Mataeriel Culture: The Archaeology of 20th Century Conflict

By John Schofield; William Gray Johnson et al. | Go to book overview

17

The differing development paths of Second World War concentration camps and the possibility of an application of a principle of equifinality
JOHN G. BEECH Although evidence of the existence of Nazi concentration camps had been placed before the Allies during the war, it was not until liberation in the spring of 1945 that the full extent of what had been happening became public knowledge. Initially the camps continued to hold their inmates, ostensibly for medical reasons, but soon they were released. Some camps were then abandoned, but others found new uses, typically as detention camps for Nazi detainees. Westerbork, in The Netherlands, was used for approximately twenty years to house displaced persons from the former Dutch colonies (Land-Weber 1998). One camp - Neuengamme - continues in use as a prison today. It was only in the 1950s that plans to commemorate those who had suffered and died in the camps were drawn up. Two issues were implicitly addressed under the general umbrella of continuing to recognize their former function:
1 A 'remembering' function - typically a monument or a garden of remembrance, designed more for the needs of the survivors and the families of those who did not survive (Stein and Stein 1993).
2 A 'not forgetting' function - the preservation of what remained in terms of infrastructure, designed more for general societal needs.

In both cases the need for 'site management' arose, as the site had become, in a loose but literal sense, a visitor attraction. At this point the interest of two academic strands meet. One strand takes in archaeology and heritage interests; the other management, tourism and business interests. They meet under the heading Modern Heritage Site Management.

As unconventional tourist attractions, some of the camps are attracting large numbers of tourists and are becoming 'must-sees' in their particular localities. Auschwitz is arguably the most developed as a tourist attraction, and it is depressing to note that a shopping centre has been proposed within yards of the site (Edmonton Jewish Life 1996). Equally contentious has been the opening of a McDonald's fast food outlet a short distance from the Dachau camp visitors' car park (Jewish Defense League 1996).

In earlier papers (Beech 1998; Beech 2000), the author highlighted the two-part aspects of Buchenwald concentration camp as a tourist attraction (Table 17.1) and

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