In 1883 a correctional institute opened in Hadamar. The state hospital emerged from it in 1906. In 1940, in a wing of the main building of the Hadamar Psychiatric Institution, preparations were made for the implementation of the National Socialist euthanasia program, as the last of a total of six euthanasia centers in the German Reich. In addition to furnishing an office and living and recreation room for the new staff, a gas chamber with an adjacent crematorium with two ovens was secretly constructed in the basement of the building. Shortly before Christmas, the specially selected staff for the euthanasia program arrived, including doctors, nurses and nursing staff, as well as three buses from the transport company Gemeinnützige Krankentransportgesellschaft mbH (Gekrat or GeKraT for short), which transported the patients to the place where they would be murdered.
The victims came from separate institutions and were first transported to one of the institutions assigned to Hadamar without notifying their relatives in advance. From there, the victims were summoned by Hadamar to be murdered. After the buses were parked in the still existing garage, the patients were led through a fenced-off path to the building, where they would eventually be killed.
After arrival, each of the patients was first presented separately before a doctor and an administrative assistant. The doctor took a quick look at the naked victim, then selected the most likely from a list of 61 possible causes of death to include on the death notice that was sent to the family. The victims were also weighed and photographed, after which they were taken by two nurses to the approximately 14 m² gas chamber in the basement. This gas chamber, camouflaged as a shower room, could accommodate up to 60 people.
The doctor who just carried out the brief investigation and determined the cause of death of the victim, also operated the gas tap in a side room and observed the dying people through a small opening in the wall. Some preselected victims were then taken to a separate room for their brains to be removed for scientific investigation. The remaining corpses were moved to a room near the crematorium, where any gold teeth were first extracted and then cremated. After the murder, a special official department of Hadamar-Mönchberg sent an obituary to the family with the false cause of death.
According to similar testimonies, the cremation of the 10.000th patient was celebrated in a bizarre way in the summer of 1941. The staff were invited to attend the event over lunch. Towards evening, the guests gathered in the right wing of the building, where everyone was given a bottle of beer before heading to the cellar. There, on a bier decorated with flowers, lay the body of a naked man with a large hydrocephalus. Merkle, a staff member of the institution, had dressed up as a priest for the occasion and delivered a funeral oration. After the corpse was pushed into the incinerator, music was played and a drinking bout broke out, which eventually degenerated into a festive procession around the entire building.
Location of the facility
Patients gassed: ± 10.072
Patients murdered: ± 4.500
In operation from:
13 January 1941 - 1 September 1941
Map of the facility
Mönchberg 8, 65589 Hadamar
Tel +49 6433 917 172
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|Victim's personal data file|
June 19, 1892
Died: May 9, 1941
Came from: Amsterdam
Execution reason: Recurring epileptic seizures
Paula's letter to her daughter
Paula, her husband and their daughter Margot (1929)
Elisabeth Paula Lüters was born on June 19, 1892 in Amsterdam. She had a normal childhood and adolescence with no difficulties at school. At the age of 23 she learned to type with a typewriter and worked in the office of a plumbing company. In 1917 she went to Gent to work as a nurse, where she suffered a nervous breakdown, combined with seizures as a result of overexertion caused by the a trauma caused by the mayhem of air raids. In 1933 she was certified that she suffered "shell shock" during the war because of this handicap, she was entitled to a pension. She married in 1920, moved to Hildesheim and gave birth to a healthy girl on June 9, 1925.
Paula suffered from epileptic seizures and was treated in an institution in the 1930's. In 1938 an application for sterilization due to "hereditary epilepsy" was made by the prison management, which the court refused on the grounds that Paula was no longer of childbearing potential. In March 1938 she was admitted to the Hildesheim State Sanatorium and nursing home. While she was being treated, her husband applied for divorce. Afterwards Paula was in permanent institutional treatment and her condition did not seem to be improving. The State sanatorium and nursing home Hildesheim stated: "Nowadays it is forbidden to all to enter into such a marriage. Just for genetic reasons, in order to avoid genetically ill offspring." Her daughter describes her mother from memory as follows:
“She was sick, but intelligent, sensitive, with a pronounced sense of justice and good logic! I can remember scraps of conversation she had with half-Jews and her reaction when the pension office tried to withdraw her war pension because her suffering was hereditary. Her outrage was justified! Today there are three great grandchildren, all of whom are very healthy, without any mental issues that so ever".
Margot saw her mother for the last time at Easter 1941. Paula said that they were planning to “move to the Rhineland” and that their wedding rings had already been removed. Paula said to her daughter: "Margof, bad things happen here, I can't tell you, you are still too young. "But tell the father to get me out of here immediately. I will work till the blood comes out of my fingernails, but get met out of here! " When she parted, she said: "Will I see you again?" At the end of May 1941 the family received a death notice and the death certificate from Hadamar. Paula supposedly died of "gallbladder empyema and peritonitis" on May 20, 1941.
But in fact she was murdered in Hadamar's gaschamber because of her "illness". Excerpt from a letter from Paula Bottländer to her daughter Margot on January 4, 1940: "My dear Margot! It's Sunday again and I use the time to write to my girl. It's my only relaxation, believe me, because my thoughts are always with you. Thank you for the lovely card, it's always a happy day when I receive a sign of life from you. Just as I was once again bothered so badly by homesickness, the card came and helped me get over it. How much joy your visit brought me. Once again I thank you for all the best, they were all unknown pleasures and I felt like a king. But the best of all was: my child came to see me. Can you guess what that means for a mother? I always had to think about whether you would dress up nice and warm in the cold, because it is still a bit worse there in the country.
Today it is already thawing a lot and on the one hand I am happy about it, because the coal supply made it difficult also very noticeable here and you don't get to see anything of the wonderful nature. When will I see a forest again? How beautiful must Braunlage be now, right? Soon there will be snowdrops again, later violets and it's slowly going to spring. I can only remind myself of all of this. What do you want to start now? Do not think, my child, that you always have to bring something with you, come on without anything, the main thing for me is my child. I immediately have your picture in front of me and I am writing to you. This is how I celebrate my Sunday. It's getting dark again, soon there will be dinner and at 8 o'clock punctually we will go to bed. But I don't want to give up hope completely, if fate wants it, another time will come for me too. My health is very good, which I hope from you too. If you ever come back, please think of the book in the dull red cover by Coue, which Frau ... sent me from Leipzig and what I always had on the kitchen cupboard.
Please bring it to me, I've already asked for it a few times. Now I have to close for today. I'm already looking forward to your letter, I hope it will be quite long, my little one, and think hard so that you don't make any mistakes. For today, let your mother hug you and kiss you warmly. Write to me about everything you got for Christmas, you didn't tell me at all. Also bring my brown bag please, do you think about it, my child? "
From 1941 onwards, people with disabilities and mental disorders from the institutions of the Prussian provinces of Hesse-Nassau, Westphalia, Hanover and the Rhine Province and the states of Hesse, Baden and Württemberg were brought to Hadamar via intermediate institutions in large gray buses.
According to an internal T4 statistic between 13 January 1941 and 1 September 1941, 10.072 people were gassed in Hadamar or, according to the language of their killers, disinfected.
According to updated lists of the Gedenkstätte Hadamar (2010), the number of victims in the first operational phase of the euthanasia center was 10.122 patients. Although the operations were top secret, the smoke from the crematorium, the stench of burnt meat, along with trickling reports from the staff, must at least have led the population of Hadamar to suspect that there was systematic murder on Mönchberg.
Partly thanks to fierce protests from the Roman Catholic Church, the first phase of Aktion T4 was closed on August 24, 1941 by order of Hitler. The bishop of Limburg, Antonius Hilfrich, in whose diocese Hadamar was located, had also sent a letter of protest to the Minister of Justice. In this first phase of so-called adult euthanasia, a total of more than 70,000 patients in the various centers were killed by gassing.
After Berlin decided in the summer of 1942 to stop euthanasia under Aktion T4, the gas chamber in Hadamar was closed and the rooms in the main building restored to their original condition. However, the murders of handicapped and mentally ill continued as early as August 1942. Herbert Linden, one of the organizers of Aktion T4, set out to free up another 60% of the available psychiatric beds for bomb victims and wounded soldiers. This became the task that ushered in the second phase of the euthanasia program.
As part of the "second phase of the murder", the former Hadamar State Hospital again took on the function of a killing facility. From 13 August 1942 to 26 March 1945, 4.817 other victims died. Anyone who did not succumb to the targeted starvation diet or the withheld medical care quickly enough was killed by overdosed medication. In the morning, the doctor, head nurse and head nurse decided which patients should die. The night shift then administered the deadly drugs to the selected victims. Their bodies were buried in mass graves in the specially created prison cemetery. The patients were brought to Hadamar in large transports from all over the Reich. These included Forced laborers from the former Soviet Union and Poland as well as children with one Jewish parent were also found. Until the occupation of the American troops on 26 March 1945, the systematic killings in Hadamar continued.
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In 1953 a relief was added to the then main building (House number 5). In the cemetery, where many victims were buried in mass graves, a monument was placed in 1964 with the text Mensch, Achte den Menschen. Today, the memorial center Gedenkstätte Hadamar commemorates the victims of the euthanasia program. The center informs about the events, but also thematizes current issues.
The memorial center consists of a permanent exhibition, the still authentic cellars with the former gas chamber, the crematorium with the re-exposed furnace, the former garage where the buses with the new victims were parked and the cemetery.