Station: [5] The Bunker

  • The Bunker

This used to be the concentration camp's prison,
also referred to as the ‘detention bunker’ by the prisoners.
The bunker consisted of five tiny cells and a corridor,
which you can recognize if you take a look at the remaining foundations.
This was the place where punishments,
such as detention in dark cells,
food deprivation and flogging were carried out.
There was also something called night detention,
which meant locking up 6 to 8 prisoners overnight in one cell
which was so small that they had no other possibility but to stand.

It was in the corridor outside the cells that hangings took place,
most of them during the last week of the war.
Approximately two thousand people were either hanged or shot here.

In September 1940 the bunker was rebuilt for the purpose of gassing.
Special openings were made in the roof and the windows and doors hermetically sealed.
During the gassing, all the prisoners were summoned to the roll call square.
Fritz Bringmann, a communist resistance fighter
and a prisoner of the Neuengamme concentration camp recalls:

“On a late afternoon in September 1942, 197 Soviet prisoners of war arrived in Neuengamme
from the POW camp in Fallingbostel. We heard that they were 'inspectors'.
All the prisoners were on the roll call square, standing in the rows of five and were forced to watch.

The prisoners of war were told they needed to be disinfected and washed
in order to prevent epidemics.
Therefore, they needed to take their clothes off on the roll coll square and go into the bunker,
where the showers allegedly were.
When the prisoners realized there were in fact no showers there,
the door had already closed behind them.
The prisoners standing on the roll call square had to listen to the screams coming from the bunker. “

Altogether 448 Soviet Prisoners of War were gassed in the detention bunker.

There are, however, positive stories connected to this place,
stories of human virtues such as solidarity, courage and selflessness.
We would like to tell you another story about Fritz Bringmann.

Fritz Bringmann was employed as a medical orderly in the infirmary.
In January 1942 he received an order from the SS to kill a group of around 15 Soviet prisoners of war
by injecting them with petrol.
Bringmann refused
even though this meant putting his own life at risk
because disobedience of a prisoner was punished severely, sometimes even with death.
When he was released from the bunker
where he had been put as a punishment,
the Soviet prisoners carved a wooden heart for him
in order to thank him for his selfless act.
In the fall of 1942, Bringmann was transfered from the Neuengamme concentration camp
to one of its satellite camps in Osnabrück.
There he gave the heart to one of the boys from a neighboring school,
who sometimes gave food to the prisoners, as a token of gratitude.
Fritz Bringmann survived the war and went on to give public testimonies about his experiences.
On one such occasion, fifty years later, he met a man
who turned out to be the boy he gave the heart to.
He gave Bringmann the heart back and it is now a part of the main exhibition at the Memorial.

The next station is the kitchen barrack.
Please go to your left, back in the direction of the roll call square.
The kitchen barrack is located directly opposite the main entrance.
When you are there, please play the next track.