|Wrapping the Dead in Silence?|
Dr. Anna Elisabeth Rosmus
Following the liberation of the labor camp at Schlupfing1 and the Kirchham concentration camp2 near Pocking in Northeastern Bavaria by General Patton's Third Army, on May 2nd 1945,3 the few Jewish survivors set up their own communities. Survivors of other camps joined them.4 Their coexistence with the inhabitants of the surrounding Catholic farming villages was marked by conflict and distrust.
Supported by various American relief organizations, the community achieved some stability, but the barracks had no heat, no running water and toilets.5 As many encountered vicious pogroms in their former hometowns, at least 1,000 additional Polish survivors left Kielce, Cracow and other towns in Eastern Europe and came to Pocking in 1946.6 Soon, there were over 8,000 of them.7 The locals met this flourishing community with open mistrust and often hatred.8 The foreigners were not tolerated, but once again ostracized.9 For decades, a patch of farmland was bearing witness of the survivors' hardship.10
In 1945 many of the infants born in the Pocking camp died shortly after their birth. Their death toll was strikingly high; much higher than in adjacent camps for displaced persons (DPs). As the Jews of Pocking could not afford to bury their children in existing Jewish cemeteries farther a field; to give them a ritual burial, they established a temporary burial ground of their own, just beyond the concentration camp memorial on Highway B 12.11
The military government became alarmed. The ensuing investigation had shocking results: Jewish parents testified that in the first months after the war their infants were being killed by a midwife. Solomon B.12 reported that the midwife pushed a dirty needle into the babies' fontanels', a small and extremely sensitive spot on their skulls. An American court, he stated, subsequently sentenced the midwife to prison for life. Abraham E.13 recalled this affair to have received wide attention.
At that point the Americans hired Frederick Orenstein,14 who had received his medical education in France and practiced in Warsaw before the war.15 A survivor of various camps himself,16 he was now part of an UNRRA17 team and the areas' chief obstetrician.18 Every week, he helped deliver several babies, whose numbers peaked nine months after the liberation of their parents. Still, more children died; mostly due to a lack of folic acids, the consequence of their parents' chronic malnourishment in the concentration camps.19 These children were also buried in the new cemetery. Soon, there were fifty two newborns and three adults.20
Erasing the past
When the fence around the Jewish children's cemetery was ripped out in 1948, the Jewish community filed suit on the grounds of desecration of a cemetery. But the senior state attorney refused to investigate the case. He expressed the opinion that someone had simply needed the wire and the wooden fence posts and had walked off with them.21
The Jews of Pocking then received a clear ultimatum: By February 14, 1949, all DPs had to leave.22 The remaining 500 left the barracks on the night of the 13th, heading for Marseilles via Munich.23 The Passauer Neue Presse reported about "clearing out the Pocking DP camp. Everything was taken apart, from the water pump to the window panes".24 Today, no trace of the camp is left.
The Hebrew word for cemetery means "place of graves", "dwelling place of eternity", also "dwelling place of all life" and "house of the living". A cemetery is traditionally laid out at least 50 yards from the nearest house.25 The care taken of this place since the Talmudic period is reflected in the saying that Jewish gravestones are better kept than royal palaces.26 This spot is not to be used for any other purpose. Even the traditional tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylactery) may not be worn there, and no Torah scrolls are to be read, least the dead feel ashamed that they are no longer able to participate in the ritual.
This cemetery is different. The bodies of the 52 children and three adults are still lying there today. The graves were not taken into custody of the state administration, since the Free State of Bavaria claimed that they did not belong to the category of graves of "victims of war and the regime of violence" which the state is obliged to maintain.27
The graves were soon indiscernible: in the fifties the communal administration sold the cemetery to a farmer who owned land adjacent to it. He acquired the strip of land for pennies.28 Since that time, not only grass has been allowed to grow over the bodies but also corn and rapeseed. "Not potatoes," explained the farmer, " they would just grow right into the corpses."
Private initiatives to restore memory
Since November 9, 1985, I have referred again and again to these graves and the boundless negligence they have suffered. Since 1988 there has been detailed documentation to this effect in the press and on radio and television. I published relevant documents in my books Wintergreen- Suppressed Murders, and Pocking.29
For ten years, I demanded in vain that all the inscriptions be restored in full and that the graveyard be re-dedicated. There were responses from the "rest" of the world. Morley Safer from CBS TV program 60 Minutes considered the whole situation so evil that he came over and did two segments about it since 1994.30 Canada's Prime Time News and dozens of other TV stations reported about the horrible desecrations and the perverted bias. In Bavaria, nobody was willing to restore the sacred places. After all, it happened decades ago, and the victims were foreigners, not locals.
The archives of Pocking allegedly held nothing about the graves, and the population did not want to talk about it. In general, they want to disassociate themselves from the burial ground. In March 1993, Athra Kadisha from Israel was discussing flying to occupy this field, as had been done with a piece of property in Hamburg in 1991. The Jewish community of Gothenborg, Sweden, planned in September 1992 to come "in large numbers and with a throng of reporters" in order to say Kaddish here in public.
But it was only on May 2, 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of the Kirchham concentration camp, that a Rabbi once again prayed here: Rabbi Paul Silton traveled from Albany, New York, for this express purpose.31 He was accompanied by some survivors32 and Miriam Griver-Meisels, a former DP-child of Pocking.33 They all said Kaddish for the dead34 Blue and white flowers in the shape of a star of David were laid. The ribbon read "remember the children."35
The grain field beyond highway B 12 has become a memorial of a special kind. The dead children who lie there are not simply children whose parents were in a concentration camp, they are dead children whom no one wanted to acknowledge. Dead children who are publicly effaced. More than grass has covered them up in Germany, the country of the Nazi perpetrators, only a few years after the war.
I was determined to cooperate with some of the survivors and DP children, who longed for a memorial. We would build one ourselves. I was certain that Gerda Fraundorfer36 from Bavaria's government would not dare to prevent the survivors and myself from setting it up. After all, the graveyard is theirs. She has never been entitled to interfere.37 Ten more years would pass, however, for that plan to materialize.
When I informed Shelly Shapiro and Rabbi Paul Silton from Temple Israel in Albany, N.Y., about the project, Holocaust Survivors & Friends in Pursuit of Justice established a tax-deductible account. The American Jewish Committee assisted us to raise the necessary funds. While I created a sketch with obvious symbolism, Faye Sholitan in Cleveland, Ohio started a letter campaign. After that, Gerda Fraundorfer acknowledged the existence of this cemetery and promised to take care of it. As the evidence for the children's cemetery mounted and public pressure increased to do something about it, Gerda Fraundorfer decided to place a small granite cubit at the site.38 No public statement, no ceremony or anything else; the granite staircase leading up there, from the memorial site for the victims of the concentration camp was still in shambles. One could not use it without risking a serious fall. There was still no hand railing that would allow visitors to hold on to.
For the 60th anniversary of VE-day, in 2005, Holocaust Survivors, US veterans and I were ready to return. For the dedication ceremony, I chose May 6th, the international Yom Ha Shoah - the day of Remembrance. I would accompany former DP- children,39 veterans and widows of men in General Patton's Third US army back to Pocking; in 1945, these divisions had liberated the camp and guarded its inmates until they were safe. Now, they wanted to bring their spouses, children and grandchildren to see whether the dead from back are still surrounded by communal silence.
Fritz Hirsch at Stein Schwate, a local firm that specializes in headstones for graveyards, agreed to wrap a Star of David around the existing cube. For months, Anny and Georg Rosmus, a retired teacher and a principal in Passau, continuously monitored the location, they called and faxed back and forth between Germany and the USA to ensure the progress of the work.
On May 1st, 2005 the monument was firmly in place.40 Subdued gray granite from the Bavarian Forest was used to shape the star's outlining; blood-colored, meandering veins run across its heart, embracing the solid cube, as if holding an urn; the kind the Nazi regime used to send out to the families of those "deceased". Gory remnants of a specific point in time embraced by a timeless, elegant star under the open sky.
Because Gerda Fraundorfer still did not see any reason to clear any of the wild brush or to repair the staircase and the handrail,41 before the elderly visitors headed for airplanes, Anny Rosmus turned to Pocking's Mayor Josef Jakob. He immediately agreed to put in all that work at the expense of his community. In addition, he offered some volunteers to guide the visitors across the gravel field and then up there.42
Students of Passau's School for Foreign Languages translated all remarks for the memorial dedication, so that both audiences, locals and their visitors from the past, could follow. A flute ensemble from the Wilhelm Diess Secondary School in Pocking practiced Jewish melodies.
After 60 years of persistent silence in this region, many people truly united; local hospitality matched the outgoing guests.43 For two days in a row, Mayor Jakob sent a driver to the airport in Munich, to pick up his guests of honor: A plane from Israel carried Miriam44 and Yehudit, the daughters of Rabbi Lipot Yehudah Meisels and their sons Yair45 and Naaman. A plane from the United States brought in Shelly Shapiro,46 the builder of the monument. Pocking's driver also picked up Gina Roitman,47 a writer from Montreal who used to live in the DP camp with her family.
On May 6th, in pouring rain, we dedicated the new monument. Side by side with the children who once lived in the town of Pocking respectively in the adjacent DP camp, stood once again US veterans from the 65th and 71st division. The ceremony came in midst of their tour that spanned two weeks of retracing their combat route; within the many events in the last ten cities, their first "Jewish" event contributed a visibly emotional touch.
After Yehudith Mazor was lighting yellow commemorative Jahrzeit candles, and Lower Bavaria's district Rabbi Shlomo Appel began to sing the El Moleh Rahmim, her sister Miriam commemorated their father, Yehuda Lipot Meisels, who built both cemeteries and buried the children; Naaman Mazor and Yair Griver recalled their grandfather, before I closed the circle and talked about our close cooperation since he passed away.48
All remarks, commemorating those who suffered and cared, reflected their indomitable will to build bridges, here, there, and everywhere. For the first time ever, the Catholic church chorus from St. Ulrich sang the Jewish Partisan Hymn Zog nit keynmol by Hirsch Glick.
As a toddler, Bea Grace helped to shape the first star of David over those graves, with long stemmed white roses her grandmother bought. Now, she returned in US military fatigue49 to introduce the survivor and obstetrician Frederick Orenstein, before she carried two intertwined hearts up the stairs, one formed of deep blue forget-me-nots, hugging the other in white baby breath.
The granite star itself was now embraced by a group of knowledgeable friends and active allies.50 Shelly Shapiro, Director of the Holocaust Survivors & Friends Education Center in Albany, NY dedicated it and Human Rights Commissioner Susan Pentlin from Missouri talked about DP mothers and their undying love for their children.51 She concluded with the words: "Today, these Jewish babies have hopefully found some peace and this memorial is a reminder to this community of the love and dignity every human being deserves. "Gina Roitman, one of the surviving DP-children, read From A to Z, one of her poems.
Cameras could not get enough of it. The Daily Gazette52 (Schenectady NY) and the Jewish World53 reported on the dedication. Photographs from the Passauer Neue Presse began to circle the globe, and a Canadian TV crew was shooting scenes for Jane Hawtin's up-coming documentary I am a Jew.54
Afterwards, the orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Appel from Israel said Kaddish in his synagogue,55 while local non-Jews and the liberal US Air Force Rabbi Donald Levy56 presented a rather traditional Sabbath service and meal at Passau's legendary Grand City Hall; it was the first ever held there, in public, to and with the few Jews who made it and returned.
The Student Association of Foreign Languages sang: "We are the people of the 21st century."57 Yehudith Mazor lit the Sabbath candles. Yair Griver and Naaman Mazor said blessing over the bread; Fred Plotke, the son of Passau's Trudl Burian, blessed the wine. Hanns-Christian Niederfeilner (cello) and Katharina Brunner (piano) presented a pičce en forme de habanera by M. Ravel and excerpts from the Concerto in C-major by J. Haydn.
While seniors and youngsters, Americans and Canadians, Germans and Israelis enjoyed a kosher-style dinner, the Catholic singer/composer Martin Göth58 presented his own peace songs, and some from all involved societies. As he began to play Israeli melodies on the Steinway Grand Piano, Miriam, the president of Hadassah Israel, and others jumped up from their seats and began to dance - with local non-Jews.
In due time, however, the audience was reminded that freedom is never free. Passau-born Gina Roitman read her poem O History Mine! Bea Grace, the Passau-born legal specialist from the Center of the Judge Advocate General, recalled her turning 19 at the Tigris in Baghdad in 2003. Maynard Hanson59 recalled his turning 19 the night he crossed the Danube in Bavaria, in 1945. Film clips from 60 years ago showed Russian and American officers celebrating VE-day in the woods of Passau.
When Robert Patton, the immediate Past President 65th Division,60 talked about his love for German wine and played once again the Danube Boogie-Woogie, as he had done 60 years ago, before crossing the mighty Danube River, Georg Rosmus, a German War Veteran (and then briefly a US POW at age 17), presented him with a bottle of such wine. In the very end of the long evening, the Hungarian survivor Lewis Kest61 recalled his work for UNRRA and IRO62 in the Passau region. From Passau's conservative Lord Mayor Albert Zankl to the media,63 everybody pulled along nicely. In a sincere effort to comprehend the still unknown and in a newly found appreciation for it, they created a grand gesture that will reverberate for years to come, and help to shape a new path worthwhile pursuing.
A constant crossing of bridges between different parties and individuals made the whole day flow smoothly; be that between locals and foreigners, between clergy and non-believers, over eighty year-old survivors and three-year old children in the chorus, Jews and Non-Jews mingling on all levels. The concept of inclusion and a systematic effort to keep everything the way the guests were explicitly comfortable with paid off nicely for all. As a result, the dead from back then will no longer be wrapped in the much dreaded silence. They are embraced by the living.
Anna Rosmus, from Passau, Germany, who as a teenager discovered her hometown's hidden Nazi past, is the real-life heroine of the Oscar-nominated film The Nasty Girl. For 25 years she has dedicated her life to uncovering anti-democratic forces in her hometown in Bavaria and to combating the extreme right in Germany. In order to honor and preserve their memory, Anna Rosmus has interviewed numerous survivors from the Passau area. Her struggle for the truth led to threats against her life.
Anna Rosmus was awarded the highest honor of the German Jewish Community, the Galinski Prize. As a free lance writer, Anna Rosmus has contributed numerous articles to various scholarly anthologies, magazines and newspapers, such as La Pensée et les Hommes, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, The New York Times, The European and Aufbau.
Despite the opposition of her teachers and of the people who ran Bavaria's educational establishment in the late 1970s, Rosmus decided to examine the history of the town of Passau during the years of the Third Reich. She has never stopped, and in the process has found the bodies and identified living culprits.
Her books include Pocking: End and Renewal, Exodus: In the Shadow of Mercy,
A biography of Anna Rosmus was published in 1994 by Hans Dieter Schütt: Anna Rosmus-The Witch of Passau.
The University of South Carolina released her books Against The Stream.
To many, Anna Rosmus represents the legacy of the Holocaust in memory, education and action in the continuing struggle against bigotry and terrorism.
1) For details see Anna E. Rosmus, Pocking - Ende und Anfang. Jüdische Zeitzeugen über Befreier und Befreite (Pocking - End and Renewal. Jewish Witnesses on Liberators and the liberated Civilians), pp. 19-23, 1995, Labhard, Konstanz; [Back to essay]
3) That step was considered of such historic importance that wishful thinking placed the troops there a few days too early. Even The Daily Star Journal of April 26, 1945 in Warrensburg, Missouri titled in ultra fat print: "Yanks close in on Passau in Bavaria"; underneath, also in fat print: "BBC Dispatch Puts Third Army Troops 7 miles from Austrian Border, with Crossing Expected Soon." We read: "Patton's Third Army today closed in on the Bavarian fortress of Passau: 67 miles north of Berchtesgaden and 98 miles from Red Army forces storming in from the east to close the trap on Hitler's last citadel. Delayed front-line dispatches, lagging 12 hours and more behind Patton's racing tanks, said the Americans were only 11 miles from Passau last night and rolling unchecked through disorganized German opposition. There was every possibility that the Third Army would cross the Danube into Austrian soil near Passau within a matter of hours, if it had not already done so to close the northern arm of the Soviet-American pincers on the inner defenses of Nazidom's Bavarian redoute. Third Army Infantry division forced the Danube barrier at three points on an 18-mile front cast.." [Back to essay]
4) "The white star. It appeared again through the mists of the dawn, on the sides of tanks and sleeves of uniforms. A mythic symbol, a fabled image. How they all somehow knew with certainty that the American emblem was a white star had been lost in confused debate, but with a few exceptions, the belief prevailed that the enemy of their enemy wore a white star. None ever spoke of a day that they would actually see one. But here it was, in front of them, yards away. And no swastikas. Unimaginable. His fellow prisoners, similarly transfixed by the insignia now before them, started to stir. They shuffled into a sitting or standing position, liberating smells accumulated overnight: urine and feces of those too weak to control themselves, or just recently dead, the rotting decay of those who had died the previous nights. The barely perceptible odor of moist tubercular coughs. The silence was infiltrated by half whispered questions: 'can it be?' 'Did you see them go?' 'Can it really be?' 'Is there food?' ... Morning came, a misty, foggy morning, and the silence was broken only by whispers and the soft purring of the advancing tanks, the American tanks. The guards had fled and he was free, actually free.. The guards had left their rifles and fled.., men who had been prisoners, ghosts, less than human a moment ago were survivors now, taking their first hesitant, reluctant steps onto free soil. But he stood at the doorway, and wondered 'what now?' ... He had once weighed 180 pounds and could swim across the town lake and back. Now it took all his strength to lift the seventy-pound skeleton of the grain merchant, a man who also weighed close to 200 pounds at one time. He helped him slowly to his feet on the moist earth outside the train, and repeated this with the second man. Then he, too, finally stepped off the train. The grain merchant leaned against the doorway mouthing a prayer, tears streaming down his face, as if he had forgotten that his prayers no longer need be silent. In a reflex, Frederick began reciting the prayer himself. Like Henrik, he had long ago dismissed God, but now he was thanking God for salvation, a deep well of emotion rising spontaneously from his throat, into his eyes, bringing forth tears of pure joy, ecstasy, and triumph...Without being aware of it, he had walked to the white star that gleamed so brightly minutes before. His fingers reached out to the smooth, cool metal and lightly touched it as if to convince himself it was real, lingering in disbelief and awe. A hand tapped his shoulder. A tan, broad hand, healthy, as his own had once been. As his hands atrophied, he had lost confidence in himself: the nails, pitted and thin, the long bony fingers becoming claw-like. The guards themselves, he saw now had suffered some modest degree of malnutrition towards the end. Their hands, which he had studied for years, were also thinning out, weakening. He would have to tell Henrik, perhaps he could use that knowledge... The soldier said something he couldn't understand and held out a pack of cigarettes. Lucky Strikes. Leaning against the tank, Frederick could see a barn and a plowed field on either side, where many of the prisoners sat or stood in prayer, gratitude and fear. " Local survivors described those moments eerily similar to the situation Julian Orenstein describes in: WHAT NOW? by J.B. Orenstein in Potomac Review, a local literature magazine. Julian Orenstein, M.D. is an emergency room pediatrician, and the author of 365 Tips for Baby's First Year and 365 Ways to Calm Your Crying Child. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland. [Back to essay]
6) Anna E. Rosmus, Pocking - Ende und Anfang. Jüdische Zeitzeugen über Befreier und Befreite (Pocking - End and Renewal. Jewish Witnesses on Liberators and the liberated Civilians), 1995, Labhard, Konstanz, p. 197-198; [Back to essay]
7) "The Jewish DP Camp in Pocking, which was under the direct supervision of the 3rd district in Regensburg and administered by the UNRRA or the IRO Passau, respectively, was one of the largest of its kind with 8,000 occupants. A fairly large group of orthodox Chabad-Hassidim Jews congregated there. As a result the only Lubavitz Yeshiva-Tomchei Tmimmim in the US-occupied zone, which understood itself as a successor of the Yeshiva founded in Lubavitz in the year 1897, was established in Pocking... In addition to the Yeshiva, the Pocking camp had a Talmud-Torah, A Yawne, and an orthodox girls' school, as well as an orthodox Kibbutz. Pocking also had, along with the cities of Munich and Nuremberg, its own Schochtim class, where butchers were instructed in how to slaughter cattle to Jewish kosher regulations." Siehe, der Stein schreit aus der Mauer - Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in Bayern (Observe, the stone screams forth from within the wall - the history and culture of the Jews in Bavaria); the exhibit took place from 25 October to 22 January 1989 at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. [Back to essay]
8) The shock over their prolonged geographical, physical, social, emotional and spiritual isolation ran deep enough for most of them to avoid dealing with these issues for the rest of their lives. Not only that; the silence was imposed on their children as well. Gina Roitman, whose parents lost their first spouses and children in the Shoah, married in Pocking. Most likely, Rabbi Lipot Yehuda Meisels performed the ceremony, with his daughters Yehudith and Miriam as flower girls. In April 2005, Gina,the couple's only daughter, assembled a tv -crew and informed them: "Passau is a picturesque eighth century town where the rivers Ilz, Inn and Danube converge and Germany abuts Austria and the Czech Republic. But it's not a name one ever hears in North America. At least, one never heard of Passau until 1991, the year a film called The Nasty Girl was released. What made the Oscar-nominated film so compelling, especially to me, was that it was based on the true life experience of Anna Elizabeth Rosmus, born in Passau in 1960. When I saw the film a dozen years ago, it put me on a path I have been avoiding all my life... Anna Rosmus, now living in Maryland, is a human rights activist and author who has received many awards for her struggle against bigotry and anti-Semitism. But for me, her life and her work have served as a silent, sometimes stinging reprimand. Why had I not asked more questions? Why did I always try to gloss over the horror? Why did I always want to move beyond it? In doing so, was I not like those post-war Germans I sometimes disparage, the ones who hide behind the phrase, 'That has nothing to do with me; it happened before I was born.' This May is my last opportunity to ask some of the questions I failed to pose earlier in my life and to do so as part of an assembly of people who will likely never be together in the same place again." [Back to essay]
9) When in February 1948 a fire at the barracks destroyed the camp synagogue and the school, even the Passau fire brigade was called in vain. The local nespaper, Passauer Neue Presse, did not report on it in connection with the camp; instead their reports about "rotten egs" or "dog meat and superstition" that were to be found in the camp became even more detailed. [Back to essay]
10) See: Anna E. Rosmus Pocking's Buried Secrets in: "Building History: Art, Memory, and Myth"; McGill European Studies Vol. 4; pp. 207-226; edited by Daly Peter M.; Peter Lang, New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt/M., Oxford, Wien, 2001; [Back to essay]
11) Gina Roitman stated in April 2005: "When I was young, I didn't ask questions because my parents were determined to hold me back with the stories of their past while all I wanted to do was grow up and move on. My parents died when I was just entering my thirties. Then, in my early forties, I finally decided - while sitting in the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC - that my history need not define me at all. I determined that I did not want to be bound to the whole sad story of the Jews traipsing through the centuries carrying their sorrow in one hand and the Torah in the other, always looking for a home. But "nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it". About eight years ago, I began to write fiction. Fiction was my intention but every time I started to craft a story, it reflected an aspect of my past, or to be more precise, my parents' past. Their stories have always been the ones that I tell when asked where I come from. It was their history that defined me; I had no history of my own. Finally recognizing this has driven me to understand that I need to ask questions, questions I did not ask while my parents were alive. But now there is no one to tell me what their lives were like before and after I was born, although many of the things my mother related - and that I had always chalked up to her paranoia - have been revealed as true in the books I have read by Anna Rosmus. Like the story of how, after the war, Jewish infants were systematically being killed in Pocking. That was the reason, my mother would tell me every year on my birthday, that she insisted on having me delivered at the birthing hospital in Passau. " [Back to essay]
12) Salomon B. was born and raised in Oswiecim, Poland. He and his wife managed to obtain false papers; they concealed their Jewish identity. As a consequence, both were spared deporatation into a concentration camp. Instead, they had to do forced labor in Lower Bavaria, like tens of thousands of Catholic Poles. Toward the end of the war, the couple had a daughter. She was delivered, Christianed and hidden by a midwife to avoid the almost certain fate of the others: being killed in a so-called Children's home, where all infants of forced laborers had to be handed over to wardens. The mortality rate there was nearly 100 percent. For details about such infants see: Anna E. Rosmus, Der Massenmord am "frendvölkischen" Nachwuchs und die Folgen; in: lichtung. ostbayerisches magazin; pp. 11-14; Viechtach, Sept/Oct. 1993; Anna E. Rosmus, Murder of the Innocent in: Hearing the Voices: Teaching the Holocaust to Future generations; edited by Michael Hayse, Didier Pollefeyt, G. Jan Colijn and Marcia Sachs Littell. pp. 83-102. Merion Westfield Press International, Merion Station, Pennsylvania, 1999. [Back to essay]
13) Abraham E. was one of the few survivors of the concentration camp Kirchham. After the war, he married a local Catholic and had a son with her whom the couple raised in the Catholic faith. "I wanted him to survive", Abraham E. stated repeatedly. For details about Abraham E. see Anna E. Rosmus, Wintergreen. Suppressed Murders. South Carolina University Press, 2004; Pocking - Ende und Anfang. Jüdische Zeitzeugen über Befreier und Befreite (Pocking - End and Renewal. Jewish Witnesses on Liberators and the liberated Civilians), 1995, Labhard, Konstanz; [Back to essay]
14) Frederick Orenstein was born in 1909 in the small Polish town Hrubieszów. Fred managed to flee Warsaw after the German invasion of Poland, making his way back to Hrubieszów, hundreds of miles away. Both parents and two of his four siblings were killed by the Nazis in World War II. His mother implored him with her last words to 'save the children.' Frederick, a doctor and the oldest, saved them many times. The details of the horrors, however, remained largely a secret to his children as we grew up, "although he could occasionally be coaxed into recounting a story or two", as his son Julian recalls. Finally, his brother Henry, also a survivor, convinced him to tell his story for the Fortunoff oral history project at Yale University. [Back to essay]
15) Polish medical schools did not accept Jews, so he went for medical school in Montpellier, France in 1929. A single photo of that time exists. It shows a dashing, dark-haired man in a white doctor's scrub and wide sash. "Medical students, in his day as in mine, learned body parts and their Latin names, how they work and how they fall apart... He built on a foundation of basics--anatomy, physiology, pathology--until it was as much a part of him as his bones and his senses... He learned that life ends, and he knew when to tell a spouse, a son, or a daughter, 'It's time to say goodbye.'..My father's courses in anatomy, physiology, and pathology reached back to antiquity. Microbiology and pharmacy were rudimentary--more art and experience than science. Viruses were still somewhat theoretical, antibiotics nonexistent, x-rays a technological wonder. "We used all our senses," he told me when I was a medical student in the 1980s. "Even smell. We were taken, several of us, to a woman's hospital room. We weren't allowed to say a word. After five minutes, we went back to the lecture hall to make a diagnosis." The woman had advanced breast cancer, a type that produced a distinctive odor. One student did his best to describe the smell, which was pathognomonic--meaning uniquely diagnostic--for the cancer. My father had another observation: Her right cheek was red. The professor grilled him: Why a red cheek? Did you notice her eyes? The lids, the pupils? Did one eye deviate? The inquisition continued until my father dissected his way to a diagnosis: A metastasis from the cancer sat on a nerve root deep in the woman's chest, the sympathetic ganglion, and caused the flushing. The new Dr. Orenstein returned to Poland in 1937 to open a practice in obstetrics and gynecology... My father's clinical acumen, even as a student, was as good as that of any modern imaging device." Julian B. Orenstein: When Dad Needed Me, in: Washingtonian Magazine, Inc. from August 2003 pp. 25-31. [Back to essay]
16) In the camps, "Frederick let the guards know he was a doctor, a good doctor, and they came to him with their ailments...In peacetime Frederick never had such a thriving practice. And he never let them forget they were his patients, that their health was in his hands. He confirmed their suspected diseases, hinted at even graver pathologies than they could imagine, prescribing first one cure, then another. First bedrest, then exercise. Injections, then pills. A fast, followed by a binge. Miraculous cures and remissions were the order of the day. Commandants from neighboring towns came to his ghetto for his cures. On one occasion, he was given the earnest assurance, in utmost confidence by the commandant of his whole sector, Col. W-, that when the time came to kill the last of them, that he would be executed only by W- himself. The Colonel would regard it as a privilege. Along with the honor of ministering to guards came certain favors. Protection for his family, the privilege of admitting patients to the hospital. When 'actions' and 'selections' came to thin out the ghetto's population, to transport them to death camps or work camps, or just to round up Jews to shoot by the ravine outside town, Frederick hospitalized as many as he could with typhus, dysentery, an imagined influenza epidemic. At such times, to complete the illusion he hospitalized guards as well, yes a few of them, too, for the same influenza. He was even granted the privilege of treating a general once." See: WHAT NOW? by J.B. Orenstein. [Back to essay]
19) The phenomenon itself is also known in other places of famine. Today, it is being observed in Africa. As a precaution, western societies urge pregnant women to consume a high dosage of folic acids. To reduce the risk of neural-tube defects in newborns, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States of America issued even a regulation requiring all enriched grain products to be fortified with folic acid. Fortification (140 µg per 100 g) began in 1996, and the process was essentially complete by mid-1997. For details see also The Effect of Folic Acid Fortification on Plasma Folate and Total Homocysteine Concentrations, an article by Paul F. Jacques, Sc.D., Jacob Selhub, Ph.D., Andrew G. Bostom, M.D., Peter W.F. Wilson, M.D., and Irwin H. Rosenberg, M.D. in The Medical Journal Volume 340:1449-1454 of May 13, 1999, Number 19 [Back to essay]
20) Whether a complete list of death was ever filed or is still in existence today, could not be established. During the existence of the DP camps, too many different agencies and institutions were involved in the record keeping. Several Rabbis of different religious schools are said to have buried children. A central residents' registry, as is mandatory for all births and deaths in Germany, did not pertain to the independently governed DP camps. Shame and embarrassment over malformed babies was another factor, some families did not want to be entered in lists. After the camps were dissolved, Rabbi Lipot Yehuda Meisels took some of the records with him to Jerusalem. According to the clerk, the district and appeals' court in Passau destroyed all records that "involved Jews" in the late fifties. Isolated, indirect references to these numbers are to be found in Cemetery Records at Lower Bavaria's State Archive in Landshut. [Back to essay]
21) On July 2, the first official report was
written. On July 28, the court informed Rabbi Meisels that the investigation
was "closed". The human feces at the memorial did not amount to desecration.
A passerby simply had to go.. The removal of the fencing at the children's
cemetery originated also in the need for raw materials..., and was no
offense. On August 10, State Commissionar Dr. Auerbach was so infuriated
over that lack of sensitivity that he turned to the Chief prosecutor in
Passau, stating his utter disagreement. He also indicated that he would turn
this decision over to Bavaria's Ministry of Justice, hoping the minister
himself might take another look at that matter.
22) Most left for North America, but did not stay in
touch with each other. Frederick Orenstein went to New York, where he worked
as a general practitioner until he was 80. He had a stroke in October 1996,
at age 87. His son Julian stated: "all that remained of his tremendous,
wounded spirit is his enduring silence and the last tenuous slip of strength
and determination that kept him alive during the war years... The father I
knew was embittered, broken, a shred of who he might have been. He was
chilly, distant, often angry... Even if we had understood that his
expectations for us were shaped two generations and a vanished world ago, it
probably wouldn't have helped. Dad either yelled at us or expected us to
read his mind. When our telepathy failed, he brooded--spells that were
almost worse than the verbal assaults."
23) On March 15, the IRO officially handed the camp over to the community of Pocking. Reports for nearby Eggenfelden indicate that "the remaining 100 persons" emigrated in May 1949. But there, new transports continued to arrive, be that from Pocking or Berlin. In August 1949, 1,328 Jews were still living there (570 in camps, 758 outside). The last 200 left after January 1950. [Back to essay]
24) How exaggerated such reports may have been becomes obvious when we read other reports about "a strong police presence" in order to prevent looting; it included three patrol cars and thirty German civilian guards who were on duty around the clock, leading up to the time of transfer. [Back to essay]
27) Through an ordinance issued on June 22 1957 by the Bavarian Ministry of Finance, maintenance of the cemeteries where victims of National Socialist persecution lay was transferred to the Bavarian Castles, Parks, and Lakes Administration. The "constant obligation to maintain the memorials and memorial sites" derives from a bulletin regarding the 23 October 1954 agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of France. [Back to essay]
29) Pocking - Ende und Anfang. Jüdische Zeitzeugen über Befreier und Befreite (Pocking - End and Renewal. Jewish Witnesses on Liberators and the liberated Civilians), 1995, Labhard, Konstanz; [Back to essay]
30) http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/04/03/60II/main179477.shtml Nasty Girl Still At Work Crusader For World War II Truth Persists Seeks Out German Town's Nazi History . 2000 Update [Back to essay]
37) On December 9th, 2004 Gerda Fraundorfer granted us formally permission "to frame the memorial stone" - within the narrow limits of the current property, and under exclusion of heavy machinery. [Back to essay]
39) Gina Roitman stated: "I know Passau because I was born there in January, 1948. It was where I spent the first 14 months of my life, living just outside the town in Pocking-Waldstadt, where the liberating American army had converted a concentration camp into a refuge for Displaced Persons. In that camp, my mother and father met in 1946 after losing between them two spouses, four children, five siblings, and four parents. And we lived in the Pocking DP Camp until it was forced to close and we left for Canada in February, 1949. Until recently, I had no desire to go back. After all, Passau is not where I am really from. But then, I have lived in Montreal all my life, and I'm not from there either. Precisely where I come from now doesn't seem to matter as much as why it has taken me so long to ask the question: Where am I?" [Back to essay]
40) Marion Zauner from the local newspaper Passauer Neue Presse reported about its intended installation. Under the headline Davidstern zum Gedenken an tote Kinder ( Star of David in memory of dead children) the paper printed another half page on April 30, 2005; it included her up-date and a large photo by Jörg Schlegel. [Back to essay]
41) In her letter to Holocaust Survivors and Friends from April 28 2005 she rationalized her decision, falsely claiming that the area was "never meant to be walked upon." In addition, since the memorial site is protected, "major changes.. are not permitted"- due to the agreement between Germany and France from October 23 1954. [Back to essay]
44) Miriam Meisels-Griver was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1941. Due to her mother's ingenuity, she and both daughters survived Ghetto Budapest by running and hiding until the end of the war. After months of searching, the family was re-united in Pocking. In 1949 the Meisels family immigrated to Israel. Miriam pursued her studies in Horev school in Jerusalem, graduated teachers' college in England and continued post studies in Akron State university in the United States. Then, she followed a teaching career in Israel and the U. S. Upon retirement she was engaged in voluntary services to the community in Jerusalem. In 2003 Miriam was elected to the position of President of Hadassah-Israel, a women's voluntary organization dedicated to the improvement of life in the field of the advancement of health, education, immigration, the status of women and the child-at-risk. It is part of the greater Hadassah World Organization. [Back to essay]
45) Yair Alan Griver is the Group Manager for the Visual Studio Data group. Alan's teams produce the tools used inside of Visual Studio. NET, Office and SQL Server that surface data capabilities, as well as Visual FoxPro. Alan is focusing on making Microsoft's products the best data environments for developers. Alan is the author of five books on Visual FoxPro and Visual Basic, the creator of various development frameworks, and has developed database systems ranging into the thousands of users. He has spoken around the world on databases, object orientation and development team management issues, as well as XML and messaging-based applications. [Back to essay]
46) Shelly Zima Shapiro is the Director of Holocaust Survivors & Friends Education Center in Albany, New York and Director, Community Relations United Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY. She is the editor and co-author of Truth Prevails: Demolishing Holocaust Denial: the End of the Leuchter Report (1990) and co-editor and co-author of Justice Journal. She was the Educational Consultant in the creation of the French Children of the Holocaust Memorial Exhibition for the Beate Klarsfeld Foundation and author of the Study Guide for the French Children of the Holocaust: A Memorial Exhibition (1997) and study guides for the Anne Frank in the World Exhibitions (1992, 1996). Mrs Shapiro contributed to the Reader's Companion to the Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank the Definitive Edition (1995). She is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Albany where she teaches a course Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust. [Back to essay]
47) Gina Roitman was born in Passau, Germany. A former journalist, she has been a theatrical publicist, professional fundraiser, advertising executive and currently is a communications consultant in the travel and tourism industry. Her writing has aired on CBC Radio and appeared in the Montreal Gazette, Jewish Canadian News, Quills Poetry Magazine and in several online e-zines. She recently won top honors in the inaugural issue of Carte-Blanche, the Quebec Writers' Federation literary review. Among the motives for her coming, Gina stated recently: "Ultimately, I believe this group is gathering not to mark an anniversary or to erect memorials but to find some proof that as individuals, as human beings, we have made progress; that we have gathered the terrible knowledge of the past and made something worthwhile of the lessons. I believe that everyone on this journey and all the people I will meet, have burning questions of their own that they want answered. Until they are asked, we are trapped in history and will continue to deny our responsibility to the present. For me this is a journey from denial to affirmation, from an indifferent silence to a nascent candor. " [Back to essay]
49) Bea Grace was born in Passau, Germany. At the age of nine, she moved to a suburb of the US Capital, where she joined the Army Reserves as a paralegal specialist at JAG Corps. That was half a year before graduating from high school with AP classes in psychology and law. Parallel, she enrolled in college at age 16, with a major in sociology. In May 2002 Bea Grace went active duty and left for Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina where she graduated in August. After receiving her Advanced Individual Training, the 17 year-old left for Baumholder, Germany. December 2002, where she was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Armored Division. In May 2003, Bea Grace deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Her 12 months were extended for an additional 120 days. Bea Grace went on additional missions before redeploying in July 2004. She became a Certified Combat Lifesaver, redeployed to Baumholder until January 2005 and is now stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as part of the Center of the Judge Advocate General's Office. Bea Grace is now 20, received eleven military awards and will be promoted to Sergeant in the fall of 2005, before her up-coming deployment to Afghanistan. [Back to essay]
50) Among them was Karin Doerr, who teaches German and Women and Genocide at Concordia University, where she is also an associate of the Canadian Centre for Jewish Studies, the Montreal Institute for Genocide Studies, and the Simone de Beauvoir Institute for Women Studies. Her main focus is use and impact of the language of the Third Reich. With genocide scholar Kurt Jonassohn she published the dictionary study, Germany's Language of Genocide, and she has collaborated with Robert Michael on Nazi-Deutsch/Nazi-German: An English Lexicon Of The Language Of The Third Reich. She has worked with Holocaust survivors and translated and edited their writings. Her work on literary responses to the Shoah, anti-Semitism in German literature, and educational material on integrating the Holocaust into the university curriculum of German has appeared in journals and collected editions. [Back to essay]
51) Susan Lee Pentlin is Professor emerita of Modern Languages at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri where she taught German and courses on the Holocaust. Her dissertation study was titled "Effect of the Third Reich on the Teaching of German in the United States: A Historical Study." She serves on the Board of Governors of the Midwest Holocaust Center in Overland Park, Kansas. Presently, she is preparing a new edition of Warsaw Ghetto: A Diary, based on the experiences of Mary Berg, an American citizen in the Warsaw Ghetto, and she is helping a Polish survivor of Auschwitz write her memoir. [Back to essay]
54) In her script, Gina Roitman states: "Beyond the opportunity of meeting this extraordinary group somehow connected to my history is the prospect of assembling the individual pieces of the puzzle, the fragmented legacy of our past that each of us carries. That includes key pieces held by Germans of the last three generations. Many of them have been prevented from asking their own questions or sharing their unique stories. Sixty years later, I believe we are all suffering from a disconnect so powerful that we are drawn back to fields and towns where little remains but memory, although not necessarily our own... In this film, I want to assemble the fragmented pieces of what has come after Memory. I will do this through interviews with the group and our various hosts but in particular, through the documentation of two planned ceremonies that are likely to be highly emotional and cathartic. The first will be held in Pocking at the children's cemetery... I could easily have been one of those forgotten dead if my mother had not insisted on having me in Passau. Following the memorial dedication, on that same evening, the group will return to town for the first-ever public Shabbat supper in Passau's history. It will be held in the Grosser Rathaussaal, a room in the 14th century Passau City Hall decorated by scenes from the Song of the Nibelungs, Germany's national epic. The irony of the location of this ceremony is made all the more dramatic by what lies in the room next door: stored documents that include private papers and honorary certificates belonging to Hitler." [Back to essay]
57) Written by Teresa Jennings, and copyrighted in 1999 by Plank Road Publishing Inc, the song begins with the lines: "We are the people of the twenty-first century. We are the future. We are the light. We are the people of the twenty-first century. We have a chance to do it right! We are the people!" The next soli read: "Around the world, all people sing." "We sing of life and what the world may bring." "We sing of peace in every land. We sing of walking hand in hand." [Back to essay]
58) Martin Göth trained his voice as member of the famous boys chorus Regensburger Domspatzen, under director Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope Benedict XVI. While studying Catholic theology with his future wife, Martin led a gospel chorus some 30 years ago. The couple developed a significant interest in Judaism, and named their daughter Sarah. Then, Martin founded a musical group by the name SHALOM, for whom he wrote songs. As the diocese expert for religious and ideological issues, he developed an interest in interfaith communications. Today, Martin writes children songs. For details see his homepage: www.kleinerstern-verlag.de [Back to essay]
61) Lewis Kest, the fourth of six children, was born in Budapest, Hungary in December 1920. He graduated from the Commercial Academy of Budapest, was drafted into the Hungarian Army in 1942 and assigned to a labor unit, which was customary for Jewish people at the time. In the Fall of 1942 he reported to Püspökladįny. From there, he was sent to Gorgenyoroszfalu in what is now Romania, to building an air landing site. Early in 1943 he was taken to Borgond, an airfield outside of Székesfehérvįr. Under Hungarian control, Kest had to assist the German Air Force Command. Toward the end of 1944 the unit started an evacuation march and eventually ended up in Schattendorf, Lower Austria, where organization Todt had the men dig trenches around the city. Afterwards taken to Granat, Newsindel, he worked at a stone quarry outside of Enns, with some other units. At that time he met one of his older brothers, and both were marched toward Mauthausen with thousands of others. At that time, all new arrivals were gathered at a tent on the hill within the compound. While awaiting the next orders, which came toward the end of 1944, the whole group from the tent marched on foot to Gunskirchen. On May 3, 1945, a Friday night, the American Army liberated the camp. Lewis Kest and his brother were brought to Wels. Lewis recovered in a hospital and left for Uhrfahr, outside of Linz. As a result of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, Urfahr became part of the Russian zone, and Lewis Kest marched with the Russians, without recollection where to. One night, he and others escaped. In the Fall of 1945, Kest ended up in Pocking where he worked in the administrative office of the D.P. camp until he was assigned to the U.N.R.R.A in Passau. Early in 1946, he was transferred to the American Joint Distribution Committee's warehouse in Straubing. The warehouse provided material for the camps in Deggendorf, Pocking, Straubing, Regensburg, and Bamberg. Mr. Kest worked in Straubing and Regansburg until December, 1949. After the Displaced Persons Act passed Congress, he was granted a visa to come to America. He left from Bremerhafen and landed in New York on January 13th, another Friday evening in 1950. [Back to essay]
63) The Passauer Neue Presse began to announce these events several weeks in advance. On March 26, the weekly communication "Dear Cousin" reported under the headline "veterans" about Passau's visitors from the past staying in town from May 6-8, and about their participation in various commemorative events. A week later, on April 2nd, the weekend edition for the city of Passau started page 11 with the headline "Rosmus comes to Waldstadt"; underneath was a rather detailed program for our events in the county, including the reception County Executive Hanns Dorfner sponsored at Castle Neuburg at the Inn River. Regina Ehm-Klier published a three column comment with the bold print "angemessen" (appropriate) above it. The first line read like a pledge: "A saying goes: One learns from mistakes." What followed instantly was a precise hint: "And the Bavarian Administration of Castles and Lakes impressively presented evidence for its truth. Memory reaches back ten years. A fight over the concentration camp memorial in Waldstadt had erupted. The handwritten names of the dead there had bothered the esthetic feelings of the administration.. The administration has learned from the turbulences back then. Anna Rosmus and a Jewish association enjoy now free reigns, as they create a new design for the children's memorial." The weekend edition for the Rottal district announced already on its frontpage in bold print "Gedenken an jüdische Kinder" (Commemorating Jewish children). Marion Zauner filled the upper half of page 31 with a detailed story about our commemorative tours and introduced the readers to the background for the new memorial site. The center featured one of Jörg Schlegel's photos, where a smiling Christian Hanusch from the city of Pocking holds the architectural sketch next to the existing cube. On April 6th, the edition for the city of Passau re-printed the same article and the photo. Later that day, we were standing there to dedicate it.[Back to essay]