After long debates about the where and how of a place of remembrance for the victims of the Nazi dictatorship but also for the resistance against it, the NS Documentation Centre of the City of Krefeld, then called NS Documentation and Meeting Centre, was opened at Friedrich-Ebert-Straße 42 on 24 November 1991.
The decisive factor for the choice of location was the double history of the house: on the one hand, it contained the only surviving murals by the artist Heinrich Campendonk, who was ostracised by the Nazis; on the other hand, it was once the home of the Jew Richard Merländer, who was murdered by the Nazis. Although there was a fundamental agreement between all parties on the necessity of establishing a municipal memorial, there were nevertheless tough political controversies about the institution in its decided form. The integration of the documentation centre into the rooms of the city archive was also hotly debated as an alternative at the time. After the final decision was made, the documentation centre was initially understaffed and underfunded, which led leading personalities in Krefeld to consider founding an association to support the documentation and educational work in the Villa Merländer in word and deed.
On 14 March 1992, the association was founded. In addition to the central task of supporting the work of the documentation centre, it was always a major concern of the association to represent civic engagement across party lines in its committees and structures. In particular, the board should include representatives from politics, trade unions and administration. The founding members elected the then mayor Rita Thies (Bündnis90/ Die Grünen) as the first chairperson and councillor Gerda Schnell (SPD) as deputy chairperson. The head of the city archive, Paul Günter Schulte, and the physician Dr. Stefan tho Pesch were also elected to the board. Rudolf Pilger was also one of the founding and board members, and today he is one of the association's honorary members, along with Wilma and Herbert Campendonk, Aurel Billstein, Dr. Eugen Gerritz and Götz Waninger. In order to further support the idea of a civic anchoring of the association, a board of trustees was subsequently founded, in which leading representatives of Krefeld's urban society expressed their commitment.
The first chairperson of the association, Rita Thies, was succeeded in 1999 by the councillor and cultural policy spokesperson of the SPD parliamentary group, Dr. Eugen Gerritz, under whose aegis, among other things, the "Merländer-Brief" was created, an information letter with which the activities of the association were communicated to the citizens and which is still an important medium of the association's work today. When Dr. Gerritz stepped down as chairman in 2005, the association already had 180 members. This positive development continued under his successors. From 2005 to 2014, the long-time mayor Mechthild Staudenmeier led the association, followed by councillor Barbara Behr until 2020, who in turn set important accents in the association's work.