Experience: Death March

Fani Adelsberg
Irving Altus
Ella Baker
Leo Beals
Jacob Beitner
James Berger
Harry Cymerant
Ann Eisenberg
Belle Eisenberg
Isidor Eisenberg
Luba Elbaum
Charlotte Firestone
Erno Friedman
Rachel Growe
Agnes Helfman
Ben Hersen
Kurt Hirschfeld
Sally Horwitz
Harry Jubas
Helen Kain
Alex Karp
Benjamin Kawer
Bernard Klein
Emery Klein
Frida Klein
Zalman (Zoli) Kohen
Abraham (Zalek) Kolnierz
Henry Krystal
Alexander Kuhn
Nathan Lachman
George Laksberger
Edmund Langerman
Helen Lankin
Lili Lewkowicz
Magda Losonci
Martin Lowenberg
Martin Marks
Paula Marks-Bolton
Andrew Martin
Emmanuel Mittelman
Regina Muskovitz
Sonia Nothman
Eva Nove
George Ohrenstein
Gloria Pesis
Henry Pestka
Jack Pludwinski
Phyllis Potach
Mirel Rottersman
Agata (Agi) Rubin
Lola Schonberger
William Sperber
Alex Ungar
George Vine
Martin Water
Zita Weber
Harry Weinstein
Eva Weiss
Lilly Weiss
Michael Weiss
Shari Weiss
Aron Zoldan

“[German: Todesmarsche] Death marches were the forced marches of
prisoners over long distances, under unbearable conditions, during which the
prisoners were abused by their accompanying guards and often killed. The
Nazis conducted many death marches during the Holocaust, mostly near the
war's end, following the evacuation of Concentration Camps. The term death
march was used originally by prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, and later
employed by Holocaust historians.

“The first large-scale death march took place in the summer of 1941,
following the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands of
Soviet prisoners of war were forced to walk along the highways of the Ukraine
and Belorussia while being transferred from one camp to another. Masses of
prisoners were murdered along the way, or at prearranged execution sites.
Around the same time, Romanians (who were then German allies) marched
Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina to Transnistria. Thousands were shot
along the way by the Romanian and German guards.

“Most death marches took place near the end of World War II. During the
summer of 1944, as the Allies advanced in the west and the Soviets advanced
in the East, the Nazis began liquidating the concentration camps in earnest.
The first camps to be emptied were those in eastern and central Poland and in
the Baltic States.

“That fall, Nazi leaders decided to expedite the deportation of the Jews of
Budapest to their deaths. A death march from Budapest commenced on
November 8, 1944. 76,000 Jewish men, women, and children were forced to
walk to the Austrian border, accompanied by Hungarian guards. The march
lasted a month, during which time thousands died from starvation, disease,
exhaustion, and cold. Thousands more were shot along the way. Several
hundred were rescued by neutral diplomats like Raoul Wallenberg from
Sweden, who pulled Jews out of the marching lines, took them into his
custody, and accompanied them back to Budapest. Most were not so lucky,
though–those prisoners who reached the Austrian border were turned over to German soldiers, who led them to various concentration camps, such as
Dachau and Mauthausen.

“During the winter of 1944--1945, the Germans knew that they had essentially
lost the war. This led them to evacuate the Polish concentration camps, and
force-march their prisoners to Germany. The Jews themselves lived in
constant fear of being murdered during the final stages of the war, as they
were no longer needed for work.

“On January 18th 1945, the evacuation of Auschwitz and its satellite camps
commenced. About 60,000 mostly Jewish prisoners, were marched to
Wodzislaw (called Loslau in German), where they were placed on crowded
freight trains and shipped to other concentration camps further west, such as
Gross-Rosen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen. At least 15,000 people
died or were killed on this particular death march.

“Three days later, on January 21, 4,000 prisoners, mostly Jews, were sent off
from the Hblechhammer camp. During that month, the Germans also began to
empty the Stutthof camp complex–a network that at that time held 47,000
prisoners, over 35,000 of them Jews, most of them female. A total of 7,000
Jews, 6,000 women and 1,000 men, were force-marched for 10 days. Seven
hundred were murdered en route. Those who survived the march itself arrived
at the Baltic Sea on January 31. That very day, the Nazis pushed the
remaining prisoners into the sea and shot them–only 13 survived.

“The evacuation of the main camp of Gross-Rosen and its sub-camps began
in February 1945. Altogether, 40,000 prisoners were marched off, and
thousands were murdered along the way. In February, the 20,000 Jewish
prisoners who worked in the Forced Labor camps at Eulengebirge, were
either murdered right before the evacuation or during the death march away
from the camps.

“Throughout March and April 1945, as the war drew to a close, the Nazis
evacuated camp after camp, sending at least 250,000 of their 700,000
concentration camp prisoners on death marches. Some of those marches
lasted for weeks, causing thousands of deaths along the highways of western
Austria and central Germany. Often, the prisoners would be marched on foot part of the way, and then crowded onto trains–70 people to a car–where they
were denied food and water.

“On April 6, 1945, the evacuation of the main Buchenwald camp commenced.
3,100 Jewish prisoners were marched off, of whom 1,400 were murdered en
route. Over the next four days, another 40,000 prisoners were evacuated from
the camp, of which 13,500 were killed. Just over 20,000 prisoners remained in
the camp, including a few Jews. One of the remaining Buchenwald sub-camps
to be emptied was Rehmsdorf, which was evacuated on April 13. Over 4,000
prisoners left the camp, but no more than 500 survived through the end of the
march. The Dora-Mittelbau camp evacuation also started on April. Most of the
camp's prisoners were marched for two weeks towards Bergen-Belsen. One
group of prisoners was forced into a barn that was then set on fire. American
troops arrived the next day to discover hundreds of burnt bodies.

“By the end of April, the Nazis had initiated death marches from Flossenburg,
Sachsenhausen, Neungamme, Magdeburg, Mauthausen, Ravensbrueck, and
from several of the Dachau sub-camps. During those marches, which lasted
literally until the day of the Nazi surrender two weeks later, tens of thousands
of prisoners died or were executed. Those who fell behind or stopped to rest,
even for a moment, were shot. In one instance, thousands of mostly
Hungarian prisoners were buried along a short 37-mile stretch of road
between Gunskirchen and Mauthausen. In all, an estimated 200,000-250,000
concentration camp prisoners were murdered or died on the forced death
marches that were conducted throughout the last ten months of World War II,
25% to a third of them Jews.”

Accessed on July 19, 2011

Austria, A death march to Mauthausen, 1945

Accessed on July 19, 2011

Austria, People who died during a death march

Accessed on July 19, 2011

Dachau, Germany, Camp inmates on a death march, 1945
Accessed on July 19, 2011

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