How many deaths have occurred under psychiatric treatment in the psychiatric hospitals of Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde since 1990?

Dorothea Buck

Thanks to the support of the 102-year-old Dorothea Buck[1], who was awarded the Großes Verdienstkreuz des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (the Grand Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany) in 2008, is the Honorary Chairwoman of the Bundesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener e.V. (Federal Association of People Experienced with Psychiatric Treatment) and who survived the Nazi psychiatric system and forced sterilization, I have found the strength to turn to you by submitting this application as the final step, after years of seeking to raise awareness in vain. I now see this as the final opportunity to clear up the injustice committed against me and my fellow patients in the psychiatric clinics of Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde and in the institutions for people with disabilities in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Their voices have fallen silent and their whereabouts are currently unknown.

Ernst Klee’s documentary- The hell of Ueckermünde

My request relates to explaining the whereabouts of the people shown in Ernst Klee’s 1993 television documentary “Die Hölle von Ueckermünde” (The Hell of Ueckermünde). The question remains unanswered as to whether these people died directly as a result of the abuse and treatment they received there or as a result of the effects of such treatment. In addition, the human rights violations committed in the psychiatric hospitals of Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde, at least during my own stay there in 1997, and which have continued to this day through the staff of the institutions who are still working there, have yet to be explained or resolved. (Hell of Ueckermünde in 1993, by Ernst Klee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XOCdgZyQPg&t=480s)

Dr. Rainer Gold

Due to the abuse I experienced at the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Neubrandenburg under the direction of the then chief physician, Dr. Rainer Gold, and at the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Ueckermünde under the direction of the psychiatrist Wolfgang Kliewe, I was not able to take legal action at that time. This is because I was still a minor myself and, moreover, the severity of the psychological and physical injuries I experienced made me unable to take such action. In addition, I was categorized as having below-average intelligence during and especially after my discharge, which also establishes my inability to initiate my own external legal steps. No support was given by my legal guardians, because they wanted to forget about this topic and leave it behind them. 

On the very day of my commitment to the psychiatric hospital in Neubrandenburg in June 1997, the medical staff locked me up after I revealed my homosexuality; they restrained me and immediately administered psychotropic drugs with a strong sedative effect although I was a minor and they had not consulted with my legal guardians. These drugs led to the complete failure of numerous bodily functions. As a result of this experience and the time I spent in the psychiatric hospital in Ueckermünde, I lost my ability to speak for one and a half years.

I could not assert my rights in the commitment procedure, as neither the case guardian, Attorney Kuplin from Ueckermünde, nor the judge had a personal talk with me when I was still able to speak, or made any attempts to listen to me in Ueckermünde; she met a minor patient who was temporarily incapable of being heard, who was now housed together with mentally ill criminal offenders in the red brick building of House 12.

The psychiatric hospital in Ueckermünde had already become infamous in 1993 due to Ernst Klee’s documentry “Die Hölle von Ueckermünde – Psychiatrie im Osten” (The Hell of Ueckermünde – Psychiatry in the East), in which he uncovered serious abuses and wrongdoings. Because the study published in the aftermath of this report by the responsible authorities as well as the psychiatrist Sonja Süß, who had practiced in the GDR and was commissioned to conduct the investigation, had proclaimed that the circumstances shown in the report could not be attributed to the people working in the institution[2]and that they referred only to the department for the mentally disabled[3], the published appeasements allowed the injustice to continue uninterrupted after 1993 in these departments, which were not open to anyone.[4]

The Voices of Those Remaining

I am a witness of these conditions, which I have described in my memoir “The Voices of Those Remaining”,[5]and I corroborate my experience with the testimonies and documents included here; in 1997, four years after the documentary was broadcast, the conditions continued without interruption in a different form in House 12 at Ueckermünde Psychiatric Hospital. During my stay at Ueckermünde Psychiatric Hospital I met many people who had been severely physically, mentally and psychologically damaged by the conditions they had experienced during their stay there as well as after their release. They were unable to defend themselves against the suffering they had suffered there, not only because of the abuse they had experienced, but also because of the paternalistic care system in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which is still in place and supported by political leaders.  

It is only because of the fact that I managed to reclaim my life and have learned to deal with the impact of the abuse committed against me that I can now recount the conditions and behavior of the medical and nursing staff at the time, as described in my memoir. The people from Ernst Klee’s documentary and those who met me during my stay and after my discharge are not in a position to assert their own interests or make an outward effort. For this reason, I am also filing an application on their behalf to establish an international committee of inquiry or similar measures to investigate the human rights violations committed in Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde. When the Minister of Health Harry Glawe and the Chairman of the Committee on Petitions Manfred Dachner, after consulting with Matthias Crone[6], the Ombudsman for People with Disabilities[7], recommended that I contact the respective authorities such as the Mayor and/or the he National Agency for the Prevention of Torture without even having addressed my questions[8]regarding the whereabouts of the people shown in the Hell of Ueckermünde or my fellow patients in their replies, I have also been doing this work in vain across the borders of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania since 2015. For example, Gerd Walther, the former mayor of Ueckermünde, who I informed about the situation, has never responded to inquiries about the current conditions in the Ueckermünde Psychiatric Hospital after he was admitted to the Ueckermünde closed psychiatric ward in the summer of 2018. The representatives for people with disabilities and the authorities in Germany responsible for medical misconduct and inclusion, such as the medical associations, victim associations and various representatives of the state government of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, as well as other ministries in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, have not reacted to my petition and messages. The local institutions that were responsible in Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde have never responded to any letters at any time, including the present, due to their own personal involvement. As the rejection of the motion by the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which would have had the right to set up a committee of inquiry, shows, we could not and cannot reach out to anybody who wishes or intends to address or investigate the matter.

Minister of Health, Harry Glawe

Since the Minister of Health, Harry Glawe, stated in a letter dated July 5, 2017 that all of the procedures listed by me in the petition were justified, that psychiatry in Germany and particularly in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was by no means characterized by the abuse of power, inhumane treatment or psychiatric forced treatment, and that the Chairman of the Committee on Petitions, Manfred Dachner stated in a letter dated July 28, 2017, that he concluded there were no grounds for establishing a committee of inquiry as requested by me on the basis of the documentation and evidence submitted, I therefore call for the convening of an international committee of inquiry or similar measures to address and investigate the human rights violations in the psychiatric clinics of Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde.

Demands for a committee of inquiry is made up of respected individuals and affected citizens without the oversight of the political leaders of the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

An in-depth investigation of the twenty years today’s Minister of Economics, Employment and Health, Harry Glawe worked as a psychiatric nurse at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald Clinic, was to be carried out in order to reveal the complex web of interests surrounding the awareness campaign. In particular, it intended to establish which of the physicians described in appendix 5 Harry Glawe cooperated with.

Has Matthias Crone, the Ombudsman of the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania since 2012, even considered my petition against forced treatment and torture?

While the documentary “The Hell of Ueckermünde – Psychiatry in the East” is still shown throughout Germany as a cautionary example in nursing training, and can be viewed and commented on by everyone on YouTube, out of the historical significance of this film, I ask for the names of the people treated at the time of the documentary so that they can have a commemorative plaque created in their memory of which is financed by official bodies. Is this not possible?

How many of the people shown in the documentary have survived until today?

Which actual bodily injuries, which were not shown in the report, did those affected have to suffer and what impact did they have on their lives as a result?

How many of the people shown in the documentary have died as a result of the mistreatment they underwent, which can be seen in the image directory and video, although no investigations have been initiated by the state?

In 1997, when the assistant doctor, André Gille, who until recently was chief physician for neurology and psychiatry in Pasewalk, directly pushed the spinal cannula into my back two times within a period of only a few days without my consent or that of my legal guardians, as a then 17-year-old, helpless and vulnerable boy who was unable to speak, I wonder how many lumbar punctures were performed on people with mental developmental disorders in the years from 1990 to 2000, to which I officially belonged from a medical perspective since my arrival in Ueckermünde? 

When my fellow companion Birgit recounts in the enclosed interview clip that this film was shown on other psychiatric wards at the time of the broadcast of the documentary “The Hell of Ueckermünde”, then the question remains: Who was aware of the human rights violations and why was nothing done about them?

What medical staff and how many doctors who were involved in the crimes in the Hell of Ueckermünde continued their careers with no interruption and without being tried for their involvement?

Where did the staff shown in the video subsequently resume their activities and did or do these clinics have any abnormalities in how they have treated patients?

What actual awareness raising efforts did Dr. Rainer Gollert, the physician at the University of Greifswald who was responsible for psychiatry in Ueckermünde at the time and who went into politics together with Harry Glawe after the political turn and worked as Minister for Employment, Health and Social Affairs in 1993, actually undertake?

What was the political past of the investigative commission set up to shed light on the Hell of Ueckermünde, and what personal relationships did it have with political leaders such as Harry Glawe and Dr. Rainer Gollert[9]

After becoming aware of my memoir “The Voices of Those Remaining”[10]and my awareness raising efforts in March 2015, why did Dr. Rainer Gollert not distance himself from the conditions in the Hell of Ueckermünde a mere eight months later on November 17, 2015, at the celebration 25 Years of the State Parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in front of all political decision-makers, but only from the public news coverage?[11]

After the publication of the article on drug trials in Der Spiegel[12]in 1991, which responsible individuals in the medical associations of Berlin and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were aware that Dr. Rainer Gold was involved and that he and his wife, the psychiatrist Karin Gold, had been admitted to the medical association, whose work with potential fatal consequences for the victims has not yet been investigated[13]

How many people died during treatment at the Wilhelm Griesinger Clinic in Marzahn under Dr. Rainer Gold, head of the study? 

What role did Dr. Gold’s psychiatrist and wife play alongside her husband during these drug tests?

How can it be that Mary Gadewolz, a nurse who formerly worked at Ueckermünde and who could provide detailed information about the grievances there, now works as a social worker in an advisory capacity at the Social Psychiatric Service Neubrandenburg?

Why didn’t we receive any support and answers when we reported the inhuman treatment of those in need of protection to the Social Psychiatric Service in Neubrandenburg, e.g. Angelika Beier, who worked there and oppressed us in cooperation with the doctors?[14]

How were the cooperation procedures between the physicians and institutions in Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde organized?

How many non-conformist people have these institutions put behind closed doors to this day with the support of the doctors mentioned?

What political functions did the designated nursing staff, the social workers and the participating physicians perform in the GDR, and what implications and repercussions has this had for the institutions responsible for psychiatry to this day?

When the Minister of Health, Harry Glawe, stated in a letter dated July 5, 2017 that the hospital owners were responsible for filling senior medical positions, the question arose as to what connection the management of Neubrandenburg Hospital had at that time with Dr. Rainer Gold and his wife.

Was the suicide of the protagonist Simone, a frequent patient at Ueckermünde, actually a suicide, or did the inspectors not take a close look because Simone Stark was considered to be “mentally ill” by all responsible authorities in Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde?  Has there ever been an autopsy that confirms that Simone pulled the bag over her head on her own or that it was not done by a third party who might have had access to her apartment after she administered a sedative drug due to internal stress or was it even a previously prescribed suicidal-acting substance ?[15]

How many deaths have occurred under psychiatric treatment in the psychiatric hospitals of Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde since 1990?

An examination of the participation and complicity of all physicians and nurses listed in the appendix who are associated with the psychiatric hospitals of Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde is necessary to investigate all individual cases. 

Should my awareness raising efforts now be made more difficult because the current chief physician of the clinic in Ueckermünde, Thomas Severin, is an old acquaintance and former employee of Dr. Rainer Gold and Dr. Karin Gold, who worked for many years at the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy?

How can it be that the medical code of professional conduct permits such blatant misconduct, which I document on the 1000 pages of documents included, without this leading to the revocation of their right to work for the persons concerned? 

The publication of comprehensive statistical data on psychiatric forced treatment, and killings and death in these institutions from 1990 to 2019 must be carried out in full. The awareness raising work proposed in connection with these clinics must be conducted and concluded with the publication of a comprehensive final report available to the public.

Today, when we commemorate the victims of the murders of the T4 action every year and state that everything necessary must be done to ensure that the crimes against humanity are not repeated, I consider it the very minimum that the events that took place in the 1990s and the involvement of the medical staff in the psychiatric clinics of Neubrandenburg and Ueckermünde should be investigated to the very present.

Christian Discher, PhD


[1]http://www.bpe-online.de/english/dorotheabuck.htm und http://ki-art-multimedia.de/dresden/doro-english.htm  

[2]Sonja Süß: 1999. Politisch mißbraucht? Psychiatrie und Staatssicherheit in der DDR (Politically abused? Psychiatry and State Security in the GDR). Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin. 2nd edition (Scholarly Series of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic;14). pages 69-80

[3]Cf. Ebenda, 78

[4]“The care of the mentally ill, which he [Klee][: note author] did not mention, was relatively good,” explained Süß in 1998. Cf. ibid., 78, without specifying this in concrete terms. Before the fall of communism, there was even said to have been an open department at Ueckermünde Psychiatric Hospital, where patients were being treated constructively. I received letters from readers and news from various people who, according to their own testimonies, had been there for alcohol withdrawal or to treat a depressive episode.  The actions and behavior of the psychiatrist Dabruns, who was responsible for the open and closed psychiatry in Ueckermünde, are described as very cruel by the protagonist Birgit Zimmermann, whereas the psychiatrist Dabruns was described as particularly loving in Inge Stier’s written narratives as well as in her statements to me.

[5]Discher, Christian 2015: The Voices of Those Remaining: https://www.amazon.de/Voices-Those-Remaining-English-ebook/dp/B01CUHB8AQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1549894165&sr=8-2&keywords=the+voices+of+the+remaining

[6]“According to Article 36 of the National Constitution and the Petitions and Ombudsmen Act (M-V), the Ombudsman has the task of safeguarding the rights of citizens vis-à-vis the national government and public administration bodies in the country, of advising and supporting them in social matters and, in particular, of representing the interests of people with disabilities. It deals with citizens’ concerns (petitions) and should work towards a quick and consensual solution.” Accessible online at: https://www.buergerbeauftragter-mv.de/der-buergerbeauftragte/

[7]BürgerbeauftragteMatthias Crone ist Anwalt der Menschen(Ombudsman Matthias is the Lawyer of the People), press release from May 15, 2018 https://www.linksfraktionmv.de/nc/presse/pressemeldungen/detail/news/buergerbeauftragter-matthias-crone-ist-anwalt-der-menschen/

[8]German version of the petition: Gegen Folter und Zwangsbehandlung in deutschen Psychiatrien (Against Torture and Forced Treament in Germany Psychiatric Hosptials, with 7170 signature: https://www.change.org/p/landesregierung-gegen-folter-und-zwangsbehandlungen-in-deutschen-psychiatrien

[9]CV: Dr. Rainer Gollert:  https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaus_Gollert

[10]At the Leipzig Book Fair in March 2015, a nurse from Ueckermünde came up to me and told me that the local staff had read my memoir. He said they were shocked and that nobody had heard anything about the events described because they were working at other wards. The nurse was very tense and did not contact me again.

[11]„Das Negativste, was ich in meiner Regierungs- und Abgeordnetenzeit erlebt habe, war 1992 der ZDF-Beitrag über die „Hölle in Ueckermünde“. Vielleicht wissen das noch einige – das war deprimierend, dass dort, wo wir schon viel gemacht hatten, irgendein Fernsehteam in der Anstalt war und dort gedreht hat und Dinge zeigte, die wirklich schlimm waren. Aber es war eben, wie gesagt, eine Zeit, in der wir im Aufholen waren und nicht alles auf einmal erreichen konnten.“ “The most negative thing I experienced during my time in governmentand parliament was the ZDF documentary about the “Hell in Ueckermünde”. Maybe some people know this already – it was depressing that in this place, where we had already done so much work, some TV team went into the institution and shot scenes which showed some very bad things. However, as I’ve said, this was at a time when we were catching up and couldn’t accomplish everything at once.”

https://www.landtag-mv.de/fileadmin/media/Dokumente/Druckerzeugnisse/Festveranstaltung_25Jahre_Landtag.pdf

[12]http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-13487494.html(A partial translation is also available at: German politicians block investigating and explaining The Hell in Ueckermünde: https://inklusionspolitik.de/en/german-politicians-block-investigating-and-explaining-the-hell-in-ueckermuende/

[13]In the study “Testing in the East – GDR drug studies on behalf of western pharmaceutical companies”, published in 2016 by Hess, Volker; Hottenrott Laura/ Steinkamp, Peter the number of victims was not explicitly stated. (Evidence: Gutachten Wien)

[14]Aftercare Scandal: http://inklusionspolitik.de/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/JudiKlein_SkandalinderNachsorge_FINAL.pdf

[15]About Elisa and Ueckermünde:  https://inklusionspolitik.de/ueber-ueckermuende-und-elisa-2/

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