Niedermarsberg (Provinzialheilanstalt für Geistes- und
The Kinderfachabteilung in Niedermarsberg (today a part of the city of
Marsberg) was established in November 1940 as the first of (what today
is the state of) North Rhine-Westphalia's three special children's
wards and the
approximately fifth one overall. Its establishment in a physically
separate and closed-off ward in a building followed efforts in
the summer of 1940 by Hefelmann, one of the main bureaucrats
responsible for "euthanasia" in the Chancellery of the Führer) to open
a special children's ward in the Province of Westphalia. It operated
until December 1941, as the Kinderfachabteilung in Dortmund-Aplerbeck
was established there as its functional replacement. Its closing was at
least in part due to the fact that its operation did not remain secret
in a heavily Catholic region and caused unrest. The special children's
ward was housed in the St. Johannes
Stift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie,
which was founded as a "Idiotenanstalt" ("facility for idiots"), under
the auspices of the Barmherzige Schwestern vom Heiligen Vinzenz von
Paul (a Catholic order; the Sisters of Mercy of Saint Vincent de Paul).
clinic's medical director
was Dr. Theodor Steinmeyer, who committed suicide after his arrest by
the Allies in 1945. Responsible for the special children's ward was Dr.
Werner Sengenhoff, who was recruited for this position from the
provincial clinic in Dortmunt-Aplerbeck. He died in 1944, apparently after an illness. Additional
medical personnel brought in by the Reichsausschuss consisted of the
nurse Olga Ullrich and the nurse assistant Christel Zielke.
two physicians dead, Christel Zielke was the only one held responsible
court, but her sentence of 3 years and 9 months was for having
cooperated in the killing of 25 patients in the T4 facility Hadamar,
where she had worked as well (she had also worked at Grafeneck and
Bernburg; see Bauer). The events at the Kinderfachabteilung never came
judicial review (see Teppe 1993; Hanrath, p. 96).
It has been estimated that of a maximum of 53 children housed in the
special children's ward, most if not almost all became victims
of "children's euthanasia" (Kersting, in Köster, p. 13, specifies the
of actual victims as at least 36, based on the earlier research of Teppe).
In the immediate postt-war period, the initial conference of the
directors and head administrators of
medical and care facilities in the province commemorated those who had
fallen in the war yet did not mention those who had perished under the
"euthanasia" measures. After pressure from American presecutors in the
context of the Nuremberg and the British occupation authorities as well
by the appointed first minister president of North
Rhine-Westphalia, Rudolf Ameluxen, to shed light on the murder of
patients, the provincial association of Westfalen as the larger
communal institution responsible for the general welfare of the
population conducted investigations resulting in reports in 1946-47 on
crimes in the Province of Westfalia temporarily pierced the veil of
professed ignorance that enveloped the St. Johannes Stift and other
places, confirming that children had been murdered in the Marsberg
Kinderfachabteilung. In fact, at the St. Johannes Stift mistreatment of
patients continued well into the post-war period, as demonstrated in
the notorious case of Paul Brune. In 1952. a review of the post-war
reconstruction of public welfare institutions in the region included a
reference to the murder of patients in the Nazi period. It also made
mention of 35 victims of children's euthanasia in Niedermarsberg
(Naunin 1952, p. 94).
In 1983, on occasion of the beginning of the Nazi dictatorship in 1993,
the then director of the Regional Council (Landschaftsverband) of
Westfalen-Lippe, Herbert Neseker, and the Council Committee
(Landschaftsausschuss) initiated a review of the history of the
Provinzialverband der Provinz Westfalen (the Provicial Association of
the Province of Westfalia), the historical predecessor of the Regional
Council, during the Nazi period, specifically in the area of
psychiatric care, a task it commissioned its research institute to
carry out. Dr.
Karl Teppe of the Institute of Westphalian Regional History
(LWL-Institut für westfälische Regionalgeschichte) informed the
Assembly of the Regional Council of Westphalia-Lippe in August 1989 in
his lecture "On the Value of Life (and Lack thereof) during the years
of National Socialism: Hitler's 'Euthanasia'-Decree of 1 Sept. 1939" of
the mass murder among psychiatric patients and engendered public
interest in the subject matter. His written report (Teppe 1989)
included references to "children's euthanasia" at Niedermarsberg.
The church of the clinic (see http://www.lwl.org/psychiatrie-marsberg-download/PDF/LageplanKlinik20090220.pdf, no. 05 on the map)
has a memorial stone with the inscription "In memory of patients
murdered during the tyranny of National Socialism, for us as a warning
today" (Im Gedenken an
die während der
des Nationalsozialismus ermordeten Patienten zur Mahnung uns heute). It
does not address or thematize children's euthanasia specifically.
However, at the entrance of house 11 a memorial was placed in
Dec. 1989 that does (see above and also http://www.lwl.org/psychiatrie-marsberg-download/PDF/LageplanKJP20090220.pdf).
It was created by the artist Reinhard Lischka and shows a sculptural
the shapes of three children under two arms ascending.
The text on the display reads "Not knowing hurts nobody, except for
those who are hurt, because no one knows it! (Anon.) (Nicht Wissen tut
niemandem weh, mit Ausnahme derer, denen weh getan wird, weil niemand
es weiss! [Anon]). Below it there is a plaque with the text "The
knowledge of the suffering and murder of the children in our home
during the Nazi rule of terror is enduring warning to us." On occasion
of the 125th anniversary of the clinic, an exhibit took place at the
location, and a small zen garden in the central building was created to offer a place of peace.
innovative commemoration project that is unique in its kind was
launched as the project "Idiotenfriedhof" (a reference to the cemetery
of the originally named "Idiot facility," where many of the child
victims were buried). It consists of two parts: first, an art
installation by the artist Astrid Raimann at the entrance to the
cemetery (established in 2004), which constitutes a 3x3m tube frame of
a rectacular shape. It marks a boundary, and it is meant to
generate questions in the observer: a boundary of what kind? Between
what or whom? From and to where? Next to the frame is a small sign with
the following words: "HERE AND THERE 1940-1941-2004" (HIER
UND DA 1940-1941-2004). Various school classes come visit this
memorial (for a report, see here).
Behind it, a sign points to a memorial on the cemetery grounds. The
inscription on it reads: "Against forgetting. In memory of the murder
of innocent children in St. Johannisstift Marsberg during the National
Socialist tyranny December 1940 - end of 1941" (Gegen Vergessen. Zur
Erinnerung an die Ermordung unschuldiger Kinder im St. Johannisstift
der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft Dezember 1940 bis Ende
1941). It was placed there in 2000, and on 23 June 2001 a commemorative
religious service was held there. A newspaper article notes that 18 of the Reichsausschusskinder lay buried in this cemetery.
Second, creative workshop projects are carried out with young patients
at the clinic since 2002. These include workshops in
2002: stone sculpting, with sculptor Astrid Raimann,
2003 videoworkshop, with film producer
2004: Comic-workshop, with comicauthor Julia
2005: building and playing string puppets, with metal
sculptor Kordula Klose,
2006: water color painting, with
painter Christina Stoschus-Schumann,
2007: creative writing and
improvisation theater, with writer Arzu Toker,
2008: water color painting, with
painter Christina Stoschus-Schumann,
2009: stone sculpting, with sculptor Astrid Raimann.
2010: painting, with painter Rosa Reichenbach.
2011: painting, with painter Rosa Reichenbach.
The art installation and living memorial are depicted on the following website and blog.
Reviews/comments in English/German also exist. Most recently, there is also a Facebook page.
of the clinic today does not mention the
"Euthanasia" crimes on its premises. Instead, in its survey of its
history it points to the existence of "compulsory sterilizations and
forced transportations with the intent to kill [patients elsewhere]"--a
curious depiction of the historical events. In contrast, in its book on
the 125th anniversary the institution addresses the crimes during the
Nazi era in great detail.
The Regional Council of Westfalen-Lippe addresses "euthanasia"-crimes in
its account of the history of the Provinzialverband (der
Provinz Westfalen), its historical predecessor.
A memory of a child described as a victim of "children's euthanasia" at
this location (although she died in August 1945) is preserved here.
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