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© Archiv Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf
Horst Engelhardt * 1936
Dieselstraße 24 (Hamburg-Nord, Barmbek-Nord)
Horst Engelhardt, born on 7.7.1936 Hamburg, admitted to the Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten) on 31.7.1941, transferred tothe Nursing and Care Home Mainkofen on 11.8.1943, murdered on 18.4.1944
Horst Engelhardt was born on 7 July 1936 as the first child of his mother Anna Engelhardt in the Finkenau gynaecological clinic in Hamburg. No complications attended his birth. Horst weighed 3.570 g, was 54 cm long and was fed by bottle. His parents were both from Thuringia and were not married. His father worked as a printer and two of his mother’s brothers as locksmiths, the third as a merchant. His mother also had five sisters. The family was Protestant. Horst was given an official guardian.
Horst learned to walk early, but did not speak, he was probably deaf. He was afflicted by the "childhood diseases” of whooping cough and an inflammation of the middle ear. When he was one year old, he was treated for a month in the Rothenburgsort Childrens Hospital for an upper respiratory tract infection. He also had an umbilical hernia which the chief physician, Wilhelm Bayer, refrained from operating on "because of the persistant infection” and discharged him to be cared for at home, as can be seen from a letter dated June 1942.
Horst’s stubbornness was already evident in his early childhood. As he grew older, he had violent fits of rage, it was not possible to calm him down. Horst was very strong and liked to pull things down, even heavy objects. The cause was assumed to be a mood disorder of his mother which she suffered from before she gave birth.
On 19 Aug 1938, Anna Engelhardt married an employee of Hapag who was also from Thuringia. Their son was born on 17 Sept 1940, Horst was then four years old. His physical condition was described as good but his behavior as very changeable. At times he was calm and sociable, then again he moved his arms and legs continuously in an uncoordinated manner and could not be influenced. He was admitted to the former Alsterdorf Asyslum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten), on 31 July 1941 with the diagnosis of "imbecility”. At that time his stepfather had been drafted into the Wehrmacht as a supplies officer.
Horst Engelhardt’s admission to the Alsterdorf Asylum marked the beginning of a hard time for him. Already on the day of his arrival, he was strapped to his seat because he was so restless. He suffered from homesickness after every visit, and a series of infectious diseases led to him being regularly transferred to the infirmary. The infections affected the upper jaw, then the mouth cavity for which reason four incisors were extracted. Diphtheria of the nose was followed by Chickenpox. On account of the infection, the first Diphtheria immunization had to be postponed and finally took place on 11 Nov 1942.
Apparently the question of payment of the costs had not been clarified when Horst was admitted. For the State Welfare, he was classified as ill, but not in need of care so that the General Local Health Insurance (Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse) was obliged to pay. However, neither the Youth Welfare Office, nor the State Welfare had ordered him to be "kept in care”. Nor had any applications been made by his official guardian. On 27 July 1943, the management of the Alsterdorf Asylum sent an expert opinion to the "Administration of Youth Training and Assistance of the State Youth Welfare Office, Official Guardianship” ("Verwaltung für Jugendertüchtigung und Jugendhilfe des Landesjugendamts. Amtvormundschaft”) to justify the payment of the costs by the Social Administration. The report on Horst Engelhardt read: "Diagnosis: Idiocy. He is a very restless foster child who screams a lot. He has no language ability and has to be dressed and undressed. Whilst he can be kept dry during the day, he wets his bed at night and also soils himself. His health condition is satisfactory”.
Two days before the major allied attacks on Hamburg had started which reached their climax with the firestorm in the night of 27-28 July and which did not finish until August. The Alsterdorf Asylum were also damaged and were expected in addition to take in homeless people. This was the reason for the management of the asylum to request the approval of the Hamburg Health Administration for the transfer of a total of 469 inmates of both sexes to institutions less threatened by air attacks. This was granted. A transport of 113 boys and men, among them Horst Engelhardt, left Hamburg on 10 Aug 1943 destined for the Nursing and Care Home Mainkofen near Passau. The reasons why Horst Engelhardt was selected for the transfer are not known. Perhaps they were due to his difficult care. Horst's mother, who had not been informed about the transfer, was bombed out in Dieselstraße.
On 12 Aug 1943, the transport from Hamburg arrived in Mainkofen. Half a year later a first entry on Horst’s patient record noted: "Suffering from Lung Phenomena; significant loss of weight recently”. Both can be traced back to the "Bavarian Hunger Decree”. With this, the Bavarian State Commissar for Healthcare, Walter Schultze, had officially formalized a better diet for patients capable of working at the expense of those not capable of working.
On 8 Feb 1944, the director of the Mainkofen institution sent a "Deterioration Report” ("Verschlechterungsmeldung”) to Horst’s mother addressed to Dieselstrasse 24: "The state of health of your son Engelhardt Horst has recently deteriorated sharply, he has pulmonary tuberculosis. We must reckon with his passing away in the near future. Visits are permitted at any time. There is no accommodation available in Mainkofen, you would have to book a room in advance in Deggendorf (Gasthof Aschenbrunner) or in Plattling (Bahnhofhotel Liebl)”. The letter was returned as undeliverable.
On 4 April, it was noted in his record that Horst’s state of health had deteriorated further. He was breathing very superficially and was emaciated to a skeleton. Two weeks later on 18 April 1944 at 7.45 p.m., he died allegedly of pulmonary tuberculosis. Since the address of the relatives was unknown, the management of the Mainkofeninstitution sent a telegram with the news of Horst’s death and his "burial next Saturday at 8 a.m.” to the Hamburg Social Administration which in the meanwhile had covered the costs. Horst Engelhardt was buried in the institution cemetery. He was seven years and nine months old.
Translator: Steve Robinson
Stand: June 2021
© Hildegard Thevs
Quellen: Hamburger Adressbücher; Archiv der Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf, V 420; Ernst Klee "Euthanasie" im NS-Staat, Frankfurt, 1985; Michael Wunder et. al.: Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr, Hamburg, 2. Aufl. 1988.