NS Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne
The NS Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne was founded by a resolution passed by the Cologne city council on December 13, 1979 and has become the largest regional memorial site in all of Germany for the victims of the Nazis. Since 1988, it has been housed in "EL-DE Haus," the EL-DE building, named for the initials of its owner, Catholic businessman Leopold Dahmen. This building was the headquarters of the Cologne Gestapo (secret police) between December 1935 and March 1945. In the final months of the war, several hundred people, most of them foreign forced laborers, were murdered in the courtyard of the building. In a bit of historical irony, the EL-DE building remained largely untouched by the ravages of the war.
The NS Documentation Centre (NS-DOC) is dedicated to memorializing the victims of the Nazi regime, as well as research and teaching about Cologne's history during the Nazi era. The former Gestapo prison was inaugurated as a memorial site on December 4, 1981. Some 1,800 inscriptions and drawings done by prisoners have survived on the walls of the ten cells. The Gestapo prison memorial site is one of the best pre-served prisons from the Nazi era, representing an historical asset of national and European importance.
Since June, 1997, the permanent exhibition in the EL-DE building has depicted political, social and community life in "Cologne During the Nazi Era." That includes the seizure of power and the power apparatus, propaganda and the "national community," everyday life, youth culture, religion, racism, the genocide of Cologne’s Jews and its Sinti and Roma, and opposition, resistance, war and society during war. In addition, temporary exhibitions depict local and national aspects of the Nazi regime. The center also mounts more than 130 events each year. The museum’s educational department and the Information and Education Centre against Right-wing Extremism (ibs) also run educational and teaching programs.
The NS Documentation Centre views itself as an important research locus. This is supported by the library, with literature on Cologne under the Nazis, general Nazi history and right-wing extremism. It is also the task of the documentation department, with its extensive collections of photographs, posters, artifacts, documents and witness statements, which are organized into databases and made accessible. Numerous research projects deal with, among other subjects, Jewish history, contemporary witness statements and interviews, forced labor, the police, youth culture, the press, clubs and organizations, various victim groups and commemorative activities, such as the Cologne artist Gunter Demnig's project "Stolpersteine" (Stumbling Blocks) Among the large, ongoing research undertakings are the history of the Holocaust, resistance, the Gestapo, the Nazi system of Gauleiter (district overseers), urban planning, public health policies and the Hitler Youth movement. The results of the research projects are published in a series of writings in book form, a workbook series, a series put out by the Information and Education Association, and the center’s Internet page.
The NS Documentation Center is a municipal institution and, since 2008, part of Cologne’s city museums associations. So within the municipal administration, it is responsible for dealing with all subjects related to the city’s Nazi past, including the visitor programs for former forced labourers, which the city has been running since 1989. The center has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the "special recommendation" of the 2000 Museum of the Year Award.