Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial - History and Facts | History Hit

Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial

Hamburg, Germany

Amy Irvine

18 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial

Neuengamme was a network of Nazi concentration camps, consisting of the main camp, Neuengamme, and more than 85 satellite camps. It was northwest Germany’s largest concentration camp, situated 15 km southeast of the centre of Hamburg. The grounds of the former concentration camp now serve as a memorial and research centre in Bergedorf.

History of Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial

In 1937, Hitler declared five cities to be converted into Führer cities in the new Nazi regime, one of which was Hamburg. In 1938, a former brick factory was turned into the Neuengamme concentration camp.

Over the course of the most shameful chapter of Hamburg’s history, approximately 100,000 prisoners from German-occupied territories came through Neuengamme and its sub-camps (24 of which were for women), and used as slave labour in the outskirts of Bergedorf district. They were forced to dig canals, work in clay pits and manufacture arms.

The accommodation, nutrition and sanitation were insufficient or nonexistent and often deadly, with guards rewarded for brutal handling of prisoners.

When British soldiers finally liberated the camp on 2 May 1945, 42,900 men, women and children had already been killed by their treatment in the camp, whether from disease, exhaustion, hunger or violence (14,000 in the main camp, 12,800 in the subcamps, and 16,100 in the death marches and bombings during the final weeks of World War Two.

After the war, the British Army used the site as an internment camp for SS and other Nazi officials, though only 14 staff members were convicted for their crimes. In 1948, the British transferred the land to the City of Hamburg – traces of the atrocities that had taken place were thoroughly erased and its grounds turned into two state prisons from 1950-2004.

Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial today

Following protests by groups of survivors and protestors, the site now serves as a memorial site, spanning an area of 600,000 square metres. 15 brick buildings remain, while only the outlines of the wooden barracks are still visible.

Two monuments were erected as a tribute to the victims. Four of the five permanent exhibitions are on display in historical buildings, including the main exhibit, ‘Traces of History’, in a former cell block. An exhibition about the crimes of the SS is housed in the former car park. The grounds have also been declared a heritage site.

Getting to Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial

The memorial site is on Jean-Dolidier-Weg 75. The easiest way to get there is by car, and on-site parking is available. The closest accessible bus stop is ‘KZ-Gedenkstätte (Ausstellung)’.

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