Memorial stone and Stolperschwelle for ‘euthanasia’ victims at the Alsterdorf Institution
The former Alsterdorf Institution (Alsterdorfer Anstalten) actively participated in the National Socialists’ ‘hereditary and racial welfare’ programme during the ‘Third Reich’. Even before 1933, the institution had started surveying the ‘hereditary biology’ of its residents and their families and recording this information in a ‘hereditary health’ card file. Immediately after the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring was enacted on 14 July 1933, hundreds of the institution’s residents were reported to the authorities for sterilisation.
The directors of the institution were also involved in the increasingly aggressive propaganda against frail, sick and disabled people, as well as the pervasive institutionalisation of people considered ‘aberrant’ or ‘unuseful’, who were placed in asylums and institutions for reasons of ‘racial hygiene’.
In August 1937, the Jewish residents of the Alsterdorf Institution began to be systematically removed from the facility. When patient registration forms arrived from the ‘euthanasia’ headquarters in Berlin in July 1940, the Alsterdorf Institution knew exactly why this information was being collected. Nonetheless, the staff filled out 465 forms and returned them, along with a memo asserting that the institution was providing the data solely for the officially stated ‘economic purposes’ and was not responsible for any ‘other use’ of the information.
In July 1941, 70 residents of the Alsterdorf Institution were selected by the ‘euthanasia’ headquarters in Berlin on the basis of these forms. They were taken on the ‘grey buses’ via the Langenhorn Sanatorium and Nursing Home to the Tiegenhof (Dziekanka) facility near Gniezno. In the following months, 69 of them were killed through starvation or with drugs.
Following the heavy bombing of Hamburg in August 1943, more residents were transported from the Alsterdorf Institution, this time on the initiative of the institution’s own administrators. Physicians at the institution chose the ‘weakest of the weak’ - 469 children, women and men – to be deported to killing facilities.
Commemorating the ‘euthanasia’ victims
The first edition of the book Auf dieser schiefen Ebene gibt es kein Halten mehr (‘There can be no stopping once one starts down this slope’), which covers the history of the Alsterdorf Institution under the Nazis, was published in 1987. In 1993, on the 50th anniversary of a ‘euthanasia’ transport that took more than 200 girls and women to the Steinhof psychiatric hospital in Vienna, the road leading to the Alsterdorf Evangelical Foundation was renamed after Dorothea Kasten in remembrance of one of victims of this transport.