Border transit camp Friedland

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Accommodation in the Friedland camp

The border transit camp Friedland is located in the Lower Saxon municipality of Friedland in the district of Göttingen. It was first used after World War II for displaced Germans from the former German eastern territories and the Sudetenland. The border transit camp was built by the British occupation forces on the site of the Agricultural Research Station of the University of Göttingen, which had been relocated to Friedland, and was put into operation on 20 September 1945.[1][2] Currently, the GDL Friedland is a site of the Landesaufnahmebehörde Niedersachsen (LAB NI). It is also called the gateway to freedom.[3][4]


Returnees in the Friedland camp, 1955

Storage barracks, 1958

The border transit camp consisted of former stable buildings of the University of Göttingen[5] as well as barracks and Nissen huts. Friedland’s location at the border point of the British Occupation Zone (Lower Saxony), the American Occupation Zone (Hesse) and the Soviet Occupation Zone (Thuringia) as well as at the important railway line between Hanover and Kassel (railway line Bebra-Göttingen) predestined the site for a refugee camp. In the beginning, thousands of members of the Wehrmacht arrived during the day. They received the so-called D2-Schein as a document of their discharge from military service,[6] their military pay and a discharge allowance,[7] and civilian clothing donated by Caritas.[8]

It was planned that refugees would stay only 24 hours if possible; they were medically examined and disinfected.[9] Building materials were confiscated and prisoners of war were used for the expansion of the camp.[10] The camp was equipped with a barbed wire fence and barriers at the entrances; visitors needed passes.[11] There were three types of barracks: For mothers with small children, for men and for women.[12] A former German officer was soon appointed head of the camp.[13] The refugees were entitled to the rations of the German civilian population.[14] The arrival of groups of children presented a particularly difficult situation for the staff; attempts were made to locate relatives and, in cooperation with the German Red Cross (DRK), escorted trips were organized; later it became customary to notify relatives by telegraph to come and collect their children.[15] There were special tracing service broadcasts on the radio, and posters were put up.

In November 1945, a post of the German Caritas Association began its work in Friedland.[16] The British Salvation Army and the YMCA were also represented.[17] In 1957, the Friedlandhilfe Association was founded to help the new arrivals with their reintegration.[18] The aid organisation was under the long-standing leadership of Johanne Büchting and raised around DM 100 million in donations.

Refugee origin

Homecoming memorial, erected 1967/68

Street in the camp, 1988

In the years following the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of returning prisoners of war were initially received in Friedland. Due to the large number, a branch office was temporarily established in Dassel. After a trip to Moscow by the then Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the last prisoners of war were able to return from the Soviet Union in 1955. To welcome the returnees, the hymn ” Nun danket alle Gott” was sung as the “Choral von Friedland”. For the returnees and prisoners of war, the monumental memorial to the returnees was erected on the Hagenberg hill in Friedland in 1967/68.

Later, the camp was used as a transitional camp for repatriates from the GDR, and today it is primarily used as a reception facility for ethnic German repatriates. Since 1 October 2000, the GDL Friedland has been the only federal initial reception facility for ethnic German repatriates in Germany. Since 1 January 2011, the border transit camp has been the official initial reception facility for asylum seekers in Lower Saxony.[19]

In addition, people from other countries were also admitted:[20][2] 1956 refugees from Hungary after the Hungarian national uprising, 1973 persecutees of the Pinochet regime from Chile, 1978 mainly boat people from Vietnam,[21] Tamils from Sri Lanka in 1984 and refugees from Albania in 1990. At the end of March 2009, the first 122 of a total of 2,500 refugees from Iraq landed in Hanover on a special plane from Damascus and were brought to the border transit camp Friedland. Almost all of them belonged to the Christian minority, which is persecuted in Iraq.[22] In 2013, the first of 5000 contingent refugees from Syria arrived as a result of the Syrian civil war.[23] Most of them came from a refugee camp in Lebanon and were selected there by the UNHCR, Caritas and the International Organization for Migration, among others.[24]

Museum Friedland

Reconstructed Nissen hut in the Friedland camp, exhibition site of the Friedland Museum

On 18 March 2016, the Museum Friedland was opened by Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil and Lower Saxony’s Minister of the Interior Boris Pistorius.[25] The museum is located near the camp in the former station building, which was remodeled at a cost of five million euros. It presents the history of the camp, contemporary history since 1945 and individual escape stories. By 2020, the museum is to be expanded to include an information centre and an international academy.[26] The costs of 20 million euros are shared by the federal government and the state of Lower Saxony.[27]


To date (2018), the GDL Friedland has had two plays as its subject. In 2009, Werkgruppe 2 staged the play “Friedland”‘ together with the Deutsches Theater Göttingen.[28] In 2014, a play premiered as a cooperation project between the University of Göttingen and the Junge Theater under the title “Schön, dass ihr da seid”.[29][30] The documentary film “Whiplash” was later released for this cooperation project.[31]

See also

  • Friedland bell
  • The “Homecoming of the Ten Thousand”


  • Dagmar Kleineke: Origins and Development of the Friedland Camp 1945-1955. Dissertation thesis University of Göttingen, Göttingen 1992, 281 (II) pp.
  • Jürgen Gückel: 60 Jahre Lager Friedland. Contemporary witnesses report. (Extended offprint of the series 60 Jahre Lager Friedland, published in the Göttinger Tageblatt in 2005) Göttinger Tageblatt, Göttingen 2005, 96 p.
  • Wilhelm Tomm: Bewegte Jahre, erzählt Geschichte. Evangelische Diakonie im Grenzdurchgangslager Friedland 1945-1985. Published by the Inner Mission and the Evangelisches Hilfswerk im Grenzdurchgangslager Friedland e. V. 2nd edition. Bremer, Friedland 2005, 322 p., ISBN 3-9803783-5-7
  • Authors’ collective: Border transit camp Friedland. 1945-2000. Ministry of the Interior of Lower Saxony, Department for Press and Public Relations, Hanover 2001, 23 pp.
  • Jürgen Asch (editor): Findbuch zum Auswahlbestand Nds. 386. Grenzdurchgangslager Friedland, acc. 67/85, 1951-1973. Publications of the Lower Saxony Archive Administration: Inventories and smaller writings of the Main State Archive in Hanover (Heft 3). Hahn, Hannover 1992, 431 (XVII) pp.
  • Josef Reding: Friedland. Chronicle of the Great Homecoming. This book was written in the winter of 1955/56 in Barrack C3 of the Friedland camp. Arena, Würzburg 1989, 214 p., ISBN 3-401-02510-4
  • Regina Löneke, Ira Spieker: Hort der Freiheit: Ethnographische Annäherungen an das Grenzdurchgangslager Friedland. Schnelldruckerei Rambow, Göttingen 2014, 212 p., ISBN 978-3-00-047513-9
  • Dirk Lange, Sven Rößler: Repräsentationen der Migrationsgesellschaft. Das Grenzdurchgangslager Friedland im historisch-politischen Schulbuch. 2012, ISBN 978-3-8340-1134-3
  • Joachim Baur and Lorraine Bluche (eds.), Fluchtpunkt Friedland, Über das Grenzdurchgangslager 1945 bis heute, Göttingen 2017, ISBN 978-3-8353-3012-2
  • Sascha Schießl,“Das Tor zur Freiheit”, Kriegsfolgen, Erinnerungspolitik und humanitärer Anspruch im Lager Friedland (1945-1970), Göttingen 2016, ISBN 978-3-8353-1845-8
  • Sascha Schießl: Das Lager Friedland als Tor zur Freiheit. Vom Erinnerungsort zum Symbol bundesdeutscher Humanität, in: Niedersächsisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte, 84 (2012), pp. 97-122
  • Dagmar Kleineke: Origin and Development of the Camp Friedland 1945-1955, Dramfeld 1994
  • Regina Löneke/Ira Spieker (eds.): Hort der Freiheit. Ethnographic Approaches to the Border Transit Camp Friedland, Göttingen 2014
  • Derek John Holmgren: “Gateway to Freedom” and Instrument of Order. The Friedland Transit Camp. 1945-1955, Chapel Hill 2010

Web links

Commons: Camp Friedland– Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual references

  1. Municipality of Friedland: Border transit camp(Memento of 5 December 2004 in the Internet Archive)
  2. a b The history of the border transit camp on the homepage of the state of Lower Saxony
  3. Friedland – the “Gateway to Freedom
  4. The “Gateway to Freedom
  5. NDR:“Gateway to freedom”: Friedland transit camp.Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  6. Dagmar Kleineke: Entstehung und Entwicklung des Lagers Friedland 1945-1955. Dissertationsschrift Universität Göttingen, Göttingen 1992, here p. 111.
  7. Kleineke 127
  8. Kleineke 132
  9. Kleineke 21
  10. Kleineke 33
  11. Kleineke 35
  12. Kleineke 36
  13. Kleineke 43
  14. Kleineke 88
  15. Kleineke 91 f.
  16. The Caritas office in the border transit camp Friedland
  17. Kleineke 220
  18. The homepage of the association Friedlandhilfe(Memento of 12 February 2006 in the Internet Archive)
  19. History of the border transit camp and initial reception facility Friedland.Bundesverwaltungsamt, retrieved 23 January 2019.
  20. Friedland transit camp and Iraqis find asylum in Germany in “Mainzer Rhein-Zeitung”, 20 March 2009, pages 2 and 4
  21. 30 years after Boat People in Germany(Memento from February 3, 2014 in the Internet Archive) on
  22. Der Tagesspiegel: First Iraqis in the Friedland camp
  23. Gauck promises Syrian refugees respect of November 21, 2013
  24. Lee Hielscher, Mathias Fiedler:The Humanitarian Exception Program.Hinterland Magazine, accessed August 14, 2016.
  25. NDR:Border transit camp: Weil inaugurates new Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  26. “Museum Grenzdurchgangslager Friedland”
  27. Museum Friedland is open: Everyone can go on a journey through time.18 March 2016, retrieved 14 August 2016.
  28. Friedland – a staged camp installation at
  29. Preview of the Young Theatre in the border transit camp in Göttinger Tageblatt from 27 October 2014
  30. Tina Fibiger about the premiere on 1 November 2014 at the Junge Theater Göttingen
  31. Becker, Oliver; Näser Torsten:Whiplash: Research learning at the intersection of science and art.In:Working together.Practices of coordination and cooperation in collaborative processes. Groth, Stefan; Ritter, Christian, 2019, accessed May 2, 2020.

Coordinates 51° 25′ 22″ N, 9° 54′ 40″ O