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Marie Lena Bugzer * 1909
Vierländer Damm 270 (Hamburg-Mitte, Rothenburgsort)
MARIE LENA BUGZER
AM STEINHOF WIEN
Marie Bugzer (Buegsel), born 1 Dec. 1909 in Bremen, hospitalized 16 Aug. 1943 in the Wagner von Jauregg Mental Institution in Vienna (Wagner von Jauregg-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt der Stadt Wien), died there 15 Dec. 1943
Vierländer Damm 270
When Marie Bugzer was admitted to the Wagner von Jauregg Mental Institution in Vienna (formerly the State Lunatic Asylum Am Steinhof) on 17 August 1943, it was noted in her patient records: "Body wholly distorted, unable to walk, calm, in need of care,” weight 25 kg (55 lbs), temperature 36 [°C] (98.6°F). The diagnosis of "imbecility after encephalitis” given in her records from the Alsterdorf Asylum, where she had previously been hospitalized, was accepted, thus eliminating the suspicion of hereditability of the condition. This diagnosis was of central interest to Marie’s doctors, who were committed to the theory of the "hereditary health of the nation.” However it does not explain Marie Bugzer’s development in the first twenty years of her life.
Marie Helene Bugzer (Buegsel) was born in Bremen on 1 December 1909 as the sixth child in a Roman-Catholic family. Both of her parents, Marianna Bugzer, née Owsianna, and Wladislaus/Ladislaus Buzger (Buegsel), a smith, were from Poland. Her father was born in Lodz, her mother in Billhoff in Posen. The spelling of the name varies, even in official documents. Ladislaus Bugzer worked on various manor estates in the Prussian province of Posen, initially at Krempa in the Ostrowo district, where he married Marianna Owsianna on 8 October 1898. Their daughters Stanislawa (*1899) and Klementina (*1900) were born there. He then moved to the Zembrow estate in the Topola district, where Wanda (*1902) was born. Stephan (*1908) and Marie were born after the family moved to Bremen. All that is known about a second son, Eduard, is that he went to work in the mines in the Ruhr valley.
Marie’s birth was without complications, but two days later her mother noticed that there was a tremor in her arms. At two weeks Maria became ill. She seemed to recover a week later, but she held her head bent backwards, and her cries sounded different from those of her siblings. She didn’t learn to walk until she was three years old, and when she did, she crossed her feet when she took steps. One year later she began to speak, but she was difficult to understand all of her life. Her hands stiffened into a distorted position.
She was nearly six years old when another daughter, Katharina, was born on 16 November 1915. The family had already moved to Hamburg-Rothenburgsort. Katharina died before her first birthday. The home gradually emptied as the sisters married: Stanislawa, called Sacha, married the manual laborer Josef Milde in 1918; Wanda (married name Mens) left the home next, in 1921, followed by Klementina, called Klara (married name Skiba). The family remained close.
School was out of the question for Marie, even a school for children with disabilities. But by the age of ten she was able to go to the store on her own. Her mother gave her a list with the items she was to get. At the onset of puberty she began to experience uncontrollable movements of the head and facial features. At Christmas in 1928 she developed encephalitis, which kept her in bed for several days. A few weeks later her legs shook and hurt so much that she could neither walk nor stand, her hands and the muscles in her shoulders became stiff. She was admitted to the Barmbek General Hospital on 1 December 1929 with ear pains that had lasted for months. She was effectively treated with atropine.
Marie rarely spoke spontaneously and seldom showed any feelings, but she was visibly happy when her parents and siblings visited and brought her chocolate and marzipan. But her underlying condition did not improve. The doctors concluded that she was suffering from complications resulting from polio. She was released into the care of her general practitioner. Two months later she was admitted to the Alsterdorf Asylum. Her brother Stephan filled out the admissions form, since her mother didn’t speak German well and her father was an invalid after an accident.
It took months before Marie settled in, and she repeatedly expressed the wish to go home. Despite her helplessness, re-occurring pain and underdeveloped physical condition, she was friendly to the staff and seemed satisfied. She spoke inarticulately but could make herself understood to the nurses, and she clearly expressed her displeasure when she was dissatisfied.
Marie was allowed to go home for her birthdays, or her parents were allowed to visit her, if she was not ill. She was often ill with colds and nausea. In 1939 her condition worsened and she was unable to move. The last entry in her records in Alsterdorf, dated 22 October 1942, reads: "The patient lies still and quiet in her bed. Her eyes follow activity in the ward. If she wants something, she calls. Her left leg can no longer be straightened, it lies with the knee on her right thigh. She has gained weight in the past weeks, she has a good appetite.” Her weight had increased from 22 kg to 25 kg (49 to 55 lbs.).
Nine months before this entry, her mother Marianna had died at home of pneumonia.
At nearly 33 years of age, Marie Bugzer, a young woman highly in need of care, was transferred along with 277 girls and women from the Alsterdorf Asylum to the Wagner von Jauregg Mental Institution in Vienna on 16 August 1943. After the Allied bombing raids on Hamburg in July/August 1943 (Operation Gommorah), the Alsterdorf Asylum moved hundreds of patients to "air-raid safe” regions. They chose which patients they wanted to transfer. Marie Buzger is an example of the "weakest of the weak.”
Her family had been bombed out of their homes, and they only learned of her transfer after the fact. Her brother-in-law Joseph Milde inquired about her at the institute in Vienna in September 1943. He worked at the disinfection institute in Altona and could use their postal address. He received the answer that Marie’s physical and mental condition was unchanged and that she remained in need of constant care. Her health declined and she died fourteen days after her 34th birthday, on 15 December 1943. The cause of death was given as "wasting due to psychosis, enteritis and weakness of the heart.” The whereabouts of her remains is unknown.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Hildegard Thevs
Quellen: Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, V 371; StaH 332-5 Standesämter, 759-518/1916; 1158-54/1942; 3328-359/1918; 7339-434/1956; Wunder, Michael, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner: Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr. Hamburg, 2. Aufl. 1988; Dokumente und mündliche Mitteilungen von Holger Bugzer, Febr. 2013.