In Poland the Nazi euthanasia actions are called "Pseudo-Euthanasia".
(47 km from Poznan
) was one of the
first places where Nazi euthanasia actions took place, even before such measures had commenced in Germany and Austria.
The reasoning behind the "cleaning" of the Polish mental homes surely was almost certainly to obtain space for German
troops at the beginning of the war.
|Koscian Mental Home
Koscian Bernardine Monastery
was built between 1603
. Its buildings had been used as a mental home since 1827
, at the time
of the Prussian annexation of Poland. The patients were housed in terrible conditions. They were confined in solitary
cells with concrete floors, living in their own excrement. The new chief of the hospital, Dr
, brought about better conditions and introduced modern methods
of treatment from October 1929
the hospital was taken
over by the SS Sonderkommando Lange
and the Gau-Selbstverwaltung
(German Council Association) from Poznan. The Polish
leaving behind 612 Polish patients.
Now the hospital was administered by Dr Johann Keste
Dr. Fritz Lemberger
(gynaecologist), Hans Meding
(medical inspector) and Wilhelm Haydn
(chief of the male nurses), killers in
white doctor’s gowns.
|Mental Home Map
In early January 1940
, an SS Sonderkommando
arrived, carrying a dark brown
bottle containing a morphine-scopolamine mixture, used to calm the victims.
Probably on 15 January 1940
, the first group of naked patients received an injection
and were bundled into a mobile gas chamber (gas van or gas trailer) inscribed with an advertisement for
"Kaiser's Kaffee Geschäft
". Of course, Kaiser's Coffee Company
was not involved in the action.
The van's (or trailer's) inner sides were lined with metal sheets, the floor was covered with a wooden grate and a
lamp on the ceiling illuminated the gas chamber for inspection through a peephole in the back door.
When the driver (an SS man) started the vehicle's engine, the exhaust fumes were emitted into the loading space.
The victims screamed loudly before they died. Then the gas van drove
from Koscian to Jarogniewice Forest
(a site on the road
Koscian - Poznan
, about 15-20 km north of Koscian
After 15-20 minutes the van finally reached the forest, and nobody in the gas chamber was left alive.
At Jarogniewice Forest
prisoners (probably Jews from KZ
) opened the
back doors of the gas van and buried the corpses in mass graves. One week later (on 22 January
) a second group of patients were killed in an identical fashion. The same van was later used
(in March 1940 and July/August 1941
) at the Kochanowka
. Apart from mentally handicapped patients, blind
children from Lodz
were killed at this time.
Within that week, all in all, 534 patients had been killed - 237 men and 297 women. However, this was only the
beginning of a more extensive action in Koscian
. On 9
with 2,750 Jewish and non-Jewish patients from mental and old
people's homes arrived in Koscian
. All were killed in the same manner as the
first patients. It is most likely that
on 24 February 1940
the last transport left Koscian
for Jarogniewice Forest
. In total, 3,334 patients lost their
lives in course of this euthanasia action in Koscian
In June 1940
, officers arrived from the Zentrale für Krankenverlegung
(Central Office for Transfer of Sick Persons), located in Kalisz
. They sent
fictitious death certificates
to the victims' families to allay any
suspicions. On blank forms containing a standard wording ("death was caused by...") fabricated causes of death such
as apoplexy, heart attack, etc. were intended to veil the crime. In the mental home's cemetery bogus graves were
created. Cemetery fees were even charged to the relatives. The hospital in Pruszkow
was also used as a fictitious place to where the patients had been
allegedly transferred, and there died of natural causes.
On 25 February 1944
, 25 SS men of the SS Sonderkommando
arrived in the vicinity
village. Among them were Frank, Grimm,
Haase, Klaus, Rollmann, Rubner (Rübner?), Schneider, Schwarz and Zimmermann1
They exhumed the corpses, cremated them in mass graves and/or destroyed them by means of slaked lime mixed with water,
scattered the ashes in the forest and planted spruces to camouflage the
former mass graves*
Similar euthanasia actions took place at other mental homes in Poland: in
Owinska, Poznan Fort VII
in Starogard Gdanski
) near Miedzyrzecz
and at other hospitals.
The killings were not always disguised. In the Chelm Lubelski Hospital
(128 women, 304 men and 18 children) were simply machine-gunned at the entrances to the wards and buried in the
hospital grounds in two large pits, under the eyes of the Polish hospital staff. The SS needed the buildings for their
quarters. In January 1940
, 23 patients from a private asylum in
, which belonged to the monastery of St.
, were taken to the Warzyce forest
and shot, to make room for the SS Battalion "Galizien".
At least 13,000 Polish patients were murdered in this fashion, and an unknown number starved to death during the
occupation of Poland.
Poland was also a killing field for German patients. One of the execution sites was at
Piasnica near Wejherowo
, where around 1,200 patients from nearby German psychiatric
institutions (and from Stralsund, Ueckermünde, Treptow
) were killed.
Prof. Stanislaw Batawia / Poland listed the following
dates about euthanasia killings in Poland (GKBZH No 3/1947):
Owinska Mental Home (near
Poznan): 15 September - 20 December 1939.
Swiecie Mental Home (near Bydgoszcz): September -
October 1939. Victims: 1,350
Kocborowo Mental Home: 29 November -
20 December 1939. Victims: 2,342
Gniezno Mental Home: December 1939, January 1940,
June 1941. Victims: 1,201
Chelm Mental Home: 12 January 1940. Victims: 440
Koscian Mental Home: January - February 1940.
Gostynin Mental Home (near Warszawa):
3 February - 3 July 1940, 9 July. Victims: 107
Kochanowka Mental Home (near
Lodz): 13 - 15 March 1940, 27 - 28 March 1940,
June - August 1940. Victims: 629
Warta Mental Home (near
Sieradz): 2 - 4 April 1940. Victims: 499
Choroszcz Mental Home (near
Bialystok): 1941. Victims: 464
Kobierzyn Mental Home (near
Krakow): 23 July 1942. Victims: 500
Otwock Mental Home (near
Warszawa): August 1942. Victims: unknown
Lubliniec Mental Home (near Czestochowa): August 1942 -
November 1944. Victims: 221 children
Wilno Mental Home (Vilnius?: Victims: 900
1945-47 Investigations by KBZH in Warsaw
will be built at the site of the mental home in Koscian
Photos: Private archive of Jerzy Zielonka *
© ARC 2005