After suffering and violence finally recognition

Wittekindshof informs about new foundation for former home children of the handicapped or. Psychiatry.

A group of girls from the Wittekindshof facility for the disabled goes to church with an educator. Source: Archive Wittekindshof, Bad Oeynhausen

Bad Oeynhausen/ North Rhine-Westphalia/ Berlin/ Hamburg (AM). "I fight on and on", Ursel Weinand explains with a raised fist. The sentence is a motto of life for the 74-year-old, who has lived in a wheelchair-accessible apartment in Hamburg for more than 30 years. She is a former home child. She entered the home at the age of four, lived for more than 20 years in the Wittekindshof in Bad Oeynhausen and later in other homes for people with disabilities. "We were beaten with coat hangers and belts and could almost never get out. We secretly washed our panties because our underwear was checked every night," she says. If our shoes were broken or expired, we didn’t get anything to eat as punishment and were locked up.", Weinand reports. In the past, she often traveled in an electric wheelchair. She can no longer manage physically. For a few years now, the center of her life has been confined to her sofa. "Never again home she says and raises her fist to reinforce the statement. This is visibly difficult for her because she has been weakened for weeks by a severe case of pneumonia.

Ursel Weinand experienced injustice and violence in the Wittekindshof and other institutions for people with disabilities. For years she fought, now her suffering has finally been recognized by the "Stiftung Anerkennung und Hilfe" (Foundation for Recognition and Help). Source: Anke Marholdt, Wittekindshof Bad Oeynhausen, Germany

Exclusion from the Heimkinderfonds is a scandal

Many children and young people experienced violence, undignified treatment and even abuse in the 1950s to 1970s – also at the Wittekindshof. This is what former home children report and what the scientific reappraisal of Wittekindshof’s history has confirmed, reports board spokesman Rev. Professor Dr. Dierk Starnitzke, who has had personal conversations with many former children in the home and has worked to ensure that all the files still available are made available on request. Many former home children first had their childhood stolen from them. Then they were condemned to silence and their suffering was not acknowledged. It is a scandal that women and men who lived as young people in psychiatric institutions or institutions for the disabled have been excluded from the Heimkinderfonds, which was established by the Runde Tisch Heimerziehung in 2012, explains Starnitzke, who has been campaigning for years through professional associations and in direct contact with politicians and those responsible for opening up the Heimkinderfonds.

Rolf Neumann had to peel buckets of small potatoes as punishment at Wittekindshof. He has also used the media to draw attention to the suffering and injustice that he and others have experienced in institutions for the disabled and psychiatry. Source: Anke Marholdt, Wittekindshof Bad Oeynhausen, Germany

The spokesperson for the board of directors has been to expert discussions at the state and national level, has taken a public stand and written many letters. He also campaigned for former children in care to have their say at hearings as experts on their own behalf. Ursel Weinand and Rolf Neumann, who was beaten as a child at Wittekindshof, tied to radiators and stair railings and experienced much injustice, were among them. Neumann himself sought contact with politicians because of the discrimination by the Home Children’s Fund and emphasized on radio and television: "Violence is violence. Violence did not only exist in reformatories, but also in homes for the handicapped!" Weinand and Neumann were to hearings in the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in Berlin and reported on their home experiences and emphasized that time is pressing because many former home children have already died.

New: Foundation for recognition and assistance

After tough wrangling, at the beginning of the year the Foundation recognition and help started their work. Former institutionalized children who experienced suffering and injustice in psychiatry and institutions for the handicapped receive 9.000 euros in lump-sum cash benefits and up to 5.000 Euro pension replacement benefits. "The pension replacement benefits are lower than in the Heimkinderfonds, which is a compromise, but otherwise there would have been no agreement again.", explains Starnitzke, who particularly regrets that former home children from the Wittekindshof, who provided valuable support in coming to terms with the history of the Wittekindshof, have so far been left empty-handed.

Wittekindshof informs former children in care

We immediately informed former home children, with whom we are in close contact, about the new foundation and also reported in the Wittekindshofer media. We have now sent more than 600 letters to caregivers of men and women who we know lived in Wittekindshof homes between 1949 and 1975, and many of whom are still alive today," reports Starnitzke, adding: "For several weeks now, we have been receiving more and more inquiries from the contact and counseling centers in the various German states. So far, we have been able to confirm most of the inquiries, because we still have most of the files available.

Rolf Neumann was tied to radiators and received beatings. Now he has finally received money from the "Foundation Recognition and Help. Source: Anke Marholdt, Wittekindshof Bad Oeynhausen

Talk and money do good

Ursel Weinand and Rolf Neumann were among the first people to benefit from the Foundation for Recognition and Assistance. My caregiver has contacted the foundation. Then an employee came to my home. That was the breakthrough. I told her everything," says Neumann happily. Ursel Weinand was also visited by a representative of the Foundation: "They took me seriously. She listened and believed me. Both have meanwhile received the money from the foundation to their account. It is not counted as income or assets and therefore does not have to be used for social welfare benefits. Neumann is pleased that he finally has a "nest egg" can put back. Weinand dreams of returning once again to the place of her childhood. But even now she has to fight again and raises her fist with effort. This time for their health.

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