Ueckermünde (Landesheilanstalt Ueckermünde)

The Kinderfachabteilung at the Landesheilanstalt Ueckermünde existed between April 1943 (at the latest) and April 1945, among the last to be established overall and the second in what today is the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Its medical director was Dr. Hans-Dietrich Hilweg (see Topp, pp. 34-5; Benzenhöfer, p. 1017), and he may have been directly responsible for the special children's ward, for no other physician is known to have occupied that position. Whether the Kinderfachabteilung was a separate ward or integrated with other stations is not known. Its personnel was not persecuted, and Dr. Hilweg continued practicing medicine in West Germany until 1962 (Bernhard 1994, p. 136; see also Klee 1993).

Of the institution's 816 patients under the age of 18 at the time of admission between 1933 and April 1945, almost half died during their stay there, and an additional 10% were transported to their death at another facility. A significant increase in the number of deaths occurred already in 1941, which indicates that the murder of children likely commenced before the formal establishment of a children’s ward. These children and youths included those killed under the auspices of the “Reichsausschussverfahren,” the “T4” program, as well as “euthanasia” after the “T4” program had been stopped. Among 211 extant medical records for children, Dr. Bernhardt found 20 records that had RA ("Reichsausschuss") on their cover, and additional records for 2 more children of the "Reichsausschussverfahren." Almost all of the information about this special children's ward derives from Heike Bernhardt, a physician who worked at the hospital, who completed a medical dissertation on the topic in 1993 under Achim Thom in Leipzig and published it as a book in 1994. She addressed “children’s ‘euthanasia’” as well as the involvement of the Landesheilanstalt in the “euthanasia” program overall. No criminal trials ever addressed the Nazi crimes there.

In the 1975 book Provinzial-, Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Ueckermünde (ed. Schmitz and Joschko) on occasion of the facility's 100th anniversary the "euthanasia" crimes remained unmentioned beyond the "special treatment" of patients, which were assessed to have been rather rare (p. 19; see also the preface). Presenting his documentary on the "hell of Ueckermünde" in German television in 1993, journalist Ernst Klee Shocking documented shocking inadequacies in care (youtube: 1, 2, 3). He asked a caretaker of the cemetery who worked at the clinic during WWII about the killing of children, and was told that there weren't any.

statue by Domann
bottom part of memorial (brick)
old memorial pedestal today
memorial original
Source: Endlich et al., p. 480; http://www.kulturportal-mv.de/druck.phtml?showdata-127&Instanz=341&Datensatz=3; author

Still, changes had begun to occur since the late 1980s. when Dr. Bernhardt as well as others at the clinic, as part of a working group to inquire into the events at the clinic during the Nazi period, commissioned a commemorative wooden statue, which was made by the artist Sven Domann and erected in 1991. While the Gedenkstätten für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus volume terms it "the first monument to the victims of NS-'euthanasia' on the territory of former East Germany" (p. 480), it wasn't quite that in terms of the date of its dedication (see Grossschweidnitz, where a memorial was dedicated in 1990), but it was one of the first such memorials nevertheless (it does not address the children’s ward specifically). The working group's charge to the artist was to depict a sense of being alone, unprotected, and afraid for their lives ostensibly felt by those who were victims of "euthanasia" in the Nazi period, which the artist realized in the depiction of a disabled person on a piece of wood cut off, placed on top of a pedestal for which the same brick was used as in the facility where the victims were murdered.

On a pedestal in the front the word "Ausgegrenzt" (Marginalized) is shown, and on the back, the word "Vernichtet" (Exterminated). To the left and right are the years 1933 and 1945. After the occurrence of vandalism and heavy construction at the site, it was removed and only shown to the public on special occasions, such as during the clinic's open house day in various years and the anniversary events in 1999 and 2000.The memorial's removal from a public space was believed to be temporary at first, but it turned out to be anything but. Most of the time, it was put up in the clinic administration's conference center.

The situation remained like this until 2008, when this researcher fielded inquiries about the status of the statue first to the clinic and then to the Behindertenverband Ueckermuende and the Allgemeiner Behindertenverband in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The two agencies consulted with the clinic and asked that the statue be re-erected. Prior to that, in 1999, a commemorative event was held on occasion of 60th anniversary of the first deportation of patients in November 1939; during which a presentation alluded to the fate of the children; in 2000, on open house day in 2000, on occasion of the 125th anniversary of the facility, one of the lectures at a symposium and a part of a small exhibit addressed the murder of patients in Pomerania during the Nazi period; in the same year a chronicle of the clinic (Albrecht 2000) mention euthanasia, if only very briefly (in reference to H. Bernhardt's studies, see p. 25); and in 2005, on occasion of the European day of protest for equity for persons with a disability on May 5, a wreath was laid on facility grounds to commemorate victims of fascism persecuted on the basis of disability or race and the 60th anniversary of the end of the war on May 8.

new memorial 1
new memorial text
new memorial 2

Source: author

A wreath was laid on 8 May 2008 at the AMEOS Diakonie Klinikum (the clinic's current name) and an event took place to commemorate those who were murdered during the Nazi period. A project group “Denkmal” (“memorial”) of members of the above groups and clinic personnel met and new foundation for the statue at a designated memorial space on clinic property was being considered, which led to the re-dedication of the memorial on 15 May 2009. It is now an iron-cast pedestal and a three-piece stela into which the wooden piece is integrated.

A sign states: "'Verloren sein.' Eisenguss, Esche, 2x1 m, 2009. Den Euthanasieopfern des nationalsozialistischen Regimes von 1933 bis 1945 gewidmet. 'Gedenken macht Leben menschlich. Vergessen macht es unmenschlich' - Eberhard Bethge (1909-2000). Die Holzplastik wurde 1991 von dem Bildhauer Sven Domann geschaffen und nach der Restaurierung 2009 wieder aufgestellt" ('To be lost.'Cast iron and ash wood, 2 x 1 m, 2009. Dedicated to the euthanasia victims of the National Socialist regime 1939-1945. 'Memorialization makes life humane. Forgetting makes it inhumane.' [German theologian] Eberhard Bethge (1909-2000). The wood sculpture was created by the sculptor Sven Domann and reinstalled after its restoration in 2009).

The choice of the new context for the statue is guided by the wish to allude to the next-to-last place that houses persons before those in power decide to murder them. Children helped prepare the iron cast.  .

The web page of the clinic does not refer to the memorial or Nazi "euthanasia" on its premises, but two recent issues of the Mitarbeiterzeitung (staff newsletter) have done so.

Recent commemorative activities are reported here, in detail here (published by the Allgemeiner Behindertenverband in M-V e.V.), and, for 2015, here (snapshot taken from http://www.ameos.eu/582+M56d8368ff81.html)


Albrecht, Hans-Eberhard. 2000. Das Krankenhaus am Rande der Stadt: Das Krankenhaus Ueckermünde an der Ravensteinstrasse im Wandel der Zeit von 1875 bis 2000. Ueckermünde: n.p.

Allgemeiner Behindertenverband in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern e.V. 2008. "Mahnmal gegen das Vergessen in Ueckermünde: Wiedereinweihung des restaurierten Mahnmals zum Gedenken an die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus." Available at http://www.abimv.de/cms/wm-cms,58.html.

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

Bernhardt, Heike. 1993. "'Niemals auch nur zu den primitivsten Arbeitsleistungen zu gebrauchen': Die Tötung behinderter und kranker Kinder 1939 bis 1945 in der Landesheilanstalt Ueckermünde." Praxis der Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie 42: 240-48.

———. 1994. Anstaltspsychiatrie und "Euthanasie" in Pommern 1939 bis 1945: Die Krankenmorde an Kindern und Erwachsenen am Beispiel der Landesheilanstalt Ueckermünde. Frankfurt: Mabuse 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.

Klee, Ernst. 1993. Irrsinn Ost, Irrsinn West. Frankfurt: Fischer.

Schmitz, Willi, and Harri Joschk. 1974. Provinzial-, Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Ueckermünde: Das Neuropsychiatrische Krankenhaus Ueckermünde. Neubrandenburg: Druckerei Erich Weinert.

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 on 20 Feb. 2015