My posts about the history of this part of the Czech Republic don't usually look at the more recent past, but there is plenty of it around here. A few weeks ago, before the snow, I drove over to Volary. I had been through it many times on my way to the Sumava, but never stopped. This time I did.
If you go the cemetary in Volary you will find a memorial just outside the main cemetary along with ninety-six graves. When the American forces entered Volary they came upon a barracks and in it over one hundred women, starving (their average weight was 82 pounds), ill and indeed dying. These were all that remained of a group of women who had been made to make a 700 kilometre death march from concentration camps in Poland. A few days later the Americans found the mass grave of women who had died of disease or been shot by their Nazi guards. The local German inhabitants were made to exhume the bodies and dig new graves. They were then made to attend a burial service for the women. An account of the US army's arrival with photographs is to be found here
The graveyard is incredibly powerful, set on the hillside overlooking the Sumava. The spot was so beautiful and peaceful when I visited, that it is hard to bear the knowledge of what happened here. It is a place, like too many in this country, where angels weep. The names of the graves show that the women buried there come from Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the USSR, but most moving of all are those that simply bear the word "neznama" - unknown. It is a tribute to the care and work of the US Fifth Infantry Division that so many have names - this is the only cemetary to holocaust victims where there are names at all.
But the last word goes to a survivor Szewa Szeps -
We were sent on the March, some of the girls sick with a fever of 39 degrees. Every day the snow-covered roads became littered with corpses. My sister was in a very bad way. I had to support and pull her along, so that she would not be shot. We marched in the direction of Czechoslovakia and Bavaria. During the march my sister pleaded with me to leave her and continue alone. Frozen, starving and thoroughly exhausted, we managed to drag ourselves along. At night we were packed like herrings in barns or sheds. In the morning those who didn't survive were left behind. Our transport, with its skeletons in rags, caused the local residents in the area to close their windows and to run from us as if from an epidemic. Many of the unfortunate were [simply] shot along our way.
During the night of 2-3 May, the Germans abandoned us near a forest in Volary (Wallern) in Czechoslovakia. In the morning we noticed that the guards were gone. Me and another person – the only ones who could still continue – left on the first American tank which approached.
The Americans brought us to the local hospital. My sister was in a really bad way, and three days later, on the 9th of May, 1945, she died. She was buried in Volary. On her tombstone, I requested her epitaph be taken from her diary:
“The day of our liberation should just not be a day of bitter sleep.”But I added:
“The day of liberation, my dear sister, was for you a day of bitter sleep."
Extract taken from http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/Dabrowa/dab346.html
It is to the soldiers, medics and Jewish chaplain Herman Dicker of the Fifth Infantry Division that the victims buried in Volary are the only victims in any Holocaust cemetery that headstones bears the victims name.It is to the soldiers, medics and Jewish chaplain Herman Dicker of the Fifth Infantry Division that the victims buried in Volary are the only victims in any Holocaust cemetery that headstones bears the victims name.