I helped lead a class trip to Hamburg and Neuengamme back in February. Hamburg is a very attractive city. Outside the city hall, we saw the last few moments of an anti-ACTA rally. The church pictured (Nikolaikirche) was the target used by allied bombers during their destruction of the city in 1943. Operation Gomorrah killed over 42,000, wounded nearly as many, and left the entire city close to total ruin via a gigantic firestorm. Somehow, the tall spire of the church used for targeting the bombs, which gave Hamburg the pride of having the world’s tallest building between 1874 and 1876, withstood the attack. The destroyed church is left as a memorial to some of heaviest bombing attacks by the allies on a German city.
Neuengamme was a trip as much about municipal culpability as it was in demonstrating the general systemic horrors of the Nazi reign. Torbin, the professor of the course, demonstrated his expertise on the relationship between Hamburg and the camp during the times of its operation. The first pictures show our first stop, the Bullenhuser Damm school, a school that eventually became a satellite of Neuengamme. It is now forever known for the 20 children, victims of medical experiments, hung in the basement along with soviet POW’s immediately prior to the arrival of allied forces. Post war Neuengamme also demonstrated the municipal effort to deny culpability and hide the horrors, as the camp was immediately turned into a prison. Not only did this afford Hamburg the ability to deny the horrors of the camp (and the deep relationship between the city and the brick and weapon production of the camp) but simultaneously prevented survivors from returning in search of closure and memorial by limiting access to the grounds.