07/07/2022 Exhibition

(Last) Signs of Life

Postcards from the Destinations of National Socialist Deportations from Hamburg and Northern Germany. A temporary exhibition of the denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof.

At a few of the destinations of national socialist deportations from Hamburg and Northern Germany the deportees were allowed to write postcards. This was the only opportunity to make contact with Hamburg from the ghettos and concentration camps. The temporary outdoor exhibition in the Lohsepark in the Hafencity will display these (last) testimonies/records and their stories.

Where: At the Lohsepark, 20457 Hamburg 
When: 8th July – 31st August 2022

Read morehttps://hannoverscher-bahnhof.gedenkstaetten-hamburg.de/en 

“My last laundry load is in good hands with you.”

Maximillian Nagel from Hamburg wrote this in the Litzmannstadt Ghetto in a postcard to the Chin family in Hamburg. The 58-year-old businessman was deported in October 1941 from the Hannoverscher Bahnhof which is today the Lohsepark in the HafenCity. Unfortunately, the postcard never arrived in Hamburg. Maximilian Nagel was deported by the National Socialists to the Kulmhof extermination camp and murdered there. Postcards were usually the only means of contact from ghettos and concentration camps. However, postal traffic was subject to strict guidelines and censorship regulations. Language and content were strictly defined. Despite this, and especially between the lines, the cards found to this day provide insights into the perceptions and feelings of their senders: their hopes, fears and longings. The majority of the deportees from Hamburg and northern Germany were murdered. The postcards are often their last remaining self-testimonies.

(Rediscovered) Testimonies of Deportation

Maximillian Nagel’s postcard is just one of over 250 postcards addressed to Hamburg from the Litzmannstadt Ghetto which can be found today in the Archive in Łódź, Poland having never reached their destination. It was only in 2019 that the denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof team was able to locate these cards in the course of the development of the exhibition. They were supported in this by, among others, students and young people in international workshops. However there are also postcards known to us that arrived from other destinations of the Hamburg deportations. More than 350 of these can be found for example in the Hamburg State Archive, while further cards are part of private collections and smaller archives. These remainings take on even more significance when one considers that the vast majority of deported people from Hamburg and northern Germany did not have the opportunity to write at all. Either they were children and had not (yet) learned to write or the National Socialists had completely forbidden contact with home at the place to which they had been deported to.

Hands-on history and enhanced digital research 

A temporary outdoor exhibition in the Lohsepark in Hamburg's Hafencity presents these testimonies and their stories for the first time. Visitors to the exhibition can pick up and hold postcards and then use them to look at individual life stories and messages in German and English. More detailed information can be found online via a QR code. The handwritten cards, often written in Sütterlin, are transcribed there and are therefore easier to read. Links can be used to find additional information for further research. In short videos, for example, project participants talk about their impressions of working with the cards and about what can often only be found at second sight.

A First Look at the Upcoming Permanent Exhibition

The presentation of the postcards from the destinations will be part of the future permanent exhibition of the documentation centre, which in the years ahead will be opened in the immediate vicinity of the denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof. It will commemorate the National Socialist deportations of more than 8,000 women, men and children who were deported as Sinti and Roma as well as Jews from Hamburg and northern Germany to ghettos, concentration camps and extermination camps. The exhibition on the postcards in the Lohsepark is the beginning of a series of presentations of previous research of the exhibition project until the opening of the documentation centre. This will bring the Nazi criminality and long-forgotten National Socialist deportations to the attention of Hamburg's urban society and make it clear to visitors to the park that although the former deportation site of the Hannoverscher Bahnhof no longer exists, the history and stories of the people still have a significance today.

Postcards: https://hannoverscher-bahnhof.gedenkstaetten-hamburg.de/en/ 

Johanna Schmied/ Sarah Grandke