Start of the Stony Path at the Documentation Centre, 2007. Photo by Klemens Ortmeyer. Bergen-Belsen Memorial (Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation)
The Grounds of the Former Camp
Today, the site of the former Bergen-Belsen POW and concentration camps is a cemetery. After the camp was liberated, the prisoners who had died were buried in its grounds. Monuments and memorial stones were erected to commemorate their suffering and death.
Once the dead had been buried and most of the huts had been burned down, the area around the mass graves was a desolate expanse of rubble. Landscaping plans drawn up for a memorial in 1945 and 1946 did not encompass the entire 55 hectares of the former camp, but only the section around the mass graves. Against the express wishes of the survivors' representatives, the architecture of the former camp and the buildings that were still standing were not taken into account in these plans. In the section that was designated for landscaping – an area of around 400 by 800 metres – all structural remains from the camp, including fences, roads, watchtowers and the ruins of the crematorium, were completely removed and replaced with shrubbery and trees. Around two thirds of the camp’s historical area now resembles a park-like heath which reveals nothing about the camp that once stood there.
A few building foundations can still be found outside of these landscaped areas. In 1991, youth groups in Lower Saxony began excavating these foundations. This part of the former camp was not officially incorporated into the Memorial until 2009.