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Claus Salig * 1938
Heinrich-Barth-Straße 11 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)
KALMENHOF / IDSTEIN
Claus Salig, born on 24.12.1938 in Hamburg, admitted to the Alsterdorf Asylum (now Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf) on 26.7.1940, "transferred" to the Kalmenhof sanatorium and nursing home in Idstein on 7.8.1943, where he died on 7.9.1943.
Heinrich-Barth-Straße 11, Rotherbaum
Claus Salig and his twin brother Günther were born on 24 Dec. 1938 at the Finkenau Maternity Hospital in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst. They had an older brother, Edgar, born in October 1934, whose exact date of birth we do not know, and a younger brother, Michael Lothar Schwerdtfeger, born on 25 Febr. 1944. We have knowledge of this child through a note on his mother Elvira Schwerdtfeger's birth register entry.
The boys were born into socially and psychologically strained family circumstances. Their mother, Elvira Schwerdtfeger, who was born in Hamburg on 5 Sept. 1903, was admitted to the Barmbek General Hospital in October 1925 after a suicide attempt "because of melancholy" and was discharged "as cured" after one month. After another suicide attempt at the end of 1927, it was noted on her admission to the Psychiatric and Nervous Clinic in Kiel that the young woman had always left her jobs after a short time and had travelled a lot in search of other jobs.
Shortly after the birth of their first child Edgar, Elvira Schwerdtfeger and the hairdresser Martin Heinrich Karl Salig, born on 28 Nov. 1904, were married on 6 Oct. 1934. Both lived at Grindelallee 15 when the marriage took place, probably as subtenants.
While Claus Salig's twin brother Günther initially lived with his mother and was placed in a foster home in Sasel in January 1940, Claus was immediately placed in the clinic of the Hamburger Säuglingsheim e.V. at Hochallee 1, corner Hallerstraße. In a welfare report, Claus Salig's situation was described as follows: "Although the boy is still very delicate and requires very special care and nourishment, he must be released from the infant home on 1 June 1939, since he can no longer be directly addressed as being in need of hospital care and, in addition, space must be created in the home. A discharge of this child to the mother cannot be justified. [...] Already the discharge of the child from the maternity hospital was an experiment. Mrs. Salig does not care at all about the return of the child, she sees for herself that she cannot manage special measures."
Claus Salig's father was described in the report as a drunkard and gambler. He had been committed to the Farmsen nursing home on the basis of a complaint filed by his wife. Here his incapacitation was brought about and his sterilization initiated. It is not clear whether this procedure was carried out.
Elvira Salig now lived as a subtenant with the widow C. Hocher at Heinrich-Barth-Straße 11 in the Rotherbaum district. As stated in the report of a welfare worker, she was "completely dependent on public assistance. At present she again makes a very restless impression. Her room is always found in a hopeless disorder and only moderately clean. The earlier collecting mania of objects of all kinds has somewhat given way, since the landlady does not tolerate these accumulations. Mrs. Salig often runs away from home for hours. She leaves the care of her infant Günther to her landlady without further ado. Mrs. Salig would prefer to be able to get rid of the second child as well and thus merely live her life according to her arrangement without any obligations.
Mrs. Salig always states that she would rather work than devote herself to the children. The child Günther, who is in the house, is still cared for to some extent. The child receives meals irregularly, and in much too large quantities, but otherwise he is kept very clean and tidy. Since he is thriving and progressing well, I do not want to do anything about this child.
Mrs. Salig is in firm contact with the husband. She is already sorry that she filed a complaint because of which he came to Farmsen. In her indolent, uncritical manner, she would now like to have him released again, she has also already made such an application. The question of sterilization is now to be raised for the husband. According to the health department the wife is not eligible for this, because it is not a hereditary disease."
Claus Salig was first transferred from the infant home to the municipal infant home in Winterhuder Weg and was admitted to the then Alsterdorf Asylum (now the Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf) on 26 July 1940. His older brother Edgar was at that time in the orphanage of the Youth Welfare Office in Averhoffstraße in the Uhlenhorst district.
Claus Salig's admission to Alsterdorf was justified by the fact that he was suffering from " imbecility and indicated hydrocephalus". The term "imbecility", which is no longer used today, referred to a reduction in intelligence or congenital intelligence weakness. Hydrocephalus is translated as water head. When one and a half year old Claus was admitted he was able to sit "implied", he did not support himself, did not grasp but held on, reacted to light and objects, was calm and friendly, let everything happen to him without screaming. Claus Salig went through several childhood illnesses, including measles. In September 1942, he was finally able to walk on his own. He was now perceived as an affectionate, friendly boy who liked to be occupied with. He was often quite stubborn when he did not get his way. Then he screamed persistently.
During the heavy air raids on Hamburg in the summer of 1943 (Operation Gomorrha), the Alsterdorf institutions also suffered damage on the night of 29/30 July 1943, and then again on 3/4 Aug. 1943. The director of the asylum, SA member Pastor Friedrich Lensch, asked the health authorities for approval to transfer 750 patients, ostensibly to make room for wounded and bomb-damaged patients. With three transports between 7 and 16 Aug., a total of 468 girls and women, boys and men were transferred to the "Landesheilanstalt Eichberg" near Wiesbaden, to the "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Kalmenhof" near Idstein in the Rheingau, to the "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Mainkofen" near Passau and to the "Wagner von Jauregg-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt der Stadt Wien" in Vienna (also known as the institution "Am Steinhof").
In the first transport on 7 Aug. 1943, there were 128 boys and men, including 52 boys between the ages of two and twelve, among them Claus Salig. Their destination was the Kalmenhof near Idstein.
Originally, the Kalmenhof Institution, founded in 1888, was a progressive, educationally oriented institution for people with mental disabilities. In 1939, it was included in the "euthanasia" program of "Aktion-T4" (a designation after the location of the Berlin euthanasia headquarters at Tiergartenstraße 4). Patients were transferred from there to the nearby Hadamar killing facility and murdered. After the official stop of the euthanasia murders in August 1941, the front organization "Reichsausschuss zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung erb- und anlagebedingter schwerer Leiden" (Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Hereditary and Congenital Severe Sufferings), which was part of the Berlin "Euthanasia" headquarters, set up a "children's specialist department" ("Kinderfachabteilung”) in the Kalmenhof, where children were killed by overdosed drugs such as Luminal, scopolamine or morphine.
Claus Salig survived the removal from Hamburg for only one month. According to the death certificate of the Idstein registry office, he died on 7 Sept. 1943, allegedly of "idiocy, hydrocephalus, marasmus." The term marasmus refers to a process of emaciation and debilitation. It can be assumed that Claus Salig did not die of natural causes.
We do not know whether Claus Salig ever lived with his parents or with his mother. When he was admitted to the Alsterdorf Asylum, his mother's address was registered in the admission book as Heinrich-Barth-Strasse 11 with Hocher. Therefore, the stumbling stone in his memory was laid at this place.
Edgar Salig came to a foster home in Grevesmühlen in Mecklenburg after his stay in the Averhoffstraße orphanage. The fate of Claus' twin brother Günther is as unknown, as that of his younger brother Michael Lothar, whose family name was that of his mother, whose marriage was legally divorced on 3 Sept. 1951.
Translation: Elisabeth Wendland
Stand: December 2022
© Ingo Wille
Quellen: StaH 332-5 Standesämter 13334 Geburtsregister Nr. 1535/1903 Elvira Lüring/Schwerdtfeger, 14208 Heiratsregister Nr. 1535 Martin Salig/Elvira Schwerdtfeger; Standesamt Idstein Sterberegister Nr. 146/1943 Claus Salig; Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, V 079 (Claus Salig). Michael Wunder, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner, Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr – Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, Stuttgart 2016, S. 35, 283 ff., 331 ff.