07/20/2018 Exhibition

“Only Ruins Lay Before Us.” Concentration camp prisoners on clearance detail following Operation Gomorrah

On July 19th, 2018, a new temporary exhibition opened at the St. Nikolai Memorial titled “Only Ruins Lay Before Us”. A collaboration between the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial and the St. Nikolai Memorial Development Committee, the exhibition is open daily at the St. Nikolai Memorial until September 29th, 2018. The exhibition describes the 1943 bombing campaign in Hamburg.

Operation Gomorrah was the code name for a series of British and American air raids on Hamburg in summer 1943, from July 24th to August 3rd. The extent of the destruction was hitherto unheard of – whole districts lay in ruins and 34,000 people died.

For the 75th anniversary of Operation Gomorrah, the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial collaborated with the St. Nikolai Memorial Development Committee in a new exhibition within the St. Nikolai Memorial on the experiences of the Neuengamme concentration camp prisoners in this period. Under dangerous conditions, the prisoners were forced to clean the destroyed city, collect corpses, and search for missing bodies. Hundreds of prisoners lost their lives doing this work

250 guests joined the opening of the exhibition, including three children of former prisoner Antoon Verberne from the Netherlands. Dr. Carsten Brosda, Senator of Culture and Media; Klaus Francke, Chairman of the St. Nikolai Memorial Development Committee; and Dr. Detlef Garbe, Director of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, all spoke at the opening. Curator Katharina Hertz-Eichenrode assembled the temporary exhibition after examining reports of former concentration camp prisoners which described these experiences. The exhibition also includes a film from Jürgen Kinter, whose work was funded by the ZEIT Foundation Ebelin and Gerd Burcerius.  

The exhibition can also be found online: "Only Ruins Lay Before Us"

The temporary exhibition in the Mahnmal St. Nikolai (St. Nikolai Memorial) is open daily between 10am and and 6pm. Entrance is free.


Speech by Detlef Garbe (German)

Speech by Carsten Brosda (German)


TV Hamburg1

TV Hamburg1

TV SAT1 Regional

Hamburger Abendblatt

TV ARD Tagesschau