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Lieselotte Ahrens
© Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf

Lieselotte Ahrens * 1929

Steilshooper Straße 216 (gegenüber Nr. 215) (Hamburg-Nord, Barmbek-Nord)

JG. 1929
"VERLEGT" 16.8.1943
ERMORDET 7.11.1944

Lieselotte Ahrens, born on 12 Mar. 1929 in Hamburg, deported on 16 Aug. 1943 from the then Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten) to Vienna, died on 7 Nov. 1944 in Vienna

Steilshooper Strasse 216 (Barmbek Nord)

Lieselotte Ahrens was the daughter of the worker and later guard Georg Ahrens, born 1894 in Hummelsbüttel, and Marie Ahrens, née Zapf (1902–1939). The parents belonged to the Protestant-Lutheran Church. They had married in Hummelsbüttel in 1921 and had seven other children besides Lieselotte. Georg Ahrens first appeared in the Hamburg directory in 1937 with the residential address at Steilshooper Strasse 216e, on the ground floor, and the profession of "guard.” The apartment block, like the neighboring buildings, belonged to the "Aktiengesellschaft für gemeinnützigen Kleinwohnungsbau”, a joint stock company dedicated to building non-profit small apartments (at Ferdinandstrasse 75).

Due to her mental disability, Lieselotte Ahrens stopped attending school in 1935. In her parents’ home at Steilshooper Strasse 216 (Barmbek-Nord), she liked to play with dolls and beads, was peaceful, but never spoke, according to her father. About some of her siblings, Lieselotte’s medical file noted in 1943, "One sister attends special school, another sister and a brother had to repeat a year (in school) several times." In 1939, Marie Ahrens’ mother died of liver cancer at the age of 37.

On 13 Aug. 1941, the independent medical examiner of the Social Administration (District office 6a, at Hufnerstrasse 19a) and another "senior medical consultant” wrote an expert report on Lieselotte, in which they noted "congenital (...), speech disorder, no school attendance possible, provisionally for one year.” In Oct. 1941, the Hamburg Welfare Administration (Landesfürsorgeamt, special office) sent a medical admission certificate to the administration of the then Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten) (today the Protestant Alsterdorf Foundation), and on 31 Oct. 1941, 12-year-old Lieselotte was taken to the Alsterdorf Asylum by family members. After the father remarried in Hamburg in 1942 and his second wife was able to take care of Lieselotte, the family brought her home again in June 1942.

When the senior medical consultant of the Social Administration examined Lieselotte on 22 Mar. 1943, he gained a much more negative picture of her condition. At the time, he described her as mentally retarded: "Idiocy and microcephaly. Can no longer be tolerated in the circle of siblings. Was already in the local Asylum from 31 Oct. 1941–26 June 1942. Time limit two years.” Thereupon she was again admitted to the Alsterdorf Asylum on 17 Apr. 1943.

Four months later, after the air raids on the Hanseatic city, Lieselotte Ahrens was transferred from the Alsterdorf Asylum to Vienna. Together with her, 227 other women and girls with mental disabilities from the Alsterdorf Asylum were transported by a special train to the Vienna Municipal Wagner von Jauregg-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt, a "sanatorium and nursing home” (State Sanatorium [Landesheilanstalt] "Am Steinhof”) – officially to clear beds for bombed-out persons and war victims in Alsterdorf. The transfer to Vienna was carried out by "charitable ambulance organization” (Gemeinnützige Krankentransport GmbH – "GekraT”) from Berlin W 9 (Potsdamer Platz 1), a sub-organization of the central office at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin. From there, in a first phase of the patient murders, the systematic killing of 70,000 people with disabilities was organized in six "euthanasia” killing centers.

The institution in Vienna was already heavily overcrowded before the arrival of the transport from Hamburg, and several physicians and nurses who had been called up for military service were also missing, which resulted in neglect of the patients. There was also a shortage of medications, food, and heating materials amidst the war economy, and mortality rose accordingly. During National Socialism, the institution was assigned tasks in the context of euthanasia measures. Even after the alleged end of the patient murders in Aug. 1941, the euthanasia killings continued in Vienna. By raising the age limit for children who were to be killed in "euthanasia” from three to 16 years, the nursing staff and the medical profession were given considerably more people to carry out fatal experiments and euthanasia murders. False statements then covered up the killing through medication or poor nutrition.

In the Vienna institution, which had been run by physician Hans Bertha since Jan. 1944, Lieselotte Ahrens was in the "nursing ward” pavilion until Mar. 1944, and in November, the doctors moved her from Pavilion 24 to Pavilion 19 (infectious disease ward). Five days later, according to the official note in her medical file, the 15-year-old died of "bronchopneumonia” – a total of 118 people died in the Vienna institution that month.

Chief physician/pathologist Barbara Uiberrak, who had been working at the Vienna-Steinhof "sanatorium and nursing home” since 1938, performed a section of the corpse the following day, examining the brain in particular, but also the lungs, heart, liver, spleen, and kidneys. In the autopsy findings of prosector Uiberrak, the Viennese historian Peter Schwarz found, contrary to general custom, "never a description of the (poor) external condition of a corpse.” Whether organs were removed for pseudo-scientific purposes is not noted in the short sectional protocol on Lieselotte Ahrens.

According to the letter to her parents, Lieselotte Ahrens was apparently buried in the Vienna Central Cemetery.

Since 1943, the brains of about half of all dissected corpses had been removed for histological examinations and some of them were kept in the anatomical collection of brains. Until 2002, the Viennese institute kept in store 700 brains removed during dissections.

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: December 2020
© Björn Eggert

Quellen: Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StaH), 332-5 (Standesämter), 3866 u. 42/1894 (Geburtsregister 1894, Georg Ahrens); Archiv Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Sonderakte 393 (Lieselotte Ahrens); Adressbuch Hamburg (Georg Ahrens) 1937; Herbert Diercks, "Euthanasie". Die Morde an Menschen mit Behinderungen und psychischen Erkrankungen in Hamburg im Nationalsozialismus, Hamburg 2014, S. 33 (Alsterdorfer Anstalten); Harald Jenner/ Michael Wunder, Hamburger Gedenkbuch Euthanasie. Die Toten 1939-1945, Hamburg 2017, S. 67 (Lieselotte Ahrens); Armin Trus, Die "Reinigung des Volkskörpers". Eugenik und "Euthanasie" im Nationalsozialismus, Berlin 2019, S. 150/151 (Karte mit Orten der NS-Euthanasie); 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); (Wiener Psychatrie und NS-Verbrechen, 7.10.2019 eingesehen); arbeitsschwerpunkte/ medizin-und-biopolitik (Vortrag von Peter Schwarz, Mord durch Hunger. "Wilde Euthanasie" und "Aktion Brandt" am Steinhof in der NS-Zeit, Wien 2000).

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