Transformative landscapes: liminality and visitors’ emotional experiences at German memorial sites

Doreen Pastor, Alexander J. Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)


The atrocities of Nazi Germany included the radical transformation of natural landscapes. At Ravensbrück (Brandenburg), a lakeside setting became the site of the largest women’s concentration camp in Germany, processing approximately 159,000 inmates until 1945. Similarly, at Flossenbürg (Bavaria), a picturesque valley in the Oberpfälzer Wald housed a large concentration camp with approximately 100,000 inmates over seven years and a granite quarry to support Hitler’s extensive construction programme. After the war, part of Ravensbrück became a Soviet Army base, while large sections of Flossenbürg were removed to make way for a new housing and industrial development. Along with other former camps (particularly Auschwitz-Birkenau), parts of these landscapes were developed into memorial sites that aim to provide a liminal experience for visitors–a ‘rite of passage’. In attempting to regain a sense of place that evokes the trauma of the past, the landscapes of the memorial sites of Ravensbrück and Flossenbürg were recently altered to resemble their appearance in 1945. For visitors, however, the aesthetic experience of these landscapes lies in stark contrast to the narrative they encounter at both sites; they are surprised to see signs of life, objecting to modernisation at Ravensbrück or the existence of a supermarket next to the memorial site in Flossenbürg. This paper examines the transformative processes of these landscapes and explores how their liminality is constructed, experienced and challenged. Through empirical visitor research conducted at both sites, it provides a critical evaluation of the narrative given to visitors and suggests how these important sites can offer a more engaging ‘rite of passage’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-272
Number of pages23
JournalTourism Geographies
Issue number2
Early online date24 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2020


  • Germany
  • Liminality
  • memorial sites
  • memory tourism
  • palimpsest
  • visitor maps
  • visitor research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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