11/17/2017 Conference, Report

Congress of the Amicale Internationale on November 4th and 5th, 2017

On November 4th and 5th, the Amicale Internationale de Neuengamme (AIN) came together for their yearly congress in Hamburg.

Founded in 1958, the Amicale Internationale is an international umbrella organization for various national associations of former inmates of the Neuengamme concentration camp. Since last year’s congress, Janusz Kahl, a Polish survivor of Neuengamme, has passed away. Now supported primarily by second and third generation relatives of survivors, the Amicale Internationale runs through the traveling representatives of the national associations: Mark Van den Driessche and Kristof Van Mierop, from Belgium; Helle Vibeke Sørensen, from Denmark; Thomas Käpernick, from Germany; Jean-Michel Clère and Jean-Michel Gaussot, from France; Martine Letterie, from the Netherlands; and Urszula Spinkiewicz,  from Polen. This year, representatives of local associations of survivors also participated in the congress for the first time. Tom Devos represented the Belgian association of Meensel-Kiezegem, and Evert Lubbersen represented Putten (Netherlands).

As in previous years, the AIN representatives attended the November 3rd meeting of the Advisory Board of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial in the days leading up to the congress, during which they presented and discussed their work and current projects. Afterwards, the delegates united for the 4th meeting of the field camp and commemorative sites initiatives, a forum in which current developments of memorialization for former satellite camps of Neuengamme are exchanged. The evening event, “How do Victims’ Descendants of Nazi Persecution Engage with the Legacy of National Socialist Persecution?” [Flyer], was moderated by the Study Center’s director, Oliver von Wrochem, in the State and University Library. He was joined by Swenja Granzow-Rauwald and Andrea von Treuenfeld, as well as the AIN President Jean-Michel Gaussot and Vice President Martine Letterie. Having recently published their family histories, they presented their books as part of the “Future of Remembrance” forum. Jean-Michel Gaussot presented his book "Ode au grand absent qui ne m'a jamais quitté" to a wider audience in January 2017 [Flyer], and Martine Letterie will present her book "De Genen van Mijn Vader" in Hamburg on December 14, 2017 [Flyer].

The AIN representatives opened this year’s congress with a joint commemoration and wreath-laying ceremony at the site of the former crematorium in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. This was followed by an involved discussion regarding current developments in the various countries represented in the AIN, joint transnational projects, and memorialization in former satellite camps like Wolfsburg-Laagberg. These transnational projects include the 60th anniversary of AIN to be celebrated next year and the internet dialogue platform "Reflections on Family History Affected by Nazi Crimes" that is supported by relatives of former inmates and moving towards availability in multiple languages. This platform will aid relatives in many countries to present how Nazi persecution of their family members has left profound implications on their own lives. With the platform a space to publicly document these experiences, it will make clear the importance of remembering Nazi criminality in the present and future.

Following friendly talks with the management of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial concerning the planning of this coming year’s joint commemoration events and the forum "Future of Remembrance,” this year's congress ended.