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The Leeds-Dortmund Project
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Psychogeographical mapping of coincidence in Leeds and Dortmund. Drifting through superimposed narratives of two cities at once. The Leeds-Dortmund Project

||| dortmund: miscellaneous |||
Any general information about wartime Dortmund will be presented here. Some may apply to Dortmund throughout the war, or may not relate to specific dates or those locations that have been identified as important to the project.

Bittermark Memorial

In January 1945 the SS issued orders from Berlin to Duesseldorf which resulted in the mass execution of German and overseas workers, as well as political dissidents and opposition party representatives, in the closing days of World War Two.

Following the orders from Duesseldorf Gestapo officers in Dortmund rounded up more and more people and took them to the police cells 'Steinwache' and the Gestapo cells in the 'Benninghoferstrasse.' In addition, forced labourers (Dutch, Belgian, French, Polish, Yugoslavian and Russian) from all over the local government district of Arnsberg were also brought to Dortmund.

The executions commenced from the 7th March 1945 onwards as lorries systematically carried groups of prisoners to the fields in the Rombergpark and the Bittermark (suburbs of Dortmund) and Gestapo officers shot them. This continued until 12th April 1945, when American soldiers were already in the near vicinity.

Shortly after Easter, the 150-strong Gestapo execution commando fled via Hemer and Iserlohn for destinations all over the world. 27 of them were brought to trial in Dortmund in 1951 and 1952. 15 of the accused were found not guilty and no-one was found guilty of murder. However, 12 were found guilty of being accomplices to murder and received between 2 and 6 years in prison.

Around 300 people - the exact number has never been established - were killed in the days over Easter 1945.

One of the victims was the resistance member Martha Gillessen (born 30.11.1901), who took in a Jewish woman. She was betrayed by a comrade and arrested by the Gestapo on 08. February 1945, along with many other resistance members. A street in the north of Dortmund is named after Martha Gillessen.

[Excerpt from] Urich Sander, 1945: Mass murder in Romberg Park and the Bittermark

Good Friday Ceremony

In 1960, Dortmund City Council commissioned the artist Karel Niestrath to produce a sculpture in honour of the victims of the Easter 1945 executions. This memorial sculpture was sited in the Bittermark.

Each year on Good Friday a memorial service takes place at the memorial sculpture in the Bittermark/Dortmund for the representatives of the Workers' Parties and the forced labourers who were killed.

The service is traditionally held in French and German, and is usually well-attended. In 2000, among others, the Lord Mayor of Dortmund and the president of the French Association for Forced Labourers both spoke at the service. The Dortmund People's Choir sang, and workers from 'German Coal' provided the music.


After heavy bomb attacks house walls were often the only source of information. The inhabitants of a bombed house used white or coloured chalk to write the address of their new place of residence.

[Translated from]
Gerhard Sollbach (ed), Bombenkrieg und Nachkriegsalltag: 1939-1948, p.154

Lübecker Hof

The Dortmund court prison, Lübecker Hof, was occasionally one of the central execution places of the Third Reich. After 1943 a Guillotine had been set up there, in order to relieve the execution place in Cologne, to date responsible for Dortmund. Between 2 July 1943 and 5 January 1945 more than 300 women and men were executed there. It often concerned itself with foreign or German resistance fighters.

[Translated from]
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