Home

Graz (Gau Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Graz Am Feldhof)

Graz on a map 
The Kinderfachabteilung in Graz existed between late 1941 or early 1942 (as the second one of two in Austria) and 1945. The special children's ward was not physically separated on the site of the clinic.

The director of the women's department, Dr. Hans Machan, had many of the children in his department (C2), and Dr. Peter Korp, who was responsible for the "training department," located in the satellite facility Kainbach until summer 1942 and afterwards in castle Pertlstein, also treated children in C2. These two physicians were assisted by Dr. Josefine Herrmann and from 1943 on Dr. Gabriele Eder. Dr. Ernst Sorger was likely involved in the treatment of older male children and youths belonging to the special children's ward in the men's department (stations B). After the death of clinic director Dr. Oskar Begusch, who had been involved in establishment of a special children's ward at the clinic in mid 1944 and may have also been involved in individual killings until then, Dr. Sorger served as the clinic's director. The director of the nursing department D, Dr. Hans Mayr, may also have been  involved in the killing of children.

At the beginning of 1942 the number of deaths among children and youths increased significantly. By the end of April 1945 225 children (Freidl et al. 2006, p. 37) had died. Recent reports put the number at 270 (see here).

After the state attorney's office in Graz conducted investigations concerning the deportation of Graz patients in the context of T4 and the killing of disabled children toward the end of the war, the blame fell solely on Dr. Sorger, who had committed suicide, and the investigation was dropped. Murders that were part of the "children's euthanasia" were not investigated. Dr. Korp and Dr. Hermann assumed leading positions at the clinic after WWII.

Commemoration began with the activities of the historians and film maker Peter Nausner, who in the 1980s began reporting on Nazi "euthanasia" murders, without receiving support or assistance from the clinic's leadership. Only when Dr. Danzinger became the new medical director in 1996 did this picture begin to change significantly, and Dr. Danzinger became involved in research on these past events. 1996 also marked the 50th anniversary of the doctors' trial at Nuremberg, and on this occasion, a that occasion a public lecture event was held, addressing medical crimes against the disabled in Graz, and it led to a formation of a working group "The role of medicine in National Socialism in the Steiermark" (see Halbrainer 2014, p. 105). Members of this working group in Graz presided over an initiative concerning the establishment of euthanasia memorial, which, as reported by Brigitte Kepplinger, conceived of a dual place of commemoration: one that focused on the victims, to be established in the park of the Landesnervenklinik Sigmund Freud Graz (the clinic's name today), and one that focused on providing information at the university of Graz in a display (along with a further scientific analysis and documentation of the euthanasia crimes, by Thomas Oehlschläger). At the time Graz was the last (major) state psychiatric facility without a memorial.

Graz memorial 1
Graz memorial 2
Graz memorial text
graz memorial 3
Source: author

So far only the first aspect of this plan for commemoration has been realized. A "living memorial" in the form of a garden by the landscape architect Janos Koppandy and a dual stelae that includes a plaque with the inscription "In memory of the far more than 1,000 patients who were murdered in 1939-1945, during National Socialism," was established in March 2006. The gaze of the visitor, as intended by the architect, from one of the two benches is directed to an ensemble of aspens, bushes with red branches, and a copper beach, or literally "bloody beech" (Blut-Buche), located at the place whence patients were transferred out to their death. In J. Koppandy's own words:
"This double stelae, whose upper parts are 'dis-placed' (ver-rückt; the German word also means mentally ill) and interchanged, is part of the site: the site is meant to 'provide a place" to commemorate, to reflect, to look back, to talk about it. Here too are two benches opposite: sitting on one bench, one's gaze is toward the area of the Sigmund-Freud clinic, including the school facilities, the church, the advocates for the patients. Sitting on the other bench, the view is toward the 'plum alley.' Along this alley patients were pushed on their last trip, 'herded' into cattle wagons, not to return. The memory of this last sojourn is fortified by the arrangement of a row of 'quaking aspen' and another row of dogwood bushes - which frame this path in the winter in deep-red branches. A copper beech has been planted at the loading station itself" (reported in Halbrainer 2014, pp. 114-15).

As Brigitte Kepplinger notes, neither place nor perpetrators are mentioned on the display, and the living memorial's landscape is neither self-explanatory nor explicated somewhere to the visitor (see similarly Halbrainer 2014, p. 115). Nor it is mentioned anywhere, one might add, that the murders took place on site, and that in the case of child euthanasia, victims were transferred to the facility specifically for that purpose.


map of the clinic Graz Source: author.

The clinic's website addresses this memorial but does not refer to "child euthanasia" in particular. The clinic map does not show the memorial. On site, there are no regular commemorations. A symposium on the topic was held in November 2011 (see here and here).

There is an exhibit on NS-Euthanasia in the Steiermark, which included a temporary memorial (see exhibits). Ultimately, researchers await the long-announced publication of a book entitled Schattenseiten, by Rainer Danzinger, which is expected to the shed new light on the subject matter.

The story of Philipp Res, a child victim, is told by Danziger, Oelschläger, and Freidl (in Halbrainer and Vennemann  2014).


Literature

Benzenhöfer, Udo. 2003. "Genese und Struktur der 'NS-Kinder- und Jugendlicheneuthanasie.'" Monatsschrift für Kinderheilkunde 151: 1012-19.

Freidl, Wolfgang, Birgit Poier, Thomas Oelschläger, and Rainer Danzinger. 2006. "The Fate of Psychiatric Patients During the Nazi Period in Styria/Austria: Part I: German-Speaking Styria." International Journal of Mental Health 35(3): 30-40.

Hainzl, Joachim. 2000/2001. "Vergessene Opfer,  gefeierte Täter: NS-Euthanasie in der Steiermark" I/II. korso (here and here).

Halbrainer, Heimo, and Ursula Vennemann, eds. 2014. Es war nicht immer so. Leben mit Behinderung in der Steiermark 1938 bis heute. CLIO: Graz - see especially the chapters by Heimo Halbrainer, "Das lange Schweigen zu den NS-Euthanasieverbrechen in der Steiermark" (pp. 103-22); and Rainer Danzinger, Thomas Oelschläger, and Wolfgang Freidl, "Die NS-Euthanasie in der slowenischen Untersteiermark" (pp. 59-81).

Kepplinger, Brigitte. 2008. "Gedenkstätten für die Opfer der NS-Euthanasie in Österreich." Pp. 549-99 in Tötungsanstalt Hartheim, 2nd ed., edited by Brigitte Kepplinger, Gerhart Marckhgott, and Hartmut Reese. Linz: Oberösterreichisches Landesarchiv.

Kristöfl, Sandra. 2013. NS-"Euthanasie": Ihre Struktur und Systematik in Österreich. Saarbrücken: Akademikerverlag.

Oehlschläger, Thomas. 2001. "Zur Geschichte der 'Kinderfachabteilung' des 'Reichsgau Steiermark.'" Pp. 119-35 in Medizin und Nationalsozialismus in der Steiermark, edited by Wolfgang Freidl, Alois Kernbauer, Richard Horst Noack, and Werner Sauer. Innsbruck: StudienVerlag.

———. 2003. "Zur Praxis der NS-Kinder-'Euthanasie' am Beispiel Österreichs." Monatsschrift Kinderheilkunde 10: 1033-42.

Poier, Birgit. 2003. "NS-Euthanasie in der Steiermark." Österreichische Pflegezeitschrift 11: 29-32. Available here.

———. 2009. "NS-Euthanasie in der Steiermark." Public lecture at the conference "NS-Herrschaft in der Steiermark" (28-30 January 2009). Available here.

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..

Last updated on 18 February 2014