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Teacher material
Do they have the right to commemorate?
Introduction to the teacher
Buchenwald Memorial
Buchenwald was a German Nazi concentration camp established near Weimar
(Germany) in July 1937. Buchenwald was one of the largest concentration camps
on German soil. From 1945 to 1950, the camp was used by the Soviet occupation
authorities as an internment camp known as the Special Camp Number 2. In
1958, the area was conceived by the government as a national memorial to
underline the self-description of the GDR as an antifascistic state, and used as an
educational and political tool in the hands of the Communist Party. Consequently,
the resistance struggle of the Communist inmates became the most important
issue, the individual fates of more than 250,000 inmates were marginalized or
suppressed, when it came to Jehovas witnesses, Roma and Cinti, gay prisoners
or deserters. Also the existence and history of the Soviet Special Camp in
Buchenwald was tabooed. After the demise of the GDR, the purpose and concept
of the Buchenwald National Memorial was completely redesigned with the aim to
sort out legends from facts and present the history in its different dimensions.
Today, the Buchenwald Memorial functions as an independent foundation with a
highly differentiated on site learning program, permanent exhibitions and own
research departments. Beside the history of the Nazi concentration camp and the
Soviet Special Camp No. 2, also the monument erected in 1958 became objects
of educational and research programmes. Today all victims of the different camps
are commemorated.
Graveyard of Soviet Special Camp No 2
To get hold of Nazi criminals, all four Allied forces established internment camps,
also in former concentration camps like Neuengamme near Hamburg,
Sachsenhausen beside Berlin or Dachau near Munich; also Buchenwald was used
as the “Soviet Special Camp No 2”. It was one of the altogether ten camps and
three prisons located in the Soviet-occupied zone and used for the internment of
suspectd Germans,primarily local functionaries of the NSDAP, but also
adolescents and victims of denunciation. All contact to the outside was prohibited
and no trials of even remotely legal nature took place. According to Soviet records,
more than 7100 out of 28,000 inmates perished in the camp. They were buried in
mass graves in the woods just outside the camp; the families were not informed
about the fate of their interned relatives. In February 1950, shortly after the
founding of the GDR, the Soviets dissolved the remaining camps. Their existence
and history was tabooed in the GDR. After 1989, media speculations led to
historical research in Russian archives, interviews with survivors, and
archeological excavations. As a result, the anonymous graves were found and
marked with steel steles, the history of the camp is now presented in an own
exhibition and relatives of the interned can receive reliable information. In
February 1990, the memorial erected the first cross in the northern graveyard.
That site eventually became a place of mournin g with individual texts written on
crosses and stones erected by the families. One-sided descriptions still provoke
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controversies between the relatives and the historians. It remains a challenge to
reconcile these different interests in a public space like this cemetery.
Lesson Plan
Step 1: Introduction
Students are informed about the graveyard of the Special Camp No. 2 in
Buchenwald and the Buchenwald memorial.
Step 2: Role-Play, Group Work
According to the size of the group, participants split up into two, four or six small
groups using the sources for group A + B, C+ D, and E + F.
Three groups (A, C, and E) take the position of the director of the Buchenwald
memorial foundation. The director has to approve the most appropriate texts for
three different memorial plates, which the families of three victims would like to put
at the graveyard. All three groups collect arguments for the director´s decision.
Each group will work with different text proposals for the memorial plate and
additional sources. The group may also develop a text proposal of their own.
Group A deals with a memorial plate text for former Lord Mayor Otto Koch.
(Student Materials, Sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Group C deals with a memorial plate text for General Major Curt Rühle von
Lilienstern. The group will get three different text proposals for the memorial plate
and a testimony from Curt Rühle von Liliensterns’ granddaughter Astrid Rűhle.
(Student Materials, Sources 6, 7)
Group E deals with a memorial plate text for Judge Curt Grunick.
The other three groups (B, D, and F) take the family positions and choose the
most appropriate text for the memorial plate that shall be placed at the site of the
graveyard. Each group will get different text proposals for the memorial plate and
additional sources. The groups may also develop a text proposal of their own.
Group B represents the family of the former Lord Mayor of Weimar, Otto Koch.
(Student Materials, Sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Group D represents Astrid Rűhle, granddaughter of General Major Curt Rühle von
Lilienstern. The group will get three different text proposals for a memorial text
and a testimony from Astrid Rűhle. (Student Materials, Sources 6, 7)
Group F represents the family of Judge Curt Grunick. The group will get three
different text proposals for the memorial plate and a few sources. (Student
Materials, Sources 11, 12)
Step 3: Group Work Discussion
Students will exchange their findings in combined groups: A + B, C + D, and E + F
will work together. These pairs present their results to each other: They deal with
the same persons, but from different angles. The group discussions should touch
the following questions:
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What are the reasons for the different perceptions of the same person? Which
arguments are used to support the different positions? How is it possible to
combine the different perspectives? Can the combined groups agree on a
common text for a memorial plate?
Step 3: Group Work Discussion
Students will exchange their findings in combined groups: A + B, C + D, and E + F
will work together. These pairs present their results to each other: They deal with
the same persons, but from different angles. The group discussions should touch
the following questions:
What are the reasons for the different perceptions of the same person? Which
arguments are used to support the different positions? How is it possible to
combine the different perspectives? Can the combined groups agree on a
common text for a memorial plate?
Step 4: Presentation
The combined groups present their discussions and results. The students will get
the real stories about the memorial plates and memorial ribbon at the graveyard of
Special Camp No. 2 (Sources 8, 9, 13).
Step 5: Final Discussion on Key Question
The teacher organizes a discussion on the key question: What is specific
”Buchenwald”, which findings are transferable into your own context?
Sources:
Source 1: Memorial plate proposals for Oto Koch
Source 2: Newspaper article, Thüringer Landeszeitung, February 5th, 1991
Source 3: Newspaper article, Thueringer Landeszeitung , March 3, 1994
Source 4: Police report from August 8, 1946 about the surrender and the behavior
of Koch
Source 5: Lord Mayor Otto Koch and the Persecution of ”Jews” in Weimar
(www.lernort-weimar.de/download/Ausstellung.pdf)
Source 6: Proposals for a text in memory of Curt Rühle von Lilienstern
Source 7: Testimony of Astrid Rühle, granddaughter of Curt Rühle von Lilienstern
Source 8: Picture of memorial plate dedicated to Oto Koch with full text script.
(Photo: Daniel Gaede, June 2015)
Source 9: Picture of Astrid Rűhle’s ribbon with full text. (Photo: Gedenkstätte
Buchenwald)
Source 10: Graveyard of Buchenwald Special Camp No. 2 (Photo: Denis Detling
or Daniel Gaede)
Source 11: Proposals for the memorial plate of Curt Grunick’s grave
Source 12: Short Biography of Curt Grunick
Source 13: Picture of memorial plate dedicated to Curt Grunick with full text script.
(Photo 1 & 2: Daniel Gaede, June 2015)
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