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Detlef Davids * 1935
Große Rainstraße 87 (Altona, Ottensen)
Detlef Davids, born 28.9.1935 in Altona, on 17.11.1942 admitted to the then Alsterdorf Asylum (today: Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf), on 12.8.1943 "transferred" to the "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Mainkofen" near Passau, died there on 27.5.1944
Große Rainstraße 69 (Ottensen)
Detlef Herbert Paul Davids, the only child of the then unmarried ladies' tailor Johanna Davids, was born on 28 Sept. 1935, at Holländische Reihe 89 in Altona, which was still an independent city at that time. No data are known of his father other than his name Reinhard Weikert.
Detlef Davids' mother was born on 28 June 1910 in Wittenberge. On 27 Nov. 1937 she married Richard Göppel, an unskilled laborer, born in 1913. Since then, the couple lived at Bahrenfelder Straße 34 in the Ottensen district of Altona. We do not know whether Detlef Davids lived with them.
Detlef Davids first had convulsions at the age of three months, which led to his admission to the Altona Children's Hospital in Tresckowallee (today: Altona Children's Hospital, Bleickenallee). He suffered from rickets, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and spasmophilia (a metabolic disease associated with a tendency to convulsions). He was admitted three times to the Altona Children's Hospital, the last in January 1941, when he again suffered from convulsions.
As a result of the earlier encephalitis, he was diagnosed with strabismus (squinting) on both sides, involuntary movements of the right arm (athetosis), hardening of the muscles, and a severely spastic gait. By 1941 at the latest, the boy was living with his grandparents, the master painter Hermann Davids, and his wife Helena Anna, née Siebert, at Große Rainstraße 69 in Ottensen.
On 17 Nov. 1942, the Altona doctor Raimar Pohl determined that Detlef Davids urgently needed to be institutionalized, since care at home was no longer possible. The next day, the boy was taken by ambulance to the sanatorium and nursing home Langenhorn and immediately sent on to what was then the Alsterdorf Asylum (today Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf).
Upon admission, Detlef Davids was found to be too small for his age. The diagnosis was "epilepsy, condition after encephalitis." Detlef Davids did not know his name, nor did he recognize other people or objects in his environment. He was also unable to walk due to a right-sided paralysis. A foot deformity was corrected in the Alsterdorf infirmary in March 1943. Due to the plaster splint that was subsequently required, Detlef Davids still war restricted in his movements for some time. Shortly thereafter, Detlef Davids had to go to the infirmary again, this time with pneumonia.
After the Alsterdorf Asylum had suffered damage during the heavy Allied air raids on Hamburg at the end of July/beginning of August 1943 ("Operation Gomorrha"), the director of the Alsterdorf institutions, SA member Pastor Friedrich Lensch, took advantage of this situation and asked the Hamburg health authorities for permission to remove about 750 residents because they had been made homeless by the bombing. As a result, three transports with a total of 469 girls, boys, women and men left Alsterdorf in different directions between 7 and 16 Aug. 1943, including the transport with 113 men, adolescents and boys with the destination "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Mainkofen" near Passau on 10 Aug. 1943, in which Detlef Davids was included.
The transport reached its destination on 12 Aug. Apart from an arrival note, there is no further entry in Detlef Davids’ Mainkofen patient file for the following more than eight months. It was not until 1 May 1944 that it was written: "Patient has not shown anything special since his transfer to Mainkofen. Is now seriously ill with a high temperature rise. Pulmonary tuberculosis is suspected."
Detlef's mother, who had fled from destroyed Hamburg and in the meantime had taken shelter in Salzwedel in present-day Sachsen-Anhalt, received the following information in a telegram dated 1 May 1944: "Dear Mrs. Göppel! We inform you that your son Detlef Davids is seriously ill and ask you to visit him."
Two weeks later, on 15 May 1944, it was noted in his file: "Rapid decline in physical resistance. Patient declines considerably. There is a physical finding over both lungs. The diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis can no longer be doubted." On 27 May 1944, "Exitus letales today." The cause of death was given as "condition after encephalitis, symptomatic epilepsy, pulmonary tuberculosis."
Detlef Davids' mother received telegraphic news of his passing on the day of his death. Her request for "immediate transfer of my son Detlef Davids, who died there," was rejected as impossible. The institution stuck to the funeral date of Wednesday, 31 May 1944.
The sanatorium and nursing home Mainkofen, a psychiatric hospital in the pre-National Socialist era, had been systematically developed into a death institution. From there, during the first phase of the "euthanasia" murders until August 1941, people were deported to the killing facility Schloss Hartheim near Linz and murdered with gas. 604 of them are known by name. After that, patients were murdered in Mainkofen itself, through food deprivation under the "Bavarian Starvation Decree" (starvation diet, meat- and fat-free diet, referred to in Mainkofen as "3-b diet"), nursing neglect and overdosed medication. In Mainkofen, 762 patients died in the so-called hunger houses. The alleged causes of death were, in particular, intestinal catarrh, tuberculosis, pneumonia or pulmonary tuberculosis.
74 of the 113 Alsterdorf boys and men who had arrived in Mainkofen on 12 Aug. 1943, died by the end of 1945. Forty times "pulmonary tuberculosis" and fifteen times "intestinal catarrh" were claimed as the cause of death. Only 39, including 15 adults and 24 children and adolescents up to the age of 21, survived the year 1945. They were transferred back to Alsterdorf on 19 Dec. 1947.
Translation: Elisabeth Wendland
Stand: December 2022
© Ingo Wille
Quellen: Adressbuch Hamburg; Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, Sonderakte V 427 Detlef Detlev Davids; Harald Jenner/Michael Wunder, Hamburger Gedenkbuch Euthanasie – Die Toten 1939-1945, Hamburg 2017, S. 148; Michael Wunder, Ingrid Genkel, Harald Jenner, Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr – Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, Stuttgart 2016, S. 35, 315 ff.