Buchcover Erinnerung ensteht Gemeinsam von struber_gruber
Book cover “Erinnerung ensteht gemeinsam” from struber_gruber

Just in time for the annual commemoration, which took place this year on 28.01 in the parish St. Mariae Himmelfahrt Waldniel-Hostert and at the memorial site with the participation of approx. 250 people, the publication “Erinnerung entsteht gemeinsam” has been published.

The publication “Erinnerung entsteht gemeinsam” shows the invisible, the fleeting of the participation processes. In interviews, it explores the question of how the contributors see their participation. The illustrations show all processes leading to the realization.

struber_gruber presented the publication at the commemoration ceremony.
On 29.01 the work group presented the book at the LVR Helen Keller Förderschule.

The Redesign of the Waldniel-Hostert Memorial was opened on May 29 2018 - Many thanks to all who participated in its Inception

The artistic concept of struber_gruber is based on incorporating many different actors. This participatory approach opens the social aspects of remembrance.

The guiding principle “Remembrance forms collectively, among people who are all alive today.” has been become reality by the interest to participate in the completion of the memorial in the last months. More the 700 people have already become involved. They became active as sponsors, in organising, or the production of the sphere sculptures.

Information 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.


The sponsors are part of a society of remembrance. They remind of the people that died in the Provinzial- Heil und Pflegeanstalt Waldniel-Hostert during the Nazi Regime. Little is known of their life histories. The information is often limited to the name, the date of birth and death, as well as the cause of death.

Schreibende Hand auf Buch

Sponsors have direct contact with this trace in that they write the names and biographical data in their own handwriting on wax wafers. The handwriting was transferred to brass plates and will be 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.

Pouring the wax platelets

School classes of the Europaschule Schwalmtal and the Berufskollegs Viersen have contributed to the publicity work and the search for sponsors. Between May and July 2017 a group in the LVR Helen-Keller School produced the wax platelets on which the names of the deceased were written.

The Kunstgießerei Anft is casting bronze plaques from these, so that the many individual handwritings at the Waldniel Memorial remind of these people.

The writing and casting of the names

To enable exchange between the participants the writing of the names proceeded in union in public spaces. On the 19th of May 2017 387 people arrived where students of the LVR Krankenpflegeschule Viersen assisted. Further dates took place at the Parish St. Mariae Himmelfahrt Waldnieler Heath, in the LVR Helen-Keller-Schule in Essen, in the Maria-Lenssen Berufskolleg in Mönchengladbach, as well as the Kunsthaus Kannen in Münster.

Thus, even before the opening of the memorial, a space of remembrance became accessible, while speaking about the emerging memorial and it’s history to find and integrate the participants. Therefore, and because we want the deceased not only be represented by a number and the name of each person is actually remembered, we looked for sponsors that write these names in commemoration.


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
Spielende Kinderhände

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

Sphere preparation – photos: Toni Hammerschmidt

”… 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. (…) 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.”
This is how Carmen Echlmeyer Alexianer Zeitung announced our project already in April in the Alexander Zeitung.

Between the 19th and 23rd of June the idea materialised. A Team of 23 people worked on the up to 180cm large plaster models that serve as the basis for the aluminium sculptures.
An intensive week in which the team collectively ground styrofoam, stirred plaster, applied it and shaped the surface of the spheres. All participants were aware of the seriousness and knowledge of the cruel history of murdering the sick during the nazi regime, still there was great pleasure in this unified activity to oppose that history with an enduring symbol.


Grundriss der Gedenkstatte Waldniel
Orientierungsplan Neugestaltung Gedenkstätte

Our concept creates a contemplative location, the clearly shows that murdered children are buried here.

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
Entwurf Ansicht Gedenkstätte Westseite Blick nach Innen


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

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


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


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

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