Before you visit the Memorial
It is only possible for young people to come to terms in a long-lasting way with the challenging and multi-layered history of the Memorial if they have already acquired a basic knowledge of the history of National Socialism and its policies of exclusion and extermination. Existing knowledge provides a basis that helps sort and deal with new information and emotional impressions and in developing questions about the history.
The visit should take place on a voluntary basis. Young people should be involved in the decision to make a group visit the Memorial.
We recommend that the Memorial should not be visited before the topic of National Socialism has been introduced in class in the 9th or 10th grade or expanded in depth in Sekundarstufe II (roughly the equivalent of Sixth Form).
You can find a list of publications on the history of the concentration camp and of the Soviet Special Camp as well as memoirs of survivors here.
People often approach a visit to the Memorial with certain expectations. A preparatory discussion in class about the character and tasks of a Memorial during the visit can help to distinguish the historical relics from the time of the concentration camp to the transformation into a Memorial and museum.
The Memorial is a place of remembrance and a cemetery. It is also a place for learning. No excessive expectations should be placed on the emotions and conduct of young people. We recommend letting the pupils think together in class beforehand about what behaviour they themselves consider appropriate.
After visiting the Memorial
After visiting the Memorial it helps to discuss the visit together in the group, to talk about and sort out their personal impressions. A good way to open the discussion is by showing photos and work results from the visit. If thoughts and feelings can be expressed without pressure and the need to gain marks, space is created for asking further questions that can then be gone into in class.
Good ways of thinking about the visit can be setting these thoughts down in a diary, articles for the school magazine or the school’s homepage or wall newspapers. To go into the topics in greater depth and link them to where they live, students could research the history of their area or their school in the Nazi era. Perhaps there was even a concentration satellite camp or a Nazi camp for forced labourers nearby.