The memorialNeuengamme's post-war use as an internment camp and prison undoubtedly contributed to its obscurity. For many decades, Neuengamme concentration camp had no place in the public memory, either nationally or in Hamburg itself.
The Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial was established gradually in the face of strong opposition. The first monument was erected in 1953, followed by a stone memorial on the edge of the grounds in 1965. An exhibition building was added in 1981, and the memorial gradually expanded over the following years. But it was not until the prison closed in 2003 that a memorial and documentation centre could be established on the grounds of the former prisoners' barracks.
The new memorial, which opened in May 2005 on the 60th anniversary of the camp's liberation, covers nearly the entire grounds of the former camp, an area of 50 hectares containing 15 buildings from the Nazi era. This makes it one of the largest memorials in Germany. The memorial's outdoor areas feature the outlines of the foundations of the prisoners' huts and archaeological excavations. The main exhibition is located in the former prisoners' blocks 21–24. There is a research exhibition on the SS in the former SS garages, and two supplementary exhibitions on slave labour in armaments and brick production can be found in the former brickworks and a former armaments factory. The memorial also offers an Open Archive and a centre for historical studies for carrying out projects and seminars.