17 The Long Shadow of Nazi Psychiatry

The case of Dr Heinrich Gross
17.1 "Gross Trial Abandoned"
17.2 Publication by Heinrich Gross
17.3 Article on an action of "Critical Medicine"
17.4 "Memorial Room" in the former Steinhof clinic
17.5 "A Doctor from the Nazi-Murder Clinic"
17.6 Burial of Spiegelgrund victims
17.7 Grave of honour in Vienna's Central Cemetery
17.8 On 9 May 2012, mortal remains of victims of “decentralized euthanasia” in the Steinhof hospital were buried in Vienna’s Central Cemetery.

In recent years, the case of Dr. Heinrich Gross, who had carried out medical killings and had later become a psychiatrist and court expert, has been unique in highlighting the way Austria has been dealing with the crimes of National Socialism.

In 1948, Gross was indicted by the People's Court of Vienna for his part in the killing of children at Spiegelgrund.  He was sentenced to two years imprisonment at first instance; however, the verdict was revoked by the Supreme Court because of a formal defect and the trial eventually came to a standstill. Gross embarked on a second career, in which he benefited from his membership in the "Bund Sozialistischer Akademiker" (BSA, Association of Socialist Academics): he trained as a specialist in the Neurological Hospital at Rosenhügel (Vienna), then returned to Steinhof where he rose to the rank of Primarius (head physician). He began with the medical examinations of the carefully preserved brains of Spiegelgrund victims already in 1953. For a period of 25 years he used this research as a basis for extensive publications in the field of neuropathology, partly collaborating with prominent colleagues. In 1968, Gross received his own Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Research into Malformations of the Nervous System, where he continued to systematically exploit the brain specimens that had been preserved from the Nazi period. Parts of the specimen collection were stored there until their interment in April 2002.

Simultaneously, Gross was in high demand as a psychiatric expert in court. In 1976 he was unexpectedly confronted with a Spiegelgrund survivor: Friedrich Zawrel, who had been interned at Spiegelgrund as a "hardly reformable"ten-year-old. In his expert opinion on Zawrel, Gross freely quoted from the former's Nazi file from 1944. Dr. Werner Vogt and the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kritische Medizin (working group critical medicine) took up the cause and saw to it that Heinrich Gross's career suffered its first setback in 1981. Gross lost a sensational libel case; the court regarded his participation in the children's murder as proven. Nevertheless, it took almost another 20 years until the State Attorney's Office in Vienna indicted Gross for his involvement in Nazi euthanasia. A verdict was never pronounced, Gross died in 2005.