On our way to Bremerhaven the day prior I noticed a sign on the side of the autobahn “Bergen-Belsen Memorial site” and remembering back to my history classes in high school, I was quite sure that that was an old KZ site.
So on the third day during our trip to Phantasialand we stopped there. Sunday was already a dark and gloomy day with rain showers off and on. We pulled into the parking area of what is an impressive complex.
The Concentration Camp itself is no longer there, it’s all been converted into a huge memorial hall/Park.
You are greeted by grey intimidating cement walls that guide you to a huge cement block building. Inside is an information center with very helpful guides that are happy to tell you where to find the exhibitions and about the layout of the memorial.
Inside the center you will find footage and documentation, artifacts and photos of victims and the allied forces once the camp was liberated. I do have to advise … much of it was not suited for smaller kids.
The outside grounds look much like a mix of forests and cemeteries. On the left and right of the walkways are mounds marked as mass graves, and then there are some of the foundations of the original huts still left over. Most of those shacks where burned down during liberation of the camp. It’s an eerie feeling to walk through the huge cemetery knowing how many innocent people suffered and lost their lives there. One of the sights in the cemetery is the memorial marker for Anne Frank and her sister. Both girls died of disease there during their captivity. Out on the camp area you will find models of the layout of the camp and a large obelisk looms in the edge of the burial area, like a big reminder.
Here is some background info out of the flyer I got there:
The Bergen-Belsen memorial is located around 60 kilometers north east of Hanover. During World War II, the site was the location of the POW camp operated by the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces. The 20.000 POWs who died there, most of them from the Soviet Union, where buried in a cemetery around one kilometer from the camp.
In 1943, the SS took over parts of the grounds and established a concentration camp. At least 52.000 men, women and children died in this camp, most of them during the last months of the war. When British troops liberated the camp in April of 1945, they found thousands of unburied bodies and prisoners that were near death …
In October 2007 the redesigned memorial site was opened, including a large new Documentation Centre and permanent exhibition on the edge of the newly redefined camp, whose structure and layout can now be traced. The site is open to the public and includes a monument to the dead, some individual memorial stones and a “House of Silence” for reflection.
Sunday was a sad reminder of what people are capable of and why it is so important to do your best to live together peacefully…
If you would like to visit the site, here is the address:
Anne Frank Platz
Or check out their website www.bergen-belsen.de