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Sophie Bergundthal (née Hartig) * 1888

Beim Grünen Jäger 2 (Hamburg-Mitte, St. Pauli)

JG. 1888

Elfriede Maaker, born on 17 July 1936 in Hamburg, murdered on 30 June 1941

Elfriede Maaker died in the Altona Children’s Hospital, where 80 children, including Elfriede, were transferred when the Rothenburgsort Children’s Hospital was damaged by a high-explosive bomb on the night of 30 June 1941, causing the hospital’s evacuation.

Elfriede was born in 1936 into a tailor’s family living in the Barmbek district. The parents had their daughter baptized in the local Protestant church. We do not know when she was first admitted to a hospital. In 1941, she had been in the Rothenburgsort Children’s Hospital once before, as a note in the existing patient file reveals. The admission in 1941 was arranged by the physician Wilhelm Roggenkämper with a diagnosis of "hydrocephalus with seizures.”

Just who took Elfriede to the hospital on 20 May 1941 is not known, nor who wrote that "Elfriede [was to] be transferred to Alsterdorf or Bethel later on.” Before then, she had screamed incessantly for four days, even when she was given strong sedatives. The medications administered against the occasional seizures, however, showed an effect. Enclosed in the file is a seizure calendar for the period from 22 June 1940 to 24 Feb. 1941. According to this, Elfriede showed "inclination toward seizures” on ten days overall, including two days in 1941, and in these instances several times.

The admitting physician, Ingeborg Wetzel, described Elfriede as a four-and-a-half-year-old, delicate girl in a poor general state of health with severe hydrocephalus, which had increased by 4 centimeters (nearly 2 in) in circumference within 16 days. Elfriede, she went on, was flailing back and forth her arms, though not undergoing any seizures. She showed swelling of the mammary glands on both sides. Wetzel’s diagnosis was "severe hydrocephalus, idiocy, and pubertas praecox (premature puberty).”

To counteract her restlessness, Elfriede was given syrup consisting of several sedatives. On the third day in hospital, an attempt was made to extract cerebrospinal fluid, first by lumbar puncture, then by suboccipital puncture, but this failed. As a result, it was impossible to carry out any myelography or encephalography.

Eighteen days after Elfriede’s admission, an "application for the ‘Reich Committee’” ["for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses”] ("Reichsausschuss” ["zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung von erb- und anlagebedingten schweren Leiden”]) was submitted. It is not clear whether this was the first reporting or a feedback with findings from the observation. At any rate, this process shows that the age limit set at three years no longer applied as strictly even by this time.

After the reporting, one day Hermann Sieveking, the head of the Hamburg Health Department, dutifully called on Elfriede in order to check the information submitted to the "Reich Committee.” On this occasion, he confirmed Ingeborg Wetzel in her belief that "euthanasia” had a watertight legal basis, as she testified in her judicial examination in 1948.

Elfriede became more restless at times. On 27 June 1941, she fell ill with pneumonia, becoming sleepy and unconscious after temporary restlessness. In this state, Ingeborg Wetzel administered to her the lethal Luminal (Phenobarbital) injection, with ward nurse Gudrun Kasch holding the girl in place.

In connection with the damage to the hospital, caused by a high-explosive bomb hitting the adjacent railroad switchyard on the night of 30 June 1941, Elfriede was struck on the head, thereby suffering a cut measuring about 2 in. Dying, she was transferred to the children’s hospital on Tresckowallee (today’s Altona Children’s Hospital on Bleickenallee). The attending physician wrote in the admission report that Elfriede was no longer responsive, and according to her mother, apparently accompanying her daughter, she had been unconscious for two days already at the Rothenburgsort Children’s Hospital. He noted down a bleeding laceration on the right cheek as well as blood in the left auditory canal as a manifestation of a base skull fracture, adding that Elfriede’s pulse could still be detected. Shorty afterward, she died. She was just under five years old. The entry in the register of deaths took place on 3 July 1941, based on the notification by the children’s hospital.

Due to the missing records, one cannot reach a reliable conclusion about the cause of Elfriede’s disability. However, a genetic condition is extremely unlikely. Elfriede was killed, even though her ailment did not rank among those subject to mandatory reporting as listed by the "Reich Committee.”

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2017
© Hildegard Thevs mit Barbara Biegel

Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 7; 9; Hamburger Adressbücher; JFHH A 11-167/168, O 3-180, ZX 11-65/66, 12-39, ZZ 10-552/553; StaH 213-11 StA LG Strafsachen, 3588/39; 232-1 Vormundschaftsakten, Serie II 8810 1878; 331-5 Polizeibehörde – Unnatürliche Sterbefälle, 1045/39; 332-5 Geburts-, Heirats- und Sterberegister; 332-8 Melderegister; 351-11 AfW, 1051, 9330, 9451, 14804, 52736, 352-5 Todesbescheinigungen, 1925, Sta2a, Nr. 155; 352-8/7 Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn, Abl. 2/1995, 23019; 552-1 Jüdische Gemeinden, 230 Band I; 992 e 2, Deportationslisten, Band 5; Persönliche Mitteilungen von Prof. em. Dr. Francois E. Cellier Mai/Juni 2017;;
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