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Already layed Stumbling Stones

Ewald Kuhlmann * 1930

Eißendorfer Pferdeweg 12 (Harburg, Heimfeld)

JG. 1930
"VERLEGT" 1941
ERMORDET 21.12.1943

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

Ewald Kuhlmann, born on 26.8.1930 in Harburg, admitted to the Rotenburg Institutions of the Inner Mission on 8.4.1933, "transferred" to the Provinzial-Landesheil- und Pflegeanstalt Lüneburg on 9.10.1941, murdered on 21.12.1943.

Eißendorfer Pferdeweg 12, Heimfeld

Ewald Kuhlmann was born as the second child of the baker Paul Richard Ernst Kuhlmann and his wife Berta Helene Kuhlmann, née Hubert in the twin town of Harburg-Wilhelmsburg. From the few files that have survived about the short life of this boy, it is not clear when and why he was admitted to the Municipal Children's Hospital and Infant Home at (Eißendorfer) Pferdeweg 12 in Heimfeld. It was probably due to the early death of his mother, who died soon after the birth of her second son. But the question remains why little Ewald did not grow up with his father, who soon moved to Stettin. Was he overburdened with the sole upbringing of two children, not only in terms of time and finances, but also in principle? We do not know.

It is even more difficult to draw a consistent picture of the little boy's development in this Harburg children's home in the weeks and months that followed. The information about his development in the first years of his life is sparse and, moreover, contradictory. While his father apparently believed that everything was in order, based on what he considered to be positive information from the children's home about his son's development, the Harburg Youth Welfare Office received information about the little boy's development in December 1932 that painted a completely different picture.

On the basis of medical examinations and intensive observations, the management and staff of the children's home had come to the conclusion that the boy was suffering from "mental weakness" and that his behavior was placing an unacceptable burden on their practical educational work on site. Therefore, they pleaded for his transfer to another institution.

In the subsequent search for suitable accommodation for the sick boy, the Harburg Youth Welfare Office then found what they were looking for at the Rotenburg Institutions of the Inner Mission (= a branch of the evangelical church), which became his new home on April 8, 1933. This institution had been founded in 1880 as an "asylum for the care of epileptics" in the district town on the Wümme river and had since then introduced many progressive developments in the work with and for people with disabilities and adapted them to the local needs.

The initial examination of the Rotenburg doctors confirmed the diagnosis of their Harburg colleagues. In a letter dated April 12, 1933, they informed the boy's father that the little patient was undoubtedly suffering from "feeble-mindedness of a higher degree" and that the referral was certainly justified. While they understandably could not yet say anything about his further development, with regard to his present stage of development they stated beyond doubt that he did not correspond to that of his peers. They pointed out that at the age of two and a half he could not yet walk and could hardly speak. Furthermore, unlike other children his age, he could not keep himself clean in any way. In view of these deficits, there was no alternative to "institutional care."

In the following years, this basic assessment changed little, despite slight improvements. On February 19, 1936, Dr. Rustige, as head physician of the "Rotenburger Heil- und Pflegeanstalt für Epileptische, Geistesschwache und -kranke," stated in a letter to the welfare office of the city of Harburg-Wilhelmsburg that Ewald Kuhlmann was developing "mentally slowly." He noted that he had begun to "speak in sentences, but still imperfectly and childishly." He was also able to report to the Welfare Office that the little patient was keeping himself clean in the meantime, but still needed to be "dressed and undressed." In addition, he thought it important to point out that Ewald Kuhlmann had to be described as a rather stubborn boy who often got into fights with other children on the ward and easily became violent. His continued stay in the sanatorium and nursing home was urgently required.

After Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor, the Rotenburg institutions were also less and less able to escape the increased pressure emanating from almost all of the authorities under the same control, which called into question the right to exist of all individuals who did not belong to the 'community of the people' (Volksgemeinschaft). The understanding of the inherent dignity of every human being was increasingly superseded by a judgment that evaluated only his or her importance to the community. The employees of the Rotenburg Institutions were not unaffected by this change. Many of them were members of the NSDAP, including the doctors, the head nurse of the men's ward, the accountant, the office inspector and the manager of the Kalandhof. The priests were not in any National Socialist group.

The "Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Diseased Offspring" fell on fertile ground in the Rotenburg institutions. At least 238 men and 97 women of this sanatorium and nursing home were forcibly sterilized during the Nazi period. In addition to implementing this law in their own institution, the employed physicians also participated in the sterilization process on a regional level by providing expert opinions for the hereditary health courts in Verden and in Celle.

For the further career of the patients of these and other institutions, not only their biological value, but also the assessment of their educational ability became increasingly important. On April 20, 1938, Ewald Kuhlmann was admitted to the auxiliary school of the Rotenburg asylums, but he had to leave it again after only one year because his constant disruptions of instruction had shown him to be unfit for school. He was considered to be difficult to educate and apparently could only be kept from tormenting other "boys in the ward" with increasing effort.

The authorization to carry out the killing of incurably ill patients, which Adolf Hitler had given to Reichsleiter Bouhler and his personal physician Karl Brandt at the beginning of the war, was not without consequences for the Rotenburg institutions. 140 patients were already on their way from Rotenburg to the gas chambers of the Hadamar killing center when this phase of the National Socialist program of exterminating "unworthy life" was stopped in August 1941. But the killing did not end there. An estimated 87,000 people with disabilities still died thereafter as a result of targeted food deprivation, incorrect administration of medication and failure to provide medical assistance.

When in the course of 1941, due to the war, quarters for further reserve hospitals and alternative hospitals were sought everywhere, the Rotenburg institutions were also affected by the corresponding consequences. Within three weeks in the fall of 1941, all the buildings of this sanatorium and nursing home were evacuated and another 816 residents were transferred to other institutions. A total of 547 Rotenburg patients subsequently met their deaths in the institutions to which they had been transferred during the Nazi era.

On October 9, 1941, Ewald Kuhlmann and 129 other children were transferred from Rotenburg to the Provinzial-Landesheil- und Pflegeanstalt Lüneburg. Here he was placed in the children's specialist ward, a camouflage designation for a place for the murder of mentally and physically handicapped children, which had been set up shortly before. In this ward, the children were observed for some time and then assessed from the point of view of whether they were "capable of education" or not. The reports were sent to the "Reichsauschuss zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung von erb- und anlagebedingten Leiden" (Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Hereditary and Congenital Ailments) in Berlin, where they were subsequently provided with a "treatment authorization" if the child was intended to be killed. However, there was no obligation to do so.

The killings themselves were carried out in Lüneburg at the instigation of the head of the "children's specialist department" Willi Baumerts or the director of the sanatorium and nursing home Max Bräuner with Luminal or - if this was not sufficient - with morphine. In total, at least 418 child patients died in Lüneburg in the years 1941-1945.

In many cases, the children admitted from October 1941 onwards perished only a few months after their transfer. Ewald Kuhlmann was now judged by the Lüneburg doctors to be completely indifferent, apathetic and "mentally profound".

On December 21, 1943, they put a sad end to his life after 13 years.

Translation by Beate Meyer
Stand: January 2022
© Klaus Möller

Quellen: Archiv der Rotenburger Werke der Inneren Mission, Akte Nr. 222; Archiv des Ev.-Luth. Kirchenkreises Hamburg-Ost; Stadtarchiv Lüneburg; Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv HStAH. Hann. 155 Lüneburg Acc. 56/83 Nr. 302; Zuflucht unter dem Schatten Deiner Flügel? Die Rotenburger Anstalten der Inneren Mission in den Jahren 1933–1945, Rotenburger Anstalten der Inneren Mission (Hrsg.), Rotenburg 1992; 100 Jahre Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus Lüneburg, Niedersächsisches Landeskrankenhaus Lüneburg (Hrsg.), Lüneburg 2001; Carola Rudnik, Vielfalt achten, Teilhabe stärken. in: Alfred Fleßner, Uta George, Ingo Harms, Rolf Keller (Hrsg.), Forschungen zur Medizin im Nationalsozialismus, Göttingen 2014.

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