The City of Vaihingen invited 22 former inmates of the Concentration Camp Vaihingen/Enz from Poland, the USA, Canada, France, Norway, Russia, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany and their relatives for three days in April 2001. The then Lord Mayor Kälberer – an advocate and supporter of the memorial – said on the occasion of the welcome of the guests: “We would like to show that we also want to stick to that part of our city`s history.” He also added: “We know that your trip to that spot was very hard for you.”
Then chairman of the Concentration Camp Memorial Association Vaihingen/Enz Dr. Scheck spoke to the survivors about the association`s intentions: “We want to conserve the memory to a chapter of our history which referring to the criminal consequence is without precedent. So we also want to be just to the inmates who had to spend the most terrible time of their life in this place if that is possible at all.”
Jules Schelvis from the Netherlands replied: “Let me say thank you that survivors and myself as a former concentration camp convict were invited to come here and to speak to you from this spot.”
Exchange and agreement
In the course of the visit we introduced our concept for the memorial and achieved the survivors` agreement to it. “I can`t express, how good it is what is done here.” (Murray Henick, USA). Besides that we presented the exhibition “Memory Fragments” to the survivors in the City Archives.
This exhibition showed the historic development of the concentration camp and of the association. After the visit of the exhibition Pierre Claude, former inmate from France, noticed: “I was totally shattered when I discovered my Dad on a photo taken on the day of the liberation of the death camp in the City Archives.” His father died in 1948 as a result of his imprisonment.
The visitors wanted to get into touch with the present, unencumbered youth during their stay. So they met students from both grammar schools in Vaihingen. Afterwards Pierre Claude remarked: “The youth is interested in what we`ve experienced.”
On the occasion of the liberation of the camp we celebrated the annual commemoration ceremony at the concentration camp cemetery together with the survivors. There former Lord Mayor Kälberer pointed out:
“For young people the concentration camp cemetery must be a place of admonition. And this site must be a location of demand for all of us to oppose all kind of right wing radicalism.”
Permanent contacts via mail were one result of this meeting. Another was that the survivors encouraged our efforts to establish a memorial as a location of admonition and commemoration. In 2002 we were able to complete the first construction phase and finally open the memorial 2005, again in the presence of survivors.