University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • Assassination of Children

    Assassination of Children

    The Assassination of Children in Eichberg and Kalmenhof

    Circular notice "concerning the compulsory registration of deformed new-born children"(1939)

    Within the scope of the "euthanasia programme ", introduced by the "decree "dated 1st September 1939, children from the institutions were also killed. Children and especially infants and pre-school children, not living under the care of institutions, were killed in a special action on the basis of the "compulsory registration procedures". The midwives obtained a pay met of blood money for each child reported to be "idiotic "or "deformed".

    The action itself was preceded by the establishment of the "Reichsausschuß zur wissen-schaftlichen Erfassungerb-und anlagebedingter schwerer Leiden "(Reich committee for the scientific registration of serious diseases caused by genetic and hereditary dispositions) as a "medical expert body ".The men represented in this committee were the same men who were responsible for Operation T-4. Until 1945, approximately 5.000 children fell victims to the "euthanasia programme for children".

    Werner Catel (1974)

    werner catelIn his function as head of the university clinic Leipzig, Prof. Dr. Werner Catel (1894-1981) had a share in the planning of the "euthanasia programme for children " and was one of the three experts in the killing operation of children. Even after 1945, he did not want to give up his racist convictions and, until his death, continued to be an advocate for the killing of disabled children. After, his escape from Leipzig in 1946, he became the head of the Mammolshöhe Children's mental home near Kronberg im Taunus in 1947. In 1954, he was appointed to a chair at the university of Kiel.

    Children's Speciality Departments in the Third Reich

    For killing the children, so-called "Children 's Speciality Departments "were established in both hospitals and mental homes. These departments were designed to convey the idea that the children were given excellent care and treatment. The reality, however, was that, after only a short while, the children were killed by medicine.

    Recommendation of the Reich committee, addressed to Mrs. Alwine P, to have her child transferred to the Eichberg Children's Speciality Department, 10th November 1943

    Barrack: Probably building of the Eichberg Children's Speciality Department, 1920's

    On 14th January 1942, Friedrich Mennecke wrote to his wife: "...for Mr. Straub, they are going to establish a new mental hospital near our place, which will mainly deal with child guidance .... and the "waste "of this new "clinic for child guidance "will finally end their treatment with me. Here we are with our future project that I have always expected from the Children 's Speciality Department.'


    Until 1945, at least 430 children were put to death in the "Children 's Speciality Department ", established in April 1941 in Eichberg and lodged in a single-storied house near the mental hospital. The department with an average of 30 children was more taken care of than the rest of the institution, especially with respect to therapeutics. As soon as a child, after a "period of observance "of a few days or weeks, was not considered to "qualify for improvement ", Dr. Schmidt, the head of the department, turned to the T-4-headquarters in Berlin in order to obtain the"authorisation for treatment "which was followed by the assassination of the child. These assassinations also served, among others, the brain anatomy laboratory of the university of Heidelberg.

    Walter Eugen Schmidt (1939)

    walter schmidtDr. Walter Eugen Schmidt (1911-1970). Since 1930, he was a member of the NSDAP In 1941, he was appointed senior physician and head of the Children 's Speciality Department. In 1942, he was also assigned the post as deputy director of the Eichberg mental hospital. Despite the approaching American troops, he was said to continue his plans - according to the statements given in the "Eichberg trial" - to lock in the patients that were still alive and to let them die of starvation.

    In 1946, Schmidt was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1951 this sentence was shortened to seven years, and in 1953, on the background of a campaign for his release, he succeeded in getting out of prison.

    Authorization for treatment by order of the Reich committee for the scientific registration of serious diseases caused by generic and hereditary dispositions, concerning the children Horst Sch. and Bernhard W., 29th January 1945

    pictures of childrenI.43
    Reich committee children in the Eichberg mental hospital, (1941)


    The photos were taken from an album that was given to Dr. Schmidt by the patient and dissection assistant Ballast. The first part of the album contains photos of the living children, the second part shows the brains of the children killed. During the post-war trials, the photos served as evidence against Schmidt and Mennecke.

    "Here's the sunny side - there's the dark side" (1938)
    Nassauer Volksblatt dated 9th March 1938

    From its foundation in 1888 until the year 1933, the Kalmenhof in Idstein/Taunus was known to be a progressive medico-pedagogic institution for so-called "idiotic "children, with its own school and special instruction workshops, run by a private association. In 1933, the institution came under government control, and its director was replaced with a Nazi. In 1941, Kalmenhof was one of the "interim institutions "that the victims passed on their way to Hadamar. The same year, Kalmenhof, too, was added a Children 's Speciality Department which sent to death over 600 children. All children and adolescents that were "still worthy of life ", but no longer obtaining any assistance, had to work for the armed forces since the beginning of the war.

    NassauerVolksblattFor 214 inmates of the Kalmenhof, evidence was brought forward for forced sterilisation. Even before Hitler's decree on "euthanasia ", the cases of death at Kalmenhof considerably increased considerably due to neglect. The description of the "dull eyes of the children "corresponded to the Nazi ideology that suggested life was of no more value for the children.