Wewelsburg 1933 – 1945
Art.Nr.: WB 3 E
Wewelsburg 1933 – 1945Megalomania and Terror of the SS
CD-ROM with Booklet, 2007 (WB 3 E)
Originally erected as a prince-bishop’s residence, the Wewelsburg castle was built from 1603 to 1609, some 20 kilometres to the southwest of Paderborn, high above the Alme valley. The castle’s location, its unusual shape as a triangular palace and its changeable history aroused the interest of Heinrich Himmler, SS National Leader of the German Reich. In 1934, the SS rented this palace from the district of Büren. Originally intended to serve as a “School for Leaders of the German Reich”, the Wewelsburg castle was soon developed into the SS Section Leaders’ ideological centre and representative location. From 1941 onwards, the entire district was re-planned so that the village of the same name would have been disappeared completely, if the plans had been put into practice.
The concentration camp in Wewelsburg was erected in 1939. At that time, manpower was becoming increasingly rare and the aim was to ensure the availability of imprisoned workers for the most important SS construction project. The war preparation, which was proceeding at full speed, had already led to a considerable shortage of manpower in the building sector at that time and the SS took advantage of this situation in two ways: on the one hand, it effected the erection and extension of additional concentration camps and, on the other hand, it established a link between these camps and SS enterprises and employment opportunities. In addition to the punishing and isolating effect for political opponents, these concentration camps, thus, also assumed an economic function.
In the summer of 1940, the prisoners began to erect a new camp in the district of Niederhagen. Although the castle remained to be the centre of Himmler´s intentions, the construction work was extended so that the entire village was soon marked by building sites. In the beginning, the SS attached little importance to camouflage and, at least during the initial phase, the majority of the local population considered the camp occupants convicts atoning for their crimes with forced labour.
In 1941, the camp was renamed and became the independent “Niederhagen Concentration Camp”. Himmler is said to have chosen the name himself, his intention being to avoid any ideological association between the concentration camp and the castle. Niederhagen was the smallest state-owned concentration camp until it was disbanded in 1943, when the construction works were discontinued due to the war.
After the war, the people of Wewelsburg were not able to develop an awareness of their past between 1933 and 1945 and its victims. The inhabitants concealed their own individual sorrows and also remained silent as to their perception of the prisoners’ suffering. Thanks to external initiative, however, they have now found a way to consider and deal with the era of National Socialism. 2000 a memorial monument was erected on the former concentration camp area.
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