Ohlsdorf Cemetery - Monument to victims of Nazi persecution
Just one year after the end of World War II, the Hamburg Senate – which had been appointed by the British Military Government – voted to erect a monument to the victims of Nazi terror. Franz Heitgres (a member of the German Communist Party) was named head of the Office of Restitution and Refugee Aid, and he later served as chairman of the Associated Working Group of Nazi Persecutees (Vereinigte Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Naziverfolgten, later known as the Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes, or VVN).
The monument was created by architect Heinz Jürgen Ruscheweyh and completed in 1949. However, the division of Germany and start of the Cold War overshadowed the dedication ceremony. Two events were therefore held in May 1949 – one organised by the Hamburg Senate on 3 May, where mayor Max Brauer was the main speaker, and an ‘International Liberation Meeting’ organised by the VVN on 8 May with speakers including Martin Plat (member of the Free Democratic Party) and Philipp Auerbach (of the Bavarian State Government).
The monument stands across from the crematorium, which was built between 1930 and 1932 following a design by Fritz Schumacher and was used by the Nazis to cremate thousands of victims of the regime. The stele holds 105 urns with soil and ashes from concentration camps and execution sites. They are stacked in 15 rows in a tall frame. A marble plaque in front of the monument lists the names of 25 concentration camps and other sites of persecution.
The creation of this memorial was inspired by the ‘Urn of the Unknown Concentration Camp Prisoner’. After the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, the survivors vowed to keep alive the memory of the injustice that had been done. Representatives of 36 nations each took an urn with the ashes of prisoners back to their home countries. In 1945, former members of the Hamburg resistance returned to Hamburg with the ashes of an unknown prisoner from Buchenwald.