Hamburg-Langenhorn (Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Hamburg Langenhorn)

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The special children's ward in Hamburg-Langenhorn, which was Hamburg's sole state facility for the mentally ill during World War II, was one of two special children's wards in the city of Hamburg. It became operational on February 1, 1941, but how long it operated remained unclear for a long time (see Benzenhöfer 2008, p. 91) until the medical dissertation by Dr. Marc Burlon (2010) shed new light on the special children's ward.

Based on G. Aly's essay in 1984 (see below), it was believed that 12 children died in the special children's ward, which was considered not to have been physically separated from other stations. Dr. Friedrich Knigge (who is misidentified in G. Aly's essay as Hermann Knigge) was responsible for the special children's ward. Until 1940, he had been medical resident, but by 1943 he had ascended to the medical directorship. He died in 1947. Criminal investigations against others for participating in "euthanasia" crimes in Hamburg facilities were stopped by the state court in 1949, and a further judicial review came to the same result.

Dr. Burlon's research shows that Dr. Knigge received instructions from Hamburg's health senator Dr. Friedrich Ofterdinger, who was instrumental in the nazification of health policy in Hamburg and the establishment of a special children's ward, on 24 January 1941 to open the ward, but it did not commence operation until February 1 (Burlon 2010, p. 63). The special children's ward was in fact physically separated (Burlon 2010, p. 66 n. 254) and located successively in pavillions F7, M10, and M6. Until the beginning of 1941 Langenhorn had not admitted infants and small children; the presence of these children must thus have stood out, at least administratively. The chain of authority was unusual in that the special children's ward was subordinate to Dr. Ofterdinger and his office. For example, Dr. Ofterdinger signed the first death certificate of a child that had been killed (Burlon 2010, p. 67), and he might have considered the special children's ward his pet project and means of controlling and supervising "euthanasia" and other health measures (see Burlon 2013). Also unusual was that Langenhorn had not accommodated ill children in the past, and that Dr. Knigge was not a pediatrician.

The special children's ward operated until early July 1943 (Burlon 2010, p. 68), and the last children were admitted in early June. It might well have been the heavy bombing attacks that led to the closure of the ward (see p. 68). A fanatical supporter of "racial hygiene" to the end, Dr. Ofterdinger died in 1946.

According to Dr. Burlon, 69 children were admitted to the special children's ward, of whom 22 died (pp. 146-147), 32 were discharged, and 15 were transferred to other facilities: 6 to Rothenburgsort, who died there, 1 to Leipzig; 4 to the Alsterdorfer facilities (of whom one was further transferred to the Spiegelgrund/Vienna and died there); one to Lüneburg; and 3 to Meseritz-Obrawalde (which had come from Rothenburgsort and of whom one died there). The first child died in March 1941; the last one, in June 1943 (p. 146).

In 1983, on occasion of a symposium commemorating the 40th anniversary of the deportation of children from Alsterdorfen Anstalten, a documentation of the "euthanasia" crimes in Hamburg was published, which also included references to the Kinderfachabteilungen in Rothenburgsort and Langenhorn. A group of historical researchers conducted a meeting under the title "Healing and Killing in the Exemplary Gau Hamburg" (Heilen und Vernichten im Mustergau Hamburg) with an exhibit in Hamburg in the same year, and a book followed a year later. In it, publicist G. Aly presented the first systematic investigation into the special children's wards in Hamburg, including Langenhorn, which, however, was only briefly mentioned. The efforts of working group attempting to address the fate of the mentally ill in Langenhorn (thereafter the Allgemeine Krankenhaus Ochsenzoll, now Asklepios Klinik Nord-Ochsenzoll), which included Klaus Böhme, a student of Gerhard Schmidt (see Eglfing-Haar) and later director of the clinic Ochsenzoll, resulted in some publications, including a book whose publication coincided with the clinic's 100th anniversary, but it did not address the children much.

A further initiative by the new director Dr. Claas-Hinrich Lammers and the Stiftung Freudeskreis Ochsenzoll, a civic support group, as well as efforts by members of Hamburg Christian Democrats in the suburb of Ochsenzoll on occasion of the privatization of the clinic and the sale of clinic real estate to establish a memorial site, resulted in the dedication of a memorial stone on May 8, 2009.

memorial stone langenhorn
Source: author.

The inscription reads: "During the era of National Socialism in the euthanasia program 4,097 patients were transported from the location of this clinic to killing centers and facilities where they languished. 3,755 of them, among them many Jewish fellow citizens, died in the process. In medical trials in the Special Children's Ward twelve children were killed. We commemorate the victims at this place. Their fate continues to admonish us to treat every person with dignity and respect" (Vom Gelände dieser Klinik aus wurden während der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus 4097 Patientinnen und Patienten im Rahmen des nationalsozialistischen „Euthanasie-Programms“ in Tötungs- und Verwahranstalten abtransportiert. 3755 von Ihnen, darunter viele jüdische Mitbürgerinnen und Mitbürger, fanden dabei den Tod. Bei medizinischen Versuchen in der Kinderfachabteilung wurden zwölf Kinder getötet. Wir gedenken an dieser Stelle der Opfer. Ihr Schicksal bleibt uns Mahnung zum würdevollen und achtsamen Umgang mit jedem Menschen.) More information about the dedication, which was attended by 150 persons, is here. A commemoration in 2010 is addressed here.

Beyond the memorial stone, the Stiftung Freundeskreis Ochsenzoll planned to establish a museum of the history of Hamburg psychiatry, with a section on "euthanasia" crimes, in a project "Mad Worlds - House of Psychiatry" (Verrückte Welten - Haus der Psychiatrie). More information about this ambitious project was provided here, but the project has been  abandoned.

The Internet site of the Asklepios clinic offered detailed information on the dedication of the memorial, but the page and the materials have since been removed.

On 12 September 2012 the remains of 5 children discovered in the archive of the neuropathological department (Archiv der Neuropathologischen Abteilung) of the university clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf were buried at the cemetery (see here). These children died in the Kinderfachabteilungen Langenhorn and Rothenburgsort. Their names are:
Gerda Behrmann (1939-1941)
Werner Hammerich (1940-1941)
Marianne Harms (1940-1941)
Dieter Kullak (1938-1942)
Agnes Erna Petersen (1938-1941)
A brief clip from an TV station is captured here (source: NDR.de; educational use in the context of "fair use" only).

On occasion of the annual commemoration in 2013, Dr. Burlon gave a speech that succinctly presents the current state of the knowledge about the Kinderfachabteilung (here). He noted, for example, that in 18 cases parents of the murdered children were either maliciously misled, or not informed at all, or had their objections disregarded.

The fate of Erwin Sänger, a Jewish child who died in the special children's ward, is addressed here: http://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/bull2013-Kaelber1.pdf. Additional information about the family is provided by the Hamburg Stolpersteine website.

In early 2014 an exhibit addressed "children's euthanasia" in Hamburg. The exhibit is entitled 'Euthanasia: The Murder of People with Disabilities and Mental Illnesses in Hamburg during National Socialism" (Euthanasie. Die Morde an Menschen mit Behinderungen und psychischen Erkrankungen in Hamburg im Nationalsozialismus). The exhibit was accompanied  by a series of lectures and other activities. Information is provided in this flyer, and there is an exhibit catalog (Diercks 2014). The exhibit includes a section on "children's euthanasia" at Langenhorn. Among the children admitted to it was Rita Ahrens, who is mentioned in the exhibit.  In 2014 there was also an annual commemoration (see here).

A book on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf in 2014 addressed the involvement of Hamburg's "special children's wards" in medicine under National Socialism, as well as theses crimes and National Socialism at the clinic and in Hamburg in general (Bussche and Bottin 2014).

In 2015 "letters to silence," a dramatic enactment based on medical records of patients at the asylum from 1941-1945, was performed (see here).


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.

Burlon, Marc. 2010. "Die 'Euthanasie' an Kindern während des Nationalsozialismus in den zwei Hamburger Kinderfachabteilungen." Medical Dissertation, University of Hamburg. Available at http://www.sub.uni-hamburg.de/opus/volltexte/2010/4578/pdf/Kindereuthanasie_Hamburg.pdf

———. 2013. ""'Sie liefen blau an und nasenflügelten…':  Die Tötung von Kindern im Rahmen der 'Kindereuthanasie' in der Heil-  und Pflegeanstalt Langenhorn." Presentation on 8 May 2013. Available at http://www.beratungszentrum-alsterdorf.de/cont/Rede_8Mai__Ochsenzoll_Gedenktag_20130507.pdf

Bussche, Hendrik van den, and  Angela Bottin. 2014. Die Hamburger Universitätsmedizin im Nationalsozialismus: Forschung, Lehre, Krankenversorgung. Berlin: Reimer.

Diercks, Herbert. 2014. "Euthanasie": Die Morde an Menschen mit Behinderungen und psychischen Erkrankungen in Hamburg in Nationalsozialismus. Hamburg: KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme.

Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), LV Hamburg, et al., eds. 1983. Von der Aussonderung zur Sonderbehandlung. Hamburg n.p.

Götz, Aly. 1984. "Der Mord an behinderten Hamburger Kindern zwischen 1939 und 1945." Pp. 147-55 in Heilen und Vernichten im Mustergau Hamburg: Bevölkerungs- und Gesundheitspolitik im Dritten Reich, edited by A. Ebbinghaus, H. Kaupen-Haas and K.-H. Roth. Hamburg: Konkret Literatur Verlag.

Illiger, Horst. 2004. "Sprich nicht drüber!": Der Leidensweg von Fritz Niemand. Neumünster: Paranus.

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

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.

Rönn, Peter von. 1991. "Auf der Suche nach einem anderen Paradigma: Überlegungen zum Verlauf der. NS-'Euthanasie' am Beispiel der Anstalt Langenhorn." Recht und Psychiatrie 9:50-56

Rönn, Peter von, Regina Marien-Lundeup, Michael Wunder, Eveline Sonn, Renate Otto, Marc Billhardt, and Georg Dahmen. 1993. Wege in den Tod: Hamburgs Anstalt Langenhorn und die Euthanasie in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, edited by Klaus Böhme and Uwe Lohalm, eds. Hamburg: Böhme & Lohalm.

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.

Wunder, Michael, Ingrid Genkel, and Harald Jenner. 1988. Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr: Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus. Hamburg: Agentur des Rauhen Hauses.

Last updated on 5 March 2015