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Hermann Führich im September 1938
Hermann Führich im September 1938
© Archiv Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf

Hermann Joseph Führich * 1931

Rosenstraße 6 (vormals Nr. 22) (Hamburg-Mitte, Hamburg-Altstadt)

JG. 1931
"VERLEGT" 1943
TOT 25.3.1945

Hermann Joseph Führich, born 21 Oct. 1931 in Hamburg, institutionalized in Aug. 1938 at the then Alsterdorf Asylum, moved 10 Aug. 1943 to Mainkofen Mental and Nursing Home in Lower Bavaria, killed 25 Mar. 1945

Rosenstraße 6 (Rosenstraße 22)

Shortly after his birth on 21 Oct. 1931, Hermann Führich was taken in by the Groß-Borstel Mothers’ Home of the time. According to a report written there, he had the "appearance of a premature birth” and a "Harrison’s groove”. He was a very small child who had difficulty eating. Over the course of his near two-year stay, he was often isolated because he bit the other children.

In the files of the youth welfare office, it was noted that his "mentally unstable” mother was not suited to raise the "difficult, physically and mentally significantly underdeveloped, probably feeble-minded child”.

His mother Marie-Anna Führich, born on 22 May 1910, had attended the village school through 2nd grade (corresponds to today’s 7th grade). When she gave birth to Hermann, she was 21 years old and unmarried. The father of her child, the servant Hermann Nichterlein (born on 5 Apr. 1908), described in the file as a "boozer” (drinker), did not marry her. Marie-Anna Führich had been dismissed from her job as a domestic worker, probably because she became pregnant. She lived as a lodger at Kleinen Schäferkamp 24 and was active in the "Red Aid”, an organization closely allied with the Communist Party of Germany. In 1932 Marie-Anna Führich was caught pasting up banned leaflets on the walls of buildings in Hamburg’s Neustadt. She was fined 20 Reich Marks (RM).

In July 1933 her son Hermann was taken in for just over a year by a foster family who lived on Borstelmannsweg in Hamburg-Hamm, despite the fact that a psychiatric evaluation stated he was not suitable for private foster care. On 12 Sept. 1934 Hermann was place in his mother’s care – she had in the meantime married the commercial clerk Reinhold Krayer (born 1 Sept. 1903 in Oberbaldingen). An employee at the youth welfare office did not support the marriage, as she noted in his file on 21 Feb. 1934. In her opinion, both partners were "inferior”, and in the parlance of National Socialist terminology, "Miss F., who has Czecho-Slovakian citizenship, should not be incorporated into the German State through her marriage”.

In June 1936, Hermann was admitted to Eppendorf University Hospital with pneumonia and suspicion of tuberculosis. During his three-month stay, an attending physician gave his initial assessment: "Severely mentally and physically retarded child in a good mood” and a little later: "Good improvement in his poor general condition, is very lively. Pat.[ient] has learned some new words”. At his parents’ request, Hermann Führich was released early from hospital. He was to be sent to Heidelberg for a "fresh air treatment” at his stepfather’s parents. It is not clear whether he undertook the journey there.

On 18 Aug. 1938 the Hamburg State Youth Welfare Office once again ordered that he be institutionalized "because for him to continue living with his mother and stepfather would be irresponsible due to the difficulty in training him,” and arranged for his accommodation at the then Alsterdorf Asylum (today: The Alsterdorf Evangelical Foundation).

The medical officer in favor of the order declared Hermann, at the time only six years old, to be "adverse to living in the community”, retarded both in physical stature and in his mental development, and diagnosed: "imbecility with elements of hyperactivity” (moderately reduced intelligence with excitability) and "rickets”. Rickets, also called the English disease, was rampant among children in the poorer residential areas. The life-threatening disease stemming from a lack of vitamin D came about due to insufficient or poor diet and lack of sunlight. In childhood it leads to severe growth disorders with symptoms such as restlessness and irritability. The disease had previously been diagnosed when he was admitted to Eppendorf University Hospital in 1936.

At first teachers at the infant school of the then Alsterdorf Asylum showed little understanding for Hermann. Staff found him to have marginal interest in anything, he was bored, incompatible, selfish, lazy and unmusical. Evidently Hermann first had to settle in to his new environment. Later they described him as affectionate and always jolly, yet often restless and erratic.

A note in his file from 15 Mar. 1943 states: "Pat.[ient] is generally calm and gets along with his fellow patients, plays and likes to sing with them. He expresses himself well and understandably, he keeps his clothing more or less clean. During the day he can be kept clean, at night he regularly wets and soils the bed. He is fairly independent dressing and undressing himself, only needs a little help […]”.

Despite the positive sound of that final assessment, Hermann Führich was selected on 10 Aug. 1943 for evacuation to Mainkofen Mental and Nursing Home in Lower Bavaria in order to "relieve” the asylum. He most likely was to act as a "helper” to calm the other patients during the transport.

Of the 112 male adults and youths who were moved with him, by consent of the health authority, only 39 survived the end of the war. That high mortality rate was intentionally brought about by withholding food and through medical neglect. The interaction of malnutrition and spread of infectious diseases also proved fatal. Hermann Führich’s patient file, which continued to be kept in Mainkofen, shows that he stole food from a fellow patient in Dec. 1944, and it was not the first time. He may have already been subjected to the "starvation diet”. About three months later there is a note that he was suffering from diarrhea: "Food intake at times insufficient, general condition critical.”

His mother Marie-Anna Krayer had fled Hamburg due to massive bombings. Since her return, she lived on the Elbe island Finkenwärder (today Finkenwerder) and only learned of her son’s transfer when she inquired. She wrote several letters to Mainkofen and tried discover something about her son’s condition. In Apr. 1945 she received a telegram with the news of her son’s death. The cause of death was missing. On 28 Oct. 1945 she learned the details of his death following a renewed request. Hermann Führich died on 25 Mar. 1945, allegedly from an intestinal virus: "which was widespread in spring and summer this year around the local region. The illness naturally compromised the patient’s nutritional condition and strength considerably, ultimately leading to death. Considering hopelessness of his mental suffering, one can regard his passing as a release from a terrible fate, especially since it happened without any appreciable pain. He was buried at the local asylum cemetery.” Hermann Führich was only 13 years old.

Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: April 2020
© Susanne Rosendahl

Quellen: Archiv der Evangelischen Stiftung Alsterdorf V 414 Hermann Führich; StaH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht A13843/33; Wunder: Exodus, S. 205–209.

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