Never Forget

A memorial sculpture to commemorate a tragic part of the history of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research during the Third Reich

Never Forget

On behalf of :
Max-Planck-Institut for Brain Research
Gilles Laurent, Erin Schuman, Moritz Helmstaedter, Heinz Wässle and Wolf Singer

Artistic direction and concept
Christiane Cuticchio, Sven Fritz und Lutz Pillong

Participating artists
Chair design: Lothar Zaubitzer
Names design: Dustin Eckhardt, Tina Herchenröther, Franz von Saalfeld, Markus Schmitz, Selbermann

Digital visualisation and 3D models
Elena Osmann

Technical implementation
Studio Anselm Baumann (Ostpool), Birkenbach Metallbau

Material and measures
Polymer-plaster system with concrete components and glass fiber reinforcement.
Chairs:  30 x 30 x 65 cm. Pedestal including marquetry: 460 x 130 x 3 cm

Max Planck Foundation



About the memorial

The Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, located in Frankfurt since 1962, was created in 1914 in Berlin, as the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI) for Brain Research. During the Third Reich, the KWI for Brain Research, then in Berlin-Buch, was the largest brain research institution in the world. Among its directors were Hugo Spatz and Julius Hallervorden, who took part in the taking of innocent lives in the name of science, exploiting and promulgating the Nazi agenda.

Between 1940 and 1945, Julius Hallervorden became directly involved in the atrocities of the Nazi regime by studying the brains of euthanasia victims and, in some cases, ordering the execution of children with special needs for his neurological studies. Hallervorden escaped any accountability during the Nuremberg trials. He used the brains of more than 800 victims for his research up into the 1960s. Some of his immediate successors continued using these brain samples well beyond the 1960s.

In 1949, the KWI for Brain Research became the MPI for Brain Research and moved to Frankfurt in 1962, then on Deutschordenstraße. In 1984, the journalist and historian Götz Aly revealed that brain tissue originating from 33 children murdered on October 28, 1940 under the instructions of Julius Hallervorden were, unbeknownst to the Institute’s Directors at the time, still held at the Frankfurt institute. We now know that, on that fateful October 1940 day, 58 children were sent to their death at Berlin’s Brandenburg-Görden institution under Hallervorden’s supervision, and that the brains of at least 40 of them ended up in his histopathological collection. All specimens were buried in Munich’s Waldfriedhof on February 21, 1990.

Never Forget is a memorial sculpture that evokes the horrific memories of this particularly brutal October day in 1940, when 58 children were removed from their institution for the mentally-disabled and executed to make their brains available for the studies by Hallervorden. Forty of these children have, as of this day, been identified.

The memorial comprises children-sized chairs arranged in a small space. It was created by Frankfurt’s Atelier Goldstein, an art studio for artists who are perceived as cognitively disabled. In collaboration with Lothar Zaubitzer and Lutz Pillong, a model of a chair was created from cardboard, which was later cast in concrete in nine copies by Studio Anselm Baumann (Ostpool) and placed on the platform, also designed by Atelier Goldstein and realized by Studio Anselm Baumann in a special concrete. The names of 38 of the murdered children, hand-written by five of the Atelier Goldstein artists (Dustin Eckhardt, Tina Herchenröther, Franz von Saalfeld, Markus Schmitz, Selbermann) are inlaid into the surface of the platform. The dull color and poor-looking materials were chosen to represent the grimness of the institutionalized children’s lives. The chairs, positioned in a state of disarray, are placed on a floating surface to evoke the chaos and tragedy of this particular day (and all others) when innocent victims were killed in the name of science, and in support of the Nazi regime.