Education and Research

Farbfoto, mehrere Personen schauen in ein von innen erleuchtes Pult mit Vitrinenglas abgedeckt. Rechts im Bild steht jüngere männliche Person hinter dem Pult der Gruppe gegenüber.
Picture: Guided tour of the permanent exhibition "Engineers of the 'Final Solution'" Picture: © Stadtverwaltung Erfurt

The Topf & Sons Place of Remembrance: An innovative place of learning

The critical examination of Topf & Sons grants a new means of access to the history of National Socialism. The manner in which death was dealt with at Topf & Sons is indicative of how principles of humaneness constitute a civil society, and how these ethical boundaries were violated in the concentration and extermination camps. The study of these matters thus provides impulses for individual and collective self-reflection of how our society’s humanity can be achieved, defended and strengthened through individual actions and societal structures. The innovative potential of the Place of Remembrance lies in the creation of a place where – taking the dimensions of the historical crime as a point of departure – young people and adults can reflect on issues of work, the economy, technology and the responsibility we bear in the present. In view of the global financial crisis and its consequences, the topic of ethics in the economy and society is one of the very central issues facing mankind in the future.

Themes and Activities

Geared to specific professional fields the extra-scholastic place of learning is open to pupils in the ninth school year and older. Due to its profession-oriented offers paving the way for an examination of historical themes in relation to one’s own life and professional prospects, the education programme holds special relevance for vocational trainees and students in technical and commercial fields. The activities for visitor groups range from guided tours of the exhibition to one- and several-day projects in which participants can delve deeper into one of the following themes, which they themselves select:

  • Work and responsibility
  • The business enterprise in the city
  • Technology and extermination
  • The war-time business enterprise
  • The Auschwitz death factor
  • Dealing with guilt
  • Opposition and complicity
  • The site and its history
  • Jewish neighbours 

Promoting a reflective awareness of history

The wide spectrum of scientifically processed material (sources on the company history, biographical material, reports by contemporaries, photos, films, written documents from the National Socialist period, etc.) and work carried out in the extensive indoor and outdoor exhibitions as well as the digital archive provide a foundation for in-depth examination of / critical confrontation with the theme in question. The historical documents provide evidence on how genocide was carried out at Auschwitz with the help of the Topf & Sons company, and thus form an important basis for confronting right-wing extremist ideologies and revisionist strategies of Holocaust denial. Cooperation with initiatives and institutions such as the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Erfurt im Nationalsozialismus (study group on Erfurt under National Socialism) and the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation create bonds between the Topf & Sons site and the other local and regional efforts concerned with remembering National Socialism.

The educational process follows a dialogical principle. By studying and absorbing knowledge of history, young people develop a reflective awareness of history and are encouraged to arrive at their own independent assessments. Learning-by-research and the source-critical approach to history are the basic building blocks for a form of historical-political education capable of being related to issues of relevance to the present. By developing and creating their own product within the framework of the educational activities at the Place of Remembrance, the young people learn how to express and try out their newly acquired knowledge, insights and attitudes in their everyday environments. The examples of the owners and the Topf & Sons employees illustrate the role of the individual in the context of society, as well as the power of societal structures. The activities provide a means of experiencing how history is created through the making of individual choices in decisive situations.

Contact us

Please contact us for further details on guided tours/projects and to set up an appointment.