The route walked by Esther Brunstein and a group of Polish Jewish women in 1945 from the slave labour camp at Hambuhren-Ovelgonne , near Hanover, and ending at Bergen Belsen Death Camp is at the core of this project. The labour camp, Waldeslust, “Joys of the Forest” no longer exists and the site appears to be occupied by a garden centre, formerly an orchid nursery.
This photograph is of the camp as it looked in 1951.
Esther had been transferred from Auschwitz , where she had been separated from her mother, remembers the march to Belsen in February 1945. She had been put to work in freezing conditions carrying stones and beams for road construction and digging foundations for the Fokker-Wuff factory. The camp was one of a complex of camps in the area which at their peak of activity housed 10,000 labourers. Waldeslust operated for 6 months and Esther survived her time there, she remembers being weak and ill barely able to make the journey to Belsen.
A map of the slave labour camps at Hambuhren-Ovelgonne, see Lager 3:‘Judenlager’ top right:
The town today, zoom in on the satellite view and you can see the garden centre now on or near the site, zoom out and you will see the Bergen Belsen camp memorial area about 12 kilometres to the North West.
Satellite Camps of Bergen-Belsen
The SS established three satellite camps of Bergen-Belsen at armaments factories. Most
of the workforce at these factories consisted of slave labourers and POWs of various
nationalities. Around 2,000 female concentration camp prisoners were also forced to work there. Women who were no longer able to work because of exhaustion or disease were taken to Bergen-Belsen.
Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation excerpt from catalogue
On 4 February 1945 the Hambühren Sub-Camp was dissolved and the women walked by foot, although some by lorry, to Bergen-Belsen. The commandant of the Sub-Camp, SS Oberscharführer Karl Reddehase took control in Bergen-Belsen of an internal work detail. He was charged by a British Military Court at the second Belsen Trial of mistreatment and murder.
Horstmann, B. The Bergen – Belsen Sub Camps
External Detachment Hambühren
(also known as Hambühren-Ovelgönne or Waldeslust)
Megargee, G.P. (ed) U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945 Vol. 1, Indiana University Press 2009
We are indebted to information provided by the Imperial War Museum and historian Peter Jackson and of course to Esther Brunstein who continues to inspire us.