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Gerda Nagel * 1926

Rissener Landstraße 231 (Altona, Rissen)

JG. 1926
"VERLEGT" 16.8.1943
TOT 24.10.1945

Gerda Nagel, born on 18.1.1926 in Rissen, admitted to the Alsterdorfer Anstalten (today Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf) on 15.7.1940, "transferred" to the "Wagner von Jauregg-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt der Stadt Wien" in Vienna on 16.8.1943, died there on 24.10.1945

Rissener Landstraße 229 (Rissen)

Gerda Nagel was born on January 18, 1926 in Rissen as the third child of the married couple Heini Emil Nagel, born on December 15, 1895, and Martha Louise, née Berg, born on January 10, 1898. Heini Emil Nagel was a carpenter by trade; when Gerda Nagel was admitted to the Alsterdorfer Anstalten, his occupation was listed as "laborer”. Gerda Nagel's parents had married in Blankenese near Hamburg on January 31, 1920. Their sons Werner Heinrich and Otto were born in 1920 and 1923, respectively.

Gerda initially developed according to her age, learned to walk at the age of one and was described as sociable, calm and content. When she was 1 ½ years old, the parents noticed that Gerda spoke in a stammering manner. We know nothing about her further development during childhood.

In 1940, the parents applied for Gerda Nagel's admission to the Alsterdorf institutions through the social administration. Gerda was now fourteen years old and had not attended school until then. In support of the application, the parents stated that increasing difficulties had become apparent at home and Gerda no longer wanted to be guided. On good days, she had done small domestic chores under supervision. Her parents hoped that it would be possible to train Gerda to work continuously in the institution. In summary, she was now classified by the social administration as "feeble-minded." ("Schwachsinnig”: This term, which is no longer used in psychiatry today, was used at that time to refer to reduced intelligence or inferior talent).

On July 15, 1940, Gerda Nagel was admitted to the Alsterdorf Institutions. In her file there is a note that she eats alone, dresses and undresses herself, speaks some, but incomplete sentences and very slurred. Gerda was in the infirmary because of angina. There she had violently resisted treatment. Back in the living area, she "kept very much to herself" and did not play with other children. She willingly performed small manual tasks. But she was often quite obstinate, crying loudly, biting herself, throwing herself on the floor and kicking her feet. In 1942, Gerda Nagel was described as "generally quiet and affectionate, at times quite stubborn", at the beginning of 1943 as "quite dependent". She had a very independent will, which she always wanted to assert.

During the heavy air raids on Hamburg at the end of July/beginning of August 1943 ("Operation Gomorrha"), the Alsterdorf institutions also suffered bomb damage. The management of the institution took the opportunity, after consultation with the health authorities, to transfer some of the residents who were considered to be "weak in labor, in need of care or particularly difficult" to other sanatoriums and nursing homes. On August 16, 1943, a transport with 228 women and girls from Alsterdorf and 72 girls and women from the Langenhorn sanatorium and nursing home left for the "Wagner von Jauregg Sanatorium and Nursing Home of the City of Vienna" in Vienna. Among them was Gerda Nagel.
When asked about his daughter's condition, Gerda Nagel's father received the following reply in January 1944: "[Your child] is unfortunately very stubborn and unruly, finds it difficult to fit into institutional life and to subordinate herself. Nevertheless, she has been put in the day room on a trial basis; hopefully she will keep there, otherwise she would have to stay in bed again. Leave of absence or discharge from the institution is out of the question for the duration of the war. Gez. Dr. Bertha".

Hans Bertha, NSDAP member and SS-Obersturmführer, served as medical director of the "Vienna Municipal Youth Welfare Institution 'Am Spiegelgrund'" from January 1, 1942. With his appointment, the so-called "wild euthanasia" began at the Viennese institution. Patients were now directly murdered with food deprivation, with overdosed medication, by not treating illnesses or by nursing neglect. The asylum also included a so-called children's specialist department, where murders were carried out on children with physical or mental disabilities that had previously been approved by a "Reich committee." From 1944, Bertha took over the management of the entire asylum. He also served as the chief evaluator for Aktion T4 ("Euthanansia”). As part of this action, asylum patients were taken to killing centers such as the Nazi killing center Hartheim and murdered.

Among the patients of the asylum, there was now an explosion in the number of deaths. Of the 300 girls and women from Hamburg, 257 had died by the end of 1945, 196 of them came from Alsterdorf.

Gerda Nagel was one of those whose death was brought about in the asylum. According to the Alsterdorf patient file, she had weighed 45 kg at the beginning of 1943; a year later, a weight of 40 kg was recorded in Vienna, and in September 1945 she weighed only 27 kg.

On October 27, 1945, Gerda Nagel died in Vienna of "imbezillität, enterocolitis," according to her death certificate. (Imbezillität is an earlier common expression for a mental handicap. Enterocolitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the small and large intestine).

Gerda Nagel's parents were not informed of their daughter's death. On April 3, 1946, Emil Nagel sent the following letter to the institution in Vienna:
"Dear Directorate!

I would like to inquire how is my daughter Gerda. At the same time, I would like to know whether there is any prospect of the children returning from there to Hamburg-Alsterdorf in the near future. Best regards to our daughter Gerda!"
In a letter dated May 11, 1946, he received the following stereotypical reply from the institution, which had in the meantime been renamed "Vienna State Sanatorium and Nursing Home 'Am Steinhof'": "In response to your letter of April 3, 1946, which arrived here on April 30, 1946, I regret to have to inform you that your daughter Gerda had already died of severe intestinal catarrh and malnutrition in the above institution on October 24, 1945. It was not possible to notify the relatives at that time, and so the body was buried on October 30, 1945 by the Municipality Burial Service in a common grave of the Vienna Central Cemetery."

The Municipality of Vienna - Municipal Burial Service informed Gerda Nagel's father in July 1946: "According to our investigations [...] the deceased Gertrude Nagel was buried on 30 October 1945 in the aforementioned cemetery in the common grave Group 40, Row 11, No. 203/3. Whether a disinterment is possible from this grave would first have to be determined, [...]."

Neither the institution "Am Steinhof" nor the Vienna Municipal Mortuary found a word of empathy to Gerda Nagel's parents who had already suffered a heavy blow in 1942 when their son Werner Heinrich had died as a soldier on August 15, 1942, at the age of 25.

Translation Beate Meyer

Stand: February 2023
© Ingo Wille

Quellen: StaH 332-5 Standesämter 6143 Geburtsregister Nr. 218/1895 Heini Emil Nagel, 6146 Geburtsregister Nr. 7/1898 Martha Louise Berg, 5752 Heiratsregister Nr. 11/1920 Martha Louise Berg/Heini Emil Nagel; Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, Sonderakte V 146 (Gerda Nagel); Michael Wunder/Ingrid Genkel/Harald Jenner, Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr …. Die Alsterdorfer Anstalten im Nationalsozialismus, Stuttgart 2016, S. 331-371 (Transport nach Wien); Susanne Mende, Die Wiener Heil- und Pflegeanstalt "Am Steinhof" im Nationalsozialismus, Frankfurt/Main 2000.

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