Public Mental Health Practices in Germany
Sterilization and Execution of Patients Suffering from Nervous or Mental Diesase
Leo Alexander, Major, M.C., AUS
CIOS Item 24
Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee
3. Information Received From Professor Dr. Kurt Schneider, Deutsche Forschungsanstalt for Psychiatrie in Munich
Dr. Schneider stated that the man mainly responsible for the policy of execution of patients suffering from mental disease or mental defects was Professor Dr. Heyde of Würzburg. Dr. Heyde was an S.S. man, and also held the position of so-called psychiatrist to concentration camps.
Professor Bumke stated on 7 June 1945, that the practice of killing the mentally ill which had been instituted by the Nazis, was supposed to be a deep secret, but the secret soon leaked out. "While nobody was supposed to talk about it, the sparrows were whistling it from the rooftops". Professor Bumke stated that for more than one reason it was a tragic crime. The mistrust of the public against psychiatrists had been gradually stilled through faithful public service on the part of the psychiatrists extending over about 100 years, but this policy of killing the mentally ill had stirred up all that old mistrust again. "Psychiatrists, as you know, were always suspected of putting people away, and now they were not only suspected of putting them away, but there was real evidence that they were actually killing them. That was the tragedy". There was a wave of public mistrust, and finally public indignation forced the Nazis to stop this policy "officially" in 1943. "What has been done unofficially after that in Eglfing and elsewhere is not known". Professor Bumke received a letter in 1942 from the Ministry of the Interior asking him whether he had any difficulty with relatives if their kin was being transferred to state hospitals, and if so, for what reasons. He replied: "because they are afraid that this means their being transferred from life to death". Professor Bumke stated that in his dealings with the Nazis he had always adopted the policy of fairly open boldness, although it means "skirting the edge of the concentration camp". In 1934, he offered his resignation in a gesture of open disapproval of Nazi policy. His resignation, however was not accepted. "Since that time, they have left me alone, but" he stated, "if I had taken that step later rather than as early as 1934, I would have probably been sent to Dachau; but as it was, they more or less kept me around as a famous figure for advertising to the outside world, but had written me off as an active participant in Nazi policies."
Dr. Bumke stated that he had never treated Hitler. Hitler was treated by a doctor who was something of a quack and faker, by name of Morel. Morel treated Hitler mainly with hormones. Dr. Bumke classified Hitler diagnostically as "a hysteric psychopath, with excessive need for recognition and with traits of genius" ("Hysterischer geltungsbedürftiger Psychopath mit genialem Einschlag".").
a. Information received from Dr. Wilhelm Möckel, Director
Dr. Möckel was visited on 9 June 1945. I was accompanied on this visit by Major Baruch. Dr. Möckel entered the conference room adjacent to his office, where we were waiting to see him, presenting the obvious appearance of a frightened man. He was pale, there was perspiration on his forehead, and he showed generalized tremor. When I reassured him that we were merely coming to obtain information and that we had no executive function, he calmed down, appeared greatly relieved, and his tremors ceased. After a few moments, he asked to be excused for a minute, went to his adjacent office, telephoned his daughter, telling her in German that it was not what he had feared and that there was no need for her any longer to stand by. He then returned to the conference room and put all his information at out disposal.
The systematic execution of the mentally ill was prepared in 1939 by a questionnaire concerning all mentally ill patients, which had to be filled out by the physicians. This questionnaire included diagnosis, present mental state, whether mentally deteriorated or not, whether the patient had living relatives or not, whether he had served in the world war or not. This questionnaire had to be sent to the Ministry of the Interior in Berlin. It was marked "strictly confidential". It became known that the purpose of the questionnaire concerned transfers in order to make room in the state institutions. Between March and May 1940, Mr. Sprauer, the Minister of the Interior of the province of Baden, sent orders that a certain number of patients (usually 120) cases had to be ready for transport. Excluding preceding collective transports of Jewish patients, the transport administrator of Gemeinnützige Krankentransport G.m.b.H. took 800 patients out of the Wiesloch. The last of the transports was sent out in the middle of 1941. Gradually the nature of the transports became talked about in the communities, because of the stereotyped nature of the letters received by relatives. These letters usually read "Your mother", "brother", "sister", "son", respectively, "has died". Unfortunately all medical skill has failed to keep him alive. His/her ashes can be obtained by you by writing to ....."
The policy of exterminating the mentally ill by killing them had been initiated by the "Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft der Direktoren der Heil- und Pflegeanstalten." Dr. Möckel stated that he himself never went to their meetings. He avoided going to them by excusing himself on account of illness, but the truth was that he did not want to go.
Dr. Möckel then added sheepishly: "we also had a childrens station of which Dr. Schreck was the head. He is pensioned now. The purpose of this childrens station was intensive treatment of mentally defective children, which was to culminate in their eventually being put to sleep". "This childrens section was established in 1940. It was organized and staffed from Berlin. I have not admitted any of the children myself. I went through that section only twice when there were some complaints about the food. Dr. Scheck now lives in Pfullendorf am Bodensee. The childrens section ran only for a short time, approximately ¼ to ½ year." Dr. Möckel knew of only 23 children who were in that special childrens section, and he knew only of 11 children who were killed there. Dr. Möckel then turned over a list of 23 children, 12 of whom are marked as having died. He stated that one of them died from natural causes. He then turned over another file concerning children. Of interest in that file was a letter which Dr. von Heener of the "Reichsausschuss zur Wissenschaftlichen Erfassung von erb- und anlagebedingten schweren Leiden" wrote to Dr. Möckel on 14 March 1941. In this letter he asked him to come to a meeting in Berlin W.8., Vosssatrasse 4, on 20 March 1941. The letter ends with a request: "If you cannot come personally please do not send a representative". Dr. Möckel obviously did not want to go to that meeting because he stamped the letter as having been received on 29 March 1941.
After the childrens station was removed in 1940, a delegation came from Berlin which was headed by Professor Carl Schneider of Heidelberg. This delegation arranged for the killings in the future to be carried out elsewhere, after the patients were removed from the institution by the Gemeinnützige Krankentransport G.m.b.H. These patients were taken to killing centers which had been instituted in former state hospitals in Grafeneck, near Tübingen in Württemberg, and in Hadamar, near Limburg an der Lahn in Hessen-Nassau, Germany. The transport chiefs of the Gemeinnützige Krankentransport G.m.b.H. which had to arrange the transports from Wiesloch, were Schweninger and Seibel. Dr. Möckel turned over all documents concerning the killed adults to an officer of the U.S. Army, by name of William F. Nilan. He also stated that he had given all the secret papers to this officer (it was over to the 7th Army Document Center from where they were sent to J.A.G. ETOUSA, attention: War Crimes Section, on 8 May 1945, and received at 1100 hours on 11 May 1945 by Pfc E.A.Hose). The number of the documents at the 7th Army Document Centre was 2090. Their registration number with ETOUSA is A 340.
Dr. Möckel was quite proud of the fact that the mortality figures at his own institution had risen only slightly since 1935 (Table 3).
This table indicates a certain deterioration of care for those patients who remained at the institution without being officially marked for killing.
The killing at the childrens station was carried out by Berlin nurses. They used mostly luminal. At the killing centers in Grafeneck and Hadamar in 1940 and 1941, gas and electricity were used for the killings. There were other killing centers in Brandenburg and in Vienna, and some patients who were sent from Wiesloch to one of the nearly (sic) killing centers were sometimes later sent to Brandenburg or Vienna.Dr. Möckel added: "I never wanted to hear about what they did at Grafeneck. It always nauseated me". "Later I could not stand it any longer. Whenever a transport was to leave at night, I usually left the institution at noon and did not come back until the next day."
At first the patients did not know where they were being taken, but later it became known among the patients, and there were frightful scenes when patients did not want to be taken away. Finally a storm of protest arose among the population because of the stereotyped death notices which they received from Grafeneck, Hadamar, Brandenburg and Vienna. At some time during that period Sprauer held a meeting and said that patients who had been transferred would no longer be "put away", but 8 or 14 days later another flock of death notices went out. Because of the wave of public protest, the mass killing of patients in special killing centers was discontinued in the middle of 1941, and a policy of extermination by starvation in the state institutions themselves, without transfer to a special killing center, was substituted. The policy of starvation had the advantage that the deaths were more spread out and masses of patients did not die on the same day. However, the former killing centers were partly maintained in that a relatively large number of starvation wards were instituted there, and transfers were still made to those starvation wards. Thus 600 cases from Wiesloch were transferred to Hadamar for starvation up to June 1944, when the last of these transports was carried out. These are not included in the previously given figure of 800 who were transferred to Grafeneck and Hadamar for mass killing between January 1940 and June 1941. Dr. Möckel transferred patients for starvation also to other institutions, namely to Eichberg and to various Bavarian institutions, especially Kaufbeuren. 150 cases, 60 men and 90 women, constituted the last transport to Kaufbeuren on 4 June 1944. A starvation center fancifully named "research house" was also taken over and staffed by Professor Carl Schneider on Dr. Möckels own hospital grounds, where it was operated through 1942 and 1943. Dr. Möckel claimed that he did not know how many patients were were killed there, and he stated tht he did not know until recently that any patients were killed there at all. Dr. Schneider had his own personnel there which was separate from the Personnel of the State Hospital at Wiesloch. "Our personnel was indignant over the way these people lived. They received wine and beer by the car-load directly from Berlin."
The killing by gas and electricity had been objected to by legal experts of the government. They held that unless a "law for annihilation of valueless lives" ("Gesetz zur Vernichtung lebensunwürdigen Lebens") was promulgated, these killings were illegal because a law against killing was still on the statute books of Germany, which provided that whoever killed somebody else with premeditation should be punished by death. Also the theologians objected to the killings. The Bishop of Münster, Count Galen, declared publicly from his pulpit: "Who has knowledge of a murder and does not announce it becomes punishable himself. I have personal knowledge of 300 murders which have been committed, and I herewith proclaim and denounce them publicly".
All these objections which were whispered about in public forced those who had administered the extermination policies to "lay low", and to confine their activities since 1942 to carrying out their killings by the slower and less conspicuous method of systematic starvation in special starvation wards, while the mass executions were discontinued since late 1941. Killings by slow starvation, however, continued until the Nazi administration became defunct in 1945.
The patients transported to killing centers as well as the patients killed at Wiesloch itself from 1940 to 1945 did not include any Jewish victims since the Jewish patients of Wiesloch had been disposed of together with the normal Jews living in Wiesloch and surroundings as early as 1935. They had all been taken away to an unknown destination which was supposed to be "somewhere in the Pyrenees". Jewish patients were written off the books as "transferred to an institution outside of the province of Baden".
Dr. Möckel stated that one of his nurses once set out to have a look at the killing center in Grafeneck. Dr. Möckel felt that this nurse apparently had developed a certain amount of depression from seeing a lot of her patients transported off to be killed, and she developed a sort of obsession that she had to see the place. She was arrested after she go to Grafeneck. Dr. Möckel suddenly got a telephone call from Grafeneck informing him that one of his nurses Miss Amalie Widmann, had been arrested because she had been spying about the place. She was arrested there by the S.S. On Dr. Möckels request they finally let her go after they threatened her with a concentration camp if she tried a thing like that again "and that means death". I then expressed a desire to talk to Miss Widmann and she was called to Dr. Möckels office and interviewed in his presence.
Miss Widmann stated that the first transport of patients to a killing center left Wiesloch on 29 February 1940. Among the patients were a good many who had become endeared and attached to Miss Widmann. After they had been taken to the killing center, Miss Widmann became unable to take her mind off the sad fate of these patients, and she became unable to rest day or night. She had to think about them all the time. She finally felt that it might give her ease of mind if she could actually see what happened, and she decided to visit the killing center in Grafeneck herself. So she asked for a furlough, not telling anybody what she planned to do, and she went to Grafeneck on 22 July 1940. When she got off the train at Marbach a.d. Lauter bei Münzingen, which is the railhead for Grafeneck, the people whom she asked for directions to Grafeneck looked at her in a peculiar way as if there was something strange or funny about her. When she finally arrived in front of the institution in Grafeneck, she found a sign reading: "Entry strictly prohibited because of danger of infection" ("Zutritt wegen Seuchengefahr strengstens verboten"). There were heavily armed men in green uniform, obviously police about the area. Suddenly Miss Widmann felt gripped by an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and she ran away over an open field crying bitterly. She sat down and cried for a while. She then saw that she was on the premises of a stud farm. The farmer came and asked her whether he could do anything for her, and she told him that she wanted to go and see the institution in Grafeneck. The farmer then told her: "Do not go there. One must not say anything". Shortly afterwards, an SS man appeared, accompanied by other SS men, with hounds. They took her into the building, where she was brought before an official who asked her what she wanted. She said that she wanted to see some of her old patients and find out how they were. The official then stated that the patients liked it so much there that they would never want to leave again. He then interrogated her sharply abut her antecedents and her connections with any group, if any. He then called up Dr. Möckel. Miss Widmann added that she felt she owed her life to Dr. Möckel because if he had not talked for her they would have killed her. The reason why she went there was because of her deep feeling of close relationship with her patients.
Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences