Anna Lehnkering

Anna Lehnkering’s story is not unusual. It’s just one among many that documents the Nazi’s so called “euthanasia” program of the 1930/40s. Anna was a normal young girl who had difficulty with reading and writing in school. Today, she would likely be diagnosed as dyslexic, but to the Nazis, she was considered “unworthy of life,” a “useless eater.”

At the end of 1935, the Hereditary Health Court ordered that Anna be taken from her home, sterilized, and transferred to a mental institution. At the institution, Anna suffered from neglect and malnutrition. She was described in medical documents as “longing to go home” and “sad.” Ultimately, she was sent to Berlin’s “T4” euthanasia facility where she was murdered  She was 24 years old.

According to the law, anyone who suffered from a mental or physical disability, or labeled as “anti-social,” was not allowed to procreate and deemed “eligible” for institutionalization. It was all part of a systematic eugenics program that was administered with stereotypical German precision and efficiency. 

As many as 300,000 people fell victim to one of history’s first planned mass exterminations. There were six euthanasia facilities in Germany and Austria. The best known was “Tiergartenstraße 4” or “T4” in Berlin, which extinguished the lives of 70,000 people. In nearly all the cases, the inmates were killed with drugs or starved to death. 

Located where the Berlin Philharmonic stands today, the T4 facility was demolished after the war and its past nearly forgotten. Last week, construction began on a monument to commemorate those who perished at Tiergartenstraße 4. The monument is scheduled to be completed in 2014, and will join existing Berlin monuments commemorating Jewish, Homosexual, and Gypsy victims who died at the hands of the Nazis.

For more information about Anna’s fate and the fate of other T4 inmates, visit the Tiergatenstraße 4 Open Air Exhibition. It’s located behind the Philharmonic and across the street from the Tiergarten Park. The Exhibition runs until November 17, 2013.