History of the memorial site
According to his last will former Laura inmate Herman van Hasselt’s urn is laid to rest on the camp site on 20th September 2009. For him a symbolic victory over his perpetrators. And a contribution to preserve the memorial which dates back to the erection of a memorial stone after WWII.
In the first decade after the war commemoration was limited to attending the graves of the inmates who had been buried in Laura during the last months of the camp. Some years after the war the corpses were reburied in the home countries of the deceased. On occasion of a visit of a group of members of the resistance at an international meeting in Buchenwald a memorial stone was erected in Laura on 13th April 1956. In the following years there are commemorations held in Buchenwald and Laura on special occasions in the political understanding of the GDR. Since the early 1960s Ruth and Heinz Ludwig look after the commemorative stone and the later established memorial for nearly 40 years of voluntary work.
Research about the camp history
Research about the history of the camp starts in 1956 with study group named “Young Historians” from the Wurzbach school. Their interviews with witnesses as well as research in archives are significant contributions to the awareness about the camp. The “Young Historians” manage to contact former inmates and families of detainees who had been buried in Laura. The bonds they tie are kept alive over decades to come.
Two miniature models and the booklet “LAURA – Die Hölle im Schieferberg” (Laura – hell at the slate mountain) are developed with the assistance of Buchenwald Memorial. The booklet is first published in 1970. The three editions that are published make the history of the camp available to the public.
A memorial site is established
In 1977 refurbishing of the former camp facilities begin. In autumn 1978 the decision is made to establish an exhibition in one part of former Block 1 (the great barn). It is separated by a brick wall from the rest of the building. The district council, local businesses, the community and residents all contribute to the memorial site, which is opened on 6th May 1979. In the decade that follows, residents and local businesses are the driving forces in expanding and maintaining the memorial site. Nearly 16,000 visitors are recorded until the end of 1989. The tradition of commemorative events is kept alive by the local population, the support of Buchenwald Memorial and the district administration of the district of Lobenstein.
The memorial is reviewed
At the end of 1991 and early 1992 the exhibition is reviewed and newly edited. After 1993 the number of visitors stabilizes and increases in the following years (1990-2000: 17,000 visitors; 2001-2011: 30,000 visitors). A new aspect in the 1990 is the intensive involvement of former inmates in the pedagogic work. Survivors of the camp like Herman van Hasselt and Auguste Verfaille explain their experiences to teenagers in the historical setting of former Block 1.
In a reorganization of local government in 1994 the memorial is handed over to the new district of Saalfeld-Rudolstadt. 1998 the friends’ association of the memorial site Laura is founded (Förderverein Gedenkstätte Laura). Its purpose is to preserve the memorial as a place of commemoration, encounters and historic learning centre. In 1999 the entire subcamp with all its remains that bear witness to the dark period of history is registered as a cultural monument.
Former inmate van Hasselt finds his last resting place in Laura
Since 2000 the CJD (Christliches Jugenddorfwerk Deutschlands e. V.) takes care of the memorial site. According to his last will the former inmate Herman van Hasselt’s urn is laid to rest next to the commemorative stone. It is a symbolic victory over the perpetrators but also a gesture to show his ties with his comrades who died at Laura and, consequently, to preserve the memorial site. On 14th December the county council decides to buy the premises. The exhibition and the memorial facilities are completely refurbished. Buchenwald Memorial as well as the friends’ association both contribute to the new concept. The Thuringian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture provide the majority of the financial means.
On 13th April 2012 the new memorial site is opened to the public.