Kaufbeuren-Irsee (Kreis-, Heil- und Pflegeanstalt
für Geisteskranke Kaufbeuren-Irsee)
The Kinderfachabteilung in Kaufbeuren was established in December 1941
the second of three in Bavaria) and was in operation until
mid-April 1945 (and children were killed until June 1945). The clinic's
was Dr. Valentin Faltlhauser, who was directly responsible for this
ward. The ward (an extension) in Irsee, which is closeby, opened a few months
later. Its medical
director was Dr. Lothar Gärtner,
the clinic's deputy director, who was directly responsible for the ward
in Irsee and committed suicide in 1945.
Dr. Faltlhauser received a sentence of 3 years for instigation to be an
accessory to manslaughter and was pardoned by the Bavarian secretary of
justice in 1954. He died in 1961.
Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/media_ph.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005200&MediaId=3316)
children died in the special
children's ward in Kaufbeuren and Irsee. Dr. Faltlhauser collaborated with another doctor in conducting
tuberculosis experiments on children in the Kinderfachabteilung, of
whom the majority died as a consequence.
Even though American troops
entered Kaufbeuren in late 1945, the clinic site was initially left undisturbed
because of a putative occurence of typhus there. After military
personnel entered the clinic, it was discovered that a 4-year old, Richard Jenne, had
become the last victim of "children's euthanasia" on May 29, 1945
(see for his picture provided by the US Holocaust Memorial
Museum here; and for the document that is part of the extensive Nuremberg trial record available online here).
Kaufbeuren was probably known of having been one of the most notorious
sites of medicalized murder in Bavaria, as indicated in the Munich
newspaper of 7 July 1945, which titled its story, printed on its cover,
on Kaufbeuren "Mass murder in the asylum" (Klee p. 452).
a recognition of the past murders did not begin until
the early 1980s. As late as 1976, when the Bezirk Schwaben published a
volume on the 100 year anniversary of the psychiatric clinic Kaufbeuren
one of the directors after WWII noted in an assessment of the era
1933-1945 that a special children's ward existed after Dec. 1941 but
did not mention the murder of children. Dr. Faltlhauser was judged in
the following way: "Seine Arbeit war im Grund getragen von Liebe und
Sorge um die Kranken" (Bezirk Schwaben, p. 55; "His work was basically
motivated by his love and care for the sick") and "Die Entwicklung des
Hauses verdankt ihm viel" (Bezirk Schwaben, p. 55; "The progress of the
clinic owes a lot to him"). Just two years earlier, in 1974,
the Catholic clergyman of the clinic had put up a sign in the
clinic chapel referring to the victims of "Euthanasia," but the sign
disappeared quickly, likely by order of the clinic director.
Changes began to occur when in the wake of psychiatric
reform in the 1970s the new director Dr. Michael von Cranach and others
confronted the institution's Nazi past. In. the hallway of the
administrative part of the clinic Dr. Michael v. Cranach and a group of
other physicians instigated the placement of a
text beneath a picture of Dr.
Faltlhauser that details his involvement in "euthanasia." The text ends
with the note that "the events in the [Nazi] past must always remind us
how an ideology contemptuous of human life can turn the actions of a
physician into an instrument of extermination."
boulder that has
inscription "In memory of the 2000 patients of the hospital
Kaufbeuren-Irsee who were murdered between 1940 and 1945 as victims of
[Hitler's] 'Euthanasia decree'" together with murdered patients' names
was placed on site. The massive stone is meant to signify the
historical burden of the "Euthanasia" crimes that rests on the clinic.
Patients, visitors, relatives of victims, and staff members leave
little mementos such as candles
Source: Erwin Resch
boulder is located at a place on clinic property that is
the public because it is located close to a spot that offers some of
the best views of the town Kaufbeuren. The memorial was conceived,
financed, and implemented by a group of physicians,
psychologists, and nurses on the occasion of the 50th anniversary in
October 1989 of the
beginning of the "Euthanasia" program. Dr. v. Cranach headed a group of
personnel, particularly resident physicians, who sought to place a
memorial on clinic grounds. An annual commemoration takes place on
January 27 in which local community members, clinic
staff, clergy as well as nursing students participate.
"Euthanasia" is a part of the nursing students' curriculum, and it is
also a topic that is addressed in advanced professional training
(berufliche Weiterbildung) there.
Dr. Michael v.
Cranach, who has hosted and been part of
commemorative events since the early 1980s, has also conceived the
memoriam" (see in exhibits), which has as one of its foci the life and
death of Ernst Lossa, who was murdered at Kaufbeuren.
site (at the former clinic cemetery) is also another memorial of the
Peter Müller since summer 2006. It is close to an older memorial and
has the inscription 'In commemoration of the dead and victims of the
NS-Euthanasia.' It is coated with a reddish patina may remind the
visitor of the impermanence of all that is material and ideological. The
stark cubic shape of the memorial itself is open to interpretation:
does it stand for the harsh ideology of National Socialism putting a
stop to any humane approach to illness and any resistance? Or is its
shape intended to remind the visitor of the shape of the chimney of the
crematorium that was erected in 1944 on site to burn the victims? -
Given its rather remote location, the memorial presently does not seem
to engender active commemoration.
the historical chronicle of the cloister published in 1981 made no
mention of the involvement of the institution in the Nazi euthanasia
project. However, in that year a bronze sculpture by Martin Wank
erected on the grounds of the former clinic cemetery (where the
victims were believed to have been buried, although more recent research
shows the burial grounds to have been farther from the cloister). It
was the first to commemorate the "euthanasia"
victims at a site of a former Kinderfachabteilung in West Germany, and
the second overall (after Kocborowo). It was commissioned
by the district
Schwaben in the context of the renovation of the Kloster Irsee and its
rededication as a
conference and education center. A small panel on the display reads
"let me sing your passion" (a reference to the
title of a ecclesiastical hymn, by
Johann Michael Denis). As reported by the institution's priest,
patients sang this song when they knew that they marked for death
and were to die (Römer, p. 143). A plate is attached, with the text "In
commemoration of the silent victims of political dictatorship." The
employs a somewhat effusive symbolism, explained in the booklet
'Memento for the euthanasia
victims of Irsee':
lowest level of the memorial depicts a quagmire of guilt (and perhaps
desperation, depicted by extending limbs) that holds on
firm to the tree of death bearing the world as its fruit. On top of it
is the Redeemer, who turns the world in his resurrection into the
cradle of good.
display at the memorial addresses the historical events as
well; its text is stated in the history section of the cloister's
webpage (see the
following). Before the plaque was installed, a sign directing visitors
to the memorial had copies of the "Memento" attached to it. Source: Author.
The history part of the website
the Kloster Irsee (where Irsee's part of the special
children's ward was housed), now called the "Swabian Conference and
Educational Center Cloister Irsee" is explicit about its past:
"1939-1945: The inhuman racial ideology of the National Socialists and
the resulting activities for the 'extermination of worthless life' also
affect Irsee: More than 2000 patients [adults and children] from
deported to extermination facilities, die upon the provision of a fat
starvation diet [E-diet] or are directly killed as a result of
injections and overdoses of medications." Parts of this text are also
mentioned in the overview of the clinic's history in the hallways of
recently, the former pathology (Prosektur) of the Irrenanstalt has been
reopened as a memorial. A plaque at the entrance of the building reads:
"Cloister Irsee. Memorial. By having a memorial on the former cemetery
grounds, a memorial room in the facility of the then pathology, and
[three] stumbling blocks at the front of the cloister the Swabian
Educational Center Irsee commemorates the murder of the patients by
Nazi "euthanasia" in the facility Kaufbeuren/Irsee. Let the fate of the
victims be a warning to us: The dignity and the life of the sick, the
marginalized in society, and those who need assistance deserve
The memorial contains the
dissection table that has been in
place since the end of WWI (a copy of it was made for the exhibit on
euthanasia in the Imperial War Museum). The anteroom contains an art
installation by Beate Passow (1996), a triptych originally entitled
"...most courteously I wish to ask thay you answer the following
questions..." (a request made by Dr. Hensel, carrying out deadly
tuberculosis experiments on children of the Kinderfachabteilung) with
three pictures, each depicting a child, which are also included in Dr.
Cranach's exhibit "In Memoriam" (see exhibits).
the cemetery there is a plaque in a small chapel. It was restored
in 2006 and to the existing text, which read "Commemorate
in prayer the men and women of the clinic Irsee, who found their
final resting place here and await eternal resurrection," the following
text was added:
"In memory of the victims of the NS-Euthanasia-Actions of 1941-45 who
is a stela by the sculptor Alfred Neumann close to the former
pestilence cemetery (Seuchenfriedhof) of
the clinic established in 2005, which has the following inscription: 'In commemoration of
47 dead persons of the NS-Euthanasia actions who fell victim to a
typhus epidemic in spring 1944.' It was erected at the end of 2005
based on a resolution of the city council. Its 47 small squares relate
to the number of the victims.
In 2009, stumbling blocks (Stolpersteine) for three victims of "euthanasia" were placed at the cloister Irsee.
Source: C. Kaelber.
In addition, a youth group, "Die Salzstreuer' (Saltshakers), have
advocated for the erection of a centrally located memorial for victims
of National Socialism in Kaufbeuren. "Euthanasia" as a word is
inscribed in the memorial, which was created by the artist Peter Müller
and dedicated on 9 November 2008, the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht.
A text display explains the context.
Source: C. Kaelber
The group also has put together an
exhibit, "Es war auch hier: Kaufbeurer Schicksale im Dritten Reich" (It
happened here too: The Fate of Kaufbeuren Residents in the Third
Reich), which includes
a section on children's "euthanasia (here). The group has a website with further information.
Source: Allgäuer Zeitung (3 November 2010, p. 24)
On 1 November 2010, the author Robert Domes organized
a display of 500 candles at the former cemetery at Irsee on All Saints'
Day (see also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yitu5mTd49k).
A film about Ernst Lossa, one of the victims, has been reported to have
been planned. The student Sina Moshehi received the Bertini prize
for his documentary "Zum Andenken: Vom Leben und Sterben des Ernst
Lossa" (In memory: Life and Death of Ernst Lossa) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhuHbm9mvZw).
Benzenhöfer, Udo. 2003. "Genese und Struktur der
'NS-Kinder- und Jugendlicheneuthanasie.'" Monatsschrift für Kinderheilkunde
Bezirk Schwaben. 1976. Hundert Jahre Nervenkrankenhaus Kaufbeuren. Kaufbeuren: n.p.
Cranach, Michael von. 1987. "Die Psychiatrie in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus." In Verband der Bayerischen Bezirke, 150 Jahre Psychiatrie in Bayern (broschure).
———. 2008. "Geschichte des Nervenkrankenhauses Irsee." Lecture at the
conference "60 Jahre Allgemeine Erklärung der Menschenrechte: Das Recht
auf Gesundheit in Deutschland," Irsee. Available on youtube (here).
Domes, Robert. 2008. Nebel im August: Die Lebensgeschichte des Ernst Lossa. Munich: cbt.
Frei, Hans, ed. 1981. Das Reichsstift Irsee: Vom Benediktinerkloster zum Bildungszentrum. Weissenhorn: Anton H. Konrad Verlag.
Klee, Ernst. 1995. "Euthanasie" im NS-Staat. Frankfurt: Fischer.
Mader, Ernst T. 1985 (first ed. 1982). Das
erzwungene Sterben von Patienten der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt
Kaufbeuren-Irsee zwischen 1940 und 1945 nach Dokumenten und Berichten
von Augenzeugen. Blöcktach: Verlag an der Säge.
Nießeler, Uli. 1984. "Vernichtungszentrum Kaufbeuren-Irsee." Türspalt (10).
Suzanne. 2006. "Doctors and Nurses of Death: A Case Study of
Eugenically Motivated Killing under the Nazi `Euthanasia' Programme." Liverpool Law Review 27: 5-30.
Pötzl, Ulrich. 1995. Sozialpsychiatrie,
Erbbiologie und Lebensvernichtung: Valentin Faltlhauser, Direktor der
Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Kaufbeuren-Irrsee in der Zeit des
Nationalsozialismus. Husum: Matthiesen.
Raueiser, Stefan, and Bertram Sellner, eds. 2009. "...man stolpert mit dem Kopf und mit dem Herzen": Zum Gedenken an die Opfer der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Kaufbeuren/Irsee. Irsee: Grizeto Verlag.
Resch, Erich. 2006. "Die Begräbnisstätten der Heil- und Pflegeanstalten bzw. des Bezirkskrankenhauses Kaufbeuren und Irsee." Kaufbeurer Geschichtsblätter: Mitteilungsblatt des Heimatvereins Kaufbeuren e.V. 17, 8: 258-78.
Römer, Gernot. 1986. Die
grauen Busse in Schwaben: Wie das Dritte Reich mit Geisteskranken und
Schwangeren umging: Berichte, Dokumente, Zahlen und Bilder.
Augsburg: Presse-Druck- und Verlags-GmbH Augsburg.
Schmidt, Martin, Robert Kuhlmann, and Michael von Cranach. 1999. "Heil-
und Pflegeanstalt Kaufbeuren." Pp. 265-325 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.
Schweizer-Martinschek, Petra. 2004. "Die Versuche an behinderten
Kindern in der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Kaufbeuren-Irsee 1942-1944." Pp.
231-59 in Nationalsozialismus in Bayerisch-Schwaben: Herrschaft, Verwaltung, Kultur, edited by Andreas Wirsching. Ostfildern: Jan Thorbecke.
———. 2008. "NS-Medizinversuche: 'Nicht gerade körperlich besonders wertvolle Kinder.'" Deutsches Ärzteblatt 105(26): A-1445.
Steger, Florian. 2002. "Medizinische Forschung an Kindern zur Zeit des
Nationalsozialismus: Die 'Kinderfachabteilung' der Heil- und
Pflegeanstalt Kaufbeuren-Irsee." Medizin, Gesellschaft und Geschichte 22: 61-88.
———. 2004. "'Ich habe alles nur aus absolutem Mitleid
getan': 'Kinderfachabteilung' der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt
Kaufbeuren-Irsee: 'Kindereuthanasie'." Monatsschrift Kinderheilkunde
———. 2005. "Kinder als Patienten der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt
Kaufbeuren-Irsee: Die 'Kinderfachabteilung' in den Jahren 1941-1945." Sudhoffs Archiv
———. 2006. "Neuropathological research at the 'Deutsche
Forschungsanstalt für 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: 173-85.
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.
Concerning "Euthanasia" trial(s) for this location
Bauer, Fritz et al., eds. 1968-1981. Justiz und NS-Verbrechen: Sammlung deutscher Strafurteile wegen nationalsozialistischer Tötungsverbrechen, 1945-1966. Amsterdam: University Press Amsterdam. Vol. 5, pp. 175ff.
Bryant, Michael S. 2005. Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953. Boulder: University of Colorado Press. Pp. 192-98.
Freudiger, Kerstin. 2002. Die juristische Aufarbeitung von NS-Verbrechen. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Pp. 272-78.
last updated on March 8, 2013