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Elisabeth Kalt correspondence

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: 6228

Scope and Contents

A collection of 16 letters between Dr. Elisabeth Kalt (1903-1961) and her husband Bertram Kalt ranging from July 23, 1940 to January 20, 1943. Dr. Kalt was a female psychiatrist who began her career in 1933, as the Nazi Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP) was gaining power in Germany. During the war, Dr. Kalt was separated from her newlywed husband -- who was stationed across the country in Munich -- and kept in touch with him by mail. The letters in this collection address Dr. Kalt's internal struggles with Aktion T-4 -- the NSDAP campaign of involuntary euthanasia that murdered approximately 300,000 people. The letters were submitted by Dr. Kalt to the German courts in 1947, in defense of her involvement in the government's euthanasia program during the war.

Beginning in July 1941, Dr. Kalt was employed as an assistant doctor at the Andernach Psychiatric Institute ("Landesnervenklinik Andernach") and assumed leadership of the women's clinic following the resignation of Dr. Paul Gies in 1944. Following the war, Kalt stepped in as provisional director of the institute, and in July 1946 she was arrested by Allied Forces.



Except for one letter in 1943, the letters in this collection predate Dr. Kalt's tenure at Andernach. The letters describe her misgivings and self-doubt over her involvement in the T-4 program as she became aware of it in 1941, when she was employed at the Süchteln-Johannistal Institute in Waldniel.



Dr. Kalt wrote to her husband in January 1941 as she learned about the euthanasia program from the director at Süchteln, Dr. Kleine: ["Kleine also talked to me about euthanasia and confirmed that not only in southern German institutions but also in eastern and central Germany the patients had been euthanized in the most humane way possible and that very soon these demands would also be made of us."]



Dr. Kalt went on to describe the inner turmoil that surfaced: ["I am not yet clear where I stand. Can I even take on this responsibility, and where do I set the limit?...I often think that even in the most hopeless case I could never offer my hand for this purpose. I would be nothing other than a murderer."]



The letters in this collection also refer to Dr. Kalt's personal acquaintance with Dr. Kurt Pohlisch. Kalt recounts specific conversations with Pohlisch about the euthanasia program, including his own apparent misgivings about how his mentally ill sister would fare under the program: ["Even Pohlisch would never voluntarily give up his sister, even though she only costs him money and grief, and can't even think in the present."]



Following two trials, Dr. Kalt was acquitted by the Landgericht Koblenz (District Court of Koblenz) on July 29, 1948. The collection also includes a 10 page modern photocopy of court witness statements from and regarding Dr. Kalt.



The descriptive content in this note was adapted from the seller's (Mark Funke, Bookseller) description of the material.

Dates

  • 1940 - 1943

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Extent

0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials

German

Abstract

A collection of 16 letters between Dr. Elisabeth Kalt (1903-1961) and her husband Bertram Kalt ranging from July 23, 1940 to January 20, 1943. Dr. Kalt was a female psychiatrist who began her career in 1933, as the Nazi Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP) was gaining power in Germany. During the war, Dr. Kalt was separated from her newlywed husband -- who was stationed across the country in Munich -- and kept in touch with him by mail. The letters in this collection address Dr. Kalt's internal struggles with Aktion T-4 -- the NSDAP campaign of involuntary euthanasia that murdered approximately 300,000 people. The letters were submitted by Dr. Kalt to the German courts in 1947, in defense of her involvement in the government's euthanasia program during the war.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Mark Funke, Bookseller, May 3, 2021.

Physical Description

44 pages. Mostly A4 sized, a few A5. Five letters typed, eleven handwritten. Dates range from July 23, 1940 to January 20, 1943. Also includes a 10 pp. modern photocopy of court witness statements from and regarding Dr. Kalt. In German. Good condition; light fading and some letters starting to tear at fold lines.

Title
Finding aid for the Elisabeth Kalt correspondence
Status
Completed
Author
Bo Doub
Date
2021 May
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States