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Men who suffer from epilepsy

In 1867 the "Innere Mission" (an evangelical social assistence organisation) opened in the county of Gadderbaum the "Rheinisch-westfälische Anstalt für Epileptische", a small home for men who were suffering from epilepsy. When Pastor Friedrich von Bodelschwingh took over the reins, he was at the same time presiding officer of the "Westfälische Diakonissenhaus" (a feminine religious nursing order). He was therefore able to ensure that its new headquarter would be built not in Bielefeld, but right next to the home for epileptics. This was because he intended in future to be able to take in women and girl patients, and would need female nursing personnel. The home for epileptics also got a new building. He named after the biblical site of Bethel – or the "House of God". The Diakonissenhaus was given the name "Sarepta". With the passing of time the institution grew bigger, many more homes with biblical names were built – one of which was

[Haus Arafna].


Awaiting execution

69 years later, on the 20th of November 1941 at 8.30 pm, Dr. Friedrich Mennecke wrote to his wife:

My dear Putteli,

Another hard day of work is over. I'm sitting alone in my hotel and have just eaten poached cod with boiled potatoes and mustard sauce for dinner. I'm treating myself now to half a bottle of 1934 Crettnacher Eucharienberg, from the banks of the Saar...
Work today went by rather quickly again. The "Arafna" house with its 68 patients is finished, and I took care of 34 of them. It concerns those sick people, who were in the house "Klein-Bethel" during the heavy bombing blitz. You know what Klein-Bethel looks like from outside – they have now moved into "Arafna". My work today involved a considerable number of people awaiting execution...and give yourself a couple of little kisses from your devoted Fritz, also give my kindest regards to the parents.


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Haus Arafna for [Haus Arafna]

Friedrich Mennecke's letter to his wife led us to the name Haus Arafna. Taken in this context, [Haus Arafna] stands for us as the symbol of our thematical area of interest, which moves in and around the abyss, to plumb the morass of the human mind. The building as such is taken to represent a glance beneath the surface – a listening through walls, the glimpse through the keyhole – with the knowledge that very often the truth lies hidden, and must be sought out. We hope to be the small light which accompanies the listener as friend, lover, accuser, seducer, comedian, or merely as dance partner...here we go.


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Explanatory notes:

Bethel can be found on the Internet under Bethel History
(german language only).

One can read the letters than were exchanged between Dr. Friedrich Mennecke and his wife, in the book [Friedrich Mennecke. Innenansichten eines medizinischen Täters im Nationalsozialismus. (Friedrich Mennecke. A look inside the mind of a Nazi medical criminal, a publication of his letters from 1935–1945) by Peter Chroust, only in german language]


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