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Last Update 1 September 2006


Sonnenstein Castle, located at Pirna near Dresden, above the river Elbe, was built after 1460 on the site of a former medieval castle.
Sonnenstein Castle was used as a mental home since 1811. Because of the advanced methods practiced there, it received worldwide acclaim and served as a model for other institutions. In October 1939 this mental home was closed.

Sonnenstein Staff Members
Sonnenstein Staff Members
From early 1940 until end of June 1940, a part of the castle was converted into a euthanasia killing centre. A gas chamber and crematorium were installed in the cellar of the former men's sanitary (building C 16). A high brick-wall on two sides of the complex shielded it from outside while a high hoarding was erected on the other sides. Four buildings were located inside the shielding. They were used for offices, living rooms for the personnel etc. Sleeping quarters for the "burners" (men who burned the bodies) were provided for in the attic of building C 16. It is possible that other sections of the buildings were also used by T4.

In Sonnenstein the extermination procedure was the same as in other euthanasia killing centres:

-undressing and handing over of the valuables (rings, watches etc.) to the personnel,

-a superficial inspection of the victims, to see which plausible cause of death the Bernburg administration could pass on to  the relatives,
-taking photos of the persons,
-taking the doomed persons to the gas chamber and gassing,
-cremation of the corpses in the institute's ovens,
-filling the urns with ash, (it was unimportant to the staff from which particular corpse the ash came)
-dispatching urn and death certificate to the relatives.

From end of June 1940 until September 1942, approximately 15,000 persons were killed in the scope of the euthanasia programme and the Sonderbehandlung 14f13. The staff consisted of about 100 persons. One third of them were ordered to the extermination camps in occupied Poland, because of their experiences in deception, killing, gassing and burning innocent people.

During August/September 1942, the Sonnenstein killing centre was liquidated and incriminating installations such as gas chamber installations and crematorium ovens dismantled. From October 1942, the buildings were used as a military hospital.

In the summer of 1947 some Aktion T4 members appeared as accused in the Dresdner Ärzteprozess (Doctor's Trial in Dresden). Professor H. P. Nitsche, medical chief of T4, and two male nurses from Sonnenstein were sentenced to death.

It took about 40 years to recognise the part Sonnenstein played in the euthanasia programme, and in 1989 the public commemorated the bloody history of this T4 centre.

A number of Aktion Reinhard personnel served at Sonnenstein, these include Johannes Bauch, Werner Becher, Max Beulich, Kurt Blaurock, Karl Böhm, Rudi Böhm, Heinz Kurt Bolender, Gerhard Börner, Arthur Dachsel, Erich Dietze, Johannes Eisold, Hermann Felfe, Alfred Forker, Kurt Franz *, Heinrich Gley, Willy Grossmann, Emil Hackel, Lorenz Hackenholt *, Haunstein, Gottlieb Hering, Otto Horn, Rudolf Kamm, Johannes Klahn, Walter Kloss (Klose?), Fritz Konrad, Erwin Lambert, Arthur Le., Heinrich Arthur Matthes, Werner Mauersberger, Gustav Münzberger, Walter Nowak, Josef Oberhauser, Orliewski, Paul Räpke, Wenzel Rehwald, Karl Richter, Paul Rost, Herbert Scharfe, Ernst Schemmel, Karl Schiffner, Erich Schirmer, Fritz Schmidt, Erich Schulz, Ernst Seidler, Kurt Seidel, Friedrich Tauscher, Kurt Vey, Arthur Walther, Wilhelm Wendland, Hans Zänker, Fritz Zaspel, Ernst Zierke and Franz Zwingmann.

Since 9 June 2000 a permanent exhibition is to be seen in the rooms of Haus C 16.

* See the Franz Photo Story!
* See the Hackenholt Photo Story!
Sonnenstein 1944 Building C16 2001 Gas Chamber
Sonnenstein 1944 Building C16 2001 Gas Chamber

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