A speech by Ernst Klee
at the Hamburg University on August 6, 1999
Killing by starvation in the institutions
and other previous crimes of psychiatry
(translated from German by Ilka Rauch)
Those who honor the perpetrators murder their victims a second time.
Between 1940 and 1941 70,273 people were killed. They were gassed in six institutions especially designed for the purpose of killing them. IG Farben Ludwigshafen supplied the poisonous gas. Gold crowns and fillings go to Degussa. The brains were processed by the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute of Neurological Research in Berlin and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute of Psychiatry in Munich (today Max-Planck-Institutes).
The gassings were organized by Central Office in Berlin, Tiergartenstrasse 4. In August 1941, Hitler orders a stop to the practice. Yet, the murders continue: people die as a result of medical experiments, of deliberate starvation; in single cases they are killed with electroshocks. The committed crime is unprecedented in world history: psychiatrists exterminate their patients.
German Psychiatry Needed the Nazis
Long before the Nazis would come to power psychiatrists already made similar demands. Emil Kraeplin 1918: "An absolute ruler who unscrupulously interfered with human habits would, without any doubt and in the course of only a few decades, effectuate a decline in mental debility."
In 1931, Hermann Simon, Head of the Anstalt in Gütersloh clearly defines the supposedly inferior category of people. These include: the physically ill, the invalid, the weak, the imbecile, the crippled and the insane, and he concludes: "Someone will have to die again."
Ernst Rüdin 1934: "The psychiatrist and the healthy person are allies against the genetically defective. The psychiatrist must render his service to the ultimate aim of a hereditary pure, able and superior race." Rüdin, who regarded compulsory sterilization as the "most humane act of humankind", says in 1934 about Hitler: "Only Adolf Hitlerís political work made it possible that the peopleís awareness for the meaning and importance of the purity of race could be raised and heightened. Our dream, lasting for over more than 30 years now, has finally become reality." The Nazis did not use German Psychiatry but German Psychiatry needed the Nazis.
Psychiatrists had to denigrate their patients because of their own incapacity to provide either cure or therapy. Hence, the first to be disposed of were those who confronted them directly with this inability: the chronically ill (the so-called incurable). German psychiatric history was to culminate into the almost unutterable: they said "treat" but meant "murder" instead.
No psychiatrist resists the mass murder. On the contrary, managing directors of the Wurttemberg Anstalten visit Grafeneck, an institution with installed gas chambers. The visit includes the gassing of their patients. At the Bavarian diaconal asylum Neuendettelsau, the rector, Mr. Lauerer, puts patients who were unfit for any housework on a subsequent register. The Westphalian reformatory and Anstalt Wittekindshof asks the Chief State Prosecution in Hamm to send difficult patients to a work camp, that is, to a concentration camp.
The extermination of the incurably ill, according to T4-Psychiatrist Prof. Friedrich Panse, puts all participants in a state of being "drunken with elation". Prof Paul Nitsche, the psychiatric head of the mass murder: "Isnít it wonderful to get rid of all the ballast collecting in the asylums. Now we can perform some real therapy." Real therapy means: cardiazol shocks, insulin shocks, electro shocks.
Psychiatric Patients as Victims of Human Experimentation
This form of mass homicide offered a unique opportunity, not only to get rid of "superfluous human ballast" but those "unworthy of living" also served as "human guinea pigs":
At the Wittenauer Heilstätten, an asylum, physically and mentally handicapped children are subjected to human experimentation. They are artificially infected with tubercobacilli.
Similar experiments are conducted at the Bavarian Anstalt Kaufbeuren. What remains are photographs showing the children naked and full of fear. Dr Georg Hensel is responsible for these pseudo-scientific medical experiments. Already in 1940 he wrote in his habilitation thesis: "With this form of immunization we are breaking new ground. For this reason it seems only natural to me that for the time being only one group should be eligible for vaccination (infection with pathogenic agents): infants with mental and physical deformities and who would be of no benefit to our nation."
The Anstalt Brandenburg-Görden plays the most central role in the homicide of handicapped children. Here, German physicians are trained as child murderers. Children have to die for doctoral theses and for advancing medical and scientific careers. Julius Hallervorden is especially efficient in utilizing these killings. In autumn 1940, he attends the gassing of selected children.
He is thus able to dissect the brains immediately on the site. Hallervordenís neurological research is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Association of Research). On December 8, 1942 Hallervorden reports to the DFG that, "during the course of the summer I could dissect 500 brains of imbeciles myself". After the war he enthuses: "There was wonderful material among these brains; imbeciles, deformities and early childhood diseases". After 1945 Hallervorden is appointed Departmental Head at the Max-Planck-Institute of Neurological Research and Hans Heinze, Managing Director of the notorious Brandenburg Anstalt becomes Head of the Youth Psychiatry in the Lower Saxon village of Wunstorf.
At the Upper Silesian Anstalt Lubliniec children and adolescents are selected according to their social competence and usefulness and those who fail are killed with Luminal. Brains and spinal cords are send to Prof Viktor von Weizäcker, Institute of Neurological Research Breslau. The youth psychiatrist Elisabeth Hecker: "I think I need only hint at the fact that the material collected at the nursing ward is thoroughly examined when, after the childrenís death, the brains are going to be analysed by the Institute of Neurological Research in Breslau. Prof von Weizäcker has been so kind as to agree on conducting cerebral-pathological examinations."
Elisabeth Hecker is seen as the founder of the Westphalian Clinic of Youth Psychiatry in Hamm and the saying that, "a day without Goethe is a lost day" originates from her.
Equally, the pharmaceutical industry seizes the opportunity. IG Farben and the Hessian Anstalt Eichberg cooperate in carrying out medical experiments and the testing of new medicines on human beings. At the Bavarian Anstalt Günzburg IG Farben establish their own test laboratory. The Anstalt provides the premises and suitable "test objects". On the other hand, the hygienist Gerhard Rose of the Robert-Koch-Institute and Bayer-Leverkusen work closely together. What is characteristic of these experiments is the deliberate infection of a healthy person. These people become malaria patients. An assistant from Leverkusen is also employed at the psychiatric unit in the Saxon village of Arnsdorf.
Here, Prof Wilhelm Sagel is in charge of the infections. Tests of the Behringwerke are conducted at the psychiatric clinic in Marburg. An administrative report of the Hessian Bezirksverband (district union) reads: "For the past months, in cooperation with the Landesheilanstalt (an institution which is directly assigned to the district authorities) Herborn, regular and systematic testings of the yeast-like substance Eugenozym were carried out on a large number of old as well as newly admitted cases of schizophrenia. Eugenozym is not only reported to cure schizophrenics but furthermore to have positive effects on their genetic material." Georg Schaltenbrand Ė who would become the supreme authority on neurological issues Ė assumes multiple sclerosis to be an infectious disease.
He draws brain and spinal fluids (liquor) from MS-patients and by injecting monkeys with the fluid he believes them to develop a form of MS. Patients at the Franconian Anstalt Werneck, on the other hand, receive injections with the monkeysís liquor. Again, the experimental study is supported by the German Association of Research (DFG) and it ends in October 1940, with the patientsís transportation to the gas chambers. After 1945, Georg Schaltenbrand becomes First Chair of the German Association of Neurology.
The DFG frequently financed medical experimentation performed on human beings in Nazi concentration camps and psychiatric clinics. In 1999, the historian Notker Hammersteinís book, The German Society for the Advancement of Scientific Research in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich is published. The commissioned work is a last effort downplay the role of psychiatry and to clear the names of psychiatrists. Unsurprisingly, the work of the psychiatrist Robert Ritter is described as "general medical research" although Ritter was responsible for the classification and selection of Sinti and Roma and consequently, for their deportation to Auschwitz. About the Nazi Germanyís racial policy one learns that this research only followed "common views of modern hygiene, of public welfare and an interest in preventive measures for individuals with disabilities: handicapped people and people who show antisocial behaviour." And this is how those who acted as masterminds and accomplices of Auschwitz and Hadamar find protection in the name of welfare and medical care.
Killings until the End of the Third Reich and Afterwards
Between 1939 and 1945, over 5,700 patients "died" at the Saxon Anstalt Großschweidnitz. 1,012 inmates alone are "dying" during the month of May, 1945. In Hadamar in 1941, 10,000 people are gassed. After 1941 about 5,000 people are killed by means of deliberate starvation or with lethal injections. In January 1945, two months before the Americans enter, Dr Adolf Wahlmann still orders 10,000 Veronal tablets to continue with the killing of his patients. Film recordings of the liberation of Hadamar, done by the US-Army, show emaciated figures otherwise only known from concentration camps.
Between 1942 and January 28, 1945, on day before the Soviet Army enters, 18,000 people are killed at the Anstalt Meseritz-Obrawalde, 150 km east of Berlin. Several thousand unused urns prove that further murders were planned. The managing director of the Bavarian Anstalt Kaufbeuren, Valentin Faltlhauser, develops his very own "special diet" causing his patients to starve to death within three months. Large numbers of people continue to die, even three months after liberation and the arrest of Faltlhauser.
On April 28, 1945, the day of liberation, the Brandenburg Anstalt Teupitz still counts 600 inmates. By the end of October, the number has diminished to a mere 54. At the Saxon Anstalt Altscherbitz more people die in 1945 than during Nazi times. The mortality rate in 1945 accounts for 36,5 per cent, that is 838 people. In 1947 the rate rises to up to 38 percent, 887 people.
Compared to 1944, the figure at the Wurttemberg Anstalt Zwiefalten doubles in 1945 when 46.5 per cent of the inmates die.
In the same year, the mortality rate at the Pommeranian Anstalt Ueckermünde is 55 per cent and at the Anstalt Bernburg/Saale it also doubles.
During Nazi-times, Schloß Hoym (Castle Hoym) in Saxony/Anhalt is used as a "dying institution" for so-called psychiatric patients in who are constant need of care. Again, the mass dying only starts after liberation. In spite of housing 500 inmates, in 1945, the "average demand of coffins" is no less than 250. Between 1946 and 1947 the Anstalt Düsseldorf-Grafenberg has a mortality rate of 55 per cent. In 1948/49 it still amounts to 30 per cent. Already before Nazi-times, the Grafenberg institution supplied Bayer-Elberfeld with "test objects" for their malaria preparations.
One of the first psychiatrists to document murder by means of starvation is Heinz Faulstich (Death by Starvation in Psychiatry, 1998). Faulstich gives a minimum number of 20,000 deaths during the post-war period. Any attempt to give exact numbers, however, must fail as many of the known asylums and homes (Anstalten) destroyed existing data and relevant documents. Up to today, the perpetrators are being treated more sympathetically than their victims. Yet, there is one exception: staff of the Wittenauer Heilstätten in Berlin critically investigated and assessed the historical role of their clinic. Between 1938 and the end of the war, on April 24, 1945, 4,607 patients died, usually 20 days after admittance. After liberation 2,500 people were newly admitted but 1,400 patients "died" within the same year, a total of about 55 per cent.
In 1957 the institution was renamed into Karl-Bonhoeffer-Clinic-of-Neurology. Bonhoeffer functioned as key player in the "sterilization of the mentally inferior" and, like many others, did so voluntarily. Despite retirement he would still work for the racial sterilization courts. In December 1941 he examined a Jewish Mischling, a "half breed" who, 14 years before, had once been admitted to a psychiatric unit. Even the NS-Erbgesundheitsgericht (the Law Court for the Protection of German Blood and Honour) hesitated, since the examined person showed no symptoms of disease and worked normally. Bonhoeffer nevertheless advised sterilization.
The forcedly sterilized were victims of Nazi Germanyís racial policies. Their victim status, however, has never been legally accepted preventing the people from being able to claim compensation. Instead they solely depended on hardship funds. The real perpetrators could still further their careers. What is more, shamelessly they acted as experts and consultants in cases of claims to compensation deriding their victims once more by declaring that, considering their "inferiority", no signs of emotional damage could be established.
One of the most honoured and appreciated psychiatrist in postwar Germany was Prof Helmut E. Ehrhardt, member of the NSDAP (National Socialist Workers Party) since 1937 and full professor of Forensic and Social Medicine in Marburg. Erhardt frequently emerged as "whitewasher"of Nazi-Psychiatry. He gave his expert opinion to the Federal Ministry of Finance: "To regulate compensation claims of the sterilized would, in most cases, only lead to derision and could not justify the real thought behind reparation." Erhardt was awarded the Paracelsus-Medal, the highest honour of the German medical profession. He was also a member of the Mental Health Advisory Board of the World Health Organisation, the Ethical Committee and the Forensic Section of the World Federation of Psychiatry of which he eventually became honorary member.
The derisory treatment of the victims has tradition: already in 1946, the Viennese Professor of Psychiatry, Otto Plötzl, gave medical evidence that poisoning was a particularly humane form of killing because of the fact that the people would "slowly drift" into death. The Viennese Forensic medical expert Leopold Breitenecker voiced a similar opinion when, in 1967, he said: "The gas death is one of the most humane forms of death imaginable." (Ks 1/66 GStA Frankfurt a. M.). Breitenecker was asked to examine Aquilin and had to testify against medical doctors responsible for gassings. Founder of the Austrian Association of Forensic Medicine, he was a member of various ethical committees. This year his son, Manfred, university professor at the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Vienna, commented on his fatherís statement saying that perhaps the families of the victims could find some "consolation" in it.
Protecting their murderous colleagues always had priority over the suffering of the victims. Only this explains that Werner Heyde, Professor of Psychiatry and head of the gassings could practise under the false name of Dr Sawade and act as expert for compensation claims. Without the knowledge of his colleagues this could not have been conceivable. Protection lasted until death: an obituary for Dr Klaus Endruweit, responsible for the gassings at the Anstalt Sonnenstein in Pirna, by Lower Saxonyís General Medical Council: "We will honour and remember him".
The obituary notice of the clinic in Wunstorf for Heinz Heinze, the former managing director of the largest site of homicide of children says: "In honored commemoration." The obituary of the University Kiel for Prof Werner Catel, who conducted the mass murder of children reads he contributed, "in many ways, to the welfare and well-being of sick children."
And the obituary notice of the University Clinic of Psychiatry Düsseldorf dedicated to Prof Friedrich Panse culminates in the sentence. "A life in the service of the suffering people...is completed." Panse was T4-advisor who "expertly guided" patients into the gas chambers.
Those who honour the perpetrators murder their victims a second time.