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Wolfgang Engel
Wolfgang Engel
© Archiv Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf

Wolfgang Engel * 1938

Von-Heß-Weg 6 (Hamburg-Mitte, Hamm)

JG. 1938
"VERLEGT" 6.8.1943
ERMORDET 20.8.1943

further stumbling stones in Von-Heß-Weg 6:
Helene Herschander

Wolfgang Engel, born 27 Aug. 1938 in Mainz, died 20 Aug. 1943 in Kalmenhof/Idstein

Wolfgang Engel’s father moved to Hamburg for unspecified professional reasons. He, his wife, and their severely handicapped child lived at Von-Hess-Weg 6. He was an engineer and had the job of plant manager.

Wolfgang was born in Mainz in the Alice-Home, a Red Cross hospital, and was delivered by forceps. He was severely injured during the delivery and was christened while still in the hospital. The consequences of the injury first became evident only gradually, but then he began to show movement, sight, and hearing disorders. His parents consulted renowned pediatricians in Mainz and Berlin, all of whom advised them to put him into institutional care, as there was no chance of improvement, let alone of a cure. The parents, however, chose to keep him at home. At first he developed normally, but by the age of three he could neither sit, stand, or walk, and had not learned to speak. Wolfgang’s head was elongated and remained smaller than normal for his age – typical of microcephaly. Since he was unable to chew, he was fed puree, and since he was unable to walk, he had to be carried. After three years of the difficult task of caring for her son, Frau Engel was exhausted, and the parents decided to put him into an institution.

Although microcephaly was a condition that the family’s general practitioner, Anna Maria Wagner, should have reported to the "Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses,” established in 1939, (see the Stolperstein brochure Hamburg-Rothenburgsort), she refrained from doing so. Instead she supported the wish of the parents and recommended that Wolfgang be admitted to the Alsterdorf Institution, at the parents’ expense. With the severity of his disability, Wolfgang would otherwise have been committed to a "special” pediatric ward for observation. There were such "special” wards at the Langenhorn mental hospital and at the Rothenburgsort Children’s Hospital (see the Stolperstein brochure Hamburg-Rothenburgsort).

It took four months for Wolfgang’s father’s admittance request to be approved by the authorities at the institution. Wolfgang was finally admitted to the children’s ward at the Alsterdorf Institution on 10 September 1941. He remained there for four months. The admission documents state that "his body and clothing [were] clean,” and that he was "entirely helpless,” and that he "could not be kept clean,” (i.e. could not control his bladder and bowels) and that he could be given only pureed food. The hereditary health report, written by Dr. Gerhard Kreyenberg, confirmed that Wolfgang’s condition was not of hereditary nature.

Wolfgang’s hospital record contains only sparse entries. The first entry after his admission notes his transfer to Children’s Ward 10. In the following months no details about his behavior or his condition were noted, but the dates of two diphtheria vaccinations in the first half of 1942 were recorded. On 15 June 1942, besides the same entries as to his helplessness and hygiene, it was noted that he had "become calmer and cries less. Bangs his head on headboard, often has convulsions and cries out suddenly, the entire body convulses, he then falls immediately into a deep sleep.” Wolfgang was transferred to Ward 12 and then back to Ward 10, where he remained except for a stay in the infectious diseases ward when he had scarlet fever.

For Wolfgang, 1943 began with chicken pox. He died before the end of the year. His parents’ home was destroyed in Operation Gommorah, the Allied air raids over Hamburg on 27-28 July 1943.

Frau Engel moved to her parents’ home in Rinteln in the Weserbergland, and from there immediately inquired about Wolfgang’s condition. The authorities at the Alsterdorf Institution informed her on 24 August that he had been transferred to Idstein. They evidently sent the information to her previous address, since she never received the letter. They were also evidently unaware that Wolfgang had already died.

Sections of the Alsterdorf Institution were also destroyed in the air raids in July and August. In order to free up space at the hospital, the management, with the consent of the Hamburg Health Authority, transferred several hundred patients to distant, "air raid safe” institutions. The transports were organized by the T4-Office in Berlin, which was responsible for implementing the murder of mental patients in gas chambers. Although the euthanasia program was publicly shut down in August 1941, the department was never dissolved. A sub-agency, the GeKraT (Gemeinnützige Krankentransport, Non-profit Patient Transport), sent its notorious gray buses to Alsterdorf on 7 August 1943 to transport 128 children and men. The patients were taken to the Ochsenzoll train station, where they were transferred to trains. This first of three transports was destined for Hesse.

52 children, Wolfgang Engel among them, were to be sent to the Kalmenhof Institution in Idstein. At the beginning of the Nazi regime, Kalmenhof was a reputable institution, but was later included in the "euthanasia” program and opened a "special pediatric ward” in 1941. Twelve days after his arrival in Idstein, Wolfgang Engel was murdered, probably with a lethal injection of morphium. His case did not go through the mandatory process with the "Reich Committee.”

Unlike the deaths of many other victims, his was recorded in the city of Idstein’s death register, although his place of birth and the names of his parents are listed as unknown. The missing information was filled in in 1961: "Wolfgang Friedrich; Place of birth: Mainz (registry office Mainz No. 1654/1938; Father: engineer Otto Friedrich Karl Engel, Mother: Johanna Luise Maria Engel, née Bergmann, both residents of Mainz-Gustavsburg.”

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Hildegard Thevs

Quellen: Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, V 50; Wunder, Michael, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner, Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr. Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, 2. Aufl. Hamburg 1988; Mitteilungen von Angehörigen von Anna Maria Wagner; Stadtarchiv Idstein, Sterberegister 1943.

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