08/25/2015 Report

A Neuengamme volunteer reports on her service

My name is Ana Buka, I did a voluntary service at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial from September 2014 till September 2015. My work here was very diverse thanks to the Neuengamme staff who were nothing but friendly and supportive. Apart from all the everyday tasks, I would like to point out some things I did which will stay in my mind.

My first big task was helping organize what once was (and as of the next month will once again be) a part of the permanent exhibition at the Memorial – personal belongings of former prisoners which were taken away from them upon their arrival at the camp. This was truly amazing and I was in awe going through these objects, photographing and categorizing them as well as putting the data together for the designers to use when preparing the exhibition cabinets.

Doing guided tours is an extremely challenging and responsible work. The groups we guide at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial usually consist of young students whose main concern very often seems to be everything else but their visit to the memorial (from making sure they are standing and walking next to the boy or girl they are in love with to making selfies inside the brickworks). If you manage to come back to your office after a three- or four-hour guided tour knowing that you made them listen, sometimes even speak and ask questions, if you can feel like you got at least one of those young heads insane with puberty thinking about what you told them, you know what you do makes sense. And it is an amazing feeling! 

Possibly the greatest event, not only for me but for the whole staff of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial happened in May – it was the seventieth anniversary of the liberation. We invited all of the former prisoners who are still alive to come to Hamburg. This was a lot of work but eventually everything went perfectly, I met some amazing people and had the chance to participate in an event which will stay with me forever.

I would just like to finish off by saying that I enjoyed my year at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial immensely; I’ve experienced a lot and learned a lot. Everyone who is interested in history should at least come and visit or perhaps think about doing a voluntary year here. It was truly a valuable experience.