Germany has dedicated significant resources to never forgetting the Holocaust. There are Holocaust memorials, museums, and former concentration camps that educate the public and honor the millions of victims.
Many visitors to Europe feel compelled to visit these sites, and they should. The Holocaust is one of the most significant events of the 20th century. But keep in mind that memorial sites offer an unflinching look at what happened here.
For a complete listing of all European Holocaust Memorials (like the infamous site in Poland simply known as Auschwitz), visit the Information Portal to European Sites of Remembrance.
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The architect Peter Eisenmann designed Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. After a contentious competition to decide the winner, no one was really chosen, but Eisenmann's design eventually started taking shape.
It is laid out on a 4.7-acre site between Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz. The centerpiece of the sculpture is the “Field of Stelae” with more than 2,500 geometrically arranged concrete pillars. You can enter from all four sides and walk through the unevenly sloping field, becoming lost amidst the increasingly towering columns. All slightly different in size, wandering through evokes a disorienting feeling that you can only experience when you make your way through this gray forest of concrete. The adjacent underground museum holds more personal touches such as the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims and select stories of their journey.
Just across the street in the Tiergarten lies the small Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, and moving towards the Reichstag is the newly opened Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism. Much more discrete, you can also find the placard marking where Hitler's Bunker once stood in the vicinity.
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The concentration camp of Dachau, 10 miles northwest of Munich, was one of the first concentration camps in Nazi Germany and would serve as a model for all subsequent camps in the Third Reich.
Visitors to the memorial site follow the "path of the prisoner," walking the same way prisoners were forced to after their arrival in the camp. You will see the original prisoner baths, barracks, courtyards, and the crematorium, as well as an extensive exhibition and various memorials.
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You might not notice these memorials walking around German cities. Stolpersteine literally translates to "stumbling stone". There is so much to see at eye level, it is easy to miss the subtle, gold plaques placed within the sidewalk at the entrance of many residences, businesses, and still empty spaces.
This project by German artist Gunter Demnig commemorates victims of the Holocaust in cobblestone-sized brass memorials marked with a name (or names of the family), date(s) of birth, and a brief description of their fate. Usually they state "Hier wohnte" (here lived), but sometimes it is the place the person studied, worked, or taught. The ending is usually the same, "ermordet" (murdered) with the infamous locations of Auschwitz, Dachau...
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About 30 minutes north of Berlin lies the memorial site Sachsenhausen, a former concentration camp in Oranienburg. The camp was erected in 1936, and until 1945 more than 200,000 people were imprisoned here by the Nazis.
Sachsenhausen was in many ways one of the most important concentration camps in the Third Reich: It was the first camp established under Heinrich Himmler as Chief of the German Police and its architectural layout was used as a model for almost all concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
After the camp was liberated on April 22, 1945, by Soviet and Polish troops, the Soviets used the site and its structures as an internment camp for political prisoners from fall of 1945 to 1950.
In 1956, plans began to form to transform the camp into a national memorial. It was opened on April 23, 1961, and is now open to the public as a museum and a memorial.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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More than 250,000 people from 50 nations were imprisoned in the former camp Buchenwald, close to the city of Weimar.
The memorial site houses various exhibitions and you can also see the former grounds of the camp, the gatehouse and detention cells, watchtowers, the crematorium, the disinfection center, the railway station, SS quarters, the quarry and graveyards. There are signposted walks throughout the extensive site, including the routes taken by the former patrols.
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The Jewish Museum Berlin is not only a holocaust museum–its historic exhibition chronicles "Two Millennia of German Jewish History" and documents Jewish life in Germany from Roman Times to present day.
But the striking architecture of Daniel Libeskind’s building makes palpable the feelings of those who were exiled and lost: The shape of the museum is reminiscent of a shattered Star of David, irregularly shaped windows are cut into the steel-clad facade, bizarre angles, and "voids" stretch the full height of the building. The Holocaust Tower and the art installation “Fallen Leaves” are just another moving and unique experience.
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Along with the death camp in Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen in Lower Saxony became an international symbol for the horrors of the Holocaust. Anne Frank was imprisoned in this camp and died of Typhus in March of 1945.
Today, the grounds of the former concentration camp are a cemetery with various sculptures commemorating the ones who suffered and died at Bergen Belsen. There is also a newly opened Documentation Center, which houses all documents, photographs, and films exploring the history of the camp.
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The Neuengamme concentration Camp, which was housed in a former brick factory in the outskirts of Hamburg, was the largest camp in the North of Germany, comprising of 80 satellite camps between 1938 and 1945. In May 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, a redesigned memorial site was opened, including several exhibitions that document the history of the site and remember the suffering of over 100,000 people imprisoned here. Fifteen historic concentration camp buildings on the site are preserved.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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The concentration camp Flossenbürg, built in 1938, is located in the Upper Palatinate region in Bavaria. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an influential German pastor and theologist, was imprisoned here and died only 23 days before Flossenbürg was liberated in April 1945. The Memorial offers a guided tour in English, which includes parts of the historic exhibition "Flossenbürg Concentration Camp, 1938-1945."
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Visitors can stand in the very room where the "Final Solution" (ie the Holocaust) was planned out. Now a memorial site, the House of the Wannsee Conference is another mandatory historical stop for people retracing the steps taken toward the mass genocide of approximately 11 million people.