a A

Research on Satellite Camp Engerhofe

Lilo and Bernhard Keßler in the ITS reading room.

Late in January 2013, Lilo and Bernhard Keßler came to research in the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen about prisoners who had perished in Concentration Camp Engerhofe. The sub-commando had had a mere three-month existence. “Our intention is to give back to the victims their individual identities, their individual faces by retracing their lives”, explained the researcher. “To do so, we need complete information such as birth dates and places. At the ITS we could find data that add to some biographies we have already been tracing.”

Together with many other residents of the community of Südbrookmerland, the Keßler couple conducts research on Engerhofe, a sub-camp affiliated with Concentration Camp Neuengamme. “Between October and December 1944 about 2000 prisoners had to dig anti-tank trenches to shield nearby Aurich”, relates Keßler. “More than 180 of them died from forced labour and were buried in mass graves.”

In reaction to the Allies’ invasion at Normandy on 6 June 1944 Adolf Hitler gave orders on 28 August 1944 for a fortification, the so-called “Friesenwall” (Friesian Wall). Made up of two lines, the wall should stretch the North Sea coast from Holland to Denmark. The town of Aurich became a fortress and was to be additionally secured from attack by an anti-tank trench.  

The members of the association established in 2009 have prepared a memorial concept they dedicate to murdered and surviving prisoners alike. “We want to shed light on this part of our past by artistic, scholarly and educational means”, said 63-year-old Lilo Keßler. The association strives to find out what happened to the prisoners while staying in the Engerhofe camp and while digging the anti-tank trench in Aurich.

“We intend to link the memorial site with the individual identities, the individual faces of the victims”, explained Keßler. “Therefore, we have to gather and sort information.” The association’s members want to get in contact with survivors and relatives as well. “If we know the birth places of former inmates, we can search for their families in the local registration offices. This way we found out about some contemporary witnesses who have already come and visited our community in recent years.”