St. Josefsheim 1909-1937
The complex was built between 1909 and 1913 by the Franciscan Order and operated until 1937 as a home and workplace by the Franciscans of Waldbreitbach for up to 600 mentally and physically handicapped people. It included a church, administrative wing, school, blocks of flats, numerous workshops and a self-catering farm.
In 1936 the Franciscan Order was convicted of foreign exchange offenses to large fines and the morality trials against members of the order and priests under National Socialism also met brothers from Waldniel. Finally, the Order had to file for bankruptcy and leave Waldniel.
Provincial Health and Nursing Home Waldniel
After the dissolution of St. Josefsheims the complex was acquired from the bankrupt estate by the Provincial Association of the Rhine Province, today the Landschaftsverband Rheinland (LVR), for 600,000 Reichsmark and continued as a subsidiary of the health and nursing home Süchteln-Johannistal with 870 beds. Due to the drastic reduction of the daily meal rates and the resulting malnutrition as well as inadequate heating and hygiene, the death toll increased in all institutions.
“Children ’s department” Waldniel
In August 1941, the provincial governor of the Rhine province Heinz Haake agreed to the demand of the “Reich Committee for the Scientific Recording of Genetic and Plant-Related Serious Suffering” under Viktor Brack, Hans Hefelmann and Richard von Hegener for a “childrens department”. In the building of the former “Guardian Angel House” of the Franciscans, a so-called children’s department was set up with about 220 beds, which was occupied on 16 December 1941.
Some of the children were transferred from other facilities to Waldniel without the consent or notification of their parents. Thus, on March 8 1942, twelve children from the Franz Sales House were admitted, and in 1943 62 children and adolescents from Bonn, some of whom died there or after their relocation in other child departments. In 1942/43, at least 30 mentally handicapped children were killed by the administration of Luminal. Other children were slowly starved for months. The death certificates of about 100 children were falsely recorded as wasting, pneumonia or cardiovascular failure as a diagnosis.
With the dissolution of the institution in July 1943, the remaining 183 children were transported to five other “specialist departments” in Görden, Uchtspringe, Lüneburg, Ueckermünde and Ansbach. A large part of those responsible for the Rhenish “Kindereuthanasie” – staff of health administration and clinics – were not prosecuted even after the war, only the psychiatrist Hermann Wesse was sentenced in 1948 in the Düsseldorf euthanasia process because of Waldnieler infanticides.
From mid-1943 until March 1, 1945, the buildings were used as a backup hospital for the Rheydt Municipal Hospital. In the following years they served as a home for education. In the guardian angel house (“child department”) were first the elementary school for the surrounding Honschaften, a Provinzial education home for boys, later also a Caritas home for school-released girls, from 1950 to 1955 a home for about 50 school-age boys “hostel Hostert”.
Around 1951, the British confiscated much of the building as a military hospital. In 1952, the edifices could be repurchased by the Franciscan Order at a reasonable price, but only partially used because most of the buildings were confiscated by the British.
The federation bought 1955 the area from the Franciscan order for the British. In the following 37 years, the area was leased to the British, who set up after rebuilding and extensions of the British Military Hospital Hostert and from September 1963 to 1991, the facility used as a British Kent School. In the Kent School, 1400 young people were taught; 270 of them were housed in the boarding school.
Thereafter, the site was for sale and was sold in November 2006 in a foreclosure sale to a private individual. The owner leaves visitors only for a fee on the grounds and buildings.
Nowadays the security is high at the complex, so don’t try to enter without permission! Fines are very high!