a A

Research on the Construction of Submarine Bunker “Valentin”

Amateur researcher Heiko Kania has examined lists of prisoners from Concentration Camp Neuengamme at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. “One list was found and saved during salvage work on the wreck of the ship ‘Thielbek’“, knows Kania. “Another list was drawn up by the coast guard in 1950.” Together with its affiliate ships “Athen” and “Cap Arcona”, the “Thielbek” took on prisoners from Concentration Camp Neuengamme and its subcamps late in April 1945. Not knowing that concentration camp prisoners were aboard, the British air force bombed the ships on 3rd May.

For almost 20 years Kania has been trying to identify the names of those forced labourers who perished in relation with the construction of the submarine shipyard bunker “Valentin” in Bremen-Farge. The order to build the bunker which had direct access to the river “Weser”. was given by the marine site management. The construction was considered the most important new building project of the German War Marine. The SS established a sub-camp of Concentration Camp Neuengamme. “Between the summer of 1943 and the spring of 1945 more than 10,000 concentration camp prisoners, forced labourers, prisoners-of-war and so-called Italian ‘military internees’ had been recruited to do this work”, relates Kania.

“About 2,000 of all the workers perished during the construction phase of the bunker”, said the researcher. “553 dead concentration camp inmates could be identified so far. In all, close to 1,200 dead persons name information could be found.” Using the lists, Kania tries to identify further victims and compare name information. Towards the end of the war the sub-camp and the main camp Neuengamme were evacuated in the direction of Lubeck Bay. Among the lists saved is also a compilation on marine soldiers who supervised the building of the bunker. “My research focus at the ITS is on the concentration camp inmates, though all other ‘workers’ involved are important for my investigation as well”, reports the 59-year old.

His work will contribute to an exhibition of the association ‘History Trail Lagerstrasse/submarine bunker Valentin’ the researcher has co-founded. And the name index he has compiled will be shown at the Bremen Focke museum. His interest was awakened when he, as an officer of the German Army (Bundeswehr) in Schwanewede, was asked to investigate a memorial stone on the site commemorating forced labourers.