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Contemporary witnesses wanted: Jacobs University plans exhibition on its location’s history
March 17, 2021
An accommodation of an anti-aircraft regiment in the Third Reich, camp for displaced persons, barracks of the German Army, a campus university – the history of the campus of today's Jacobs University is eventful. A seminar led by the historian Dr. Rüdiger Ritter wants to make it visible – as a Hybrid Neighborhood Museum. The project is part of the Community Impact Project, an integral component of studies at Jacobs University, in which students apply their expertise for the benefit of the Bremen region and gain practical experience at the same time. The Community Impact Project is supported by the Jacobs Foundation and the Wolfgang Ritter Foundation.
"We're not only interested in the history of buildings, we also want to document the connection to the neighbors at each stage," Ritter said. The historian is offering a seminar on the history of the site this semester and the following one. As part of these seminars, the history of the 34-hectare site will be reviewed with the help of Jacobs University’s students.
The site of today's Jacobs University certainly offers enough material for exciting stories: In the post-war period, for example, there was a lively black-market trade between the residents of the camp and their neighbors. Camp Grohn, as it was called back then, was home to up to 5,000 displaced persons – former prisoners of war, forced laborers or concentration camp inmates of the Nazi regime who were waiting there for emigration or repatriation to their home countries. The camp, operated by a sub-organization of the United Nations, was one of the largest of its kind in the western occupation zones.
The brick buildings were constructed in the mid-1930s. In 1938, the first soldiers of Flak Regiment 26 moved in to protect northern Germany from Allied air raids. One of the most prominent soldiers was Helmut Schmidt. In his speech at the founding of the university, the former German chancellor reminded of this time. The Wehrmacht was followed for a short time by the Americans in 1945, and the displaced persons were succeeded by the soldiers of the German army, who took over the site in 1955 and used it as barracks. And finally, in 2001, the first students moved into buildings that had previously been converted accordingly.
"We have already gathered quite a bit of material. But I would be pleased if we could show even more of the interlocking and cross-connections with the surrounding site, with the support of contemporary witnesses," said Ritter. This could be done, for example, in the form of photographs, documents or diary entries.
The planned exhibition will combine virtual and analog elements. The students receive specific research assignments and create info points in the form of digital stumbling blocks – where information about individual buildings, parts of buildings or events can be accessed via smartphone. "This could be an eyewitness account from a former displaced person, for example," Ritter said. In addition to the digital reappraisal, a permanent exhibition about the history is planned to open in December 2021 in a room on the Jacobs University campus. What the exhibition will look like is still completely open: "In the course of the seminar, the students will develop the corresponding concept themselves," explained Ritter.
The two seminars are embedded in the Community Impact Project. The project was initiated by Dr. Jakob Fruchtmann, a sociologist at Jacobs University, and is supported by the Wolfgang Ritter Foundation and the Jacobs Foundation.
The basic idea is that the students – as a mandatory part of their studies – contribute their expertise to schools, associations, initiatives or public authorities in the Bremen region during their 5th semester and at the same time gain experience in practical implementation. The information gathered during Ritter's seminars will thus make it possible, for example, to create a Hybrid Neighborhood Museum that will visualize the history of the campus. A project that is meaningful and of interest to both the university and the citizens of Bremen.
Questions are answered by: PD Dr. hab. Rüdiger Ritter Historian, Instructor at Jacobs University Tel: + 0152 27564916 Email: RRitter [at] gmx.de