Redeveloping the commemorative site at the former SS shooting range Hebertshausen
This year the Dachau Memorial Site is redeveloping the former SS shooting range at Hebertshausen, expanding its role as a place of remembrance. Located two kilometers from the former main camp, these grounds are extremely important – here members of the Dachau commandant’s guard murdered over 4000 Soviet prisoners of war in 1941/42.
With the redeveloping of this location, which is also classified as a cemetery, the Dachau Memorial Site wishes to give more attention to victims from the former Soviet Union. Although the former Soviet Union suffered by far the largest loss of life in the Second World War, this fact has hardly been mirrored in Germany’s commemorative culture. Developing the commemorative site is very important for Russia, Byelorussia, and the Ukraine.
At the beginning of this year, working with the State Building Authority of Freising and the landscape architecture bureau of Keller Damm Roser, the historical remnants were once again made visible and the historical lines of perspective of the grounds reestablished. Furthermore, in consultation with the office for Memorial and Environmental Protection, the undergrowth and a large part of the trees were removed, foremost in the area covering the one-time shooting alleys. The historical pathways used will be shall be taken up again and the main wayside cross rebuilt. A circular path, its design and look distinguishing it from the historical pathways, shall emphasize the dimensions of the grounds. The location where the coffins were stored for the murdered prisoners of war and the line taken by the timber fence, which made it impossible for the Soviet prisoners of war to escape, will be plotted with ground markings.
In the spring of this year the Dachau Memorial Site conducted a presentation hearing to collect ideas for the realization of a permanent exhibition at the former shooting range. On May 8, an expert committee made of (art) historians, archaeologists, artists, as well as representatives from the Building Authority and Memorial Site staff discussed in great length the three designs submitted. The decision was unanimous: the design created jointly by the Berlin architect Martin Bennis and the Stuttgart graphic arts firm Weidner Händle Atelier.
The Bennis and Weidner concept plans to spatially separate commemoration and information. In line with today’s use, the area designated as commemoration is located in front of the site of the crime, the pistol firing range. An installation featuring the names of the victims will be positioned in an extension of the first shooting alley in which the Soviet prisoners were executed. Made up of reels, the names of the executed victims can be added step by step in line with progress in research. As it seems unlikely that all the names will ever be determined, the unknown victims will be “represented” on the installation by vacant spaces. This approach will highlight the shocking dimension of the crime committed.
In contrast, the information area will be located to the right of the pathway, in front of the long rifle alley. A waterbound ceiling will form the exhibition plateau. To the right and left of this plateau 16 exhibition panels will be erected and directed towards the visual axes associated with specific themes (e.g. biographies of the victims in the in the direction of the execution site). The themes and issues to be presented as part of the exhibition are currently being research by a team from the Dachau Memorial Site. The exhibition will look at the murder of the Soviet prisoners of war in terms of the historical context, provide information on the prisoner-of-war camps of the German Army and the execution sites, and describe the usual course of an extermination action in Hebertshausen. So as to lend the victims a face, it is planned to honor individual victims with a biography. In addition, a group biography will be used to provide information about the group of SS perpetrators, while the knowledge and the attitude of the population will also be addressed. To conclude, the exhibition will discuss the relevance of the SS shooting range as well as the reuse of the grounds and how society has responded to this. Single steles along the circular path will provide information on the topography of the grounds.
On July 4 the Stiftung Bayerische Gedenkstätten and the Dachau Memorial Site informed the general public about the current state of planning at a special event held at parish community center Hebertshausen