Gurs Silence March in Bruchsal on 22 October 2020
On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the expulsion of Jews from Baden and the Saarpfalz to the concentration camp Gurs in southern France
the association (Förderverein) Haus der Geschichte der Juden in Baden,
the association (Förderverein) Lernort Bergfried-Bruchsal "Freedom - Civil Rights - Democracy" and
the Friedensinitiative (peace initiative) Bruchsal
on 22 October 2020 a GURS silent march through Bruchsal.
This silent march began at 10:00 a.m. at Otto-Oppenheimer-Platz and led across the pedestrian zone, Kaiserstrasse and Friedrichstrasse to the train station area. At the beginning and at the end of the march commemorative ceremonies were held. Lord Mayor Cornelia Petzold-Schick gave a commemorative speech.
Members of the three organizations carried photos of victims of this inhuman action by the Nazi regime in memory of the victims of this deportation. This is to commemorate the people whose children and grandchildren could be members of our urban society today. The deported and mostly murdered people should be given names and a face again. Because of the Corona pandemic, the number of participants was limited to 30.
Call for participation in the silent march and presentation of the village of Gurs and the Gurs concentration camp.
First report on the Gurs Silence March on German television.
It was the place where the Synagogue Bruchsal stood, where the silent march came to a halt for the first time. In a minute of silence the victims were remembered, whose photos most of the participants carried with them.
These are the only remaining film recordings of the deportation in Bruchsal. A total of 85 Jews from Bruchsal had to leave their homeland 80 years earlier today, and more than 6,500 Jews from the entire southwestern part of Germany had to pack their belongings together in no time at all.
The storage halls, which can be seen in the background, are still standing at the back of the train station today.
There we meet Rolf Schmitt, for years he has been fighting against forgetting. His vision is to build a Jewish museum in Bruchsal. He co-organized the silent march. To commemorate the victims is for him a question of respect. To preserve the memory is a duty.
"I think that one must not forget. We had many visits from descendants of the Jewish Bruchsalers and I realized how important it is for these people to keep the memory alive".
These are the pictures of people behind whom there is always a very personal fate. Many of them already lost their lives in Gurs or were murdered in extermination camps in the following years.
The names of the Bruchsal victims were read out loud today.
The story behind the names is to be preserved here in the General State Archive in Karlsruhe [...]
First thoughts of Rainer Kaufmann, shortly after the end of the Gurs Silence March.
The Gurs Silence March in 15 minutes.
Report in the Bruchsaler Rundschau (local daily newspaper) on 23 October 2020.
Translation of the text of the Bruchsaler Rundschau
Bruchsalers remind of deported Jews
123 people from the town and the surrounding area were deported to Gurs in 1940 / Many died in the camp
From our editorial staff member Marie Orphal
Image caption: Giving the victims a face: With a silent march, the Bruchsalers commemorated the deportation of the Jews to Gurs 80 years ago.
80 years ago, the Jewish population of Bruchsal was forcibly deported to the internment camp in Gurs, France. The events were commemorated with commemoration ceremonies.
Bruchsal. On October 22, 1940, early in the morning, Richard Wolf from Bruchsal was woken from his sleep by Gestapo officials. Ferdinand and Bertha Wolf, the 14-year-old's parents, are also awakened. Within the shortest possible time they are to be ready to travel. A suitcase, a woollen blanket and 100 Reichsmarks: they are not allowed to take much more than that. In front of the house the Wolfs are forced to get into a truck, as an eyewitness reports. The truck drives to the train station, from where they are put on special trains with 120 other Jews and deported to an internment camp in Gurs, France. Small children, old and sick people are also among the deportees. About 80 of them come from Bruchsal, about 40 from the surrounding villages. Some passers-by mock, spit at and insult the victims, others cry - no one helps.
This Thursday marked the 80th anniversary of the deportation of the Bruchsal Jews to Gurs. With a silent march, the both sponsoring associations "Haus der Geschichte der Juden Badens" (Förderverein Haus der Geschichte der Juden Badens), "Lernort Bergfried Bruchsal: Freiheit - Bürgerrechte - Demokratie" and the "Friedensinitiative Bruchsal" (peace initiative) commemorated the events on this occasion. About 50 people marched through the city, wearing portraits of the deportees on their bodies. "We wanted to give the Jews back their name and face," explained Rolf Schmitt, chairman of the sponsoring association Haus der Geschichte der Juden Badens. From Otto-Oppenheimer-Platz the participants walked along Kaiserstrasse and Friedrichstrasse to the site of the old synagogue and from there to Viktoriapark.
According to the organizers, almost the entire Jewish population of Baden, the Palatinate and Saarland was deported to the internment camp "Camp de Gurs" in southern France on October 22, 1940 - more than 6,500 people. The goal of the "Wagner-Bürckel-Aktion" is to make the southwest German territories the first in the Reich to be "free of Jews". On this day the Gestapo forcibly drives Jewish citizens to the train station in Bruchsal. Of the approximately 80 Bruchsal Jews, only 24 survive the time in the internment camp. Some of them already die on the train ride to Gurs, 1,300 kilometers away. In the internment camp, the people live in cold and dirty barracks, sleep on straw sacks or on the floor and feed on coffee grounds and beet soup. Many die due to the poor supply, hygienic conditions, rain and cold already a few weeks after arrival. Others are further deported from Gurs to extermination camps and murdered.
The Bruchsaler Richard Wolf is among those who survived Gurs. He never told much about his time in the internment camp, his daughter Hélène Wolf recalls in a written greeting to the organizers of the silent march. The silence of her father, who died in 1981, had left a "pain" in her family.
Lord Mayor warns: Anti-Semitism still a problem today.
"The deportation made drastically visible what hate, fanaticism, and racial madness can do to terrible things," emphasized Mayor Cornelia Petzold-Schick at the beginning of the silent march. And: "Violence, hate and agitation must have no place in our city and in our country. The deeds of National Socialism should not be forgotten - especially against the background that anti-Semitic crimes are still a problem today: "Every year, between 1,000 and 2,000 anti-Semitic attacks are recorded".
A list of deportees compiled by the Nazis and a one-minute film sequence showing the deportation at Bruchsal station bear witness to the events. In Bad Schönborn, Philippsburg, Untergrombach and Heidelsheim, too, commemorative events were held on Thursday to commemorate the deportation of Jews to Gurs.
Photos © Rolf-Dieter Gerken