A memory place in the landscape: Neuengamme


The seminar “Concepts of Memory Culture” has gone on a day-trip to the memorial site Neuengamme in the outskirts of Hamburg on March 4. After the theoretical part of the seminar in the last months, this excursion gave a lively example of memorial culture and the construction of a memory place in the landscape.

Neuengamme was a concentration camp established in late 1938. Until May 1945, around 81.000 men and 13.600 women were imprisoned and had to do slave work at the main camp and at the 86 satellite camps. Around half of them were murdered. After the war the infrastructure was used for displaced persons, later on British forces established an internment camp. In 1948 the state of Hamburg started to build prisons at the place. Even if some of the buildings remained, there was no place for commemoration and no will to remember. Only after protest of international survivors a monument was built nearby in remembrance of the victims. In the 1980s this struggle for the place as a memory place was supported by students and German organisations. A house of documentation was erected where visitors can get information about the former concentration camp and international youth camps started to recover the history and the place. In 1989 the state of Hamburg decided to move the prisons to another place, to put the place under heritage and to use it for commemoration. However, the first prison was not closed until June 2003, the second prison in February 2006. Since then the whole complex was newly recreated, but without the reconstruction of former buildings and camp infrastructure.




These pictures (1 & 2) show the different layers of history: the remains of the concentration camp still in use (the red bricks buildings in the background); furthermore, the fence, barracks and the roll call square (Appellplatz), which are symbolized by newly built structures. The group is standing in front of the archaeological remains of the „Bunker“ (which was a building used for killings). These remains were turned into a commemoration space.



In the background of the first prison the watchtower of the concentration camp is visible.



Remaining structures of the prisons which were left as a sign for the history between 1948 and 2006.



The group in discussion with the employee who informed us about the inner structure of the exhibition and reconstruction of the historical buildings.


Text & photos: Jelena Steigerwald