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Claus Beeck * 1940
August-Bebel-Straße 103 (Bergedorf, Bergedorf)
Claus Beeck, born on 28 Jan. 1940 in Hamburg-Bergedorf, transferred on 7 Aug. 1943 to the Heilanstalt Kalmenhof/Idstein, murdered in 1943/1944
Claus Beeck was admitted to what was then the Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten) on 17 May 1941 because he was still not able to sit up and place his feet properly at the age of 16 months. He ate only baby food, no bread. Claus had a mild case of hydrocephalus ("water head”) and was backward in his mental and physical development. In an expert’s report by Dr. Hülsemann from the Hamburg Social Administration dated 6 Mar. 1941, the diagnosis was "imbecility” ("Imbezillität,” i.e. medium-level mental disability), perhaps caused, among other things, by the hydrocephalus, which in turn was a result of rickets. Claus’ condition was assessed as hereditary. In the past, hardly any methods of treatment existed for children with hydrocephalus. Children suffering from this disease usually had recurring headaches and were limited in their movements. As a result, caring for them involved a lot of effort. Starting in the summer of 1939, regulations stipulated that babies and infants with such a disability be reported to the "Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses” ("Reichsausschuss zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung von erb- und anlagebedingten schweren Leiden”) in Berlin, a cover organization for "euthanasia.” Claus Beeck was never reported.
Claus Beeck’s mother, Margareta Ida Herta, née Hoffmann, had died at the age of 42 years while giving birth to him. In addition to Claus, she left behind four children: her six-year-old son Hans, the ten-year-old Günther from an earlier relationship, and two children from her first marriage, Walter and Käthe. Her oldest son, Walter, was already independent; he had completed an apprenticeship as a carpenter. The only daughter, Käthe, suffered from a brain tumor and she had been living in what was then the Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten) since 1935. She died five weeks after Claus’ birth, at only 17 years of age. After the death of the mother, Günther was placed in orphan care. Apparently, the grandparents looked after Claus and Hans, who went to school in Bergedorf.
Before Claus was admitted to what was then the Alsterdorf Asylum, he had undergone hospital treatment several times. In 1941, he was temporarily accommodated in the Municipal Small Children’s Home on Winterhuder Weg. The father, Hans Beeck, was a laborer and went to work; just like himself, his new partner and the grandparents were not able to care for Claus at home either. The Youth Welfare Office was unable to find a suitable foster home for Claus due to his "wretched condition and his need for care,” as a result of which Hans Beeck asked the administration of the Alsterdorf Asylum to admit Claus. The Youth Welfare Office covered the costs for his care.
When he was admitted to the then Alsterdorf Asylum, Claus – like nearly all newly admitted children – was first brought to the hospital ward. However, he remained there longer than usual and was transferred from that location to a nursing unit only eight months later, in Jan. 1942. His food consisted of milk soup, his activity of playing with a rattle and objects made of rubber. At the beginning of 1942, Claus weighed 12 kg (26.5 lbs), at the end of the year 13 kg (28.6 lbs). At the age of two, Claus was able to walk and eat only with assistance. By that time, he was toilet-trained during the day. He often appeared to be obstinate; a positive note marked down was that he kept busy with toys from time to time. Claus made great progress, something that is revealed by the entry in his medical file dated 2 Mar. 1943. He had just turned three years when the following remarks indicated that the "patient is a calm and content child who occupies himself rather sweetly. It is possible to keep him dry during the day and to have him stay out of bed in the daytime. At night, he often wets himself. He articulates individual words, gets fed, and his appetite is good.” In light of this positive development, it is not understandable why Claus was transferred to another institution.
Hamburg was very heavily bombed at the end of July/early August 1943, in the course of which the Alsterdorf Asylum was damaged as well. Therefore, the head of the facility arranged for more than 600 patients to be brought to areas "safe from bombing” ("luftsicher”). Claus Beeck was among the first patients transferred. On 7 Aug. 1943, he was taken away on a transport comprised of a total of 128 men and boys to the Rheingau. Of these, 52 boys went to Kalmenhof in Idstein (Hessen), the remainder to the "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Eichberg,” a sanatorium and nursing home.
The researchers did not manage to find out when he died and what the cause of death was, only that it happened sometime during 1943/1944. At the end of 1939, the first killings took place at Kalmenhof. In the period from 1939 to 1940, the Kalmenhof institution was gradually converted into a killing center. In 1941, a "children’s special ward” of the "Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses” ("Reichsausschuss zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung von erb- und anlagebedingten schweren Leiden”) was established there, which served to implement "euthanasia.” Circumventing the lengthy procedure stipulated by law, many of the children were also murdered outside of the "special children’s ward,” which is what probably happened to Claus Beeck as well.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Laura Krause, Julia Pabla
Quellen: Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf, Patientenakten der Alsterdorfer Anstalten, V 042; Michael Wunder/Ingrid Genkel/Harald Jenner, "Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr". Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, Hamburg 1987, S. 120–122; 190–195.