Unexplained infant deaths in 1969
Life expectancy of premature infants in 1969
Transport technology of the 60s
Dubious infant transports in 1969
Dubious infant transports in 1970
Guidelines for patient transport
Prefab death reports?
Death report for Stefan J.
Death report for Ronny W.
Death report for Heiko G.
Death report for Dirk D.
Death report for Manuela
Death report for Ulricke G.
The death of Margarete G.
The death of Oleg K.
Doctors and deaths
Review of an “incident” in the maternity ward
“Ergo, no great loss”
Medicine and the Stasi
Dr. med. Hans-Peter B., Medizinalrat
Dr. med. Helmut P., Obermedizinalrat
Dr. Joachim W., Medizinalrat
Dr. med. Klaus-Wolfgang K., Obermedizinalrat
Head of the Central Medical Service
Military Medical Section Greifswald
The network of military medicine in public institutions
Medicine and the Stasi: a conclusion
Enrico at the hospital
Enrico at the anatomical pathology department
Where are the infants’ bodies?
The legal situation regarding burials
The legal situation before 1980
Cemeteries in Rostock
The treatment of parents
Possible motives for infant abduction
Providing babies for adoption in the West?
Recruitment for elite Stasi missions?
Mothers, even until today, doubt the death of their babies shortly after birth in former East Germany. They desire information about what really happened. Their experiences are very similar: the child was born, taken away, and shortly thereafter the message was delivered, “the infant has died”. Often, it was claimed that the infant had died elsewhere, that he or she had to be taken to another hospital, away from the one where the birth had taken place; the staff promised to take care of all the formalities. The mothers never saw their allegedly dead child and they were advised against a burial. Often the women said that they had been forced to sign a document without having any idea what they were really signing. It is also striking that mothers were frequently put under general anaesthesia shortly after birth for no apparent reason.
Only decades after the collapse of the GDR did the parents concerned create a focused group: they discovered they were not alone. They had remained silent for years for fear of being seen as crazy by the general public. Only after learning that the cases of dubious infant deaths in former East Germany were so numerous were the mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters emboldened to demand clarification as to how this happened.
Had those actually been cases of child abduction through faked death? Today, there are highly emotional arguments connected with this question between those affected and the parties that had been in charge – who vehemently dismiss the acquisitions as nonsense, claiming that child abduction had been entirely impossible at the time.
For many years, I have researched various archives, talked to affected parents and received documents from them. I have attempted to contact people with insider knowledge and also questioned those formerly responsible. The result of this investigation is intended to support the parents and siblings of the vanished children and, one might hope, also finally move those in charge to give answers to these very legitimate and crucial questions.
Through my work as an assistant professor, I have acquired various types of contacts, including insiders who consented to give me confidential information as long as they remained anonymous. These people stated that there really had been organised child abductions executed with the help of faked deaths starting in 1969 in former East Germany.
As a lawyer, I can only use information if I can find proof for it. Therefore, I decided to concentrate on one year, 1969, and to look for proofs: after all, there had to be documents about the development of the child mortality rate from 1969 onwards in former East Germany. And indeed, my research in the German Federal Archives and the Rostock City Archive unearthed a great deal.
Unexplained infant deaths in 1969
The Federal Archives confirmed that indeed there was an unexplainable rise in the infant mortality rate in 1969, covering the entirety of former East Germany. The response of the Ministry of Health to this concerning report was to hold an investigatory conference on April 8th, 1970, in Berlin to uncover the causes.1
This handwritten analysis of specific districts states that East Berlin, Rostock, Neubrandenburg, Potsdam, Magdeburg, Halle, Erfurt, Gera, Dresden and Leipzig show increases in premature and stillborn births.
Here are some excepts of the analysis:
The focal point is on premature mortality and mortality of prematurely born infants. Increased occurrence in the areas of Bad-Langensalza, Gotha and Erfurt city. High occurrences in both premature mortality and premature birth mortality. For premature babies, the reason usually given is ‘sudden death’.
A relative increase in premature birth rate; increased mortality of prematurely born infants. No premature infant centres in the northern districts. Chances of survival reduced due to long transport routes.
Increase in premature birth rates and high mortality of prematurely born infants. 12 sudden deaths in the fourth quarter of the year.
Large differences between the data reported by the Central Administration for Statistics and the data reported by the districts with regard to infant mortality. Focal points of high infant mortality: the districts of Quedlinburg, Hettstedt and Wittenberg.
Increase in premature births and the mortality of prematurely born infants. (…) Extremely high utilization of paediatric bed capacity leading to unsolved problems for patient transport. It appears that the high utilization was detrimental to the supply of the population. New structural planning required.”2
As early as September 18, 1969, the problem was addressed by the Commission for the Reduction of Infant and Child Mortality at the Rostock City Council; an unusual increase in premature infant mortality for 1969 was reported. The minutes of the meeting read: “The table shows that the overall high infant mortality was a direct result of the high mortality of prematurely born infants. No reason could be found for this unexplainable rise.”3
The investigatory conference of the Ministry of Health in Berlin in 1970 had no explanation for the drastic increase in infant mortality, either. All that remains are a few letters of intent designed to improve medical care.
The insider information was fully confirmed by this initial research, confirming me in my plans to conduct further investigations. Next, the question arose, “In the case of these infant deaths, how were the bureaucratic procedures executed?” It was clear that further exhaustive research into the saved files needed to be carried out. If these procedures were manipulated, then there would probably be errors and contradictions which could help uncover the fraud. It cannot be stressed enough that access to these documents, which are openly available for investigative research today, had been strictly forbidden in the not so distant past.
The GDR was a typical German bureaucracy. In case of an infant death, extreme precision was used in recording; various documents were issued. If the death occurred in a hospital, the procedure was as follows: “In the case of death of an infant up to one year old, a written report, in accordance with Section 28 (4) of the Civil Status Act” had to be submitted to the local registry office; the death report and a birth certificate of the child had to be available before the register entry in the death book. “A legally correct authentication” had to be carried out by the office of the registry; in order to do this, all relevant information had to be checked.4
Furthermore, mandatory checks and document requests had to be processed by the local Commissions for Reduction of Infant and Child Mortality at the parents’ place of residence by the Mother and Child Unit. The test results determined if the death was “avoidable” or “unavoidable.”
Accordingly, to decide if infant deaths were ever faked, these documents had to be meticulously examined and evaluated for clues.
To accomplish this, I categorised infant deaths according to different age groups; then, all available documents had to be combed over carefully. I began by checking the death records of the City of Rostock in 1969, 1970, 1975, and 1979, comparing all registered infant deaths to the remaining, “written reports of the death of an infant up to one year old in accordance with Section 28 (4) of the Civil Status Act.” I would have also analysed the death and birth certificates from the registry office, but unfortunately, these were no longer present at the city of Rostock archive.5
Still, comparison was possible. To clearly define a field of research, I first dealt with the deaths concerning the Rostock University Hospital. In 1969, the increase in infant mortality was connected to premature births: it was thus to be clarified when a child was classified as premature at the time.
In 1969, the medical community made a distinction between children born alive, stillborn infants and aborted foetuses. In a 1970 publication, the lecturer and senior doctor at the Institute for Hygiene at the University of Rostock, Dr. med. Habil. Siegfried Akkermann, stated: “An infant in whom lung respiration and heartbeat had set in after complete separation from the womb is considered to be born alive. An infant qualifies as stillborn if, after complete separation from the mother’s womb, lung respiration and/or heartbeat have not set in, and its length is at least 35 cm. Aborted foetuses are defined as products of conception separated from the womb, which are not born alive and have a length of less than 35 cm.”6
In 1969, the medical consensus was that premature babies with a very low weight had no chance of survival. In 1992, Professor Diedrich Berg, a member of the board of the German Society for Gynaecology and Obstetrics, said: “In the 1960s, there was no chance for babies weighing less than 1000 grams – neither in the East nor in the West.”7And the director of the Erfurt Gynaecological Hospital, Professor Erich Wagner, emphasised that small premature babies had no chance of survival until the 1970s because modern ventilators were lacking, as were oxygen monitoring devices.8
To sum up: premature babies had little chance of survival in the 60s. The next question is: could premature babies be transported during that time?
Transport technology of the 60s
The GDR economy was determined by constant shortages. Patient transport in the 1960s was no exception. On 19.1.1966, Mr E. from Rostock wrote this petition to the city’s Health Department:
“On Friday, 7.1.1966, my wife suddenly got severe pains in her abdomen and collapsed on the stairs at home. My daughter-in-law, who is a nurse, only managed to get an ambulance to come and take my wife to the hospital after some quite energetic arguments. The fast, one might say almost reckless, ride in the unheated, poorly sprung ambulance car caused my wife such pain that my daughter-in-law, who had been riding along, had to ask the driver to slow down.
The admission to the surgical hospital lasted from 10.30 in the morning until 14.00. This seems like a very long time for a seriously ill person.
That same evening, my wife was transferred from this hospital to a gynaecological one – again in an unheated, poorly sprung car. After a thorough examination there, it was determined that an operation was necessary, and on 13 January, my wife was transferred to the University Medical Hospital. Here she was to be prepared for the operation (she has heart and circulatory problems).
This last transfer took place as follows: My wife was brought into the car in her nightgown and bathrobe on a stretcher. Then she waited for more patients to join her to be transported collectively. Finally, another journey in an unheated, badly sprung car began. It went through the whole city, with individual patients dropped off here and there. My seriously ill wife was the last to be taken to the hospital. She was greatly suffering from cold by the time she arrived. Presently, in addition to the pain in her abdomen, my wife also has a severe cough, which troubles her not a little.
I am now asking: is this what concern for human beings looks like? Must it be that old, worn-out cars are still being used today to transport seriously ill people?
Should it not be possible, if not all transport cars can be renewed at once, at least to install a heating system? And to improve the suspension of the cars so that the transport does not cause additional pain to the sick?
Considering the events described above, I am sure these conditions are not an isolated phenomenon. I would not believe myself that such a thing is possible if someone else told me so. I believe that I am acting in the interest of many sick people when I make the demand that this whole complex be thoroughly investigated and remedial action taken as quickly as possible.”9
This entry shows the conditions at that time very clearly. All that was available were unheated cars with poor suspension. The facilities would wait years for new, modern ambulances. Even in 1979, the director of the Rostock Children’s Hospital, Professor Dr. Jürgen Külz, said in an interview for the Ostsee-Zeitung: “Immediate solutions now need to be found for optimising the transport of prematurely born infants and sick newborns from the maternity hospitals of the entire catchment area to our hospital and for gradually improving the special paediatric care in the delivery room.”10
Premature babies with a birth weight of less than 1500 grams could only be transported successfully from 1982 onwards: on 17.5.1982, the Medical Care Division of the Department of Health and Social Services at the Rostock City Council informed the district doctor in a letter that a transport incubator would now be available for premature babies weighing less than 1500 grams.11
The simple forerunner of the transport incubator, a so-called “transport couveuse” (with some warm water as heating) must have been available in the GDR only after 1975: the first time such a device appears in the technical literature is in 1981.12
To sum up: The transport of premature babies weighing less than 1500 grams was neither medically nor technically possible in the 1960s. And yet the preserved files claim that babies with a birth weight of less than 1000 grams were successfully transported for miles.
Dubious infant transports in 1969
When reviewing the written death reports received by the Rostock registry office, I was struck by the claim that babies with a very low weight were allegedly successfully transported for miles from the surrounding area to Rostock and then died there. A few examples will follow to illustrate this.
On 17.4.1969, Marika M. was born in Wismar with a birth weight of only 780 grams and a height of 32 cm. This would define her as an “aborted foetus”, i.e. a miscarriage.
This tiny girl is claimed to have lived for five days and to have survived the transport from Wismar to Rostock. The distance is 44 miles; today, this means a travel time of about 45 minutes. The infant is said to have died of respiratory distress syndrome on 22.4.1969 at 16.30 at the Rostock University Hospital.13
The transport of Ulricke G., born on 5.8.1969 in Wismar, is similarly questionable. She, too, was extremely small (37 cm/1150g). According to the files, she died on the same day, 5.8.1969, at 2.30 a.m. at the Rostock University Hospital; according to the death report, she had lived for four hours.14 But if she was born on 5.8.1969, be it even at 0.00 o’clock, and died on the same day at 2.30, she could not have lived that long.15
It remains a mystery how a hospital could have possibly organised the transport for this tiny infant and carried it out successfully in under two hours in the middle of the night in 1969. Another striking issue here is this: Wismar was initially given as the place of death; someone then changed it to Rostock by hand.
Another puzzling issue concerns two births of twins, two girls each. Petra and Monika U. were born on 17.11.1969 in Wismar. Petra (36 cm/1090 grams) and Monika (38 cm/1200 grams) also allegedly survived the transport from Wismar to Rostock; just as questionable as this claim is the stated time of death in Rostock: according to the documents, both girls died at exactly the same moment. The time of death for each twin is noted as 17.11.1969 at 23.40. Both infants had allegedly lived for exactly 10 hours.16
The twins Bärbel (34 cm/900 grams) and Christel K. (38 cm/1050 grams) were born on 2.12.1969 in Kühlungsborn and died in Rostock.17 For Christel (1050 grams), the death is noted in the death report as one hour after birth. But the place of birth is Kühlungsborn and the place of death is Rostock, almost 20 miles away. How did this little girl, weighing just over 1000 grams, get from Kühlungsborn to Rostock within an hour in 1969? This suggests she received an initial medical treatment within 60 minutes after birth, was transported by one of the old ambulances, admitted to the hospital in Rostock – and only died there. All this was supposed to have happened in a winter that the weather records list as extremely cold.
Bärbel, the twin sister with a birth weight of only 900 grams, is said to have lived for three whole days despite the transport: a biological miracle by 1969 standards. According to the files, she died on 5.12.1969 at 5.30 a.m. in Rostock. On her death report, the surname is initially quite different and then corrected by hand.
It is striking that the death report for Christel, who only lived for one hour, was received by the Rostock registry office later (on 12.12.1969) than that for her twin sister Bärbel, who is claimed to have lived for three more days. The death report for Bärbel was received on 8.12.1969. According to the files, both girls were dead by 8.12.1969. The late submission of the death report for Christel, who lived only one hour, is very difficult to explain. The reports for both girls could have been submitted on 8.12.1969 if they had actually died in Rostock at the times indicated.
According to this document, an infant was born with a birth weight of 1050 grams in Kühlungsborn and died one hour later in Rostock, almost 20 miles away.
Source: File number 2.1.26, collective file C 286, Rostock city archive
According to this document, an infant weighing 900 grams was successfully transported in 1969 – and even lived for another 3 days.
Source: File number 2.1.26, collective file C 286, Rostock city archive
There are also some questionable entries in the 1970 files. On 11.1.1970, Christian L. was born in Wittstock/Dosse, weighing only 1170 grams and 28 cm in size, i.e. far below the minimum of 35 cm. This little boy is said to have died two days later, on 13.1.1970, at “approx. 18.00”, at the Rostock University Hospital. The distance between Wittstock/Dosse and Rostock is 75 miles. It is more than doubtful if Christian could have survived this journey in 1970 under the GDR road conditions and with the old transport technology.18
Equally dubious is the death of Jürgen M., born on 11.2.1970 in Kyritz, weighing 1100 grams and 37 cm in size. The distance from Kyritz to Rostock is 93 miles. He is said to have died in Rostock on 16.2.1970, five days after his birth. 19
Christine C. was born in Teterow on 4.7.1970. According to the files, she was an extremely premature infant, weighing only 940 grams and measuring 32 cm. It is claimed that she lived for 15 days (!), surviving the 44 miles from Teterow to Rostock. She is said to have died on 19.7.1970 at 8.15 a.m. in Rostock.20
Jörg K., born on 11.7.1970 in Waren/Müritz, weighting only 870 grams at 32 cm in size, allegedly died two days later, on 13.7.1970, at 14.10, in Rostock. The travel distance is 57 miles and it takes about an hour today. It is clear that an infant weighing 870 grams could not have survived such transport in 1970.21
Guidelines for patient transport
In the GDR, the principle of absolute thrift prevailed. This also applied to patient transport. According to the ambulance transport regulations of the GRD branch of the Red Cross, transport was only possible if a doctor certified its necessity. The request had to include:
- information on the sick person
- the diagnosis
- the destination of the ambulance transport