Jugend für Dora e.V.

 

 

Ellrich - More as a Project

After almost a year of preparation and project brainstorming, the third of our Jugend für Dora workcamps was the first to take place not in the Gedenkstätte, but on a different location. For two weeks in August, we went into the region and staged the 1998 workcamp on the locale of the former camp of Ellrich-Juliushütte, the largest of Mittelbau-Dora's satellite camps.

The aim of this workcamp was twofold: first, to excavate, register, and prepare for exhibition the bases and other remains of the camp's buidlings which had for more than five decades been in a state of increasing decay. And second, to develop and implement an information system including billboards, brochures and indicators at the former subcamp. Much like some of the previous and subsequent workcamps, the 1998 event had its aftermath(s). In the months after the workcamp itself had come to a close, we devised and erected a huge information billboard - the first to be set on the precincts of a former subcamp - in the entrance area. We moreover combined this event in 1999 with a public reading, presentation and discussion of former camp inmate Adolf Gawalewicz's "Im Warteraum zum Gas" memoirs, which had recently been translated into German by Friedrich Leidinger.

Another half a dozen of billboards were developed until the summer of 2001. Held in German, English and French, these were installed along the pathway that leads today's visitors through the former subcamp. In addition, an information and orientation brochure was published, again in three languages, with the financial support of the European Union. Likewise, a considerable part of our second major publication (of 2000) is dedicated to the Ellrich-Juliushütte subcamp's "past and present".

On occasion of the liberation day ceremonies in April, 2001, Jugend für Dora organised and staged a reading from memory accounts and memoirs of Ellrich survivors. Notably, the reading of these accounts was consecutively held in German, French, Dutch, Polish and Russian.

Five years after the first "outdoor" workcamp, the 2003 event was again (partly) set in Ellrich. This time, we prepared a pochoir : a stenciled picture of the former entrance gate to the subcamp, based on a historical photography. Measuring more than four square meters, this picture had for years been an eye-catcher for those passing by the otherwise unspectacular site. Unfortunately, a heavy thunderstorm destroyed the picture in the spring of 2007.

But the 2003 workcamp literally went beyond the limits and limitations of the Ellrich-Juliushütte camp, and sought to reconstruct and visibilize the former construction sites. Here, in the area between Ellrich and Nordhausen, the camp prisoners had been forced to labor in road-hauling, excavation and other details. Installations made of wood or metal indicated to the public where these construction sites had once been located. As this project was explicitly intended as a temporary one, a brochure was produced that informs about the exact locations and the role of the Mittelbau-Dora construction sites.

In 2004 and 2005, the huge information billboard needed to be renovated; local sponsors and the French Association of Former Prisoners provided the financial means. On that occasion, an intensive exchange set in between the Jugend für Dora members and those of the French Associations members. In the center of these discussions stood the future Ellrich activities: how to continue creating the memorial site, how to set priorities, how to deal with necessary and urgent issues. Slowly, the contours of a huge joint venture project materialized and have ever since been further developed, including and involving the board and the director of the official Gedenkstätte as well as representatives of the town of Ellrich.

The confrontation with the Nazi past of Ellrich clearly stretches beyond the memorial site of Ellrich-Juliushütte. Thus, another information billboard was installed at the former "Bürgergarten" subcamp in the center of the town.

Finally, and most recently, a mini seminar was staged in the town: "Fremd sein in Ellrich (Being a stranger in Ellrich)". The scope of this deliberately went beyond the former concentration camp prisoners - obviously starngers or aliens themselves when they were deported to Ellrich - and included other national, ethnic or religious groups such as prisoners of war, refugees, Allied occupant soldiers, Jews or Sinti and Roma.

Though not an officially recognized, established "site of memory" or Gedenkstätte, "Ellrich" has for a decade now been playing a central role in the activities of Jugend für Dora - and it will continue to do so, as the mentioned joint project with the French Association or numerous self-conducted interviews with former inmates from all over Europe indicates.


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