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Herbert Becker, 1936
© Archiv Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf

Herbert Becker * 1927

Seilerstraße 20 (Hamburg-Mitte, St. Pauli)

JG. 1927
"VERLEGT" 1943

Herbert Becker, born on 22 Sept. 1927 in Hamburg, admitted to what was then the Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten) on 12 July 1930, "transferred” on 11 Aug. 1943 to the Mainkofen "sanatorium and nursing home” ("Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Mainkofen”) in Deggendorf, murdered on 29 May 1945

Seilerstrasse 20 (St. Pauli)

Herbert Becker and his twin brother Werner were born on 22 Sept. 1927 in Hamburg in an "institute for obstetrics.” Their mother, the unmarried Magdalena Frieda Emma Becker, born on 10 Nov. 1893, died on 20 July 1976 in Lübeck, worked as a "Mamsell” (responsible for the preparation and serving of food in restaurants), as noted in the birth certificate. It is quite possible that she worked in the then rather well-known Conventgarten concert and event hall, since she gave this address, Fuhlentwiete 29/33, as her registration address.

Emma Becker already had a son, Alfons Hans, three years older, who was born on 18 Sept. 1924. The father of Herbert and Werner was Felix Wenkel, born on 2 Dec. 1894. He had returned from the First World War "suffering from nerves,” and he was unable to pay child support.

Emma Becker obviously could not take care of Herbert and Werner, because they were put into public orphanage care in Mar. 1928, first in the "Tages- und Nachtkrippe,” a 24-hour childcare facility on Moltkestrasse, then in the municipal infant’s home of the Hamburg Youth Welfare Office at Winterhuder Weg 11. Emma Becker meanwhile lived in the St. Pauli quarter at Seilerstrasse 20 as a subtenant of F. Henze and worked as a domestic servant, presumably in the local guesthouse.

The records of the infant house indicate that Herbert was a delicate pale child in somewhat poor nutritional condition with symptoms of rickets (a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency). In Jan. 1930, he fell ill with nasal diphtheria and he was admitted to the Barmbek hospital for almost two months.

Since Herbert was allegedly "a heavy burden” on operations at the infant hospital, its management sought to transfer him to the then Alsterdorf Asylum. On 27 May 1930, the Youth Welfare Office arranged for a psychiatric report, based on which Herbert was admitted to the Alsterdorf Asylum on 12 July 1930. The report described Herbert as "a restless child, physically and mentally far backward and so far completely inaccessible to any influence.”

Herbert had difficulty settling into Alsterdorf. In May 1933, his patient file indicated, "He dislikes being out of bed, looks around anxiously and screams. When in bed, he is calm and cheerful. He makes swinging motions.” The following October, a passage reads, "He knows his surroundings better now, laughs when something happens in the ward. He is affectionate, wants to be noticed. He cannot walk yet, but he is sitting up now.”

Herbert’s health was very fragile. He also suffered from severe anemia and chronic eczema. He was often transferred to the hospital ward of the institution or to an external hospital because of various infectious diseases. In view of her son’s at times serious condition, Herbert’s mother was allowed to visit him daily.

In Sept. 1934, Herbert’s patient file stated "Has been up all afternoon lately. He occupies himself with a piece of paper or a piece of wood and is quite amused. He tries more and more to use his legs. He walks a few steps when you touch him. Recently, he has been much livelier and he has been able to laugh quite heartily. During the day, it was already possible to keep him dry.” Reportedly, he learned to walk alone, to eat alone, and to repeat his first name.

On 4 June 1935, Herbert was transferred from the children’s ward to the "male section” of the Alsterdorf Asylum. We do not know anything about his development over the next seven years until June 1942, when a permanent stay in the institution was deemed necessary for him. He was still living in the Alsterdorf Asylum when it was hit by the heavy air raids on Hamburg in July/August 1943. To relieve the institution, 112 male adults and adolescents were transported to the Mainkofen "sanatorium and nursing home” near Passau in Lower Bavaria on 11 Aug. 1943. Of these patients, including Herbert Becker, only 39 persons lived to see the end of the war. The high mortality rate was deliberately achieved by the staff through food deprivation and nursing neglect. In Mainkofen, there were so-called "hunger houses.”

Herbert Becker’s Alsterdorf medical file traveled with him to Mainkofen. There, the responsible persons entered something twice. On 2 Aug. 1943: "Today, admitted from the severely bombed-out Alsterdorf Asylum to the local institution.” And on 29 December: "Psychologically unchanged since the transfer, as one might expect given the nature of the suffering. Coughing and diarrhea with a slight fever for a long time. Bronchitis-related noises scattered over the lungs on both sides. The nutritional status has considerably deteriorated for a long time, whereby the physical illness may have played a significant role. Died at 11 o’clock this morning.”

From this, one might conclude that Herbert Becker died on 29 Dec. 1943 in the institution in Mainkofen. This is contradicted by the fact that the coroner’s certificate in the medical file states 29 May 1945 at 11 a.m. as the day and hour of death. The cause of death on the coroner’s certificate is "feverish bronchitis.” The contradiction between the two death dates could not be resolved. For the inscription on the Stolperstein in memory of Herbert Becker, the date of death was assumed 29 May 1945.

According to an internal form of the institution, the "Central Clearing Office for Hospitals and Nursing Institutions, currently Mühlhausen i/Thur.[ingia] PO box 168,” was informed of his death. Relatives, it stated, were not known, and could not be informed.

The fates of Herbert Becker’s twin brother Werner, his half-brother Alfons Hans, and his parents are not known.

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: September 2020
© Susanne Rosendahl

Quellen: Archiv der Evangelischen Stiftung Alsterdorf, Sonderakte 439 Becker, Herbert; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 42308 u 2978/1893; Michael Wunder, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner, Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr. Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, 2. Aufl. Hamburg 1988; (Zugriff 28.8.2019).

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