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May 2005

Fireworks on the Danube

The Children’s Cemetery at Pocking

Anna Rosmus, an Advisory Board member of Remember the Women Institute, is organizing a 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of Germany along the Danube River by General Patton’s Third Army. American veterans from the 65th and the 71st Infantry and the 13th Armored Division, survivors of concentration camps (KZ-Aussenlager) in the region, including Straubing, Hersbruck, Plattling, Eggenfelden, Pocking, and Passau, and from the DP camp established at Waldstadt after the liberation are traveling to Passau. The event is scheduled to take place in May 2005. The commemoration will begin at Regensburg on May 5, 2005, marking the surrender of the city to American troops in 1945. On May 6, the group will arrive in Passau, and later that day they will travel twenty miles south to Kirchham. Kirchham (alias Pocking-Waldstadt) was the site of a concentration camp where the prisoners did forced labor, building an airport for the Luftwaffe.

Rabbi Lipot Meisels, a Hungarian Jew, was one of the few surviving victims at Pocking. After liberation, he established a small Jewish community at Pocking and built a powerful monument to the victims of the camp. However, in 1957, after he had left for Israel, the memorial was desecrated and the engraved names of those inmates who were murdered at Pocking, as well as the Stars of David and the history of the camp, were removed from the granite tablets. At other sites, the memorial stones were used to build roads. Nearby there are mass graves of Russian POWs who were murdered by the SS in the last days of the war, marked only by wintergreen in the woods. And at another place where the corpses of the murdered are still buried today, the Federal Railroad has laid train tracks, and the city of Passau has built a children's playground.

After viewing the memorial tablets in Pocking, which once again bear witness to German crimes, the group will dedicate a new memorial for the murdered children and women from the nearby DP camp at the children’s cemetery. The fence around the cemetery was torn out long before the camp memorial was obliterated. According to testimony by Jewish survivors, in the first months after the war, Jewish infants were systematically killed in Pocking. Due to the extreme malnutrition their mothers had suffered in the camps, babies were born suffering from a chronic lack of folic acid at birth. This resulted in their bodies being malformed, sometimes with brains growing outside their skulls or along the spine. They were doomed at birth. However, these infants did not die a natural death. They were killed by a nurse pushing a dirty needle into their fontanels. Officially, within a short time they all died of infections. The public prosecutor in Passau has refused to investigate either crime, although it is against the law in Bavaria to destroy public monuments and cemeteries, and by now the graves are indiscernible. For decades, the Free State of Bavaria refused to care for the graves, and the municipality sold the cemetery to a farmer who now plants grain there. Sixty years later, the Bavarian government does acknowledge the babies as victims of the Holocaust, but their bodies are still lying there today, awaiting proper burial.

Following the memorial dedication, that same evening the veterans and survivors will return to Passau for a public Shabbat supper and a service at St. Salvator, originally Passau’s synagogue, at the banks of the Ilz River. The synagogue was destroyed in 1478, by order of the Catholic Bishop, and rebuilt as a church. Today it is an empty building, used for occasional concerts. Before traveling on to the Mauthausen Memorial and then returning from Vienna, the group will meet survivors, city officials and members of the Jewish Community.

Text by Dr. Susan Pentlin

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