From 13 to 27 August, the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, the Friends of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, and the Service Civil International (SCI) hosted an international work camp on the Memorial grounds. For two weeks, approximately 20 women and men between 17 and 62 years of age from Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Russia, Serbia, the Basque Country, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Germany lived at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial.
Together, the participants explored the history and consequences of oppression and persecution during the Nazi period from different cultural perspectives. The camp counsellors designed a programme with a variety of projects, including tours of the grounds and a workshop focusing on the persecution of "anti-social elements" in the context of ongoing marginalisation today. The camp also teamed up with the newspaper Bergedorfer Zeitung, which published articles by the workshop participants, who wrote about themselves, their work and responsibilities at the camp, and their impressions.
Participants spent two days working on renovating the brick factory. They thus continued a project that had been launched by the international work camp in 1993, when the brick factory was made accessible for the first time, and the ground plan of one of the kilns was marked with white lines. The participants touched up the paint, which had faded over the last 23 years. They also removed dust and dirt from the bars fencing off the drying chambers, which are not accessible. The participants spent one day in Rothenburgsort visiting the Bullenhuser Damm Memorial, which is a branch of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. There, they planted a new rose bush together in the rose garden behind the school as a reminder not to forget. During the work camp, participants also talked with people whose parents or grandparents had been persecuted. They also assisted with archive work. Last but not least, the participants finished a Turkish translation of a brochure, which the last work camp had begun, meaning visitors of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial now have access to an introduction in Turkish.
The key project of the work camp, however, was the production of a new audio guide tour. The participants wanted to develop a tour for visitors that would be unique and interesting to listen to. They therefore decided to focus on the struggle to keep memory alive. The audio tour includes existing (and non-existing) memorials on the grounds of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial for different groups of victims are presented, along with participants' impressions of their visit to the Bullenhuser Damm Memorial, for example. The audio guide will be available online in a few weeks.
While the participants from different countries had different reasons for taking part in the work camp, they all shared the desire to study the history of the site and to learn about German culture. Another important factor was their interest in getting to know people from other European countries. Seyda from Turkey said about her reasons for taking part in the camp: "I am here to have the opportunity to break down borders with people from different cultures. This camp is very important because we can come together, just as human beings." Rita, a 21-year-old student from Russia who has taken part in five work camps already, said something similar: "I believe that such work camps are very important, because they always bring us together, different people from all over the world. And all of us are friendly and equal here, no matter where we come from or how old we are."
More than 30 international work camps have taken place on the grounds of the Memorial since 1982. These camps initiated many different projects that have left a mark on the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial that can still be seen today. For example, the walking path around the grounds with information boards was installed at the first international work camp.
In addition to the financial support from the companies Dräger and Continental, and the Stiftung Deutsches Holocaust Museum, several shops from the surrounding area also supported this year's work camp with material donations: Fahrrad Marcks donated equipment for participants' bikes, the Vierländer Markt provided fresh food every day, and the Reitbrook youth fire brigade loaned out tents and beds.
TV report featured on Hamburg-Journal (in German)
Article in the Bergedorfer Zeitung (in German)