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Korbach under National Socialism

Senior teacher Marion Möller returned to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen for the sixth time in early April to research the history of the north Hessian county seat Korbach under National Socialism. “I have had contact to the ITS since the opening of the archive, and I´m grateful for their support,” said Möller  “The documents at the archive help to close significant gaps in our regional historiography.”

Möller teaches history at the Alten Landesschule in Korbach and works on research projects with her students. In addition, she is writing her dissertation on Korbach´s history under National Socialism. She is also a dedicated member of a 15-person working group on the process of coming to terms with Nazi euthanasia in Waldeck-Frankenberg county. Their research findings will be exhibited to the public at the Wolfgang Bonhage Museum in Korbach starting September 9, 2009.

Korbach residents also fell victim to the Nazi euthanasia programme of 1939, which endeavored to murder physically or mentally disabled people as “life unworthy of life.” Möller determined that there were nine victims in Korbach alone, “whose tragic fate was almost beyond comprehension.” German institutional patients as well as Soviet and Polish forced labourers were targeted. “We want to remember their fates in this exhibition.”

Bernhard Löwenstern was among the victims, reported Möller. “He suffered from mild schizophrenia.” The Nazis found Löwenstern to be “hereditarily defective” and he was forcibly sterilized. He and other Jewish citizens were arrested immediately after Kristallnacht in November 1938. Löwenstern was detained and tortured for two years at the Kassel Gestapo, Buchenwald concentration camp, the prison and investigation prison Kassel-Wehlheiden, Haina State Hospital, Giessen State Hospital and the Brandenburg extermination facility. At the age of 25 the Korbach resident was murdered. “I was able to reconstruct some of the details of his arrest, detention at Buchenwald and subsequent preventive detention in Kassel-Wehlheiden at the ITS,” said Möller.

The history teacher has already worked through other aspects of Korbach´s Nazi past with her students. Various publications have been put out, including Traces of Jewish Life and National Socialist Demonstration of Power - The Other City Guide to Korbach/Waldeck. “My work at the ITS has enriched me on a scholastic level, as I can integrate new insights into the history lesson immediately,” said Möller. The teacher believes that including the ITS´s extensive records in history lessons is especially important. “Contact with original documents engenders an intensity which history books cannot.” The scope and variety of the ITS´s pre-war and post-war documents is exceptional compared to the memorials.

Möller is also planning a dissertation on Korbach´s Nazi history, as the topic has not been adequately researched, and she has collected plenty of material in the meantime. “There are numerous documents on Korbach´s history at the ITS,” she reported. Möller has already done research at the Federal Archive in Berlin, the Hessian State Archives in Wiesbaden and Marburg, the Breitenau Memorial, and also at Yad Vashem in Israel. “I have looked at concentration camp files and many different kinds of records including prison, tax, court and those from employment agencies and the public health department. Thanks to the ITS´s constructive support, I have made a great deal of progress,” said Möller happily.