Wiesloch (Badische staatliche Heil- und Pflegeanstalt für Geisteskranke Wiesloch)

Wiesloch on a map

The Kinderfachabteilung in Wiesloch operated from at the end of October 1940 at the latest (the first child that had been admitted under Reichsausschuss procedure was admitted in mid November 1940), until probably August 1941, after no admissions to the ward had been made after April. It was the fifth or sixth of all "special children's wards" to open, and the first to be established in what is today the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Up to the late 1930s, the facility did not typically admit children among its patients (see Peschke 2012, p. 603), and as at the time Dr. Schreck (see below) began his appointment in October 1940, only a very small number of minors (at least six) between the ages of 2 to 14 were patients, children, in as much they were a physical presence on site, must have stood out somewhat, as did the nurses of the Reichsausschuss, who had been delegated there from Berlin. The clinic's director was Dr. Wilhelm Möckel, and the deputy director and responsible for the Kinderfachabteilung was Dr. Arthur Schreck. After Dr. Schreck found it impossible to continue with the killing personally, a physician from the special children's ward in Eglfing-Haar, Dr. Fritz Kühnke (see Eglfing-Haar), came to carry out the murders. After the war, Dr. Schreck was sentenced in Freiburg in 1950 to 12 years in prison, but he was pardoned by the governor of the state in 1954 and worked as a physician in Pfullendorf. He died there in 1963. Dr. Möckel died in 1954.

station in Wiesloch Source: author

The number of children who died in the special children's ward was small. 13 small children who had been admitted by April 1941 had died between March and August 1941; one of them after been transferred to the special children's ward in Eglfing-Haar. According to Dr. Schreck, the Kinderfachabteilung had been closed at the end of June 1941. Three of the children were killed by Dr. Schreck; nine, by Dr. Kühnke. Older children and youth also had been admitted to Wiesloch and reported on questionnaires used for the T4 action; after the sudden stop to T4 their status likely changed to "Reichsausschusskinder," and six of them were transferred to the special children's ward in Kaufbeuren in December 1941 (four of them died there). This ended the collaboration between Wiesloch and the Reichsausschuss.

At the beginning of the 1943, four children/youths were admitted to the "research station" on site. It was directed by Dr. Carl Schneider of the University of Heidelberg and autonomous from the Wiesloch hospital in matters of organization, finance, and personnel. It existed between January and March of 1943. Two of these four children/youths died there or shortly after release, while two others were transferred to Emmendingen and then Kaufbeuren, where one of them was killed.

Soon after the end of WWII the American major Leo Alexander, commissioned to produce a report for the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee, visited Wiesloch and noted his impressions as well as the facts he established in his report (see here: 1, 2, 3, 4). The full report contains an extensive appendix not included in the version on the Internet (see Alexander 1945).

As has been argued in a new monograph on the subject matter (Janzowski 2015), the immediate afterwar period evinced few signs to come to terms with the facility's Nazi past, at least in so far "children's euthanasia" was concerned. In the context of the Grafeneck trial, a list of deceased children was composed, but neither the slipshod denazification (civilian) tribunals nor the Freiburg trial against Sprauer and Schreck, which led to Sprauer's conviction for killing the children merely on charges of manslaughter, nor the perfunctory subsequent investigations by the Heidelberg state attorney's office or during the later trial against Kühnke prompted to a local response of recognition of the victims (2015, pp. 383-406). As Janzowski shows, a report in the local newspaper in 1950 about the Wiesloch asylum omitted any mention of the murder of patients, as did a commemorative event on occasion of the 50th anniversary of the facility in 1955--in part because the personnel had remained little changed with the end of WWII, relatives of victims may have feared being tainted by their disclosing of a disability in the family, and a general concern that the shaken trust in the facility as a provider of medical and psychiatric care might suffer as a consequence of such revelations.  

On occasion of the 40th anniversary of the transport of the first 42 mentally ill patients of the hospital Wiesloch to the T4 killing center Grafeneck (see T4) in late February 1940 staff of the clinic assembled to commemorate this event and to erect an almost 2 meter high wooden cross in front of the hospital chapel, with the inscription "To the victims of the 'Program Merciful Death,'" and a first commemorative event took place. In the same year, a pamphlet by the facility on occasion of its 75th anniversary contained references to the "euthanasia" killings by way of acknowledging the transfer of more than 1000 patients (to murder facilities such as Grafeneck and Hadamar). Still, in 1986 a publication by the facility stated that it was "still unclear whether a Kinderfachabteilung had existed here" (Janzowski 2015, pp. 412-13).

In 1990, at the 50th anniversary of the above-mentioned event (the first transport to Grafeneck), a larger audience witnessed the commemorative event, and a heterogeneous group of staff, medical personnel, and students formed as the "Committee Infirmary and Hospital Wiesloch During the Period of National Socialism." It included the then medical director, Dr. Hans Dieter Middelhof, who actively supported their activities. The committee helped bring about a variety of activities to shed light on the past, as well as create a permanent memorial. A competition for a permanent memorial was held.

memorial Wiesloch 1
memorial Wiesloch 2
Source: author

The memorial was established in April 1994, replacing the wooden cross. The sculpture was created by artist Susanne Zetzmann. The inscription reads: "In the years 1934 to 1945 more than 2,000 patients of the infirmary and hospital Wiesloch were made to lose their dignity, [they were] mistreated, and murdered. To them in commemoration, to us as a warning" (In den Jahren von 1934 bis 1945 sind mehr als 2000 Patienten der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt entwürdigt, misshandelt oder ermordet worden. - Ihnen zum Gedenken, uns zur Mahnung). The iron sculpture has the form of a circle, with a small ring broken off, tilted upward and sunken in in part. A possible, suggested interpretation of the memorial's shape and form is that the larger part symbolizes the majority (bystanders, supporters, perpetrators), while the smaller part, which sinks somewhat into the soil, represents the minority (victims), who remain anonymous and largely unknown. The memorial does not address the victims of the children's ward in particular.

Since 1996, Germany has had a Day of Commemoration for the Victims of National Socialism on 27 January, and for some years on this day a variety of commemorative activities have taken place at the hospital Wiesloch, although it does not appear that any one of them has been specifically dedicated to the victims of the special children's wards.

The web page of the clinic, today the Psychiatrisches Zentrum Nordbaden, openly and frankly addresses the events during the Nazi period, and there is a flyer on the topic of commemoration.. A local internet magazine has a detailed report on commemorative activities in 2011 and includes a list of names: Walter Heid, Georg Schlick, Rosemarie Walburga Jochim, Martin Heck, Doris Ueberrhein, Ursula Haug, Doris Mader, Helmut Rilling, Anna Felicitat Schilling, Friedrich Herrmann, Ingrid Porschitz and Waltraud Buck.

In 2011, Dr. Janzowski presented new insights into "children's euthanasia" in the context of a memorial event (see here: 1, 2) and published a book chapter on the current state of knowledge. Dr. Peschke has published a monograph on the asylum at Wiesloch in 2012, and Dr. Janzowski in 2015.

There is a stumbling block for Adelheid Bloch, an adult victim of T4 who was transported from Wiesloch to Grafeneck: http://stolpersteine-konstanz.de/index.html?adelheid_bloch.htm. A biography of another T4 victim who resided at the Wiesloch institution and died at Grafeneck, Oskar Bornhäuser, has also recently been made available (Bornhäuser 2013).

Another stumbling block was dedicated to a child victim, Waltraud Buck, in 2012 (see here).
stumbling block Waltraud Buck

In January 2015 the dedication of new memorial occurred in close proximity to the historical station MI, where the special children's ward was once housed. The clinic has provided a detailed account (http://www.pzn-wiesloch.de/unser-zentrum/geschichte/kinderfachabteilung-1940-1941), including references to two stumbling blocks for child victims who were patients at Wiesloch (they were murdered elsewhere).

memorial 2015
memorial 2015
Source: Rhein-Neckar Zeitung (http://www.rnz.de/nachrichten/wiesloch_artikel,-Wiesloch-PZN-weiht-Mahnmal-gegen-den-Nationalsozialismus-ein-_arid,72193.html)

The memorial's designer is Elke Weickelt-Starzinski. The memorial consists of a spiral path, "like a one-way street," that shows the footprints of 12 little feet in bronze and is bordered by 12 rose bushes, with a central commemorative object, a plaque in bronze, in the middle. The inscription reads: "In memory of the 12 children Anna, Doris, Friedrich, Helmut, Rosa, Ursula, Waltraud, Georg, Ingrid, Rose-Marie, Walter, Doris who in 1941 were murdered in a "special children's ward" of the Wiesloch asylum due to their disability."

In her book on Esslingen during National Socialism, G. Siberzahn-Jandt (2015) addresses the fate of children sent from Esslingen to Wiesloch (pp. 213-20). Based on records of the Grafeneck trial, she refers to Waltraud Buck and Helmut Rilling (pp. 278-79).

Digital reproductions of records of the Grafeneck trial relate to a number of children from Wurttemberg who died in the Wiesloch facility in 1941 (http://www.landesarchiv-bw.de/plink/?f=6-902779).


Alexander, Leo. 1945. "Public Mental Health Practices in Germany: Sterilization and Execution of Patients Suffering from Nervous or Mental Disease." Cios Item 24 Medical. Armed Forces Supreme Headquarters: Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee.

Arbeitskreis "Die Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Wiesloch in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus." 1992-1995. Schriftenreihe des Arbeitskreises "Die Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Wiesloch in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Wiesloch: Psychiatrisches Landeskrankenhaus Wiesloch. Available here: vol. 1, 2, 3.

Benzenhöfer, Udo. 2003. "Genese und Struktur der 'NS-Kinder- und Jugendlicheneuthanasie.'" Monatsschrift für Kinderheilkunde 151: 1012-19.

Bornhäuser, Doris. 2013. Oskar B.: Bruchsal 1899 - Grafeneck 1940: Eine biographische Annäherung. Grafeneck: Gedenkstätte Grafeneck.

"Gedenken an Euthanasieopfer: 'Organisierte Selektion zum Tode.'" Localmatador.de 06 February 2011. Available at http://www.lokalmatador.de/article/c06e3f61addc4e91b4ed590c4780e8d6/.

Janzowski, Frank. 2011. "Reichsausschusskinder und andere Minderj
ährige in der Wieslocher Heil- und Pflegeanstalt 1940 bis 1944." Pp. 91-120 in Kindermord und "Kinderfachabteilungen" im Nationalsozialismus: Gedenken und Forschung, edited by Lutz Kaelber und Raimond Reiter. Frankfurt: Lang.

———. 2015. Die NS-Vergangenheit in der Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Wiesloch: "... so intensiv wenden wir unsere Arbeitskraft der Ausschaltung der Erbkranken zu." Ubstadt-Weiher: verlag regionalkultur.

Peschke, Franz. 2009. "Die Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Wiesloch im Dritten Reich." Public lecture. Available at http://www.ag-landeskunde-oberrhein.de/index.php?id=p492v.

———. 2012. Ökonomie, Mord und Planwirtschaft: Die Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Wiesloch im Dritten Reich. Bochum: projekt verlag.

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.

"Schreck, Arthur." Wikipedia (German language) (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schreck)

Silberzahn-Jandt, Gudrun. 2015. Esslingen am Neckar im System von Zwangssterilisation und "Euthanasie" während des Nationalsozialismus: Strukturen - Orte - Biographien. Ostfildern: Jan Thorbecke.

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 11 April 2015