Search for Names, Places and Biographies
Already layed Stumbling Stones
Richard Elkeles * 1906
August-Krogmann-Straße 100 (Versorgungsheim Farmsen) (Wandsbek, Farmsen-Berne)
Richard Elkeles, born 30 Dec. 1906 in Hamburg, imprisoned 1939-1941, died 12 Mar. 1941 in the prison hospital ward
August-Krogmann Straße 100
The bookbinder Richard Elkeles was born in Hamburg to the Jewish wine merchant Rudolf Elkeles and his wife Bertha, née Levi. Both parents died in Hamburg during the Second World War. One brother emigrated to Argentina.
Richard Elkeles spent most of his childhood in various institutions and homes. At the age of 12, his mother sent him to the Dr. Wiese Home in Eisenach, a private institution for difficult children, and then to a boarding school in Wolfenbüttel. Two uncompleted commercial apprenticeships led to "domestic disputes,” for which reason he was committed to the Friedrichsberg State Hospital from 28 February to 6 May 1925. Upon his release, the Youth Authority immediately committed him to the Kattenhof Institution near Kaltenkirchen, which was part of the Rauhes Haus, a social service institution in Hamburg. After a suicide attempt, Elkeles was again sent to the Friedrichsberg State Hospital for two years, from 1926 to 1928. From 1928 to 1933 he was in the Calmenhof Institution in Idstein in the Taunus, where he successfully completed an apprenticeship as a bookbinder.
At the request of his mother, the Hamburg District Court declared him legally incapacitated for reasons of "mental weakness” on 14 July 1934. Since he was unable to perform the compulsory labor at Rickling, Elekeles was sent to a care home in Farmsen in 1935. On the order of the Hamburg Hereditary Health Court, he was forcibly sterilized on 8 January 1936. He was released from the institution in Farmsen on 13 February 1939 because he wanted to emigrate. He moved in with his mother at Dillstraße 19. A nervous breakdown led to another stay at the Freidrichsberg State Hospital from 3 to 11 March 1939. According to the statement of a medical examiner, he was very concerned about issues of race, descent, and sex.
On 6 April 1939, Elkeles turned himself in for "unnatural fornication” (homosexuality). He stated that he had had same-sex relationships since the age of 13, with schoolmates and adult patients at various institutions. "I have turned myself in to cleanse myself of this guilt and so that I can take up work with a clear conscience after serving my sentence.” He was sent to a remand center on 11 April 1939.
In October 1939, the District Attorney’s Office ordered a medical examination. Dr. Rolf Schwarke’s report of 24 October 1939 was devastating. "It is out of the question that Elkeles can care for himself, nor would a legal guardian offer enough stability. The accused will fail repeatedly, both morally and otherwise. Since the prognosis is to be seen as absolutely unfavorable, he poses a lasting danger for the general public, especially in today’s world. His primary characteristic abnormalities make preventive detention urgently necessary. On the whole, it is to be expected that his sexual inclination will increasingly tend toward same-sex and lewd acts, rather than toward the normal sexual behavior to which he is entitled as a Jew. His entire behavior is not determined by any mental disturbance, but is the expression of his character. No mental illness exists. … The patient is an unstable, work-shy, psychopathic personality with a predominant lack of emotion, poor judgement, and a disparagement of ethical norms.”
The fourth criminal division of the Hamburg Regional Court pronounced its ruling on 8 December 1939. Elkeles was sentenced to "three years in prison as a dangerous habitual criminal for fornication with men in seven instances, some repeated.” In addition he was stripped of his civil rights for three years, and "preventive detention” was ordered after his sentence was served. That meant that Elekeles was in danger of being sent to a concentration camp after his prison sentence.
Aus dem Urteil des Landgerichtsrats Hermann Wehlen: "... wie sich aus den Gutachten der beiden Sachverständigen ergibt, [lässt sich] lediglich auf Defekte des Angeklagten schließen, die auf charakterlichem Gebiete liegen. Auf intellektuellem Gebiet sind die Defekte des Angeklagten nicht so groß, daß ihretwegen die Einsichtsfähigkeit des Angeklagten auch nur erheblich vermindert wäre. Der Angeklagte ist ein debiler, af[f]ektarmer und urteilsschwacher Psychopath, der im Leben nichts taugt ...". Damit erreichten die Gutachter und die Richter, dass Elkeles nicht mit einer Strafminderung wegen Unzurechnungsfähigkeit und damit mit der Unterbringung in einer Heil- und Pflegeanstalt rechnen konnte.
According to the statement of Judge Hermann Wehlen: "… as can be deduced from the written statements of both experts, the accused’s defects lay entirely in his character. Intellectual defects of the accused are not severe enough to lessen his capacity of discernment. The accused is a moronic, emotionless psychopath with poor judgement, who is good for nothing …”. With this statement, the experts and judges ensured that no reduction of the sentence due to mental incapability was possible, and that he would not be allowed to serve his sentence in a mental institution.
Five days after the sentence was pronounced, Elkeles’ lawyers appealed the decision, allowing Elkeles to remain in detention at the court prison. On 9 February 1940 the appeal was denied, and Elkeles was transferred to the Fuhlsbüttel prison on 12 March 1940. Exactly one year later, on 12 March 1941, he died, aged 34, in the prison hospital at Holstenglacis 3. The official cause of death was "pulmonary tuberculosis.”
Since Richard Elkeles spent most of his life in institutions, and was sentenced to prison for his homosexual relations to inmates at the Farmsen care home, the Stolperstein in his memory was placed at the former Farmsen care home, today the Handicapped Care Center at August-Krogmann-Straße 100.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Bernhard Rosenkranz(†)/Ulf Bollmann
Quellen: StaH, 242-1II (Gefängnisverwaltung II), Ablieferungen 13 und 16; StaH 213-11 (Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen), 2339/41; StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 1139 (Eintrag Nr. 101).