This website serves to assist in the search for sponsors for the Waldniel Memorial Site. Information on the history and on the background for the design can be found below.
If you would like to fill out a sponsorship form, please click here.

SPONSORSHIP

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.

CITING THE NAMES IN WRITING

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.

Hand writing in empty book: You, speak also!

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.

Probeguss einer Bronzeplakette
Trial cast of a bronze plaque

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.

If you would like to fill out a sponsorship form, please click here.

aerial view of waldniel memorial site

DESIGN

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.

APPROACH

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

SIGNS OF CHILDREN AT THE FORMER CEMETERY

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.

Spielende Kinderhände
Children’s hands at play
Modelansicht Kugelskulptur
Model view of sphere sculpture
Entwurfsskizze Kugelskulptur
Draft sketch of sphere sculpture

A LOOK INTO THE HISTORY OF THE MEMORIAL SITE

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:
www.waldniel-hostert.de

Gedenkstätte Waldniel Entwurf Ansicht Mauer mit handgeschriebene Gedenktafeln
Waldniel Memorial Site design, view of the wall with handwritten commemorative plaques

If you would like to fill out a sponsorship form, please click here.