Tent Camp

Zeltlager/Tent Camp (1992). Photo courtesy of Förderverein für Internationale Jugendbegegnung und Gedenkstättenarbeit in Dachau e.V.

The project in Dachau, officially called the International Youth Meeting (IYM), started in 1983 and was in its 13th year when I first participated in 1995. That summer I learned that this grassroots initiative was not welcome by the townspeople or government officials. A small group of local activists wanted to build a youth meeting center where young people from Germany and other parts of the world could come, stay and learn the truth about what had happened in Dachau. Auschwitz created such a center in 1986 and the two towns established exchange programs for their young citizens.

But the Dachauer (as the locals are known) were not in favor of building such a center in their town, and it would take years of political effort to approve and build a compromise – the youth hostel that opened in 1998. A compromise because a youth hostel was not what this original group wanted. Their goal was to create a center for young people focused on learning and exchange. Today, the IYM is hosted at the youth hostel for two weeks each summer.

But from 1983-1997, the IYM was also known as the Zeltlager or “tent camp” because it took place on the outskirts of town and where participants were literally housed in tents. This was also a compromise — a decision made by local authorities to allow a temporary place of learning and exchange for several weeks each summer, in lieu of saying yes, to a permanent center.

Mirjam Ohringer and Els Schalker, Dutch Resistance (1995). Photo courtesy of Förderverein für Internationale Jugendbegegnung und Gedenkstättenarbeit in Dachau e.V.

Mirjam at IYM workshop on women and war (2003).

Mirjam Ohringer (sitting on the left, wearing glasses) was born in Amsterdam in 1924. At fourteen, she worked in the Dutch resistance as a courier, distributing leaflets and collecting money for illegal refugees. She is Jewish, though not religious, and hid for 19 month in the Dutch countryside from 1942-43. She started talking to young people in the late 1970s and supported the tent camp year after year, traveling each summer to Dachau, with her close friend Els Schalker (seated next to her). Mirjam has worked with the Anne Frank Foundation, the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam and the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam. She is also a longtime member of the International Mauthausen Committee.

There is a lot of information about Mirjam online (though not much in English). Here is a recent article about her life and work (in German):

Max Mannheimer, Dachau’s most public survivor. Photo courtesy of Förderverein für Internationale Jugendbegegnung und Gedenkstättenarbeit in Dachau e.V.

Max Mannheimer speaking in 2002 at the liberation day ceremony in Dachau. Source: Wikipedia

Max Mannheimer was born in 1920 in what is today the Czech Republic. He is Dachau’s most public survivor. It is impossible to express, in a few lines, all that he does. A film was made about him in 2009 called Der Weisse Rabe (The White Raven). He wrote a book (in German) about his survival: Spätes Tagebuch. Theresienstadt – Auschwitz – Warschau – Dachau (ISBN 3858423742). He is also a painter under the name, ben jakov. I found a video (7 minutes) from one of his exhibit openings, that displays his paintings well (in German). He was an early supporter of the tent camp, which is where I first got to know him.

Click here to read the next story: Service