Kindererholungsheime als Forschungsgegenstand : Erwachsene Zeitzeug*innenschaft am Beispiel eines Beschwerdebriefes im Adolfinenheim auf Borkum

From the 1950s to the 1980s, many healthy children were systematically sent away to children’s homes, where they lived apart from their parents for weeks at a time. Only recently, these sent-away children (Verschickungskinder), as they call themselves, have begun to publicly share their experiences. In more than 5,000 individual, publicly available reports, former sent-away children report on the cruel and violent treatment many of them experienced, and on the feelings of helplessness and anxiety that accompanied their stay. This article focuses on one such home, the Adolfinenheim on the island of Borkum, Germany. The article is centered around a letter of complaint, written by three young interns who worked in the home for several weeks, and it describes the circumstances and events they witnessed. Through letters exchanged between stakeholders, the article documents how the reports of these courageous witnesses were initially recognized but then increasingly minimized and dismissed. These letters also show how monetary gain was for many individuals, but also for the entire island of Borkum, a driving force in keeping these children’s homes running, even after knowledge of the abusive practices that children residing there were exposed to became widespread. The article closes with statements from former sent-away child witnesses confirming the allegations made by the three interns.

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