Press release

79th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

On 15 April 1945, British troops liberated the prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. As in previous years, the commemoration takes place on the next Sunday that does not fall on a religious holiday. This year it is 5 May. Today and on 5 May, our thoughts are with all the survivors and victims of Bergen-Belsen and the Holocaust. In these days of current tensions and violence, our concern and sympathy goes above all to the people of Israel and Ukraine and especially to the survivors of Bergen-Belsen and their families. In Bergen-Belsen, together with the State of Lower Saxony and the State Association of Jewish Communities of Lower Saxony, we will continue to combine the remembrance of the past with the shaping of our present. Jewish voices have an irrevocable place in this process.

The liberation was followed by a period of silence and suppression by the majority of the German population. The fact that a memorial could be established in Bergen-Belsen is primarily thanks to the survivors. Memorials document the events in the camp, give the victims a voice and deal with perpetrators and perpetration. They provide the context for local history, including the radicalisation processes from the 1920s onwards and during the National Socialist era. With these central tasks, the memorials make a contribution to learning from the past. The goal is an open and diverse democratic society. However, this is increasingly under threat from right-wing extremists.

The presentation of history and references to the present invite discussion and critical debate. However, we have observed that discourse has shifted and instead of constructive criticism, hostility and insults are being levelled. In Bergen-Belsen, as in other memorial and learning sites in Lower Saxony, there has been an increasing number of statements that are blatantly anti-Semitic, anti-democratic and historically revisionist. Anti-Semitic graffiti, damage to property or anonymous phone calls are intended to deliberately unsettle the staff. "It worries us," says Dr Elke Gryglewski, Director of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial and Managing Director of the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation. "But it also shows that memorials are recognised as important places of democratic education. We have a keen sense for the fact that even supposedly banal incidents repeatedly represent crossings of the line, which we consistently make visible as such. We strive for increased communication and cooperation with the police in order to take joint action against attacks. This year's commemoration of the anniversary of the liberation will be deliberately organised together with survivors and civil society actors. We want to show that remembrance is an enduringly important task for our present and future that holds us together and strengthens us. This is precisely why an interested and committed civil society is essential."

We have tulips ready today for all guests for whom individual remembrance on the day of liberation itself is important. You can find the programme for Remembrance Day here.