“Behind the staggering number of victims there are people, people who had thought and felt, suffered and hoped. We want to [...] give their faces and their personal stories back to them.”
Quote from: Klaus von Dohnanyi, the First Mayor of Hamburg on the occasion of the opening of the document center and the first exhibition building in 1981.
In 1995, the document center was transformed into the so-called House of Remembrance. On the pieces of fabric hanging on the walls, you can see the names of all the prisoners that died in the Neuengamme concentration camp, who have been identified. There are approximately 27,000 names and they are ordered according to the date of the prisoners' death. The empty pieces of fabric stand as a symbol for all the dead prisoners who have not been identified. Given the steadily deteriorating conditions in the camp, the lists of names towards the end of the war got longer and longer.
Many prisoners died shortly after their arrival at the camp due to the difficult work and horrible living conditions on the one hand and mistreatment and executions on the other. More than 42,900 people are estimated to have died in the Neuengamme concentration camp and its subcamps, 14,000 of whom died in the main camp. In other words, half of the prisoners did not survive.
In one of the rooms on the ground floor, you can find the Neuengamme concentration camp death register. It is one of the few remaining original documents. During the evacuation of the camp the SS had ordered the prisoners to burn the documentation, however these books were hidden by the prisoners and thus saved from burning. If you look closely, you can see that in some places the causes of death had been written down before the names of the prisoners were added to them. Therefore it is not clear if the information in the register, such as the cause of death or the time of death, is indeed correct.
This is the end of our audio tour around the memorial. Thank you for your visit and for using the audio tour. We hope it has given you a good insight into the history of the Neuengamme concentration camp and the Memorial.