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Research for “Memory Train Route Buchenwald”

It was a transport list showing the names of 200 children and teenagers that brought Holger Obbarius and Torsten Jugl from the Concentration Camp Buchenwald memorial to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. They spent two days of intense research at the ITS archives seeking to shed light on the lives and fates of Sinti and Roma children. “Our work is meant to deepen the project ‘Memory Train Route Buchenwald’“, reports educationist Obbarius. “The ITS holds in its archives plenty of information our work can profit by.”

By initiative of the “Searching for traces project“, a memory route was opened on a former line of the Buchenwald railway network in 2007. It was here where the SS, in 1943, had prisoners build a railway line stretching ten kilometres and leading to the concentration camp. Since the beginning of 1944, the line had been used to either send prisoners on to the outlying camps for forced labour or deport them to the extermination camps. The “memory route” is designed to commemorate many deportees’ fates and show that the camp, far from being an enclave, was connected with the outside world.

“Deepening the project implies to place commemoration stones along the memory route for a part of countless deported persons“, so Obbarius. In so doing, the organisers of the “Searching for traces project” agreed to concentrate on the transport list of 26th September 1944 showing the names of 200 Sinti and Roma children. “Plans for these children who had just arrived at Buchenwald sent there on a bigger transport from Auschwitz were: deportation back to Auschwitz”, knows the memorial employee. “A 99 percent death transport.” Conducting tentative and preparatory research in Arolsen, Obbarius and Jugl came across a clue pointing to the fact that at least one of the children had outlived the transport. “We do hope to find more survivors now”, so Obbarius.

The educational department of the Concentration Camp Buchenwald memorial designed and placed the first 70 commemoration stones in her past Summer Camps held regularly and organised in collaboration with the “Vereinigung Junger Freiwilliger (VJF/Association of Young Volunteers), the “Aktion Sühnezeichen” (Action Reconciliation) and the Service Civil International. “While designing and placing the stones, we thought of umpteen questions on the fate the children and adolescents had endured. Seeking to answer these questions, we have now found prisoner’s identification cards, camp office cards and many other traces in the ITS archives,” so Jugl, archivist at the Concentration Camp Buchenwald memorial.