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Erwin Christen
Erwin Christen
© Archiv Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf

Erwin Christen * 1902

Rehmstraße 16 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)

JG. 1902
"VERLEGT" 10.8.1943
ERMORDET 7.3.1944

further stumbling stones in Rehmstraße 16:
Dietrich Johannes von der Reith

Erwin Christen, born 26.3.1920 in Hamburg, admitted to the then Alsterdorfer Anstalten (now Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf) on 16.4.1929, transferred to the Mainkofen sanatorium and nursing home near Passau on 10.8.1943, died 7.3.1944

Rehmstraße 16 (Winterhude)

Erwin Christen was the youngest of eleven children of the married couple Gustav Georg Heinrich Christen, born on Aug. 13, 1873 in Hamburg, and his wife Emma Caroline Martha, née Hoffmann, born on Febr. 1, 1878 also in Hamburg. They had married on October 25, 1896. Gustav Georg Heinrich, their oldest child, was born in Hamburg on Oct. 30, 1896. Two children died early of pneumonia. We do not know the fate of the other siblings.

Emma, called Emmi, and Heinrich Christen already lived in Winterhude before their marriage, she in Ulmenstraße 33 and he in the house No. 28. There both lived also after the marriage. Heinrich Christen's parents, Hinrich Andreas and Anna Catharina Maria Christen, née Plambeck, also lived at Ulmenstraße 28.

Erwin Christen's father as well as his grandfather Hinrich Andreas worked physically hard. In the Hamburg address book, both of their occupations were initially listed as "Steinbrügger," and later as "Steinsetzer” (stonebroker).

Erwin Christen attended the auxiliary school in Opitzstraße in Winterhude from 1926 to 1928. His school attendance was terminated because he could not follow the lessons. (the former German title "Hilfsschule" is a term no longer used today for independent special education or curative education schools for children who, for various reasons, were not considered capable of attending elementary school).

On March 28, 1929, the Welfare Office admitted Erwin Christen to what was then the Alsterdorfer Anstalten (now the Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf). When he was admitted, his physical development was found to be normal. He was able to take care of his own personal hygiene. Beginning at the age of one year, he had frequent epileptic seizures, which were also observed in the Alsterdorf institutions and treated with Luminal.

Reports from the institution school from Easter 1932 and 1933 give an impression of Erwin Christen. According to these, he was a tall, strong boy who spoke in a soft, somewhat sing-song voice. During epileptic seizures during lessons he suddenly jumped up and hit the table with whatever he had in his hand. Afterwards, the seizures were over immediately, and Erwin continued to work just as well as before. His comprehension and attention were described as slow and insufficient. Erwin was friendly, cumbersome in dealing with his classmates, and almost always somewhat silly. The girls had to be protected from him, since he constantly harassed them by tickling them. He keeps up with the class in arithmetic, writing and drawing. In general, he made a lazy impression.

In the report of Easter 1933 it was emphasized that Erwin had deteriorated more and more during the last year in his general behavior as well as in every subject. His impulsiveness had become a danger to the class. Neither love nor strictness could achieve anything with him. However, the teacher did not believe that Erwin had already reached the limit of his educational ability.

At the beginning of 1934 it was said that Erwin had initially been a willing, diligent student. His convulsions had hardly bothered him, for his disturbance of consciousness had lasted barely a minute at a time. Later, Erwin's behavior changed during the convulsions. He tore up everything he could reach, broke it, and blindly hit his classmates. He could no longer be supported in class and would probably not be able to learn a trade, but would have to remain in the "nursing department".

Erwin Christen's father died on September 20, 1931, at the age of 58. His mother now had to make a living from welfare payments. She visited her son in the Alsterdorf institutions and brought him home several times for visits. The application for leave in July 1935 was rejected, however, because Erwin was to be sterilized at the Eppendorf University Hospital on July 4, 1935, at the instigation of the Alsterdorfer Anstalten and in accordance with the decision of the Hereditary Health Court of May 22, 1935.

The legal basis was the "Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Diseased Offspring" enacted by the National Socialists. According to this law, enacted in July 1933, a person could be rendered infertile (sterilized) "if, according to the experience of medical science, it is highly probable that his offspring will suffer from severe physical or mental hereditary defects." The following diseases were subsumed under "hereditary disease": "congenital imbecility, schizophrenia, circular (manic-depressive) insanity, hereditary falling sickness, hereditary St. Vitus' dance (Huntington's chorea), hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, severe hereditary deformity." Alcoholics could also be rendered infertile under this law.

In 1941, also on the initiative of the Alsterdorf Institutions, the Hamburg District Court decided to incapacitate Erwin Christen "because of mental illness or mental deficiency." The court decided that the costs of the proceedings, "which are to be calculated on the basis of a value of RM 500, are to be borne by the now incapacitated person.

After the Alsterdorf institutions had suffered damage during the heavy Allied air raids on Hamburg at the end of July/beginning of August 1943 ("Operation Gomorrha"), the director of the Alsterdorf institutions, SA member Pastor Friedrich Lensch, took advantage of this situation and asked the Hamburg health authorities for permission to remove about 750 institution residents because they had been made homeless by the bombing.

As a result, between August 7 and 16, 1943, three transports with a total of 469 girls, boys, women and men left Alsterdorf in different directions, including a transport with 113 men, adolescents and boys on August 10, 1943, with the destination "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Mainkofen" near Passau. (Among them was Hans Werner Ebeling, who is commemorated by a Stolperstein at Methfesselstr. 44). Another transport was destined for the "Landesheilanstalt Eichberg" near Wiesbaden and the "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Kalmenhof" in Idstein in the Rheingau with a total of 128 girls, boys and men. The third transport with 228 girls and women went to Vienna to the "Wagner von Jauregg Heil- und Pflegeanstalt der Stadt Wien".

During "Aktion-T4" (a camouflage term for the National Socialists' "euthanasia" program, named after the location of the Berlin euthanasia headquarters at Tiergartenstraße 4 in Berlin), Eichberg and Kalmenhof functioned as intermediate institutions for the Hadamar killing facility near Limburg an der Lahn, and the institution in Vienna as an intermediate institution for the Hartheim killing facility near Linz. After the official end of the gas murders in the killing institutions, murders continued in the previous intermediate institutions.

The Mainkofen sanatorium and nursing home, a psychiatric hospital during the pre-National Socialist period, was systematically developed into a death facility. From there, during the first phase of the "euthanasia" murders until August 1941, people were deported to the killing facility Schloss Hartheim near Linz and murdered with gas. 604 of them are known by name.

After the aforementioned official end of "euthanasia," the staff intentionally caused the deaths of patients at Mainkofen through food deprivation under the "Bavarian Starvation Decree" (starvation diet, meat- and fat-free diet, referred to in Mainkofen as "3-b diet"), nursing neglect and overdosed medication. In Mainkofen, 762 patients died in the so-called hunger houses. As the alleged cause of death, the asylum certified in particular intestinal catarrh, tuberculosis, pneumonia or pulmonary tuberculosis.

Of the Alsterdorf boys and men who arrived at Mainkofen on August 12, 1943, 74 had died by the end of 1945. As in other death institutions, "pulmonary tuberculosis" repeatedly appeared as the cause of death; forty times among the 74 Alsterdorfers who died there. "Intestinal catarrh" was mentioned fifteen times as the cause of death. Only 39 patients survived 1945, of whom 15 were adults and 24 were children and adolescents up to the age of 21. The surviving patients were transferred back to Alsterdorf on December 19, 1947.

Erwin Christen was not among the survivors. He died in Mainkofen on March 7, 1944. The cause of death for him was also "pulmonary tuberculosis."

His mother received a simple telegram about her son's passing: "Erwin Christen died. Burial Sunday 1 p.m. in the institution cemetery. Mainkofen Institution."

Since 2014, a "Learning and Memorial Site" has been located on the grounds of today's Mainkofen District Hospital, where the murdered patients are named and can be commemorated. Another memorial plaque commemorates the more than five hundred young people and adults on whom forced sterilizations were carried out.

Under National Socialism, a total of 630 disabled children, women and men were transported from the former Alsterdorf institutions to intermediate institutions or directly to "euthanasia" killing centers. Of them, 511 people were killed.

On the stumbling stone in memory of Erwin Christen, the year of birth is erroneously given as 1902. It should read correctly: 1920.

Translation by Beate Meyer
Stand: February 2022
© Ingo Wille

Quellen: Adressbuch Hamburg; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 2397 Geburtsregister 2588/1896 Gustav Carl Hinrich Christen, 9143 Geburtsregister 967/1898 Bertha Karoline Olga Christen, 13089 Geburtsregister 1997/1899 Bertha Emma Henriette Christen, 13613 Geburtsregister 61/1900 Emma Wilhelmine Franziska Christen, 8579 Heiratsregister 503/1896 Emma Caroline Martha Hoffmann/Gustav Georg Heinrich Christen, 7907 Sterberegister 821/1897 Gustav Carl Hinrich Christen, 9659 Sterberegister 2468/1905 Heinrich Andreas Willy Christen, 9854 Sterberegister 1944/1931 Gustav Carl Hinrich Christen; Harald Jenner/Michael Wunder, Hamburger Gedenkbuch Euthanasie – Die Toten 1939-1945, Hamburg 2017, S. 139; Michael Wunder, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner, Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr – Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, Stuttgart 2016, S. 35, 315 ff.

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