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Heinrich Brügge
Heinrich Brügge
© Archiv Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf

Heinrich Brügge * 1896

Nedderndorfer Weg 4 (Hamburg-Mitte, Horn)

JG. 1896
TOT 14.5.1944

Heinrich Brügge, born 14 Feb. 1896 in Horneburg, died 14 May 1944 in the Mainkofen Mental Institution, Lower Bavaria

Nedderndorfer Weg 4 (Steinfurtherstraße 4)

On 21 December 1943 Susanne R. wrote to the head of the Mainkofen mental institution: "My ex-husband Johann Heinrich Brügge, born 14 February 1896, was admitted to your institution after the air raid over Hamburg. I request that you notify my ex-husband that both of his daughters, Margarete and Lieselotte, and his parents were killed in the air raid over Hamburg on 27 July 1943. At the time of the air raid they were all in the apartment at Wikingerweg 9. I have notified his brother Willi Brügge, at this time on active duty. Please let me know how my ex-husband is doing and how he reacted to the deaths.” She received the answer that her ex-husband’s condition was unchanged and that there was no noticeable reaction to the news about the deaths of his parents and daughters.

Heinrich Brügge spent the first ten years of his childhood, together with his brother Willi, in Horneburg. His parents, the railroad worker Friedrich Brügge and his wife Margarethe, née Tomfohrde, settled in Hamburg around 1906. Heinrich Brügge continued his schooling at the Stresowstraße primary school in Rothenburgsort, then attended the Peters’ trade school on Lübeckerstraße. After his graduation he was employed as a warehouseman and sales clerk at the G. Stilke bookshop. He changed jobs often before he was called up for military service in early 1915. After several months of training, he was assigned to the Western Front as an infantryman. He was wounded several times, and suffered greatly under the trauma of battle, for which reason he spent several months in 1917-1918 in a "nervous disorders ward.”

After the war he returned to his profession and married Susanne Meins. Their daughters were born in 1919 and 1920. When Heinrich Brügge lost his job in the fall of 1923, he began to develop a "doleful ill humor,” which heightened to suicidal thoughts. He also began to waste away physically. He was admitted to the Eppendorf General Hospital in March 1928 for depression, and was transferred first to the Friedrichsberg State Hospital then, on 18 February 1929, to the Langenhorn Mental Hospital. He showed neither interest nor initiative, was calm, and avoided contact with others. He was diagnosed with "dementia praecox” (premature dementia or precocious madness) and "schizophrenia.” When his condition was considered improved, he was released from Langenhorn into his father’s care. Brügge’s family supported itself from his invalid pension. Three years later he was again treated in the Friedrichsberg State Hospital for a "catatonic stupor.” He remained there for a year, after which he was transferred to the Alsterdorf Asylum on 22 March 1935. He was 39 years old. There he was diagnosed as autistic.

In summer of that year, Susanne Brügge entered a plea for divorce with the Hamburg district court. A curator represented her husband, and the chief physician Gerhard Kreyenberg provided a written assessment of her husband’s condition. He ended his statement with the words: "The illness (schizophrenia) has reached such a degree that an emotional relationship between the husband and wife is no longer sustained and the restoration of marital community is impossible.” The marriage was legally dissolved on 29 January 1936 and her guardianship was abrogated shortly thereafter. In 1936 and 1937 Friedrich Brügge picked his son up from the hospital as often as possible, once even for a five-day vacation. Susanne Brügge remarried.

A second curator was assigned to Heinrich Brügge in 1937 to determine his pension status, and again in January 1939 "in compliance with [his] right to representation in the hearing on the subject of sterilization.” Heinrich Brügge, who answered questions with no more than two mumbled words, objected in writing on the back of the letter from the "Hereditary-Health Court” (Erbgesundheitsgericht) informing him of the appointment of the curator. In clear, fastidious handwriting, he gave some biographical information, then wrote: "I feel perfectly well, and find that sterilization is un-called for.” It cannot be determined whether this information reached the curator or not. In April 1939, Henrich Brügge was forcibly sterilized at Eppendorf General Hospital. At that time he had lived at the Alsterdorf Asylum for four years. He was cooperative, did small jobs in and around the institution, and, after a case of furunculosis early in his stay, was never ill. The Wehrmacht officially discharged the 46-year-old veteran on 7 December 1942.

Six years after one incident of tearing his clothing, contrary to his normally peaceful behavior, Heinrich Brügge had a second similar episode in early 1943. He was put in an observation ward for his own and his fellow patients’ safety. (see note on p. 25).

In the eight years that he was in the Alsterdorf Asylum, Heinrich Brügge lost ten kilograms. It cannot be determined if this was due to deprivation of nourishment or his refusal to eat. When the asylum management took advantage of the situation after Operation Gomorrha, the bombing of Hamburg by Allied forces in 1943, to relieve itself of a large portion of its particularly weak patients and those who were unable to work, it included Heinrich Brügge in its list of patients to transfer. Together with 112 other men, he was moved to the Mainkofen mental institution in Lower Bavaria on 10 August. It was there that the letter from his ex-wife, with the news of the death of his nearest relatives, was read to him in early January 1944. The institution staff evidently did not register the content of the letter, as they sent a letter on 26 April 1944 to his father Friedrich Brügge, addressed to Wikingerweg 9 with the notification: "Your son, Heinrich Brügge, is ill with pulmonary tuberculosis. He is not expected to recover.” The letter was returned as undeliverable. Heinrich Brügge died on 14 May 1944, allegedly of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Stolperstein-Initiative Hamburg-Horn

Quellen: Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, V 433; Jenner, Meldebögen, in: Wunder/Genkel/Jenner, Ebene, S. 169–178; Wunder, Abtransporte, in: ebd., S. 181–188; ders., Exodus, ebd. S. 189–236.

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