11/26/2019 Project

Memorial sites from the vantage point of young people from Germany and Poland

Pupils from schools in Hamburg and Olsztyn/Mrągowo produce podcasts for the exhibition at the forthcoming ‘denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof’ documentation centre


As part of a fourteen-day workshop in Hamburg, Łódź, Kulmhof and Auschwitz, thirteen school pupils from Germany and Poland produced podcasts that reflect their views on the memorial sites they visited and the accounts they heard there. The main focus was on the perceptions and thoughts of the pupils aged 15 to 17 from Olsztyn and Mrągowo in Poland and the Max Brauer School in Hamburg. Throughout the fortnight they were accompanied by staff from the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial and the Fundacja Borussia co-operation partner from Olsztyn, along with a journalist and language mediator.

The German-Polish workshop was structured around the deportation and forced journeys of more than 1,000 Hamburg residents who, on 25 October 1941, were deported to the ghetto at Litzmannstadt (Łódź) from the Hannoverscher Bahnhof railway station. First, the pupils visited the ‘denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof’ memorial site in Hamburg. Following an introduction to the site the pupils used single-lens reflex cameras to capture their own perspective on the memorial as part of a two-day photography workshop under the guidance of Mark Mühlhaus. What would they like to show future visitors to the site? What was for them the most relevant aspect?

After four days in Hamburg the group then travelled by train to Łódź. In this city located in central Poland, they visited the former ghetto, the New Jewish Cemetery, and the memorial at the Radegast Railway Station. Here, too, their recording devices were switched to ‘Record’ the whole time. The group also visited the Marek Edelman Dialogue Centre and met the chair of the City Council. A particularly gripping part was the visit to the Lodz State Archives where, in an elaborate study project, they were divided up into German-Polish teams and tasked with locating the Ghetto work permits and registration cards of the Hamburg deportees. The group then made a day trip to Chełmno nad Nerem (Kulmhof) some 70 km away, the site of the first Nazi German extermination camp. The Kulmhof Museum staff set aside an entire day to assist the group and help them familiarise themselves with the historic site, offering walking tours, short lectures and a workshop.

On the last day of the encounter the group travelled to Oświęcim, where they visited the former camps at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. The Litzmannstadt Ghetto was ‘liquidated’ in 1944, and the vast majority of the Jews were deported to Nazi Germany’s largest concentration and extermination camp. Most of them were murdered immediately on their arrival at the camps.

Despite the intense and lengthy workshop trip (or perhaps because of it), the group felt it was particularly important also to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. Later, at the International Youth Meeting Centre in Oświęcim, they reflected as a group on their experiences, encounters and the sites they had visited. One of the participants commented: "I found it very impressive that there were so many people in Auschwitz. I did not expect that and furthermore that there are even people visiting together with their kids and babies. People called laudly and made selfies. It especially got my attention because there were no people in Kulmhof." For all those taking part, meeting Paula Hoerling-Moses – the granddaughter of Marie and Bernard Moser, who were deported from Hamburg to Litzmannstadt – and chatting with Leon Weintraub – a survivor of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto and the camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Gross Rosen and Flossenbürg – were among the particularly compelling moments of the 14-day workshop.

Throughout the trip the pupils recorded their impressions on various audio devices. They interviewed one another, read out quotes by survivors, exhibition texts and graffiti; but most of all they captured the sounds of the memorial sites as they are today. The young people attached a lot of importance to this task, as one of the participants summed up: "I liked as well, that we really had an impact onto the exhibition." The recordings are to be used to create several podcasts to be incorporated into the forthcoming exhibition at the denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof documentation centre.

Sara Elkmann/Sarah Grandke