De moor soldiers

We know about Auschwitz and Dachau. But in the margin of history there were more concentration-camp-like prisons. From 1933 Hitler started building 15 of these sites close to the Dutch/German border. At first they were meant to punish his political opponents with forced labour in the moors.

After and thanks to the Reichstagbrand thousands and thousands were sent to these camps, between Nordhorn and Papenburg. One of them was Carl von Ossietzky. This Hitler enemy, from Hamburg received the Nobelprize for Peace in 1935. Proposed by famous anti-Hitler Germans like Thomas Mann. 

But within one year he died, due to tuberculose. Maybe deliberately infected.

Wolfgang Langhoff could escape and wrote about these camps in his famous Die Moorsoldaten (The moor soldiers) in 1935; he was going to live in Switzerland, and translations were made in English, French and Dutch.

Though the Dutch authorities must have known about it, they could not believe such brutal things could even happen that close to the border. It was a hidden history in the region. Dutch military police sent  back fugitives who escaped from the camps thinking that they were real criminals. But the desire to stay neutral in the upcoming hostilities might have been a factor too.

Later the camps were populated by prisoners-of-war, especially Sowyet military. And there was a big Polish contingent.

More info Dokumentations und Informations Zentrum in Papenburg.

In Neugnadenfeld (between Lingen and Dutch Emmen) there's a small cemetry where Russian prisoners-of-war have been buried.

Some acres neatly cut grass with some unnamed stones. A small Memorial Stone in the middle.  

Colourful artificial flowers from the German organisation to maintain military cemetries. 30,000 sowyets died in that period in these camps.

It took a long time before things had been 'normalisiert' a 72-year old inhabitant  told. People here were ashamed. They didn't talk about it. And there was some hostility to the local people after the war, approved by the English territorial commander.

The town of Haren has been populated by Polands for three years. Both prisoners-of-war and their Polish (!) liberators/Allies who didn't like to go back to the communist occupied Poland, due to the stories about the barbaric Sowyet behaviour to the Polish and in a.o. Warsaw.

The Germans had just to leave their houses.

But nowadays this 'hidden history' is put in the limelight. And since the Oldenburg university pushed publicity and discussion (university's name is of the Nobel Prize winner Ossietzky), the info centre could be opened. And former Bundeskanzler Willy Brandt visited the central Memorial in Estwegen


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