Because the site was used as an internment camp then as a prison after the war, the concentration camp was largely forgotten. For many decades, Neuengamme concentration camp faded from public memory – both in Germany and in Hamburg.
The memorial was established gradually in the face of strong opposition. In 1953, a simple monument was erected on the edge of the grounds. Thanks to the endeavours of the main organisation representing all former camp prisoners, Amicale Internationale de Neuengamme, an international memorial was erected in 1965. In 1981, an exhibition building (Dokumentenhaus) was added, and the first exhibition was shown there with information on the history of the site. In 1984, after protests halted the demolition of the former brick factory, the brickworks and several buildings of the former concentration camp were designated as heritage sites. In 1995, a permanent exhibition opened in the former Walther factory and the exhibition building (Dokumentenhaus) was remodelled into the House of Remembrance, where the names of the victims are kept. Finally, when the prison closed in 2003, a memorial and documentation centre were built on the site of the former prisoners’ compound.
The new Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial was inaugurated on the 60th anniversary of the camp’s liberation in May 2005. Today, the Memorial encompasses virtually the entire grounds and 17 original buildings of the former concentration camp. Measuring 57 hectares, it is one of the largest memorials in Germany. It is a site for remembering and learning that preserves the memory of the victims of SS terror, while also providing opportunities to explore the causes and consequences of the Nazi regime.