Monday, 12 June 2017

Germany: Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial

On Friday I visited the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial and there I bought some cards for my collection. 

The Dora Concentration Camp was established near Nordhausen in late summer 1943 as a subcamp of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. The camp was founded as safe production place of Nazi Germany's V-1 and V-2 weapons, after the facilities at Peenemünde had been destroyed. Thousands of forced labourers from different countries produced the weapons and also constructed the shanties for the camp, which was still under construction. In summer 1944 it became an independent concentration camp and was renamed to Mittelbau. It was the last independent concentration camp founded by the Nazis, at a time when the war was actually already lost. The US Army liberated the camp on 11th April 1945, but the SS was earlier able to evacuate most of the prisoners. Around 20000 prisoners lost their lifes at the camp. In 1964 the East German government opened a memorial at the site, which developed into an extensive memorial complex after the Reunification.

The Crematorium is the only surviving aboveground building at the memorial complex. In the early days of the memorial it was used as museum, but later it was arranged to resemble the original state.

The Shaft is the most striking feature of the memorial complex and was the main reason to establish the camp at this place, as it was considered to be bombproof. Actually constructed as munitions dump in the 1930s, it became the place of the weapon production and first also the place were the prisoners lived. In 1947 the Soviets tried to destroy the shaft, but a detonation failed and only the entrance was destroyed. Between 1988 and 1991 a new entrance was built to make the shaft accessible for the public.

In 2005 a new museum was built at the memorial complex, which houses since 2006 a permanent exhibition about the concentration camp.

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