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Memorial event in the Bittermark

Gestapo mass shootings

During the Second World War, tens of thousands of people from the countries occupied by Germany were used for forced labor in Dortmund. The largest group was made up of the "Eastern workers" from the Soviet Union, who were at the bottom of the racist hierarchy. Offenses on their part should only be punished by the police. Executions by the Gestapo began very early on. Their number increased with the length of the war. As the destruction of German cities increased, the local Gestapo offices were instructed to independently decide on executions and to carry them out on site. In March 1945, for example, there were three mass shootings in the Bittermark, with a total of 76 victims. When the Ruhr area was surrounded by Allied troops, the Gestapo began to shoot all prisoners classified as dangerous. A total of at least 153 people, including German leftists, French accused of espionage and others, were shot at six bomb craters in Rombergpark, which is close to the office and on a railway site.

Photo gallery: Bittermark commemoration - 75 years after the murders

Shortly before the end of the war, the Dortmund Gestapo murdered a total of 76 people in three mass shootings in the Bittermark in March 1945. On the night of Good Friday the killing continued in Rombergpark. In the following nights, a total of around 150 people were shot at six bomb craters and on a railway site near the Gestapo office.

The first commemorative rallies for the Dortmund Gestapo victims took place in August 1945. Soon afterwards, memorials were erected on the mass graves. In 1954 the bodies of the victims were finally reburied in a newly created honorary grave on the playground. A year later, work began on a new, large memorial in the center of the complex, in whose crypt on Good Friday 1958 a French victim of the mass executions was buried. In 1960 the memorial was finally completed. To this day, the commemorative events at this memorial on Good Friday are the largest in Dortmund every year.

In 1954, the corpses from the mass grave in the Bittermark and the victims found in Rombergpark, which were initially buried in the Catholic and Protestant cemeteries in Hörde, were exhumed and buried in a newly created honorary grave on the playground. Image (image license / photographer / graphic designer): Dortmund City Archive
On Good Friday 1960, the completed new memorial was inaugurated on the playground. Image (image license / photographer / graphic designer): Dortmund City Archive
Commemoration event on Good Friday 1964. Image (image license / photographer / graphic designer): Dortmund City Archives
Poster for the commemorative event at the memorial in the Bittermark, Good Friday 1971. The then Lord Mayor of Dortmund Heinrich Sondermann and the Minister of Culture of North Rhine-Westphalia, Jürgen Girgensohn, were announced as speakers. Image (image license / photographer / graphic designer): Dortmund City Archive
Poster for the memorial event at the memorial in the Bittermark, Good Friday 1984. The speakers were Willi Spaenhoff, Mayor of Dortmund at the time, Prof. Dr. Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Jean-Louis Forest, President of the Association of French Labor Deportees, announced. The pictured front of the memorial still serves as a motif for the event posters commemorating Good Friday. Image (image license / photographer / graphic designer): Dortmund City Archive

History of remembrance

As early as August 26, 1945, the first commemorative rallies for the Dortmund Gestapo victims took place on Hansaplatz and in the two Hörder cemeteries, where most of the victims found in Rombergpark were buried. On Good Friday 1946, a commemorative event in Rombergpark was organized for the first time in the city. Soon afterwards, memorials were erected on the mass graves. In 1954 the corpses from the Hörder cemeteries were reburied in a newly created honorary grave on the playground together with the victims found in the Bittermark and buried on the playground. A year later, work began on a new, large memorial in the center of the complex, in whose crypt on Good Friday 1958 a French victim of the mass executions was buried. In 1960 the memorial was finally completed. To this day, the commemorative events at this memorial on Good Friday are the largest in Dortmund every year.