Where does the term inmate come from?

Stigma"Asocial" - the genesis of a Nazi term

To this day, these people are not recognized victims of National Socialist persecution and consequently have no claim to compensation. After the war, the "anti-socials" were imprisoned and harassed in the GDR. And in the Federal Republic of Germany, too, those on the fringes of the majority society were stigmatized. And still are today.



The City Mission of Hope Places Hamburg operates an overnight accommodation facility, social outpatient clinics and advice centers. People who are on the fringes of society come here.

"These have been homeless people for over a hundred years. At the moment, unemployed EU migrants or the so-called Lampedusa refugees."

The psychologist Ulrich Hermannes is the managing director of the hope places Hamburg. He knows a lot of people who are shunned by the majority society and called asocial.

"From our point of view, this term is primarily used for exclusion. The blanket accusation of unauthorized participation in national wealth applies, to put it pointedly."

It is still true today that anyone who is offensive because of their way of life is their own fault, says Ulrich Hermannes. A legacy of the Protestant work ethic.

"The accusation of guilt is also derived from this religious orientation that one says that everyone is the smith of their own fortune, everyone is responsible before God, that is what man ultimately has to deal with himself and God, which is why he got into this situation."

Poor as a synonym for anti-social

Antisocial, that easily crosses the lips of many contemporaries, adds Dr. Eva Lindemann added. She tries to raise funds for Hamburg as a place of hope in order to provide for her people. A difficult undertaking:

"If you look up the English translation for antisocial on the Internet, the English term antisocial, that is, directed against the community. And the German translation for the English writes with antisocial uneducated, uncouth and poor."

Poor as a synonym for anti-social. The term originally comes from a completely different context. And it is not much older than a hundred years, says the historian Wolfgang Ayaß, professor at the University of Kassel.

"It appears at the turn of the century 1900 at first quite unspecific. The French sociologist Emile Durkheim says that the child is born asocial and must first be socialized. Or Sigmund Freud says that the dream is asocial because you only have it to yourself. "
The association of the term with the lower class begins around 1910. This is when the word appears in connection with social work.

"Although it is not yet generally known. It does not appear in the spelling dictionary until 1929. And is used for the lowest class of welfare recipients."

At that time, the welfare institutions not only wanted to provide the so-called asocials with makeshift care, but above all to educate them: to bring the asocial elements back into the majority society. From 1933, according to Wolfgang Ayaß, the National Socialists then used the term for all possible groups of people who did not fit into their worldview.

"So the beggars, the vagrants, also groups that were called gypsies, but also indigent alcoholics, people who were in arrears with maintenance payments. And especially then all welfare recipients who were considered to be work-shy, were antisocial."

And now all of these people should no longer be brought on the right path, but rather eradicated.

"In the end it can be located in the racial hygiene that there was a folk-like lower class in the thinking of the NS, which is multiplying rapidly and which has to be excluded from reproduction."

In a historical interview from 1933, the then NS Ministerialrat in the Reich Ministry of the Interior, Arthur Gütt, welcomed the law for the prevention of genetically ill offspring, i.e. the forced sterilization of undesired people:

"While the genetically healthy families have largely switched to the one-child and no-child system, countless hereditary families reproduce uninhibitedly, and their sick and anti-social offspring are a burden for the community as a whole."

Anyone who was considered anti-social was locked away. In concentration camps from 1938, Ayass says:

"They were given the black triangle as anti-social. That was the mark of anti-social. And they were lower in the hierarchy of the camps."

The anti-socials - an ignored group of victims

The artist Tucké Royal, who was born in Quedlinburg, came across this fate of the so-called anti-social a few years ago. He found that there was neither information nor memorial stones about this group of people.

"And then I started reading and found out that this is an incredibly heterogeneous group of victims. So in contrast to other groups of victims. And it can be assumed that unlike homosexuals, for example, or Jews or Jehovah's Witnesses, self-identification is not possible. That interested me. "

The 30-year-old Tucké Royal staged the establishment of a Central Council of Asocials in the Kampnagel theater factory in Hamburg and at the Gorki Theater in Berlin. The aim is to raise public awareness of the fate and the right to compensation for this forgotten group of victims.

"That is certainly also a shame problem for the relatives. I can imagine that it would be difficult to say that I am now demanding compensation for my grandmother, who was persecuted as socially. That will be much more difficult, I think, than for other groups of victims. because this stigma has persisted. "

In fact, this group of victims was completely ignored after 1945, confirms the Kassel history professor Wolfgang Ayaß:

"There was no organization like other prisoner groups, because the persecution of the NS against the anti-social group was able to tie in with long-term exclusions that already existed.

The Hamburg social worker Dr. Christa Paul traced the biography of a woman who was born in Hamburg St. Pauli in 1921. Erika Weber, the name a pseudonym, was given a guardian at the age of 13 and ended up in a correctional home two years later. Closed accommodation followed. At the age of 17 Erika Weber was forcibly sterilized. And temporarily incapacitated at the age of 21. After the end of the war, according to Christa Paul, all former prisoners initially received financial and other support:

"Until then, and that really only lasted a few weeks, it was determined that prisoners who were persecuted for political, religious and racial reasons were entitled to special support benefits and that prisoners who were so-called anti-social in the concentration camp had such entitlements didn't have. "

Support for the woman harassed by the Nazis, who had never committed a crime, was cut. In 1946 she was finally incapacitated by the post-war authorities and continued to stay in closed homes. The driving force behind this was Käthe Petersen, the head of Hamburg welfare at the time. She had been working there in a managerial position since 1943 and was also committed to a so-called preservation law after the end of the war. Paul:

"And that should be directed against people who, in the eyes of welfare, I say now, did not lead a decent life and whom the state could not get hold of because they did not violate any laws."

Incitement against "work-shy" even after the war

Käthe Petersen, who was influential in welfare policy until 1981 and even received the Great Cross of Merit, lectured at the 1952 welfare day in Stuttgart:

"Unstable and work-shy are usually not only noticed by avoiding work, they also let themselves go in the rest of their life. The boundaries between the unstable and work-shy are often blurred."

In the GDR, things looked even worse for those detained as anti-social after 1945, says the historian Wolfgang Ayaß

"So the anti-social was then perceived as a saboteur in the construction of socialism. And then a special anti-social paragraph was actually included in the criminal law of the GDR of 1968, paragraph 249, where anti-social behavior then with imprisonment for up to two years, in the case of repetition up to was threatened to five years. "

Anyone who did not help in the state-owned enterprise to build socialism, who was unadjusted, was punished as anti-social. GDR public prosecutor Kurt Schmidt established criminal prosecution of these citizens in 1973.

"Because someone who lives anti-social, behaves in a socially damaging manner, is unwilling to fit into society, in short, has no sense of community. Anti-sociality significantly disrupts the relationship between citizens and the socialist community, the state and other citizens."

Back in the city mission places of hope Hamburg. Many people find help here. What they have in common is that they are all poor and that majority society looks down on them. "Du Assi", says employee Eva Lindemann, is now a popular swear word in youth language. It denotes the uneducated, unkempt and embarrassing who struggle through life without work. Just asocial. Eva Lindemann would rather refer to other people:

"People who maximize their profit, the exploitative employment relationships with legally not particularly stable persons, with unfair employment contracts, that would apply much more to the definition of antisociality, namely against the community, for example harmful to society."