Construction workers discover Nazi files embedded in a wall
Construction workers have discovered files from the Nazi period embedded in a cavity in the former health authority in Erfurt. Researchers hope to gain new insights into the genetic and racial policies of the Nazis.
August 9, 2016
During renovation works in the former health authority in Erfurt, construction workers discovered piles of files from the Nazi period in mid-July. The find walled in a cavity includes index cards and folders of the office for “Genetic and Racial Hygiene,” said City Archives Director Antje Bauer on Tuesday.
Archivists and historians hope that the 10 shelf meters of files provide new discoveries regarding the exclusion and extermination program of the Nazis. Around 1933/34 such offices were set up in all health departments to record hereditary or mental diseases of whole families. Those were not isolated cases. The whole population is said to have been registered systematically regarding its genetic biology.
A red paper clip for congenital imbecility, a yellow for schizophrenia, pink for blindness, brown for deafness: The Erfurt Health Authority used these and four other tab headings to mark hereditary diseases and severe alcoholism on index cards, Bauer said. Then it was decided whether, for example, someone should be sterilized.
The aim of the Nazis is considered to have been to “cleanse the people’s body” and eradicate such diseases. The index cards contain about 2.300 names of people who were designated to be sterilized.
Files probably hidden away only in the 1950s
As of 1934 law enforced sterilizations “for the prevention of genetically diseased offspring” became possible. As of 1935 everyone everyone wishing to get married needed a “marriage certificate of fitness” of the health authority and was examined accordingly.
To what extent these documents were later used in the euthanasia program for the sick and disabled is still unknown, the curator of the memorial place Topf & Sons, Annegret Schüle, said. So far, there was one indication. Overall, however, only very little is known about the operation of the office for “Genetic and Racial Hygiene” in Erfurt. From a research in Frankfurt/Main it transpired that the genetic biology of one third of the population was monitored, the historian said.
“Wherever old and dirty files are found, we are called in,” Bauer said. The construction workers had reacted immediately and suspended their work. Documents from a later period in the find indicated that the files had been hidden only in the 1950s. Why and by whom is still unknown and is to be researched as well. The health department was located in the house in the Turnier alley since the First World War. Hidden documents have surfaced repeatedly in the past 25 years.
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