Uchtspringe (Landesheilanstalt Uchtspringe)

Map of Uchtspringe

The Kinderfachabteilung in Uchtspringe was established in June 1941 as the only such ward in what today is the state of Saxony-Anhalt and continued to operate until April 1945. The clinic's medical director was Dr. Ernst Beese, and the physicians responsible for the "special children's ward" were Dr. Gerhard Wenzel from July 1941 to April 1942 and, after a brief absence after being called up by the German army, from June 1942 to September 1943. He was succeeded by Hermann Wesse, who had worked in the special children's wards Görden, Waldniel, and Leipzig before, until he was drafted into the German army in December 1943 (after his release in April 1944 he then headed the special children's ward in Kalmenhof). His successor was his wife, Dr. Hildegard Wesse, who held the position until July 1945 (the American army had occupied Uchtspringe in April).

Dr. Beese died of a stroke in June 1945. Dr. Wenzel was acquitted in his trial by the district court (Landgericht) Göttingen in 1953 and worked in a clinic for people with head trauma. Hermann Wesse became the longest-serving convicted "euthanasia" doctor after having been convicted to death in atrial in Frankfurt for his activities at the Kalmenhof (converted to life in prison) and to life in prison for his activities at Waldniel in a trial at Düsseldorf. He was released in 1966 for medical reasons. Dr. Hildegard Wesse was acquitted in the same trial as Dr. Wenzel for her involvement in killing children but convicted of manslaughter for killing 30 adult women. The sentence was two years in prison but did become final, as the case was dropped in 1954. After that, Dr. Hildegard Wesse practiced as a physician in Braunschweig for 30 years and died in 1997 (Klieme 1997, p. 2008).

The number of victims has been estimated to be as follows: about 1,800 victims who were sent to their death as part of "T4," and approximately 500 patients killed in the clinic, the vast majority of whom were children. Trial records put the number of children murdered with Luminal and morphine at approximately 350 children and youths, not including those who died of neglect or starvation (Synder 2001, p. 90), between 1940 and 1945. D. Roer notes the death of at least 753 children and youths between August 1941 and April 1945 (Roer 1992, p. 24), and even 809 deaths among those age 20 and younger between January 1941 and April 1945 (Roer 1997, p. 125). These numbers are large in comparative perspective, and Uchtspringe, in terms of its sheer capacity, ranks among the largest next to Görden and Lüneburg (Topp 2005, p. 92 n. 482), as well as Konradstein and Vienna.

house at Uchtspringe
pic of coffin a
coffin c
Sources: Synder 2001, p. 89; McManama; Klieme 1997, p.  215

The pictures above show the house in which the children's ward was housed, a drop-bottom coffin for the 'disposal' of the victims, and the overgrown field of victims' graves in the cemetery in 1989.
memorial uchtspringe
display uchtspringe
Source: author

Research on the victims at Uchtspringe by Kriemhild Synder (a physician there), Dorothee Roer, and Joachim Klieme in the 1990s ushered in a new "dealing with the past." An association in support of the clinic (Förderverein Psychiatrie in Geschichte und Gegenwart e.V.) was founded in 2000, which adopted as one of its tasks the exploration of crimes at the clinic during National Socialism, helped establish a memorial. On 15 September 2004, the year of the 110th anniversary of the clinic, a memorial stone for the victims of NS-"euthanasia" was revealed. Its inscription reads: "To the women, men, and children who were demeaned, killed, or sent to their death from this place" (Den Frauen, Männern und Kindern, die während des Nationalsozialismus in der Landesheilanstalt Uchtspringe gedemütigt, getötet oder von hier in den Tod geschickt wurden). A report of this event is here (archived). Initially commemorative events included the placing of a wreath in November.

cemetery Uchtspringe 1
cemetery Uchtspringe 2
Source: author

The cemetery, where many of the victims are believed to be buried, is adjacent to the facility.

The web page of the SALUS Fachklinikum Uchtspringe (click on Uchtspringe/Fachklinikum) does not address "euthanasia" on its front pages, although it used to refer to a paper by Dr. Synder and links to a speech in 2005 of Dr. Volkmar Lischka, who expressly mentions "children's euthanasia," on its now defunct history page (history page; archived). The site www.uchtspringe.de [defunct; archived) has more extensive information, including Dr. Synder's paper [archived] on "euthanasia" at Uchtspringe and the establishment of the memorial stone.

One of the children at Uchtspringe was Elvira Manthey. She was reported to the "T4" and sent to die in the gas chamber of Brandenburg, to follow the footsteps of her younger sister, but was allowed to turn back. From there she went to Brandenburg-Görden (itself the site of a special children's ward) and back to Uchtspringe before she was released in 1942. Her story is described in a self-published book and here [archived]. A report of her testimony is here, and videos of it is available here: 1, 2, 3.

The exhibit "Psychiatrie im Wandel der Zeit" (Psychiatry as it developed over time) consists of two principal elements (see the overview here). The first element is the permanent exhibit housed in the old church on site, which is now also the visitors' center. The permanent exhibit is entitled "Vom Gut Modderkuhl zum Fachklinikum - die Geschichte der psychiatrischen Behandlung in Uchtspringe" (From the estate Modderkuhl to specialized clinic: the history of psychiatric treatment in Uchtspringe). It addresses the history of psychiatric care in Germany exemplified by the institution of Uchtspringe. It includes sections that address changes to the facility's architecture and how medical-therapeutic views developed over time. Some parts focus on the impact of some of the clinic directors on the institutions and the type and quality of care, as well as on the facility during the German Democratic Republic, and on developments after reunification. A short film about the history of the institution is available, as well as an architectural model and a computer terminal with information.

picture 1 of exhibit
pic 3
pic 2
pic4 pic 5

Source: author.

Included in the permanent exhibit are display panels on "euthanasia" murders as well as a commemorative wall that contains the names of victims. The section that addresses this part of the institution's history is called "Der Sündenfall" (fall into sin). As one enters the room, on the the left a commemorative wall and a searchable list in an electronic display panel contain the names of victims who were deported to other institutions to be murdered there, not those who became victims on site--for the reason that, as the text notes, deliberate killings would be difficult to prove. A second electronic display panel contains detailed information about the "euthanasia" program. It is near-identical to the one displayed at the exhibit of the memorial Bernburg and in fact was developed by its director, Dr. Ute Hofmann. Above and to the left of the second electronic display panel is a portrait of Dr. Beese as well as a text that addresses his involvement in medical crimes on site. To the right of his portrait is a text panel that contains the motto of this section of the exhibit and provides some basic information about the types of medical crimes and actions that involved Uchtspringe's patient. A large display container below it addresses compulsory sterilizations on site and shows a booklet with information about patients' sterilizations. The display to its right shows administrative and career records for Dr. Beese.

On the opposite wall several more display panels inform about three victims, one of them a child and one a youth. Also portrayed is the story of Elvira Manthey, who was sent back from a "T4" transport to Brandenburg/Havel and then resided in the Uchtspringe institution for some time. An audio station is also provided.

panel on 1940s
panel on 1940s - children
Source: author

A general computer panel on the history of the institution in the beginning part of the exhibit provides the most detailed information about "children's euthanasia" on site.

The exhibit opened on 7 September 2011.

The second element is a traveling exhibit entitled "Dämonen und Neuronen: Psychiatrie Gestern, Heute und Morgen" (Demons and Neurons: Psychiatry Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow), when not on tour, is also housed in the church. It contains audio- and video-interviews, info terminals and computer simulations, as well as a variety of panels on the history of psychiatry, currrent types and manifestations of mental illnesses and disorders, as well as directions of future development. It is accessible in its entirely online here: http://salus-institut.de/rundgang/  There is also a flyer.

travel exhibit 1
travel exhibit 2
Source: author

The company id3d Berlin was responsible for the artistic implementation of the traveling exhibit commissioned by the Salus Institute. It was curated by beier+wellach and opened on 18 December 2010.

A 2013 article on the topic of "crimes against children and youths in the NS period" (Haack and Kumbier 2013) includes short portraits of several children from the Uchtspringe facility who became victims of "T4" (p. 17).


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

Fuchs, Petra, and Maike Rotzoll. 2006. "Die Selektionskriterien der nationalsozialistischen 'Euthanasie' am Beispiel der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Uchtspringe." Pp. 47-57 in Psychiatrie des Todes: NS-Zwangssterilisation und "Euthanasie" im Freistaat Anhalt und in der Provinz Sachsen, Part 2, edited by Ute Hoffmann. Magdeburg: Landesverwaltungsamt Sachsen-Anhalt.

Haack, Kathleen, and Ekkehardt Kumbier. 2013. "Verbrechen an Kindern und Jugendlichen in der NS-Zeit." Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie 41: 12-19.

Klee, Ernst. 2005. Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich: Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Frankfurt: Fischer.

Klieme, Joachim. 1997. Ausgrenzung aus der NS-"Volksgemeinschaft": Die Neuerkeröder Anstalten in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, 1933-1945. Braunschweig: Selbstverlag des Braunschweigischen Geschichtsvereins.

Lischka, Volkmar. 2005. "Vortrag anlässlich der Jubiläumstagung zum 110jährigen Bestehen des Klinik-Standortes Uchtspringe am 20. Oktober 2005." Available at http://www.salus-lsa.de/portal/index.php?KZ=2979

Manthey, Elvira. 1994. Die Hempelsche: Das Schicksal eines deutschen Kindes, das 1940 vor der Gaskammer umkehren durfte. Lübeck: Hempel-Verlag Heinz Manthey.

McManama, Brigitte. 2010. Chancen zur Enthospitalisierung und De-Institutionalisierung für Menschen mit geistigen Behinderungen? Entflechtung der psychiatrischen Landeskrankenhäuser und deren Folgen für die Behindertenhilfe im Land Sachsen-Anhalt. Munich: Grin.

Roer, Dorothee. 1992. "Psychiatrie in Deutschland, 1933-1945: Ihr Beitrag zur 'Endlösung der sozialen Frage' am Beispiel der Heilanstalt Uchtspringe." Psychologie und Gesellschaftskritik 16(2):15-37.

———. 1997. "'Lebens-unwert': Kinder und Jugendliche in der NS-Psychiatrie." Pp. 107-30 in Halbierte Vernunft und Totale Medizin: Zu Grundlagen, Realgeschichte und Fortwirken der Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus, edited by M. Hamman and H. Asbeck. Frankfurt: Campus.

———. 1998. "Nationalsozialistischer Alltag am Beispiel der Psychiatrischen Anstalten Uchtspringe und Kaufbeuren-Irsee." In Medizin und Gewissen: 50 Jahre nach dem Nürnberger Ärzteprozess (CD-Rom), edited by S. Kolb and H. Seithe.

Rotzoll, Maike, Richter, Paul, and Petra Fuchs. 2006. "The First National Socialist Extermination Crime: The T4 Program and Its Victims." International Journal of Mental Health 35(3):17-29.

Synder, Kriemhild. 1994. "Patientenschicksale 1933 bis 1945 in der Landesheilanstalt Uchtspringe oder Wie sich erinnern?" Pp. 14-25 in 100 Jahre Landeskrankenhaus Uchtspringe 1894-1994, edited by Volkmar Lischka, Thomas Dost, and Gerhard Schulz. Uchtspringe: selfpublished. Available at http://www.uchtspringe.de/synder.htm

———. 2001. "Die Landesanstalt Uchtspringe und ihre Verstrickung in nationalsozialistische Verbrechen." Pp. 73-95 in Psychiatrie des Todes: NS-Zwangssterilisation und "Euthanasie" im Freistaat Anhalt und in der Provinz Sachsen, edited by U. Hoffmann. Magdeburg: Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Sachsen-Anhalt. Available at http://www.sachsen-anhalt.de/LPSA/fileadmin/Elementbibliothek/Bibliothek_Stiftung_Gedenkstaetten/Bernburg/Psychiatrie_des_Todes_-_Teil_1.pdf

Tögel, Christfried, and Volkmar Lischka, eds. 2005. 'Euthanasie' und Psychiatrie (Uchtspringer Schriften zur Psychiatrie, Neurologie, Schlafmedizin, Psychologie und Psychoanalyse). Uchtspringe: Sigmund-Freud-Zentrum.

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. Vol. 11, pp. 733ff.

Bryant, Michael S. 2005. Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953. Boulder: University of Colorado Press. Pp. 203-9.

Freudiger, Kerstin. 2002. Die juristische Aufarbeitung von NS-Verbrechen. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Pp. 344-50.

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. 132-40.

Rüter, Christiaan F.  2002-. DDR-Justiz und NS-Verbrechen. Sammlung ostdeutscher Strafurteile wegen nationalsozialistischer Tötungsverbrechen. Amsterdam: University Press Amsterdam. Vol. 6, pp. 629ff; Vol. 11, pp. 627ff.

Last updated on 14 August 2013