Hamburg is a city of great beauty but also tragedy. On the southeastern edge of the city, between 104,000 and 106,000 people, including children, were held at Neuengamme concentration camp in its years of operation from 1938 to 1945. It was primarily a slave-labor camp, not an area focused on extermination, where bricks and weapons were the main products. German political prisoners and Europeans pushed into servitude composed most of the population. Neuengamme held gays, Roma (gypsies), and Jews. Jewish children were the subjects of cruel medical experiments; others worked with their parents or simply grew up in prison. To keep people in line, there were random acts of violence, including executions, and atrocious living conditions. Officials estimate that as many as 50,000 people died at Neuengamme before it ceased operation in May 1945.
A memorial opened on the site in 2005. Where the dormitories, dining hall, and hospital once sat, there are low pens filled with large rocks.
With so much open space, the camp has an eerie silence. There is still a gate at the entrance. The camp has several areas; the main area has exhibits describing working conditions in an actual factory as well as a museum with interactive displays about the prisoner experience. Firsthand accounts, photographs from prisoners, furniture, clothing, and possessions make the experience even more affecting.