International Tracing Service
Kassel Community Center

The pogroms of November 1938 did nor erupt spontaneously and had far-reaching consequences. The first mass deportations of Jews from Germany between 28 and 30 October 1938 became a prologue to the pogroms. Between 15 000 and 17 000 Jews of Polish nationality had to leave Germany and Austria, and were forcibly returned to Poland. The cause of the so-called "Polenaktion" was a ban imposed by Himmler on 26 October 1938, prohibiting the residence of Polish Jews in Germany. 

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Merely 15 came back

The Raid in Rome on 16 October 1943

Razzia Rom

The idyllic scenery of today’s tourists taking a stroll in the streets of the former Jewish Ghetto in Rome, eating carciofi alla guidea, looking at the synagogue or admiring Judaica in Jewish-owned shops, forms a sharp contrast to the brutal round-up that occurred in the very same district on 16 October 1943. After the fall of Italy’s Dictator Mussolini in July 1943, Germany started occupying the country not yet freed by the Allies, Rome included, in September 1943. Acting in conformity with Italy’s new subsidiary status, Heinrich Himmler could give out the order that Italian Jews be deported to Auschwitz within a couple of weeks.

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Reisepass

Nowadays names like Sarah, David, Jakob, Elias and Ruth are common in Germany. During the era of National Socialism, though, these names were forbidden. Passing the “Second Act on enforcing the law on the change of family names and first names” on 17 August 1938, the Nazis took another step towards stigmatizing and excluding the Jews from social life in Germany. Drafted by the administrative lawyer in the Reich Ministry of the Interior, Hans Globke – Under-Secretary of State in Konrad Adenauer’s Government Cabinet – the act was directed against the use of names by “Jews” and “Non-Jews” alike.

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Hotel Royal1

Diplomats from 32 countries assembled on 6 to 15 July, 1938, to examine the situation of Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria and to explore solutions for the absorption and thus the rescue of thousands. The exodus and exile of political opponents and persecuted Jews from Germany began in 1933, immediately after the seizure of power by the Nazis and manifested in different ways.



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Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began 70 years ago, on 19 April 1943. The Jews fought bravely and desperately until the uprising was crushed on 16 May 1943 as they tried to stir the world to action. In mid-May the ghetto in the northern part of Warsaw was in ruins. The Great Synagogue was destroyed by the Germans to symbolize their victory at the end of the uprising. Twisted chandeliers and ritual objects protruded from the broken ghetto walls.

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Boykott

"Germans, defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!" With such demands directed to the address of so-called "people’s community" (Volksgemeinschaft), the country's organized boycott of Jewish businesses, law firms, and medical practices began on 1 April 1933.

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Reichstagsbrand

On 27 February 1933 the Reichstag was engulfed in flames. In the aftermath, emergency decrees were passed that gave the National Socialist Workers’ Party (German abbreviation NSDAP) a free rein to get rid of democratic rights. Aside from bringing about the NSDAP’s speedy re-action, the fire was used to sentence those arrested after the attack, to increase pressure on political opponents and to consolidate the party’s power. And the fire proved to be the final straw that convinced many intellectuals to go into exile. It is not the abstruse plots it engendered that makes the Reichstag fire relevant for history, but the process it allowed to be set in motion.

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February 1943: An almost Four-Year Odyssey is Coming to its End

The Tehran Children’s Arrival at Palestine

Teheran Kinder

With their arrival in Palestine on 18 February 1943, Jewish orphans could finally leave behind them flight, exile and a long journey that had led them from Poland to Persia. Though severely traumatised, most of them managed to find their way back to life thanks to the help Youth Aliyah offered and gave them.

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Youth Aliyah

Parallel to the takeover of power by the NSDAP, Zionist Recha Freier induced a lawyer to record the “Aid Committee for Jewish youths” in the register of charitable institutions on 30th January 1933. As final result of the merger of various organisations, Youth Aliyah was founded on 30th May 1933 and incorporated into the newly established Reich Association of the Jews in Germany in September 1933. Recha Freier and Henrietta Szold were the combined driving force behind this rescue program unparalleled in history. These two women so different from one another, but inseparably united in their selfless commitment to the cause proved indispensable to Youth Aliyah in its initial phase.

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for mulfinger

[16. Dezember 1942]  

Heinrich Himmler issued his Auschwitz Decree in the autumn of 1942 as the so-called “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was well underway, a move which also signified the escalation of the persecution of Sinti and Roma.  The 16th of December was established as a national day of remembrance in Germany in 1994 by survivors and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma.

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22 July 1942 marked the beginning of deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto where, at this point in time, more than 350,000 persons found themselves compelled to live under most terrible conditions. Preluding the gradual evacuation of the Warsaw Ghetto and the murder of its residents, the deportations were a constituent part of the “resettlement” of all Jews from the territory of the Generalgouvernement Himmler had ordered a few days before.

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The “Resettlement” of the Jews from the Generalgouvernement

Order for mass deportations on 19 July 1942

 

Acting in the line of the so-called “Aktion Reinhardt”, Heinrich Himmler ordered the “resettlement” of all Jews from the Generalgouvernement on 19 July 1942 – an initiative that was to affect the whole territory of the former South East of Poland and be finalised by the end of 1942. Until late in October 1943 over two million Jews and more than 50,000 Sinti and Roma were deported and murdered in the extermination camps at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.

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“Deportation of Stateless Jews”

The Rafle du Vélodrome d‘hiver in Paris

On 11 July 1942, the following note was taken of a discussion that had been held at the General Commissariat for Jewish issues in Paris the day before: “1.) Arrest action is to begin on Thursday, 16.7.1942 at 4.00 in the morning. 2.) The arrested are to be brought to the Vélodrome d’hiver. Director Tulard reckons with about 24, – 25,000 arrestations. […] 8.) On 21st or on 22nd July at the latest, the first transport is to leave. […] Further transports are to depart in two-day intervals so that, in all, 3 transports a week can be started“. (ITS Document 82197867)

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Jewish survivors faced a special situation after the liberation. While most of the Displaced Persons (DPs), who had been deported by Nazi Germany as forced labourers or had been incarcerated in concentration camps, came to be repatriated to their homelands, there were groups among them, such as Ukrainian and Russian DPs and also Jews who, for various reasons, were either unable or unwilling to return to their countries of origin.

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Seventy years ago - in June 1942 - the Czech town of Lidice was wiped out by the German occupying forces. The removal and destruction of entire villages - such as Oradour sur Glane in France in June 1944, or the Dutch village of Putten in October 1944 - was part of the brutal retaliation strategy of the Germans, with the intention of breaking the resistance in occupied countries.

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When the so-called “Wannsee Conference” took place, the murder action directed against Europe’s Jews had already started and gathered momentum. Since late in autumn 1941 Jews living in Germany and Austria had been deported, among other destinations, to Riga and Minsk where a considerable quantity of them was shot dead on their arrival. The social marginalisation and expropriation of the Jews, their expulsion into exile, their deportation, their recruitment for forced labour and the murder committed against them had been intensified to such an extent as to render clearly visible the objective behind all these forms of oppression: to get rid of all Jews living in the German sphere of power.

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On 15th October 1941 the Nazi regime started deporting Jews from Germany, Austria and the “Protectorate”, sending off about 1,000 Jewish residents on the first train transport from Vienna to Litzmannstadt. While it had become the norm that the trains terminated at ghettos like Lodz, Warsaw and Riga in 1941, the year 1942 saw new destinations such as Piaski, Izbica and Minsk add to the ‘ordinary’ schedule. Beginning with the summer of 1942, more and more transports were steering towards Theresienstadt, and Auschwitz came to be one of the most frequent destinations the trains were bound for as of autumn 1943.

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On 29th and 30th September 1941, members of Einsatzgruppe C (operational group C) joining forces with units of the Wehrmacht (German army) executed more than 30,000 Jews from Kiev and surroundings. Parts of the duty and guard men were recruited from Ukrainian volunteers. It was the greatest shooting action Nazi Germany had unleashed within the context of both, the war of conquest and annihilation she waged against the Soviet Union and the Holocaust.

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On 15th December 1946 the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) – a United Nations (UN) agency – was founded. Its special role as UN organisation was taking care of all those individuals in Europe and Asia whom the Second World War had left homeless, the so-called Displaced Persons (DPs). The IRO treaded in the footsteps of the previous United Nations organisation responsible for the care of refugees, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).

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In the summer of 1945, separate camps for Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) were established in the Western zones of occupied Germany and Austria. Whereas the repatriation policy as pursued by the Allies had resulted in the quick re-transfer of the DPs in general – whose numbers had come up to about nine million individuals right after liberation –, Jewish DPs “stuck” to the camps starting, with determination, a migration movement towards Palestine.

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The morning of the 22 June 1941 saw the German Army (Wehrmacht) pass the country’s border and invade the USSR. Without officially declaring war, Germany started the armed conflict with the Soviet Union that had been prepared in secrecy under the cover name “Barbarossa undertaking” (Unternehmen Barbarossa). Germany missed the interim target of what she had imagined to be an express war, namely to decidingly crush the Soviet Union by late in 1941. Instead, Germany herself suffered defeat in the battle for Moscow in December 1941.

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Following Heinrich Himmler’s so-called “Auschwitz decree” passed on 16 December 1942, according to which all “gypsy half-breeds, Romanies gypsies and members of gypsy clans from the Balkan … are to be committed to a concentration camp”, Sinti and Roma came to be deported to concentration and extermination camps first from German and Austrian towns. More than 25,000 out of approximately 40,000 German and Austrian Sinti and Roma registered by administration offices were murdered. Estimates show fluctuations in numbers speaking of a minimum total of 300,000 and a maximum total of 500,000 Sinti and Roma who fell victim to genocide.

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Eichmann on Trial

Court proceedings were instituted in Jerusalem on 11th April 1961.

“I have not been but a loyal, neat, correct, industrious member of the SS and of the main office for security of the “Reich” – not but inspired by ideal feelings for my fatherland I had the honour to belong to. […] Having sat in judgement on myself conscientiously, I cannot but confess to me that I have been neither a murderer nor a mass murderer. […]

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The political decision on “euthanasia”, the murder of mentally and physically ill persons, was taken in October 1939. Considering that Germany had attacked and invaded Poland in September, killings could and did take place, as of October, outside the territory of the "Reich" as well. Accordingly, an approximate total of 70,000 persons had been murdered by August 1941.  

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The 1941 General Strike in the Netherlands

A Protest against Anti-Jewish Round-Ups

When the Netherlands had capitulated in May 1940, the German occupiers of the country lost no time in tackling the gradual introduction of vehemently Anti-Jewish legislation. Amsterdam consequently saw a “Jewish quarter” spring up that bore a strong resemblance to a ghetto.

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The situation of the Displaced Persons

August 1945: The Harrison report is published

In August 1945, Earl G Harrison (1899-1955), an American jurist, submitted to US President Harry S Truman a report on the situation of the displaced persons (DPs) in Germany and Austria. The Harrison Report was produced on behalf of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR). Harrison came to the conclusion that three months after the end of the war, living conditions in the DP camps were alarming. He found particular fault with the poor supply of food, medicine and warm clothes to the Jewish survivors, deported persons and former forced labourers.

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Thousands of Concentration Camp Inmates Met their Death at Lübeck Bay

Bomb attack launched by the Allies on 3rd May 1945

[05-03-2010]  

The largest-ever “evacuation marches” that left Concentration Camp Neuengamme near Hamburg were those bound for Lübeck taking along the camp’s personnel, the files of the camp administration and the prisoners’ personal effects. This action of “evacuating” Concentration Camp Neuengamme implemented between 21st and 26th April 1945 drove people to move off, partly in freight cars, partly on foot, to Neustadt where they were ‘loaded’ on three ships, the “Thielbeck”, the “Athen” and the “Cap Arcona”.

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[05-02-2010]  

With the intention of reactivating, running again closed down brickworks, Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen erected a subsidiary camp in the Hamburg suburb of Neuengamme late in 1938. Following both a multiplication of its prisoners’ numbers and magnification of its premises, sub camp Neuengamme was ‘moved up’ to the rank of a concentration camp in the spring of 1940. Concentration Camp Neuengamme was the largest camp in the North West of the “Deutsche Reich”, its camp complex as a whole was freed in April 1945.

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[04-30-2010]  

In 1939, the SS chose Ravensbrück near Fürstenberg to be the site of the largest-ever concentration camp built for women on German territory. In the spring of 1939, the first female prisoners were committed to Ravensbrück coming from Lichtenburg Concentration Camp. In April 1941, a camp for men was opened at Ravensbrück, too – a historical fact less known today. And in June 1942, so-called “Jugendschutzlager Uckermark” – a sort of protective camp for young women and girls – was constructed within walking distance from the other two in June 1942 completing the camp triad.

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The Liberation of Dachau Concentration Camp

By the US Army on 29th April 1945

[04-29-2010]  

Being one of the very first concentration camps, Dachau was erected on 22nd March 1933 shortly after the NSDAP’s rise to power and freed by the American armed forces on 29th April 1945 after 12 years of uninterrupted, of continuous operation. This lengthy span of time saw the incarceration of more than 200,000 individuals, and the murder of 40,000 of them, happen at Dachau and its subsidiary camps or commandos.

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The Liberation of the “Lost Train” near Tröbitz

Transports leaving Concentration Camp Bergen-Belsen on 23rd April 1945

[04-23-2010]  

The last of the three transports leaving Bergen-Belsen between 6th and 11th April 1945 went down in the annals of history as “lost train”, “lost transport” or “train of those lost”. About 6,700 people were on the three trains in all.

 

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At Bergen-Belsen Camp that lay in about 20 kilometres’ distance from Celle and 60 kilometres’ distance from Hanover, over 50,000 concentration camp prisoners and just under 20,000 Soviet prisoners of war lost their liv

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Late in 1943, the Nazis elected to give sub camp Dora previously affiliated to Buchenwald Concentration Camp the status of a self-governing headquarters concentration camp – the last one established in the Reich – naming it Mittelbau. On 11th April 1945, it was freed by the troops of the US Army. Throughout its operational existence, an estimated number of 60,000 individuals were incarcerated in Mittelbau.  

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While the 15th July 1937 saw the establishment of Buchenwald Concentration Camp as “labour camp” on the so-called “Ettersberg” north of Weimar, the 11th April 1945 witnessed its liberation. In the course of the camp’s operational existence, approximately 250,000 individuals were detained in Buchenwald. Close to 56,000 humans lost their lives there, with just under 11,000 of these being Jews.

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On 27th January 1945, the Auschwitz extermination camp was liberated. The more the world heard and found out about the Auschwitz camp complex, the more this camp became a token of the Holocaust committed against Europe’s Jewry in particular, and of Nazi Germany’s uniquely inhuman and misanthropic system of persecution, forced labour and mass murder in general. Apart from its being inseparably intertwined with the Holocaust, the anniversary of Auschwitz’  liberation has gained universal importance: A resolution passed by the Plenary Assembly of the United Nations in November 2005 appointed the 27th January as world day of remembrance in honour of the Holocaust victims.

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“AB-Aktion” (= Extraordinary Pacifying Action) was called the intentional murder of the leading figures of Polish Resistance and Intelligentsia the Nazis committed during the summer and autumn of 1940 in the territories occupied by the German Reich, Radom, Lublin, Krakow and Galicia – the so-called General Government. The mass shooting performed in the immediate vicinity of Warsaw, in the woods of Palmirys among other places, but also at the notorious Pawiak prison claimed the lives of professors, teachers and priests – all of them representing the country’s intellectual and political elite.

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“Decrees on Poles”

8th March 1940

After tens of thousands of Polish men and women, either voluntarily or by compulsion, had already been transported to the German Reich for labour service, the so-called “Decrees on Poles” were ordered on 8th March 1940. From the General Government alone, the part of Poland that, though occupied by German armed forces, had not been incorporated into the Reich, more than 80,000 people had arrived at the Reich’s territory at that point in time.    

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Being the second biggest town in Poland, Lodz also had the country’s second largest Jewish community. The Jewish citizens of Lodz engaged in the fine arts’ and cultural life of the town, there were some Jewish textile manufacturers, and the Jewish population had conformed to the Polish culture to a high degree, was “acculturated”.

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Three and a half years ago, on 21st April 1941, the Germans had erected a concentration camp in a place near Natzweiler called “Le Struthof”. The central camp Natzweiler was the sole concentration camp on French soil although internment and transit camps like Drancy near Paris or Compiègne – even without clearly bearing the characteristic concentration camp traits – represented horrible preliminary stages bound to lead to further deportation or annihilation.

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In 1933, the youth groups organised in associations and originating in the “hikers” movement founded in 1899 were prohibited. It was owing to the modernization of the youth groups, their increasing tendency to turn away from the objectives as defined and decided in 1913, that included among others assuming responsibility for oneself and having the right of educating oneself, and owing to the latent and creeping infiltration of Anti-Semitic thinking into wide parts of the youth  movements that the Nazis succeeded in transforming and forcing into line quite swiftly the youth movements of “Hitler youth” (HJ) and “Federation of German Girls” (BdM).

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A Man Determined to Halt the War

The assassination attempt launched by Georg Elser on 8th November 1939

Johann Georg Elser, born in 1903 in Swabian Hermaringen, had five brothers and sisters and was brought up in modest circumstances. He was a German communist and lone resistance fighter against National Socialism, who launched a bomb attack on Adolf Hitler and other members of the Nazi leadership at Munich “Bürgerbräukeller” on 8th November 1939. Shortly after the end of the war, Elser was murdered on Hitler’s personal order.

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As early as from 18th August 1939 onwards, a decree passed by the Interior Ministry of the Reich called up all physicians and midwifes to report all infants and children up to the age of three years suffering from certain diseases or deficits to the health care agency in charge, the pretended motive for this measure being “to clarify scientific questions in the field of congenital malformation and mental retardation”.

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The Second World War did not simply break out, but was systematically planned by Nazi Germany as of 1933, took shape under various foreign and domestic political strategies and was immanent in Nazi ideology. The war envisaged was a leitmotif throughout all addresses, four-years-plans and propaganda.

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Early in October 1939, a police prison camp to detain offenders who, on behalf of the “Todt organisation” (OT), worked along the Siegfried line was erected on a plateau near Hinzert in the surroundings of Trier. Its official name was “SS Special Camp Hinzert”. In July 1940, the “inspection of the concentration camps” was put in charge of the camp near Hinzert. Due to the various special functions of the camp, it kept the name “SS Special Camp”.

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“Bars” Operation

22nd August 1944

Considering that recognition is due to the resistance originally coming from the military and the church and that the victims deserve being remembered in dignity, the 20th July 1944 for many a year has been integral part of the canon of commemoration days in the Federal Republic of Germany. In the first post-war decades, however, the assassins of the “20th July” resistance group were often branded and vilified as “traitors”. Their Communist ideology commanded the rulers of the GDR to either discredit or negate that resistance.

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The “Munich Agreement” concluded in October 1938 and the annexation of the previously Czech Sudetenland by Germany preceded what Hitler called the “suppression of the remnant of Czechia“. Germany took advantage of the escalation in tension in Czech-Slovakian relations and put pressure on Slovakia with the result that the national sovereignty was called out in the country’s Parliament on 14th March 1939, sovereignty under Germany’s “patronage”. In a next step, the coercive “protectorate agreement” between Czechia and Germany was signed – followed hard by the invasion of “Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia” unleashed on 16th March 1939.

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Heinrich Himmler’s so-called “Auschwitz decree” passed on 16th December 1942, according to which all “gypsies’ half-breeds, Romanies gypsies and members of gypsies’ clans from the Balkan … are to be committed to a concentration camp”, sealed and marked the beginning of the deportation of Sinti and Romanies from, among other countries, Germany and Austria to concentration and extermination camps.

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The camp site lay in the suburb Majdan Tatarski of the Polish town Lublin after which the camp was named later on. According to latest estimates, approximately 78,000 people were murdered there, among them about 60,000 Jews. Majdanek was both a concentration and – at least temporarily – an extermination camp.

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