Educating people to become useful members of civil society

In the 19th century, poverty was considered to be largely self-inflicted, caused by laziness and convenience. Education for work was supposed to provide a remedy. Against this backdrop, the Grisons established the Fürstenau work institution in 1840 for "dissolute" and "work-shy" poor people. In contrast to deprivation of liberty under criminal law, people were not primarily incarcerated because of a criminal offense, but because of their lifestyle, their attitude and their character.

Such incarcerations in labor institutions, known as "administrative care," were practiced in Switzerland until the 1970s. They were an expression of a repressive social policy. Until the end, the people affected were mostly those from difficult social and economic backgrounds. Lay authorities decided in short procedures to lock up people, sometimes for years.

Until the 19th century, the line between a simple life and existential hardship was narrow for large sections of the population. Reports show for Graubünden until the middle of the 19th century a picture of sometimes extreme emergency situations. A life-threatening crisis occurred in the year without summer 1816. Climate deterioration and crop failures led to the last great famine. People tried to keep alive with soup and polenta kitchens. Not everyone showed solidarity. There were well-to-do families who buried food supplies in the ground or under piles of stones.

The church and charitable groups were the main providers of care. The municipalities were increasingly called upon to help. Early Bündner Armenordnungen of 1803 and 1839 instructed them to support the needy. However, resources were scarce and welfare was modest and subject to restrictions.[87]

Members of the Köhl family were also placed in one of the poorhouses or orphanages because of their economic situation or due to the early loss of the family father or mother.

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Impressum und rechtliche Hinweise


87: Fürsorgerische Zwangsmassnahmen in Graubünden, Rätisches Museum, 2020, Rätisches Museum, Rätisches Museum,

  • Chur 1847
  • Orphanages
  • Die Zuckerbäcker von Bergün


Brochure accompanying the exhibition "Fürsorgerische Zwangsmassnahmen in Graubünden", Rätisches Museum
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