ARC Main Page Euthanasia Bernburg Brandenburg Grafeneck Hadamar Hartheim Sonnenstein T4 Rest Home


Last Update 30 August 2006


In Bernburg (near Magdeburg) a mental home with a capacity of 132 beds was founded in 1875. During late summer of 1940 a section of the complex was leased to the Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Anstaltspflege (Public Welfare Foundation for Mental Nursinghomes), better known as Aktion T4. From then onwards Bernburg mental home was divided into a regular institute and an euthanasia killing site.

Within four weeks during October/November 1940, 80 square metres of the cellar in the former Männerhaus 2 (Men House No.2) were converted into a killing facility:
1. A small room was equipped with a peephole, the walls and floor were tiled. In this gas chamber (14 square metres) 8,601 people were killed during the Aktion T4.
2. Another room was converted into a crematory by installing two cremation ovens.
3. A dissecting room.
4. A mortuary.

The killing started on 21 November 1940 with 25 persons of the mental home at Neuruppin who became the first victims. Neuruppin served as a Zwischenanstalt (Intermediate Home). In Bernburg the extermination procedure was the same as in other euthanasia killing centres:
-undressing and handing over of the valuables (rings, watches etc.) to the personnel,

-a superficial inspection of the victims, to see which plausible cause of death the Bernburg administration could pass on to  the relatives,
-taking photos of the persons,
-taking the doomed persons to the gas chamber and gassing,
-cremation of the corpses in the institute's ovens,
-filling the urns with ash, (it was unimportant to the staff from which particular corpse the ash came)
-dispatching urn and death certificate to the relatives.

In Bernburg too the incoming victims were killed at once. Big grey buses entered the wooden garage. Then the victims were allowed to leave the bus. Through a corridor they came to the ground floor. In several rooms they were examined etc. Victims having physically special features, were marked with a red cross on their back, by the doctors. In groups of 60-75 they were ordered downstairs to the cellar, accompanied by "nurses". After gassing, the two gas chamber doors remained closed for one hour, until the room was ventilated. Next to the gas chamber was the dissection room. After gassing the marked victims were sorted out and the doctors performed an autopsy on their corpses. The others were cremated immediately by the "burners".

During the Sonderbehandlung 14f13 (Special Treatment / in Bernburg from 1941 until April 1943) about 5,000 persons were killed in Bernburg, mainly Jews from the concentration camps Buchenwald, Flossenbürg, Groß-Rosen, Neuengamme, Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen. The buildings, not leased to T4, continued to operate as regular mental institution during the whole period!

Dissecting Table in 1945
Dissecting Table in 1945
Sprinkler in 1945
Sprinkler in 1945
Because of an order from the WVHA from 27 April 1943 at least the cremation ovens were dismantled, the T4 personnel transferred to Poland (see Aktion Reinhard).
In 1949 the nurse Anna Maria L. (Ludwigsburg archive files La - Le) still saw in the cellar some benches on which the victims waited for "having a shower", the sprinklers in the gas chamber and the dissecting table.
In course of the construction works for the memorial (1988/89) the peephole in the gas chamber wall and the gas chamber door came to light.

In January 1948 the former director Dr Irmfried Eberl was arrested. He evaded trial by committing suicide in February 1948. Some other persons of the Bernburg staff were sentenced after 1948, but most of them have never been brought to justice.

A number of Aktion Reinhard personnel served at Bernburg, these include Rudolf Bär, Johannes Bauch, Max Biala, Helmut Bootz, Werner Borowski, Werner Dubois, Kurt D., Irmfried Eberl, Erwin Fichtner, Herbert Floss, Karl Frenzel, Erich Fuchs, Albert G., Siegfried Graetschus, August Hengst, Gottlieb Hering, Fritz Hirche, Erwin Lambert, Willy Mätzig, Johann Niemann, Josef Oberhauser, Karl Pötzinger, Wenzel Rehwald, Gottfried Schwarz, Fritz Schmidt, Otto Stadie, Franz Stangl and Christian Wirth.

In September 1989, the Bernburg Memorial was inaugurated.
Bernburg Cellar Gas chamber 1996
Männerhaus 2 Cellar Gas chamber 1996

Photos: By courtesy of Dr. U. Hoffmann, Bernburg Memorial

© ARC 2005

For a broader study on the events related to the Holocaust, please visit