Memorials at the former Drägerwerk satellite camp
The first women’s satellite camp of the Neuengamme concentration camp in Hamburg was established in June 1944 in Wandsbek. The camp held over 500 women from various countries, most of whom were political prisoners who had been transferred from the Ravensbrück concentration camp. They were forced to produce gas masks for the Hamburg branch of Drägerwerk AG, a company based in Lübeck.
Three huts were set up in the spring of 1944 to house the prisoners in the factory grounds at Ahrensburger Strasse 162. Many women died as a result of maltreatment by the SS, and two women were ‘shot while trying to escape’. On 29 August 1944, a Russian woman named Raya Ilinauk was hanged in the camp for supposed sabotage. In March 1945, the Drägerwerk company began conducting experiments to see how long people could survive in a gas-tight air-raid shelter without a ventilation system. To test this, the company took prisoners from the Wandsbek satellite camp to air-raid shelters in various parts of Hamburg. Even though these experiments were not intended to be fatal and no one died during them, the women feared for their lives as the oxygen dwindled. Most of the women from the Wandsbek camp were rescued by the Swedish Red Cross, who took them by train from Hamburg to Padborg in Denmark on 1 May 1945 and from there to Sweden.
The long road to worthy commemoration
After the war, the huts were torn down and production halls for companies such as Agfa-Gevaert were erected in their place. The Hamburg Cultural Authority placed a plaque at the entrance to the company grounds in May 1988. Unlike other companies that benefited from the use of concentration camp prisoners as forced labourers, Drägerwerk did not shut itself off from an examination of its past. For example, the company sponsored visits by former concentration camp prisoners from Poland and Slovenia.
When the grounds ceased to be used for industrial purposes, a housing estate named ‘An der Rahlau’ was built in 2004/2005. The property developer was obliged by the Wandsbek district office to create a small memorial on the site, but only a few fence posts and historical wash basin were placed to commemorate the former camp, and there was no signage. The small memorial was redesigned in 2007 following public criticism, but public access to the site remains a matter of debate.
Two memorials in one place
In 2010, a second, larger memorial with an abstract sculpture opened next to the site of the former camp. This memorial is publicly accessible. The sculpture is composed of equilateral triangles which reference the triangles that the SS forced concentration camp prisoners to wear on their clothing for identification. Six granite triangles are inscribed with the names of the women who were imprisoned in the Drägerwerk satellite camp. The main sculpture consists of two interlocked triangles wrapped in chains. It was designed by students taking an art course at the Charlotte Paulsen Secondary School.