Workshop at the District Museum in Wewelsburg
Nine employees of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen took part in a workshop offered by the District Museum in Wewelsburg on the subject of “Identifying groups and individuals of either outright right-wing extremism or suchlike tendencies“. Thanks to the opening of the Arolsen archive and the organisation of exhibitions and events on its premises at regular intervals, the number of visitors to the ITS is on the increase. “Although first and foremost the formerly persecuted people, their next-of-kin, researchers and scholars, i.e. decently interested and motivated persons, come to see us, it is essential for our staff to learn how to deal with ‘undesirable aliens’”, said Maria Raabe, Head of the Central Administrative Secretariat and organiser of the guided visitors’ tours through the ITS.
Oliver Nickel, historian and the group’s guide at Wewelsburg, gave an expository introduction to the permanent exhibition newly opened in April 2010 and titled “SS Ideology and Terror”. Having rented the premises in 1934, Heinrich Himmler had the triangular castle re-structured to be a “Reichsführerschule SS” (a sort of indoctrination centre for the SS top echelons). As of 1936, the SS also used the castle as prestigious and imposing ‘scenery’ for their meetings. In 1939, a filial, a subsidiary camp of Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen was opened there and filled with prisoners who had to do the renovation and restructuring work on the castle. In 1941, the sub camp was moved up to the rank of a self-regulating concentration camp called Niederhagen.
In his talk, Nickel sensitised the tracing service’s staff to the difficulty of recognizing and rightly assessing right-wing codes, music and fashion. Adopting various ‘players’ roles, the participants in the workshop learned to analyse and illuminate their dealings with visitors of such hue in general and Holocaust deniers in particular. Possible ways of conduct and reactions were thoroughly discussed. “It is vital to identify visitors with right-wing tendencies right away“, so Nickel. “Engaging in an argument with these people over the Nazi reign and the impacts it had will lead nowhere.”
The ITS staff who are in close contact with visitors every day gratefully absorbed the information. “I have hardly ever given any thought to the appearance and behaviour of right-wing individuals and groups”, ITS employee Dorit Landgrebe-Mick gives her comment. “In this respect, the workshop was most helpful.”