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Inge Hardekop * 1925
Harders Kamp 1 (Bergedorf, Lohbrügge)
AM STEINHOF WIEN
Inge Hardekop, born 13 May 1925 in Sande/Lohbrügge, admitted to the Alsterdorf Institution 21 Nov. 1940, transferred to the Wagner von Jauregg Institution in Vienna 16 Aug. 1943, died 29 Nov. 1944
Harders Kamp 1 (formerly Kampstraße 5)
On 14 September 1940 a welfare worker wrote a report to the Hamburg-Bergedorf Public Health Authority and the Hamburg Welfare Agency stating the reasons for admitting Inge Hardekop to institutional care. The report begins: "The young woman Inge Hardekop, a cripple and a psychopath, has been in my care for several years. She has lived with her grandparents, Karl Ohle (*17 June 1882 in Güüstrow, farmworker) and his wife Bertha Ohle, née Fischer (*15 Aug. 1879 in Gumbinnen, East Prussia), both residing in Hamburg-Lohbrügge, since her earliest childhood. Inge, who suffers from high-degree feeble-mindedness and has severely crippled feet and lightly crippled hands, was cared for impeccably by her grandmother. … Inge was never a difficult child.” The fact that Inge spent more time with her grandparents than with her parents was due to her father’s early death and possibly also to her disabilities.
Emil Hardekop (*10 Aug. 1903 in Koburg in the Lauenburg administrative district) and Erna Mahncke (*15 Oct. 1901 in Sande, present-day Lohbrügge) married during the time of hyperinflation. Their first child, Mimi, was born on 10 Nov. 1923, but eight weeks later of pneumonia. Inge was born 18 months later, on 13 May 1925. Her hands and feet were not fully formed at birth. Her left foot later developed into a club foot, and her left eye never opened. Inge eventually learned to walk, although later than most children. She also learned how to make herself understood, although her speech never developed beyond inarticulate sounds.
When Inge was four years old, her father died, aged only 25, of pneumonia and nephritis. Inge received an orphan’s pension, but it was not enough to support her and her mother, so Erna Hardekop had to work. She knew the hardships of widows and orphans from her own experience – her father, Johannes Mahnke, had died in 1915, aged 36, of throat cancer, leaving behind her mother Bertha and two daughters, the 14-year-old Erna and 10-year-old Else. Bertha later married Karl Ohle, a farmworker three years her junior. The couple had no children. Karl Ohle later became Inge’s legal guardian and he and his wife Bertha cared for her very attentively.
Erna Hardekop also remarried. Her second husband, Franz Rösler, was a relative of her late husband, and worked at the Goslar glass bead plant in Bergedorf. He and Inge developed a good relationship.
Inge Hardekop was seldom ill, and was easy to raise. At the age of six she began to imitate her grandmother when she did housework. In the following years she learned to wash the dishes and put them away by herself, to tidy up and to mop the floors. She liked to do these chores. She was very fond of the dog, the cat, and the birds, and took good care of them.
At the same time that Inge reached puberty, her grandmother developed a mental illness. She had always treated Inge well, but now began to hit her for no reason, and Inge ran away. Erna Rösler was not able to stay at home and care for her daughter, because there was no one to take her place as cleaning lady at the drug store and the dentist’s office where she worked. Since she could find no other place for her daughter to live, she considered institutionalizing her to be the best alternative, "since I couldn’t keep watch over her constantly,” and because she didn’t want "the child to become a public spectacle.” In addition to Inge’s orphan’s pension of 10.60 Reichsmarks, she would contribute 15 Reichsmarks. She had already found out that Inge’s condition was not hereditary. In September 1940 the youth welfare office approved Erna Rösler’s petition, and Inge was admitted to the Alsterdorf Institution two months later. There her condition was examined, and Erna’s statement that it was non-hereditary was confirmed. Erna had indicated that an accident during her fourth month of pregnancy might have been the reason for Inge’s handicaps.
Inge became accustomed to life in the institution after about four weeks. She still cried sometimes, but entertained herself with picture books and helped as best she could. She was, on the whole, calm and content, and remained so even when she was twice changed to different wards.
Her grandmother’s condition worsened. She was diagnosed with "senile dementia and aphasia” and on 7 March 1941 she was committed to the Alsterdorf Institution, where Inge had been living for three-and-a-half months. Inge could only help her grandmother become accustomed to life there for a short time, because she came down with pneumonia and, shortly after, developed a furuncle. After Inge recovered she was more dependent on help than before, was recalcitrant when she didn’t get her way, and reacted violently to her fellow patients, but she was very attentive towards her grandmother.
Inge missed being at home, especially after spending time at home or after visits from her mother. She cried, became fractious and hit out at her fellow patients. Her mother tried to get permission for Inge to visit home more often than the five days per month allowed, but it was not granted. She visited Inge regularly. Inge was 16 years old in early 1942. She had lost 6kg (13 lbs) since October of the previous year, but regained 8kg (18 lbs) by April. It was during this time that her grandmother died. Bertha Ohle died on 27 January 1942 of pneumonia.
1942 was a calmer year for Inge than the previous ones had been. She had only one severe illness. A report from January 1943 reads: "The patient can dress herself, slowly but tidily. Everything else must be done for her. She is friendly and likes to lend a hand. She responds well to praise or a smile. Inge cannot speak well or clearly, but she understands nearly everything. She enjoys playing with her toys by herself, and she tries to knit. The patient is wholly toilet-trained and can go to the toilet without help.” The next entry in her records is short and to the point: "The patient is most content when she is allowed to do small chores, like fetching dishes or laundry, dusting, etc. She is a friendly child.” The last entry, dated 7 June 1943 mentions her homesickness after having spent two days at home with her mother.
After the air raids over Hamburg in late July and early August 1943, during which some of the buildings at Alsterdorf were destroyed, the institution administration requested permission from the Public Health Administration to transfer patients to other institutions in order to relieve the overcrowding. Once permission was given, the Gemeinnützige Krankentransport GmbH ("Charitable Ambulance Service – a euphemistic name for a subdivision of the Nazi euthanasia program), which had organized the "euthanasia transports” in 1940–41, sent a notice to Alsterdorf that it would arrange a transport to the Wagner von Jauregg Institution in Vienna on 16 August 1943. The institution administration put together a list of 228 women and girls of all ages. Inge Hardekop was on this list. The transport arrived in Vienna on the following day.
Inge’s behavior in the Vienna institution was no different than in Hamburg, after she had become accustomed to her new surroundings. She was affectionate and fond of animals, she helped with chores and knitted simple items, but she suffered under the shortage of supplies.
Erna Rösler planned to visit her daughter in September 1944, but she was unable to do so. Two months later she received notice that Inge had died on 29 November 1944 of thrombophlebitis (a vein inflammation related to a blood clot) and bronchial pneumonia. The autopsy revealed that she suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, a notifiable disease that had been overlooked.
Erna Rösler wanted to bury her daughter near her home, and paid 250 Reichsmarks for her cremation and the delivery of the urn. Inge Hardekop was buried at the Lohbrügge Cemetery. She was 19 years old.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: October 2016
© Hildegard Thevs
Quellen: Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, V 238; Wunder, Michael, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner: Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr. Hamburg, 2. Aufl. 1988; Kultur- und Geschichtskontor Bergedorf.