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Walter Geffers * 1923
Straßburger Straße 79 (Hamburg-Nord, Dulsberg)
EINGEWIESEN NOV. 1941
Walter Johann Geffers, born on 14 Aug. 1923 in Wilhelmsburg, died on 6 Jan. 1942 in Tiegenhof near Gnesen (today: Dziekanka near Gniezno)
Strassburger Strasse 79 (Strassburgerstrasse 49)
Only few details are known about Walter Geffers. On 29 Mar. 1935, at the age of eleven, he came to what was then the Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten; today: Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf). The reason for his admission remains obscure as his patient’s medical file is not preserved. He was – that much is absolutely certain from the so-called admission register – transported off to Langenhorn on 28 July 1941. With respect to this transport, Michael Wunder writes the following: "On 28 July 1941, the busses of the ‘charitable ambulance organization’ (Gemeinnützige Krankentransport GmbH – ‘GekraT’) appeared … on the grounds of the Alsterdorfer Anstalten. Their mission was to pick up 70 disabled persons accommodated in the Alsterdorfer Anstalten in order to transport them to Langenhorn.
Three days prior, Pastor Lensch had received from the Hamburg public health authority a list with 50 male and probably 20 female inmates of Alsterdorf that the T 4 head office in Berlin had compiled based on the registration forms sent by Pastor Lensch to Berlin. The senator of health, Ofterdinger, assured Pastor Lensch that the Alsterdorf inmates would only be transferred to Langenhorn in order to take pressure off the Alsterdorfer Anstalten and to use the vacant beds in Langenhorn in a meaningful way. As the busses of the GeKraT drove into the grounds of the Alsterdorfer Anstalten, agitation, even panic must have spread. Due to the church protests against euthanasia, which at that very time had reached their climax across the Reich, and because of clues from southern German and eastern German institutions, the killing operations were definitely known to nursing staff at the Alsterdorfer Anstalten.
However, the knowledge of some caregivers and nurses had obviously circulated among the institutional inmates as well. Reportedly, when the busses of the GeKraT showed up, some children fanned out into the institutional premises to spread the news. In this situation, Lensch wrote a newsletter to all nursing staff, portraying the transport as an ‘administrative act’ that ‘has nothing to do with other measures.’ Nursing staff even had to acknowledge receipt of this newsletter with their signatures.”
We do not know just what kind of scenes took place when 50 men were transported off on 28 July 1941. There is also no record of what happened three days later, on 1 Aug., when, again using busses of the GeKraT, 20 women were transported off to Langenhorn. The persons taken away were the "weakest of the weak” (Wunder). For all of them, the notorious T4 registration form had been filled out and sent to Berlin. The persons affected were largely people like Walter Geffers who had already lived at Alsterdorf for many years.
The assessments on the "hereditary health cards” of the persons transported off are formulated in derogatory, even condemning language throughout. The entries for the men usually contain the note "incurable” and always the remark "not capable of any productive work performance” or "completely unfit for work.” In the case of Walter Geffers, the four-line assessment stated that he "relieved himself on the spot and had to wear a straitjacket all the time.”
Obviously, the justification of the transport, to use the vacant beds at Langenhorn in a meaningful way, was only a pretext because barely six months later Walter Geffers perished in the Tiegenhof State Sanatorium (Landesheilanstalt Tiegenhof). We do not know the circumstances of his death. The official cause of death indicated was "general exhaustion and enteritis.” It is safe to assume that Walter Geffers did not die a natural death. Many of his fellow sufferers that had been transported along with him first to Langenhorn on 28 July 1941 and then to Tiegenhof were killed, like Walter Geffers, in the Tiegenhof State Sanatorium shortly before the end of 1941 or during the first quarter of 1942. One of them, Erich Putlitz, who was born in 1919 and previously residing at Hellkamp 75 and came from the Alsterdorfer Anstalten like Walter Geffers, was transported to Langenhorn on 28 July 1941, and he died – hardly a coincidence – like Walter Geffers in Tiegenhof on 6 Jan. 1942.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Ingo Wille
Quellen: Evang. Stiftung Alsterdorf, Patientenunterlagen der Alsterdorfer Anstalten; Michael Wunder, "Ausgesuchte, abgelaufene, sekundäre Demenzen …", in: "Verachtet, Verfolgt, Vernichtet", Projektgruppe für die vergessenen Opfer des NS-Regimes in Hamburg (Hrsg.), Hamburg 1986, S. 88.