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Helene Gescheidt
Helene Gescheidt
© Archiv Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf

Helene Gescheidt * 1915

Dithmarscher Straße 26 (Hamburg-Nord, Dulsberg)

JG. 1915
"VERLEGT" 8.8.1941
ERMORDET 16.8.1943

Helene Gescheidt, born on 27.7.1915 in Hamburg, murdered in the Nursing and Care Home Meseritz-Obrawalde on 18.6.1943

Dithmarscher Straße 26

Helene Gescheidt was born in Hamburg on 24. July 1915 as the youngest of seven children of the married couple Friedrich Carl Theodor Martin Gescheidt and Dorothea (Dora), née Klingeberg. At this time, the family lived at Rossberg 50 in Hamburg-Eilbek. In the Hamburg Address Book, the profession of Helene’s father was given as "Civil Servant” or "Diätar”. (Diätars were civil servants who were employed only occasionally and whose salaries were paid outside the budget. The designation was particularly common in the Kingdom of Prussia.)

The Gescheidt and Klingeberg families lived and worked in Wandsbek, which was an autonomous town at that time, and in the Hamburg districts of Eilbek and Hohenfelde.

Helene’s father, Friedrich Gescheidt, born on 12.Aug 1872, was the second eldest son of the gardener and florist Friedrich Wilhelm Gescheidt and his wife Helene Emilie, née Bollen. He is said to have finished his schooling in the Selekta, a voluntary ninth grade after the eight years of compulsory elementary schooling for particularly gifted pupils.

The parental family Gescheidt lived for a long time in Hamburg-Hohenfelde at Reismühle 17 in the rear building.

Friedrich Gescheidt had two sisters and four brothers.
One of them, Otto Wilhelm, born on 9. Oct 1876, ran a flower shop like his father, also in Hohenfelde, Landwehr 71. Another brother, Rudolf Carl Gescheidt, born on 21. Jan1879, worked as a landscape gardener.His brother Hermann Johannes Wilhelm, born on 26. Sept 1874, made his living as an engraver. Emil Johannes, born on 19. Aug 1880, worked as a merchant's assistant. Their sister Martha, born on 21. Aug 1883, operated a laundry for delicate clothes in the Conventstraße in Eilbek. Helene Sophie Friederike, born on 19. March 1871, married the merchant’s assistant Adolph Wilhelm Fernandus Michaelsen. She was a housewife.

Helene Gescheidt‘s mother, Dorothea Emma Martha (called Dora), born on 15. March 1875, came from a humble background. Her mother, Helene’s Grandmother, Johanne Marie Wilhelmine Klingeberg, had to get her daughter and herself through the first years without a father and a husband as a seamstress and with ironing work. In 1879 she married the beer delivery driver Friedrich Louis Pinck. With him, Dora Gescheidt had a daughter, Frieda Pinck, born in 1887, who was a half-sister to Dora. The marriage was divorced in 1888. Dora was 13 years old at the time. Her mother married again in 1890, and that to the policeman (Constable Gefreiter) Ludwig Friedrich Hense.

Helene Gescheidt was born at Rossbergstrasse no. 50 or 58 in the Eilbek distict. Shortly afterwards, the family moved to the Dulsberg district. Her six siblings were born between 1899 and 1914 in Eilbek or in Barmbek-Süd: Ernst Konrad on 7. Febr 1899, Hans Emil Alex on 23. April 1900, Alice Frida Martha on 29. Sept 1901, the twins Carla and Luna on 29. May 1906 and Gerhard Helmut Julius on 20. March 1914. Ernst Konrad and Gerhard Helmut Julius had died only a few days after their birth.

The Hamburg Address Book of 1917 lists the Gescheidt family at Dithmarscher Strasse 23, from 1928 at Dithmarscher Strasse 26. The family lived here until 1935/1936. Helene had gone to school here up to fourth grade.

On 29. March 1935, Helene Gescheidt, who was almost 20 years old, was admitted to the Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten), having previously been accommodated (only a few minutes' walk from her home address) to the "Friedrichsberg Lunatic Asylum" ("Irrenanstalt Friedrichsberg”). We do not know the time and reason for her admission there because the documents have not been preserved.

There is also no file on Helene Gescheidt in the archives of today's Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf. Probably her file was passed on with her when Helene was transferred to the Langenhorn State Hospital (Staatskrankenstalt Langenhorn). The little that we know about her is taken from two index cards which were created for the Hamburg Health Archives (Hamburger Gesundheitspassarchiv), developed from 1934 onwards for the purpose of a "hereditary-biological stocktaking" of the population.

According to these index cards, Helene could take care of her personal hygiene herself, but often suffered from a state of mental confusion. In this phase, she often ran around the grounds and gave confused replies. Sometimes it was possible to give her simple domestic tasks. The diagnosis noted was "Schizophrenia”.

Less than three months after her admission to Alsterdorf, she was sterilized on the basis of the "Law for Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring”. According to this law, enacted in July 1933, a person could be rendered infertile (sterilized) "if, based on the experiences of medical science, it can be expected that his/her descendants will in all probability suffer from severe physical or mental hereditary defects”. A "hereditary defect" was considered to be "anyof the following diseases":
"congenital mental imbecillity, schizophrenia, circular (manic-depressive) insanity, hereditary falling sickness, hereditary St Vitus’dance (Huntington’sChorea), hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, severe hereditary abnormality.” In addition, it was stipulated: "Furthermore, anyone suffering from severe alcoholism may be rendered infertile".

On 12.Febr 1936, "on instructions from the Welfare Authority”, Helene Gescheidt was discharged to return home. The circumstances and reasons which led to this decision have not been recorded.

Eight months later, on 22.Oct 1936, Helene Gescheidt became a patient of the Alsterdorf Asylum for the second time. It was noted on a newly created "Hereditary Health Index Card” that she was quiet in the beginning, at times confused.

This second "Hereditary Health Index Card” contains further remarks: In 1938, the patient "consistently declined further” and was often in a state of agitation. She had to be strapped into her seat and had to stay often in the "observation room” (Wachsaal). She had sung incessantly and talked aloud incoherently.

"Observation rooms” (Wachsäle) had already been set up elsewhere in the 1910s to isolate restless patients and treat them with permanent baths, sleep cures and fever cures. An "observation room” was not installed in the Alsterdorfer Asylum until the end of the 1920s. Its function changed in the course of the 1930s. Now the primary purpose was to pacify patients of both sexes, partly with medication, partly through physical restraint or other methods. Those affected often felt this to be a punishment.

On 18. Dec 1939, Helene Gescheidt, who was now 24 years old in the meantime, was transferred to the "Nursing and Care Home Langenhorn” in the North of Hamburg. The Psychiatrist Friedrich Knigge, who was involved in NS crimes within the framework of "child euthanasia”, and Gerhard Schäfer acted as the doctors responsible for admissions. As can be seen from the patient’s record which had been created for her in Langenhorn, she could not answer questions about her past correctly. She was evidently not aware of her mother’s death in October 1937, since she stated that both her parents were still alive and were living in Dithmarscher Straße although they had already moved to Papenstraße in Eilbekin 1936.

Helene Gescheidt's patient file does not contain another entry until March 1940: "Severe catatonic states of agitation. Sneezes. [...]. Speaks only in confused turns of phrase."

Only five short entries were made in the further one and a half years until the end of her stay in Langenhorn including the laconic comment "Sterility Case”.

On 8. Aug 1941, Helen Gescheidt was transferred to the Home for Women in Innien (today a district of Aukrug) which belonged to the "Holstein Sanatorium for the Mentally Handicapped and Alcoholics” in Rickling, and from there 30km away.

We do not know how she fared there. Helene Gescheidt returned to Langenhorn already on 25. March 1942. According to the entry in her patient’s record, her condition was unchanged from her previous stay there. She was completely out of contact and had to be prompted to carry out every single task.

Helene Gescheidt’s second stay in the Nursing and Care Home Langenhorn lasted until 10.April 1943. On this day, she was transported with other patients of both sexes to the Nursing and Care Home Meseritz-Obrawalde in what was then the province of Brandenburg (today Poland).

This institution became part of the decentralized "Euthanasia” in 1942. Immediately after the patient’s arrival, it was decided on the basis of their physical condition whether they were intended for immediate death or initially still had to work e.g. in the gardening or in the sewing workshop. Those who were no longer capable of working, were given drugs which led to their death.

Helene Gescheidt survived her arrival in Meseritz-Obrawalde by only two months. She died there on 18.June 1943.

Translator: Steve Robinson

Stand: April 2021
© Ingo Wille

Quellen: AB 1885-1942; StaH332-5 Standesämter 8917 Geburtsregister 2744/1876 Otto Wilhelm Gescheidt, 8935 Geburtsregister 295/1879 Rudof Carl Gescheidt, 8949 Geburtsregister 2932/1880 Emil Johannes Gescheidt, 8979 Geburtsregister 3218/1883 Martha Gescheidt, 13208 Geburtsregister 403/1899 Ernst Konrad Gescheidt,13410 Geburtsregister 731/1900 Hans Emil Alex, 13567 Geburtsregister 1852/1901 Alice Frida Gescheidt, 14715 Geburtsregister 1171/1906 Luna Gescheidt, 1172/1906 Carla Gescheidt, 6829 Sterberegister 283/1899 Ernst Konrad Gescheidt, 6928 Sterberegister 119/1914 Gerhard Helmut Julius Gescheidt, 6970 Sterberegister 385/1918 Helene Emilie Gescheidt, 7203 Sterberegister 228/1937 Dora Emma Martha Gescheidt,352-8/7 Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn Abl. 1/1995 Helene Gescheidt; Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, Erbgesundheitskarteikarten; Archiv Gorzów Wielkopolski, Einleitung zum Findbuch des Bestandes Nr. 256; Wikipedia (Diätar), Zugriff am 8.4.2020; Hamburger Gedenkbuch Euthanasie Die Toten 1939-1945, Hamburg 2017, S. 203.

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