Görden (Landesanstalt Görden bei Brandenburg)

map of Brandenburg an der Havel

The Landesanstalt Görden / Brandenburg, located on the outskirts of the city of Brandenburg an der Havel, is perhaps the most notorious Kinderfachabteilung for its official designation as "Reichsschulstation," in which numerous physicians responsible for special children's wards received training in "euthanasia" (Topp 2004, pp. 38-42).

picture of building

In 1939 the facility housed over 1,000 psychiatric disabled or ill children and youths, some of whom had previously been transferred to Görden from facilities in Potsdam und Lübben., as well as from facilities in the city of Berlin. Historians have not come to an agreement on the date when the special children's ward was established and commenced its operation. Some argue that it might have been as early as the fourth quarter 1939, with the first admission of a child designated as Reichsausschusskind in the admission records on 19 January 1940 (Topp 2004, p. 24; Falk/Hauer 2007, p. 92). Others note the official opening date of 1 July 1940, with the first child dead on the next day (Pelz 2005, p. 7; Benzenhöfer 2008, pp. 84-5).

There were 172 children admitted to the special children's ward, of whom 147 died (Beddies 2004, pp. 220-1; see also Falk/Hauer 2007, p. 92). These number do not nearly portray the extent to which minors became victims of "euthanasia" crimes and experiments. Of the about 4,000 minors who were admitted betwen May 1938 and August 1944, 1,270 died in the facility. An additional 430 minors there became victims of the T4 gassing program. More still were transferred to facilities where "decentralized euthanasia" was practiced, and to youth concentration camps. There was also a "Forschungsabteilung" (research station) for carrying out medical experiments on minors, which resulted in a very high mortality rate (Beddies, Hübener, and Rose 2004; Falk/Hauer 2007, pp. 112-8), as well as collaboration with the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research in Berlin Buch. Lothar Pelz's examinations yielded a total of 1,481 minors admitted to the clinic between August 1939 and May 1945, of whom 1,045 died (2005, p. 12).

The clinic's director was Dr. Hans Heinze, who also headed the Forschungsabteilung. Responsible for the Kinderfachabteilung was Dr. Ernst Illing, who transferred to the special children's ward in Vienna on 1 July 1942 (see Kinderfachabteilung "Am Spiegelgrund"/Vienna). His successor was Dr. Friederike Pusch. Dr. Heinze spent seven years in prison after having been convicted by a Soviet military tribunal of charges that included crime against humanity, and "euthanasia" in so far as he had designated more than 200 persons for their murder (a charge he rejected). After his release he became director of the clinic state clinic Wunstorf in Lower Saxony until his retirement. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the state attorney's office in Hanover conducted investigations against him, but medical affidavits were used to show that he could neither be questioned nor stand trial. He died in 1983 (see Weinke 2005; Müller 2008; Falk/Hauer 2007, pp. 165-72). Dr. Illing was convicted of his crimes in Vienna and hanged in 1946. Dr. Pusch continued her employment at the clinic until 1947 and ended up working as a physician specializing in neurology and psychiatry in Blankenburg/Harz. When the issue of the involvement of East German physicians in Nazi "euthanasia" crimes arose in the 1960s and information emerged that implicated Dr. Pusch for her crimes at Görden, authorities did not investigate (see Weinke 2002, p. 331; Leide 2007, pp. 351-3). She died in 1980.

Scholars have considered denazification at this institution a failure and characterized the clinic's past during the Nazi years as repressed and forgotten (Hanrath 2002; Falk Hauer 2007, pp. 157-65). The lack of knowledge about and interest in the history of the clinic under National Socialism characterized the period until the mid-to-late 1980s, when the then medical director, Dr. Hans-Hinrich Knaape, began to conduct inquiries into the number of victims based on his access to hospital records and disseminated his findings (see Knaape 1989). Interest in the subject matter picked up in the 1990s and resulted in a first, provisional exhibit in the clinic in 1997 and in the city of Brandenburg in 1999. At about this time, in early 2000 a research initiative was begun at the university of Potsdam headed by Kristina Hübener ("Fürsorge und Wohlfahrtsstaatlichkeit in der Provinz Brandenburg" [Care and Welfare State Provisions in the Province of Brandenburg]; since 2005 "Sozialfürsorge in Brandenburg" [Human Services in Brandenburg]) that has led to the publication of a series of detailed and historical analyses about this and other clinics during World War II (see here).

picture of memorial stone
text of display
Source: author.

In 2002 a memorial stone was placed on the premises. On it is a bronze plate. The text reads: "Gedemütigt ? Als Lebensunwert diffamiert ? Entwürdigt ? Vernachlässigt ? Zwangssterilisiert ? Ermordet ? Schicksal tausender Patienten der Landesanstalt Görden während des Nationalsozialismus. Ärzte, Pfleger und Mitarbeiter gaben ihre Obhutspflicht auf. So wurden sie schuldig. Wir gedenken der Opfer. Ihr Leid mahnt, die uns anvertrauten vor Unrecht zu bewahren" (Defamed as being unworthy of living. Degraded. Neglected. Compulsorily sterilized. Murdered. The fate of thousands of patients of the state clinic Görden during National Socialism. Physicians, nurses, and staff abandoned their duty to watch over those entrusted to their care. In this way they became guilty. We commemorated the victims. Their agony admonishes us to protect those entrusted to our care from harm).

display at cemetery overall
display 1 cemetery
display at cemetery 2
cemetery goerden

grave marker for "brothers K."
restored Jewish cemetery
.Source: author

In October 2003 the remains of child victims were transferred back from the location of the Kinderfachabteilung "Am Spiegelgrund"/Vienna (see there), and buried in the clinic's cemetery (depicted above). On this occasion the cemetery was declared a burial ground for victims of the rule of war and terror (see Endlich 2006, pp. 546-7). In 2006 the former Jewish cemetery on the premises was restored. In 2008 two signs were placed in the cemetery that address the different types of grave sites, and the activities in the special children's ward. A brief English translation is provided on the signs.

On 25 May 2004 the exhibit "Die Landesanstalt Görden 1933 bis 1945: Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus" (The state asylum Görden 1933-1945: Psychiatry under National Socialism) opened in house 23. It was conceptualized by Beatrice Falk and Friedrich Hauer, who offer guided tour. Heike Bollmann (www.heike-bollmann.de) created the the visual concept  of  the exhibit and its design

The exhibit has various stations, from the beginnings of eugenics to a section on the murder of minors to coming to terms with the crimes after World War II. It presents the stories of numerous victims as well.

entrance goerden

The entrance provides a history of the institution, with pictures and text.
display room a wall
display text room a
In the small room ahead a projector projects images of victims, with the superimposed text "Killed. Neglected. Compulsorily sterilized - the thousandfold fate of patients." Small text displays on the wall address the neglect of the victims and the lack of persecution of the perpetrators, the abuse of patients for experiments and 'research,' the activities of Dr. Heinze as an 'evaluator,' the types of murders of patients, different types of NS-"euthanasia" crimes,and compulsory sterilization.
hallway goerden

The hallway on the left leads to the exhibit rooms. It contains a wall display with names of the victims.

room 1 goerden room1 c
room 1 - b room 1 - a
Room 1 (with a desk on which various documents related to "euthanasia" crimes can be seen)
In the center to the right is a display "Emil E."-alluding to a man suffering from epilepsy and consideered a burden to society. He was a T4 gassing victim.
In the center in the middle is a display "Struggle for existence." It depicts the emergence of social Darwinism as a school of thought.
In the center to the left is a display "Thinking ahead." It addresses the development of social Darwinist thought in Germany in the aftermath of WWI.
room - l4
room 1 -l3
room 1 left 2
room 1 - l1
On the left the rightmost display relates to a patient "Frieda G." with epilepsy who first was sterilized and the gassed in the T4 action.
On the left the second display to the right, entitled "Compulsory sterilization," addresses the compulsory sterilization law in Nazi Germany and its procedures.
On the left the second display on the very left, entitled "The state facilities," shows how the state facilities were used to implement compulsory sterilization.
On the left the leftmost display, entitled "Everyday life at Görden,"  addresses how compulsory sterilization procedures were handled at Görden.
room 1-r1
room 1 - r2
room 1 - r3

On the right the display on the left shows a child ("Hans G.") who was mentally disabled but began to develop rather well. He was murdered in 1940.
On the right the display in the center, entitled "Setting the course," addresses how the institution changed from being a facility treating adults to one that became a major facility to house children and youths and murdered them as well, under the directorship of Dr. Hans Heinze.
On the right the rightmost display, entitled "The physician Dr. Hans Heinze," portrays Dr. Heinze, his philosophy on the lack of value among  'asocial personalities and those of less worth,' and his biography.

room 1 - table with documents
room 1 sterilization report table

The desk with documents.
A table displays a medical report of a sterilization and a scalpel.

room 2 -1
room 2-2
room 2 -3
Room 2 (with a cardboard display of Inge and her toy baby buggy) - a patient who suffered from epilepsy and was gassed at Brandenburg in 1940 at age 7 as part of the T4 program
On the right the display to the left, entitled "The murder of patients who were minors," provides an overview of the "children's euthanasia" program and how it was implemented at Görden. On the right the display in the middle, entitled "'Special children's ward' Görden," details the purpose and operation of the special children's ward, including the number of dead children and the "training" function of the facility for "children's euthanasia" doctors.

On the right the display to the right, entitled "A perilous place," notes the killing of child and youth patients in the T4 program and 'decentralized euthanasia' thereafter.

room 3-1
room 3-r1
Room 3 (with a bed and sewing machine)
On the right the display to the left relates the histories of "Eva W." and "Anna R.," who as patients became victims to the T4 program.
The next display, "Program T4," informs about this program.
On the next display, entitled  "More than 9,000 victims," information is provided about the gas murder facility Brandenburg/Havel
Next, the display entitled "From Görden to one's death" relates to the fate of the facility's patients in the gas murder sites Brandenburg and Bernburg and the facility's role as an intermediary facility for patients from other institutions.
On the right the display entitled "Open questions" addresses what was known about the "euthanasia" crimes in the clinic.
On the right the display entitled "Jewish patients," notes a change in policy in the summer of 1940, when such patients were 'concentrated' in Berlin Buch and later sent to Auschwitz.
On the right the last display, entitled "After program T4," addresses the 'decentalized euthanasia' murders after the program T4 had ended.
room 3 -l1
room 3 -l2
room 3 -l3

On the left the rightmost display, entitled "The children K.," relates to two brothers and their cousin who were likely murdered because they suffered from a rare condition that was of interest to researchers. Their brains were used for research publications and ended up in Vienna, from which the specimens were returned and buried in the Görden cemetery in 2003 (see above). On the left the center display, entitled "Research at all cost," notes associations between Görden's pathology (Prosektur) and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Brain Research at Berlin-Buch, and in both places brains of murdered patients became objects of research.
On the left the leftmost display, entitled "Area of research: patient," alludes to the research station that sought to find biological and heritable markers of disability, to facilitate the future murder of patients for whom such markers could be identified. It also addresses human experimentation with child patients.

room 3 - display a
room 3-display bed sewing machine

Artefacts shown in room 3.
This display notes that what used to be innovative in psychiatry - the use of work as therapy - changed to becoming a core marker of survival for patients: their ability to work.

Room 4 - The display on the right: "Irmgard R." was murdered in Brandenburg in the T4 program.
The next display, entitled "Resistance," addresses public and private resistance against "euthanasia."
The display entitled "Moral courage" in the town Brandenburg presents the cases of magistrate Lothar Kreyssig, who protested against the murder of patients, and reverend Richard Funke, who collected information that was used in clerical writings against "euthanasia."
"Charlotte V." - sterilized and victim of T4.
This display entitled "Careers after 1945" addresses the postwar careers of Dr. Heinze and Dr  Pusch.
The display entitled Willi B." portrays an obituary for Willi by his brother. It is the second, dated 2002 - only now did the brother find out that Willi, who was blind and mentally disabled, had been murdered in Brandenburg in the T4 program.

The display, entitled "Repressing [the past] and coming to terms [with it]", addresses the history of commemoration at Brandenburg/Havel, where the T4 gas murders took place, and at the facility in Görden.

current 1
current 2
current 4 current 3
book display room 4
In each room there is a small display relating the materials to current issues. Here: "Humans made to order?"
"Merely a historical topic?" on right-to-die and other related themes.
"History and present" - 'euthanasia' cases and commemoration in the press.
Rehabilitation for Dr. Heinze?
Room 4 has a display case with literatutre on the topic.
Source: author

A unique feature of this exhibit is the sound Dr. Hauer found for the exhibit.
sound symbol Click on sound symbol to hear a recording of the sound of a T4 bus engine.

The town website provides brief information (here), as does the clinic's website (here). An informative brochure is available at the exhibit site. The other wing of the building houses the "Fundusausstellung," which since 2002 displays artifacts from the history of psychiatry. Between 2005 and 2007 the exhibits had about 7,000 visitors and about 150 guided tours were given. For 2008, 3,000 visitors are reported, of whom about 1,000 visited as part of a guided tour. For 2009 and 2010, the numbers appear close to the overall average.

In 2006 the clinic was privatized and changed its name to Asklepios Fachklinikum Brandenburg.

In 2007, a detailed historical account of the clinic and facility was published by B. Falk and F. Hauer. It includes a chapter on the crimes during National Socialism. It is part of the series "Medizin-Geschichte des Landes Brandenburg" (History of Medicine in the State of Brandenburg).

A recent article by the author has addressed the fate of Jewish children with disabilities who became victims at the facility (Kaelber, 2013).

It has also been noted that epileptic children who were exposed to hypoxia to trigger seizure in Dr. Hubertus Strughold's Aeromedical Research Institute in Berlin in 1943 had come from Görden (see, e.g, here


Beddies, Thomas. 2004. "Kinder-'Euthanasie' in Berlin-Brandenburg." Pp. 219-48 in Dokumente zur Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus, edited by Thomas Beddies and Kristina Hübener. Berlin-Brandenburg: be.bra wissenschaft verlag.

-------. 2009. "Die Einbeziehung  von Minderjährigen in die nationalsozialistischen Medizinverbrechen, dargestellt am Beispiel der Brandenburgischen Landesanstalt Görden." Praxis der Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie 58:518-29.

-------, and Heinz-Peter Schmiedebach. 2004. "'Euthanasie'-Opfer und Versuchsobjekte: Kranke und behinderte Kinder in Berlin während des Zweiten Weltkriegs." Medizinhistorisches Journal 39(3):165-96.

-------, and Kristina Hübener. 2004. "Das Schicksal der drei 'Brüder K: Eine Dokumentation." Pp. 249-58 in Dokumente zur Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus, edited by Thomas Beddies and Kristina Hübener. Berlin-Brandenburg: be.bra wissenschaft verlag.

-------, Kristina Hübener, and Wolfgang Rose. 2004. "Die Forschungsabteilung in der Landesanstalt Brandenburg-Görden." Pp. 261-70 in Dokumente zur Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus, edited by Thomas Beddies and Kristina Hübener. Berlin-Brandenburg: be.bra wissenschaft verlag.

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

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

Endlich, Stefanie. 2006. Wege zur Erinnerung: Gedenkstätten und ?orte für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus in Berlin und Brandenburg. Berlin: Landeszentrale für politische Bildungsarbeit.

-------, 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.

Falk, Beatrice, and Friedrich Hauer. 2002. Draussen auf dem Görden: Eine Zeitreise durch die Geschichte der Landesklinik Brandenburg in Wort und Bild. Berlin: Berliner Wissenschaftsverlag.

-------. 2007. Brandenburg-Görden: Geschichte eines psychiatrischen Krankenhauses. Berlin-Brandenburg: be.bra wissenschaft verlag.

Hanrath, Sabine. 2002. Zwischen "Euthanasie" und Psychiatriereform: Anstaltspsychiatrie in Westfalen und Brandenburg: Ein deutsch-deutscher Vergleich (1945-1964). Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh.

Kaelber, Lutz. 2013. "Jewish Children with Disabilities and Nazi 'Euthanasia' Crimes." Bulletin of the Carolyn and Leonard Miller Center for Holocaust Studies 17. PDF

Knaape, Hans-Hinrich. 1989. "Die medizinische Forschung an geistig behinderten Kindern in Brandenburg-Görden in der Zeit des Faschismus." Pp. 224-27 in Das Schicksal der Medizin im Faschismus, edited by A. Thom and S. M. Rapoport. Berlin: VEB Verlag Volk und Gesundheit.

Landesklinik Brandenburg, ed. 1995. Die Landesanstalt Görden 1933 bis 1945: Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus: Begleitheft zur Ausstellung. Brandenburg: Landesklinik Brandenburg.

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Müller, Klaus-Dieter. 2008. "Justitielle Aufarbeitung von 'Euthanasie'-Verbrechen nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg und heute ? Das Beispiel Hans Heinze (1895-1983)." Pp. 63-92 in Täterschaft - Strafverfolgung - Schuldentlastung: Ärztebiografien zwischen nationalsozialistischer Gewaltherrschaft und deutscher Nachkriegsgeschichte, edited by Boris Böhm and Norbert Haase. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag.

Pelz, Lothar. 2003. "Kinderärzte im Netz der 'NS-Kindereuthanasie' am Beispiel der 'Kinderfachabteilung' Görden." Monatsschrift Kinderheilkunde 10: 1027-32.

-------. 2006. "'... Aber ich sorge mich so um mein Kind ...': Kinderärzte und NS-'Kinder-Euthanasie.'" Berichte aus den Sitzungen der Joachim Jungius-Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften e.V., Hamburg 23 (2).

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-------. 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.

Weinke, Annette. 2002. Die Verfolgung von NS-Tätern im geteilten Deutschland: Vergangenheitsbewältigung 1949-1969 oder: Eine deutsch-deutsche Beziehungsgeschichte im Kalten Krieg. Paderborn: Schöningh Verlag.

-------. 2005. "Nachkriegsbiographien brandenburgischer 'Euthanasie'-Ärzte und Sterilisationsexperten: Kontinuitäten und Brüche. Pp. 179-244 in Anstaltspsychiatrie in der DDR: Die Brandenburgischen Kliniken zwischen 1945 und 1990, edited by Wolfgang Rose. Berlin-Brandenburg: be.bra wissenschaft verlag.

Last updated: 11 April 2015