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Review of the events to mark the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the prisoners of Neuengamme concentration camp

Dita Kraus in conversation with young people during the commemorative event at the former Walther Works

We are delighted that so many people took part in this year's commemorative events, which were held to mark the 79th anniversary of the end of the war and the liberation of the concentration camps. We were particularly pleased that four survivors of the concentration camp, Dita Kraus, Livia Fränkel, Barbara Piotrowska and Helga Melmed, were in Hamburg with their relatives.

Talks with contemporary witnesses and relatives

On 2 May 2024, 228 students took the opportunity to talk to contemporary witnesses at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. Antje Kosemund's sister Irma was institutionalised in the Alsterdorf institutions and later murdered. Helga Melmed and her Jewish family were deported from Berlin to the Litzmannstadt/Lodz ghetto at the age of 13. Her parents died there of hunger and disease. She survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, several satellite camps of the Neuengamme concentration camp and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Michael Raveh is continuing the memorial work of his mother Karla Raveh (1927-2017). Karla Raveh was the only survivor of her Jewish family.

On the evening of 4 May, Barbara Piotrowska and her daughter Katarzyna Piotrowska-Cholewińska took to the stage of the Free Academy of Arts for a generational discussion entitled ‘The Events of the War are With Me All the Time’, moderated by Ulrike Jensen. More than 100 listeners learnt more about Barbara Piotrowska's personal story of persecution, how she deals with the past and how memories are passed on within the family. 

On 5 May, the storytelling café took place, which young people had prepared as part of a project. Small groups of visitors had the opportunity to talk to Dita Kraus, Livia Fränkel, Barbara Piotrowska and Helga Melmed about the lives of these contemporary witnesses, what they would like to pass on to future generations and to ask their own questions.

A Space to Remember, Connect and Support

Family members design individual posters to pay tribute to former prisoners of the Neuengamme concentration camp for the Space to Remember. Using the printing technique that wwas employed in the resistance against National Socialism, relatives printed their poster designs in the on-site printing workshop. Sandra Polom and Henk Vlieger told the stories of their families at the public presentation afterwards. Over 50 relatives of former prisoners, mainly from the Netherlands but also from Ukraine, Germany and Poland, then presented their posters and put them up at the Space to Remember in memory of their relatives.

Speeches (deutsch) Speeches (english) 

Speeches (francais) Speeches (dutch) 

Speeches (ukrainian)

Individual commemorative events

Smaller individual commemorative ceremonies were held at the Neuengamme concentration camp memorial site, including at the memorials for the deportees from the Dutch towns of Putten and Achterveld. Henk Vlieger unveiled a new memorial stone for his four uncles who were murdered in the Neuengamme concentration camp. Barbara Piotrowska laid flowers by the railway carriage. This is where her father had to get off the train, while she and her mother were deported on to Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Commemorative event in Neustadt in Holstein

The Amicale Internationale KZ Neuengamme and the city of Neustadt in Holstein organised several events around the central Neustadt commemorative event to mark the anniversary of the bombing of the concentration camp ships, including the ‘Cap Arcona’: The president of the Amicale, Martine Letterie, read from her children's and youth book ‘Children with a Star’. Participants creatively explored the story of the Cap Arcona in Tape-Art-Workshops. The commemorative event on 3 May began with conversations between students and descendants of Cap Arcona victims in the Neustadt schools. Jean-Luc Gadon, nephew of Serge Léopold Camman, was one of the speakers at the commemorative event at the Cap Arcona Memorial . His uncle survived the attack on board the ‘Athen’. Students presented biographies of former prisoners. Boat trips led to the sites of the sinking of the prisoner ships.

Speeches (german) Speeches (english) 

Speeches (francais) Speeches (dutch) 

Speeches (ukrainian) Speeches (spanish)

Speeches (russian) Speeches (polish)

Speeches (danish)

Commemorative event at the Neuengamme concentration camp memorial site

The international commemorative event with survivors and the relatives of former prisoners of the Neuengamme concentration camp from all over the world began with a commemorative ceremony in the former Walther works, accompanied by music from Jugend musiziert. In addition to greetings from the President of the Hamburg Parliament, Carola Veit, and the State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, Anja Hajduk, the Chairman of the October 44 Foundation, Jan van den Hoorn, gave a speech about the Dutch village of Putten, from which over 550 men were deported to the Neuengamme concentration camp in October 1944 as part of a so called reprisal action. The central element of the comemorative ceremony was a conversation between Dita Kraus and three young people in which she spoke, among other things, about what she would like to pass on to younger generations. Edith (Dita) Kraus, born in Prague in 1929, was persecuted by the National Socialists as a Jew. Dita survived the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps as well as three satellite camps of the Neuengamme concentration camp. After the memorial service, more than 30 wreaths representing various groups and roses were laid at the former detention bunker.

Speeches (deutsch) Speeches (english) 

Speeches (francais) Speeches (dutch) 

Speeches (polska) Speeches (ukrainian)

Speeches (dansk)

Reports in the press

Hamburger Morgenpost: 43.000 Tote mahnen. Rassismus, Hass und Hetze niemals tolerieren
NDR Hamburg Journal: Gedenkfeier zum Jahrestag der Befreiung
NDR: KZ Neuengamme. Briten finden 1945 leeres Lager vor
NDR: Erinnerungsarbeit in der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme (Ort der Verbundenheit)

RTV Utrecht: Kleindochter van verzetsman Jacob Veerman herdenkt haar opa in Neuengamme

Helga Melmed in conversation with young people, 2 May 2024
Commemorative ceremony at the former Walther Works, 3 May 2024
Wreath-laying ceremony at the former detention bunker, 3 May 2024
Presentation of the posters designed for the "Space to Remember" by relatives, 2 May 2024
Barbara Piotrowska brings flowers in remembrance at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial´s wagon, 3 May 2024
Livia Fränkel at the Conversation Café at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, 5 May 2024
Wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial in Neustadt.
Barbara Piotrowska with her daughter Katarzyna Piotrowska-Cholewińska at "Generation Talk"-event.