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Last Update 25 June 2006


Grafeneck Apartment for T4 Personnel
On the site of a former medieval castle, between 1556 and 1560 Grafeneck Castle was built on a hill near Marbach. During 1762 and 1772, Duke Karl Eugen converted the castle to a contemporary style. In 1929 a Samaritan foundation took over the building in order to install a home for physically and mentally handicapped persons.

On 24 May 1939, a first visitation by members of Aktion T4 took place in order to find out if the building could be used for their program, and on 14 October Grafeneck Castle was duly confiscated. Between 10 and 15 manual labourers from nearby villages started to convert the castle into a killing centre.

300 m away from the castle several barracks were built, fenced in with a hoarding up to 4 m high. On the first floor of the castle the following facilities were installed: accomodations and offices for the doctors, a registry office, a police office, the office for the comfort letters and others. On the second floor, small living- and sleeping rooms for the personnel were installed. The main building of the killing facility was a barrack (68 m long and 7 m wide), which included several rooms. In one of them 100 beds were placed, covered with straw-bags. Three big buses for transportation of the victims and an ambulance car stood in a wooden garage. Two mobile cremation ovens were located in another wooden barrack. Because of the immense heat, generated by the round-the-clock cremation, the roof of the barrack was removed and after a short time the surrounding trees even blackened. The gas chamber, resembling a shower bath, could hold 75 persons.
A former horse stable (round and 15 m in diameter) probably served as storage room for the corpses. At the bottom of the hill, at the access road, a high hoarding and a guardhouse were built. Fences with barbed wire surrounded the whole castle whilst armed guards with dogs patrolled these perimeters.

Grafeneck Dining Hall #1
Grafeneck Dining Hall #2 *
In mid-November 1939, SS men, typists and other personnel arrived and were supplemented during early January 1940 by approximately 25 nurses, some being male. In mid-January the cremation ovens were delivered. On 18 January 1940 the first transport of 25 handicapped men arrived from Eglfing-Haar near Munich, managed by the Grafeneck chief Dr Horst Schumann. He joined T4 since early October 1939, after a meeting with Viktor Brack in Hitler's chancellery. In early summer of 1940 he was ordered to the Sonnenstein euthanasia centre. Successors in Grafeneck: Dr Ernst Baumhardt and finally Dr Günther Hennecke.
Chief of administration became Christian Wirth, a detective superintendent and SS-Obersturmführer. He supervised the first gassings. Later he became inspector of all Aktion Reinhard extermination camps.

One former nurse described a transport to the Grafeneck killing centre:
"The evening before the transport, we received a list with the names of the patients who were picked up. Early in the morning, the buses drove up, and the windows were pained gray up to the top. The patients received a slip of paper with number. Then they filed by one by one, and we wrote the number on the bare back in ink. Because they thought that we were going to transfer them to another institution, they were generally quite calm. Indeed, they did not know what was gong to happen to them. Then they were led into a bus, always seventy-five. A few weeks later the clothes were sent back from Grafeneck."
Source: Bronwyn Rebekah McFarland-Icke, "Nurses in Nazi Germany", Princeton University Press, Chichester, UK 1999, p, 219.

The killing continued until 13 December 1940. Then Grafeneck was no longer part of the euthanasia programme because, according to the plan, all handicapped persons from the Grafeneck operational area had been killed. Some of the personnel went on holiday while some were ordered to the Hadamar euthanasia centre. A few remained at the castle to cover up all tracks of the actions that happened there.
10,824 victims were gassed and cremated at this facility.

Of the 80-100 persons who carried out the euthanasia programme in Grafeneck, only eight were accused; all others were untraceable. The trial was held at the Jury Court Tübingen from 8 June until 5 July 1949. At its conclusion three men were sentenced to prison (from 18 months to 5 years).

A number of Aktion Reinhard personnel served at Grafeneck, these include Rudolf Beckmann, Helmut Bootz, Paul Bredow, Max Bree, Kurt D., Hermann Felfe, Kurt Franz *, Karl Frenzel, Hans Girtzig, Heinrich Gley, Lorenz Hackenholt *, Fritz Konrad, Fritz Kraschewski, Willi Mentz *, Hermann Michel, August Miete, Josef Oberhauser, Karl Schluch, Erich Schulz, Hans-Heinz Schütt, Gottfried Schwarz, Heinrich Unverhau, Christian Wirth and Ernst Zierke.

The Grafeneck Memorial was opened in 1990.

* See the Franz Photo Story!
* See the Hackenholt Photo Story!
* See the Mentz Photo Story!
Grafeneck Gas chamber Gas chamber
Grafeneck Gas chamber Map

Photo: Stöckle, Thomas. Grafeneck 1940, Silberburg-Verlag, Tübingen, 2002 *

© ARC 2005

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