26th Location: Bachstraße 8 (Ortsteil Dankersen)

Paula Gehlhaus nee´ Otte

Paula Gehlhaus was born on 28th April, 1893, in the Stadthagen, district of Schaumburg-Lippe. Her parents were the Post Master, Hermann Otte and Lina, born Hohmann. She was a Protestant.

There were five siblings living in the family. According to one of her sisters Paula was considered to be mentally and physically disabled. She remained unmarried until her 37th year. On 22nd July, 1920, Paula Otte gave bi26_Paula Gehlhausrth to an illegitimate son, Willi, in Herford who, from childhood onwards, was mentally and physically disabled and because of this, lived in the Orphanage in Bruderstrasse, Minden.

On 21st August, 1930, she married the hairdresser, Karl Gehlhaus, with whom she then lived, in Dankersen at Bachstrasse 8.

The beginning of her mental illness became apparent during the first years of her marriage. In the spring of 1934 she was admitted to the Minden Hospital, where doctors diagnosed her as being mentally ill, the cause unknown. The Public Health Officer confirmed the necessity of admitting her to a Sanatorium. So it was that she entered the Bodelschwinghsche Facility, Bethel, on 7th July, 1934.

The continued entries in her hospital notes tell of a constant worsening of her condition, but at the same time certifying that the cause was not of organic origin. She lived on a secure psychiatric ward.

On 18th November, 1941, the Sanatorium Director wrote a letter to her husband saying that his wife was, together with a number of patients from Bethel, being transferred to the Sanatorium at Guetersloh, as ordered by the President, Muenster. The move took place on 21st November, 1941. The transfer certificate again confirmed an inborn, incurable mental deficiency.

Excepting a note written on 9th June, 1942, in the Guetersloh Sanatorium’s discharge book saying, `The Medical record was closed after release from Guetersloh´, there are no other medical record entries to be found. The discharge book states that on 9th June, 1942, Paula Gehlhaus was transferred to Warta. This entry is false because she lived in the Guetersloh Facility at least until 12th November, 1943. On this date it is recorded in her medical notes `Transfer to Warta´. Two days later, on 14th November, 1943, an admittance certificate to Warta was issued for Paula Gehlhaus. On examining the medical notes it is not possible to explain how or why the false entry occurred.

Warta/Poland belonged, at the time of the German occupation, to the so called `Reich’s Area, Wartheland´. The Sanatorium, Warte, was one of the German Reich’s Death Camps, in which the euthanasia policy, disabled, sick and the social conspicuous were murdered. These murder programs were officially stopped in the summer of 1941, but in actual fact were continued until the end of the war. As a result there were a further 200.000 victims, one of them being Paula Gehlhaus. She died 1st January, 1945. The death certificate states tuberculosis as the cause of death.


  •  Willi Otte, Paula Gehlhaus’ disabled son was also murdered in the euthanasia program. He died in the Sanatorium, Elfing-Haar on 25th February, 1945, in the so called `Hunger House´. There is a Stumbling Stone at the front of the Robert-Nussbaum-House at Bruederstrasse 16, bearing his name.