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Anna Maria Buller * 1913
Wagnerstraße 47 (Hamburg-Nord, Barmbek-Süd)
Anna Maria Buller, born 28 Jan. 1913, committed to Friedrichsberg State Hospital in 1931, killed 6 July 1943 at Hadamar killing center
Anna Maria Buller, daughter of Julius and Anna Buller, lived with her parents in Hamburg, attended the elementary school on Humboldtstraße, switched to high school at the age of 12 and graduated at the age of 16. She trained to draw advertising. Anna Maria Buller’s ordeal began on 12 Feb. 1931 in Barmbek Hospital where the 18-year-old was admitted with a fever and suspected flu. Medical staff noted on her chart that her mother had not noticed any unusual behavior on the part of her daughter, "only her eyes appeared somewhat fixed and empty recently”. A little while later, Anna Maria Buller was admitted to the Friedrichsberg Mental Hospital because the doctors in Barmbek regarded her behavior as "abnormal”. The admitting physician in Friedrichsberg attested to her schizophrenia. From then on, everything that Anna Maria Buller did was interpreted within the framework of that psychiatric diagnosis. In Friedrichsberg the psychiatrists tried to (re)construct the history of her madness. They noted that Anna Maria Buller had already demonstrated deviant behavior as a child and adolescent: "only ever drawing and reading, difficult books, Dostoyevsky, Schopenhauer, Zola. She never went out, didn’t dance, only went out with her mother, whom she was very attached to. At school very hard working, punctual, conscientious … No interest in men.” Thus the impression was created in her file of a woman whose mental disorder had always existed but never been noticed by anyone.
At first she was forcibly subjected to treatment: with sedatives, for instance with injections of morphine compounds and administered paraldehyde and moved to the observation ward, pinned down, etc., usually on the grounds that she was loud and had been aggressive towards the nurses and psychiatrists. She intermittently received digitalis, a substance still used today in the treatment of heart disease, which was administered back then with the thought that by slowing down the heartbeat, patients would automatically calm down. However digitalis was known to have "psychological side effects”, including hallucinations. The notes on her medical record described Anna Maria Buller as erratic, recalcitrant and dangerous: "Pat. [abbreviation for "patient”] screamed persistently until 8 a.m.: ‘Muthorst, Gertrud, Aunt Hertha, Mrs. Kort, I am still alive, they are trying to kill me. Help, help, murder, murder, you beasts, you scoundrels, you want to poison me, help, help.’ Pat. was inconsolable, took off her shirt, refused to eat, only drank. Pat. is very recalcitrant in every regard, hits and kicks with her feet.” What was not mentioned was that Anna Maria Buller was given morphine scopolamine and other "sedatives”, was catheterized on 23 Feb. and given an enema. She was force fed twice a day through a feeding tube, bacteria was discovered in her urine, she ran a fever on 25 Feb. and suffered dramatic weight loss. That information is registered in other documents which were kept separate from the nurses’ reports. The brief, recorded examples of Anna Maria Buller’s statements illustrate the patient’s daily life at the Friedrichsberg Mental Hospital and clearly demonstrate her despair. At the end of a series of forced measures, Anna Maria Buller admitted to her psychiatrist that she was insane. Due to her "insight into her illness”, she was discharged to her parents for the first time in Sept. 1931.
However, just under nine months later she was admitted to Friedrichsberg again. This time she was admitted involuntarily by the public health officer because she had disrupted public order. The doctors at Friedrichsberg updated her old file. The admitting doctor noted that Anna Maria Buller was now "consumed by her delusions” and "believes she is pregnant and has a venereal disease.” Initially she received the same treatment she had during her first stay. She now received a daily injection of digitalis, frequently combined with morphine scopolamine. Sometimes she had to endure spending over 12 hours a day in an extended bath, a tub filled with warm water and covered by a sheet, with only her head sticking out of a small hole. She was also subjected to so-called compresses, also called cold water therapy: Patients were wrapped tightly in wet cloths to "calm” them. As the cloths began to dry, they shrank ever tighter around the body of the wrapped person. The nursing staff noted, above all, the recalcitrant behavior of Anna Maria Buller who was portrayed as violent and aggitated. When she resisted loudly or violently, she was given injections or sedatives through an enema. The written records stopped when she was moved to House 8. The building was regarded as the so-called security building. It was monitored particularly strictly and was secured with trenches and high fences. Only brief notes made by the psychiatrist give any indication of Anna Maria Buller’s life during those months, such as "Frequently out of bed”, "extended bath”, and "extended bath, injections, eats poorly”. Even after she returned to House 10, the nursing notes were limited to a few words per entry. They give the impression that Anna Maria Buller was no longer a human being, but instead driven by instincts. Apparently the nurses tried to get her under control, one way or another, though the character of the notes changed towards the end of 1932. She was increasingly portrayed as helpless or bewildered, and progressively incontinent. It appears that the nurses tried to match their notes to what Alfred Hoche and Karl Binding in their book from 1920 described as an "empty shell”. The medical reports stopped on 17 Dec. 1932. After nearly 6 months at Friedrichsberg, Anna Maria Buller was transferred to the Langenhorn Mental and Nursing Home. She was now considered "incurable”, and all further measures can be explained against the background of that definitive psychiatric evaluation.
Anna Maria Buller arrived at Langenhorn on 20 Jan. 1933, still dazed from the narcotics she had been given at Friedrichsberg. The staff at Langenhorn regarded her as a hopeless case right from the start. Almost no records exist about her near-three-year stay at Langenhorn, neither from the psychiatrists nor the nursing staff. To the coercive means employed at Friedrichsberg were now added the isolation cell and bed restraints. The few existing medical reports describe her increasingly as an animal, mentioning her incontinence and that she soiled nurses and other patients with her own excrement. The psychiatrists decided to sterilize her, which her parents vehemently opposed. Nevertheless, the psychiatrists began the process for sterilization, bypassing all legal deadlines. From then on, her sterilization served as further evidence of Anna Maria Buller’s incurable condition. At least she was then discharged. However her life of freedom only lasted a few months. On 20 Feb. 1936, she was again admitted to Friedrichsberg, which had in the meantime been renamed the Eilbektal Psychiatric and Mental Hospital. Anna Maria Buller’s file was seamlessly continued. During her admission examination, the psychiatrist noted, "old schizophrenia with distinct signs of deficiency; mental atrophy”. She was immediately taken to House 8 where she spent most her time in extended baths. Twice a month, the psychiatrists made similar comments to those noted on 14 Apr. 1936: "Inhibited, blocked, autistic, mute; pulls out hair on top of her head. Moronic facial expression; no expressive facial response of any kind”. The nursing reports were only kept sporadically, when the nurses believed something had changed in Anna Maria Buller’s behavior. On 15 Sept. 1936 she was again transferred to Langenhorn as a schizophrenic with "extensive personality disintegration”. She remained there until March 1938. On 31 Mar. 1938, she was allowed to spend four weeks of vacation with her parents. Upon urgent request of her parents, the asylum agreed to discharge Anna Maria Buller.
Yet on 30 May 1940 she was once again admitted to Friedrichsberg. According to details given by the admitting physician, Anna Maria Buller had, until then, worked alongside her sister and was "always normal with a well-balanced mood”, but increasingly she was "keeping to herself”. After her sister had been admitted to hospital where she died of pneumonia, she was not doing well. She slept "longer than usual, blinked with her eye, constantly embraced her frail mother, wanting to comfort her”. Her "speech was confused”, and she acted excited and nervous. This time the admitting psychiatrist changed her diagnosis to dementia praecox, an outdated diagnosis no longer in use at that time. It meant that the course of the illness could not be positively influenced and the patient was inexorably heading toward a final condition which the psychiatrists would understand to mean "a life not worth living”. In 1940, Anna Maria Buller began receiving a new "medication” called Cardiazol. Cardiazol shock therapy was part of an "active therapy” intended to compliment her behavioral therapy. Ten to fifteen seconds after the injection was administered, patients would start to develop an intense fear of death. They came close to death, as the psychiatrists described it, for a minute they were practically dead. In Anna Maria Buller’s case, the injections were combined with sedatives. Now she was described in her medical reports as more agreeable and calmer. The Cardiazol shock therapy was also unsystematically combined with insulin therapy and irregularly administered. In June 1940, for instance, she received seven injections – apparently Cardiazol was used as a punishment. She was also tied to her bed with belts for long periods of time. By Jan. 1941, Anna Maria Buller had intermittently received injections of Cardiazol over the course of nearly a year. On 20 Feb. 1941, the attending psychiatrist noted that she was "completely unchanged and negative in nature”, diagnosing the "final stage of schizophrenia”. Two weeks later she was transferred to Langenhorn. At that point the nurses described her as "disoriented” and "helpless”. The entries read: "Sits around and does not know what to do”, or "Pat. sits for hours in one place with her head hanging down”. The psychiatrists and nurses knew very well what they were doing. Friedrichsberg’s former Senior Physician Kögler confirmed that "insulin shock therapy and Cardiazol shock therapy […] were very brutal somatic interventions”. Patients became helpless and weak "which cleared the way for psychotherapeutic control … the shock itself maybe acted like a convulsion of the core of the personality, caused by the deep penetration of vegetative and cerebral functions, thus influencing the mysterious biological processes of schizophrenia”. In this way they probably actively contributed to the "final stage”, leading to a "mentally dead individual”.
Her transfer to Langenhorn marked the beginning of the final phase of Anna Maria Buller’s short life. Two incidents in Langenhorn appear to have precipitated her being moved to Hadamar to be killed. First she was diagnosed with bone tuberculosis at Eppendorf Hospital in Nov. 1942. Due to Anna Maria Buller’s mental state, however, the doctor there decided that treatment was out of the question. She was moved back to Langenhorn. Her parents suspected what that would mean for their daughter, and they beseeched the psychiatrists at Langenhorn to spare their daughter. The last medical report from 20 June 1943 stated: "Miss Buller is disoriented, very confused, does not recognize people. Today she was very excited + loud, lashed out, was in the garden, hit the head nurse in her back. She was taken to a single room.” A mere six days after this incident, her name was on the transport list for Hadamar. New findings about Operation T4 have shown that resistant, violent behavior was a factor in deciding who was assigned to the death transport. One thing is certain, Anna Maria Buller reached Hadamar on 26 June 1943. On 5 July 1943 a note was made in her file: "Fell ill with bowel catarrh. Heart insufficiency. Mother has been notified.” And only one day later: "Today exitus from enter. colitis [a form of bowel infection]”. This was the usual procedure at Hadamar for Operation T4: Upon admission, the later murder victim received a standardized diagnosis and within a few days (often on the same day) was killed in the hospital’s own gas chamber. At the time of Anna Maria Buller’s death, that gas chamber was no longer in operation, however patients at Hadamar continued to be killed by fatal injections or by withholding of food. For Anna Maria Buller, Hadamar was the conclusion of years of suffering.
Information as of May 2016
Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: November 2017
© Thomas Foth
Quellen: Stah 352-8-7, Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn Abl. 1-1995, 28338; Uta George/Georg Lilienthal/Volker Roelcke/Peter Sander/Christina Vanja (Hrsg.), Heilstätte, Tötungsanstalt, Therapiezentrum Hadamar, in: Historische Schriftenreihe des Landeswohlfahrtsverbandes Hessen. Quellen und Studien, Bd. 12, Marburg 2006.