NS forced-labor camp in München-Neuaubing

Presenting history : an audio guide in the making
by Marika Dalen

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Baracke 5, Oktober 2015 (Bildnachweis:Jens Weber)

My Junior/Senior Project Seminar, a group of 15 students advised by Dr. Baumgärtner, planned and created the official audio guide for a former NS forced-labor camp in München-Neuaubing. My younger sister has been to birthday parties at a “Kinder und Jugend Farm” in those buildings, which today also host artist ateliers. In the initial phases of our work, I learned that those buildings, within easy bicycle riding-distance from our school in an affluent  and modern Munich neighborhood, were witness to countless inhuman and personal tragedies and created specifically for that purpose.

The camp, built to house workers “requisitioned” from countries that had fallen under control of the NS- regime and in support of nearby Reichsbahn maintenance workshops, is one of only two such intact facilities remaining in all of Germany.

The Project.

The labor camp in Neuaubing, long and anonymously re-purposed and neglected, had been identified as unique and important part of Munichs NS history. Under consideration as a remote site of the NS-Dokuzentrum München, then under construction, Dr. Baumgärtner was able to arrange student participation in creating an audioguide for on-site, as well as internet use. With major support from the Bavarian Radio “Listen” foundation (Stiftung Zuhören), the City of Munich Archives, and the foundation  „Erinnerung, Verantwortung, Zukunft“ our Seminar was given access to transcripts of interviews with camp survivors along with surviving historical documents.

Following preliminary research, our group agreed on a chronology of the camp, from arrival of the first workers to camp liberation in 1945. We were not able to agree on whether texts should be in an objective or a personal writing style, in spite of considerable discussion. In the end, authors of various texts for the tour were allowed to write in a style they deemed fit for their subject, subject to critical and significant editorial guidance from our professional historical and media partners, especially BR and the NS-Dokuzentrum.

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Schüler auf dem Gelände des Zwangsarbeiterlagers Neuaubing mit Dr. Sabine Schalm | Bild: S-Dokumentationszentrum / Orla Connolly

I was responsible for writing the tour introduction and portion dealing with deportation. In researching my topics, I relied heavily on interview transcripts, spoke with Dr. Heusler, a historian and authority on forced labor, and also visited forced-labor related memorials near Essen as part of a family visit. I also was responsible for writing transition texts between the various guide topics, an attempt to provide an overarching continuity, which did not make the final version. As with all the other members of the team, I also read my own texts for the actual audio-guide.

Workers at hundreds of such camps, often literally snatched from the streets and placed on trains, were often required to pay for their involuntary transport to Germany and deprived of their personal belongings. They worked without pay to support the wartime economy, fed according to ethnic origin using scientifically calculated caloric minimums for different gene pools.

My Project Seminar experience has been personally very rewarding. It was eye-opening to see and dig into the remnants of such an inhuman system in my “part of town” some 60 years later. I was allowed to work with technical and recognized subject-matter experts and learned to make and accept compromises, whether democratically reached or autocratically imposed.