Hinzert: a place of memory that impressed the students

On February 22, 2023, a few days before the National Resistance Day, the students of the 2GGH, accompanied by their teacher Laura TEUSCH, who teaches the course “Knowledge of the contemporary world”, discovered a place of memory of European importance. When they leave the site six hours later, they will understand why “Hinzert is to Luxembourgers what Auschwitz is to Polish victims of Nazism.”

The visit begins with the meeting and documentation center, which opened in 2005. The singular architecture calls out to you: the lines have lost their verticality, everything is slanted, crooked, dented and echoes the broken lives of the 10,000 men detained in Hinzert between 1939 and 1945. The vast glass surface of the exhibition room lets in a generous amount of sunlight and draws the eye outside to a large, green, almost idyllic space, which at first glance is not at all reminiscent of the detention camp that once stood there. However, the ground still bears traces of the history that was played out here.

Thanks to the detailed explanations of the guide Mr. Georg MERTES and to old black and white photographs, the past gradually takes shape: the entrance to the camp, the barbed wire, the sentries, the barracks, the place of appeal, the penitentiary, the pillory or the pond.

A few kilometers further on, in the woods, commemorative steles recall the execution of Luxembourg citizens: some, following the general strike of 1942 to protest against the compulsory recruitment in the German army; others, shot on February 25, 1944 for their membership in the resistance. While mass graves were intended to make the dead disappear into anonymity, they have been transformed into places of commemoration that keep the memory of the deceased more alive than ever.

Among the survivors of the “Special SS Concentration Camp” was Lucien Wercollier (who died in 2002), who designed a memorial monument inaugurated in 1986, which stands in the cemetery of honor.

Coming to the site, seeing the place with your own eyes, standing next to what was a mass grave, allows you to better understand the horror that will always remain inconceivable.


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