Memory in the Grand Est: The gas chamber of the former Struthof camp, renovated, reopens to the public

Memory in the Grand Est: The gas chamber of the former Struthof camp, renovated, reopens to the public
Memory in the Grand Est: The gas chamber of the former Struthof camp, renovated, reopens to the public

PostedNovember 24, 2022, 7:32 PM

NATZWILER – The annex housing the gas chamber of the Natzweiler-Struthof camp (Bas-Rhin), where 86 Jews were gassed for medical experimentation, reopens to the public on Saturday, after 18 months of restoration.

The annex housing the gas chamber of the Natzweiler-Struthof camp (Bas-Rhin), where 86 Jews were gassed for medical experimentation, reopens to the public on Saturday, after 18 months of restoration, with a new memorial route. “It is a heritage restoration operation and not reconstruction or rehabilitation, where we intervened in an extremely meticulous way”, argued Thursday Pierre Dufour, chief architect of historical monuments, who supervised the project on the site. only Nazi concentration camp set up on French soil, in annexed Alsace.

Located a hundred meters below the camp where some 52,000 deportees from all over Europe were interned between May 1941 and April 1945, the building that houses the gas chamber was originally a food depot and a ball at the neighboring inn. On August 1, 1943, 86 Jews, selected from Auschwitz, were gassed there, with a view to building up a collection of skeletons, in anticipation of the total annihilation of all Jews to which the Holocaust was to lead. These experiments were notably carried out by the director of the Institute of Anatomy of the Reichsuniversität (Reich University) in Strasbourg, August Hirt.

Inside the building, renovated for 1.6 million euros, the visitor passes through three rooms before accessing the small gas chamber of 9 square meters, with white earthenware and padded door. The tour is structured around sober explanatory glass panels, and period objects, such as a funnel connected to the gas chamber, a Hirt notebook or a moving alliance of a Jewish victim. Eight Gypsies will also die as a result of experiments carried out in the Struthof gas chamber.

Last May, the University of Strasbourg took stock of these Nazi years in a 500-page report, where light was finally shed on the participation of its faculty of medicine in “medical war crimes”. “The reopening of this place will make it possible to bring the missing link to all this work done for several years”, welcomed Guillaume d’Andlau, director of the European Center of the deported resistant – Struthof (CERD), the memorial of the former concentration camp which welcomes 200,000 visitors each year.

This restoration is part of a multi-year work plan which must be spread over several years. The former Struthof-Natzweiler concentration camp was one of the deadliest in the Nazi concentration camp universe, with 22,000 dead, mainly from exhaustion, hunger and inhuman treatment.

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