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Günther Brenneisen * 1935

Bahrenfelder Kirchenweg 51 (Altona, Bahrenfeld)

JG. 1935
"VERLEGT" 7.8.1943
ERMORDET 24.9.1943

Günter/Günther Brenneisen, born on 6.3.1935 in Altona, admitted to the former Alsterdorf Asylum (now the Alsterdorf Protestant Foundation) in 1937, "transferred" to the Eichberg sanatorium and nursing home in Rheingau on 7 Aug. 1943, murdered on 24 Sept. 1943

Bahrenfelder Kirchenweg 51 (Bahrenfeld)

Günter Brenneisen was born Günter Schröder on 6 March 1935 in the then still independent city of Altona in difficult circumstances that did not allow him to thrive in his life which lasted only eight and a half years.
His first name was written "Günter" on the birth register entry and "Günther" on the death register entry.

Günter's mother Anna Dorothea Schröder, née Brenneisen, was born in Kiel on 26 June 1903. She attended school from September 1916 to Easter 1918, i.e. only about 1½ years. The headmistress of the school attributed her unsatisfactory grades to poor nutrition and the inadequate supply of teachers and rooms due to the conditions during the First World War. Anna Schröder married Willi Schröder, a labourer, born in 1904. It is neither known when and where the marriage took place, nor when they both settled in Hamburg. The couple had a daughter in 1929 and a son in 1930.

Anna Schröder appears to have stopped living with her husband as early as 1933. From December 1933, she lived at Friedrichsbader Straße 28 (which no longer exists today) near Kleine Freiheit in the St. Pauli district. The marriage was divorced in 1934. Both legitimate children stayed with their father and lived with him in Winsen/Luhe.

After his birth on 6 March 1935, Günter Brenneisen, who had initially been given the surname Schröder, was placed in the "Daheim" home for mothers and babies run by the Metropolitan mission (Großstadtmission) at Bahrenfelder Kirchenweg 51. His mother lived in one of the institutions at Norderstraße 23 in Altona (municipal old people's home or municipal sanatorium and nursing home). We do not know whether mother and son ever lived together.

After being divorced, Willi Schröder denied paternity for Günter. His biological father was a merchant born in Kiel-Gaarden in 1892. We do not know his name. As Anna Schröder was not married to him, Günter was now given his mother's maiden name: Brenneisen. She also took this name again.

As early as November 1936, the Mothers' Home on Bahrenfelder Kirchenweg asked the Altona Youth Welfare Office for Günter to be placed elsewhere, allegedly due to a lack of space. Günter was then admitted to the Altona-Blankenese nursing home at Tinsdaler Kirchenweg 54-58 on 11 Jan. 1937. According to the youth welfare office file, Günter was transferred again three weeks later. On 2 Febr., he was admitted to the Auguste-Viktoriastift in Altona (presumably meaning the Augusten-Stift for the care of female infirm in the former Steinstraße 40, now Hospitalstraße) in Altona-Altstadt,

In May 1937 - Günter was two years and two months old - the Altona medical officer Dr Schmidt stated that "the patient's admission to the Alsterdorf Asylum is necessary due to imbecility” (Imbecility is no longer a common term for a medium mental disability). At this time, Anna Brenneisen was staying at the Elisabeth Hospital in Schäferkampsallee in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel, whether as a patient or as an employee is not known.

On 11 May 1937, Günter Brenneisen was finally admitted to the Alsterdorf Asylum (now Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf). Here he was described as a physically developed child according to his age with well-developed muscles. When he was admitted, he was unable to walk or speak and was still wetting himself. It was noted as a "mental finding" that the child was able to fixate at the age of two and reach for objects held in front of him, but did not express pleasure. To what extent the identified deficits were the result of multiple changes of residence, the lack of a constant carer and a lack of learning stimuli, or the result of physical or mental disabilities, had not been discussed. On the contrary, the family tree drawn a few weeks after Günter's admission to Alsterdorf emphasises Günter's biological father as a "potator" (drinker) and other "illegitimate relatives".

During his stay in Alsterdorf Günter Brenneisen suffered again and again from illnesses, including measles, influenza, middle ear infection, diphtheria and scarlet fever. So in May 1940, his mother was asked to refrain from visiting her son because he was ill.

According to a note from October 1940, Günter Brenneisen was now able to walk. It is not noted when he gained this ability. Two years later, in October 1942, further progress was reported: "Pat.[tient] is a friendly, trusting child, somewhat shy of strangers. He is calm and agreeable, likes to play and also likes to help. He can speak everything, eats independently and is clean and dry." In November 1942 it was noted: "Pat. is unchanged, only recently he has become a little bolder with his mates. He takes away toys he likes and resists when the children demand them back." The patient file ends without any further entries on 6 Aug. 1943 with the note: "Transferred, as the Alsterdorf Asylum has been destroyed. signed Dr Kreyenberg".

During the heavy air raids on Hamburg in summer of 1943 (Operation Gomorrha), the Alsterdorf Asylum also suffered damage on the night of 29/30 July 1943 and then again on 3/4 Aug. 1943. The director of the institution, SA member Pastor Friedrich Lensch, asked the health authorities to approve the transfer of 750 patients, allegedly to make room for the wounded and bomb-damaged. In three transports between 7 and 16 Aug. 1943, a total of 468 girls and women, boys and men were transferred to the "Landesheilanstalt Eichberg" near Wiesbaden, the "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Kalmenhof" in Idstein in Rheingau, the "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Mainkofen" near Passau and the "Wagner von Jauregg Heil- und Pflegeanstalt der Stadt Wien” ("Am Steinhof") in Vienna.

On 7 Aug. 1943, a total of 128 girls, boys and men were transported to the Eichberg sanatorium and nursing home in Rheingau (76) and the Kalmenhof sanatorium and nursing home near Idstein (52).

20 of the 28 children from the Alsterdorf Asylum brought to Eichberg, were immediately sent to the so-called paediatric specialist department. Günter Brenneisen was among them.
The general term "paediatric specialist department" (Kinderfachabteilung) was used in the National Socialist German Reich as an euphemism for special psychiatric facilities in hospitals, sanatoriums and nursing homes that were used for "child euthanasia", i.e. the research on and killing of children and adolescents who were considered severely physically or mentally handicapped.

With the exception of one child, whose date of death could not be determined, all children were murdered until 15 Oct. 1943. According to the entry in the death register, Günter Brenneisen died on 24 Sept. 1943 in Eichberg of "cardiovascular insufficiency due to diarrhoea with cerebral insufficiency".

Translation: Elisabeth Wendland
Stand: April 2024
© Ingo Wille

Quellen: Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, Patientenakte V38 (Günter Brenneisen); Stadtarchiv Eltville/Rheingau, Sterberegisterauszug Günter Brenneisen; Stadtarchiv Kiel, Geburtsregisterauszug Nr. 1960/1913 (Anna Dorothea Brenneisen), Standesamt Erbach (Rheingau) Sterberegisterauszug Nr. 562/1943 (Günter Brenneisen). Michael Wunder, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner, Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr – Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, Stuttgart 2016, S. 283 ff., S. 299 ff.

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