Can we look at my biography binder?
We are in the main exhibition of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. It is the beginning of May 2014. In a few days the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial’s commemorative service on the occasion of the 69th anniversary of the war’s end and the liberation of the concentration camps will take place. The old lady is one of the former prisoners who have come to Hamburg early to attend the multi-generational meeting. The visit to the exhibition happens after the former prisoners, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of former prisoners as well as the Memorial’s staff, students from Hamburg and interested individuals have introduced themselves to each other. Their plan for the following days is to talk about how their families have dealt with the experience of persecution and to share insights into the culture of remembrance in their home countries.
Back to the biography. Of course, she can look at it. Later, the students who follow her to the biography binder will say, that sharing that moment with the survivor and her son was very important to them.
On the cover of the binder is a black and white photo of a shyly smiling young woman. It shows the elderly lady a few months after her liberation. She immediately begins to tell the young people about forced labor and imprisonment in concentration camps in Germany as well as the hunger and cold, but also about gestures of human kindness.
On display, along with the binder containing this lady’s biography, is a selection of other prisoners’ stories. They are the stories of those who did not survive as well as the stories of those who were able to tell their own story after the liberation.
Many relatives of survivors whose stories are not represented in this collection – including those attending the multi-generational meeting – would like to see their relatives names on display at the memorial.
The demand to find a way to also display the names of the survivors was the reason behind offering the workshop „Ideas for the Making the Names of Survivors Visible in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial“ held during the Forum“ The Future of Remembrance “ at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial on May 5 and 6, 2015.
Swenja Granzow-Rauwald is a political scientist and the Editor in Chief of the Reflections blog. Her maternal grandparents survived two satellite camps of the Neuengamme concentration camp. She works on creating a future of remembrance that acknowledges the past, critically assesses the present and considers the needs of the generations to come. For her, giving descendants of Nazi victims, descendants of bystanders and descendants of Nazi perpetrators a chance to tell their stories is crucial for reaching this goal. You can send her an e-mail at email@example.com.