Paul Höhlmann was born on 16 December 1927 in Berlin. As an infant he was “very small and wretched” his mother recalled; “you could see straightaway” that he “wasn’t normal”. Although Paul’s physical development was good, he did not learn to walk or talk until he was three. In 1936, clinical staff identified his condition as a “typical case of mongolism”. They found that “in so far as his mental development can be fostered,” this “could only be achieved in a psychiatric school”.
In November 1936, the Reinickendorf district authority had Paul committed to Wittenauer Heilstätten mental hospital. He was examined and, in January 1937, sent to a nursing home in Marwitz, where he lived for five years. In March 1942, at the instigation of the Reichsauschuss, Paul was committed to the municipal children’s mental hospital. The doctors Hefter, Kujath and Reuter who worked there knew the boy well as they had examined him regularly in the nursing home. There, they had described him as “friendly” and “agreeable”, and the Wisesengrund hospital reports contained similar assessments: “Paul […] has a nice, easy-going character, very good-natured, not at all malicious, likes to help, but is very slow. Builds up houses and trees in a rational way, not like the other children.” One report even mentioned that Paul had said “he would like to go to school and learn to write”. On another occasion it was noted that “P. was good fun again, played the mouth organ and danced”.
In the Wiesengrund hospital Paul was submitted to a Binet-Bobertag intelligence test and three encephalographs in quick succession. But that was not the end of the researchers’ interest in him. Having apparently obtained authorisation from the Reichsauschuss, they injected him with tuberculin. Paul’s reaction was recorded as “positive” – more was not noted.
In June 1942 Paul was sent back to Marwitz. A few weeks later he came down with a fever and was admitted to the paediatric department on 24 August. On 26 August 1942 his temperature rose to 40 degrees. Paul’s state of health rapidly deteriorated. His pulse was “sometimes barely perceptible”. His skin turned blue due to a lack of oxygen in his blood and he fell into a daze. He was given a high dose of strophanthin. When his state deteriorated further, “in view of the extent of his developmental disorder” the doctors “refrained from giving life support” and he died on 26 August 1942.