University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • Children and Adolescents

    Children and Adolescents

    Children and Adolescents in special schools and welfare homes

    Institution for the deaf In Homberg, after 1912

    In the eyes of the Nazis, the deaf were of "minor value". The assumption that deafness was a "hereditary disease" lead to forced sterilization. The expenses for the development of deaf children and adolescents were reduced to a minimum or cancelled in total. The institution for the deaf in Homberg/Efze was founded as a family boarding school in the year 1835, taken over by Electoral Hesse and, in 1874, by the district municipal agency of Kassel. By 1933,88 deaf pupils were taught in the institution by 16 teachers. Almost half of the children and adolescents were reported to the authorities by the director of the institution, a convinced Nazi, and taken to sterilization.

    In 1937, the institution for the deaf was closed and transformed into an educational home for girls.

    Male and female pupils of the institution for the deaf in Camberg, 1917

    The institution founded in 1820 was one of the first institutions in Germany offering lessons for deaf children and children with auditory defects. In 1937, both the school and the boarding school were replaced by a school for home and rural economics for girls from the Kalmenhof guidance institution in Idstein. During the war the premises were transformed into military hospitals. Together with the pupils from Homberg, the children were taught in the Frankfurt institution for, the deal until 1939.

    Institution for the deaf Frankfurt am Main, no date

    On 1st September 1939, the buildings of the Frankfurt institution for the deaf in which, since 1937, all deaf children and adolescents of the province Hesse-Nassau were given lessons, were transmitted immediately to the Wehrmacht as military hospital. The school service was shut down, the children were sent home and most of the teachers were sent to Wiesbaden to do office work. The objection of the responsible teaching staff of the province resulted "in the re-introduction of lessons for the deaf in two Frankfurt primary schools in January 1940. In 1943, while the deaf pupils. were evacuated to Camberg and its surroundings. The Camberg institution was reopened on I1st December 1945, while the Homberg institution not before 1st July 1946.

    Escapes and death of the child Hermann Sch. brought up under public welfare, from the Idstein observation center, 31st October 1944 until 17th January 1945

    Idstein observation centre, 1929

    The observation centers were interim homes for the guidance institutions. During an observation period, the direction of the institution was asked to check where the child should go to next. The institution was to decide whether the child should be sent to continue education within a family or a guidance institution. In 1913, the Idstein observation center was opened for 26 children brought up under the public welfare system. In 1928, the center cared for between had I 10 to 120 children. The observation center had close ties With the Kalmenhof where during the Nazi period many children were sent to for public welfare guidance. Many of them died there in the hospital after having attempted to escape or because of inadequate behavior:

    Personnel and children brought up under the welfare system of Karlshof in Wabern raising their arms to "Neil Hitler" on occasion of the visit of Landeshauptmann Rabe von Pappenheim, before 1936

    The Nazis made a clear distinction between "jugend-hilfe" (youth related assistance) and "jugendfürsorge" (youth related welfare work). The first - predominantly organized by the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (NSV) - was directed to help young people not yet full of age, principally "valuable", "endangered";'lead astray" or "socially weak"; the latter - predominantly organized by the state - dealt with young people "in no way or no longer able to qualify for discipline". The special task of the "Jugendfürsorge" was to protect the "healthy" youth from the "youth of minor value" and to release funds for the "Jugendhilfe". In 1934, the Nazi educational theorist Ernst Kriegk (professor for philosophy and education in Heidelberg) defined his educational goal as follows: "building of a character predetermined by the whole and consisting of the following traits: - obedience self-command - military carriage - truthfulness - faithfulness - simplicity - readiness to take over responsibility - ability to learn." (Quotation according to Kuhlmann, p. 106)

    The welfare guidance institution Karlshof in Wabern, founded in 1886, looked after young males. Under the Nazis, their daily life was first of all determined by work and military drill. Many of them were affected by forced sterilisation, and while some became "euthanasia" victims, one of whom was 20 year-old Wilhelm W, who died in June 1943 in Hadamar from a so-called "enteritis".

    IV 13
    Karlshof adolescents on an Edersee excursion, 1929

    IV 14
    Letter of the Breitenau welfare foster child Lieselotte S. to her mother, 14th January 1940

    Lieselotte letter"This is now the sixth Christmas without joy for me and far from you beloved ones.

    During all those years my life was cloudy..:' Lieselotte S. had been "transferred" to the Breitenau guidance institution (near Guxhagen),"because" - as the official reason stated - "she didn't show any readiness to accept guidance in the Homberg home and because she felt strongly inferior and showed an instinctive behavior considered as a risk for other girls..:" The girl, born in 1921 in Kassel, had come under welfare guidance, because she was "disorderly, dishonest and lazy in school, showed only an interest in ... male adolescents and, consequently, was a risk for them." The mother, too, was said to have a disreputable conduct of life.

    Between 1933 and 1940,"sexual negligence" was one of the reasons for admission in an institution applied to girls only and this increased from 44% to 62%. The behavior of these girls was in contrast with the Nazi ideal of a "chaste housewife and mother".

    The prison-like life in the welfare guidance department of the Breitenau workhouse had a more authoritarian character of institutionalized welfare guidance."Guidance" was characterized by 12 hours work in agriculture and industry and by hard summary punishments. Permanent hunger and life conditions causing sickness even led to death here and there. The authorities could keep the young people as long as they wanted to. Like the letter from Lieselotte S., numerous letters of children and adolescents brought up in welfare institutions still exist because of the strict postal censorship. The smallest trace of criticism made the censors detain the letters they were only allowed to send once a month.

    Breitenau adolescent Fritz F brought up in a welfare institution (1940)

    16-year-old Fritz had been arrested because of several cases of larceny, willful destruction and arson. The medical opinion of the Stadtroda mental hospitals in Thuringia came to the conclusion that expenses for educational measures did not pay and recommended to have the adolescent transferred into a prison or camp (since 1937, Nazi law allowed transfer into a concentration camp). The senior prosecuting attorney with the Erfurt district court condemned him as "morally inferior, completely asocial and highly neglected". Both sides argued that the responsibility was with the mother who lived "in concubinage". The reality of detention camps for adults was directly perceptible for the adolescents brought up in the Breitenau welfare institution. Since 1940 people under forced labor were admitted to the workhouse and Jewish and other people were "collected" for being transported to a concentration camp. Later, another adolescent brought up in a welfare institution, described the situation as follows: "When I arrived at Breitenau, the yard was divided in longitudinal direction by rollers of barbed wire ... I don't know anything about people that died there or got killed. But I recall the daily cries coming out of the church, when people got beaten there..:"

    Entrance of the provincial workshop in Moringen, no date

    In August 1940 the "jugendschutzlager" (camp for the protection of young people) Moringen near Göttingen was established on the land of the workshop, for male adolescents aged between 16 and 21 years; in summer 1942 the "Jugendschutzlager Uckermark (in close connection with the concentration camp Ravensbrück) was established for girls accordingly. Under the control of the Reich criminal investigation department, the camps were designed to serve the "police's preventive struggle against youth delinquency". The biggest share of the young inmates of concentration camps derived from welfare institutions (in Hesse especially by transiting Breitenau). Other adolescents had been arrested "for reasons of prevention" directly in their home town because of their way of life which did not correspond to Nazi ideals, among them the swing and jazz enthusiasts. After a "bio-criminal" investigation in the camp, the young people were immediately put into blocks that distinguished different groups ranging from the "unfit" to those "capable of being educated". The boys and girls admitted for an unspecified period had to work very hard. "Misconduct", resulted in the punishments that went from mail withdrawal to cudgeling or even single arrest for several weeks. Those "incapable of being educated" were transferred to concentration camps or mental hospitals as soon as they were full of age.