Hamburger Straße

Hamburger Straße 4, 45145 Essen | 51.448016, 6.958033‎ | +51° 26′ 52.86″, +6° 57′ 28.92″

In the course of World War II, Essen’s Krupp dynasty employed numerous prisoners of war sentenced to hard labour. These workers had been deported from areas conquered by the Nazis during the war. In 1943, there were 13.000 prisoners of war in Essen, living in poor conditions, slogging away for Krupp’s cast steel company. They were accommodated in provisional camps, surrounded by barbed wire. Camps of this kind were scattered all over Essen. The both male and female workers suffered from malnutrition. In spite of this, they had to accomplish heavy work in Krupp’s companies.

hamburger straße

This newsletter article concerning Dr. Ernst Schmidt shows Soviet prisoners of war, accommodated in the Raumertstraße. Schmidt was one of Essen’s most famous historians, conducting research foremost on the Nazi period, with special regard to the situation of prisoners of war and other victims of the fascist regime. In another article, dating from 1995, he pointed out that there were certain trees in Essen-Frintrop, having messages carved in them which reminded of italian prisoners of war. Unfortunately, these trees were felled recklessly by the local forestry office. These articles are drawn from the collection of Horst Zimmer, a former employee of the government office for youth welfare who also devoted himself intensively to this topic.

One of the camps established to put up prisoners of war could be found on the former sports fields in the Hamburger Straße. This camp ran from January 1943 onward. In nine shacks 600 women and children were accommodated. This camp was destroyed in the course of a bombardment in 1944. After that, it had not been rebuilt anymore. In our days, the Elisabethschule stands there (regard the pictures below).

Elisabethschule I

Elisabethschule Graffiti

Historical background

During World War II, the Nazis condemned millions of people to perform forced labour in Germany. Most of the prisoners of war brought in for these kinds of work came originally from Russia and the Ukraine. The Nazis spared nobody – they even transported children to Germany. Frequently, they snatched them from their families. People sentenced to hard labour were employed in the armaments industry, in agriculture and forestry, but also in public agencies. Like mentioned above, Krupp’s companies fell back on the forced workers in a huge extent. In most cases, they were treaten in a humiliating and abusive way. In addition, they suffered from malnutrition due to the Nazis providing them too less to eat and to drink. Often, they were not payed for the work they had done.

In Eastern Europe, the Nazis carried out raids in the regions they conquered. They forced their way into the homes of their victims, deporting persons which they considered to be strong enough to withstand the hard labour conditions in Germany. For accommodating the numerous persons deported, the fascists set up special camps, like the aforementioned one in the Hamburger Straße. The deported were driven together, suffering from devastating conditions. All day long they had to slog away for the fascist Hitler regime. There was no safety and healthy protection helping these forced workers. In case of bombardments, they were not allowed to seek shelter in a bunker. People defying the Nazi’s orders ran the risk of being put into specialized labour camps bearing a resemblance to the concentration camps. Forced workers were mistreated regularly by their guards. If female workers got pregnant, their children were transported to so-called Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätten (engl.: „care station for foreign children“). In there, the Nazis let the children die of hunger.

Tafel Hamburger Str. II

The commemorative plaque in front of the Elisabethschule



1) There a colourful graffitis sprayed on the walls on the school playground of the Elisabethschule. 70 years ago, the school was used as a camp for prisoners of war condemned to work in the German industry. How could a graffito alluding to the fate of the workers arrested in here look like? Which themes would fit to the story of this apparently common place? Would there be a certain phrase outlining what once happened out here? Or would – on the other hand – the graffiti be enough of a hint? Discuss these questions within your group and sketch afterwards a possible graffito.

2) Find out who is responsible to decide whether a new graffito may be sprayed on the school playground. While debating the trip to the Elisabethschule in the Ground Zero youth centre, think of further evidence underpinning your idea. Search for arguments backing your plan to establish a new graffito out there. Make notes underlining the sense of such a project. If you like, you may formulate a written claim to impose your idea.

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