Bullenhuser Damm Memorial and rose garden
The school on Bullenhuser Damm was one of the few buildings in Rothenburgsort that was not destroyed in the Allied air raids on Hamburg in the summer of 1943, though the rest of the neighbourhood was reduced to rubble and ash. The city handed the building over to the SS, who used it as a satellite camp of the Neuengamme concentration camp. The camp held up to 1,000 prisoners who were forced to clear rubble and defuse bombs in the area. On 11 April 1945, these prisoners were transferred back to Neuengamme.
Murders at Bullenhuser Damm
On the night of 20 April 1945, as the Neuengamme concentration camp was being cleared, twenty Jewish children, four prisoner doctors and nurses, and a group of around 24 Soviet prisoners were taken from the camp to the former school building. That same night, SS men murdered the children and their caretakers to eliminate evidence of the medical experiments that had been conducted on the children in Neuengamme. The Soviet prisoners were also hanged.
The school began operating again in August 1948, and no attempt was made to remember the deeds of 1945. A memorial plaque was finally installed in 1963, and a ceremony has been held annually on the 20th of April ever since on the initiative of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Neuengamme (Neuengamme Working Group). But it was only at the end of the 1970s, following the publication of a series of articles by Günther Schwarberg in Stern magazine, that the public began to take an intense interest in the murders. In 1979, relatives of the murdered children and other individuals established the Children of Bullenhuser Damm association, and the first exhibition subsequently opened in the cellar of the school. The school was renamed after Janusz Korczak in 1980, and it ceased operation in 1989. For around ten years afterwards, the building was used as a vocational training institute.
The memorial was managed privately for a long time by the Children of Bullenhuser Damm association, and it developed in multiple stages. The city of Hamburg took responsibility for the memorial in 1999, and in 2011 the exhibition was completely redesigned and expanded to include additional rooms in the building. It now tells the story of the victims, the perpetrators, the Bullenhuser Damm satellite camp and the medical experiments conducted in the Neuengamme concentration camp. The texts are in German and English, and the exhibition focuses on the biographies of the people who were murdered. It also discusses how the crime was dealt with after 1945 and the development of the memorial. In 1987, a room-sized mural was painted in the stairway by Jürgen Waller (born 1939). The title of the mural is ‘21 April 1945, 5 in the morning’, and it shows the school cellar on the morning after the children were murdered.
In addition to the exhibition, a rose garden designed by the Hamburg artist Lili Fischer (born 1947) was created in 1985. Visitors can plant a rose in memory of the victims. Small personal plaques with portraits and text have been placed on the fence around the garden by family members. Panels in the eight languages spoken by the victims explain the history of the memorial.
On the 40th anniversary of the liberation in 1985, a bronze sculpture by Anatoli Mossitschuk was erected at the entrance to the rose garden. It was donated by the Soviet Ministry of Culture and commemorates the Soviet prisoners who were hanged in the school building on the night of 20 April 1945. The monument was originally created for the Red Army soldiers murdered in the Dachau concentration camp, and it was dedicated by the Soviet consul general of the time.
Stiftung Hamburger Gedenkstätten und Lernorte zur Erinnerung an die Opfer der NS-Verbrechen
Sunday 10am to 5pm and after agreement.
Bookable at Museumsdienst Hamburg. Mail: info(a)museumsdienst-hamburg.de and Phone: 040-428 131 0