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German civilians from Schwarzenfeld load a wagon with coffins to be transported to a mass grave from which the bodies of 140 Hungarian, Polish, and Russian Jews were exhumed.

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    German civilians from Schwarzenfeld load a wagon with coffins to be transported to a mass grave from which the bodies of 140 Hungarian, Polish, and Russian Jews were exhumed.
    German civilians from Schwarzenfeld load a wagon with coffins to be transported to a mass grave from which the bodies of 140 Hungarian, Polish, and Russian Jews were exhumed.  

The victims died while on an evacuation transport from the Flossenbuerg concentration camp.

    Overview

    Caption
    German civilians from Schwarzenfeld load a wagon with coffins to be transported to a mass grave from which the bodies of 140 Hungarian, Polish, and Russian Jews were exhumed.

    The victims died while on an evacuation transport from the Flossenbuerg concentration camp.
    Date
    1945 April 25
    Locale
    Schwarzenfeld, [Bavaria] Germany
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
    Event History
    The atrocities that took place at Schwarzenfeld and Neunberg vorm Wald followed the evacuation of Flossenbuerg concentration camp in the spring of 1945. By the beginning of April 1945, Allied forces were closing in on the Flossenbuerg concentration camp, which was situated 20 kilometers NE of Weiden, approximately five kilometers from the Czech border. Several other concentration camps (including Buchenwald and Auschwitz) had already evacuated many of their prisoners to Flossenbuerg earlier in the year, so that by the beginning of May the main camp and its satellites were overflowing with almost 52,000 prisoners. At this time, a series of evacuation transports were sent by train to the southwest, in the direction of Dachau. Persistent bombing by Allied planes destroyed many rail lines and some trains, effectively delaying many of the transports, or forcing them to take alternate routes. Eventually, most of the trains were abandoned and the prisoners were forced to continue their journey on foot. During these "death marches," numerous prisoners were killed by the SS for lagging behind and stumbling. When ammunition ran short after several days of marching, the slower and weaker prisoners were beaten to death rather than shot. Some of the bodies were buried by prisoners who were kept at the back of the group for this purpose. Others were just left by the side of the road. On April 16th, a transport left Flossenbuerg with 1,700 Jewish prisoners. Just before the train reached Weiden, it was strafed by Allied planes. Both SS men and prisoners jumped off the train to seek cover in the nearby woods. In the confusion, many prisoners were killed or wounded by the Allies. During the raid, many prisoners also took advantage of their brief moment of freedom to steal food and supplies from SS baggage left on the train. At the end of the air raid, the SS ordered all of the prisoners back onto the train, and shot all those who were wounded or too weak to continue. The guards soon noticed that some prisoners had stolen food, and shot all those suspected of theft. The train continued on the next day to Schwarzenfeld, where it came under more vigorous attack by Allied aircraft. As a result, more prisoners were killed by the Allies (some were also shot by the SS during the confusion), and the train was destroyed. The SS ordered the prisoners to dig a large grave and bury those killed during the previous two days. The prisoners then continued on foot for three days, passing through Kemnath, Fuhrn, and Neunburg vorm Wald, until they were liberated near Stamsried by American troops on April 21. Another transport reached Neunburg vorm Wald on April 21 where, after having walked several days in the rain, the prisoners were brought to a barn near the town. There, they were given a ration of potatoes and allowed to rest for the night. Benno Fischer, a survivor of the death march, recalled that prisoners who tried to get in line twice for food were shot. During the night the SS drove a small truck back and forth from the barn to the forest bearing small groups of prisoners, who were shot in the woods. The remaining group of 600 survivors (The transport had numbered 2,500 prisoners at the outset.) were liberated by the Third U.S. Army on April 23. Many of the death marches traveled through Schwarzenfeld and Neunburg worm Wald, taking various routes. However, only one transport of 2,654 prisoners was reported to have reached its final destination at Dachau. Flossenbuerg, meanwhile, was liberated by U.S. troops on April 23 with approximately 1,600 prisoners remaining in the camp. As towns lying along the routes of the death marches were captured by Allied troops, mass graves and scattered corpses were found. Allied soldiers forced German civilians from neighboring towns to exhume the mass graves and give the victims proper burial. In Schwarzenfeld alone, 140 bodies were exhumed from a common grave and buried in the town (April 22-25, 1945). Later, in the 1950's another 133 bodies were exhumed from another grave near the town and buried in the Flossenbuerg concentration camp memorial cemetery. On April 29, 1945 rows of corpses were found in the forest near Neunburg vorm Wald. The townspeople were forced by U.S. troops to bury and provide funeral services for the 120-180 victims. It estimated that a total of 7,000 prisoners met their deaths while on evacuation transports and death marches from Flossenbuerg. Mass graves were discovered up until the late 1950's, but it is believed that there are some that have yet to be found. Over 5,000 death march victims are buried in the Flossenbuerg memorial cemetery, in addition to a reported 610 prisoners buried in Neunburg vorm Wald.

    [Sources: Fischer, Benno. 'Death March: April 14, 1945-April 24, 1945.' USHMM Archive: RG-02.039; Heigl, Peter. "Kozentrationslager Flossenbuerg:" In "Geschichte und Gegenwart." Regensburg: Mittelbayerische Druckerei und Verlags-GmbH, 1989; Reidl, Hermann. "Erinnern statt Vergessen." Muenchen: Museums-Paedagogisches Zentrum, 1995; Siegert, Toni. "30000 Tote Mahnen!" Weiden: Verlag der Taubald'schen Buchhandlung GmbH, 1987].

    https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005537.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
    Copyright: Public Domain
    Source Record ID: 111-SC-265454 (Album 3213)

    Keywords & Subjects

    Record last modified:
    2010-07-26 00:00:00
    This page:
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