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April 24, 2012

The atrocity at Nammering, Germany in the last days of World War II…

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 1:58 pm

In the photo below, taken on Sunday May 6, 1945, American soldiers are showing some citizens of Nammering a sign that has been erected in their town.  American soldiers discovered the atrocity at Nammering on April 28, 1945, one day before the Dachau concentration camp was liberated.

Sign erected at Nammering, Germany in 1945 Photo Credit: USHMM courtesy of Seymour Schenkman

This quote is from the USHMM website which shows the photograph above:

An American soldier stands next to a sign erected by the U.S. Army to mark the site of the Nammering atrocity. It reads: “In eternal memory. Here lie 800 martyrs who were murdered by Nazi executioners in April 1945. Rest in peace.”

Here is the back story of the Nammering atrocity, as told on the USHMM website:

On April 19, 1945, a freight train with nearly 4,500 prisoners from Buchenwald pulled onto the railroad siding at Nammering. The train had been destined for Dachau, but at Plattling it was diverted towards Nammering because of damage to the railroad caused by Allied bombing.

Once in Nammering, some of the local inhabitants attempted to give the prisoners food and water, but these provisions were stolen by the 150 SS and police officers guarding the train. The commanding officer in charge, Lieutenant Hans Meerbach (sic), ordered during the halt that the bodies of the dead be removed from the train and cremated. This work proceeded too slowly for him, however, and prisoners were forced to carry the bodies of the dead to a nearby mass grave in a ravine roughly 500 yards from the train.

There the prisoners carrying the corpses were shot by the guards and they were also buried in the grave. Altogether 524 prisoners were shot and nearly 800 were interred in the mass grave. The bodies were then covered with lime and the grave was flooded to speed up decomposition.

Those 3,100 prisoners who had remained on the train were sent on to Dachau, where they were liberated…

Bodies of prisoners that were exhumed from a mass grave at Nammering, Germany in April 1945

According to Dachau, A Guide to its Contemporary History by Hans-Günther Richardi, the ill-fated train had left Buchenwald on April 7, 1945 carrying 4,500 French, Italian, Austrian, Polish, Russian and Jewish prisoners from the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald. Five hours after the train departed from Weimar, Hans Erich Merbach, the transport leader, was informed that the Flossenbürg concentration camp, their destination, had already been liberated by the Americans. The prisoners at Flossenbürg had been evacuated and were being death marched to Dachau. The train had to be rerouted to Dachau but it took almost three weeks to get there because of numerous delays caused by American planes bombing the railroad tracks.

Due to the bombing of the railroad tracks, the train from Buchenwald had to take several very long detours through Leipzig, Dresden and finally through the town of Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. In the village of Nammering, the train was delayed for four days while the track was repaired, and the mayor of the town brought bread and potatoes for the prisoners, according to Harold Marcuse in his book Legacies of Dachau.  Marcuse did not mention that the food was stolen from the prisoners by SS men.

Continuing on via Pocking, the train was attacked by American planes because they thought it was a military transport, according to Richardi. Many of the prisoners were riding in open gondola cars with no protection from the hail of bullets.

According to the USHMM website, “an American officer in the Nammering area forced SS men collected from a nearby POW camp to exhume the corpses and lay them out on either side of the ravine above the mass grave. The inhabitants of Nammering were then ordered to walk through the gravesite, and the bodies were buried in the surrounding towns of Eging am See, Aicha vom Wald, Nammering, and Fuerstenstein.”

The photo below shows that civilians in the town of Nammering were forced to dig individual graves for the prisoners.  Note that there are some women and young girls shown in the photo.

Civilians in town of Nammering were ordered to dig graves for the prisoners

The following quote is from this website:

On 14 April Himmler sent a telegram to the commandant at Flossenbürg, ordering a full evacuation and specifying, “No prisoner may fall into enemy hands alive.”

An assault on prisoners quite similar to the one reported in the captions [on the photographs on this website] had taken place just before it, and apparently in the same vicinity. On 7 April 4480 prisoners were dispatched by train from Buchenwald, destined for Dachau, but the train was diverted to the town of Nammering, near Passau, and there, on 19 April, about 800 prisoners were shot or burnt by the SS. The killing was halted only after a protest by local farmers and a priest. On 26 April the remaining prisoners were sent on to Dachau. Shortly thereafter, on orders from the commander of the American forces who had liberated the area, residents of several nearby towns were forced to bury the victims of the massacre. Among the Germans who were forced to participate were people from Nammering. There are close parallels between this train of events and the one described in several captions in the Flossenbürg collection. These captions, too, report the massacre of about 800 prisoners in transit in April 1945. Again the people of Nammering are noted, and in this case they are accused (note photo #46864) of having participated in the killing. The captions portray the victims as inmates from Flossenbürg, rather than Buchenwald, and report that they had been sent out on 20 April, whereas the massacre of the prisoners from Buchenwald appears, as previously noted, to have taken place on the 19th. Perhaps there was in fact only one massacre, with a confusion on dates and the identity of the victims. Possibly there were in fact two separate incidents, coincidentally close in time and in location.

Hans Eric Merbach, the man in charge of the train that stopped for four days in Nammering, was put on trial by the American Military Tribunal.  Merbach’s crime was that he was part of the “common plan” to kill the Buchenwald prisoners because he had prevented the escape of most of the prisoners from the train. Merbach said that he could not release the prisoners because “every time a prisoner escaped the most incredible things were happening among the civilian population.” (more…)