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Helene Fischer (née Böttcher) * 1888

Kohlhöfen 18 (Hamburg-Mitte, Neustadt)

JG. 1888
"VERLEGT" 25.3.1941
ERMORDET 5.3.1943

Helene Auguste Therese Fischer, née Böttcher, born on 28 Jan. 1888 in Cottbus, transferred on 25 Mar. 1941 from the Farmsen care home (Versorgungsheim Farmsen) to the Meseritz-Obrawalde "euthanasia” killing center, murdered on 5 Mar. 1943

Kohlhöfen 18

Helene Fischer was born on 28 Jan. 1888 at Zimmerstrasse 19a in Cottbus, Brandenburg. Her mother, the worker Auguste Böttcher, was unmarried when her daughter was born; later her last name was Thomala. Helene attended the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule) up to grade 1 (equivalent to today’ eighth grade) and then worked as a domestic servant. During the First World War, she arrived in Hamburg and married the sailor Paul Johannes Fischer (born on 3 June 1896 in Danzig [today Gdansk in Poland]) on 9 Jan. 1918 in Altona. Both lived at that time in the St. Pauli quarter at Jägerstrasse 15, later at Kohlhöfen 18. Paul Fischer gave up seafaring and worked as a window and building cleaner. According to her own statements, Helene separated from her husband in 1929 "because he was an alcoholic.” She moved into a room as a subtenant.

On 3 Jan. 1931, Helene Fischer was admitted to the Altona Hospital. There the doctors diagnosed progressive paralysis, the late effects of an untreated infection with syphilis. On 16 Jan. 1931, Helene Fischer, "completely disoriented in time and place,” was transferred to the Neustadt/Holstein sanatorium and nursing home (Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Neustadt/Holstein). The hoped-for improvement of her dementia after a malaria therapy that was common at the time failed to materialize. "Psychologically without significant change, is quite demented [...] without much insight and understanding of her situation,” was noted in her medical file after completion of the therapy. Helene Fischer behaved calmly, "helped diligently in her ward” and did not worry about her future, as can be seen from the file, "does not wish to leave again, [according to her] as here she had food and drink, good care, she did not need to worry about anything.”

Even a salvarsan treatment (salvarsan, an organic arsenic compound, was one of the first antimicrobial drugs against infectious diseases) in Mar. 1931 did not bring about an improvement in her clinical picture. On 2 June 1931, Helene Fischer was transferred to the Eichenkamp nursing home in Pinneberg-Thesdorf, and on 24 Feb. 1933, she was transferred from there to the Friedrichsberg State Hospital (Staatskrankenanstalt Friedrichsberg) in Hamburg-Eilbek.

When asked during the admission interview whether she wanted to stay in the asylum, she replied, "I must, where else should I go after all.” This was assessed as lack of discrimination and carelessness.

At Friedrichsberg, too, Helene Fischer worked in the institutional operation and in the sewing room. On 8 May 1934, Civil Division III of the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht) applied for a specialist medical opinion as to whether she could represent her case in the divorce proceedings sought by her husband or whether a guardian had to be appointed for her.

The examining physician based his opinion on the medical history of the Altona Hospital, the sanatorium in Neustadt, and the Friedrichsberg State Hospital.

When asked whether she agreed to the divorce, she replied "Thank God! You should let him go. Then he is still alive, I thought he was dead [...].” (When she was admitted to Friedrichsberg, she had stated that her husband had passed). Further questions on her orientation in time and space led to the following assessment in the expert opinion: "The defendant is mentally ill, improvement is no longer to be expected, the illness has existed at least since the beginning of 1931, i.e., for more than 3 years, and has reached such a degree that the spiritual community between the spouses has been dissolved and also any prospect of restoration of it is excluded.”

For Helene Fischer, the assignment of a guardian was ordered. Whether the divorce actually took place is not recorded in the file; the guardianship was revoked on 26 Oct. 1934.

On 13 Feb. 1935, Helene Fischer was transferred from the Friedrichsberg State Hospital to the Farmsen care home (Versorgungsheim Farmsen) as part of the evacuation, as the nursing charges were lower there. Her accommodation costs were paid for by the social administration. Her transport to the Meseritz-Obrawalde "State Sanatorium” (Landesheilanstalt Meseritz-Obrawalde) took place on 25 Mar. 1941. Founded in 1904 in the then Prussian Province of Brandenburg, the Meseritz "lunatic asylum” near Obrawalde was one of the "euthanasia” killing centers where, after the official termination of "Operation T4” in Aug. 1941, doctors and nursing staff continued to kill in a targeted manner within the framework of the "euthanasia” program.

The chances of survival depended on the patients’ capacity to work and willingness to subordinate. The killings were carried out by administering drugs such as morphine or Phenobarbital (Luminal). Helene Fischer allegedly died of "cerebral paralysis” on 5 Mar. 1943. She was buried three days later, presumably in a mass grave in the prison cemetery.

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: July 2020
© Susanne Rosendahl

Quellen: StaH 332-5 Standesämter 3319 u 25/1918; Patientenakte aus der ehemaligen Landesheilanstalt Meseritz-Obrawalde, Akten-Nr. 9418; UKE/IGEM, Patientenakte Helene Fischer der Staatskrankenanstalt Friedrichsberg Akten-Nr. 73844; (Zugriff 20.5.2017); Harald Jenner, Die Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Mesetz-Obrawalde – Der unbekannte Tötungssort, in: "Euthanasieverbrechen"-Verbrechen im besetzten Europa, Hrsg. Osterloh, Schulte, Steinbacher, Göttingen 2022, S. 97 ff.

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