[Polskie tłumaczenie]

Konradstein [Kocborowo] (Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Landesanstalt für psychisch Kranke)

Google Map of Kocborowo 

The Kinderfachabteilung in Konradstein/Kocborowo was established in 1942 at the latest (possibly as early as 1940) and continued until 1944 (Soviet liberation). Dr. Waldemar Siemens (who had the name Schimanski until 1939) became director after Germany's invasion of Poland (before he had worked in Gdansk/Danzig in a psychiatric clinic). The physician reported to be responsible for the special children's ward, located in stations/pavilions X (girls, first floor) and XI (boys), was deputy director Dr. Han(n)s Arnold Schmidt.

The then largest facility for mentally ill in all of Poland, Kocborowo was the hospital where the first killing of mentally disabled and sick patients in Poland by Germans was carried out, on September 22, 1939, very likely by the Wachsturmbann Eimann (see Riess 1995; 2004: 128-29; Schenk). The SS murdered the director and clinic personnel and until Jan. 1940 had transported almost 1,700 patients to the nearby Szpegawski Forest (including 130 children brought in from an affiliated clinic), where the SS shot them. The total number of patients who either died there or were transported off to their death is estimated to have been approx. 4,000. Of those, about 500-550 were children of the "Reichsausschuss" from the Gdansk/Danzig area and the Reichsgebiet--a comparatively very large number--for whom 360 hospital records with fictitious causes of death remain extant. It is possible that the corpses of child victims were among those sent from Kocborowo to Rudolf Spanner, the director of the Anatomical Institute in Gdansk/Danzig, and were used in Dr. Spanner's experimental production of soap from human fat.

After WWII, authorities launched various investigations, which tended to focus on the killing of patients in the nearby forests, not on the children killed in the Kinderfachabteilung. In Poland rumors existed that Dr. Siemens had turned against Nazi authorities and was killed at the end of the war. On July 14 1945 the Polish Minister of Justice sent questionnaires to regional courts about German crimes, and between 1946 and 1949 13 regions had a Regional Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes (Okregowa Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich). As a result of their investigation, on 1 March 1946 head nurse Johann Aberg received the death penalty in absentia for killing 150 children. After the reconstitution of the Regional Commissions in Poland, the Commission in Gdansk conducted a further, in-depth inquiry in 1967-1968 (Musial, Milewski 1995; Krawczyk).

In Germany, state attorneys' offices in Hannover and Hamburg inquired about the whereabouts of Dr. Schinanski, but he could not be located (MfS records may show that he stayed in East Germany). Dr. Schmidt was released by the Soviets from his duties at a Soviet prisoner of war camp at the end of 1945 and then settled in Hamburg, where he worked as a physician until he retired as a state medical officer in 1963. He died in 1973. Due to his alcoholism, his state of heath had already deteriorated when the Hamburg state attorney's office investigated against him in the early 1960s for his involvement of the death of patients at Konradstein, including 300 children in the years 1941-43. Investigations against Dr. Wolfgang Masing and Dr. Ernst Fritz, in the context of them being physicians being involved in the murder of children, were stopped in 1967 for lack of proof. Nurses Johann Aberg and Else Bern(h)ard, as nurses in the children's stations, were not charged (Aberg for his permanent inability to stand trial; Bernhard for lack of proof).

map of clinic map of Kocborowo
Kocborowo building X
Kocborowo building XI
Source: author; http://www.kocborowo.pl/plan_szpitala.html

The list of 360 child and youth victims, with their names and the dates of their births, is, given in Zdzisław Jaroszewski, ed., 1989. Pacjenci i pracownicy szpitali psychiatrycznych w Polsce zamordowani przez okupanta Hitlerowskiego i los tych szpitali w latach 1939-1945. Vol. 2: Imienne wykazy zamordowanych. The earliest death is recorded for late 1939, but the number of deaths does not rise significantly until about August/September 1941, when 15 of the 19 deaths of that year occurred. A few deaths are recorded as late as the end of December 1944. A list, in order of deaths from 1939 to 1944 with the official cause of death listed, is also provided in Towarzystwo Milosnikow Ziemi Kociewskiej, Księga imienna strat ludzkich II wojny światowej (Kociewie) (pp. 94-112).

Child and Youth "Euthanasia" Victims at Kocborowo Hospital
Source: Author's calculations, based on Jaroszewski 1989.

Picture of display 1 Picture of display 2
Source: http://www.panoramio.com/user/1616337

The history of events concerning "euthanasia" murders were known by 1948 at the latest, when a local physician, Dr. Tadeusz Bilikiewicz, chronicled them. In 1949 a commemorative display was erected on the clinic premises. It reads "In memory of those murdered by the Nazi barbarians at the hospital, in prisons, and in the Szpegawski forest - 2,203 mentally ill patients and several hundred children and hospital employees" (pamieci zamordowanych przez barbarzyncow hitlerowskich w szpitalu w wiezieniach I w lasach czpegawaskich 2203 psychicznie chorych kilkuset chorych dzieci i pracownikow szpitala), followed by a list of murdered hospital personnel. There are also memorial stones in the Szpegawski forest itself.

Twenty years after WWII Stanisław Krzysztof Szwentner found hospital records in the basement of the hospital, which were subsequently used for a detailed depiction of the historical events in Krystyna Szwentnerowa's book (1968). A Russian translation of the book, without pictures, is available on the web (http://vaalmo.narod.ru/viamercatorum.htm).

Memorial stone for 500 children Picture of memorial 2a picture of kocborowo memorial on All Saints
Source: http://niewiarowicz.republika.pl/small1/th_dsc00226.jpg and http://www.panoramio.com/photo/26309604

There is a memorial stone with a display in the nearby cemetery (Cmentarz przy szpitalu psychiatrycznym w Kocborowie), established by the local boy scout group. It reads: "In memory of more than 500 child patients murdered by the Nazis during the years 1939-1945. The Starogard scouts in the international year of the child 1979" (pamieci ponad 500 dzieci pacjentow szpitala zamordowanych przez hitlerowcow w latach 1939-1945 Harcerze starogardze w miedzynarodowym roku dziecka 1979). The cemetery appears to be largely overgrown, but the boy scouts have periodically maintained the memorial, while formal commemorative ceremonies occur in the Szpegawski Forest. A picture taken shortly taken after All Saints/All Souls day at the beginning of November 2009 (above) shows artifacts of private commemoration having taking place at the memorial.

kocborowo memorial
Source: author.

In 2010, after the city assumed the cemetery property from the clinic, the Boy Scouts renovated the memorial.

Picture of the clinic Source: http://www.kocborowo.pl/foto/galeria_male/020.jpg

The web site of the clinic today, Szpital dla Nerwowo i Psychicznie Chorych, does not refer to this part of the institution's past, even though it has a section on the history of the hospital (as of 2015).

For commemorative events at the Szpegawski Forest see here (and here for further information).
sign in Szpegawski forest

The Information Portal of European Sites of Remembrance has a section on Kocborowo.


Publications by Polish authors in chronological order

Bilikiewicz, Tadeusz. 1948. "Polityka sanitarna okupanta na Pomorzu." Polski Tygodnik Lekarski 47: 1423-24; 48: 1456; 49: 1485-88; 50: 1512-20; 51: 1550-51 (see pp. 1519-20).

Szwentnerowa, Krystyna. 1968. Zbrodnia na Via Mercatorum. Gdynia: Wydawnictwo morskie.

Milewski, Józef. 1977. Kociewie w latach okupacji  hitlerowskiej 1939-1945. Warsaw: Ludowo Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza.

Towarzystwo Milosnikow Ziemi Kociewskiej. 1983. Księga imienna strat ludzkich II wojny światowej (Kociewie). N.p: Starogard Gdanski.

Jaroszewski, Zdzisław, ed. 1989. Pacjenci i pracownicy szpitali psychiatrycznych w Polsce zamordowani przez okupanta Hitlerowskiego i los tych szpitali w latach 1939-1945. Vol. 1: Szpitale. Vol. 2: Imienne wykazy zamordowanych. Warsaw: n. p.

Slawinska, Irena, and Franciszek Scigala. 1989. "Kocborowo." Pp. 8-14 in Pacjenci i pracownicy szpitali psychiatrycznych w Polsce zamordowani przez okupanta Hitlerowskiego i los tych szpitali w latach 1939-1945. Vol. 1: Szpitale. edited by Zdzislaw Jaroszewski. Warsaw: n. p.

———. 1993. "Kocborowo (Conradstein): Landesanstalt für Psychisch Kranke." Pp. 56-71 in Die Ermordung der Geisteskranken in Polen, 1939-1945, edited by Zdzislaw Jaroszewski. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.

Milewski, Józef. 1995. Szpital dla Nerwowo i Psychicznie Chorych im. St.Kryzana w Starogardzie Gdanskim-Kocborowie (1893-1994): Przyczynki do historii. N.p: Starogard Gdanski.

Nasierowski, Tadeusz. 2006. "In the Abyss of Death: The Extermination of the Mentally Ill in Poland During World War II." International Journal of Mental Health 35(3):50-61.

Krawczyk, Daniel. 2010.  Las Szpęgawski. Available at http://lasszpegawski.w.interia.pl/index_oz_1.htm

Kulesza, Witold. 2010. "'Euthanasie'-Morde an polnischen Psychiatriepatient/innen während des Zweiten Weltkriegs." Pp. 175-78 in Die nationalsozialistische "Euthanasie"-Aktion "T4" und ihre Opfer: Geschichte und ethische Konsequenzen für die Gegenwart, edited by Maike Rotzoll, Gerrit Hohendorf, Petra Fuchs, Paul Richter, Christoph Mundt, Wolfgang U. Eckart. Paderborn: Schöningh.

Tiergartenstrasse 4 Association. "Killing of Mental Patients in Pomerania." Available at http://www.tiergartenstrasse4.org/Killing_of_Mental_Patients_in_Pomerania,119.html

Other authors

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

Karski, Anna-Renata. 2003. "Der polnische Psychiater Tadeusz Bilikiewicz (1901-1980) als Medizinhistoriker." Medical Dissertation, University of Leipzig.

Musial, Bodgan. 1999. "NS-Kriegsverbrecher vor polnischen Gerichten." Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte 47: 25-56.

Riess, Volker. 1995. Die Anfänge der Vernichtung "lebensunwerten Lebens" in den Reichsgauen Danzig-Westpreussen und Wartheland 1939/40. Frankfurt: Lang.

———.  2004. "Zentrale und dezentrale Radikalisierung: Die Tötungen 'unwerten Lebens' in den annektierten west- und nordpolnischen Gebieten 1939-1941." Pp. 127-44 in Genesis des Genozids: Polen, 1939-1941, edited by K.-M. Mallmann and B. Musial. Darmstadt: Westliche Buchgesellschaft.

Schenk, Dieter. 2000. Hitlers Mann in Danzig: Albert Forster und die NS-Verbrechen in Danzig-Westpreussen. Bonn: J.H.W. Dietz Nachfolger.

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.

Last updated 13 September 2015