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Oberhausen under National Socialism

Oberhausen under National Socialism is the investigations’ subject of Clemens Heinrichs, manager of the memory hall in the town of Oberhausen. Paying visit to the International Tracing Service (ITS) early in January 2012, he looked through plenty of documents kept in the archives on individual citizens’ fates. “Time and again I do come across victims’ names that are news to me and documents that I have not known so far”, rejoices the scholar. “Starting investigations at the ITS was a real eye-opener for me. The sheer number of names appearing in both, lists and individual documents, throws a horrible light on the ramification of the persecution and forced labour system under National Socialism.”

In December 2010 Oberhausen saw the opening of the new permanent exhibition structured by the three focal topics “Oberhausen Town History 1933 – 1945”, “Forced Labour under National Socialism” and “Remembrance and Memory in Oberhausen”. “Already then we had sent freelance staff to Bad Arolsen exploring the ITS archives, looking for documents and finding out about persecution paths“, Heinrichs recalls. “But unfortunately it became not quite clear at the time which information or records would be relevant for the exhibition.”

The results of his current research work will be the main contents of the catalogue on the permanent exhibition that is to be brought out in September 2012. “The catalogue will enrich the exhibition by biographies of victims of Nazi persecution in Oberhausen and essays on the town’s history focusing on ‘forced labour’”, explains the 48-year-old.

Among the documents in the ITS archives that were completely unknown to Heinrichs before is a list on Jewish residents who were forcibly taken from Oberhausen to Düsseldorf and deported from there to Riga. The scholar also makes attempts at reconstructing the wartime period in the lives of forced labourers. “The lists from the DP camps, the lists from hospitals and also the correspondence files are enormously helpful if it comes to retrace the fate of the Oberhausen victims”, he stresses.