In November 1944, over 2,500 prisoners from Neuengamme concentration camp, including many Danes, were taken to Emsland. As early as 1933, there were several camps here for holding prisoners forced to work on the moor.
The SS divided up the prisoners from Neuengamme in the Dalum and Versen camps. The prisoners were used to construct the so-called “Friesenwall”, a series of fortifications designed to protect the entire northern coast of Germany, from the Netherlands to the Danish border, against an Allied landing. This work was commissioned by the Reich Defence Commissar (Reichsverteidigungskommissar) in Military District X (Wehrkreis X). In Dalum, the prisoners dug anti-tank trenches 4 to 5 metres wide and 2 to 3 metres deep for the company Hochtief, and they also built machine gun emplacements and other facilities for the “Friesenwall”. In the winter months in particular, the prisoners constantly had to fight to survive. According to a report by Dr. Trzebinski, the SS Garrison Physician at Neuengamme concentration camp, there were 807 men imprisoned in Dalum on 25 March 1945.
The SS evacuated the camp on 25 March 1945. The prisoners who were “able to march” were driven on foot along with the prisoners from the Meppen-Versen camp via Cloppenburg to Bremen, from where the majority of them were taken back to the Neuengamme main camp. Sick prisoners were taken by train to Meppen-Versen and from there to Bremen. There were probably also prisoners from Meppen-Dalum on the transports from the satellite camps in Bremen to the Sandbostel “reception camp”.
The commander of the camp was SS-Untersturmführer Hans Hermann Griem, and his deputy was SS-Unterscharführer Josef Klingler.
4 January 1945 to 25 March 1945
1000 Male Prisoners
Construction of fortifications and anti-tank ditches (“Friesenwall” project)
Reich Defence Commissar in Military District X, Hochtief
Site of former camp:
Dalum (49744 Geeste, Germany), turn off Meppener Strasse onto Rull Strasse and follow the signs to the Kriegsgräberstätte (“war graves site”).
In 1993, the Emsland district council erected an information board on the site of the former camp.
The concentration camp prisoners, convicts and prisoners of war murdered in the Emsland camps were generally buried in camp cemeteries set up for this purpose. Nine burial sites exist today in the district of Emsland and in the Grafschaft Bentheim. A bronze plaque at the entrance to Dalum cemetery, where the victims of the Dalum satellite camp are buried, refers only to the Soviet POWs who are also buried there. Even the inscription on the memorial plaque at the cemetery does not mention the satellite camp.
An action committee, which has been dealing with the history of the 15 concentration, penal and prisoner of war camps in Emsland since the early 1980s, achieved the establishment of a "Documentation and Information Center Emsland Camp" (DIZ) in Papenburg in 1985, which was expanded in 1991. As part of a first permanent exhibition there, information was also provided about the subcamps of the Neuengamme concentration camp, Meppen-Versen and Meppen-Dalum.
Ten years later, the district of Emsland decided to establish a central memorial in Esterwegen for the victims of the 15 concentration, penal and prisoner-of-war camps in Emsland. The "Esterwegen Memorial" was opened at the end of October 2011. The DIZ then gave up its location in Papenburg and moved its holdings to Esterwegen.
Opening hours Esterwegen Memorial:
April – October
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00–18.00
November – March
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00–17.00