Press On | Walk in Remembrance Day Five route

Al and Mike got an early start and walking primarily only rural routes were able to complete 16 miles in moderate sunny winter temperatures with daytime high of 35 degrees F and nighttime temperatures dipping into the low 20s degree F.

Scenes from the walk |

In late January 1945 as thousands of prisoners were marched from concentration camps in eastern Poland, SS troops committed massacres and summary executions along  multiple Death March routes.  In the area around Bodzanow and Glucholazy murders took place near cemeteries and along the evacuation routes.  As part of the post-war Glucholazy regional Prosecutor's Investigation of German crimes in Poland, bodies in the Bodzanow area were exhumed in November 1945 and buried in two mass graves. According to local historian Pawel Szymokowicz, 56 bodies were found in ten mass graves near a river not far from the St. Joseph's Church in Bodzanow.  Many unaccounted victims, he believes may still exist in the fields along the Death March routes.

Wreaths and candles placed on mass grave site at Municipal cemetery in Glucholazy

Eddie Willner on the death march from Blechhammer to Gross Rosen (from testimony excerpt) [NOTE: THIS SECTION CONTAINS GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS]

… So we left the Blechhammer camp and were marched in a forced march, all the prisoners from the camp towards — the concentration camp of Gross Rosen, which was towards the west.  In other words, we were being marched from the east to the west, towards Germany…

…Of those prisoners who could not walk anymore, they would just line them up and shoot them. It was that simple. Every night. What they did, usually, they marched us during the day, and at night, in the field everybody had to lie down, and the SS would build fires around and warm themselves up. The prisoners would just be lying down, sleeping, or whatever, in the cold. Or they locked us up in barns…

…So the standard procedure was to shoot whoever could not walk.  Sometimes they shoot you by the side of the road... or some ... marching as a group, four or five abreast, and somebody would drop out by the side, couldn’t walk anymore, the guy would just take out his gun and shoot him. Or they assembled prisoners at night. That was the preferred procedure, to just take the prisoners at night ...when we arrived at the site where we were supposed to stay for the night, then go through the selection process again, who was too tired, who can’t make it … sometimes they did it in the morning. See what kind of condition the people… some people couldn’t get up anymore. They just had them carried to put them on a pile… put them side by side and just machine-gunned them, with sub-machine guns. That was common during the fourteen day march. It was just a normal procedure, not to leave anybody behind…

… but when they came near a village, they normally confiscated the barns that the farmers had, in the countryside, shoved a thousand prisoners, let’s say, in a barn … not to keep us warm at night, but just to have us locked in some place, so they can take a rest. And they were going into the farmhouse and sleep, take their turns, you know, and they have guards around. When we did that, when they locked us into barns, the farmers, sometimes, would be decent enough, or even the SS, they wanted to get the people to the destination, as many as possible, they still were thinking of using us for labor some other place inside Germany. A farmer would be decent enough to have potatoes cooked or beets that they used for the cows or something. In some cases, they would have enough food to feed a thousand people, given them a meal. So I was lucky that in any case, whenever they locked us in, we got some food from the farmers, not individually, but as a group, and provided the SS allowed them to do it.

They even took prisoners during the march, when they … came near a cemetery, a small town cemetery outside, cemeteries were out of town in the countryside, take the prisoners, line them up by the cemetery and machine gun them, so somebody could bury them later, in a hole or someplace…

…I must tell one story I experienced, talking about getting food from the farmers. In one particular case we were locked in, and the next morning, maybe four or five o’clock in the morning we were taken out, supposedly to be marched again to the next destination. Well, the farmer apparently had given potatoes, and they were cooked in a huge pot like they use for cows, to cook their food in, and for other animals. The pot was outside. There was a fire underneath. We were supposed to go by that pot and get our two potatoes or whatever they were going to give us. Some prisoners were so crazy, just went out of their mind from hunger, because some had maybe been fed a little bit more than others, some just couldn’t take it, living from so little food. These were particularly the prisoners who had recently come from other countries, who had not been prisoners for a long time. We were already adjusted to it, the people who had been in it for a few years, like myself. We could go a couple of days without eating anything. It wouldn’t really bother us as much as somebody who had … just been exposed to hunger, to not eating for a couple of days, they went out of their mind. They couldn’t take it. Their system couldn’t take it. But old—timers like myself were adjusted to that kind of thing. So we didn’t go out of our mind. But some of these people went absolutely crazy.  But in this particular case, when we were let out in the morning to be marched again, we had to march by where these potatoes were, some of the prisoners saw these potatoes, went wild and just surged on that big pot there and started grabbing potatoes. The SS started firing, and, to make a sad story short, and a nasty description short, there was actually a prisoner, when I came by to get my potato, who was actually still...his head was blown up by a bullet, or by several bullets, I don’t know, but all the blood and the brain was right on top. The guy was slumped over the big huge pot. Then somebody moved him away. So when I came, there was brain and blood on the potatoes. And people ate them just the same. I mean, it was better than dying from (having) nothing. But that scene is very vivid in my mind. It is one of the real bad scenes I saw. People were like animals. There is no other way to describe it, people were made to be animals.  Fortunately I remained sane under the conditions, like I said, I practically grew up in concentration camps. I was a little boy, I grew up, I became finally seventeen, eighteen. I had become accustomed to that kind of life. Also the strictness of my father helped me a lot to adjust, to be able to take a lot. But some people couldn’t do it, and suffered as a result. Nevertheless, even with all this animal-like behavior going on, because of my friend, who remained pretty much like I was, and maybe my father … we were to remain pretty much decent human beings under the conditions.

Prudnik istorian Marcin Husak describes Neustadt work camp where Allied Prisoners of War and later Hungarian Jewish women were force to work at a confiscated textile factory owned by prominent Prudnik Jewish businessman Samuel Frankel.  He also describes killings and selections in January 1945 as evacuations of concentration camps and work camps took place in front of the Soviet Army offensive.

Al stands outside the Neustadt Work Camp