Timeline of the post-war history of the former Neuengamme concentration camp (1945-2005)
2 May 1945
A few hours after the last SS men have left Neuengamme concentration camp, an advance party of British soldiers reaches the camp in the evening.
5 May 1945
British soldiers inspect the largely empty camp with former prisoners. In the days that follow, parts of the camp are looted by the German population and liberated non-German slave labourers.
9 May 1945
The camp is used as a "Russian DP Camp" for former Soviet slave labourers from the Hamburg region. German prisoners of war are held in other parts of the camp at the same time.
22 May 1945
The DPs ("Displaced Persons") begin to be transferred to other camps.
27 May 1945
Arrival of more than 8,000 captured SS members from the area controlled by the US 9th Army.
5 June 1945
"Special interrogation teams" begin to investigate and screen the interned Nazi officials and members of the SS (including many non-Germans). Members of the Waffen SS classified as "harmless" are moved to other camps, and non-German SS members are repatriated where possible. The camp, which was meant to be a temporary arrangement, develops into a permanent institution. The British military government begins to use the former concentration camp as an internment camp for groups subject to "automatic arrest" in accordance with the decisions made at the Potsdam Conference. A growing number of civilian officials of the Nazi state, suspected war criminals and people arrested for reasons of security, mostly from Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, are interned here.
11 July 1945
Guard duties are handed over to the 25th Belgian Fusilier Battalion.
The first issue of the bulletin of the French association of former prisoners, the "Amicale de Neuengamme", is published. In France and Belgium, the survivors of Neuengamme concentration camp formed associations as early as 1945.
3 November 1945
Responsibility for the camp, which is now officially known as "Civil Internment Camp No. 6", passes back to the British alone. The camp is gradually divided into sections for housing the different groups of prisoners.
3 March to 18 June 1946
Curio-Haus trial of the administration of Neuengamme concentration camp; 11 of the 14 defendants are sentenced to death and executed.
The internment camp expands to include a "transit camp". Germans and their families who have been expelled from other countries to the British Zone are housed here for screening.
The crematorium is demolished in late 1946/early 1947.
During the gradual disbanding of the internment camp, the British military administration hands over the brickworks to the Hamburg City Council. An advance party of 40 prisoners and eight prison officers move into the brickworks and begin to clear it out and repair it.
6 June 1948
The "Lagergemeinschaft Neuengamme" ("Neuengamme association of concentration camp survivors") is founded to represent the interests of the German survivors of Neuengamme concentration camp.
13 August 1948
The British military administration closes the internment camp; the grounds and buildings of the former concentration camp are taken over by the Hamburg prison authority.
6 September 1948
The prison later known as Vierlande Penal Facility XII opens on the site of the former camp.
The wooden huts of the former prisoners' barracks are torn down.
14 July 1949
The foundation stone is laid for a new prison cell block.
The brickworks is rented to a tenant who begins producing lightweight building boards there.
10 December 1950
The new cell block is occupied.
Most of the guard towers are demolished.
18 October 1953
At the request of French concentration camp survivors, a monument inscribed with the words "Dedicated to the Victims 1938-1945" is erected on the site of the former nursery at the edge of the camp. Since this is where the SS spread the ashes of the bodies burned in the crematorium, the site is viewed as a cemetery.
The national associations of former concentration camp prisoners join together to form the "Amicale Internationale de Neuengamme". The association demands that the Hamburg authorities erect a worthy memorial. The German survivors' association renames itself the "Arbeitsgemeinschaft Neuengamme".
7 November 1965
Dedication of the monument with the stele, the memorial wall with national plaques and the sculpture entitled "The Dying Prisoner". The grounds of the former camp nursery are turned into a park, but there is still no public access to the grounds of the former camp itself.
A second prison building is constructed on the site of the former clay pits between the brickworks and the buildings of the SS barracks now used to house prison officers. The new facility operates as a juvenile detention centre until the mid-1980s and then as a closed penal facility for adults (Penal Facility IX).
18 October 1981
A document building opens with a permanent exhibition on the history of Neuengamme concentration camp entitled "Work and Extermination". Start of regular visitor services (there are between 35,000 and 55,000 visitors each year). The Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial becomes a branch of the Museum for Hamburg History.
A circular trail is laid around the former concentration camp by the 1st International Youth Work Camp.
A new solitary confinement building is constructed for the Vierlande Penal Facility.
14 February 1984
After protests against the proposed demolition of the deteriorating brickworks and the parts of the former camp not being used by the penal facilities, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg agrees to place these sites under a preservation order.
The brickworks is restored with funds from the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the German Federal Labour Office.
23 November 1986
Part of the road known as "Neuengammer Heerweg" is renamed "Jean-Dolidier-Weg".
International protests are held against the proposal to build additional prison facilities on the former parade ground.
17 July 1989
The Hamburg Senate resolves to remove the Vierlande Penal Facility from the former concentration camp grounds by the mid-1990s.
6/7 June 1990
The Hamburg Parliament welcomes the decision to relocate Penal Facility XII and asks the Senate to explore "whether and how the Vierlande juvenile detention facility could also be torn down in the coming years".
For the first time, substantial funding is provided for further research into the history of Neuengamme concentration camp. In the context of an oral history project, autobiographical interviews are conducted with former prisoners in a total of 14 European countries, as well as Israel and the USA.
7 May 1991
The Senate resolves to appoint a commission for the development of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial to be presided over by First Mayor Dr. Voscherau. The commission, made up of members of the Hamburg Parliament, scholars and concentration camp survivors, develops an overall concept for the complete redesign of the memorial after the relocation of the penal facilities.
6 April 1993
The Senate and Parliament approve the commission's concept for the future development of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial.
Construction of the "replacement prison" in Hamburg-Billwerder, which is needed before the penal facilities can be relocated, is repeatedly postponed.
The Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial begins publishing its annual journal entitled "Beiträge zur Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Verfolgung in Norddeutschland" ("Articles on the History of National-Socialist Persecution in Northern Germany").
27 April 1994
The Hamburg Parliament grants special funding for the digitisation of all available prisoner data for statistical analysis and the creation of a scientifically verified death register.
As a temporary solution to the glaring lack of space, a container building is erected to house the archive, offices and rooms for visitor services.
In anticipation of the pending relocation of the prison, Senator of Justice Hardraht offers the Amicale Internationale part of the former Walther armaments factory, which had been used as workshops by Penal Facility XII, so that an exhibition can be set up.
The railway track is reconstructed and a historical goods car is placed on the site of the former camp railway station.
The Hamburg Cultural Authority commissions Düsseldorf-based artist Thomas Schütte to turn the existing document building into a "House of Remembrance".
4 May 1995
On the 50th anniversary of liberation, a new permanent exhibition entitled "Struggles for Survival – Prisoners under SS Rule" opens in the "House of Remembrance" and the former Walther building.
8/9 March 1996
The Hamburg judiciary and First Mayor say it is unlikely the Senate resolution of 1989 will be implemented any time soon due to the city's financial difficulties. In response, the president of the Amicale Internationale, Robert Pinçon, declares that the concentration camp survivors will no longer accept the use of the former camp buildings as a prison. He says that in the time left to them, the survivors will relentlessly press the city of Hamburg to fulfil the promises made to them.
During budget deliberations, 96.1 million German marks are earmarked for the construction of the replacement prison in Hamburg-Billwerder under the condition that the budget has been consolidated by then.
1 June 1997
EA permanent exhibition on the working conditions for concentration camp prisoners in brick production opens in the brickworks.
The new government coalition in Hamburg, consisting of the SPD (Social Democrats) and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (the Greens), affirms the goal of relocating the prison and pushes ahead with the plans.
1 January 1999
When the national museums in Hamburg are converted into foundations under public law, the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial is spun off from the Museum for Hamburg History and placed under the direct authority of the Hamburg Cultural Authority as an independent institution in accordance with the "new steering model".
27 July 1999
The federal government presents a new memorial concept which, for the first time, takes account of concentration camp memorials in the old federal states and calls for permanent funding for Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Neuengamme.
Work begins on the new penal facility in Billwerder.
1 October 2000
The judicial authority hands over the former commandant's house, which had been used to house prison officials, to the memorial. The building is subsequently restored.
5 September 2001
The Hamburg Parliament unanimously agrees that after Penal Facility VII is relocated to Billwerder, the former concentration camp buildings will be incorporated into the memorial. It further resolves to expand the memorial in three steps between 2002 and 2006 to create a centre for exhibitions, international exchanges and historical studies.
13 October 2001
After the parliamentary elections on 23 September 2001, the new coalition consisting of the CDU (Christian Democrats), the Schill Party and the FDP (Free Democrats) announces it will not close the penal facility in Neuengamme "in light of the urgent need for prison space". This leads to international protests, prompting designated mayor Ole von Beust to seek an agreement with the survivors' associations.
The former SS garages are handed over ahead of schedule and renovated to hold offices and exhibitions.
24 January 2002
The Hamburg Parliament again unanimously decides to relocate the prison by 30 June 2003. It also agrees to allow the former parade ground to be reconstructed while the prison is still in operation and to complete the entire redesign a year and a half earlier than originally planned so that it is finished by May 2005, the 60th anniversary of the camp's liberation.
26 June 2003
Inauguration of the new penal facility in Billwerder.
30 June 2003
Penal Facility XII at Neuengamme closes and its grounds are handed over to the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. The memorial now covers over 50 hectares and comprises 15 former concentration camp buildings with around 41,000 square meters of renovated space.
August 2003 – May 2005
The post-war buildings are torn down, reconstruction work begins on the remaining former concentration camp buildings, and the historical camp grounds are renovated. The redesign costs are split between the state of Hamburg and the federal government.
4 May 2005
Opening of the redesigned memorial at the site of the former prisoners' barracks. The memorial is composed of the new centre for historical studies, the library and the archive, as well as the main "Traces of History" exhibition set up in one of the two stone buildings that were used to hold prisoners, and a research exhibition entitled "Posted to Neuengamme Concentration Camp" in the former SS garages, which also hold the Open Archive. The outdoor areas feature outlines of the foundations of the prisoners' huts and archaeological excavations.