REPERCRI researchers Brigitte Jirku and Ana R. Calero Valera (Universitat de València) have carried out a brief research stay in Germany in the framework of the PROMETEO project “From crime scene to place of memory”. They have visited the concentration camp in its different components and micro-spaces, as well as the facilities of the Buchenwald memorial. There they studied the exhibits and the story that made up different exhibitions: the Dauerausstellung (permanent exhibition): “Ausgrenzung und Gewalt 1937 bis 1945”, the Kunstausstellung: “Biographies of artists. Means of survival. Testimony, artwork, visual memory” and “Sowjetisches Speziallager 2 1945-1950”.
They have conducted a long interview with Siegbert Pallhorn, 82 years old, and collaborator with the Buchenwald memorial. They have held a working meeting with Alexandra Klei, author of perhaps the most reputable and documented monograph on the Buchenwald concentration camp and memorial from an architectural perspective: Der erinnerte Ort. Geschichte durch Architektur. Zur baulichen und gestalterischen Repräsentation der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager.
During the same trip, they also visited the facilities of the company Topf & Söhne in Erfurt, builders of the crematorium ovens for different concentration camps, analyzing both the permanent and temporary exhibition at the site. The latter deals with the euthanasia program implemented during National Socialism. Special attention has been paid to the locations, to the victim-perpetrator perspective, to the presence of women in the camp (both “lady-in-waiting” and “special prisoners”) and to the composition of the exhibits, detecting the “silenced” parts of different moments of memory construction.
Another key aspect has been the visit to cemeteries and burial places inside and outside the Buchenwald memorial: Weimar classicism (Fürstengruft), World War I (Historischer Friedhof Weimar), Soviet cemetery 1945/46 (Park an der Ilm), or the Friedhof am Bismarckturm, next to the Glockenturm.
In the city of Weimar they studied the link between the city and the concentration camp: Friedrich Schiller’s furniture in Buchenwald and the connection with Weimar classicism; Bauhaus artists in Buchenwald; the Elephant Hotel; the exhibition on the Gauforum (a museum on slave labor is planned to be built in this area); the traces of National Socialism in the city; the exhibition “Die Zeugen”; the traces of the Soviet occupation of Weimar 1945-1950.
Intense photographic documentation work has been carried out on all areas of perpetration of violence and commemoration, and bibliographic materials have been collected from all the visits carried out. Special attention was paid to the collection of photographic samples of all the scenes of the novel Der Aschenmensch von Buchenwald by the survivor Ivan Ivanji, who turned 94 years old on January 24, 2023. The starting point of the novel is the discovery of 701 urns (Topf & Söhne) in 1997 during repair work on the roof of the crematorium of the Buchenwald concentration camp.