-AN_2012.pdf

Literature

Benzenhöfer, Udo. 2003. "Genese und 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 12 December 2013