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Sachsenberg (Heil und Pflegeanstalt Sachsenberg)



The Kinderfachabteilung at the Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Sachsenberg existed between August or September 1941 and at least 1944 (possibly until the end of WWII). The institution's director was Dr. Johannes Fischer; in charge and responsible for the "special children's ward" was Dr. Alfred Leu (see Topp, pp. 34-5; Benzenhöfer, p. 1017). Dr. Fischer committed suicide after WWII, whereas Dr. Leu fled to Holstein in the west, where he was subsequently put in British internment until 1948 and in 1949 worked as a forensic physician. Two anonymous letters pointing to his involvement in "euthanasia" arrived and prompted an investigation (see Klee 2004, pp. 209-11).

picture of altes Frauen-Pflegehaus Source: http://www.hauspost.de/hp_online_1999_05/s/klinik.html

A first trial in Schwerin in 1946 took place in the absence of Dr. Leu, and the physician and nurses charged at the trial implicated Dr. Leu in the killing of about 100 children (see Rüter). In two other trials in Cologne in 1951 and 1953, the court referred to the transfer of the children's station in the nearby Lewenberg facility in July/August 1941 due to its requisition by the German army to the clinic at the Sachsenberg with 280 children as the possible beginning of the children's "euthanasia." According to Dr. Leu, the Reichsausschuss had provided authorization for treatment for 180 children, but by Dr. Leu's own account, he had negotiated down that number to about 100, killed "only" 70 of them and another 20-30 children subsequently, but only to prevent another physician to take his place and kill even more. In short, Dr. Leu, by his own account, was a true hero and savior who reluctantly had to sacrifice a few to accommodate the demands of authorities so he could save the many. The court gave credence to his views and issued a verdict of not guilty twice. Subsequently, in the German Democratic Republic there appears not to have been much interest in addressing the conditions and events at the clinic during the NS-period (see Brooks 2007, pp. 25-26).

When the writer Helga Schubert attempted to use files related to NS-"euthanasia" at the clinic in Schwerin in preparation for her book (Schubert 2003), in which she reflected on 179 patient files of T4 victims that were among the nearly 30,000 files discovered in Berlin in 1990 but did not focus on children, she was not granted access to them. A small group of clinic employees in the early 1990s had founded the "Freundeskreis Sachsenberg" and attempted to explore the history of the clinic further, which led to a small exhibit detailing the history of the clinic, including the NS period, in the mid 1990s (today remnants of an exhibit in the former water tower only cover the period prior to 1933). In 1997 a plan was devised to establish a memorial, which was furthered by the activities of a group "Memorial activities in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern" (Gedenkstättenarbeit in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) of the association Politische Memoriale e.V., but the Freundeskreis Sachsenberg then became inactive for some time (Pink 2008; see also the following reports: 1, 2). According to a 1999 report written by Dr. Schmidt-Degenhard, the director of the clinic at the time, for a magazine of Schwerin, 430 children died at the Sachsenberg between 1941 and 1945, of whom 300 are believed to have been victims of children's "euthanasia."

With a new clinic director, Dr. Andreas Brooks, taking office in 2003, further changes were afoot. The first symposium on the Nazi past, under the title "Events on the Sachsenberg during National Socialism" (Geschehnisse auf dem Sachsenberg zur Zeit des Nationalsozialismus), took place on 25 January 2007. It was organized by the HELIOS-clinics, the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (state office for political education), and the associations Politische Memoriale and Freundeskreis Sachsenberg (Political Memorial and Friends of the Sachsenberg). A report can be found here. This gave new life to the Freundeskreis Sachsenberg and led to an invitation to artists to submit proposals for a memorial. 14 such proposals were submitted, and in December 2007 the winner was chosen: the proposal by the artist Dörte Michaelis.

The second symposium took place on 11 March 2008, supported by the HELIOS-clinics and the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Its title was "Medical Crimes in Schwerin during National Socialism" (Medizinverbrechen in Schwerin in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus).  A report can be found here.

Catalina Colom Gottwald's dissertation may address the topic of "euthanasia" at Sachsenberg; she has published some preliminary findings (Lange 2009). Dr. Lothar Pelz (2009) has provided the most extensive analysis of the children so far. According to his analyses, 467 children and youths were committed to the special children's ward between 1941 and 1945 (station IV - "Abteilung IV der Anstalten Sachsenberg-Lewenberg"), and 284 died. A book by Joachim Piper (2011) addresses the fate of disabled children who were cared for by Lobetal deaconesses and sent to the children's home Lewenberg and to the Sachsenberg's "Kinderfachabteilung."

Basedow house
Source: http://www.hauspost.de/hp_online_2004_02/s/27.htm

Trial courts established that about 180 children were transferred from the children's home at the Lewenberg to the Sachsenberg, and that the transfer in September 1941 coincided with the establishment of the special children's ward there. Until April 1943, "72 physically healthy children of compulsory school age [schulpflichtig]" remained at the Lewenberg facility, in a school housed in the historical "Basedow house." All but 28 of the students were transferred to the Sachsenberg facility, and the rest of the children followed in November 1943, at which time no children were left on the grounds of the Lewenberg. The school on the Sachsenberg grounds had enrolled students between April 1943 and 1945 (Kasten 2013). The "Kinderheim Lewenberg" as such did not cease to exist but only changed location to the Sachsenberg facility and continued to operate under this name from there during WWII.

memorial at Sachsenberg
display at Sachsenberg memorial
Source: author

The artist Michaelis's memorial project was dedicated on 12 June 2008. It is a series of ceramic stelae. The memorial is entitled "Ein-Zum-Nachdenken-Bewegendes Werk" (a creation that moves one to think) and meant to memorialize the more than 1,000 persons who were killed here or transported from here to their death. It is meant to depict the diversity and vivaciousness of life, together with the loss of life incurred by the "euthanasia" crimes, signified by black, shortened stomps.

A text display that accompanies it, and was contributed mainly by Andreas Wagner of the association Politische Memoriale, reads as follows: "Memorial for all patients in the mental hospital Sachsenberg/Schwerin, who became victims of Nazi medicine in the years 1933-1945. - In Nazi Germany during the period 1933 to 1945 with the active assistance of staff from the medical and nursing staff people with disabilities, the mentally ill, and other persons who did not conform to the human image shaped by the Nazis racial delusions were stigmatized, compulsorily sterilized, and later murdered. This also happened in the former mental hospital Sachsenberg/Schwerin. -. 275 patients were deported in 1941 to Bernburg and gassed ('T4-program'). Several hundred patients, many of them mentally ill and mentally disabled children were killed in subsequent years as part of the so-called 'wild euthanasia' by overdose of medication or lack of care. In the preceding years more than 300 patients had been forcibly sterilized. The victims should be our constant reminder: There is no life that is unworthy of living! The colorful ceramic stelae express the diversity of human life, the dark stumps represent the murdered people. The memorial was established on 12 June 2008" (Mahnmal für alle Patienten der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Sachsenberg/Schwerin, die in den Jahren 1933-1945 Opfer der nationalsozialistischen Medizin wurden. - Im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland wurden in der Zeit von 1933 bis 1945 unter tätiger Mithilfe von Mitarbeitern aus der Ärzteschaft und Pflegepersonal Behinderte, psychisch Kranke und andere Personen, die nicht dem vom Rassenwahn geprägten Menschenbild der Nationalsozialisten entsprachen, stigmatisiert, zwangsweise sterilisiert und später ermordet. Dies geschah auch in der damaligen Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Sachsenberg/Schwerin. - 275 Patienten wurden 1941 nach Bernburg deportiert und dort vergast ("T4-Aktion"). Mehrere hundert Patienten, darunter viele psychisch kranke und geistig behinderte Kinder wurden in den Folgejahren im Zuge der sogenannten "dezentralen Euthanasie" durch Überdosierung von Medikamenten oder mangelnde Versorgung getötet. Schon in den Jahren zuvor waren über 300 Patienten zwangsweise sterilisiert worden.  Die Opfer sollen uns beständige Mahnung sein. Es gibt kein lebensunwertes Leben! Die bunten Keramikstelen bringen die Vielgestaltigkeit menschlichen Lebens zum Ausdruck, die dunklen Stümpfe stehen für die ermordeten Mitmenschen. Das Mahnmal wurde am 12.6.2008 eingeweiht). 

The display thus explains the meaning of the monument and the events, and it puts them in historical context. The special children's ward is not mentioned, and its victims are subsumed under the category victims of "wild euthanasia."

On 27 January 2009 the first commemoration on the Holocaust remembrance day took place, and on the same day in 2010, the second, with about 120 attendees. Reports can be found here and here.

The clinic's website has a page on the clinic's history. It refers to the events during the Nazi period, including the killing of children (here).

cemetery I cemetery II
Source: author

Existing scholarship does not address the burial place for the children. The facility's old cemetery looks overgrown.

Stolperstein for G. Nevermann
Source: http://www.wismar.de/media/custom/125_1515_1_g.JPG?1257338042r>
A Stolperstein exists in Wismar for a child that died in the special children's ward: Günter Nevermann (here; here). A scientific article is available (Haack et al. 2013).


Stolperstein for H. Ladewig

Source: Gramenz 2013, p. 335

A child considered a "Mischling" under Nazi racial policy died as a "euthanasia" victim on the Sachsenberg in 1942. His name is Horst Ladewig (see Gramenz 2013, pp. 328-36).

memorial for children
memorial children

Source: http://www.focus.de/regional/mecklenburg-vorpommern/geschichte-sellering-erinnert-an-nazi-verbrechen-an-kindern-aus-luebtheen_aid_1024757.html; http://www.ndr.de/regional/mecklenburg-vorpommern/gedenkstaette157.html

For the 56 children who were transferred from the Lobetal facility, of whom 44 have been identified as victims of "euthanasia," a memorial installation was placed in Lübtheen (now the home of the charitable institution that once cared for the children). It was opened to the public on 24 June 2013.

Literature

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

Brooks, Andreas. 2007. "Die Geschehnisse auf dem Sachsenberg im Rahmen des nationalsozialistischen Euthanasieprogramms." Pp. in Schweriner Gespräche, edited by the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Mecklenburg–Vorpommern. Schwerin: Thomas Helms Verlag.

Endlich, Stefanie, Nora Goldenbogen, Beatrix Herlemann, Monika Kahl, and Regina Scheer. 2002. Gedenkstätten für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, vol. 2. Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. Available at http://www.bpb.de/files/AFQX24.pdf.

Gramenz, Jürgen. 2013. Ladewig: Dokumentation eines jüdischen Familienverbandes aus Mecklenburg. Plaidt: Cardamina.

Haack, Kathleen, Frank Hässler, and Ekkehardt Kumbier. 2013. "Nationalsozialistische 'Kindereuthanasie': Das Beispiel Günter Nevermann." Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie 41(3): 173-79.

Kasten, Bernd. 2013. Personal communication.

Klee, Ernst. 2001. Deutsche Medizin im Dritten Reich: Karrieren vor und nach 1945. 2d ed. Frankfurt: Fischer.

———. 2004. Was sie taten, was sie wurden: Ärzte, Juristen und andere Beteiligte am Kranken- und Judenmord. 12th ed. Frankfurt: Fischer.

Lange, Catalina. 2009. "Umsetzung der zentralen und dezentralen Euthanasie in der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Schwerin-Sachsenberg." Pp. 46-58 in Ethik und Erinnerung: Zur Verantwortung der Psychiatrie in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, edited by Ekkehard Kumbier, Stefan J. Teipel, and Sabine C. Herpertz. Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.

Pelz, Lothar. 2009. "Mecklenburgische Kinderarzte und NS-'Kindereuthanasie.'" Pp. 59-69 in Ethik und Erinnerung: Zur Verantwortung der Psychiatrie in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, edited by Ekkehard Kumbier, Stefan J. Teipel, and Sabine C. Herpertz. Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.

Pink, Jörg. 2008. "Der Verein 'Freundeskreis Sachsenberg' e.V. und die Aufarbeitung der Geschehnisse auf dem Sachsenberg während der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus: Zur Geschichte der Entstehung des Gedenkzeichens." Zeitgeschichte regional: Mitteilungen aus Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 12 (2): 110-12.

Piper, Joachim. 2011. "Lobetal habe ich säubern lassen": Arbeit und Schicksal der Lübtheener Diakonissen. Celle: Lobetalarbeit.

Schmidt, K. 1935. "Geschichte und Aufgaben des Kinderheims Lewenberg." Psychiatrisch-Neurologische Wochenschrift 37: 16-20.

Schmidt-Degenhard, Michael. 1999. "Geplantes Mahnmal soll an die Schweriner Opfer der Euthanasie erinnern: 900 Menschen mußten sterben." Hauspost: Das Schweriner Stadtmagazin 5. Available at http://www.hauspost.de/hp_online_1999_05/s/klinik.html

Schubert, Helga. 2003. Die Welt da drinnen: Eine deutsche Nervenklinik und der Wahn vom "unwerten Leben." Frankfurt: Fischer.

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.\

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. No. 383.

Bryant, Michael S. 2005. Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953. Boulder: University of Colorado Press. Pp. 198-203.

Mildt, Dick de. In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide in the Reflection of Their Post-War Prosecution in West Germany: The 'Euthanasia' and 'Aktion Reinhard' Trial Cases. The Hague: Martinus Nuhoff Publishers. Pp. 176-9.

Rüter, Christiaan F. 2002-. DDR-Justiz und NS-Verbrechen. Sammlung ostdeutscher Strafurteile wegen nationalsozialistischer Tötungsverbrechen. Amsterdam: University Press Amsterdam. No. 1832.


Last updated on 21 September 2014