This website served to assist in the search for sponsors for the Waldniel Memorial Site. Thanks to the many that contributed to the memorial by their interest, no more applications are needed to name a sponsor for every person who died in Waldniel during the nazi regime.

The artistic concept of struber_gruber is based on the incorporation of many different actors. This participatory approach opens spaces to the social aspects of remembrance. Currently this website offers insight to the realisation of the redesign process. It shows pictures of the sponsors while “writing the names” in the Schwalmtal town hall on May 19th 2017 as well as the students and art brut artists during the production of the models for the sphere sculptures.

Information on dates, on the history, and on the background for the design can be found below.


Voluntarily accepting the responsibility to care for someone is often called a sponsorship. In the context of the redesign of the Waldniel Memorial Site, sponsorship comprises actively taking part in the process of remembering— financial obligations deliberately play no role in this.


Sponsors are part of a commemorative community. They commemorate the people who died in the Provinzial- Heil und Pflegeanstalt Waldniel-Hostert during the Nazi era. Little is known about these people’s lives. In many cases, the available information is limited to a name, date of birth and death, and cause of death.
Sponsors have direct contact with this trace in that they write the names and biographical data in their own handwriting. The handwriting is then transferred to brass plates and mounted on a commemorative wall at the former cemetery. This process is significantly more elaborate than creating common inscriptions on grave stones as each name, each handwriting, is different. The memorial plaques do not correspond with the aesthetics of a serial manufacturing process. The different writing styles leave a personal trace of 548 people who are alive today and want to actively keep alive the memory of the crime.

Pouring the wax platelets

The writing and casting of the names

In this way, a space of remembrance begins to develop already before the opening of the memorial site, as it is necessary to talk about the emerging site and its history in order to find and include participants. Since November 3, forty-eight students from the districts of Schwalmtal and Viersen have taken an active part in the search for sponsors. In this way, commemoration becomes a living process that happens among people who are alive today. For that reason, and because we do not want a mere number to represent those killed, but rather, to have the name of every single person truly remembered, we are looking for sponsors to handwrite these names in memory.



Grundriss der Gedenkstatte Waldniel
Orientation plan for the redesign of the memorial site

Our draft creates a contemplative site that clearly shows that also murdered children are buried here. The concept rests on the connection of a number of diverse actors, thus opening up spaces of the social aspects of remembering.

Two main sculptural elements structure the grounds of the memorial site.


A new situation for approaching the grounds has been created. A wall with an L-shaped footprint constructed from anthracite-colored concrete elements shields the memorial site from the street. The continuous slant of the concrete element on the longitudinal side allows the view of the memorial site to open up slowly for those walking in. Embedded in the wall on the inner face, which is the front side turned to the cemetery area, are brass plaques with the names of the dead inscribed in personalized lettering.

Entwurf Ansicht Gedenkstätte Westseite Blick nach Innen
West side view to the inside


In the former cemetery area are three sphere-shaped sculptures made of a colorfully painted aluminum cast. These spheres are based on the objects that children at play like to make from modeling clay, but are greatly enlarged with diameters of up to 180 cm. The sculptures will be created in a collaborative process with artists from the Kunsthaus Kannen and students from Schwalmtal and the district of Viersen.

Children’s hands at play
Children’s hands at play
Children’s hands at play

Forming the spheres – photos: Petra Oelck, corporate communications, Alexianer Münster GmbH.

Sphere preparation – photos: Toni Hammerschmidt

Model view of sphere sculpture
Model view of sphere sculpture

Draft sketch of sphere sculpture
Draft sketch of sphere sculpture


The memorial site commemorates those people who as psychiatric patients were subjected to forced sterilization, starvation, and “euthanasia” during the Nazi era. It is found on the cemetery built in 1913 for the St. Josefsheim, an educational and nursing facility operated by the Franciscan brothers. In 1937 the provincial administration of the Rhine province took over the institute with ca. 600 beds as the Waldniel branch of the Provinzial-, Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Johannistal, Süchteln. Located here from 1941 to 1943 was one of the German Reich’s largest so-called “special children’s wards” with 200 beds. Ninety-nine children died during this time—many verifiably as the victims of euthanasia measures.

Motivated by an appeal from the Working Group for the Study of National Socialist Euthanasia and Forced Sterilization in 2012, the Landschaftsverband Rheinland decided in 2016 on the architectural expansion of the memorial site by the struber_gruber collaborative.

More information at:


Präsentation:Entstehung Gedenkstätte Waldniel
Modell, Partizipative Prozesse, Schreiben der Namen, Produktion Skulptur

21. – 24. September 2017
Kunsthaus Kannen
Träger / Supporting Institution Alexianer Münster GmbH
Alexianerweg 9, 48163 Münster, Germany


May 19th 2017
13:00 – 17:00 Uhr
Rathaus Schwalmtal
Markt 20
41366 Schwalmtal

13:00 Peter Zöhren
Gedenken und Erinnern

14:00 Dr. Maike Rotzoll
Forgetting Annihilation is Part of Annihilation Itself
Patient Murders During the NS Era

15:45 Andreas Kinast
The History of the Children’s Ward and NS Euthanasie in Waldniel



May 19th 2017
9:00 – 19:00 Uhr
Rathaus Schwalmtal
Markt 20
41366 Schwalmtal

May 23rd 2017
10:00 – 14:00 Uhr
LVR Helen-Keller-Schule
Helen-Keller-Straße 2
5141 Essen


June 19th to 23rd 2017

Students of the Europa Schule Schwalmtal and the Vocational School Viersen together with struber_gruber and artisans of the Kunsthauses Kannen will produce the large spheric sculptures at the art foundry Kunstgießerei Anft.


Waldniel Memorial
June 21rst 2017
at a href=””>Kunsthaus Kannen
Alexianerweg 9
48163 Münster

”As if made from the hands of children, that’s how they should look, the huge spheres that will
will be building blocks of the new memorial. The Kunsthaus Kannen and its creatives is a partner of
the project to remind of the euthanasia during national socialism.

Red, yellow and blue, they protrude from the terrain, the man-high clay balls. They still only exist on the draft sheets of the artist couple Katharina Struber and Klaus Gruber from Vienna. But already in the summer of 2017 the Waldniel Memorial on the Lower Rhein should get a new look. Concrete walls in contrast to the coloured balls, everything embedded in the seasonality of the forest. Remodeling should start this June, when handicapped artists from the Kunsthaus Kannen together with the artist couple and students from Waldniel will go to work. An inclusive project that should help to keep the remembrance of the young victims from fading.”

Carmen Echlmeyer/Alexianer Zeitung

During the project week on the premises of the Alexians the students from Schwalmtal and Viersen will be accommodated at the Hotel am Wasserturm run by the Alexianer Münster GmbH. Together with struber_gruber and creatives supervised by the Kunsthaus Kannen they will be bussed daily to the 20km distant workshop of the Anft company, to create three 180cm large plaster casts.


Waldniel Memorial Site design, view of the wall with handwritten commemorative plaques
Waldniel Memorial Site design, view of the wall with handwritten commemorative plaques