I never met my my aunt Erna Kronshage. She was killed on 20 February 1944 at the age of 21 years, three years before my birth. At any rate the circumstances of her death support this assumption.
For 25 years I have gathered information about the biography of my aunt and can now, piece by piece, recreate a fairly precise picture of her journey through life.
From fragmentary recollections and statements of my mother, former neighbours, friends and relatives as well as from documents and files I could, step by step, reconstruct the history of Erna Kronshage, who was the eleventh and youngest child of the Kronshage family. Within barely 17 months, between autumn 1942 and spring 1944, the healthy young woman was first diagnozed as „schizophrenic“, then subjected to enforced sterilization and ultimately killed in the so-called „curing“ institution in occupied Poland.
I have collected many records, in order to document this way of suffering of my aunt. Moreover I have published her history in a memorial blog in the internet (http://erna-k-gedenkblog.blogspot.com/) and in a ten-minutes YOUTUBE-Video, in order to recall the cruel injustice and, especially, to reach the younger generation.Several times I have been able to speak about this by invitation in school classes and relevant narrative cafés (“Erzählcafés”).
It is possible to make clear by help of the stations of her life, in which dilemma Erna Kronshage, a highly intelligent young woman, who finished school with a grade point average of 1.78: As the last child of her parents she was inwardly torn. When her ten elder siblings had left the house or had been conscripted respectively, she alone had, in her position of the „house daughter“, to bear the burden to help the parents with their daily work on the agrcultural homestead. Yet simultaneously she wanted to gradually stand on her own feet.
She was certainly unsettled if not traumatized by the war time with its perspectivelessness and by the first bombing in East Westphalia already on 2 Juni 1940 (the war had begun on 1 September 1939), which caused the death of one of her acquaintances in her immediate neighbourhood. Thus outward war had also become an inward war for Erna Kronshage.
A spontaneous, acute attitude of non-compliance resulted from this in autumn 1942. Suddenly she did not do her work punctually and assumed a position of resistance against her parents – today one would speak of a „Null-Bock-Phase“ (no interest in anything) and being defiant („aufmüpfig “). At that time, however, her mother asked the so-called “brown sister”, the community sister of that time and the social welfare worker of the NS People’s Welfare, for advice.
Thereupon, on 24 October 1942, Erna Kronshage gave herself, on the advice of the welfare worker, into the hands of the doctors of the Provincial Curing Institution Gütersloh, because there, as the community sister suggested, too, she could expect professional help. The admission could then take place, for formal NS legal reasons, only under the designation patient dangerous to the public, and that is why the tranfer was carried out by the police.
Immediately on the first day the NS psychiatrists which were employed there diagnozed “schizophrenia”, which they treated by – then very modern –
cardiazol shocks (a therapy preceding that of electroshocks). Every two or three days elipeptic attacks were released by this medicament – 20 to 30 in each sequence of the treatment, as recommended by specialized doctors in the literature of that time. Thus the sudden psychiatric patient Erna Kronshage was sedated, disciplined and her will broken rather than that the „clinical picture“ would have been treated adequately according to present standards. Further therapy measures applied to Erna Kronshage in the context of the “modern”, more active patient treatment were, as it is documented, peeling potatoes and doing gardening work, which she had had to do already at home as „house daughter“ and against which she had then protested spontaneously.
Since schizophrenia was considered as a hereditary disease according to the NS law for „the prevention of genetically ill offspring“, Erna Kronshage was to be subjected to enforced sterilization by application of the director of the Provincial Curing Institution Gütersloh. Until the last moment her father tried to prevent this fate. Unfortunately without success. On 4 August 1943 she was forcefully sterilized after the decicsion in the second instance of the Higher Genetic Health Court („Erbgesundheitsobergericht”). On 12 November 1943 Erna Kronshage was – allegedly mainly „for reasons of air-raid protection“ in the frame of „Special Action Brandt“ (in the last resort a camouflaged „wild“ NS euthanasia action) – deported together with 99 women sharing the same fate to the District Caring Institution at Tiegenhof/Gnesen, 639 kilometers away from Gütersloh in Poland, which had been occuppied since 1939. On 20 February 1944 she allegedly died there of „complete physical exhaustion“.
In the meantime research has come to know without doubt and confirmed by witness statements in various post-war prosecutions that the institution Tiegenhof was changed from 1939 on to an extermination institution, first for Polish inmates and then for the “displaced patients” from the territory of the German Reich.
At the time of Erna Kronshage’s death, patient killings were continued at this place, as in several other institutions, especially in the east (for instance also in Meseritz-Obrawalde), now planned decentrally, by a sophisticated combination, devised by NS doctors (especially Prof. Dr. med. Nitsche), of “starvation diet” with withdrawal of fat, together with a high dose of sedating medicaments, for instance the sleeping drug luminal. This led, after a certain time, to an emaciation of the body and a genral exhaustion.
With certainty it can be assumed that the cause of death mentioned in Erna Kronshage‘s death certificate – „general exhaustion" – was the circumlocution usual at that time for a planned and systematically performed killing, several times a day, frequently at hourly intervals, which was ever again called that way [„general exhaustion"] in the (“special”) registry office records.
Erna Kronshage’s body was on the application of the parents conveyed back to her home district to Senne II, and after a 600km return transport in a carrier waggon of the Reichsbahn, buried in the graveyard of Senne II on 5 March 1944.
Edward Wieand, 14 April 2011