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Already layed Stumbling Stones

Alfred Rahnert, 1940
© Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf

Alfred Rahnert * 1938

Eißendorfer Pferdeweg 12 (Harburg, Heimfeld)

JG. 1938
ERMORDET 1.9.1943

further stumbling stones in Eißendorfer Pferdeweg 12:
Peter Harms, Uwe Anton Hinsch, Ewald Kuhlmann, Walter Carl Stein, Herbert Thörl

Alfred Rahnert, b. 4.13.1938 in Harburg, placed in the Alsterdorf Institute, relocated to the Idstein "Psychiatric Hospital," murdered there on 9.1.1943

Eißendorfer Pferdeweg 12 (City District Heimfeld)

Even at his birth at the Hamburg-Harburg City Hospital, no good star watched over him. His mother, a worker, died shortly after giving birth. After the delivery, his father wanted to have nothing more to do with the out-of-wedlock child. He worked in the city sanitation department and had to care for four legitimate children. He also suffered repeatedly from bouts of paralysis and underwent therapy at the "Lüneburg Psychiatric Hospital.” In light of all this little Alfred was considered hereditarily handicapped.

After the infant passably survived the first critical weeks in the hospital, he was by order of the Children’s Agency given over to the City Children’s Home on Eissendorfer Pferdeweg for further care. There, in a more caring environment, the baby grew up. At the annual examination in November 1939, the public health officer stated that Alfred Rahnert was developing slowly. He could neither sit nor speak, had to be fed, and was barely responsive. Nevertheless, the report saw no reason for concern and recommended that the child be left in the home since at the moment he caused "no serious problems."

Yet seven months later, when the boy was again examined, the situation had come dramatically to a head. This was in the period when the National Socialist policy for the extermination of ill and handicapped people was straining toward its first high point in six death centers equipped with gas chambers. This time the diagnosis resulted in the finding that the boy in the Harburg Infant and Children’s Home on Eissendorfer Pferdeweg "because of his intrinsic worthlessness…was not tenable." Under the circumstances of that moment, this diagnosis amounted to a death sentence for the little boy. Therewith began his sorrowful journey.

On 22 July 1940, Alfred Rahnert was given over to the Alsterdorf Institute for further treatment. The medical entrance examination reported that the new patient was suffering from "debility.” A year later there were no noteworthy alterations in the state of his health to report. In a report on his management and health in October 1941, it was stated: "Diagnosis: Imbecility. Patient is physically very delicate, cries much, and is restless. As to his physical maintenance, he must be completely cared for. He is scarcely aware of himself. Further institutional care is necessary.” The next report from October 1942 sounded yet more pessimistic and concluded with the statement that the boy was totally unresponsive and that further (permanent) institutional care was necessary. This meant that Alfred Rahnert was classified as uneducable.

On 7 August 1943, Alfred Rahnert was among the 52 boys, who in the course of the clearing out of the Alsterdorf Institute, were transported from the Langenhorn freight depot to the "Kalmenhof Psychiatric Institute” at Idstein im Taunus. The hospital documents remark: "Transferred, because the Alsterdorf Institute is destroyed.” Pastor Friedrich Lensch accompanied the participants in the transport to the point where they boarded the train at the Langenhorn freight depot. A few days later he reported about it to his colleague Pastor Friedrich von Bodelschwingh: "In the transport that I accompanied for a stretch, there sang behind me uninterruptedly for half an hour a little nitwit, ‘Jesus leads the way.’ That comforted me and gave me hope that God’s love would not abandon them in another place, that they did not want us to give way and leave them behind.”

In 1888, prosperous citizens of Frankfurt and Wiesbaden founded the "Idstein Institute for Idiots” on the "Kalmenhof estate.” In the years of the Second World War, the Institute was deeply entangled in the Nazi "euthanasia” program. Together with the institutes at Herborn, Weilmünster, Eichberg, and Scheuern they formed an arc of way-stations to the Hadamar Killing Installation. From Kalmenhof in the first phase of the murder of sick persons, 232 regular patients and an undetermined number of "transitional patients” were sent to their deaths at Hadamar. After the official halt of the "T-4 Action” in August 1941, the institute director Wilhelm Grossmann and the director of the newly established "Special Children’s Department,” Mathilde Weber had no scruples about continuing the murder program in another form. Almost daily, on their rounds they selected their patients. The selected children and adults were then killed with a morphine/scopolamine injection or with luminal.

The deaths of the children from Alsterdorf began a few days after their arrival. On 11 November 1943, 48 of the 52 children had already been "injected.” Alfred Rahnert was murdered on 1 September 1943 at five years of age. In the last years of the war, the dead were no longer buried in the city cemetery, but rather in a field behind the hospital, so as not to unduly disturb the general public.

The installation of the commemorative stone for Alfred Rahnert resulted from the initiative of two students from the Heisenberg preparatory school, Katja Ambos and Astrid Kleinwächter. They traced the course of Alfred’s life with impressive documentation and later received the distinction of the BERTINI prize for 2005.

Translator: Richard Levy
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2018
© Klaus Möller

Quellen: Gedenkbuch der evangelischen Stiftung Alsterdorf; Archiv der evangelischen Stiftung Alsterdorf, Krankenakte Alfred Rahnerts (V78); Wunder u. a., Kein Halten, 2. Auflage; Ambos/Kleinwächter, "Seiner Unterwertigkeit wegen".

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