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Searching for lists of graves at Trutzhain POW camp

Waltraud Burger spent two days at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen doing research to reconstruct names on rows of gravestones in cemeteries at the former POW camp in Ziegenhain, today known as Trutzhain. “It is important to clarify where the POWs are buried. The relatives need a place to mourn,” said the Trutzhain Memorial historian. “My research at the ITS supports this goal.”

The POW camp in Ziegenhain had two separate cemeteries. Polish, French, Yugoslavian and American dead were interred in the Allied Cemetery, while Soviet and Serbian prisoners were buried in the Waldfriedhof (Forest Cemetery). Burials took place in mass, multiple or single graves.

Although the office in Ziegenhain had listed the dead and reported them to the German army information office (WASt), graves were marked only with numbered concrete slabs. The lists of the POW camp (termed by the Nazis as “camps for prisoners of war” or “Stalags”) have largely been missing since 1945 or have ended up in various archives.

For some time, Burger has made it her mission to find out who was buried in which grave. “Our memorial receives around three requests a week from Europe, the USA and the former Soviet Union,” she reported. “The next generation would like information on their family members´ fates, but also on their gravesites.” The historian has visited various archives in order to collect information. She viewed all the lists from Ziegenhain county, especially the list of graves, at the ITS. “The digitization of ITS documents has made my work much easier, and the originals can also be protected,” said the historian enthusiastically.

The Trutzhain Memorial is Hessen´s newest memorial site. Approximately 80 per cent of the camp is still visible today. Burger and ten volunteers are giving tours, creating exhibitions, answering inquiries and supporting relatives at the former POW camp. Seniors at Ziegenhain´s Carl Bantzer School regularly maintain Trutzhain´s Memorial Forest Cemetery.