Lüneburg (Landes- Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Lüneburg)

Map of Lueneburg

The special children's ward was established on 1 October 1941 and may have continued its operation until at least March and perhaps even May 1945. The clinic's director was Dr. Max Bräuner, and the physician responsible for the special children's ward was Dr. Willi Baumert. When Dr. Baumert was called up for military service in September 1944, Dr. Bräuner did not have a replacement and headed the "special children's ward" himself. Dr. Bräuner was dismissed as director in August 1945 and forced to retire in 1949. He died in 1966. Dr. Baumert practiced as a physician after World War II and became director of the state hospital in Königslutter in 1958 and chairman of the Association of Psychiatric Ward Physicians and Psychiatrists in Lower Saxony. He died in 1984 (S. Stierl, personal communication). Recent research by Carola Rudnick has revealed much new biographical information about the perpetrators (Rudnick 2014a).

picture of house 23
Picture of house 25
Sources: Reiter 2005, p. 65; http://www.pk.lueneburg.de/gedenkstaette/KFA1.jpg

The first children who were admitted, on 9/10 October 1941, came from the Rotenburg Facilities of the Inner Mission. The special children's ward was housed in house 23. Later, house 25 was added.

After 1945 the British military government as well as the German authorities conducted investigations into "euthanasia" deaths in Lower Saxony. Dr. Bräuner's successor filed a criminal complaint with the state attorney's office in Celle in 1945 in which he pointed at a high mortality rate, especially for children with over 30%. In 1947 the director furnished information to the state secretary of health (Volksgesundheit und Wohlfahrt) about 662 children who had been admitted to the special children's war, of whom 421 had died. The state attorney's office in Hanover solicited testimonies from both physicians but concluded its investigations concerning the murder of the children in the "special children's ward" for a lack of evidence in 1949 (on this and the following, Reiter 1997, pp. 17-18; Suesse and Meyer, 1988, pp. 225-33). The trial concerning the involvement of institutions in the Province of Hanover in 1950 at Landgericht Hanover only concerned itself with Lüneburg in so far as adult patients were transferred to T4 killing centers as part of T4, and the head of the Hanover provincial administration (Landeshauptmann), Dr. Gessner, was acquitted. The issue of "children's euthanasia" did not arise, and even for being the director of the facility during this time Dr. Bräuner was not charged with a crime. Responses to the verdict are reported in Suesse and Meyer (1988, p. 230).

In the early 1960 as part of the investigations concerning the culpability of Hans Hefelmann Dr. Bräuner surprisingly admitted to having killed children in the special children's ward at Lüneburg to the state attorney's office at Frankfurt. The Frankfurt office then asked the state attorney's office at Hanover to take up its investigations again, and the request was passed on to the state attorney's office in Lüneburg. As part of the state attorney's office investigation there, Dr. Baumert, too, admitted to having had children killed, and so did a nurse. The preliminary investigations were concluded in December 1964.

The state attorney's office produced a statistic that included the occupancy of the special children's ward for each year between 1941 and April 1945, and the number of children who died there. It pertained to children and youth up to 14 years of age. The former number was 695; the latter, 418. 403 children were confirmed to be Reichsausschusskinder (see Topp). One analysis reports three children born by forced laborers where placed in the Kinderfachabteilung, of whom one was placed there by the "Reichsausschuss," and two died (see Reiter, in Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus Lüneburg, p. 115). C. Rudnick puts the number of children actively murdered in the "special children's ward" at about 300-350, while another 100 minors died to malnutrition and withholding of treatment (Rudnick 2014a, p. 189).

Neither of the two physicians was charged due to ill health, although, as a result of the investigations, Dr. Baumert was made to resign as director of the state hospital in Königslutter in 1964. The last act concluded in 1980 with a nurse implicated in the killings being considered not able to stand trial.

Local interest in "euthanasia" (including children's euthanasia) arose in the early 1980s. The chief journalist of the local newspaper and local historian Helmut Pless provided a somewhat detailed account of the "euthanasia" murders of children in a book on Lüneburg in 1945 (Pless 1982). In the fall of 1982 the association "Nazi Assumption of Power in Lüneburg ("Arbeitskreis 'Machtergreifung' in Lüneburg") formed and put together an exhibit for January 1983 as the 50th anniversary of the Nazi assumption of power. The working group "psychiatry" within the association wanted to report about "euthanasia" murders in the clinic (including those of children). As a response the state welfare office of Lower Saxony directed the director of the clinic not to contribute to the exhibit and claimed that records were no longer extant, only to be embarrassed by the fact that the association found out that the records had been sent back to the clinic after the state attorney's investigations had concluded its investigations and were in fact found there (see Pörksen and Waller 1984; Pörksen 1989).

picture of leveled graves
picture of memorial stone
Sources Pless 1982, p. 194: http://www.pk.lueneburg.de/gedenkstaette/arbeitsblaetter/Gedenkstein-Friedhof-West.pdf

Subsequently, in 1983 a memorial stone, financed by the state welfare office (Landessozialamt), was placed in the cemetery of the clinic, located about half a mile to its north. The text is as follows: "In memory of the victims of National Socialism in the Lüneburg Provincial Health and Care Facility." A brochure about it was put together by local high school students. In 2009 a display was added that informs the visitor that more information is available at the Lüneburg memorial site, and how to contact it.

In 1984 Thorsten Suesse and Heinrich Meyer concluded a medical dissertation (begun in 1981) on psychiatric facilities in Lower Saxony during National Socialism. The dissertation contained a detailed account of the events in the special children's ward. It was published as a book in 1988 (see also the author's article, which is based on a chapter in the book, in 1993). It included the first comprehensive historical review of the events at the special children's ward, based on trial records and state attorneys' investigation materials.

A research project on the role of psychiatry in Lower Saxony during National Socialism was concluded between 1991 and 1994 and led to the publication of a monograph on the subject matter by Raimond Reiter in 1997 (he also published an article on the special children's ward in Lüneburg in 1996). It provides a very thorough and extensive review of the source materials and presents several select cases of victims based on patient records.

Activities of a working group headed by the new medical director, Dr. Jürgen Lotze, with the goal of establishing a permanent memorial site (Gedenkstätte) on the premises by the time of the 100th anniversary of the clinic in 2001 led to the creation of an exhibit for that occasion (see Stierl 2005; Lotze 2007). The exhibit was conceptualized by R. Reiter and included a section on National Socialism and "euthanasia" (see here).

memorial site lueneburg Source: Reiter 2009, p. 1
The activities of the working group carried over to the establishment of a permanent memorial site on the clinic premises in 2004, chartered and financially supported by the Geschichtswerkstatt Lüneburg e.V. (the history workshop association) and the Psychosozialer Verein Lüneburg e.V. (the group for facilitation of assistance to patients). The working group's decisions continue to govern the operating procedures of the memorial site, while R. Reiter remained responsible for the research activities and much of the website. He was the author of a book that accompanies the exhibit (Reiter 2005) and contributed numerous research and information materials for the memorial, many of which available through the memorial site's website, until his untimely death in 2011.

1. Before 1933
1.1 Beginnings of the facility Lüneburg
Provides an overview of the entire history of the facility

1.2 First director and patients
Addresses the biography of Dr. Snell and shows a postcard annoucing the impeding arrival of patients

1.3 Rules of operation
Presents the administrative charges of the facility and the rules of the house

1.4 Historical map

1.5 Postcards from early times

1.6 Early patients
Addresses life of the patients and the typical activities at the facility

1.7 Patients before 1914 and the Weimar Republic
Presents two cases: one admission to the facility and the other a patient who eloped.

1.8 Architecture: Water tower
[in the revision of the exhibit, this section appears to have been removed]

1.9. Medical directors until 1945
Provides biographies
[in the revised exhibit, this panel is now numbered 1.8]

1.10 Reputation of psychiatry in Lüneburg
Presents newspaper articles noting the importance of the facility
[in the revised exhibit, this panel is now numbered 1.9]
2. "Third Reich"
2.1 Racial hygiene
Addresses the foundations of social Darwinism and it manifestations in Germany
[in the revised exhibit, this panel is now numbered 1.10]
[2.1 in the revised exhibit, shown on the right, is entitled "Since 1939: Healing or Killing" and points to Hitler's "mercy decree" of 1939]

2.2 Medical directorship and operations since 1933
Presents a pictures of medical personnel and patients, and vital statistics
panel 2.1
2.3 Compulsory sterilization
Addresses how compulsory sterilization was carried out at the facility and presents statistics on the victims
2.4 Victims of the "special children's ward" in Lüneburg
Presents a case of a murdered child for whom the administrative correspondence of the Reichsausschuss is shown, and the case of patients from the facilities at Rotenburg

2.5 Victims of the "special children's ward": Bernhard Filusch
Presents a detailed history of this murdered child, as well as a newspaper article of a relative of another murdered child who had not known about the murder from a long time

2.6 "The special children's ward" in Lüneburg
Presents information how the special children ward came into being and how it operated

[in the revised exhibit, panel 2.6 presents the history of Heinz-Günter Schulze, who died in the special children's ward]
panel 2.6
2.7 Those responsible and the perpetrators
Gives a portrait of the director, how the considered disabled children as "worthless human material," painted himself as opposed to "euthanasia," and took no responsibility for his deeds. A similar account is given from the physician heading the special children's ward, and a deposition of an nurse who worked in the ward is  presented.

2.8 A victim of "administratively planned transports" from Lüneburg
Shows a letter of patient detailing his experiences in the facility before being sent to a T4 gassing facility, and the example of another such patient.

2.9 "Administratively planned transports" and foreign victims
Portrays the system of transports to other facilities and the murder of patients, including those who were forced laborers, as well as data on the victims of "children's euthanasia"

[in the revised exhibit, this panel is now numbered 2.10, with the second section of the panel removed. The new panel 2.9 addresses the "T4"-victim Käte-Maria Spreen, who as a patient at Lüneburg was transferred to Herborn and murdered at Hadamar]
panel 2.9
2.10 Opposition against Nazi psychiatry
Presents information about persons who opposed "euthanasia" and wrote memoranda to this effect, including one who also belonged to the NSDAP and welcomed compulsory sterilization

[in the revised exhibit, this panel is now numbered 2.11]

3. Since 1945
3.1 Commemoration of the victims of Nazi psychiatry
Presents other memorial sites

3.2 A new beginning since 1945
Presents information about the director and the state of the facility in the postwar period

3.3 Criminal prosecution since 1945
Presents information about the trial of major administrative officers and the verdict (not guilty), as well as considerations of the state attorney's office

3.4 Perpetrators and their deeds
Addresses different levels of responsibility and culpability for the "euthanasia" crimes, as well as what people today can learn from studying those events

3.5 Research on Nazi psychiatry
Provides information about publications on "euthanasia" crimes, and about the scholars in the field

4.1 Patient art - This part presents art by patients of the facility
4.1 Karl Gustav Sievers

4.2 Art and culture with and for patients

4.3 Patient art

In addition, there is a board with press articles on current issues (such a s the "right to die") and a patient's corner, where patients present how and where they live on site and ask the visitors to be mindful so that the crimes of the past will not be repeated.

In the revision of the exhibit, a memorial tree was created by students of cultural sciences at the local university. It offers visitors an opportunity to reflect and express their thoughts by attaching notes to the tree (see also Reiter 2011).
tree project
Source: author

The exhibit was slightly revised and updated in 2010. Updates are noted above in the center column, and shown in the right column.

The memorial site itself is expressly an centrally concerned with disabled and sick children and youths as victims of the Nazi "children's euthanasia" program (see Reiter 2009, p. 15). This focus makes it unique. Consequently, one of its foci is children as victims on its exhibit floor: different sections deal with the special children's ward, its victims, and those who were responsible for these crimes. The board shown above presents an example. Since its inception until the first half of 2009, there have been more than 2,200 visitors, or about 700 per year. Almost 40% of the visits are related to education (made by students).

The memorial's website provides a detailed account of its activities, including the materials it provides to visitors. It informs about the current state of the exhibit and site. It also includes materials for a pedagogical engagement with visitors, particularly students, which are being revised in a project with students. Even a virtual offer was offered but is currently no longer available. The website had on average about 200 visitors per month until 2010.

The memorial site also offers two travel exhibits: NS-Psychiatrie und die Opfer - Gedenken in Niedersachsen (Psychiatry under National Socialism and its Victims: Commemoration in Lower Saxony), where since 2008 the seven locations are addressed where such victims are commemorated; and (the now defunct website for) Psychiatrie im Dritten Reich in Niedersachsen (Psychiatry in Lower Saxony during the Third Reich; since 1999).

stumbling blocks lueneburg Source: author
Some "stumbling blocks" for the victims were laid in front of the building that house the memorial exhibit and facility.

Dr. Reiter's website is still available: www.rreiter.de

Dr. Carola Rudnick, on the basis of a project (see below) has revamped the website and focused attention on the child victims, of whom R. Reiter had also described a few in his publications (see, e.g., Reiter 2010b regarding children from Hanover).

sketch of memorial
picture of new memorial
Source: http://www.welt.de/print/die_welt/hamburg/article121955667/Lueneburgs-moerderische-Aerzte.html; author author

One of her main foci has been to gather and provide information about the children whose remains were recently discovered in the archive of the neuropathological department (Archiv der Neuropathologischen Abteilung) of the university clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf. Remains of these children were buried on the premises of a new memorial at the facility's cemetery on 25 August 2013 in the approximate location where about 300 of the children who had died in Lüneburg had been buried. The memorialization is not only for the murdered children, but also for the 481 adult patients who became victims of "T4," and for the victims of "decentralized euthanasia" as well as those 67 patients who as foreigner were deported to an unknown location in 1944.

The red and yellow brick relates the memorial symbolically to the clinic (the same brick colors were used there). The gaps and disjunctions in the layering of the brick represents the civilizational rupture constituted by the patients' murder. The number of smaller red bricks in 297, representative of the number of children buried. 12 red bricks are larger and stand for the children who have been identified by name among those whose tissue samples were found in Eppendorf (there were 5 others from Hamburg's special children's wards). 37 yellow bricks reflect the total number of children from Lüneburg whose organs have been found there.

panel for F. Daps Source: author
Display panels on the victims with detailed biographical information about them have been created and are displayed in the back chamber of the water tower building where the existing exhibit is housed. The wall is framed with pictures of art projects commemorating the victims. They were created by students. Among the children whose remains were found, 12 have been identified by name: Marianne Begemann; Rosemarie Bode; Waldemar Borcholte; Friedrich Daps; Heinrich Herold; Elsa Knust; Herta Ley; Hans-Herbert Niehoff; Helmut Quast; Heinz Schäfer; Eckart Willumeit; and Werner Wolters. In total, at least 384 corpses of children were dissected at Lüneburg, and 577 tissue samples sent to Hamburg. The tissue samples came from 37 children.

Apart from these activities, stumbling blocks for two other child victims have been placed at their place of residence: Maria Westendorf (see here) and Rudold Menke (see here).

Funding for these activities has come from the project "Vielfalt achten, Teilhabe stärken" (Respect diversity, foster participation") which incorporates learning from "euthanasia" crimes to achieve a better inclusion of people with disabilities in today's society (see http://www.pk.lueneburg.de/gedenkstaette-inklusionsschulung/).

As part of this project, C. Rudnick also created a mobile traveling exhibit (Mobile Lernstation). In fall 2013, it was on display at the memorial. The contents are as follows:
1 - Treatment of individuals with a mental illness or a disability in Lüneburg before 1934
2 - Racial hygiene and eugenics
3 - Policies of racial hygiene and eugenics
4 - Psychiatry in Lüneburg, 1934-1949
5- Selection [of those "unworthy of living"] and program "T4"
6 - "Decentralized euthanasia" and collection point for foreign patients
7- "Children's euthanasia"
8- [Section on Lüneburg]
9 - Perpetrators and responsibility after 1945
10 - Epilogue

Recently, a detailed biography of the child victim Fritz Wehde has become available (here).

A special exhibition on the life histories of the 12 child victims, entitled "Den Opfern ein Gesicht, den Namen wieder geben" (To give the victims a face, their name back) was revealed to the public in August 2014 (info; here;  Rudnick 2014b). The exhibit is also displayed at other locations (info). The exhibit was made possible in part by relatives of the victims who read press reports (example) about C. Rudnick's activities and contacted her.

Support for current activities also comes from the Trägerverein der "Euthanasie"-Gedenkstätte Lüneburg e.V. (Sponsoring Organisation for the 'Euthanasia' Memorial Luneburg), founded in 2014. Changes to the permanent exhibit are planned. The Stiftung niedersächsische Gedenkstätten (Foundation for Public Memorials in Lower Saxony) provides support and information (see here and here) as well.


Benzenhöfer, Udo. 2003. "Genese und Struktur der 'NS-Kinder- und Jugendlicheneuthanasie.'" Monatsschrift für Kinderheilkunde 151: 1012-1019.

———. 2008. Der Fall Leipzig (alias Fall "Kind Knauer") und die Planung der NS-"Kindereuthanasie." Münster: Klemm & Oelschläger.

Kaelber, Lutz, and Raimond Reiter, eds. 2011. Kindermord und "Kinderfachabteilungen im Nationalsozialismus/Child Murder and “Special Children’s Wards” in Nazi Europe:  Commemoration and Historical Research. Hamburg: Lang.
Picture of cover of book  English table of contents

Lotze, Jürgen. 2007. "Die Bildungs- und Gedenkstätte: Sinn und Auftrag: Rede zur Eröffnung am 25. November 2004." Pp. 69-81 in Opfer der NS-Psychiatrie: Gedenken in Niedersachsen und Bremen, edited by Raimond Reiter. Marburg: Tectum Verlag.

Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus Lüneburg, ed. 2001. 100 Jahre Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus Lüneburg. Lüneburg: Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus Lüneburg (esp. the chapter by R. Reiter and C. Alefeld).

Pless, Helmut C. 1982. Lüneburg 45: Nordost-Niederschasen zwischen Krieg und Frieden. 4th, rev. ed. Lüneburg: Verlag der Landeszeitung.

Pörksen, Niels and Heiko Waller. 1984. "'Geistig Minderwertig...': Lebensvernichtung in der Psychiatrie: Die Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Lüneburg." Pp. 163-71 in Heimat, Heide, Hakenkreuz. Lüneburgs Weg ins Dritte Reich, edited by Lüneburger Arbeitskreis "Machtergreifung." Hamburg: VSA-Verlag.

Pörksen, Niels. 1989. "Hindernisse bei einer Ausstellungsvorbereitung: Die Psychiatrie in Lüneburg zur Zeit des Dritten Reiches - und 50 Jahre danach." Pp. 201-4 in Das Schicksal der Medizin im Faschismus, edited by A. Thom and S. M. Rapoport. Berlin: VEB Verlag Volk und Gesundheit.

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.

Reiter, Raimond. 1996. "Die 'Kinderfachabteilung' in Lüneburg." 1999: Zeitschrift für Sozialgeschichte des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts 11(3):55-67.

———. 1997. Psychiatrie im Dritten Reich in Niedersachsen. Hanover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung Hannover.

———, ed. 2001. 100 Jahre Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus Lüneburg. Lüneburg: Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus.

———, ed. 2005. Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus und die Bildungs- und Gedenkstätte 'Opfer der NS-Psychiatrie' in Lüneburg. Marburg: Tectum Verlag.

———. 2009. "Konzept der Bildungs- und Gedenkstätte "Opfer der NS-Psychiatrie" in Lüneburg." Lüneburg: Bildungs- und Gedenkstätte "Opfer der NS-Psychiatrie" in Lüneburg. Available at http://www.pk.lueneburg.de/gedenkstaette/konzept/Konzept-Gedenkstaette.pdf.

———. 2010a. "Opfer der NS-Psychiatrie aus Osnabrück." Osnabrücker Mitteilungen 115:159-70. Available at http://www.rreiter.de/reiter/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Osnabruecker-Mitteilungen-Reiter-2010.pdf

———. 2010b. "Kinder aus Hannover als Opfer der 'Kinderfachabteilung' Lüneburg im Zweiten Weltkrieg." Hannoversche Geschichtsblätter. Neue Folge 63:135-46. Available at http://www.rreiter.de/reiter/wp-content/uploads/2010/Hannoversche-GeschBlaetter-Nr63-2009-Reiter-2.pdf.

———. 2011. "Ein Gedenkbaum für Opfer der 'Kinderfachabteilung' Lüneburg und andere Fragen der Ausstellungskultur." In Kaelber/Reiter, Child Murder and “Special Children’s Wards.”

Rudnick, Carola S. 2014a. "Vielfalt achten, Teilhabe stärken. Menschenrechts- und gegenwartsreflektierte historisch-politische Bildungsarbeit an Orten der NS-Psychiatrie und 'Euthanasie.'" Pp. 182-210 in Forschungen zur Medizin im Nationalsozialismus : Vorgeschichte - Verbrechen - Nachwirkungen, edited by Alfred Flessner, Uta George, Ingo Harms, and Rolf Keller. Göttingen: Wallstein.
———. 2014b. Den Opfern ein Gesicht, den Namen geben: Zwölf Lebensgeschichten von Kindern und Jugendlichen der Lüneburger "Euthanasie"-Maßnahmen. Lüneburg: n.p. 

Stierl, 2005. "Wider die Bewältigung der Vergangenheit." Pp. 117-24 in Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus und die Bildungs- und Gedenkstätte 'Opfer der NS-Psychiatrie' in Lüneburg, editied by Raimond Reiter. Marburg: Tectum Verlag.

Suesse, Thorsten, and Heinrich Meyer. 1988. Abtransport der "Lebensunwerten": Die Konfrontation niedersächsischer Anstalten mit der NS-"Euthanasie." Hanover: Verlag Clemens Koechert.

———. 1993. "Die 'Kinderfachabteilung' in Lüneburg: Tötung behinderter Kinder zwischen 1941 und 1945." Praxis der Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie 42:234-40.

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.

Vormbaum, Thomas. ed. 2005. "Euthanasie" vor Gericht: Die Anklageschrift des Generalstaatsanwalts beim OLG Frankfurt/M. gegen Dr. Werner Heyde u. a. vom 22. Mai 1962. Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag. Pp. 87-88.

Concerning "Euthanasia" trial(s) and records 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. No. 226.

Reiter, Raimond. 2001. "Vollständige Überlieferung zur 100jährigen Geschichte des Landeskrankenhauses Lüneburg: Ein Beispiel zur Aktenlage über die Geschichte der Anstaltspsychiatrie." Der Archivar. Available here.

Last updated on 8 February 2015