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Franz Lorenzen * 1885

Behnstraße 83 (Altona, Altona-Altstadt)

Alsterdorfer Anstalten
ermordet 13.11.1942

Franz Jürgen Ludwig Lorenzen, born 19 Apr. 1885, admitted 4 July 1900 to the Alsterdorf Institution, died there 13 Nov. 1942

Behnstraße 83

Franz Lorenzen was born on 19 Aüril 1885. He was the eldest child of Hermann Peter Friedrich Lorenzen, a bookseller, and his wife Marie Christine Dorothea, née Hudemann. Herman Lorenzen bought the building at Behnstraße 83, which had been built in 1862, and in 1911 moved his textbook store there, which he had first opened at Große Bergstraße 174 in 1885. Later his son Anton Hans (*1890) ran the business until his death in 1968. The family’s youngest son, Herman Ludwig (*1894), died in 1917 in Belgium in the First World War.

Family documents tell very little about Franz Lorenzen’s childhood, other than that he suffered from "teething cramps” (Zahnkrämpfe – an outdated term for seizures actually caused by fever in infants, but because they often occur at the same time the child is teething, they were attributed to the teething process), and that he was mentally retarded. It is unknown whether his condition was congenital or was the result of an illness in his infancy or childhood. In the confirmation records of the St. Petri Church in Altona, he is listed as having been confirmed by Pastor Schmidt on 1 April 1900. These records state that he attended a school for children with learning difficulties.

According to his files at the Alsterdorf Institution, he was admitted on 4 July 1900, aged 15. It is possible that his parents, confronted with his puberty and with no prospect for any kind of job training because of his disability, saw no other alternative than to commit him to the care of the church in the Alsterdorf Institution.

At the Alsterdorf Institution he was entrusted with light care-taking duties. He became friends with another patient, Christian Brüggemann. Occasionally he made the trip home on the tram from Alsterdorf to Altona to visit his family. The family embraced him as a polite, friendly, and amiable person, who was simply unable to organize his day-to-day life on his own. He was very close to his brother’s family. A handwritten poem, composed on the occasion of his nephew Theo’s baptism in 1930, was found in his sister-in-law Frida Lorenzen’s diary.

Franz Lorenzen’s father died in 1935, his mother was killed in an accident in 1941.

While researching our family history, the Alsterdorf Protestant Foundation sent us a copy of Franz Lorenzen’s (undated) discharge summary, in which his doctor outlined his medical history, and pronounced a diagnosis of "imbecility,” the term current at the time for a light intellectual disability. They also provided a copy of his hospital records. The Institute’s chief physician, Dr. Kreyenberg, kept these records as a "hereditary illness file,” with an excerpt of his family tree. In this file was written: "Patient suffered from intermediate feeble-mindedness. He was occupied with household duties, which he performed calmly, diligently, and to our satisfaction. At times he became highly agitated by insignificant occurrences, and was difficult to pacify. He took an active part in daily events, kept himself and his clothing clean. A period of increasing mental and physical deterioration led to his death on 13 Nov. 1942 as a result of marasmus.” Marasmus is a form of severe malnutrition.

The family tradition holds that Franz’s brother, my father, visited him in Alsterdorf one or two weeks before his death, and found him healthy. Other documents pertaining to our family were destroyed through bomb damage on the archives building. Franz Lorenzen died, aged 57, as a result of the adverse conditions at the Alsterdorf Institution. The cause of death was probably under-nourishment, lack of care, and insufficient medical treatment. His urn was interred in the family grave at the Diebsteich Cemetery in 1942.

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

Stand: April 2018
© Hans-Herbert Lorenzen, Neffe von Franz Lorenzen

Quellen: Dokumente im Familienbesitz: Taufverzeichnis St. Petri Altona, 1885 mit lfd. Nr. 151 (S. 284), Archiv der Evangelischen Stiftung Alsterdorf, 746 (Epikrisenkarteikarte und Stammkarte Franz Jürgen Ludwig Lorenzen), 959 (Todesbescheinigung und Totenschein); Wunder, Auf diese schiefen Ebene, S. 97–125.

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