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Ursula Grabbe * 1939
Annenstraße 17 (Hamburg-Mitte, St. Pauli)
Ursula Grabbe, born 7.11.1939 in Hamburg-Altona, admitted to the Alsterdorfer Anstalten (now Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf) on 6.7.1943, transferred to Vienna on 16.8.1943, died there on 30.9.1944.
Annenstraße 17 (St. Pauli)
Ursula Grabbe was born in Altona on Nov. 7, 1939, the only child of locksmith Albert Bernhardt Grabbe, born in Neuhaus/Oste on Oct. 24, 1901, and his wife Erna Luise Frieda, née Münster, born in Altona on April 28, 1917. Albert and Erna Grabbe had married on August 15, 1939, a few months before Ursula's birth. They lived at Annenstraße 17 in the St. Pauli district.
Ursula showed - according to her patient file - signs of a disability since birth, which were not described in detail. On the basis of a certificate from the Altona Health Department, she was admitted to the Langenhorn Sanatorium and Nursing Home on April 21, 1942, with a diagnosis of "erethic imbecility" and "neglect."
According to the patient's file in Langenhorn, the child had shown no progress in her mental development. In kindergarten, she was noticed for having strangely twisted hands and a strange look in his eyes. Ursula's father told the institution in Langenhorn that he believed his daughter could still develop "normally".
In Langenhorn, Ursula was in the so-called children's department (Kinderfachabteilung), where "child euthanasia" was carried out, i.e. the research on and killing of children and adolescents who were physically or mentally handicapped. Their murder was described to their parents as "treatment" for camouflage purposes. Ursula Grabbe's file states, "Regarding treatment, the mother still wants to consult with her husband."
We do not know what was discussed in detail with the mother about Ursula's "treatment." It is known from other cases that parents were usually recommended a new, only vaguely explained therapy, which would open up a chance for healing, but could also have life-threatening effects. In their desperation, many parents agreed. If this was also suggested to Ursula’s mother, she seems to have refused her consent. She took her child out of the asylum and back to her home on April 29, 1942.
Ursula's father died on July 22, 1942, at the age of only 40, in the Hamburg University Hospital in Eppendorf. From now on, Ursula's mother had to care for her daughter and herself alone.
On April 27, 1943, Ursula Grabbe was admitted to Langenhorn Sanatorium and Nursing Home for a second time. According to her mother, she had had to entrust Ursula to strangers in Elmshorn for care. She herself had been hospitalized for rheumatism of the joints and subsequently suffered an industrial accident resulting in a concussion. During the eight months Ursula lived in Elmshorn, the child "did not have it good". The foster parents were ashamed of Ursula and did not let her leave the house. The mother returned her daughter severely emaciated and distraught. The child flinched at every noise in the street.
The mother connected the renewed admission in Langenhorn with the hope that Ursula would be helped. Whether this meant "treatment" as described above must remain open.
Ursula was in danger of falling victim to "child euthanasia" during her second stay in Langenhorn. This can be seen from a letter in her file from the "Reichsausschuss zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung von erb- und anlagebedingten schweren Leiden" (Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Hereditary and Congenital Serious Illnesses) dated May 12, 1943, to the State Health Department of the Pinneberg district, to which Elmshorn also belonged. This camouflage organization of "child euthanasia" determined in it that Ursula Grabbe was to be admitted to "the children's specialist department at the Schleswig state sanatorium". It went on to say, "Here, on the basis of the arrangements made by the Reich Committee, the best care can be given."
However, the admission to Schleswig could not be implemented because Ursula Grabbe had already been placed in the Langenhorn sanatorium and nursing home. Therefore, the State Health Office of the Pinneberg district forwarded the letter to the Hamburg Health Office, which forwarded it to the Langenhorn Sanatorium and Nursing Home. No further information about Ursula Grabbe's fate in Langenhorn is contained in her file.
For a reason we do not know, Ursula Grabbe was transferred to what was then the Alsterdorfer Anstalten (now the Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf) on July 6, 1943, when she was now 3 ½ years old. Possibly her mother had intervened. It was noted in Alsterdorf that Ursula could not speak and cried a lot. The cause was apparently not sought. However, "when you deal with her," the file says, "she becomes more cheerful, tries to repeat after you."
Six weeks later, on August 16, Ursula Grabbe, together with 227 women and girls from the Alsterdorf institutions and 72 girls and women from the Langenhorn sanatorium and nursing home, were transported to the Wagner von Jauregg sanatorium and nursing home of the City of Vienna.
During the heavy air raids on Hamburg in July/August 1943 ("Operation Gomorrha"), the Alsterdorf institutions also suffered bomb damage. The director of the Alsterdorf institutions, SA member Pastor Friedrich Lensch, took the opportunity, after consulting with the health authorities, to transfer some of the residents who were considered "weak in labor, in need of care or particularly difficult" to other sanatoriums and nursing homes. Between August 7 and 16, 1943, other transports left Alsterdorf in addition to the one to Vienna. A total of 468 girls and women, boys and men were transported from the Alsterdorf institutions.
Ursula Grabbe arrived at the Wagner von Jauregg Sanatorium and Nursing Home of the City of Vienna, Vienna 14, Baumgartnerhöhe, on August 17, 1943. Upon admission, she was described as "restless, in need of care, unclean." The long journey from Hamburg to Vienna was not taken into account. As a result of the admission discussion with Ursula on August 26, the staff recorded: "Stupid. Keeps quiet here, gait uncertain, does not pay attention to questions. Always has her mouth open. [....] Makes rocking movements." In growth, she was said to be retarded.
Ursula's mother had also been bombed out during the massive air raids on Hamburg and was now living as a subtenant in Wilstorf, a district south of river Elbe. In response to her concerned inquiry, she received the following message on October 5, 1943: "Your child has been in h.o. [here in Wien] since August 17. It survived the transport well. The general condition is unchanged. Attn. Dr. Podhajsky". This doctor Wilhelm Podhajsky wrote on October 8: "In addition to the letter of 5.10.43, we are informed that your child, who is in the h.o. [Vienna] institution because of congenital feeble-mindedness, is behaving completely apathetic, is dependent and must be fully cared for."
On September 25, 1944, fourteen of the Alsterdorf girls were transferred to the "children's specialist ward" of the Vienna Municipal Mental Hospital for Children (also known as the Am Spiegelgrund Institution), including Ursula Grabbe as the youngest. The doctor Marianne Türk carried out the admission examination and noted that the child was shy, frightened and very anxious. It was noticeable that she sang songs correctly in between, e.g. "Farewell, goodbye". In a preliminary summary is noted: "About clan and history no information available. Diagnosis: Idiocy Ia?".
Four days later, Ursula suffered from a high fever that continued to rise; severe bronchitis and "incipient pneumonia" alarmingly aggravated her general condition. Food intake was poor. Despite increasing weakness, the child was "at times very restless."
On September 30, 1944, Ursula Grabbe died of purulent bronchitis and pneumonia. Physician Türk still noted, "The dissection revealed pulmonary tuberculosis."
We do not know what specifically caused Ursula Grabbe's high fever and dramatic deterioration of her general condition. However, it must be assumed as certain that the girl did not die of natural causes. All 14 Alsterdorf girls were killed within three and a half months of their admission to the so-called children's specialist ward. Shortly before the deaths, the parents regularly received similar mail from Türk. The wording of the "warning letters" and the subsequent course of events were identical in almost all cases. Whether Ursula Grabbe's mother received such a letter cannot be reconstructed from the patient file.
The contents of the "warning letter" addressed to the father of a girl who was transferred to Vienna with Ursula Grabbe are clear from the example: "Your little daughter Friedl has been ill with a feverish flu since yesterday. Since today, in addition, a left-sided pneumonia is developing, the condition appears threatening." And a few days later, the father received the following message: "To my regret, I must inform you that your child Friedl was released from his incurable suffering by a gentle death at 1:45 a.m. today."
Since 2002, there has been a gravesite and memorial field at the Vienna Central Cemetery "In memory of the children and young people who fell victim to Nazi euthanasia as 'life unworthy of life' in the years 1940 to 1945 in the former children's clinic 'Am Spiegelgrund'." There, the names of the murdered children and adolescents are listed on eight panels, including that of Ursula Grabbe.
Of the 300 women and girls deported from Hamburg to Vienna on August 16, 1943 (228 from Alsterdorf, 72 from Langenhorn), 257 had died by the end of 1945.
Translation by Beate Meyer
Stand: February 2022
© Ingo Wille
Quellen: StaH 332-5 Standesämter 9931 Sterberegister Nr. 1222/1942 Albert Bernhardt Grabbe; 352-8/7 Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn Abl. 1/1995 Nr. 86223 Grabbe Ursula; Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, V 341 Grabbe Ursula; 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., insbes. S. 345; Waltraud Häupl, Die ermordeten Kinder vom Spiegelgrund, Wien 2006, S. 148; Peter Schwarz, Mord durch Hunger, "Wilde Euthanasie" und "Aktion Brandt" am Steinhof in der NS-Zeit in eForumzeitGeschichte 1/2001 http://www.eforum-zeitgeschichte.at/1_01a1.html, Zugriff am 31.5.2021.