Search for Names, Places and Biographies

Already layed Stumbling Stones

back to select list


Erzähler: Christine Jensen
Sprecher: Michael Latz
Biografie: Hildegard Thevs

Rita Ahrens * 1937

Marckmannstraße 135 (ehemalige Kinderklinik) (Hamburg-Mitte, Rothenburgsort)

GEB. 8.12.1937
ERMORDET 21.7.1943

further stumbling stones in Marckmannstraße 135 (ehemalige Kinderklinik):
Andreas Ahlemann, Ursula Bade, Hermann Beekhuis, Ute Conrad, Helga Deede, Jürgen Dobbert, Anneliese Drost, Siegfried Findelkind, Rolf Förster, Volker Grimm, Antje Hinrichs, Lisa Huesmann, Gundula Johns, Peter Löding, Angela Lucassen, Elfriede Maaker, Renate Müller, Werner Nohr, Harald Noll, Agnes Petersen, Renate Pöhls, Gebhard Pribbernow, Hannelore Scholz, Doris Schreiber, Ilse Angelika Schultz, Dagmar Schulz, Magdalene Schütte, Gretel Schwieger, Brunhild Stobbe, Hans Tammling, Peter Timm, Heinz Weidenhausen, Renate Wilken, Horst Willhöft

Rothenburgsort Children's Hospital

In the former Rothenburgsort Children's Hospital, the National Socialists implemented their "euthanasia program" from the early 1940s.
Hildegard Thevs was able to research 33 names of murdered children.

A plaque on the building has commemorated the more than 50 murdered babies and children since 1999:

In this building
between 1941 and 1945
more than 50 handicapped children were killed.
An expert committee classified them
as "unworthy life" and assigned them
to be killed in specialized children's wards.
The Hamburg health administration
was involved in this.
Hamburg medical officers supervised
the admission and killing of the children.
Doctors of the children's hospital
carried them out.
None of those involved
was prosecuted for this.

Further information (in German) on the Internet at:

35 Stolpersteine für Rothenburgsort – Hamburger Abendblatt 10.10.2009

Stolpersteine für ermordete Kinder – ND 10.10.2009

Stolpersteine gegen das Vergessen – Pressestelle des Senats 09.10.2009

Die toten Kinder von Rothenburgsort – 09.10.2009

35 Stolpersteine verlegt – Hamburg 1 mit Video 09.10.2009

Wikipedia - Institut für Hygiene und Umwelt

Gedenken an mehr als 50 ermordete Kinder - Die Welt 10.11.1999

Euthanasie-Opfer der Nazis - Beitrag NDR Fernsehen 29.05.2010

Hitler und das "lebensunwerte Leben" - Andreas Schlebach NDR 24.08.2009

Marckmannstraße 135 (ehemalige Kinderklinik) (Hamburg-Mitte, Rothenburgsort

The National Socialists began implementing their Euthanasia Program in the 1940s in the former Rothenburgsort Children’s Clinic.
Hildegard Thevs was able to find background information on 33 names.

A plaque on the building, mounted in 1999, memorializes the more than 50 infants and children murdered there.

In this building, more than 50 handicapped children were murdered between 1941 and 1945. An advisory committee judged them "unworthy of living” and committed them to children’s clinics to be killed. The Hamburg Department of Public Health participated in this procedure. Hamburg medical officers oversaw the commitment and killing of the children. Doctors at the Children’s Hospital conducted the procedure. None of the participants were brought to trial.

Rita Ahrens, born 8 Dec. 1937 in Hamburg, murdered on 21 July 1943

"Rita wasn’t really a stupid child, she just couldn’t speak, except for the words Mama and Papa,” Rita’s mother later said about her second child. When Rita was born in Altona in 1937, registration of handicaps was not yet compulsory, and since she wasn’t ill, the mother saw no reason to take her to a doctor. But the local social welfare worker called at their home several times to check on her. Evidently no one had told the mother, and she hadn’t noticed, that her daughter showed symptoms of Down syndrome. Agnes Ahrens’ second child, Horst, was born on 17 September 1940.

On 3 March 1941 Agnes Ahrens took her daughter, who was now three years old, to the former Alsterdorfer Asylum "because the doctors there promised me they’d do something to make the child speak.” 18 days later she brought her home again, even though the doctors warned against it because she had a fever. Rita still spoke no more than two words.

In the same year the family moved to Bavaria. Reinhold Ahrens, a railroad switchman by trade, wanted to make a new life on a newly-acquired farmstead in Kalteneck near Passau. There he and his wife one day received "a letter from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, saying they were to commit their daughter Rita to a mental institution in Munich.” The "Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses” had tracked them down. The person who reported the child is unknown. The parents refused to comply.

About a year and a half later, the Ahrens family – now with a second son – returned to Hamburg. They again received an official letter, at the behest of the "Reich Committee,” demanding that they commit Rita to the psychiatric institution in Langenhorn. This time Rita’s parents complied. On 28 November 1942, Agnes Ahrens took her daughter, who was now nearly five years old, to the "children’s ward at the hospital of the Langenhorn mental institution,” as she later recalled. During the admissions interview, the psychiatrist Friedrich Knigge suggested attempting a treatment that was risky, but which might make it possible for Rita to speak. Agnes Ahrens, who was very concerned about her daughter, hesitated at the word "attempt,” but eventually agreed. The doctor promised to do his best.

Without telling the parents about the "Reich Committee Procedure,” Dr. Knigge administered an injection of Luminal (after receiving the authorization for "treatment” from the "Reich Committee” in the summer of 1943). Thanks to her strong physical condition, she overcame the resulting pneumonia. About two weeks later she was again given the same "treatment,” and again it didn’t have the desired "success.” This time it led to an injection abscess, for which she was sent for treatment to the Rothenburgsort Children’s Clinic. Rita’s parents were not informed.

When Agnes Ahrens went to visit her daughter Rita in Langenhorn on 29 June 1943, the nurse on duty informed her of Rita’s transfer to the Rothenburgsort Children’s Clinic "due to overcrowding.” The mother didn’t speak to any doctors there, and also didn’t visit Rita. During this time she was taking care of her three-year-old son Horst, who had meningitis and was in the University Hospital Eppendorf, where he died on 13 July 1943.

The Reichsbahn Company Insurance refused payment for Rita’s hospitalization in Langenhorn after thirteen weeks, since they classified her as an invalid rather than as sick. The "Reich Committee” paid for the following two months, and after that the Hamburg Social Services took over payment. By then Rita was again considered to be ill, and Wilhelm Bayer informed the insurance company, so that they could assume the costs, that she would remain in his clinic for about two months because of "developmental disorders and throat infection.”

Only eight days after Horst’s death, a policeman arrived at the Ahrens’ and informed them that Rita was dying and that they should come to the clinic. When they asked a nurse how it could be possible that the child was so suddenly close to death, the nurse replied that she was also surprised. Agnes Ahrens was under the impression that Rita was suffering from pneumonia. On that same evening, 23 July 1943, they received the news that Rita had died. The ward physician, Ursula Petersen, had administered a higher dose of Luminal than Knigge had given to Rita. Petersen recorded the cause of death as "mongolism, pneumonia.” Rita was 5½ years old. She died on the same day as Dagmar Schulz (see separate entry), one week before the firestorm caused by an Allied bombing raid in which Rothenburgsort was largely destroyed. The registers of death – the original and a copy were kept at separate locations – were destroyed in the fire. At the post-war investigation, Rita Ahrens’ mother presented the death certificate, from which the details given here are taken. The medical records from the Langenhorn State Institution have since been found. They confirm these details, and contain more information.

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Hildegard Thevs

Quellen: Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, Aufnahmebuch Nr. 8183; StaH 213-12 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht NSG, 0017-001, 002; 352-8/7 Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn, Abl. 2000/01, 10.

print preview  / top of page