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  • Writer's pictureIlka Knüppel

Train travel between Ruth's home and Neinstedt

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Ruth’s family did not have the means to own a car, so when they would come to visit her at Neinstedt, or to pick her up for the either summer or Christmas vacation, they would take the Magdeburg-Thale Railway.  The Magdeburg-Thale Railway is a single track non-electrified railway that connects Thale with Magdeburg and is one of the oldest railways in Germany, having been in operation since 1843.  

Neinstedt Train Station in 2023.  Photo used with permission of Martin Finkler.

Sign for Neinstedt Train Station in 2023.  Photo used with permission of Martin Finkler.

In Ruth’s medical records there is a request from Paul for a reimbursement for a rail ticket for the family due to their financial situation.

 “The Reich frequently offered financial support to families to help them place the ‘defective offspring’ in institutions.”  Robertson, Ley, and Light, The First Into the Dark:  The Nazi Persecution of the Disabled, p. 99.

Paul wrote to the hospital in 1934 to ask for a reduced fare train ticket.

And Ruth did go home as often as allowed. On December 10, 1933, Paul wrote to the management of Neinstedt with a heartfelt request. It reads in part:

My intention was to have Ruth, who is in Johannenhof there, leave for the Christmas holidays.  Now I have heard with great regret from Frau Gunther that a leave is out of the question, since there are only four weeks of vacation a year and these were taken in the summer.  

Is it really not possible to give Ruth time off?  It would be a bitter drop in our Christmas celebrations when on the Holy Evening one of the children is not in the middle of us and not to be happy and celebrating with the others. Christmas is a Family Feast.  On the other hand, there is no risk to the institution of any kind, which would be in the way of the leave.  We know that the children are in good hands with you for Christmas and you have offered everything, so as not to miss the parents’ home too much.  

I beg you again to reconsider if it is possible for Ruth to take leave.  Especially because her holiday in the summer ended so sadly.  At that time, my wife suffered a nervous breakdown and Ruth could not even say goodbye to her mother.  She would now come to a new apartment and find her mother healthy again.

From this letter we learn of the occurrence of two important events.  Paul and Emma have moved their family to a new address in Magdeburg, Walbecker Straße 37 II.  This would be the last home outside of the hospital that Ruth would know.  And this is why Ruth’s Stolperstein is placed in front of the building at this location. We also learn of her mother's health issues beginning in 1933.

It appears by the note handwritten across the upper right hand corner of the letter that Dr. Wittenberg did allow Ruth to go home for the Christmas holiday. 

The family must have been overjoyed.  According to Holocaust Researcher Götz Aly, patients whose families had regular requests for visits home, especially for Christmas and Easter, had a better rate of survival during Aktion T4.  “The more isolated and lonely the patients were, the greater the danger they faced of being murdered.”

Heinz, Gunter, and Ruth Mühlmann
Ruth's mother, Emma, visits Ruth at Neinstedt.


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