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Wilhelm Ahrnke * 1903

Sierichstraße 172 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)

JG. 1903
"VERLEGT" 27.11.1941
ERMORDET 15.8.1942

Wilhelm Heinrich Karl Ahrnke, born on 2.7.1903 in Hamburg, admitted to the former Alsterdorfer Anstalten (now Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf) on 15.3.1938, transferred to the Hamburg-Langenhorn sanatorium and nursing home on 28.7.1941, from there to the Gau-Heilanstalt Tiegenhof (Dziekanka) near Gniezno on 27.11.1941, died there on 15.8.1942.

Sierichstraße 172 (Winterhude)

Wilhelm Heinrich Karl Ahrnke was born on July 2, 1903, the second of four children of the streetcar conductor Wilhelm Johann Heinrich Theodor Ahrnke and his wife Sophie Auguste Maria, née Olms, in Hamburg-Winterhude, Willistraße 31. His parents came from Mecklenburg. They had married in Hamburg on March 30, 1901. Wilhelm Ahrnke's older sister Martha Frieda Auguste Sophie was born on April 12, 1901, his two younger sisters Gertrud on Aug. 14, 1905 and Mathilda on Febr. 10, 1907.

Wilhelm Ahrnke was admitted to the then Alsterdorfer Anstalten (now Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf) on March 15, 1938. The little we know about him is taken from the civil register entries about his parents, his sisters and himself He was apparently never married. A patient file that could have provided more detailed information about his life before his admission to Alsterdorf has not been preserved.

What we know about his illness is taken from an index card that was created for the Hamburg Health Passport Archive, which was set up from 1934 for the purpose of "hereditary-biological stocktaking" of the population. According to this, Wilhelm Ahrnke had been ill since 1925. He was a "completely demented, limp patient with very little drive, who had hardly any relations to the environment." He was to be regarded as in the "final state of schizophrenia" and as incurably ill. There was no work performance in him.

On July 28, 1941, at least 50 men from the Alsterdorf institutions were initially transferred to the Langenhorn sanatorium and nursing home. Wilhelm Ahrnke was among them. Three days later, on July 31, 1941, another transport followed with at least 20 women.

Three days before the transfer, the director of the Alsterdorf asylums, SA member Pastor Friedrich Lensch, had received a list with the names of the Alsterdorf asylum residents, which the Berlin headquarters of "Aktion T4" had compiled on the basis of the registration forms he had sent to Berlin.

At this time, the Langenhorn sanatorium had become the intermediate institution for the entire Hamburg area and the hub of "euthanasia" in the north of the German Reich. A complicated "shifting system" set up for camouflage purposes was intended to prevent relatives from "seeing through the whereabouts of the sick" (see Michael Wunder).

Wilhelm Ahrnke was transferred on November 27, 1941, along with other men and women from Langenhorn to the Gau-Heilanstalt Tiegenhof (Dziekanka) near Gniezno in present-day Poland. The Hamburg Euthanasia Memorial Book contains the names of 66 former Alsterdorf patients who were taken from Langenhorn to Tiegenhof on this transport; four of the former seventy Alsterdorf patients had previously died in Langenhorn.

(A total of 366 people were transported from the Langenhorn sanatorium to the Tiegenhof Gau sanatorium in several transports between November 14 and 27, 1941. (The Hamburg memorial book contains 206 persons).)

After Germany's invasion of Poland in October 1939, the German Wehrmacht had occupied the Dziekanka psychiatric institution near Gniezno, which was henceforth called "Gau-Heilanstalt Tiegenhof". Until the summer/fall of 1941, Polish patients were murdered in several actions, for example in December 1939 in gas chambers of Fort VII near Posen/Poznan, later in mobile gas vans, where the exhaust gases or carbon monoxide were introduced into the closed cargo space.

When the patients from Hamburg arrived at Tiegenhof, German patients were also killed, by systematic starvation, overdosing on medication, and neglect of care. For this purpose, separate killing rooms were located in the patients' quarters, where the defenseless and debilitated victims were injected with lethal agents, introduced by means of enema, or administered dissolved in soup.

Wilhelm Ahrnke lived in this institution for about nine months until he died on August 15, 1942. In the death register entry about his death, the cause of death is given as "febrile intestinal catarrh".

According to Michael Wunder, a total of 630 handicapped children, women and men were transported from the Alsterdorf institutions to intermediate institutions or directly to euthanasia killing centers. Of these people, 511 were killed - according to the state of knowledge in 2016.

Translation by Beate Meyer
Stand: February 2022
© Ingo Wille

Quellen: Adressbuch Hamburg 1938; Standesamt Gniezno, Archiv der Evangelischen Stiftung Alsterdorf, Erbgesundheitskartei, Sterberegisterauszug Nr. 96/1942 (Günther Gerth); Michael Wunder, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner: Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr – Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, 3. Auflage, Stuttgart 2016, S. 36, 269 ff.; Enno Schwanke, Die Landesheil- und Pflegeanstalt Tiegenhof, Die nationalsozialistische Euthanasie in Polen während des Zweiten Weltkrieges, Frankfurt/M 2015.

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