Ahlem Memorial A Place that Points Beyond the Passage of Time
In July 2014 the Ahlem Memorial was opened with a new design. It is a place with a special and eventful history. Originally, a horticulture school founded in 1893 for Jewish boys and girls in vocational training was located here. In the 1940’s the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo) ran the deportation of Hannover’s Jewish population and established a police replacement prison here.
At the end of the 19th century, not far from the prosperous industries in the west of Hanover, Alexander Moritz Simon, a Hanover banker, established an educational institution that was unique nationwide at the time: the Israelitische Erziehungsanstalt zu Ahlem, renamed the Israelitische Gartenbauschule Ahlem in 1919. Organised into a primary school, apprenticeship training facility and a girls’ school for domestic management, children and adolescents here learned all the basics of the gardening, skilled crafts and agricultural occupations that until then had been closed to the Jewish population.
New perspectivesThe Gartenbauschule in Ahlem opened up new perspectives for Jewish adolescents and young adults from all parts of Europe. Here they could train as gardeners, plant breeders, farmers, garden architects, landscape planners, teachers, skilled craftsmen and housekeepers. After Simon’s death, two additional agricultural training and boarding schools arose in Steinhorst und Peine, financed by the Alexander and Fanny Simon Foundation and built by architect Heinrich Tessenow.
Ahlem Memorial | Photo: Roland Halbe The reports and testimonials of the former Ahlem residents whose lives took them to all corners of the globe – to Palestine with the kibbutz movement, to England or the USA and South America – are today a part of the exhibition in the memorial. They are made visible today in the form of biographical stations. In contrast, the further history of the Gartenbauschule leads far afield from the reform-oriented ideals of the early 20th century into the period of the National Socialist dictatorship. After 1933, the Gartenbauschule was tolerated only because it served preparations for emigration. It was finally closed in 1942.
The Gestapo had confiscated the entire school grounds starting in 1941 and set up a collection point for the deportation of the Jewish population even while the school was still running. Jewish forced labourers from so called mixed marriages were housed on the grounds. A police replacement prison was set up in 1944 for the Gestapo. Political prisoners, forced labourers from nearby camps of the Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen Hannover and a subcamp of the concentration camp Neuengamme as well as Sinti and Roma were interrogated, tortured and murdered here. Liberation and release came for the few survivors by the 84th Division of the US Army on 10 April, 1945.