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 Versen and Dalum camps. Concentration camp prisoners were housed in a POW camp in Versen from 16 November 1944. They 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) and carried out by the company Hochtief. According to a report from 29 March 1945 by Dr. Trzebinski, the SS Garrison Physician at Neuengamme concentration camp, there were 1,773 men imprisoned in Versen 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-Dalum camp via Cloppenburg to Bremen, from where the majority of them were taken back to the Neuengamme main camp. Sick prisoners were taken to Bremen by train. There were probably also prisoners from Meppen-Versen on the transports from the satellite camps in Bremen to the Sandbostel “reception camp”. At least 50 prisoners died on this march.
The camp commander was SS-Obersturmführer Schäfer.
16 November 1944 to 25 March 1945
1773 Male Prisoners
Construction of fortifications and anti-tank ditches (“Friesenwall” project)
Reich Defence Commissar in Military District X, Hochtief
Site of former camp:
Grünfeldstrasse, today a prison
49716 Meppen Germany
Following the end of the war, a prison was established on the site of the Meppen-Versen satellite camp. Wooden barracks were gradually replaced by new buildings. In 1993 Emsland district council installed an information board at the edge of the grounds, which are still a part of the Meppen prison. In 1985 the work of an action committee, which has been dealing with the history of 15 concentration camps, prison camps and POW camps in Emsland since the early 1980s, led to the establishment of "Dokumentations- und Informationszentrums Emslandlager" (Emsland Camps Documentation and Information Center, or DIZ) in Papenburg, which was expanded in 1991. Its first permanent exhibition provided information on Meppen-Versen and Meppen-Dalum satellite camps of the Neuengamme concentration camp. Ten years later, the Emsland district council decided that a central memorial site for the victims of the 15 concentration camps, prison camps and POW camps in Emsland should be established in Esterwegen. The Esterwegen Memorial was opened in late October 2011. Following the opening of the memorial, DIZ moved its collection to Esterwegen, thus abandoning the site in Papenburg.
Prisoners killed in concentration camps, prison camps and POW camps in Emsland were usually buried in camp cemeteries established for this purpose. Today there are 9 burial grounds in Emsland and the County of Bentheim. The bodies of 297 dead prisoners of the satellite camp Meppen-Versen were buried in the Versen War Cemetery. Their names and nationalities can be seen on four stone slabs outside the entrance to the cemetery. The bodies of 175 more victims, which had been buried here, were repatriated after exhumation in 1953.
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