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Anna Bornemann * 1901
Maria-Louisen-Straße 42 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)
AM STEINHOF WIEN
Anna Bornemann, born 14.5.1901 in Düsseldorf, after a stay in various sanatoriums transferred to Vienna to the "Wagner von Jauregg-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt der Stadt Wien" on 16.8.1943, died there on 3.8.1945.
Maria-Louisen-Straße 42 (Winterhude)
Anna Bornemann was born in Düsseldorf on May 14, 1901 as the youngest of ten siblings known to us. Her father, the factory worker Carl Friedrich Bornemann, born on Sept. 22, 1859 and baptized Lutheran, died in 1934 at the age of 75. Her mother Maria-Magdalena, née Braun, born Jan. 11, 1859, a Catholic, died in 1930 at age 71. The four youngest siblings had died as infants, the brothers Arthur and Edgar fell as soldiers in World War I, the brother Ernst died of pneumonia at the age of 25.
We know nothing about Anna Bornemann's childhood, youth and career. She herself later reported that she had been a good student who had never had to repeat a grade. After she had learned to type, she had worked for eleven years at the same commercial firm, then for six years at the mineral oil company Rhenania Ossag, which she left without notice after the death of her mother.
The siblings Elsa and Karl Bornemann kept in close contact with their sister Anna. Elsa Bornemann lived in Hamburg, her brother Karl in Düsseldorf.
Anna Bornemann, as she herself reported, was in the sanatorium Provinzial-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Grafenberg in Düsseldorf from January to Whitsun 1935. She thought she heard voices. The Grafenberg institution is said to have requested Anna Bornemann's sterilization, which was carried out in the same year.
The formal basis for forced sterilizations was the "Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring". According to this law, enacted in July 1933, a person could be rendered infertile (sterilized) "if, according to the experience of medical science, it is to be expected with great probability that his offspring will suffer from serious physical or mental hereditary defects." A person was considered "hereditarily ill" if he or she suffered from any of the following diseases: "congenital imbecility, circular (manic-depressive) insanity, hereditary falling sickness, hereditary St. Vitus' dance (Huntington's chorea), hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, severe hereditary deformity." Furthermore, anyone suffering from severe alcoholism may be rendered infertile."
Anna Bornemann moved to Hamburg on July 13, 1935, to live with her sister Elsa, who lived at 42 Maria-Louisen-Straße and now cared for her. According to her own account, the death of her mother had "completely thrown Anna Bornemann off course." The strictly Catholic Anna Bornemann doubted her faith, as she herself explained, after disappointing love affairs and because of brothers who had died in the war; she had not gone to confession for several years. She believed she was "a burden" to her sister.
She also heard voices in Hamburg and thought she was talking to a friend from Düsseldorf and to her deceased mother. Since she had not found gainful employment here, she felt reproachful glances of others directed at her. She increasingly lost her courage to face life and was finally admitted to the Barmbek General Hospital.
There she tried to take her own life, but was saved. She lost more and more contact with her environment. Occasionally, she was said to get into fights with anyone in the vicinity. She was described as moody, discontented, irritable, dismissive, distrustful, and often talking to herself.
On December 18, 1935, Anna Bornemann was transferred to the Langenhorn State Hospital. No details have survived about her time in Langenhorn.
In March 1938, the lawyers Dres. Walter and A. Harm, who had been assigned guardianship of Anna Bornemann, successfully sought to have her transferred from Langenhorn to the Alsterdorfer Anstalten (now the Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf). There, on May 6, 1938, she was admitted as a "self-payer" with the diagnosis of schizophrenia. After a few days she refused to work on the grounds that she was related to Goethe, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, that she was rich, that she could keep herself employed and that she was waiting to be released from the institution.
In 1939, her behavior, which was strenuous for the institution, intensified. Quote from the patient file: "If she is spoken to, she says she can't stand being in a prison anymore, that she can't help it that Adolf Hitler wants to marry her, that it only comes from the high nobility." Over the next five years, Anna Bornemann was described as very irritable, stubborn, raving, screaming and angry. She reportedly beat fellow patients and had to be isolated as a result.
Anna Bornemann's weight decreased from 64 kg at her admission to about 42 kg at the end of 1942, but increased again to 60 kg by mid-1943. The cause of the serious weight changes could not be deduced from the patient's file.
During the heavy air raids on Hamburg in late July/early August 1943 ("Operation Gomorrah"), the Alsterdorf institutions also suffered bomb damage. The management of the institution took the opportunity, after consultation with the health authorities, to transfer some of the residents who were considered to be "weak in labor, in need of care or particularly difficult" to other sanatoriums and nursing homes. On August 16, 1943, a transport with 228 women and girls from Alsterdorf and 72 girls and women from the Langenhorn sanatorium and nursing home left for the "Wagner von Jauregg Sanatorium and Nursing Home of the City of Vienna" in Vienna (also known as the "Am Steinhof" institution). Among them was Anna Bornemann.
In Vienna, Anna Bornemann repeated the delusions she had already expressed in Hamburg. Physical illnesses were not noted. In March 1945, however, Anna Bornemann's weight had been reduced to 40 kg.
In response to an inquiry from Senate Councillor Käthe Petersen of the Hamburg Social Administration, who in the meantime had taken over Anna Bornemann's guardianship, dated February 16, 1945, the Vienna asylum replied on March 16: "The condition is unchanged, there is no prospect of release."
On May 7, 1945, Anna Bornemann was transferred to the nursing section of the asylum. The last weight report dates from July 1945, and was 36 kg. Anna Bornemann died in the Vienna asylum on August 3, 1945. The cause of death given in the patient's file is not legible.
The "Wagner von Jauregg-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt der Stadt Wien" was an institution of decentralized "euthanasia". The mass murder in the Viennese asylum happened systematically: by overdose of medication and non-treatment of illness, but mainly by starvation. Of the 300 girls and women from Hamburg, 257 died by the end of 1945, 196 of them from Alsterdorf.
Translation by Beate Meyer
Stand: February 2022
© Ingo Wille
Quellen: Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, Sonderakte V 46, Anna Bornemann. Harald Jenner, Michael Wunder, Hamburger Gedenkbuch Euthanasie – Die Toten 1939-1945, Hamburg 2017, S. 114. Michael Wunder, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner, Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr – Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, Stuttgart 2016, S. 331 ff.