Memory and commemoration

Cologne between Dictatorship and Tolerance

The National Socialists had a decisive impact on the life of people in Cologne. Only a short time after the Nazis came to power, they began to deploy their policy of exclusion and persecution of Cologne citizens for ethnic, political and religious reasons. Most people in the city adapted to the rogue regime. The opposition and resistance of the few was broken as early as the mid-1930s. By the end of the war Cologne was reduced to an expanse of rubble.


NS-Documentation Center

The NS-Dokumentationszentrum is located in the EL-DE-Haus which served as the headquarters of the Cologne Gestapo (secret police) between 1935 and 1945. The graffiti of prisoners in the cells that have been preserved in the basement is the most haunting and direct reminder of the horrors of that period. In 1981, the Gestapo prison became an official memorial site. The permanent exhibition “Köln im Nationalsozialismus”, which has been on display in the EL-DEHaus since June 1997, provides comprehensive information on all aspects of political and social life in Cologne during the Nazi period: Seizure of power and the machinery of oppression, propaganda and the “Volksgemeinschaft” (people’s community), everyday life, youth, religion, racial persecution and the holocaust of Cologne’s Jews, Sinti and Roma, resistance, war and wartime society.



Appellhofplatz 23-25
50667 Köln
T +49 221 221 26332
F +49 221 221 25512

information & events

Opening hours

Dienstag bis Sonntag 10 - 18 Uhr

Samstag und Sonntag 11 - 18 Uhr
Jeden ersten Donnerstag im Monat 10 - 22 Uhr
Montag geschlossen

an Feiertagen (auch montags!) geöffnet wie sonntags:
Karfreitag, Ostermontag, 1. Mai, Christi Himmelfahrt, Fronleichnam, Pfingstmontag, Tag der Deutschen Einheit (3. Okt.), Allerheiligen, 2. Weihnachtstag.

montags geschlossen
sowie an Heiligabend, 1. Weihnachtstag, Silvester und Neujahr.


Private group tours

What happened at the EL-DE-Haus? Guided tour for families

Basic guided tour

Of Navajos and Edelweiss Pirates – a guided tour of the Ehrenfeld district

Booking a visit to the NS-Dokumentationszentrum without guided tour


Tips on the Theme

Cologne Synagogue

Cologne’s Jewish community is regarded as the oldest north of the Alps. After a chequered history, it is now one of the largest Jewish communities in Germany and numbers 5,000 members. The community offers guided tours for groups of the Great Synagogue in Roonstraße and of the Jewish cemetery in Bocklemünd. Tours can be arranged on any day, except Fridays, Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Male participants, including children, are requested to cover their heads (scull cap, hat, baseball cap or similar).



Synagogen-Gemeinde Köln
Ottostraße 85 / Eingang Nußbaumerstraße
50823 Köln-Ehrenfeld
T +49(0)221.71662-0


Following in Hilde Domin’s Tracks

Hilde Domin described her life as a linguistic odyssey, travelling from one language to another. She grew up in the Agnes district in Cologne and went to Heidelberg and Italy for her studies. In 1940 she emigrated with her husband to England and from there to her final exile, the Dominican Republic. Hilde Domin juggled with languages, above all with those of her adopted home countries.



Kölner Frauengeschichtsverein e.V.
Marienplatz 4 · 50676 Köln
T +49(0)221.248-265


“Of Navajos and Edelweiss Pirates". Guided tour of the Cologne Ehrenfeld District

This tour of one the most distinctive Cologne districts introduces you to the youth groups persecuted by the Nazi regime which were known as “Navajos” and later “Edelweiss Pirates”. Afterwards you visit the Gestapo prison memorial in the NS-Dokumentationszentrum where you follow in the tracks of these rebellious youth groups.


Cologne during the Nazi Period – Truth and Legends

A guided tour of the city centre familiarises you with everyday life during the Nazi period (1933-45). How, for example, did the Jews in Cologne manage to get to safety? How did life change for women in the Nazi era? What developments in today’s cityscape have their roots in that period? Another topic is the way this part of history is dealt with in Cologne, whether it is about the creation of legends or the truth.



Hohe Pforte 22 · 50676 Köln
T +49(0) 221.9654595


Mikvah, Ma’alot and Tripping Stones

The existence of a flourishing Jewish community in Cologne is documented as early as 321 AD. The Jews were not spared progroms as the excavations around the mikvah on the town hall square show. Often it is just the commemorative plaques on buildings or the tripping stones incorporated into the pavements by the artist Gunter Demnig that bear witness to the history of the Jews in Cologne. What is no longer visible lives on in memory. The search for traces takes visitors to places where Jewish history becomes visible and audible. The tour starts with “Ma’alot”, a work by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan.



Am Duffesbach 41 · 50677 Köln
T +49(0)221.327-576


Suggested Programme: Between Prejudice and Tolerance

Day 1: Lest we forget

The NS-Dokumentationszentrum is a unique place dedicated to the process of coming to terms with the history of National Socialism in Cologne. In the basement of the building, the prison cells of the secret police have been preserved. The roughly 1,800 examples of graffiti by prisoners are a poignant documentation of their fate. Witnesses of that period talk about their experience in the permanent collection. Strolling through the district after your visit, you will find a large number of Italian cafés and bars in the lanes around St. Aposteln and also a few gay clubs. Cologne’s proverbial open- mindedness has made the city a magnet for gays and lesbians. Tolerance is also at the heart of a trip to the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Neumarkt in the afternoon. Her work is a moving warning against barbarism and lack of social compassion.


Day 2: Exploring Jewish History

It is essential to look very closely if you intend to explore Jewish history in Cologne. A guided tour of the city centre which highlights the past as well as the present will help you in your exploration. Have you come across the “tripping stones”? Look at the pavement. Next we recommend a visit to the Kölnisches Stadtmuseum – the museum of the city’s history – to integrate your newly acquired knowledge about Jewish history into a larger context. In the afternoon your group may want to pay a visit to the Great Synagogue which has become the new centre of Jewish life in Cologne. In the surrounding streets of the Belgian quarter or the “Kwartier Latäng” with its large student
community there are numerous cafés where you can review your day.