The need to eat the plate empty in any case and, if necessary, the vomiting that ensues, the administration of medicine without medical necessity, corporal punishment and the digging system that turns children into figures. These are all shocking examples of physical and psychological abuse – and statements from former participants in children’s spa treatments in the 1940s to 1980s.
Historian and journalist Helke Lorenz investigates such reports in her book. In doing so, she questions the meaning and history of these treatments, the economic background of the so-called deportation of children and the circumstances of the acts. Above all, it offers anonymously to those affected, whose experiences shape up to this day.
An early breakthrough in pediatric treatments
Lorenz describes a system of regular relays to spas. The historical roots go back to the time of industrialization. The show was directed primarily at urban children and was entirely honourable, therapeutically motivated. From lung sanatoriums to saltwater baths and sea baths to day care centers, more than 60,000 places have been available in the German Empire since 1906. Six decades later, in Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Bavaria alone there were more than 40,000 places. Lorenz shows economic interests, for example that pediatricians also got from spa prescriptions.
It was often suggested to children that they would go on vacation or take “the most beautiful trip of their lives”. This was often the case due to the millions of children who were sent to a four-figure number of asylums in West Germany between the 1940s and 1980s. But there was also a dark side that Lorenz addresses in her book. In doing so, you try to consider many factors when processing. For example, she devoted an entire chapter to the legacy of National Socialist sanatoriums. Until the 1970s, the staff of the facilities was often shaped by the Nazi dictatorship. Breaking down individualism was part of his upbringing model for integrating children into the ethnic community that was propagated for the benefit of “the people and the state”.
work through history
The focus on pediatric treatments is quite new in the social debate in Germany. But the background reminds us of the difficulty of addressing abuse in church and school. Again, it has to do with institutional imbalances of power, belief in authority, abuse of trust, the question of children’s rights, pedagogical notions and external controls. The attitude of children’s spa facilities providers then and now as well as engaging, looking the other way or sometimes disgusting must be addressed by the staff. Among other things, Lorenz describes some examples where, since the 1970s, especially younger breeders, they have ignored strict codes of conduct and criminal penalties or brought toys and crafts from home if they were not available at the facility.
It is legitimate for the writer to report from the point of view of the victims to give them a voice after a long period of silence or not being heard. However, it is also due to the issue of not having some spa facilities, that the service providers have changed or the staff at that time are already dead. Likewise, it is often no longer possible to get the appraisal of parents who have sent their children to the spa with a clear conscience. A look at files and archives is essential. The author lists some archives and locations at the end of the book.