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The different phases of the Sandbostel camp

Andrea Genest came to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen this week to investigate the immediate post-war history of the former prisoner of war camp in Sandbostel. “This phase in the camp’s history has been hardly explored yet”, said the scholarly assistant of the Memorial. “In the ITS holdings I have discovered information relevant and useful for our new permanent exhibition.”

As the history of the Sandbostel camp is multilayered, it has to be described in her various developmental phases, explains Genest, beginning with the construction of premises that became the prisoner of war camp Stalag X B in 1939. Several hundreds of thousands of prisoners from various nationalities were detained here by the Nazis. Towards the end of the war, a death march started at Neuengamme brought another 9,000 concentration camp inmates to the Sandbostel camp. “The building complex was still in use after the war”, knows the political scientist. “For the British Armed Forces it served as an internment camp, the Ministry of Justice in Lower Saxony changed the shacks into a prison, and as of 1952, adolescent refugees from the GDR were accommodated here.“

On 29th April 1945 when the British Army freed the camp, the soldiers came upon dead and sick persons mainly. “In nearby Seedorf a camp for displaced persons was opened”, reports the 41-year-old. “Liberated prisoners, those freed in other camps as well, kept living there right into the 1950s.” At the ITS the Memorial’s research assistant took a closer look at emigration lists and registration cards made out for DPs. “We intend to exemplify in our exhibition which countries the survivors immigrated to and which documents we have on their migration. This also includes the biographical presentation of individual fates”, explains Genest. “Up to now, we have known of few details only. Every single aspect explored now might lead to a larger project.”  

The Federal German Government out of its funds for remembrance and commemoration will support the Camp Sandbostel Foundation up to 2013 in its aim to build up a permanent exhibition on the various functions the camp had. Apart from a new design for the exhibition, this includes the renovation of more than eleven shacks kept in their original state – a historic building complex unparalleled in Germany.