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Friedel Franke * 1934
Vierländer Damm Ecke Lindleystraße (Hamburg-Mitte, Rothenburgsort)
AM STEINHOF / WIEN
Friedel Franke, born 3 Sep. 1934 in Hamburg, murdered 16 Dec. 1943 at the Wagner von Jauregg Mental Institution in Vienna
Corner of Billhorner Röhrendamm and Lindleystraße (Billhorner Röhrendamm 40)
On 9 September 1935, a welfare agent described the behavior of the one-year-old Friedel Franke: "Underdeveloped. Family does not take care of her. Sits for hours on chair, rocks back and forth and grabs at the air with her hands. Often beats head on wall. Only puréed food.”
Friedel Franke was the second child of Paul Franke (*16 Feb. 1899 in Schwende) and Else Murr (*9 Sep. 1910 in Mannheim). It was an easy birth. His mother breast-fed her for ten days, then put her on a bottle.
Paul Franke settled in Hamburg in November 1926 after his journeyman travels through Germany. He found work as a concierge, as a construction worker, and as a dock worker, but only intermittently. He and Elsa Murr lived together. She had a son in 1933, but he died at five weeks. Paul Franke and Elsa Murr married ten weeks after Friedel was born. Both had been declared legally incompetent due to "feeble-mindedness.”
Friedel Franke was admitted to the children’s clinic at the St. Georg General Hospital on Baustraße (today Hinrichsenstraße; this children’s clinic no longer exists) one week after her birth. She was treated for three months for congenital syphilis, which she had contracted from her mother. It was the first of three treatments, the standard therapy at that time. She left the hospital on 19 December 1934. At the end of January 1935, Elsa Franke left her husband and child. Paul Franke tried to take care of the child, but he felt overburdened. When he suspected that the child had contracted whooping cough, he took Friedel back to the clinic, but they didn’t keep her there for long.
The welfare agent who visited the home shortly thereafter determined that the child was severely neglected. After Friedel Franke underwent the second treatment for syphilis, beginning on 27 April 1935, the welfare agency put the child under the guardianship of the Youth Welfare Office and moved her to the Hamburg Orphanage. The parents were denied custody on 16 May 1935, and the teacher Luise Sell became her legal guardian. Friedel lived at the Youth Welfare Office’s Home for Small Children at Winterhuder Weg 11. Her third treatment began on 9 September 1935. The welfare agent’s report from this date indicates severe hospitalism. In July 1936, the Youth Welfare Office recommended that Friedel be admitted to the Alsterdorf Mental Institution.
Friedel Franke was admitted on 23 September 1936. She cried when bathed and diapered, and had to be fed. 1937 began with a three-day holiday with her father. In the course of the next months she began to move independently, scooted around on the floor and tried to walk. She began to take more interest in her surroundings. She hummed melodies and seemed happy. The following years brought no substantial progress in her independence. She had several infectious illnesses between 1940 and 1942. There were only few, but positive, remarks about her behavior: she was calm and enjoyed attention.
On 19 December 1942 it was said of the child, who was now eight years old, that she was not independent, she spoke little and unintelligibly, she cried without motivation and constantly mumbled "I’m afraid” while staring at a fixed point. No cause could be found for her fear. She was happy when she was dressed in clean clothes or her Sunday dress, and kept herself very clean. Her food still had to be puréed, and she could eat by herself but under supervision.
Friedel was transferred to the Wagner von Jauregg Mental Institute in Vienna on the transport of 16 August 1943, along with 227 other girls and women from Alsterdorf. Her father gave her his address when she left. The Jauregg Institute registered Friedel with the "Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Congenital and Acquired Handicaps” in Berlin on 21 October 1943. This committee would determine if she lived or died. The original upper age limit of three for children under its authority no longer existed.
Friedel was transferred to the "special children’s ward” Im Spiegelgrund on the grounds of the Vienna Institution on 24 November 1943. Beginning on December 1943, her daily temperature was recorded in her hospital records: 38.6 to 40° (101.5-104°F), on 16 December 1942 she supposedly died of "tubercular pleurisy and inflammatory pneumonia.” The autopsy report listed her basic conditions as: "High grade idiocy, probably genetic; congenital syphilis” and spoke of general marasmus, physical emaciation, and confirmed the lung infection and pleurisy. The marasmus indicates that she was starved to death; the pneumonia with the recording of body temperature indicates that the infection was purposefully induced, for example with a high dose of Luminal (phenobarbital). An injection of Luminal on 11 December sealed Friedel Franke’s fate.
The assisting physician wrote to Friedel’s father: "Your daughter has had influenza with a fever since yesterday. As she developed an infection in her left lung today, her condition is life-threatening.” Her father was thus prepared for the next letter: "We are sorry to inform you that your daughter Friedel quietly passed out of the misery of her incurable condition today at 1:45 a.m.”
Luise Sell, Friedel’s legal guardian, did not find out about her death until after the war.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Hildegard Thevs
Quellen: Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, V 351; Jenner, Meldebögen; Wunder, Abtransporte; ders., Exodus.