Zwiefalten, Germany

This is Zwiefalten in Baden Württemberg, a rather curious town of only a little more than 2,000 people based around its former monastery and monastery church.

It was first mentioned in a document by King Ludwig IV of 15 June 904. The Benedictine monastery was founded in 1089 and as you can see it received considerable financial assistance from wealthy people. In 1750 the Benedictine monastery was raised to a fully confirmed imperial abbey and by this time the property of the Zwiefalten monastery now included 14 towns. In 1803 together will other monasteries, it was dissolved. In 1812, the royal Württemberg medical institution was established in the monastery buildings.

The present buildings were constructed in German Baroque style from 1739–47 under the direction of Johann Michael Fischer (1692–1766) of Munich, who began overseeing the work in 1741. The interior, considered a model of Baroque design, is filled with ornate chapels and gilded balustrades, dominated by the high altar, which combines a Gothic statue of the Virgin Mary dating from 1430 with Baroque additions (dating from about 1750) by Johann Joseph Christian (1706–77). The elaborate frescoes are by Franz Joseph Spiegler (1691–1757).

As part of the National Socialist euthanasia killings of Action T4, the Zwiefalten state medical and nursing home became an interim storage facility for the Grafeneck killing facility. This started operating in January 1940. At least 1673 mentally ill people marked for murder passed through here before being taken away to be killed, mainly to the nearby Grafeneck facility. The grey buses of Gemeinnützigen Krankestransport GmbH (Gekrat), a non profit making foundation for transporting sick people, were a constant image in the town at that time. On 2 April 1940, the first transport with 50 women left Zwiefalten. Following complaints to the Nazi authorities, murders stopped taking place in Grafeneck, but the killings continued in Zwiefalten although not by gas but with a syringe filled with morphine or trional. In 1949, Martha Fauser (who was director from 1940 to 1945) was sentenced to only one year and six months in prison for manslaughter. Today the center for psychiatry at the Zwiefalten cathedral clinic is located in the former monastery complex.

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