Death march (day 2) – Civilians indifferent to our fate

EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT

Death march to Grossrosen

 “We were not given any food at all but had to continue with our march nevertheless. We asked the Kapos if we would get any food today. They comforted us with the assurance that we would be fed when we reached the next village where we were expected to arrive at lunchtime.

For some time we were not the only ones who marched along our route. It overflowed with a pushing, shoving, heaving human mass. Women were burdened with heavy bundles of clothes. Men and children pushed overloaded handcarts before them. It was only with considerable difficulty that hooting cars were able to clear their way through all this confusion. German army demolition squads also marched alongside us. All shared a common goal: to escape to the West. The street was completely overcrowded and we were merged into an unmanageable mass. So, guards diverted our column onto a path that crossed fields to eliminate the risk that we might otherwise make contact with civilians.

So once again we were completely isolated. No one took any notice of us, they were utterly indifferent to our fate. From time to time the muffled sound of rifle shots punctuated the silence, and it was as if each time our hearts were pierced. Again, a comrade became detached from the column. Again, another human life was extinguished and lay mute at the wayside. How often, and for how long had he been tortured before he was struck down with a single shot in his neck, and pushed like a piece of rubbish into the ditch which became his grave?” 

Death March (Czechowice-Bielsko, January 1945), 1945, Jan Hartman © The artist’s estate [IWM Art.IWM ART 16666]

BystanderDeath marchGross Rosen campKapos
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