As the first health insurance company, DAK-Gesundheit has worked through the history of children’s cures in the post-war period. The results of the independent research resulted in a publication that CEO Andreas Storm presented on Wednesday in Berlin: “Course or deportation? The children’s cures of the DAK between claim and reality”. On behalf of DAK-Gesundheit, Storm apologized to everyone who had painful experiences during these cures. Baden-Württemberg’s social affairs and health minister, Manne Lucha, chairman of the health ministers’ conference of the federal states (GMK), acknowledged the reappraisal as an important signal that should be followed by further examples – an assessment that Prof. Dr. Christiane Dienel from the initiative for children who are affected shares. She demands that the federal government, the federal states and the providers of the cures at the time work through and recognize the suffering. The book by the historian Prof. Dr. Hans-Walter Schmuhl on the DAK children’s cures “a promising start”.
From the 1950s to the 1990s, children and young people experienced stays in children’s sanatoriums and clinics as “deportation children” – for a period of several weeks, in the first decades without contact with their parents. There were around ten million deported children nationwide, of which up to 450,000 were insured with the DAK. The cash register maintained three of its own children’s sanatoriums: the Quickborn house on Sylt, the Schuppenhörnle house in the Black Forest and the Hamburg house in Bad Sassendorf. In addition, the DAK worked together with a total of 65 contract homes.
Many children suffered from loneliness, homesickness, fear of loss and strict educational methods during their stay. There are frequent reports of physical violence and humiliation, and occasionally of sexual assault. In November 2020, the board of directors and board of directors of DAK-Gesundheit committed themselves in a joint declaration to the first health insurance company in Germany to deal with the events of that time.
The cash register commissioned the Bielefeld historian Prof. Dr. Hans-Walter Schmuhl to create a well-founded and independent study in which the history of the deportation children is comprehensively processed for the first time. Schmuhl researches the history of the 19th and 20th centuries and, in addition to evaluating historical sources, also uses the method of “oral history”: The story is to be reconstructed from the descriptions of contemporary witnesses, in this case from conversations with former children who had been deported as well as with people who were in the service of the DAK during this time.
“The interlocking of structural factors, the pedagogical ideas of the educators and the children’s spa concept created the breeding ground for the emergence of a subculture of violence,” says study author Schmuhl. The experiences of the “deported children” are comparable to those that are known from other child and youth welfare institutions, psychiatric institutions and help for the disabled at that time. “It was clear not These are individual cases,” emphasizes Schmuhl. “On the other hand, some of those affected report that they have not suffered violence themselves, but have witnessed the use of violence against others. Still others have no negative memories of the cure.”
When presenting the study in Berlin, DAK CEO Andreas Storm addressed the children who had been deported directly: “We are shedding light on a dark page in the almost 250-year history of our fund. The documented grievances in children’s sanatoriums are in no way in line with our values compatible. We see it as our task and obligation to acknowledge the suffering of those affected, to work through the grievances historically, to seek dialogue and to live up to our responsibility. It is a deep need for me, everyone who has experienced suffering in the children’s On behalf of DAK-Gesundheit, I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart.”
Schmuhl based his research not only on studying the files of the DAK, but also on conversations with those affected and findings that the nexus Institute, in cooperation with the Initiative Verschickungskinder and its association Auffertigung und Erforschung Kinderverschickungen e. V. were worked up. “We, those affected, do not want to be the object of research when dealing with the events, but want to actively participate,” says Prof. Dr. Christiane Dienel, managing director of the nexus institute and herself a former deported child.
“Hundreds of former children who were deported are already active in regional and local groups, researching the files and dealing with the abuses of children’s sanatoriums. Thousands have given detailed testimonies on the initiative’s website and as part of our large online survey,” reports Dienel. “The Verschickungskinder initiative expects the federal government, the federal states and the sponsors to acknowledge the suffering and to come to terms with what happened. The book by Hans-Walter Schmuhl is a promising start here.”
The Baden-Württemberg Minister for Social Affairs, Health and Integration, Manne Lucha, currently acting Chairman of the Health Ministers’ Conference of the federal states, emphasizes the importance of this first comprehensive research into the subject of “deportation children”: “It is important that we listen to the people who have experienced bad things , and ensure that their suffering is heard, seen, named and publicly acknowledged. Precisely because it is our common duty to prevent something like this from happening again, it is important to collect the terrible experiences, process them and recognize the structural deficits. Baden-Württemberg is leading the way as a state, the DAK-Gesundheit as a carrier. This example should be followed by many other actors so that we can learn from the past for the future.” A round table on deportation children has been meeting in Lucha’s ministry since 2020 – there were numerous sanatoriums in Baden-Württemberg, including one of the DAK.
Minister Lucha thanks Professor Schmuhl for his work and praises the open exchange that DAK-Gesundheit maintains. CEO Storm had met with former deported children for a day in advance and exchanged their experiences. Since the end of 2020, a total of around one hundred people affected have reported to DAK-Gesundheit. “Many people still feel health, especially mental impairments. The fact that Andreas Storm apologizes on behalf of DAK-Gesundheit and calls for dialogue with other people affected is an important symbol,” says Lucha.
The 300-page study describes the suffering of the deported children in detail. It is based on numerous in-depth interviews. Schmuhl summarizes from these, among other things: “The interviews reveal a wide range of forms of violence. Evident are the rigorous isolation of the spa children from the outside world, constant monitoring, submission to rigid daily structures, the confiscation of personal items, the denial of areas of retreat , often impersonal treatment, a strict, sometimes military-sounding command tone, verbal abuse, threats, humiliating punishments, exposure of the naked body and massive forms of physical violence, from slapping to being locked in a broom closet or the violent funneling of vomit to massive sexual assault.All of this caused deep wounds to the self associated with very strong emotions, particularly overwhelming feelings of shame, which linger long after the cure, in some cases to this day.These after-effects range from intense food aversion and emetophobia to social anxiety to deep attachment disorders. According to the thesis presented in the present study, children who did not have a secure bond with their parents were particularly badly affected – here existing relationship patterns were strengthened and stabilized.”
Information on the publication: Hans-Walter Schmuhl: Cure or deportation?
The children’s cures of the DAK between claim and reality, Dölling and Galitz Verlag, 304 pages, ISBN 978-3-86218-163-6, 28 euros.
Original content from: DAK-Gesundheit, transmitted by news aktuell