Results of a survey conducted among 100 visitors of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial in late 2019/early 2020.
After completing a detailed study in 2018, the results of which you can find here (German version only), the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial started another survey using the questionnaires made in 2017 in order to collect information on who visits the memorial and why as well as what visitors get out of their visit. In late 2019, Anna Riaba, one of the two ASF volunteers working at the memorial, conducted survey interviews with 100 people and evaluated them. This is how she described the experience:
“Most of the people I talked to were visiting the Memorial for the first time. I noticed that people were shocked and it was hard for them to find words to describe their experience. There was a man, who came here with his son, and when I asked him how he knew about the Memorial, he said his father had told him about it when he was a child - his father was a survivor. I cannot imagine how he must have felt being in this place. It must have been very challenging to face such tragic chapters of your own family history.
Many visitors were amazed by all the available information and could not believe that all of this was once reality. After visiting the main exhibition, many young people said they wanted to learn more about the history. However, I also met someone, who said that he did not understand why a place like this should exist. This experience showed me how important it is to be prepared to come across different opinions.
I am thankful to those who encouraged my efforts to speak German despite the mistakes I made. It was also great to meet people from other countries and to speak to them in English. Some of the visitors told me about the history of their countries, some asked me about my own views. I enjoyed talking about the history and the Memorial in a friendly atmosphere.”
The survey was conducted among 100 people, half of them identifying as male and the other half as female. Sixty-three people came from Germany. Half of the people said this was their first visit to a concentration camp memorial. Most of those who had visited other concentration camp memorials mentioned Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Seventy-three people did not use an audio guide or an app, but chose to explore the site on their own instead. Most of the survey participants, fifty-two of them, learned about the memorial by word of mouth. Most participants (80) mentioned an interest in history as the reason for visiting the memorial; for eighteen of them the main reason was commemorating the victims and five were related to former prisoners and therefore had a personal interest. Most came with friends (26%), their families or partners (21% each).
The results show that most of the survey participants visited the main exhibition (88%) and many of them mentioned stopping by the information desk at the main entrance, too (73%). Most had no difficulties finding their way around the site and were content with the available information. The quality of the exhibitions was rated between “good” and “very good”, thus ranking comparatively slightly lower. The reasons for this were “too much text and too little time”, partly defective video devices and insufficient material providing more detailed information in English. Individual stories of former prisoners were seen as an especially valuable addition to the exhibition. As most memorable parts of the experience, German-speaking participants mentioned biographies, stories about survival, but also places such as the train station and the brickworks. For the international visitors, it was the places, such as the brickworks that were most memorable, as well as the general atmosphere or how the vastness or emptiness of the site affected them emotionally.
In the end, the survey participants were asked to describe their visit in three words. The result is a tag cloud: the longer the word, the more often it was used. Both international and German visitors opted for words like informative, interesting and impressive.