Grafeneck Euthanasia Centre
The Grafeneck Euthanasia Centre (German: NS-Tötungsanstalt Grafeneck) housed in Grafeneck Castle was one of Nazi Germany's killing centres as part of their forced euthanasia programme. Today, it is a memorial site dedicated to the victims of the state-authorised programme also referred to since as Action T4. At least 10,500 mentally and physically disabled people, predominantly from Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, were systematically killed during 1940. It was one of the first places in Nazi Germany where people were killed in large numbers in a gas chamber using carbon monoxide. This was actually the beginning of the Euthanasia Programme. Here was also settled the central office of "Charitable Ambulance Transport GmbH" (Gekrat), which was responsible for the transport of T4 and was headed by Reinhold Vorberg.
Built around 1560, the Grafeneck Castle served as a hunting lodge for the Dukes of Württemberg. In the 19th Century, it was used by the Forest Service and in 1928 the Samaritan Foundation acquired it, setting up a handicapped home. In 1929, the charitable non-profit organisation Samariterstiftung established an asylum for disabled people. On 13. October 1939 Richard Alber, from 1938 to 1944 Landrat of district Münsingen, , said that Schloss Grafeneck had to be cleared the next day. Four buses brought around 100 disabled men and few women from Grafeneck (together with 12 employees) to the monastery St. Elizabeth in Reute. All patients who were accommodated there survived Aktion T 4.
Modification of the building
From October 1939 till January 1940 former samaritanian pin was built to a killing area. In the castle living and administration rooms were installed, also a registry office and a police office. On the castle grounds were built wooden hut with about 100 beds, a parking space for the gray buses, a crematory oven and a gasification shed. Moreover staff was recruited from Stuttgart and Berlin: doctors, police officers, clerks, maintenance and transport personnel, economic and domestic staff and guards and funeral torch. Between October and December 1939, only 10 to 20 people were in the castle , there were already about 100 men and women during the year 1940. The systematic murder under the T4 action started on 18 January 1940 in Grafeneck in a gas chamver camouflaged as a shower room, which was in a "garage": The prison doctor had flow by operating a provided with a manometer valve carbon monoxide into the gasification chamber. The steel cylinders required was supplied by Mannesmann, the filling was made by IG Farben in Ludwigshafen (BASF). The first murdered patients were from the mental hospital Eglfing-Haar. The victims came from 48 institutions for handicapped and mentally ill: 40 from almost all districts of Baden-Württemberg, six from Bavaria and one each from Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia.
On 13 December 1940 the last victims were killed. Killings with gas were performed between January and December 1940. Afterwards, it was used to house children and mothers with babies who had fled from Allied bombing. Grafeneck Castle served as a killing center - the Nazi Euthanasieaktion (later Action T4) killed 10,654 disabled and sick people through lethal injections and gas. They were transported mainly from southern Germany and burned on site in a crematorium. The French occupying forces returned the site in 1946/47 to the Samaritan Foundation or Samariterstiftung, who re-established it as a centre for disabled and mentally ill people which still operates to this day. In the fifties, the development of the cemetery began as a memorial. In 2005, the documentation center Grafeneck Memorial was finally built.
Documentation center Grafeneck The Grafeneck process presented in the summer of 1949, a total of 10,654 victims laid.
The people who worked here overtook partially important jobs in the Nazi concentration camps.
- Ludwig Sprauer, (1884-1962), highest Medical Officer of Baden, responsible for implementaation of „Euthanasie“-Programm in Baden.
- Otto Mauthe, (1892-1974), highest Medical Officer of Württemberg, responsible for "Euthanasie"-Administration in Württemberg.
- Eugen Stähle, (1890-1948), Medical Officer in the Württemberg ministry of interior.
The T4-organisators Viktor Brack and Karl Brandt arranged, that the killing of ill people was to be made only by medical staff, because of a letter from Adolf Hitler (1. September). The service of the gas tap was the task of the doctors. However it could happen when the doctors were not present or for other reasons the gas tap was operated by not medical staff. All doctors from Grafeneck used for correspondence code names.
In Grafeneck worked as killing doctors:
- Head, "medical director": Horst Schumann ("Dr. Klein"): January, 1940 to the end of May / beginning of June 1940 later Sonnenstein Euthanasia Centre and camp doctor in Auschwitz-Birkenau
- Deputy: Ernst Tree Hard ("Dr. Hunter"): from January 1940 to April 1940, from then senior doctor to December 1940 January to June 1941 in the same position in the killing institution Hadamar.
- Deputy: Günther Hennecke 25 April 1940 to December 1940; then held the same position in the killing institution Hadamar ("Dr. Fleck").
Management and other personnel
- "Office manager": Christian Wirth, the most important non-medical director of the killing center, responsible for the security, the Special Registry Office Grafeneck, were forged in the official death certificates, the staff and supervision of the murder operation itself.
- Deputy "office manager": Gerhard Kurt Simon ("Dr. Ott", "wedge"); Drawing as a "registrar" ("anger")
- First director of the Special Registry Office Grafeneck: Jakob Wöger, from December 1939 to June 1940 ("Haase")
Deputy Head of the Special Registry Office: Hermann Holzschuh, according Wögers leaving his successor ("Lemm")
- "Burner": Josef Oberhauser, responsible for the burning of the bodies in the specially installed cremators.
- "Transport manager": Hermann Schwenninger, headed the transport squadron of "Gekrat", that brought the victims to Grafeneck
- Henry Friedlander: Der Weg zum NS-Genozid. Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-8270-0265-6, S. 314.
- grafeneck.finalnet.de: Endstation Grafeneck. Euthanasie auf der Schwäbischen Alb zur NS-Zeit.
- badische-zeitung.de: Beginn des organisierten Massenmords Badische Zeitung, 17. Januar 2015
- Die Täter von Grafeneck - Seite des Landesarchivs BW, Mannheim
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