On 7 May 2000, the ”Memorial Centre Concentration Camp Out-Station Braunschweig Schillstrasse” was inaugurated. The Centre, with its concept developed by Sigrid Sigurdsson, a Hamburg artist, comprises a stepped pedestal and the so-called “open archives” inviting residents of Braunschweig as well as local organisations, associations and institutions to deposit documents, reflections and personal mementos there. Since 1997, more than 70 library cases have been compiled for the archives, kept at the former Invalidenhaus on Schillstrasse. Selected texts from these archives are exhibited on metal plaques affixed to the wall forming the boundary of the Memorial Centre.
The suspense-laden atmosphere of past and present simultaneously perceptible on Schillstrasse is an integral element of the memorial concept. On the façade of a building constructed much later on the former camp area, now owned by the Deutsche Post AG, the proverb “The Future has a Long Past” shines in blue neon letters, releasing traces of the past into our ordinary life.
The memorial centre is intended to become the focal point of Braunschweig’s interconnected recollections. To this end, the local administration, jointly with a number of highly committed individuals and organisations, have developed a municipal “Concept to plan, design and create urban places of commemoration of the Nazi regime” (briefly: memorial concept).
For further information please contact the Division of Literature and Music (email: email@example.com, phone: 0531-470 48 40, Fax: 0531-470 48 09).
The Hamburg concentration camp Neuengamme comprised almost 90 out-stations set up since 1942 in the north-western region of Germany. The Nazi SS troops sold the detainees’ labour to enterprises operating in the production of vital war products. For many of these prisoners, the harshness of factory work combined with living conditions beneath human dignity caused their emotional and physical extermination.
In August 1944, the SS started to set up the out-station on Braunschweig’s Schillstrasse. Four stone barracks were built to house the prisoners; another building on the opposite side of the land was designated for the SS squads on guard. Late in October 1944, the construction of the camp was completed. Starting in September 1944, the prisoners - most of them selected at the Auschwitz extermination camp as fit for hard labour - arrived in three transports in Braunschweig, whereas some of the detainees were taken to another out-station located at Vechelde. By the end of 1944, some 500 men lived at the Schillstrasse camp, and about 400 at Vechelde. Most of them worked in the automotive production of Büssing NAG, others were forced to do clearance work. The prisoners were mainly Jews of Polish origin from the Lodz ghetto, but there were other nationalities as well, including a group of French prisoners.
Due to 12-hour work shifts along with poor accommodation, food rationing and insufficient health care, several hundred prisoners died of physical exhaustion; others died of maltreatment.
Late in March 1945, the camp was closed down. So-called evacuation transports carried the detainees off to other concentration camps. Those who survived were liberated on 2 May 1945 by the American troops arriving at Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust.
It was not until the 1990s that thorough research into the background of the concentration camp out-station on Schillstrasse was initiated. The investigations made by Dr. Karl Liedke and Elke Zacharias greatly contributed to uncovering the history of the camp as well as the names of many of the former prisoners.
The location of the former concentration camp out-station is a suspense-laden place with different layers of history. The area of the former camp borders on the Schill Memorial, a monument built in 1837 to commemorate the wars of liberation against the Napoleonic occupation, designed by master builder Heinrich Friedrich Uhlmann. In the wake of the German national movement, the sponsors of the memorial intended to commemorate Prussian army major Ferdinand von Schill, who had lost his life in the war, and fourteen soldiers of his volunteer corps who had been executed in Braunschweig. The Invalidenhaus, added in 1840, had a small chapel inside in which commemorative exhibits were kept.
In 1955, following a suggestion made by local war veterans, the Braunschweig administration re-dedicated the Schill Memorial. New bronze plaques were affixed in commemoration of the soldiers of the Braunschweig units killed or reported missing in World War II. Every year, on the national day of mourning, the German War Graves Commission as well as representatives of the local administration and the army, and various associations used to lay wreaths at the Schill memorial. Though such commemoration of the dead intended to encompass “all the victims of violence and war” there was never any critical reappraisal of the causes and motives that had triggered off World War II, nor of the particular history of the area on Schillstrasse. The former camp barracks had been leased by the local administration as early as October 1945, some of them then serving to accommodate needy families. When the new railway station was built in 1959/60, the barracks were pulled down. Since then, there have been no visible traces of the place’s past.
In 1994 and 1995, the commemoration ceremonies held at the Schill Memorial on the national day of mourning occasioned protest demonstrations, suggesting that this kind of commemoration was inadequate. With recent research having produced evidence of the history of the concentration camp, the local administration decided to create a genuine place of commemoration of the former concentration camp out-station. A competition was held, inviting contemporary artists to use the expressive means of the arts to analyse and appraise the past.
The winning design came from Hamburg artist Sigrid Sigurdsson, who then created a place in commemoration of the victims of the concentration camp out-station. Within the scope of the project “Braunschweig - a City in Germany Remembers”, the artist invited several institutions and individuals to submit documents or texts containing their reflections relating to the Nazi era, and to have them collected in library cases. These cases became the basis of the “open archives”.
On over 200 metal plaques, affixed to a wall bordering the former area of the concentration camp out-station, texts collected in the archives are exhibited to explain the process of remembering the past. Additionally, several texts on the history of the camp and the fate of its prisoners have been prepared by historian Dr. Karl Liedke. From a stepped pedestal, visitors looking beyond the wall into the area of the former camp will detect the rabbinical proverb “The Future has a Long Past” - shining down from the façade of a building erected on the historical ground of the camp, now owned by the Deutsche Post AG.
The former Invalidenhaus has been altered and refurbished to house the “open archives”, an ever-growing collection of texts reminiscent of the past. A central reading room invites visitors to open the cases and study the documents they contain.
On behalf of the local administration, the Arbeitskreis Andere Geschichte e.V. has assumed custody of the institution. Its task is to go on collecting documents, to render assistance and advice to visitors and users, to offer guided tours and educational instruction, but also to keep in contact with the survivors of the camp.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays: 14:00 - 17:00
Thursday: 16:00 - 19:00
First Saturday in every month: 14:00 - 17:00
Other appointments can be made by telephone:
Phone: 0531-2 70 25 65
Fax: 0531-2 70 25 64
The following publications are at present available:
Karl Liedke, Gesichter der Zwangsarbeit. Polen in Braunschweig 1939-1945.
Bernhild Vögel, Denkstätte Schillstrasse. Materialien für Schule und Bildungsarbeit,
Hrsg. Jugendring Braunschweig. Braunschweig 1998.
Institutions and individuals participating in the "open archives"
Memorial Centre Concentration Camp Out-Station Braunschweig Schillstrasse
Memorial Centre Concentration Camp Out-Station Braunschweig Schillstrasse