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Commemorating Hell

The Public Memory of Mittelbau-Dora

Gretchen Schafft

Publication Year: 2011

This powerful, wide-ranging history of the Nazi concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora is the first book to analyze how memory of the Third Reich evolved throughout changes in the German regime from World War II to the present. Building on intimate knowledge of the history of the camp, where a third of the 60,000 prisoners did not survive the war, Gretchen Schafft and Gerhard Zeidler examine the political and cultural aspects of the camp's memorialization in East Germany and, after 1989, in unified Germany. Through the continuing story of Mittelbau-Dora, from its operation as a labor camp for the V-1 and V-2 rockets to its social construction as a monument, Schafft and Zeidler reflect an abiding interest in the memory and commemoration of notorious national events.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xiv

This book is about the Nazi concentration camp “Mittelbau-Dora,” which controlled the lives of up to sixty thousand slave laborers from twenty countries for about nineteen months from August 1943 until April 1945. Although Mittelbau-Dora was not a death camp in which planned extermination was carried out through gas chambers, ...

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1. Conceptualizing Horror

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pp. 1-18

KZ-Gedenkstätte. KZ- Mahn- und Gedenkstätte. For speakers of English, these German words are without meaning. However, for a few, whose numbers are dwindling, these are key words. Key in the sense of being among the most meaningful in one’s vocabulary. Key in the sense of unlocking for an individual the most deeply needed information and emotional truths. ...

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2. The Camp Mittelbau-Dora

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pp. 19-38

Today, in the twenty-first century, more than sixty years after the end of the Second World War in Europe and the end of the Nazi Reich, the whole world recognizes that the Hitler regime was synonymous with a reign of terror, a major part of which was the gigantic network of concentration camps. ...

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3. An End and a Beginning

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pp. 39-58

The end of the war and events in Nordhausen in the battle’s final days influence even today the way in which the Mittelbau-Dora memorial is integrated into the local community. While the memorial draws a national and international array of visitors, the townspeople of Nordhausen and the Thuringia area are those most likely to participate in the lectures, meetings, and events held at the site. ...

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4. The Change of Command

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pp. 59-76

Nordhausen was devastated by the April air raids just days before Allied troops arrived on April 11, 1945. Almost nine thousand people were killed: six thousand townspeople, fifteen hundred refugees, and thirteen hundred concentration camp prisoners.1 That represented 14 percent of the prewar population, but Nordhausen’s population had almost doubled by 1945 ...

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5. Shaping the New Land and Its Memories

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pp. 77-92

There was such relief that the war was over, but there was also much anxiety as the new government of the Soviet occupation began in July 1945. The Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp and Mittelwerk assembly plant had been left in shambles by the retreating SS and looted by the Americans who took the missiles and the paperwork, leaving most of the machinery to the Soviets. ...

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6. The Mahn- und Gedenkstätte in the GDR

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pp. 93-114

The early years following the war were filled with work and hardship for the people of Nordhausen, but they settled into the new reality and actively engaged in rebuilding the infrastructure of the city. They also developed the permanent structures of government and city life under the watchful eyes of the new state and its Soviet sponsors. ...

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7. The Wall Comes Down

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pp. 115-136

Nordhausen had not existed in a vacuum; it was highly influenced by the national policy makers and had to work largely within that framework. Indeed, the national government was not entirely free to make its own decisions, for it was a country that, as often asserted in the West, was a “satellite of the Soviet Union.” ...

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8. The Modern Gedenkstätte

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pp. 137-151

The anxiety within the Gedenkstätte gradually lessened during the first years after the reunification of Germany as the new director, Cornelia Klose, gained knowledge and understanding of the camp through her work with staff and survivors and became a well-known and well-liked figure in Nordhausen. ...

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9. Major Themes and Conclusions

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pp. 152-168

In this book, we have presented three phases of the Gedenkstätte Mittelbau-Dora’s history in the context of what had happened in the concentration camp and missile assembly plant: the initial memorial under the GDR, the interim memorial during and just after the reunification of Germany, and the restructured memorial as it exists today. ...

Notes

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pp. 169-182

Bibliography

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pp. 183-194

Index

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pp. 195-198

About the Author, Production Notes

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pp. 216-217


E-ISBN-13: 9780252093050
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252035937

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2011

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Subject Headings

  • Dora (Concentration camp).
  • War memorials -- Germany -- Nordhausen (Thuringia).
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Monuments -- Germany -- Nordhausen (Thuringia).
  • Memory -- Social aspects -- Germany -- Nordhausen (Thuringia).
  • Collective memory -- Germany -- Nordhausen (Thuringia).
  • Concentration camp inmates -- Germany -- Nordhausen (Thuringia) -- Biography.
  • Nordhausen (Thuringia, Germany) -- Biography.
  • Nordhausen (Thuringia, Germany) -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Social aspects -- Germany -- Nordhausen (Thuringia).
  • Concentration camps -- Social aspects -- Germany -- Nordhausen (Thuringia).
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