Activity: Gedenkstätte Bergen-Bilsen Concentration Camp, Lohheide, Germany


Activity: Gedenkstätte Bergen-Bilson Concentration Camp, Lohheide, Germany.

Collecting the rental:

I went to pick up the rental car today. I had pre-arranged with Sixt; my choice when in Europe. The website usually works great and it even allows you to pre-select a diesel model for a small upcharge. Unfortunately, the promised 500 AAdvantage miles for the rental have yet to post despite several attempts and Sixt have been difficult to chase after for the credit. Today’s rental pickup was from the Hannover Hautbahnhoff and the car was all ready to go on arrival. I had a beautiful black Audi A4 Avant 3.5 TDI. It’s a dream for a car aficionado to walk down the aisles to be assigned a rental car from the lot.

There was a kind reminder on the inside not to exceed 240 km/h due to the winter tires speed rating.

Thankfully, the car had GPS programed in, although it couldn’t be switched into English. I headed on our first drive out into the country to the Bergen Bilsen Concentration Camp. The concentration camp was located quite close to the city of Hannover at less than one hour’s drive away.

Visiting Gedenkstätte Bergen-Bilsen Concentration Camp, Lohheide, Germany

It was a pleasant drive with a short 10 minutes on the Autobahn through winter forests up to Bergen-Bilsen. There was nobody around in the parking lot today, making a car photo and silly selfie all that more photogenic.

The Museum:

The Gedenkstätte Bergen-Bilsen memorial is the past site of a concentration camp that was heavily used in Northern Germany. It is most famous for being the location of where Anne Frank, author of the book “Diaries of Anne Frank”, passed away along with her sister.

The memorial is well done and consists of a detailed museum and self guided tour of the grounds. The memorial contained detailed records of the history of the site. The site started off as a prisoner of war camp in 1940 and eventually became a concentration camp when it was taken over by the German SS in 1943. The museum takes you through a detailed chronological history.

There were even sample record cards where marked with a cyrcillic “X” when the inmate was terminated. The pictures of the atrocities include vast mass graves of deceased prisoners and other oddities such as women peeling potatoes within mere feet of piles of corpses several dozen deep.

Ultimately, about 70,000 perished at the site. The most famous prisoner to die here was Anne Frank.

The Concentration Camp:

At the conclusion of the museum visit, I wandered through the past sites of the concentration camps. Unlike some of the other concentration camps like Dachau, all the buildings here are gone and demolished. Instead, the camp visit is through pristine fields.

As the snow and rain started to fall, and I walked along, I gradually got to see the macabre part of this visit. Each of the mounds of earth were labelled, in German, as the resting place of 1000, 2500, 5000 people. It was certainly somber to walk through such a mass grave site.

Some small memorials have been set up for some of the people that have passed. Despite the memorials, the graves do not represent the actual locations of where these people past. There was a marked stone for Anne Frank and her sister Margot Frank.

Summary:

Ultimately, it was a super interesting and moving experience to have visited the Gedenkstätte Bergen-Bilsen memorial. The piles of earth consisting of corpses and human remains added to the ominous feel to the visit.

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