Travel Journal May 2018

Oberstech

Reisebericht von Roslyn Eldar , Melbourne ( Australien ) ihres Besuchs der Muna Lübberstedt am 4. Mai 2018

Muna Lubberstedt, ammunition factory

(Satellite camp of Neuengamme concentration camp)

Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears,

that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.

Jeremiah 8:23

Friday 4 May is the day I had been waiting for. We were to go on a private tour

of Muna Lubberstedt. This was the culmination of almost 2 years or research.

When I started this investigation I never imagined it would result in this family

pilgrimage, a pilgrimage to such an unholy destination.

We all had breakfast together in the Holiday Inn, Mindu, Nicola, Alex, David

and myself. It was Mindu's 89th birthday. She was to celebrate by

visiting the ammunition factory that she was imprisoned in for 8 months, 73

years ago -it was a celebration of her survival. At 9.30 a.m. a mini bus came to

collect us with Barbara Lorber and her grandsons already on board. We also

travelled with the two minders and a cameraman all from the Neuengamme

Memorial. It is about a 2-hour drive to Lubberstedt from the centre of

Hamburg.

Survivors talk to German school children at the Community House in Axstedt

During the bus ride to Muna Lubberstedt there was much chatting and

excitement between the various offspring, the 2 survivors and minders.

However, the atmosphere became more sombre when we reached the

Community House in Axstedt, which is 5 minutes’ drive from Muna

Lubberstedt. About 20 School children around the age of 15 soon arrived via

train with their teacher, to hear both Barbara and Mindu talk about their

experiences in Auschwitz and the satellite camp. You could hear a pin drop as

the two women spoke. As Barbara speaks German fluently she did most of the

talking. Both survivors cried at times. Some of the students cried too. It was an

impressive, authentic history lesson.

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Photo Barbara Lorber and Mindu Hornick talking to school children in Axstedt Community

House

Hartmut Oberstech, who I had met at the Baseler Hof Hotel, was also at the

Community House, as he was to conduct our tour of Muna Lubberstedt. He

had taken the day off work especially for this event. He also went out of his

way to bring us lunch after the talk ,a delicious soup in a large cauldron . We

ate in the Community House with school teachers and other members of the

voluntary association, “MUNA Lübberstedt “including Barbara Hillman, Erdwig

Kramer , Rudy Kahrs, and Ilsabe and Ulrich Tienken. We greatly appreciated

their hospitality. Finally, we were driven to the former ammunition factory.

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Lunch at the Community House of Axstedt

Private tour of Lubberstedt

Our tour of Muna Lubberstedt was a private tour. The group consisted of 8

family members, several volunteers from the Muna association ,2 minders, 1

cameraman and 1 journalist.

We arrived at a home that was built on part of the ammunition factory ruins.

The property had been sold to the family in the 1950s before its historical

significance was understood. On this private property stands the remains

of one of the air raid shelters used by prisoners and SS when the RAF were

bombing the area .The owners of the land are forbidden to tear this shelter

down. . This was the last time the owners would give permission for any tour

to enter the former factory grounds via their home, so we were lucky to gain

entrance to see this.

We walked around the outside of their home and garden area and

then over green fields, to an air raid shelter. It was over grown with shrubs

and dilapidated. The survivors did not recognise it. They recounted how

towards the end of the war, they were crammed inside the shelter at night and

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had to sit on concrete until the air raid was over. They were exhausted from

working and wanted to lie down and sleep in their barrack. Barbara said one

time she did not go to the bomb shelter, even though her mother begged her

to. She remained in her barrack, exhausted and was lying in her bed when an

SS female guard came to check and started to beat Barbara with a truncheon.

Luckily, another SS guard came in, one who favoured Barbara, as she was a

good singer for the morning march to work, so the beating stopped. I recalled

that my aunt Elizabeth Just also told me she once hid in a cupboard in her

barrack to avoid going to the shelter. She was also discovered by a female SS

guard who beat her on the back with a truncheon. Unfortunately for my

aunt, no- one interrupted this beating.

Mindu Hornick standing in front of the air raid shelter she hated to enter

Part of our group outside the

air raid shelter

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We stood in the fields surrounded by forest just as my mother said. I realized

how the forest provided protection against aerial reconnaissance. Once again

it was perfect weather, with blue skies and shining sun. Hartmut explained

where the other buildings would have been. Everything apart from this bomb

shelter is gone-the prisoner barracks, the kitchen, the wash facilities, the roll

call area, the bomb production area, all gone. The production facilities were

blown up at the end of the war by the Wehrmacht to hide their crimes.

Other buildings had fallen into disrepair and were torn down before their

significance was appreciated. Just green fields that merged into surrounding

forest remain, now preserved and not to be touched. At first I was upset

there were no buildings to see but then I felt it was perfect this way. What

mattered is that I had finally arrived and I was fortunate enough to do so with

the actual

survivors.

My son, David Eldar standing in the field where his great grandmother, grandmother, great

aunt and other family members had worked as slave labourers for the Nazi regime.

We walked from the air raid shelter, towards the bomb production area, a

walk the prisoners did 6 days a week, singing in German, for 8 months, from

summer August 1944, through winter, until Spring, April 1945. I walked beside

Barbara our arms linked. One of her grandsons was on her other side. Ahead of

us were Mindu with her daughter and grandson. My son David was further

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ahead. We were surrounded by forest. It was still. We walked in

freedom, safe. Our walk was recorded on camera.

The prisoners’ routine was daily roll call at 5 am, followed by breakfast

consisting of a brownish broth called “coffee" and 4 slices of bread per day.

Later as the war progressed and supplies diminished it was 4 slices of bread

per week. The prisoners then walked to work in step, singing in German,

guarded by SS female guards. The walk to the production area was 1.5

kilometres, and to bunker storage area was 5 kilometres. The walk during

winter was difficult especially for those women who only had wooden clogs for

shoes. Lunch was a soup at the factory. The work shifts were 10 to 12 hrs and

the prisoners worked day and night shifts too. After their return to the

barracks in the evening, there was another roll call followed by dinner of bread

and maybe some sausage or quark. My grandmother Berta Ruttner, had a job

as cook for the SS in the kitchen, so she supplemented her family’s meals by

stealing potatoes to help them survive. She did this risking her own life.

Luftwaffe paid 2 Marks a day for each unskilled labourer and the SS received

this “pay”.

The work of the women involved filling, assembling, packing and loading

bombs for Luftwaffe, which resulted in serious damage to their health. The

chemical fumes turned their hair red, and many of the women were struggling

with lung problems.

My aunt, alive in Melbourne today had the job of pouring toxic bomb fluid into

bombs without protective clothing. After Liberation she had surgery in Prague

in the Bulovka hospital for a perforated lung. She then spent approximately 2

years in the Tatra mountains recovering, in a private clinic called “Villa Dr.

Szontagh” all paid for by her uncle Joseph Slyomovic.

Mindu also spent 6 months in a clinic with lung issues post- war.

MIndu and Barbara commented that although they were still afraid and

exhausted from their hard-physical labour, starved, beaten and humiliated,

the selection for work from Auschwitz had saved their lives. The ammunition

factory was not an extermination camp, and the air did not reek from the

stench of burning flesh and bones. The camp had, at times, a human face they

said, as some of the SS female guards were kind and tried to help the 500

Jewish female prisoners

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We returned to the mini- bus and were then driven all around the periphery

of Muna Lubberstedt . The 420-hectare complex had comprised, at one

stage of 22 filling buildings (that is where the bombs were filled with fluid)

and 102 bunkers for storing ammunition, two 26-meter-deep wells for water

supply, 30 kilometers of road and 7.6 kilometers of railway network. In the

parachute house huge parachutes were packed for the up to 1,000 kg heavy

mines, In the powder mill explosives were recycled from faulty ammunition.

We drove through the main gate where the public tour enters and stopped

at the bunker area where the bombs were stored, once again hidden from

aerial view by the forest. Towards the end of the war, when no fuel was

available to drive the larger wagons full with bombs to these bunkers, the slave

labourers had to push the wagons. Two female prisoners pulled a wagon and

two pushed it, heavy with huge bombs that they had loaded onto the wagons.

Later they had to unload the bombs into the bunkers. Prisoner Ethel

Jerkewitz was beaten because she was too slow and then, due to the beating,

she was unable to work anymore. That evening the prisoners bought her

body back to the barracks where she died.

A bunker where the bombs where stored-it is very large and dark inside like a concrete cave.

There were 102 bunkers covered with earth.

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.

5 women are recorded to have died in Lubberstedt ,3 of them from

beatings and 2 from “illness” .

In my mother’s DEGOB statement she notes”: The camp Commander

changed every three months; the third one was very bad. Two

women, who were sick and stayed in the room before roll call were

beaten to death by him. We heard them screaming and whining; they

died that evening…”

In the early 1970s there were preliminary investigations by Germany

into war crimes that were committed by the 3 Commanders and

various SS female guards of Lubberstedt. The Prosecutor stated that

war crimes were committed in Lubberstedt but they were not given

enough information by the survivors to identify the perpetrators .

There was a stay of proceedings by the Prosecution on 3rd October

1974.

The Bitter End

Of the 500 women transported to Muna Lubberstedt from Auschwitz , about

380 survived the war. 5 had died in the factory camp and about 60 had been

transported to Bergen Belsen of whom maybe 10 survived. Some died from

starvation and illness on the evacuating train . Approximlately 60 died when

the train was bombed twice by the RAF in the last days of the war. The

bombings occured in Eutin on the 2nd May 1945 and again near Plon on 3rd

May 1945 .The RAF mistakenly thought the train held only fleeing Nazis.

Many prisoners were injured by these bombings, including some with leg or

arm amputations and head injureis .

Liberation by the Britsh army occured in Plon on the 8 May 1945 .

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Map of Germany showing the journey of my family from Tacova ( Tesco) to Auschwitz -Birkenau

concentration camp ,then to Lubberstedt ammunition factory and finally Liberation in Plon.

Courtesy of historian Karsten Dolger from his article “From Auschwitz to Plon” 3 November 2017

The tour of Muna Lubbertsedt was over and we were taken to Lubberstedt

cemetery .

Lubberstdt cemetery

In Lubberstedt cemetery we visited the communal grave of 4 of the

Jewish female prisoners who died in Lubberstedt . They are buried

together with 8 Russian Prisoners of War. Originally these 12 bodies

were in separate, unmarked graves but in 1989 the Axstedt local

authorities moved them to the current communal grave and marked

it with a Memorial stone. In 1997 the Lubberstedt voluntary group

added 2 headstones, listing the names of the deceased prisoners.

As we stood around this gravesite, Erdwig Kramer said a

heartfelt prayer:

At the end of August 1944, 500 Jewish women who came from

Auschwitz were discharged from cattle cars at Lübberstedt railway

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station. They had to work hard in an ammunition factory. Here at

Lübberstedt cemetery 4 prisoners( Fani Pavel, Etel Jezkowitz, Sari

Katz and Rexfin Weiss) found their last rest. The grave of Babczu

Bistricer is unknown.

We want to remember the Holocaust victims who were persecuted

and murdered as a part of the European population. The Nazis

wanted to attack the God of the Jews and to annihilate His people.

We want to stand up to preserve the memory of those crimes. Just

like many of the survivors want this and as Elie Wiesel has demanded

it in his book “The Forgotten”.

We Germans must not forget either what humans are capable of in

certain situations. We must remember, do soul-searching and ask

ourselves which prejudices deep inside us lead to such inhuman acts

again. Anti-Semitism and racism are still present. We must not allow

that they humiliate and destroy human lives again in our country.

Let us remember the victims in silence.

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The Memorial stone in Lubberstedt cemetery and two headstones with the names of twelve

forced laborers and their children who died in Lubberstedt. Four Jewish women are buried

here are:

Fani Pavel (1915 - 1944)

Rexfin Weiss (1910 - 1945)

Sari Katz (1920 - 1945)

Etel Jezkovits (1926 - 1945)

“Remember! Forced labourers, men, women and children lie here”

Erdwig

Kramer

reading a

prayer for

the prisoners

buried in the

communal

grave

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Our return trip to Hamburg took 3 hours due to peak hour traffic.

MIndu’s daughter, Nicola and her grandson, Alex, immediately went

to the airport to return to the UK. Barbara Lorber and her family

were leaving for Israel very early the next morning.

That left Mindu, David and myself. It was still Mindu‘s birthday so we

went to a restaurant to celebrate in style , in stark contrast to the

day’s events. We ended the meal with a mini cake and sparklers. I

cannot imagine how Mindu was really feeling and how strange it

would be for her to re- visit this part of her past.

Mindu Hornick celebrating her 89th birthday with David and myself. 4th May, 2018,

Hamburg, Germany

The next day there was an article in the local newspaper Osterholzer

Kreisblatt” about our tour of Muna .In it the journalist quoted Mindu

who said “it is hard for us to come here and every thought of the

time tears open the scars again. “ . The article went on to say that

the women give the talks to warn that such a thing should not

happen again. Also, they wanted to show their families the place that

had done them harm but had been their salvation.

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Arbeitskreis Muna Lubberstedt

The voluntary association “MUNA Lübberstedt” was formed in 1992.

It saved the former factory grounds from oblivion. Its aim is to raise

awareness of this aspect of Germany´s history so that such

devastating errors will not be repeated. I have great admiration for

this group whose members devote so much of their free time to this

task voluntarily.

Among its original members were Volrad Kluge, (now deceased)

Barbara Hillmann & Erdwig Kramer.. In 1996 they published the

book “Muna Lubberstedt” that documents all the events

surrounding this area during World War 11. The members travelled

to Israel, Warsaw and other countries, several times, to interview

former prisoners. Thorsten Gajewi and Rudiger Kahrs provided

valuable research for the book.

In 1997, the Association identified the names of the 12 forced

labourers buried in the communal grave in Lubberstedt cemetery. It

redesigned the grave and arranged for two headstones to be erected

and engraved with their names so they have their dignity again.

In 2010, the Association, led by Erdwig Kramer, obtained a permit,

after great effort, to do monthly tours of the factory grounds for the

public .The tours commenced in 2012

In 2016 the Association made a 30 minute documentary film about

the area that can be shown at schools as part of education about the

Holocaust.

Over the years committed and historically aware Germans have

joined this voluntary group including Hartmut Oberstech who joined

in March 2017. Hartmut is now 2 nd in charge.

The Association plans to erect a Commemorative Plaque on the

grounds of the former factory site in the near future.

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Since October 2017 a German Foundation for Nature Conservation

has taken over the care of the actual site. Its aim is the harmonious

protection of nature and the history of the area.

back row :left to right: Erdwig Kramer and Alex Foster

front row: Nicola Foster, Mindu Hornick, Barbara Hillman, Barbara Lorber ,Daniel

and Aviv Bar-On

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left to right: Barbara Hillman, Barbara Lorber, Ilsabe Tienken (in wheelchair) and

Ulrich Tienken

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left: Barbara Hillman and right Barbara Lorber

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