The military training area was built in 1935 as part of the Nazi regime’s military rearmament program. It was here that the Wehrmacht prepared for a war of aggression, one which claimed millions of victims, combatants and non-combatants between 1939-1945, including tens of thousands of POWs who were housed in camps on the training area, and more than 52,000 prisoners in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
The history of the site, as well as the history of the Wehrmacht and the Wehrmacht’s crimes, is the subject of the exhibition "Armament, War and Crime “, which was opened to the public in 2019 and which is set up in a historical building of the Niedersachsen-Kaserne. The exhibition makes clear that warfare and war crimes were planned from the very beginning of the Nazi regime. Vividly, it shows that the Wehrmacht was an essential pillar of the Nazi dictatorship. Moreover, the exhibit addresses the degree to which soldiers could defy criminal orders and how (West) German society and the Bundeswehr dealt with the difficult legacy of the Wehrmacht after 1945. The present volume, conceived and implemented by students from the History Department at Leibniz University of Hanover in cooperation with the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, documents the central features of the exhibition. The supplementary essays provide an in-depth look at the history of the Wehrmacht.
Jens-Christian Wagner, geb. 1966, war Geschäftsführer der Stiftung niedersächsische Gedenkstätten und Leiter der Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen. Seit Mai 2020 ist er Direktor der Stiftung Gedenkstätten Buchenwald und Mittelbau-Dora.
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