Originally published in German in: Lothar Jändke /
Don Weitz / Alfredo Moffatt / Peter R. Breggin / Bonnie
Burstow / Wolfgang Fehse / Sylvia Marcos / Gisela Wirths
/ Peter Stastny / Theodor Itten / Sabine Nitz-Spatz / Kerstin
Kempker / Thilo von Trotha / Uta Wehde: "Persönliche
Beweggründe für antipsychiatrisches Handeln",
in: Kerstin Kempker & Peter Lehmann (Eds.): Statt
Psychiatrie, Berlin: Peter Lehmann Antipsychiatrieverlag
1993, pp. 382-420 [Lothar's part: pp. 382-388]. Original
arcticle in German
Personal Motivation for My Antipsychiatric Acting
I was born on February 15, 1917 in Berlin-Steglitz, the son of
the book printer Fritz Jändke and his wife Elsbeth, whose
maiden name was Hahn. I was considered a psychopath
from early on in my childhood.
At birth, I had cataracts in both eyes. Between the age of 3
and 10, I suffered from epileptic seizures. Sometimes, I had 12
attacks in a row, which left me disoriented. Dr. Rettberg and
Dr. Senkpiel told my mother that her son would not survive beyond
the age of 18. How mistaken they were! I just reached the age
of 76 this February (1993).
Dr. Löhlein, as well as his associate Dr. Harms from the
Eye Clinic of the University of Berlin, located on Ziegelstraße,
examined me thoroughly and recommended eye surgery. At the time,
my parents were not able to afford the surgery. I was not covered
by health insurance and the welfare system would not pay for it.
Thus my operation was postponed until I was 18 years old.
Between the age of 10 and 14 years, the local youth agency in
Steglitz provided schooling for me at home after a thorough examination
conducted by the school physician Dr. Sewike. I received home
schooling from Harry Küper, a teacher from the local public
school because the program for children with learning disabilities
was found to be inappropriate for my problems: cataracts and epilepsy.
On April 2, 1935, when I was 18 years old, the youth agency admitted
me to the madhouse named Brandenburgische Provinzial-Landesanstalt
in Potsdam. My parents did not protest because they thought I
would be in good hands and that I would learn a suitable occupation.
But, unfortunately, the opposite happened.
Upon admission I was placed on a ward that was mainly for foster
care children although I had been sent there because of physical
diseases. I received no sympathy. I had to endure all manners
of torment. For example, during bath hour, the other residents
submerged my head under water so that I almost drowned. I barely
managed to break loose from them and get my head above water.
On that same day, they locked me into a cell and attacked me with
a broom. Over and over, they opened the door only to close and
lock it again. The nurses didn't do anything to prevent this and
just stood there watching passively. It was more than I could
bear; I was exhaustedat the end of my rope. When I asked
the nurses to help me, they turned away and even ridiculed me.
One of the chief instructors, Mrs. Wally Leucht, now Ms. Kirchmeier,
said to me: "You won't leave this institution until after
your hair is gray." This turned out to be true.
I had to do housekeeping work and the so-called nurses used to
hit me when a chore did not meet their standard, although they
knew that I could barely see because of my eye condition.
I didn't perform the Nazi drill and was punished because I refused
to say: "Heil Hitler." This was considered such a big
crime that they threatened to put me in jail or in a concentration
On the admission ward, I befriended another patient named Helmuth
L. because he, too, was being harshly treated. He was 11 years
old und completely blind. The nurses spread the rumor that we
were engaging in improper conduct, in other words, homosexual
activities. This was a defamation of character.
In the madhouse's workshop where we did basket work, I developed
a severe finger infection. When I was transferred to the St.-Joseph's
Hospital in Potsdam for the eye surgery, they also operated on
my finger so that it could be saved. When I returned to the madhouse
they accused me of having my finger treated without permission.
In the madhouse we had to do physical exercises in the mornings
together with the mentally disabled patients. Constant "run,
march, march, march!" Since the mentally disabled patients
knew that I couldn't see well, they used to put bricks on the
track so I would fall, which happened a lot.
I was assigned to the basket workshop, which was located in a
humid basement area. The supervisor was very rude and offensive
to the patients. If we didn't immediately find what he wanted,
we were hit on the head with rods. During the cold tree planting
season, we didn't get warm clothes and were always freezing. The
basket workshop's supervisor's name was Edwin Mäuselbach.
During the tree planting, we were closely supervised by the nurses.
If we didn't work fast enough they kicked us with their feet and
hit us with their fists.
On December 20, 1935, I was sterilized against my own and my
parents' will. The procedure was ordered by the Potsdam Court
with the cooperation of a chief physician named Dr. Ernst Illing.
Dr. Lehmann, Dr. Kühnlein and Dr. Casparri performed the
operation in the Potsdam madhouse. (After 1945 I visited thenow deceasednurse Klara Herzog from the Potsdam madhouse.
She told me that the former Head of the Potsdam madhouse, Dr.
Hans Heinze, had been transferred to Görden in 1938 where,
later, with the aid of a group of nurses, he killed and buried
regular and mentally incompetent patients to make sure they wouldn't
testify against him. And in 1948 I found articles in the newspapers,
the Berlin Tagesspiegel and in the Telegraf, that
stated that Dr. Illing, who had in the meantime been transferred
to the Vienna madhouse Steinhof, had been sentenced to deathfound
guilty of killing many mentally retarded patients with morphine
Back to my involuntary sterilization in 1985. Because the procedure
was not performed under appropriate anesthesia, I endured terrible
pain. When I cried because of pain, the nurses mocked me: "You
are not a soldier but a softie. You can't see well and you barely
can hear." They also said: "You can't see further than
pigs can shit." The surgeon had strictly advised against
performing heavy physical work following the surgery because I
needed time to recover but the nurses didn't follow his instructions.
They had me doing hard work within two weeks such as, for example,
carrying heavy iron pots filled with food from house to house.
From the admission ward I was transferred to another ward and
into the hands of the male nurse, Willy Heinrich. He forced me
to eat when I was full. I couldn't take it and began vomiting.
When I wanted to defend myself he threatened me with punishment
such as, for example, locking me in a cell. Out of fear I endured
everything. Because of that, I developed a severe intestinal disorder
from which I still suffer today.
After surgery on my left eye I was supposed to receive scopolamine
drops (from the poison of atropine). When I came back from surgery
for which I had received permission to leave the ward, there was
an outbreak of scarlet fever. The nurses told me that all the
scarlet fever patients had been transferred elsewhere but when
I arrived back to the dormitory, it turned out that infectious
patients had stayed on the ward. The male nurse Heinrich applied
my scopolamine eye drops so carelessly that they dripped from
the eye to my throat and stomach, leaving a bitter taste. The
ophthalmologist Dr. Iwen had told me that scopolamine in high
doses could be toxic. This soon happened in the form of an attack
of stomach nausea and a racing heart. My face was white, the nurses
told me, and there were big red spots on my knees. The nurses
thought I had scarlet fever, but when no further symptoms developed
I was told to leave my bed and return to work. From that day on,
January 29, 1937, I suffered from persistent bloating in the abdomen
coupled with green spots on my face, and constipation. When I
asked for laxatives they refused to give me any. My parents had
to bring them secretly to me during visits.
All the patients were poisoned being fed sausages that had gone
bad. We all developed severe diarrhea. For lunch we often used
to get moldy rice and unripe fruits.
Two patients on my ward killed themselves. One patient had hanged
himself shortly before I was first admitted. Alfred Noack drowned
himself on an outing into town. Karl Lorenz hanged himself in
All correspondence with family was monitored. Some of our letters
were thrown in the garbage. This is why we couldn't say the full
truth about the circumstances within the madhouse. For example,
toddlers in the Potsdam madhouse were fed bad milk. As a result,
they died in agony from severe diarrhea and vomiting.
On March 25, 1937, I was finally released from the mental
hospital. My soul and body were ruined. On the following
April 19, I was found incapable to serve in the military or to
work. Beginning in 1938, I was voluntarily admitted to the madhouse
Wuhlgarten on the East side of Berlin. I had been told that this
was the only way I would be able to go to Bethel. In Wuhlgarten
I was put on bed-rest for six weeks for observation although my
mother had told them that I couldn't tolerate this because of
my constipation. There I was also not allowed to use laxatives.
The nurses walked all night long through the corridors with their
heavy boots and lanterns so that we could barely sleep at night.
Upon request from my parents, I was released in April 1938 and
came home. Prof. Dr. Werner from Berlin-Steglitz requested an
X-ray at the Schöneberg Hospital that showed that I was suffering
from Hirschsprung's Disease which included very painful pylorospasm,
an abnormally persistent contraction of the muscle between the
esophagus and the stomach. I understand that this disease was
the result of the way I had been treated. Dr. Werner was of the
opinion that it could be improved with an operation. But the laws
of the Third Reich did not allow this because I was considered
mentally ill. Dr. Mette, a government doctor, stole a letter that
Dr. Stein had written to Prof. Werner concerning my X-rays. I
had gone to him to obtain a referral to a hospital to perform
the operation. Instead he wanted to refer me back to Wuhlgarten.
My parents opposed this because I hadn't been treated well there.
On August 13, 1938, I was admitted to the Wittenauer Karl-Bonhoeffer-Institutes
upon request from the government doctor. Before going, an injection
was administered supposedly for my stomach ailment. However this
injection was an anesthetic. On top of that, my hands were cuffed.
I was escorted like a dangerous criminal! (After 1945 I met a
prelate who used to work in the park of the Institute. He told
me that there were mass tombs in the back of the clinic).
Back to my time in Wittenau. I stayed approximately three weeks
at the Bonhoeffer-Clinic and was transferred upon insistent requests
from my parents to the Westend-Hospital, where I stayed for one
month. The chairman of the hospital advised me to go home because
he wasn't allowed to help me because of my alleged mental illness
and because I was running the risk of being put back into a mental
I was submitted to a forensic interview and examination conducted
by Dr. Hommerich at the Robert-Koch-Hospital because a declaration
of incapacity had been requested against my parents' will in Wittenau.
He asked me questions that I would never be able to answer like
questions about Marital Law and Divorce Law and the name of beach
resorts in the Sudetenland. The court proceedings confirmed his
decision and were held behind closed doors. Against my father's
wish to nominate him as my guardian, a stranger was nominated.
But my parents protested against this decision and my father became
my guardian until his death on September 7, 1948.
After the fall of the Third Reich, I remained living at home.
My mother died on August 12, 1945. I earned my living as a courier.
Mr. Hans-Jürgen Henning from the Inner Mission Steglitz became
my guardian after my father's death. He was able to reverse the
guardianship because I had a job. The government medical examination
conducted by Dr. Erbsen from the health department stated that
there were no signs of mental retardation or mental disease. Due
to my several ailments, I was acknowledged severely disabled in
Today it seems like a wonder that I survived even if severely
damaged. I forgot to mention that in the years 1937/38 I transiently
suffered from a circularly shaped hair-loss which my doctor told
me was a very typical disease in mental institutions.
I don't want to leave unmentioned the fact that there were a
few good moments during the time I was institutionalized. My doctor
let me work on the grounds of the Potsdam madhouse located close
to Gutsvogt Henning. He only permitted me do work that I was able
to do and I was allowed to eat as much as I wanted from the fruit
in his garden. I still thank him today for his good treatment.
Also, the baker master Fritz Haschogk from Steglitz, Zimmermannstraße
7, in whose business I worked as a courier for some time always
supported me whenever he could. He advised me when he was my guardian
before my father. I still think with gratitude of him.
Because of my long and tormenting experiences, I work today in
many groups and in open house events in mental institutions. I
especially work to abolish involuntary commitments, isolation
rooms and incapacity declarations. And that the people themselves
can obtain access to their treatment records, that abuse of patients
is forbidden and that cruel staff gets dismissed and punished.
It is also important that the police and the courts decisively
fight against wrongdoings in madhouses and make unannounced visits
to these institutions, to check on the staff and the food. It
should be supervised and monitored to make sure that inmates have
enough clothing and pocket money. In all institutions there must
be rooms for socializing, there should be houses available for
shared living, partnerships should be possible without marriage,
the remuneration for work in institutions for the so-called mentally
disabled should be enough to live on, and all people with severe
handicaps should have a right to a pension. People with motor
handicaps should be accompanied for sight-seeing trips if they
wish to go. Sick and old people should have the same rights as
young and healthy ones and they also should have the right to
come and go from the morning to the evening. From my visits to
today's psychiatric institutions, I know that the various abuses
of human dignity are oftentimes even worse than during Hitler's
time. This has to change.
Lothar Jändke: Born 1917 in Berlin-Steglitz.
Courier for bread and advertisements. Movie theater placement
clerk. From 1935 to 1937 interned in three different madhouses.
Before and after Word War II, he worked as a newspaper delivery
clerk and as a courier. He dictated this article in 1993 while
retired and living in Berlin-Steglitz. Lothar Jändke has
English information about the book find at www.peter-lehmann-publishing.com/books/sp-e-1993.htm
Translated by Dr. Simone Silvestri Summer, 2005