Exhibition about Death Marches: In the Max Mannheimer Study Center
The traveling exhibition "The Death Marches in the Documents of the International Tracing Service," will be on display in the Max Mannheimer Study Center in Dachau until 27 October 2013. Nina Ritz, director of the Center, and Dr. Susanne Urban, Head of Research and Education at the ITS, introduced the exhibition at the opening on 4 July 2013. Special guest was the witness Eric Imre Hitter. "It is a miracle that I'm still here today," said the 86-year-old, who had survived two death marches from a sub-camp of Gross-Rosen and then from the Flossenburg concentration camp.
The death marches were the last organized mass crimes of Nazi Germany. Thousands of prisoners died in the last days of the war. From 1946 to 1951, a program in the ITS was run to search for and identify victims of the death marches. The exhibition, now open in Dachau, gives insight into the ITS collections on this subject, and brings forth memories of individual survivors.
Among these survivors is Hitter, who was born in 1927 in Oradea Mare. He lost his parents, a sister, and a brother in the Holocaust. On 1 June 1944, Hitter was deported from Hungary to Auschwitz and then to the sub-camp of Gross-Rosen in Wüstegiersdorf. From here, the first death march in January 1945 led to Flossenburg which was "evacuated" in April 1945.
The Jewish prisoners would first have to get into waggons, reports the 86-year-old. But the train was bombed repeatedly. "We were trapped. Most of us were killed." The prisoners had to continue on foot. "It was a terrible march," Hitter himself recalls. "People were dying like flies." Shortly before the approach of the U.S. Army, the SS began to shoot the remaining prisoners. Hitter had to help with the digging of the mass grave. The last night before the liberation on 23 April 1945, he hid in a shed and so escaped the killings.
"His testimony is my daily motivation for my work," Urban said in her introduction to the exhibition. Large parts of the German population have testified to the public murder and some even became co-perpetrators, reported the historian. "Help remained the exception." The Max Mannheimer Study Center will use the exhibition for their work with young people. "Alongside the exhibition, we design a thematic workshop about the death marches for youth groups here in-house as day study programs," said Nina Ritz.
Hitter also came to the Study Center to share his story with students and youth groups. After the liberation of the then 18-year-old, he initially arrived at the camp for displaced persons in the Indersdorf monastery before going to the UK in October 1945. There he met his future wife, Fay Hirschmann, also a survivor, and married her in 1952. Today Hitter lives in Antwerp, Belgium. "I am happy with my family, my three children, and eight grandchildren."
About the Exhibition
In seven banners (Roll-Up), which were developed on the basis of newly evaluated historical documents, the exhibition "The Death Marches in the Documents of the International Tracing Service (ITS)" opens with a short introduction into the topic. Then the origin and diversity of the documents are described. Two biographies of victims of the death marches are presented, whose remains were identified. Fragments of survivors’ memories of the death marches serve as a bridge to the biography of Hitter.
In addition to the banners of the exhibition, ITS has assembled reading folders specifically describing the fate of Dachau prisoners on death marches. The sample documents are supplemented with explanatory notes and resources for ITS.
Traveling exhibition "The Death Marches in the Documents of the International Tracing Service (ITS)"
4 July to 27 October 2013 (except July 26 and 11 August, 2013)
daily 3 to 5 p.m. (except Monday and Thursday)
Max Mannheimer Study Center