During the Nazi regency in Germany, the Emslandlager (Emsland Camps) was a group of concentration and detention camps in the Emsland region, Northwest of the country. Nowadays, the former Concentration Camp Esterwegen has been turned into a memorial site. I visited the place in fall 2020. Here is my review.
Esterwegen Memorial – Location & Admission
KZ-Gedenkstätte Esterwegen is locared right South of the national route B401, which is connecting Oldenburg with Dörpen and the A31 motorway. There is bus stop right in front of the memorial building, I would nonetheless rather suggest to visit the place by car.
In summer months, April to October, the memorial is open Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 18:00hrs. In the remaining time, the place is closing one hour earlier. Apart from Easter Monday and Whit Monday, the Esterwegen Memorial is closed on Mondays. Admission is free.
Esterwegen Memorial – Museum
Visiting the memorial site can be split into two parts, visiting the museum or visitor information center and the outdoor visit of the original concentration camp site. The museum part explains the history of the Emslandlager and especially Konzentrationslager (“Concentration Camp”) Esterwegen. The camp was a concentration camp between 1933 and 1936, directly lead by Heinrich Himmler. Until the end of WWII, the place was a detention camp. The buildings were destroyed much later, in the 1950’s, some remains can still be found in the excellent exhibition.
The museum part of your visit comes with a lot of original exhibits, documents and pictures, so that I would not recommend to visit Esterwegen with small children. The later parts of visiting the museum directly introduce you to the victims of the Emsland Camp victims. A scale model of the camp gives you a very impressive overview of the place before you head out to the original grounds.
The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions. During our visit, this was about Die Tänzerin von Auschwitz, “The Dancer of Auschwitz”, who entertained the murders at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. In contrast to the remaining exhibition, which is German only, that part of the museum was bilingual, Dutch and German.
Esterwegen Memorial – Concentration Camp Grounds
Even though there are not too many structures still remaining, visiting the original camp site is absolutely impressive. There are a lot of signs along the suggested route which introduce you to the place itself, but also to life in Esterwegen Camp. You also pass memorial stones for Carl von Ossietzky. The 1935 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate was a prisoner in the concentration camp.
Almost ironically, the place next to the former concentration camp is a monastry.
Esterwegen Memorial – Services
The staff in Esterwegen is very helpful and attentive. The museum lobby area also features a store, which mainly features literature about WWII and the Nazi times. There is no cafe or similar facility.
Esterwegen Memorial – My View
The Esterwegen Memorial is a very impressive – and depressing – place. The memorial is very illustrative and well-driven. If you are in the region, it is a very educative detour.