Neuengamme Concentration Camp

Photos of Memorial Site by Bonnie M. Harris

Reconstructed parade ground where roll call was taken

Photo Credit: Bonnie M. Harris

A fragment of the historic parade ground, around 800 square meters in size, was discovered when a prison building, erected after the war, was demolished in 2003. This fragment was integrated into a reconstruction of the parade ground. The broken lines that you see in the photo above are parts of the concrete foundations of a cell block for the Vierlande Correction Center, which was erected on this section of the parade ground in 1949/50. Together with the remains of the prison building to the north, they document the post-war use of the concentration camp.

The Memorial Site has information in four languages, including English, at each of the places of interest in the former camp, as shown in the photo below.

Former location of barracks with parade ground on the right

Photo Credit: Bonnie M. Harris

According to information given at the Memorial Site, in mid-October 1941, a transport of 1,000 Soviet POWs from Stalag X D Wietzendorf arrived in Neuengamme. They were made to sleep crammed together on the floors of Blocks 7 and 14, which were fenced off and designated as "the labor camp for prisoners of war." The POWs were given especially bad food. This sparked a solidarity campaign among the other prisoners at Neuengamme and many shared their bread with them. By mid-1942, the 348 POWs who were still alive were then transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Their fate thereafter is unknown.

Location of Infirmary where medical experiments were conducted

Photo Credit: Bonnie M. Harris

The following information about medical experiments at Neuengamme is from the Memorial Site:

From mid-1944 onwards, an SS doctor from Berlin, Kurt Heissmeyer, undertook experiments with tubercle bacilli in Neuengamme. For his trials, he was allotted a separate section at the end of Infirmary IV. Initially, he used large numbers of adult prisoners as his test patients. In November 1944, he had twenty Jewish children brought here from Auschwitz concentration camp - ten boys and ten girls aged between 5 and 12 - with whom he continued his experiments. On 20 April 1945, in an attempt to erase all traces of these crimes, SS soldiers murdered the children at the Bullenhuser Damm satellite camp.

The experiments done by Kurt Heissmeyer, in which around 200 subjects died, were designed to disprove the theory that tuberculosis was purely an infectious disease. Heissmeyer maintained that only unhealthy people and especially "racially weak and inferior persons, such as the Jews," were susceptible to tuberculosis. Heissmeyer attempted to determine whether there was any natural immunity to tuberculosis and to develop a vaccine against the disease.

Heissmeyer removed the lymph glands from the 20 Jewish children as part of his experiment. As the British Army approached the camp in April 1945, the children were transferred to the Bullenhuser Damm satellite camp, where they were murdered by hanging from hooks, according to the US Holocaust Museum.

After the war, Heissmeyer had a medical practice for 18 years in Magdeburg in East Germany where he was a well-respected lung and tuberculosis specialist. He was not selected for the Doctor's Trial at Nuremberg where 23 physicians were tried, including several who had conducted medical experiments in the concentration camps. In the British war crimes trial for the Neuengamme staff, held in 1946 in Hamburg, SS doctors Bruno Kitt and Alfred Trzebinski were convicted and subsequently hanged, but Dr. Heissmeyer was not among the accused. Eventually, Heissmeyer was tried by a German court in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison; he died in prison 14 months later.

Location of the Special Barrack, used as a brothel for the prisoners

Photo Credit: Bonnie M. Harris

The following information about the "Special barrack" is from the Memorial Site:

From late May 1944 onwards, the SS in Neuengamme - as in other concentration camps - ran a brothel in a fenced-off, so-called 'special barrack'. Female prisoners from Ravensbrück concentration camp were coerced into prostitution here. Certain selected prisoners - skilled laborers, 'capos' and prisoners working for the camp administration - were also allowed to visit the brothel in exchange for special 'bonus vouchers' awarded as incentives to prisoners.

The barrack was demolished in the mid-1950s.

Women forced to work as prostitutes in concentration camp brothels suffered severe physical and emotional damage. The persecution they endured was not researched and publicly acknowledged until just a few years ago.

Photo of separate camp for French "special prisoners"

Photo Credit: Bonnie M. Harris

According to the Memorial Site, a camp for French "special prisoners" existed from October 1944 onwards. Two fenced-off horse barns of the type used for barracks were converted into a special camp for some 400 French inmates who had been brought to Neuengamme concentration camp in July 1944. The two dark-colored buildings in the photo above were the "stables" used as barracks in the French camp. High-ranking politicians, church dignitaries and other figures of public life were accorded a privileged status and quartered here, some of them also with their families. They were allowed to keep their own clothes and belongings, were relieved from performing forced labour and granted somewhat better living conditions than the other camp prisoners.