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Between Harz and Heath: Death Marches and Evacuation Transports in April 1945
An exhibition of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation and the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation
In the final weeks of the war, the Nazi crimes escalated – now no longer in the subjectively faraway “East”, but in the very midst of German society. In early April 1945, as the U.S. Army was approaching from the west, the SS cleared the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in the Harz Mountains. In all haste, they loaded 40,000 inmates into livestock wagons or drove them northward on foot. About half of the transports ended in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Thousands of inmates were murdered on the death marches shortly before liberation. After the war, the Allies endeavoured to get to the bottom of the crimes committed during the death marches. Most Germans, on the other hand, refused to concern themselves with the topic.
The exhibition sheds light on the extent of the violence carried out during the death marches and shows that the crimes were committed in public for all to see. It also takes a look at the “casern camp” in Bergen-Hohne that was used in April 1945 as a satellite camp of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to accommodate inmates from Mittelbau-Dora. The same facility later served as Germany’s largest DP camp for Jews.
The exhibition presents the events taking place during the camp evacuation from a range of different perspectives. It directs special attention to diaries, recollections and drawings of former inmates that convey how closely the hope of imminent liberation and the immediate threat to life were intertwined. At the same time, it shows the great degree of involvement and complicity among the German population – and many Germans’ later refusal to face up to the responsibility for crimes carried out virtually in front of their doorsteps.