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Hertha Lüdeking * 1904

Billhorner Mühlenweg 19 (Hamburg-Mitte, Rothenburgsort)

JG. 1904
DEPORTIERT 16.8.1943

further stumbling stones in Billhorner Mühlenweg 19:
Richard Bähre

Hertha Lüdeking, born on 4 Aug. 1904 in Hamburg, died on 26 June 1944 in the Vienna Municipal "Wagner von Jauregg-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt"

Billhorner Mühlenweg 19 c, entrance to the playground (Hardenstrasse 6)

Hertha Lüdeking was born as the first of five children in Rothenburgsort, which then still belonged to the Marschlande District Administration (Landherrenschaft). It was a forceps-assisted birth. She was baptized at the age of three months at St. Thomas Church on 6 Nov. 1904. Two of her siblings died early of "insufficient vitality” ("Lebensschwäche”).

Hertha Lüdeking experienced a seizure for the first time at the age of one and a half, and from age three, it was clear that she suffered from epilepsy. Her development was and continued to be delayed. When she was seven years old, her parents, the machinist Ludwig Lüdeking and his wife Minna, née Niek, put her into what was then the Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten) because she was unable to attend any school and was difficult to supervise due to her restlessness.

During the first ten years of her stay in "Alsterdorf,” she went through serious infectious diseases, participating neither in any classes nor in any work assignments. At times, she was unable to move on her own, remained lying down, and talked to herself, without establishing any relationship to her environment. On other occasions, however, she danced and jumped around skillfully. Her relatives came and saw her often, taking her home for visits. When her father, Ludwig Lüdeking, served in the Imperial Navy, being assigned to the Command of the 1st Section of the 2nd Shipyard Division in Wilhelmshaven, he received leave at Christmas 1917 to see his daughter.

In the 1920s, Hertha’s behavior hardly changed. By then, she was fully grown, with a height of 1.42 m (approx. 4 ft 8 in) and a weight of 54 kilograms (approx. 119 lb). The cause of her problems remained dubious, and the physicians assumed a defective function of the pituitary gland, the central control of hormones.

In 1931, Hertha Lüdeking became more independent. She got dressed with assistance, ate on her own, spoke, kept clean, recognized her environment, and called herself "Augenstern, süße Deern” ("apple of the eye, sweet lass”) or "Augenstern, Geburtstagskind, alle Glocken läuten, alle Kinder gelacht” ("apple of the eye, birthday girl, all the bells are tolling, all the children laughed”). She got easily irritated when someone came too close to her, in that case using "very nasty expressions.” Her favorite activity was playing the harmonica. After a bout of bronchitis, she was suspected of having tuberculosis, and one year later, she recovered only very slowly from pneumonia. In early Dec. 1932, as she was once again sitting by the window and looking out with interest, she was asked what she saw there. She sang as an answer, "Zeppelin comes flying, high in the sky over night, has a bomb in the gondola, and hurls it down, making a crashing noise.” Indeed, zeppelins did fly over Hamburg quite often.

By then 28 years old, Hertha Lüdeking handed out the clothes of the children in the morning, trying to say their names. In the summer, someone observed for the first time that she remembered something: She was playing with a wooden bead when she suffered from an epileptic seizure. After it had subsided, she went back to the place and continued to play with the bead. She sang a lot, knew many songs, and lived on good terms with her peers. Her weight increased to 75 kilograms (approx. 165 lb 5 oz).

In the mid-1930s, Hertha increasingly displayed aggressive behavior and she managed, despite being strapped in, to slip away to the outside. Once before, in 1921, she had mobilized enormous energy, succeeding even in spite of a "protective jacket” (Schutzjacke) in "picking to pieces” her bedding and boots. By 1940, she was in need of permanent care and scheduled for admission to the Langenhorn "sanatorium and nursing home” (Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Langenhorn), something that did not happen, however.

On 16 Aug. 1943, Hertha Lüdeking was transported along with 227 other women and girls to the Vienna Municipal Wagner von Jauregg-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt, a "sanatorium and nursing home,” the former "Steinhof.” By that time, her parents’ home had been completely destroyed, and she had not received a new address of her parents. When admitted in Vienna, she appeared to staff apathetic and disoriented, speaking little and crying from time to time, though proving to be less in need of care than before. She also suffered from seizures only rarely. In the following months, she lost weight continuously. When she fell ill with severe bouts of diarrhea in June 1944, a note specifically indicated that she was growing thin, a result of the hunger rations.

The file entry on the date of her death, 26 June 1944, states that supposedly the cause of death was enterocolitis, an inflammation of the small and large intestine. The autopsy report, on the other hand, indicated pulmonary embolism due to phlebitis in the right leg. The report also recorded what sounds cynical in light of a weight of 32 kilograms (approx. 70 lb 9 oz) in relation to a height of 1.42 meters (approx. 4 ft 8 in): delicate skeleton, regressed musculature, sparse subcutaneous fat. Hertha Lüdeking, just short of 40 when she died, was buried in the Vienna Central Cemetery.

Apparently, during Hertha Lüdeking’s stay in Vienna, no new connection was established to her relatives in Hamburg. The management of the "Steinhof” institution gave notice of Hertha’s death to the administration of the former Alsterdorf Asylum, which then sent Minna Lüdeking’s address to Vienna. On 11 July 1944, the mother received a letter providing information about Hertha’s experience starting with her arrival in Vienna until her death.

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

Stand: March 2017
© Hildegard Thevs

Quellen: Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, V 160; Jenner, Meldebögen; Wunder, Abtransporte; ders., Exodus.

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