Friday, February 06, 2009

Moosburger Zeitung Article - Translation

Here's a translation of an article concerning our trip, that appeared in the Moosburger Zeitung:

Click here to access a pdf of the German version of the article

Night marches in honor of their fathers Americans make a visit on the "Road to Sagan" and the ruins of Stalag VIIA in Moosburg.
They have flown thousands of miles in the heart of Europe's winter to finally make a 100 kilometer walk on foot : in the last ten days, children of former American prisoners of war followed the "Road to Sagan" in order to honor their fathers. At the end of World War II, the path they followed led from the Polish town of Sagan to the prisoner of war camp Stalag VIIA in Moosburg. Under the best care of Bernhard Kerscher, the Director of the Heimat-museum, they looked at, among other things, the remains of the former Wachbaracken in the Schlesierstrasse and also visited the memorial Oberreit. They call themselves "Kriegie Kids", and they have obviously listened intensely to the stories of their fathers, because the sons and daughters of former airmen Gore, Arnett, Bender, Burda, Keefe, Jeffers and Leary have a very good knowledge of past history. They had meticulously planned their trip on the "Road to Sagan”, which took them from the Polish city of Zagan, through the German towns of Spremberg, Dresden and Nuremberg, to their final destination in Moosburg.

It is there in Moosburg that, on April 29, 1945, their fathers lived one of the happiest moments of their lives – their deliverance from captivity. In January 1945, the Russian divisions had broken through the German defense lines and were rapidly advancing through Polish territory. Therefore the German Higher Command decided to evacuate Stalag Luft 3 in the Polish city of Sagan, so the 10,000 Allied airmen who were interned there wouldn’t be freed by the Russians.
Not in the least protected from the icy coldness of winter, hungry and freezing, the prisoners, in a long procession, walked in a westerly direction.
Some were put into Stalag XIIId after having reached Nuremberg, others, after a stop in Spremberg, made a 72-hour journey by truck to Stalag VII A in Moosburg. Nothing but misery awaited both groups in the utterly overcrowded camps. The trip for the "Kriegie Kids" was not that bad: Although they also marched 60 miles on foot through the Polish night, in order to experience, in the flesh, their fathers’ privations, at the end of their trek a bus was waiting for them to bring them back to their hotel. And while some wrapped themselves into authentic-looking "Aleutian Coats” or in khaki-colored blankets, others, especially the older ones, preferred thick boots and down coats. The cold didn’t diminish in any way the enthusiasm with which they wanted to honor their fathers.
The arrival in Moosburg was a little hectic: due to an error in communication the group had been announced for Tuesday. Fortunately, however, Bernhard Kerscher, Head of the Heimat-museum, was on the spot to greet the visitors when they knocked on the door on Monday morning. A translator was quickly found in the person of the newspaper “Moosburger Zeitung”’s Editorial Manager Karin Alt, who managed to give an answer to (almost) all the questions.
As Mr Kerscher was just a boy when the Americans liberated the camp, some questions couldn’t find a satisfactory answer, for example, from which side did the first American "tank" reach the Camp? That’s why Bernhard Kerscher told them a lot about his own recollections, things the guests had never heard before. The Americans in turn, reported how much their fathers had suffered from hunger and how disgusting were the six-legged nightly "co-habitants” in their sleeping quarters. How they shivered in the too desperately small latrines, where they had been advised to refrain from smoking, because any small spark in the gaseous atmosphere could have provoked an explosion.
It was with great joy that the visitors accepted the Stalag brochures and the beer mugs distributed by Mr Kerscher – souvenirs for the surviving fathers of participants, all in their eighties and nineties now. After a short lunch break, the group went to the Neustadt (New Town) part of the city, along the railroad tracks, towards a large wooden watchtower leading to the entrance of the former Camp. Along the present-day Sudeten-landstra├če – the wartime Hauptstrasse, which divided the camp in two – they reached the Schlesierstra├če. Here, of course, many photographs were taken of the three still standing “Wachbaracken”, the former watchtowers (”Goon boxes“), while some piece of brick or a pinch of dust were picked as a souvenir to take home. The American guests learned that the City Council is building a Stalag Museum, and that in future a renovation of the last wartime barracks will be undertaken. Some visitors were also amazed at how the New City had changed - many were not for the first time here. They told of an unforgettable stay at Martin Braun’s. He has made a lasting impression on the "Amis“ (Americans) with his warm cordiality, his hospitality and also with his skills in the art of magic.
Just a quick, short stop to visit the Memorial Fountain, in its winterly silence, before the tour ended with a visit to the memorial Oberreit. Eleven Americans had been buried in the former Stalag Cemetery, but soon after the war their remains had been brought to their homeland. The “Kriegie Kids” took leave of Moosburg with heartfelt thanks for the friendly reception in the city.

1 comment:

Keir said...

Cheers for this post. I'm living in Freising and will take advantage of what should be the only dry day of the week tomorrow to cycle out to Oberreit and Moosburg to pay my respects.