Seminar: Railway Workers and the Reichsbahn under the Nazis

Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, Centre for Historical Studies


Study Day (1 day, 6-7 hours)


This study day is intended primarily for trainees and employees of the railway and for groups of people interested in the role of the Reichsbahn under the Nazis or who teach classes about this subject.


The study day starts off with participants analysing a schedule for a chartered train (Fahrplananordnung) issued by the directorate general of the Eastern railway (Ostbahn). On closer inspection, what initially looks like a schedule for an “ordinary” train is actually for a deportation train that brought 10,000 Jews to their deaths in Treblinka. Using the train schedule as a starting point, participants discuss the question of who within the ranks below the top management level at the Reichsbahn knew about the deportations and who was involved in their implementation. After this introduction, we take a tour of the memorial, beginning at the former camp railway station. There, we focus on the biographies of several Neuengamme prisoners and talk about what their transport to and arrival at the camp meant for them. Afterward, we tour the grounds and various exhibitions to look at points of special interest for the group.


In the second part of the study day, we break down into small groups to work on the following subjects:


Group 1 gathers information about the nature and scale of resistance activities in the German-occupied countries, focusing on two cases when Dutch railway workers called for a strike in 1944 and 1945. What did these acts of resistance achieve? How did the German occupation authorities react?


Group 2 explores the question to what extent high-level functionaries in the Reichsbahn can be considered perpetrators by focusing on the biography of Albert Ganzenmüller, the deputy director general of the Reichsbahn. The group looks at the stories of engine drivers, shunters and train station personnel to explore the question of whether lower-level personnel acted as co-perpetrators.


Group 3 explores the use of concentration camp slave labour in the Reichsbahn by looking at two satellite camps of Neuengamme concentration camp, Hamburg-Spaldingstraße and Bad Sassendorf, where prisoners were forced to repair destroyed tracks and train stations for the Reichsbahn.


Group 4 focuses on the deportation of Jews and Sinti and Roma from the train station Hannoverscher Bahnhof in Hamburg.


Group 5 addresses the Deutsche Bahn’s reluctance in dealing with the role of the Reichsbahn under the Nazis, as can be seen in its reaction to the Train of Commemoration.


At the end of the day, the groups present their research to the whole class for a discussion focusing on how the Deutsche Bahn has dealt with its historical responsibility.



Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, Centre for Historical Studies

Jean-Dolidier-Weg 75

21039 Hamburg

Phone: +49 40 – 4 28 13 522