In 1960 the Struthof executive board decided to create a museum in the only remaining dormitory barracks. On, the day of the annual ceremony, veterans’ affairs minister Jean Sainteny inaugurated the first exhibition there. It presented many original objects that were the result of a collection and of spontaneous donations by former deportees.
In 1976 arson ravaged the museum, destroying over 95% of the collections. A few objects were salvaged and put in the barracks, which was rebuilt to look exactly like it once did. After more acts of vandalism in 1979, former Neuengamme deportee Alfred Mantzer and former Dora deportee Paul Blasy set up an exhibition with the participation of executive board member Annick Burgard. President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing inaugurated it on 29 June 1980.
At the same time as the creation of the European Centre , the museum was entirely redesigned to focus solely on the history of Natzweiler concentration camp and its subcamps. It opened to the public in November 2005.
As soon as visitors enter the museum, the film From Struthof to KL-Natzweiler shows, in a few minutes, the site as it was before the war and its transformation into concentration camp. The superimposition of images of the past over the present remains helps them feel as though they are at the heart of the events that occurred here 60 years ago.
Then visitors learn about the camp’s creation and organisation, the deportees and their daily lives, omnipresent terror and death, the subcamps, the medical experiments, the end of the camp, the trials, memory, etc.
The exhibition features collections of photos, archival documents, original objects and drawings, in particular by deported Resistance member Henri Gayot. One space has been built to resemble the inside of a barracks as it was at the time. In June 2006 an interactive terminal giving access to all the information in the registry of camp deportees was inaugurated.
Visitors see the camp’s remains when they step out of the museum.
On one of the former roll call squares they can read the plaque in homage to foreign deportees who died at the camp and the gallows. Then they walk in front of the former kitchen barracks and along the death ravine to reach the crematory oven, medical experiment and cell blocks. This is where the deportees arrived, between two buildings. And where the hell of concentration camp life began.
The gas chamber, located outside the camp, is also open to the public.