Am Spiegelgrund clinic-the killing of Children

am-spiegelgrund-children-in-cribs

The most vulnerable in society are children and even more vulnerable the children with a disability. They deserve love and care more then anyone else.

However the Nazi regime had a different philosophy. To them these poor souls were the impure and undesirable and there was no space for them in the Third Reich.

Am Spiegelgrund was the name of a children’s clinic in Vienna where hundreds of children were killed under the Nazi Regime Children’s Euthanasia Program.

 

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 “Am Spiegelgrund” in Vienna, a psychiatric hospital noted for its“special children’s ward” opened in July 1940 and served as one of the largest children’s killing centers until May 1945. Close to 800 children were murdered by doctors and nurses.

The clinic’s medical directors were Prof. Dr. Erwin Jekelius (until early 1942) and Dr. Ernst Illing (since 1942), and responsible for the “special children’s ward” were Dr. Heinrich Gross,  a psychiatrist and neurologist, Dr. Margarethe Hübsch, and Dr. Marianne Türk.

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Dr. Gross conducted painful experiments on thousands of living children before they were murdered. Pneumatic encephalography, a dangerous and painful procedure was routinely performed on children at Spiegelgrund; the ventricles of their brain were filled with air so as to be visible on X-ray. The X-rays prepared the ground for further research after the children either died during the procedure or they were murdered afterward.

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At lease half of the 800 children  killed at Spiegelgrund were from Gross’ ward.

In 1948, Gross was charged with murder. But the penal code he was prosecuted under did not define murder to include disabled people because they were “not capable of reasoning.” He was found guilty only of manslaughter, and when Gross appealed and won, the prosecutor chose not to retry him.

Dr. Illing was sentenced to death and executed in 1946. Dr. Jekelius died in 1952 in a Soviet prison. Dr. Margarethe Hübsch was acquitted, and Dr. Marianne Türk sentenced to 10 years (she served two).

Dr. Gross returned to Spiegelgrund (which had been renamed) and for 50 years continued to use brain specimens from the children who had been killed there for his research into mental defects, winning national acclaim as an expert.

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He published 35 papers, some written with University of Vienna faculty, and also testified as a psychiatric expert in thousands of cases in the Austrian court. One child who survived said the children called Gross “the Scythe”; another remembered that his arrival on the ward “was like a cold wind coming.”

Evidence against Gross surfaced in the files of the Stasi, the East German secret police. He was tried three times: in the 1950s the case was dismissed for technicalities; in 1980s it was dismissed because of a statute of limitations on manslaughter had expired. In 1975, he was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art.

In 1999, he was again indicted for murder, but his lawyers claimed he had Alzheimer’s and could not understand the proceedings against him. The court accepted this defense.After the court proceedings he smiled and went off to a coffee shop with his friends and family to celebrate.

Below are pictures of some of the victims.

Adolf 3 years                                                            Angela 2 years

adolf              angela

Irma 1 year                                                          Engelbert 13 years

irma          engelbert

After the war, the remains of over 800 children were discovered in the hospital and were buried in a secret memorial service. They were officially put to rest in 2002 and Gross had his Honorary Cross for Science and Art (awarded in 1975) stripped in 2003.

Detailed coverage of the burial ceremony, as well as full background are told in the 2004 film Gray Matter.

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What is even more disturbing another physician who wasn’t directly connected to the Clinic but endorsed it’s work went on to become a world renowned physician

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Hans Asperger (February 18, 1906 – October 21, 1980) was an Austrian pediatrician, medical theorist, and medical professor. He is best known for his early studies on mental disorders, especially in children. His work was largely unnoticed during his lifetime except for a few accolades in Vienna, and his studies on psychological disorders only acquired world renown posthumously. There was a resurgence of interest in his work beginning in the 1980s, and due to his earlier work which was regarded by many to be under the fold of autism spectrum disorders, was named after him. Both Asperger’s original paediatric diagnosis of autistic psychopathy (AP), and the eponymous diagnosis of Asperger syndrome (AS) that was named for him after his death, remain controversial in competing diagnostic criteria.

During World War II, he was a medical officer, serving in the Axis occupation of Croatia; his younger brother died at Stalingrad.Near the end of the war, Asperger opened a school for children with Sister Viktorine Zak. The school was bombed and destroyed, Sister Viktorine was killed, and much of Asperger’s early work was lost.

Asperger was discovered to have been associated with the Nazi Party. Herwig Czech, a scholar, discovered letters in Asperger’s handwriting that used “Heil Hitler” as their closing salutation, which wasn’t mandatory. Czech also discovered that Asperger also applied for the Nazi Doctors Association and sent a girl with encephalitis to be killed at Spiegelgrund.

Am Spiegelgrund Memorial

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