The week around May 3 was marked with numerous events on the occasion of the 73. anniversary of the end of the war and the liberation of concentration camps. Fourteen survivors of the Neuengamme concentration camp and its satellite camps came to Hamburg to attend the commemorative ceremony: Ivan Moscovich and Wim Aloserij from the Netherlands, Livia Fränkel from Sweden, Pascal Valliccioni from France, Haim Liss, Nahum Rotenberg, Barbara Lorber and Hana Weingarten from Israel, Mindu Hornick from the United Kingdom, Natan Grossmann from Germany, Edith Kraus from the Czech Republic, Yevgeniy Malykhin and Karl Paiuk from Ukraine and Nataliya Radchenko from Belarus. They were accompanied by their family members who arrived from Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.
Thirty-five family members of former concentration camp prisoners and other victims of Nazi persecution from different countries accepted the invitation to an exchange meeting aimed at strengthening the cooperation among the children and grandchildren of the victims of National Socialism, which took place on May 1. Among them were members of all the national prisoners’ associations of the Amicale Internationale KZ Neuengamme (AIN). The primary focus of the meeting was the question of how AIN could become accessible to young descendants of the victims of Nazi persecution who have not been involved in the work of the associations. Another important aspect was the relatives’ desire to make sure their requests are heard and to create an international network.
During the ensuing forum “Future of Remembrance”, which took place for the fourth time this year, 65 participants had the opportunity to discuss National Socialism and the Second World War from a global historical perspective as well as how they are remembered in their respective countries. Moreover, they talked about how crimes committed under other dictatorships have been dealt with. Participants in a German-Belarusian youth project on the importance of remembering deportations of Jewish people and other Nazi crimes shared their first impressions. Gymnasium Allee from Hamburg presented the results of their theater project “Change of Perspective. Second World War on a Global Scale”, which was developed in cooperation with the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. The students dealt with the relevance of the Second World War and National Socialism to their own opinions and actions. Children and grandchildren of the victims of Nazi persecution described how occupation and Nazi crimes have affected their lives to this day. Projects of other memorials were presented as well, some of them involving work with refugees and others dealing with the interrelation between colonial and racist thinking and actions during National Socialism.
On the evening of May 1, we have marked the 60th anniversary of AIN at Curiohaus in Hamburg. The 1958 merger of national associations of former prisoners of the Neuengamme concentration camp and their relatives provided an important incentive to the struggle to establish a place of commemoration on the historic site of the Neuengamme concentration camp. Representatives of AIN from various countries presented the development and current activities of their associations and discussed common projects with representatives of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial in a panel discussion. A film in which the descendants of the victims share their reasons for getting involved in the attempt to preserve the memory of the persecution was also shown. A multilingual exhibit dealing with the histories of individual associations was shown, which could afterwards be seen at the Neuengamme Memorial.
Yet again this year, survivors gave public testimonies about their experiences. On the evening of May 2, 2018 at the Baseler Hof Hotel, Mindu Hornich talked about her persecution during the Nazi regime and her imprisonment in Lübberstedt-Bilohe, a satellite camp of the Neuengame concentration camp. She also talked to her daughter and grandchildren about how her experience had affected their lives. The event was moderated by Ulrike Jensen (Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial). Hana Weingarten, Ivan Moscovich, Livia Fränkel and Pascal Valliccioni gave public testimonies at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial on May 2 and talked to students about their imprisonment in the Neuengamme concentration camp. On May 4, Haim Liss, Hahum Rotenberg and Edith Kraus shared their experiences and thoughts with students at the Center for Historical Studies. On all occasions, students used the opportunity to talk to the survivors personally.
May 3 was marked by two international commemorative ceremonies. The first one took place in the morning at the Cap Arcona Memorial in Neustadt/Holstein on the occasion of the 73. anniversary of the bombing attacks on ships in the Bay of Lübeck. This ceremony was organized by the AIN in cooperation with the City of Neustadt/Holstein and the Working Group Neuengamme. Approximately 300 people attended the ceremony. Martin Reiter gave a personal speech, remembering a Dutch survivor Wim Aloserij, who had passed away the previous evening (see here). Christine Eckel, General Secretary of the AIN and Sönke Sela, Bürgervorsteher of the City of Neustadt gave opening speeches, which were followed by speeches given by Yevgenyj Malykhin from Ukraine, a former concentration camp prisoner and a survivor of the bombing attack and Jean-Michel Gaussot, President of the Amicale Internationale KZ Neuengamme. The ceremony ended with a reading of prisoners’ testimonies, prepared by the students of Kustengymnasium Neustadt and members of the Working Group Neuengamme. The Ostholstein Parish Wind Ensemble provided musical accompaniment to the ceremony.
In the afternoon, Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial hosted the international commemorative ceremony of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg on the occasion of the 73. anniversary of the end of the war and the liberation of concentration camps, which was attended by approximately 350 guests. The Chamber Choir Altona accompanied the event, which began with a wreath laying ceremony on the former roll call square and continued in the south wing of the former workshops of the Walther factory. After Detlef Garbe, Director of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial welcomed the guests, Kolja Richter, a grandson of a former prisoner of Neuengamme, said a few words about the song “It Is Our 8th of May” written by his father Ilja Richter. Carola Veit, President of the Hamburg Parliament, also addressed the audience and urged the to keep the memory of the events alive. “I am very grateful that the ones who suffered persecution back then are telling the children of the perpetrators today that what their parents and grandparents had kept a secret far too often”, said Veit.
Pascal Valliccioni, a survivor of the Neuengamme concentration camp from France, prepared a forceful speech delivered by his daughter Pascale Evans, because he was afraid he would be overcome with emotions. He wanted his testimony to serve a noble? Purpose, he said, “humanism, respect towards others, reconciliation”. He said “I wish the tragedy my comrades and I experienced inspires young people to stand for these values. I wish that children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of the victims and our tormentors stand united in the fight against barbarity. This is what we survivors call working on remembrance. The purpose of our duty to remember is to never forget the ones who sacrificed themselves to protect these values. Its purpose is to warn, denounce and condemn any attack on human dignity.” Marc Van den Driessche, President of the Amicale Belge de Neuengamme and the son of a former prisoner of the Neuengamme concentration camp, talked about the impact his father’s death has had on his life. He urged the audience to fight the injustice today. In the end, the 10d class of Gymnasium Allee presented their theater project “Change of Perspective” which included excerpts from prisoners’ testimonies and students’ family stories. “What did my family do in the Third Reich? And what does that have to do with me?” were the key questions the play dealt with and certainly thought-provoking questions for both the students and the audience.
Links to articles
Bergedorfer Zeitung (including a video)
NDR (including a video)
Links to speeches
Программа памятных мероприятий (русский)
Program uroczystości (polski)