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Heinz Cleemann, Oktober 1942
© Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf

Heinz Cleemann * 1935

Jägerstraße 22 (Harburg, Wilstorf)

JG. 1935
1943 "VERLEGT"
TOT 18.6.1945

Heinz Cleemann, born 1 June 1935 in Hamburg, committed to the Alsterdorf Institution, transferred to the Mainkofen Mental Institution, died there 18 June 1945

Wilstorf, Jägerstraße 22

Heinz Cleemann was the second child of Walter Cleemann, a cook (*20 Jan. 1904 in Lübeck) and his wife Ottilie, née Küllmann (*11 Jan. 1906 in Hamburg). His brother Werner was two years older. Another brother died in October 1939 at the age of two months. His sister Gisela was born on 10 Oct. 1940.

Werner Cleemann and his brother Heinz were both physically handicapped and intellectually disabled. According to a report written by a public health official, both suffered from "imbecility” with "progressive muscular dystrophy.” Their speaking ability and comprehension were limited. In addition, both children were considered difficult, stubborn and disobedient, whereby Heinz apparently caused his mother more difficulties than his brother. Neither of them were ready for school by the age of six, so that they were both held back several times.

On 16 July 1942, Ottilie Cleeman applied to have both boys put into the care of the state, as she was planning to divorce her abusive husband, and wanted to take her daughter Gisela but not the boys with her. For understandable reasons, they could, however, not remain with the father. The application was approved by the city’s youth welfare agency. Werner and Heinz Cleemann were admitted to the Alsterdorf Institution on 20 July 1942.

The chief physician at Alsterdorf confirmed the diagnosis of the public health official. A report from Alsterdorf written three months later for the Hamburg Youth Welfare Agency reads: "Both [brothers are] severely physically handicapped as a result of their muscular dystrophy. They must be washed and dressed and cannot sit up from a lying position without assistance. Werner is very impertinent, insolent, and rude to his fellow patients and has frequent arguments with them. If he knows he is being observed, he pretends that he cannot count to three. He can control his bladder and bowels both during the day and night, while Heinz regularly wets his bed and often soils it as well. … He is considerably more peaceful with his fellow patients than his brother is. It is imperative that they remain institutionalized.”

Nothing in the hospital records suggests an "improvement” over the next months. Indeed, the opposite was the case. On 19 June 1943, the chief physician at the Alsterdorf Institution, Dr. Kreyenberg, informed the Social Services Department: "It can now be said of both boys that their movements are becoming more sluggish and clumsy, a sign of the progression of the disease. It can be assumed that both will eventually be in need of full-time care, which the mother will not be able to provide in her home.”

Werner and Heinz Cleemann were among the 469 patients at the Alsterdorf Institution who, at the initiative of Pastor Friedrich Lensch, the Director of the Institution, and in cooperation with the Hamburg Office of Public Health, were transferred to institutions outside of Hamburg in August 1943.

On 10 August 1943, they and 111 other Alsterdorf patients were transferred to the Mainkofen Mental Institution near Passau. As was the case for similar mental institutions, the death rate in Mainkofen for these years was noticeably high. Of the 113 Alsterdorf patients, only 39 were still alive at the end of 1945. Hunger and exhaustion contributed to this tragic balance. The "starvation edict” issued by the Bavarian Ministry of Internal Affairs on 15 December 1942 makes it obvious that this consequence was a political decision. It stipulated that "effective immediately, those inmates at mental institutions who are able to perform useful labor or who are undergoing therapeutic treatment are to be given better nourishment, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to the detriment of all other inmates.” This was, in effect, an order for the death by starvation of those who were unable to work or whose condition would not improve with treatment.

It was only in December 1945, seven months after the Allied victory, when Ottilie Cleemann inquired with the Mainkofen Institution about her sons, that she learned the sad truth, "that her son Heinz Cleemann had died on 18 June 1945 of pulmonary tuberculosis.” The Institution claimed that because of the complete ban on travel, it had not been possible for the administration to notify the family immediately, as was otherwise the usual practice. Heinz Cleemann was ten years old when he died.
His elder brother Werner was among those who survived and was returned to the Alsterdorf Institution in Hamburg on 19 December 1946.

Translator(s): Amy Lee

Translation kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg

© Klaus Möller

Quellen: Archiv der Evangelischen Stiftung Alsterdorf, Krankenakte Heinz Cleemanns (V429); Wunder u. a., Kein Halten.

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