Bendorf-Sayn and My Cousin – An Update

Since I wrote my original post, Eugenics, My Cousin and the “Final Solution”, enough new information has crossed my desk that I feel it’s necessary to write this update.

The Jacoby Kurhaus or Treatment Center
The Jacoby Kurhaus or Treatment Center

The original post began with my discovery of a cousin by the name of Felicitas Weinlaub, who died in 1942 as a patient in an insane asylum known as the “Jacoby’she Anstalt” or Jacoby Institute, and was buried in a cemetery in a place called  Bendorf-Sayn. But I had no information about her other than her birth date, the date of her death and the fact she was buried there. While most of her life still remains a mystery, I have since learned a little more about her, how and why she died, and about the forboding facility where she succumbed.  Otherwise her tragic life still remains an enigma.

But first let me set the record straight. She was NOT euthanized as I originally reported. But we’ll get to that a bit later.

By discovering my cousin, I not only found details about the mental institution at Bendorf-Sayn, aka the Jacoby Institute, but a veritable “Pandora’s Box” of grotesque issues: primarily the subjects of eugenics, and euthanasia and to my surprise, learning that Hitler’s rush to create a “Master Race”all began right here at home – that it was an American institution, created three decades before he appeared on the scene, yet fitting perfectly into his ultimate plans for “the Final Solution”.

You can find all of this in my original blog in far greater detail. But after I wrote the post last August, I was put in touch with Herr Dietrich Schabow, who has written a 50 page article about the Jacoby Institute, which is currently being translated into English. Meanwhile, he is essentially the keeper of the flame, and the “go to” person for information about Bendorf-Sayn and its history.

I had many questions for him, for which he answered in great detail, and sent me an incredible amount of supporting information, for which I’m eternally grateful.

While there’s too much to include here, many of the personal descriptions of life inside the institution that he supplied have changed my perception of it, while adding a level of texture and humanity to its sad history.

But first I must correct a serious error I made, based on mis-information from other sources. In the original post, I claimed “….that Bendorf-Sayn was a notorious insane asylum where the German (Nazi) doctors performed euthanasia on the mentally and physically disabled Jewish patients who were housed there.”

That was wrong! The truth is far more banal, yet no less tragic. First of all, there were NEVER any German doctors on staff at Bendorf-Sayn, and no-one ever performed euthanasia on any of the patients. In fact, during the Nazi era – from 1940 on – very few Jewish patients remained there.

Instead of it being a dedicated site for euthanizing Jewish inmates by Nazi doctors, Bendorf-Sayn remained a Jewish institution, as it had begun some 70 years earlier. Only Jewish doctors were hired to administer and care for the strictly Jewish patients.

“Euthanasia is too good for the Jews. For them we have something different in mind.”  This was a declaration attributed to an SS officer in nearby Koblenz, which pretty well summed up the reality of the situation.

1940 was a pivotal time for the psychiatric hospital in many ways. That was the year the two owners, the brothers Dr. Fritz and Dr. Paul Jacoby chose to emigrate to the United States after finding Dr. Wilhelm Rosenau, who they put in charge as their successor. He in turn picked Dr. Kurt Laufer as his colleague.

That was also the year the Nazi Home Office, the “Innenministerium”, decreed that mentally ill Jews could no longer be housed together in hospitals with mentally ill non-Jews. As a result Bendorf-Sayn became a collection site for Jewish patients who were rounded up from other German hospitals.

During their stay, only Jewish doctors treated them, and only Jewish nurses cared for them, until they were ultimately packed in cattle cars and sent east to the death camps in Poland.

By June, 1940 Dr. Laufer and his Jewish wife, who had worked as a nurse in the hospital, met the same fate, as they were both transported to a concentration camp along with their patients.

Fortunately for Dr. Rosenau his wife was Gentile, and their children were educated as such. This according to Herr Schabow, who went on to say that the Nazi term for them was, “privilegierte Mischehe”, or privileged mongrels. As a result, Rosenau was able to remain at Bendorf-Sayn. But he was only allowed to treat Jews!!!

When the hospital was closed in November, 1942, he was the only doctor who was still there.

Regina Suderland (ne’e Hermanns) was also a “privileged mongrel”. The daughter of a Jewish father and a Gentile mother, she was only 15 years old when she moved with her parents to Bendorf-Sayn in 1941, after her father lost his job in Osnabrueck. Her father, Benno Hermanns, became the Nursing Supervisor there, while Regina worked her way up to Practical Nurse.

Regina Suderland, the last known witness from Bendorf-Sayn.
Regina Suderland, the last known witness from Bendorf-Sayn.

She remained for years the last witness to what went on within the confines of the Jacoby Institute at Bendorf-Sayn. This is an excerpt from a newspaper article from the “Rhein-Zeitung”, written by Kersten Steifel, October 27, 2001 from an interview with her:

Before his patients were engulfed by the “Final Solution,” chief physician Wilhelm Rosenau tried to help them live in dignity. The “harmless ones” were able to move freely between the billiard room, the music room and the synagogue. There was even Kosher food to eat. The park was discreetly but securely closed off from the street by walls, and a heavy cast-iron gate – an enclave of safety in the middle of a war. “That was the highest priority,” Regina Suderland remembers. “The patients weren’t supposed to know what was going on outside”.

While a handful of Jewish patients remained at the facility, their numbers dwindled to nothing over time.

Regina Suderland survived. When not a soul was left in the hospital, after all of the patients and staff  had “EMIGRATED”, as a report from the Gestapo in Koblenz put it. The young woman (Suderland) lived on in the empty rooms with her family and that of chief physician, Wilhelm Rosenau. The beds always had to be freshly made up in case the Kemperhof hospital in Koblenz was destroyed by bombs.

The managing director appointed by the Nazis was Paul Kochannek, who Suderland liked to call, “our little Oskar Schindler”….by saving the lives of Benno Hermanns and Wilhelm Rosenau by telling the Gestapo he needed the two Jews to keep the building in shape. The chief physician and the nursing supervisor spent the rest of the war as janitors, wandering like ghosts through the abandoned hallways.

Meanwhile, the tragic story of my cousin, Felicitas Weinlaub still remains a mystery. But since my initial post, I have learned from Herr Schabow that she was born in Graetz, Posen, Germany on Feb. 26, 1902. (The town of Graetz was a 19th century enclave for my Weinlaub ancestors). She was married to Adolph Cohn at the time of her hospitalization, which was June 11, 1941. Cohn’s occupation is listed as “Merchant”. They were married on June 14, 1928 in Berlin.

Felicitas died on the morning of March 14, 1942. According to her medical records, she was a depressive paranoid who periodically refused to eat for fear of being poisoned, but the ultimate cause of her death was tuberculosis. She had only been there for 10 months. One of the few Jews to have died in the hospital after 1940, she is buried in a single unmarked grave in the north east corner of the cemetery at Bendorf-Sayn.

While I’ve learned nothing about her life before her hospitalization, what is an even greater mystery is how she got to Bendorf-Sayn in the first place, because her husband’s last known address is listed as Litzmannstadt which in Polish is the….Łódź Ghetto!

Łódź Ghetto, Poland. (Bundesarchiv_R_49-1)
Łódź Ghetto, Poland. (Bundesarchiv_R_49-1)





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