denk.mal Hanover Railroad Station documentation center to be built by Ericusbrücke   

The denk.mal Hanover Railroad Station documentation center will have its own location at Lohsepark in central HafenCity. It is to be built as a northward continuation of the memorial, the urban “seam”, that traces the path of the historical rail tracks from where at least 7,692 Jews, Sinti and Roma from Hamburg were deported between 1940 and 1945. Originally the documentation center was to have been on the ground floor of a building at the corner of Am Lohsepark and Steinschanze. But there was criticism after it emerged that the developer had leased the remaining office space above the planned documentation center to Wintershall Dea AG. And so, in March 2021, the Ministry for Culture and Media initiated a mediation process in which an amicable solution was reached under the leadership of the President of the Hamburg Constitutional Court, Birgit Voßkühler. 
The documentation center is intended to complement the memorial site inaugurated in 2017 as a central place of learning, embedding the deportations within the history of Nazi persecution. It had been planned since 2017 to occupy the ground floor of an office building constructed by Müller-Spreer & Co Am Lohsepark KG on the Am Lohsepark/Steinschanze site, with the opening scheduled for 2023. From the outset, representatives of the Rom und Cinti Union, the Landesverein der Sinti, the Auschwitz Komitee in der B.R.D. and the Jewish communities as well as the Stolpersteine initiative were involved in the planning. 

There were protests when it emerged early in 2021 that the developer had leased the office space above the planned documentation center to Wintershall Dea AG, since the precursors of the Wintershall and DEA companies, which merged in 2019, had profited from the seizure of power by the Nazis because they were of strategic importance for the wartime economy. Forced labor was used and exploited in both companies. Having Wintershall Dea as direct neighbors of the documentation center was inconceivable from the perspective of the associations representing former victims of persecution and their relatives.

During the mediation process it became clear that a solution that retained the situation as it stood would be out of reach. The associations representing victims of persecution therefor advocated exploring an alternative location for the documentation center. This approach was successful. On the initiative of Mr Müller-Spreer a way could be found for the documentation center to be realized as a standalone building at a suitable location. Mr Müller-Spreer has agreed to construct a freestanding building for the documentation center at his own expense and to hand it over to the city. The plan is for the city to provide a site for the two-story building at the northern end of Lohsepark by the Ericusbrücke bridge leading to the city center.

The documentation center will have an equivalent exhibition area to that foreseen in the previous design and will have the necessary additional seminar rooms, offices and circulation areas. As previously planned, the public sector will be responsible for the interior design and installation of the exhibition, which has been developed by the 
Stiftung Hamburger Gedenkstätten und Lernorte (Hamburg Memorials and Places of Learning Foundation). In everyone’s view, the location of the future documentation center as a northward continuation of the memorial, the “seam” tracing the path of the historical rail tracks, and Lohseplatz, the former forecourt of Hanover Railroad Station, creates a convincing and coherent ensemble. The thematic orientation of the exhibition planned under the title “In aller Öffentlichkeit” (In Full View) will thus be strengthened. 

The standalone solution will necessitate a change to the development plan and a design competition for the building. The procedure is due to start this year so that the opening of the documentation center can be provisionally scheduled for 2026.

The representatives of the associations representing victims of persecution and the other participants in the mediation process welcome the offer by Mr Müller-Spreer to construct a freestanding documentation center for the city and consider this to be a good solution. Thus the mediation process has delivered a good result in the view of all those involved and has been successfully concluded.