Presentation Title

The Memory of the Concentration Camp System in the two Germanies

Moderator

Meghan Murphy-Lee

Start Date

4-4-2020 12:25 PM

End Date

4-4-2020 1:30 PM

Abstract

Following the conclusion of the Second World War, the concentration camp system established by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) remained on German soil, with many continuing to function in some capacity. The way that the concentration camps were treated by the two Germanies that existed between 1949 and 1991 were radically different from each other. The Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) allowed for the creation of memorials to the religious groups that were murdered almost immediately, whereas the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was focused centrally on the remembrance of the political prisoners and was strict on the the government’s policies towards the former camps. The analysis of remembrance and memory of the concentration camps in both Germanies shows how religion was treated in both countries, especially in regards to the reaction and acknowledgment of the genocide of an entire people based off of their religious identities. As Germany was divided into four sectors of military control by the Allies, the country was quickly divided into two power blocs of democracy versus communism. The eastern sector, or the Soviet Occupation Zone, was established with a socialist government with its loyalty directly to the Soviet government and its leader, Joseph Stalin. The security service of the Soviet government, the NKVD, utilized the former NSDAP concentration camps to hold the enemies of the Soviet occupiers. Instead of being religiously based, the NKVD arrested people deemed political threats to the Soviet regime. After the formation of the socialist GDR in 1949, the NKVD turned control of the concentration camps GDR. Many of these camps were maintained by the GDR’s own state security force, the Ministry for State Security (Stasi), or the National People’s Army (NVA) as military training facilities. When most of the camps were finally decommissioned by the government between the 1960s and 1980s, camps like Sachsenhausen where the “role of political resistance was emphasised over that of other groups”, disregarded the memory of the largest group of prisoners, the Jewish community, instead opting to put focus on the political prisoners of the facilities.1 It was not until reunification that recognition of the loss of life of the Jewish community was finally acknowledged in full by the new, unified German government.

In contrast, the concentration camps of the western sector of Germany served a very different purpose. Initially, camps like the Dachau camp were utilized as displaced persons camps to be temporary shelters to the millions of German people that were expelled from the eastern territories. After the flows of refugees had been resettled by the new BRD’s government, the camps were shut down and memorials were eventually built at the sites in the form of places of worship for the groups of people who were murdered. As an example, at Dachau the first permanent fixture to be added to the camp was a chapel to murdered Christians in 1962, with construction of Jewish and Protestant sites of worship following soon after. 2

1 “Sachsenhausen (Oranienburg): History & Overview.” History & Overview of Sachsenhausen (Oranienburg) Concentration Camp. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. Accessed February 5, 2020. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/history-and-overview-of-sachsenhausen-oranienburg-concentration-camp.

2 “Historical Site.” 1945 – Present History of the Memorial Site - Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau Memorial Site. Accessed February 5, 2020. https://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/present.html.

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Research Paper: An Exploration on the Continuance of the Utilization of the Concentration Camp System after the Fall of the Third Reich

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Apr 4th, 12:25 PM Apr 4th, 1:30 PM

The Memory of the Concentration Camp System in the two Germanies

Following the conclusion of the Second World War, the concentration camp system established by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) remained on German soil, with many continuing to function in some capacity. The way that the concentration camps were treated by the two Germanies that existed between 1949 and 1991 were radically different from each other. The Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) allowed for the creation of memorials to the religious groups that were murdered almost immediately, whereas the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was focused centrally on the remembrance of the political prisoners and was strict on the the government’s policies towards the former camps. The analysis of remembrance and memory of the concentration camps in both Germanies shows how religion was treated in both countries, especially in regards to the reaction and acknowledgment of the genocide of an entire people based off of their religious identities. As Germany was divided into four sectors of military control by the Allies, the country was quickly divided into two power blocs of democracy versus communism. The eastern sector, or the Soviet Occupation Zone, was established with a socialist government with its loyalty directly to the Soviet government and its leader, Joseph Stalin. The security service of the Soviet government, the NKVD, utilized the former NSDAP concentration camps to hold the enemies of the Soviet occupiers. Instead of being religiously based, the NKVD arrested people deemed political threats to the Soviet regime. After the formation of the socialist GDR in 1949, the NKVD turned control of the concentration camps GDR. Many of these camps were maintained by the GDR’s own state security force, the Ministry for State Security (Stasi), or the National People’s Army (NVA) as military training facilities. When most of the camps were finally decommissioned by the government between the 1960s and 1980s, camps like Sachsenhausen where the “role of political resistance was emphasised over that of other groups”, disregarded the memory of the largest group of prisoners, the Jewish community, instead opting to put focus on the political prisoners of the facilities.1 It was not until reunification that recognition of the loss of life of the Jewish community was finally acknowledged in full by the new, unified German government.

In contrast, the concentration camps of the western sector of Germany served a very different purpose. Initially, camps like the Dachau camp were utilized as displaced persons camps to be temporary shelters to the millions of German people that were expelled from the eastern territories. After the flows of refugees had been resettled by the new BRD’s government, the camps were shut down and memorials were eventually built at the sites in the form of places of worship for the groups of people who were murdered. As an example, at Dachau the first permanent fixture to be added to the camp was a chapel to murdered Christians in 1962, with construction of Jewish and Protestant sites of worship following soon after. 2

1 “Sachsenhausen (Oranienburg): History & Overview.” History & Overview of Sachsenhausen (Oranienburg) Concentration Camp. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. Accessed February 5, 2020. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/history-and-overview-of-sachsenhausen-oranienburg-concentration-camp.

2 “Historical Site.” 1945 – Present History of the Memorial Site - Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau Memorial Site. Accessed February 5, 2020. https://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/present.html.