Neuengamme was established in 1938 as a subcamp of Sachsenhausen. In the spring of 1940, it became an independent concentration camp, the central concentration camp for northwest Germany.
The Neuengamme camp was chosen because of a strong connection to economic interests of the SS, mainly the brickworks for Hamburg. When it became a main concentration camp, the living conditions also dramatically changed, with hunger being the main cause of death amongst the prisoners, death rates sometimes rising to 10% per month.
The economic enterprises attached to the subcamps did not want these sick and weakened prisoners, so they were returned to the main camp to be replaced. At the end, the majority of the Neuengamme prisoners were incapable of working, and were de facto left to themselves in convalescent blocks with reduced rations. It is likely that about 55,000 prisoners held in Neuengamme and its subcamps did not survive.
Neuengamme is part of a series of journeys that I'm undertaking to photograph the blue skies precisely above the (last known) location of every single one of the 1,075 concentration camps that have ever existed, as part of an photography/book/installation project called The Blue Skies Project. The project has proven quite immense and almost impossible to hold on to single-handedly – with staggering logistics to match – but I'm hanging in there.