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Horst Aschoff * 1930
Maretstraße 50 (Harburg, Harburg)
Horst Aschoff, born on 10 Oct. 1930 in Harburg-Wilhelmsburg, committed to the "Rotenburg Institute of the Inner Mission” ("Rotenburger Anstalten der Inneren Mission”) on 17 Mar. 1934, "transferred” to the Lüneburg "Provincial Sanatorium and Nursing Home” ("Provinzial-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt” Lüneburg) on 9 Oct. 1941, murdered on 12 Jan. 1944
Harburg-Altstadt quarter, Maretstrasse 50 (formerly: Reinholdstrasse 31)
Horst Aschoff took the first steps of his life at Grumbrechtstrasse 30, where his parents Adolf Albert and Anna Margarethe Aschoff, née Larsson, lived, before they moved to Marxstrasse (today: Reinholdstrasse) 31.
The little boy did not develop like many others, which increasingly worried his parents. On medical advice, they turned with their problems to the municipal welfare office. After a thorough examination, the public health officer by the name of Giertmühlen determined on 27 Mar. 1933 that the little boy was "psychopathically predisposed” and "ineducable.” He recommended admission to a closed institution. After the medical specialist Buss had confirmed this diagnosis, Horst Aschoff, at the age of three and a half years, was admitted by the Harburg Welfare Office to the Rotenburg Institute of the Inner Mission on 17 Mar. 1934, since the child could not be "kept in the parental home in the long term” because of "his absolute ineducability ...”
In the meantime, the Nazi utopia of a "healthy national body” ("gesunder Volkskörper”) had became established propagandistically and legally. "Unproductive persons” were denied the right to life. According to this, they were to be excluded from reproduction. Many institutions originally set up to help people with disabilities took up these ideas.
Even the Rotenburg Institute of the Inner Mission was not immune to this new zeitgeist. Since the beginning of 1934, the institution was considered a closed institution along the lines of the "Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases” ("Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses”). The patients were no longer allowed to leave the facility without special permission from the administration. The separation of the sexes within this closed area was also rigorously enforced. At least 356 persons from the Rotenburg Institute – 238 men and 97 women – were forcibly sterilized between 1934 and 1945.
The Rotenburg Institute did not succeed in helping Horst Aschoff, as his report card at the end of grade 1 at the institutional school shows, in which his behavior is described as follows: "Horst is full of malicious ideas, which, when he managed to carry them out, visibly amused him. His concentration is very poor. ... Horst is intolerable for the community. ... Due to his restlessness, cruelties, etc., he is a constant nuisance. He also entices the children around him to impertinent conduct. He is cowardly and insidious.”
A medical report dated 17 Sept. 1939 justified his further treatment in the institution with the following words: "Horst Aschoff, who is accommodated here, is a highly moronic, very restless, and difficult to educate boy. He tends to destroy anything that falls into his hands. He beats other children and needs constant strict supervision.”
It is not known what impression Horst Aschoff made on the four-member medical commission that assessed all 1,150 Rotenburg patients in Apr. 1941 – within four working days. Expert reports marked with a + were tantamount to an authorization to kill. They formed the basis for the compilation of the lists containing the names of those who were to be transferred to a killing center.
At the end of July 1941, 70 men and 70 women from the Rotenburg Institute were transported to the so-called Weilmünster intermediate station near the Hadamar "euthanasia” killing center. That they were ultimately spared the journey to the gas chamber was only due to the fact that "Operation T 4” ("Aktion T 4”) was officially discontinued in Aug. 1941.
This did not mean, however, that the killing of persons with disabilities was over. It was followed by the murder of those affected in the following months and years by food deprivation, deterioration of care, and misuse of medication.
In Sept. 1941, the complete evacuation of the Rotenburg Institute began in order to transform the facility into a military hospital. More than 800 Rotenburg patients were transferred to other "sanatoriums and nursing homes” across the German Reich in the fall of 1941.
On 9 Oct. 1941, Horst Aschoff was transferred together with 129 children to the Lüneburg "Provincial Sanatorium and Nursing Home.”
There he was assigned to the so-called "children’s special ward” ("Kinderfachabteilung”) that had been set up shortly before. The existence of 31 German "children’s special ward” overall and their function were secret matters of the Reich. Head of the Lüneburg "children’s special ward” was Willi Baumert, member of the NSDAP and the Waffen-SS. His task was to observe the children classified as "ineducable” for a certain period and then to examine them. The expert reports were then evaluated by 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 and then marked with a cross (+) or line (-). The sign of the cross was a prompt to the heads of "children’s special wards” to kill the children.
Willi Baumert delegated this task to the nurses. After he had made a decision about the time of the murder and the required dose of Phenobarbital (Luminal), he instructed the nurse on duty in each instance to administer the drug to a certain child. All staff members were subject to confidentiality, as one of the nurses later stated: "Dr. Bräuner [...] informed Miss Wolff and me that children were to be put to sleep in the children’s ward of the Lüneburg sanatorium and nursing home on instructions from above. He told us we need not fear that anything would ever happen to us before a court of law.”
The relatives were deliberately left in the dark about the true cause of death.
On 12 Jan. 1944, Horst Aschoff’s life in this "children’s special ward” also came to a violent end.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: June 2020
© Klaus Möller
Quellen: Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv, Hann. 155 Lüneburg Acc. 56/82 Nr. 193; Harald Jenner,
Michael Wunder, Hamburger Gedenkbuch Euthanasie. Die Toten 1939–1945, Hamburg 2017; Archiv der Rotenburger Werke der Inneren Mission, Akte Nr. 222; Zuflucht unter dem Schatten deiner Flügel? Rotenburger Anstalten (Hrsg.), Rotenburg 1992, Raimond Reiter, Empirie und Methode in der Erforschung des `Dritten Reiches´, Fallstudien zur Inhaltsanalyse, Typusbildung, Statistik, zu Interviews und Selbstzeugnissen, Frankfurt M. 2000; Raimond Reiter, Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus und die Bildungs- und Gedenkstätte `Opfer der NS-Psychiatrie´ in Lüneburg, Marburg 2005; Raimond Reiter, Psychiatrie im Dritten Reich in Niedersachsen, Hannover 1997; 100 Jahre Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus Lüneburg. Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus Lüneburg (Hrsg.), Lüneburg 2001; Helmut Pless, Lüneburg 45, Nordost-Niedersachsen zwischen Krieg und Frieden, Lüneburg 1976; Heimat, Heide, Hakenkreuz. Lüneburgs Weg ins Dritte Reich, Geschichtswerkstatt Lüneburg (Hrsg.), Lüneburg 1995; Harburger Adressbücher.