Module U: Training Seminar for Teachers on Wehrmacht Crimes in Warfare and Within the Concentration Camp System, 1939-1945

Marco Kühnert


Target groups
Groups of adults, especially schoolteachers and information disseminators from educational institutions of public administration, the police, the judiciary, medicine, nursing, the railway and the armed forces


Themes and goals
In this seminar, we look at several seminar modules offered at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial in which we discuss the Wehrmacht as an active participant in Nazi mass crimes in the German war of aggression in Eastern and south-eastern Europe, which was waged primarily against the Soviet Union. We also look at the role of the Wehrmacht in the concentration camp system. The war against the Soviet Union – as well as Poland and south-eastern Europe to some extent – was waged against large parts of the civil population and was meant to destroy existing social structures. The entire Jewish population was to be killed; the Slavs were to be decimated by hunger policies and measures of terror and used for forced labour; while other parts of the population were to be either “Germanified” or eradicated in the Nazi “euthanasia” programme, depending on their assessment based on race biology. These crimes were committed by the Wehrmacht (the German armed forces) in collaboration with the SS, the police and civil administration. In this seminar, we provide an overview of these policies of war and extermination and look at who were the active participants and what room for manoeuvre was available to them. What structural conditions made these mass crimes possible in the first place – or, at any rate, what made it easier to commit them? In another step, we present materials relating to how crimes were dealt with, how perpetrators were punished, what consequences this had for the international laws of war, the political debates in Germany, how the Wehrmacht’s crimes were dealt with in German society, especially in the Bundeswehr (West Germany’s armed forces), as well as ethical questions regarding order and obedience.


We also work with materials and methods relating to the modules Deportations, Selections, Mass Murder: The Treatment of Soviet POWs in the Concentration Camps (module S) and Internment, Re-Education and Punishment: The British Internment Camp at Neuengamme, 1945-1948 (module T). Both of these modules are offered regularly to groups of adults and address issues that are directly connected to the system of concentration camps and their use after the war.


This seminar is structured as a further education course for information disseminators. In addition to discussing core themes, we offer an overview of how our seminars can be used for political education in (vocational) school classes and other groups. We take a closer look at our methods, materials and sources and discuss their suitability for different groups. If this seminar is held at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, we can also offer a brief tour of the grounds and exhibitions.