Die Deportation nach Gurs

Filmaufnahmen aus Bruchsal vom 22. Oktober 1940

Bruchsal - a city faces up to its responsibility

It has been about three decades since a film previously kept under lock and key was presented to the public against strong resistance from the local authorities; it is the film document "Bruchsal under National Sozialism" already mentioned here. It was only thanks to the persistence of a member of the Bruchsal town council that the film was able to find its way out of the "poison cupboard" of the authorities.

Already in 2001 the book "Bruchsal und der Nationalsozialismus" by Alexia Kira Haus was published in the series "Veröffentlichung der Historischen Kommission der Stadt Bruchsal", in 2007 the author Jürgen Stude published the book "Geschichte der Juden in Bruchsal".

Still today the song "De Brusler Dorscht" is sung at carnival events in Bruchsal. Often not know is, that th author of the text was Otto Oppenheimer - he was one of about 700 Bruchsal Jews who at best had to flee from the Nazis in Germany, but at worst lost their lives in the Shoah.

After a long discussion process, in 2011 the Holzmarkt, which until 1945 was called Adolf-Hitler-Platz, was named after the cloth merchant Otto Oppenheimer. The archivist of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, Michael Simonson, commented on the renaming of the square as follows: "The history of the Oppenheimer family and the renaming of the square brought so much more to light - other names, details of events at the time, stories of escape and collaboration - and an atmosphere of determination developed in the city to find out even more."

Otto Oppenheimer and his large family were published in the series "Veröffentlichungen zur Geschichte der Stadt Bruchsal" as an anniversary volume "Oppenheimer - Eine jüdische Familie aus Bruchsal", edited by Thomas Adam, Thomas Moos and Rolf Schmitt. In spring 2020, a large monument will be erected on Otto-Oppenheimer-Platz commemorating Otto Oppenheimer, his family and their fates.

Since 2014, one of the most important citizen of Bruchsal has been commemorated for the first time in a prominent inner-city location, the Jewish lawyer and politician Ludwig Marum, who was a member of the state parliament and at times minister in Baden from 1914 to 1928 and was later elected to the Reichstag, where he worked until his arrest in 1933. He was one of the first Jews to be murdered in 1934. The commemorative plaque for Ludwig Marum was unveiled in his home town in 2014 in the castle area.

Since 2015, stumbling blocks have also been laid in Bruchsal - in some cases after great resistance. In the meantime, the laying of stumbling blocks in this city has become an annual festive, often touching event to which the descendants of expelled or murdered Jews of Bruchsal are invited and they like to come.

In Bruchsal, two major projects are still pending for the next years. One of these projects is the Tahara House near Bruchsal's Jewish cemetery. The interior of the building is currently being renovated, after which it will be discussed how the building should be used to enrich the culture of remembrance in this city.

In 1938 the synagogue in Bruchsal was burned down, the fire brigade did not extinguish. The Jewish community was never compensated for the damage caused. The Bruchsal fire station was built on this property in 1953. The fire brigade will probably move into a new fire station in 2020 and in Bruchsal is a discussion about what will be built on this property and what will happen to the foundation walls that are still in the ground. A support association is committed to the construction of the "Haus der Geschichte der Juden Badens" (House of the History of the Jews of Baden), which is unique in its conception, on this site. This idea finds much positive resonance in the population, the encouragement in the local council is not so large, a utilization of the property would bring nevertheless incomes at a value of 1,2 to 1,5 million euro. It becomes exciting to see whether Bruchsal will nevertheless face its responsibility in view of this large sum.

22. Oktober 2020 - 80. anniversary of the deportation to Gurs

You may have driven past this traffic sign several times. It is located in Prinz-Wilhelm-Straße in Bruchsal, diagonally opposite the train station: 968 kilometers from here to Gurs. Gurs? Where is Gurs? And what does Gurs have to do with Bruchsal?

Gurs is a small community of not even 500 inhabitants in southern France at the foot of the Pyrenees, not far from the Atlantic Ocean and just before the French-Spanish border. A small town, which would not be very interesting, had there not been an institution about 80 years ago that became a deadly fate for thousands of people, a concentration camp. Nearly 20,000 Jews were interned there between 1940 and 1945, most of them from Germany.

In October 1940 alone, 6,538 Jewish fellow citizens from Baden, the Palatinate and Saarland were deported to Gurs in railroad transports. Many died already on the way to southern France or then in the harsh winter in the approximately 380 barracks, all of which were unheated. Most of the survivors were later killed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobibor extermination camps.
On October 22, there were 123 fellow citizens of Jewish faith from the district of Bruchsal, 68 of them from Bruchsal alone. They were driven through the city to the train station, where they were loaded into fraight cars. This film sequence from the archives of the city of Bruchsal is an oppressive contemporary document.

The goal of the National Socialists' action was to make southwest Germany the first area in the Reich to be "free of Jews". Gestapo officers arrived at the apartments early in the morning to pick up the Jewish people. They had to pack up their belongings within an hour, at most 50 kilograms per person, a woollen blanket, dishes and food for several days.

And at the start of the film excerpt is the forever shameful writing tablet:

Bruchsal free of Jews!
The last Jews leave Bruchsal

So the next Thursday, October 22, it will be exactly 80 years since these scenes at Bruchsal station could be captured on film. For this reason, citizens of Bruchsal organize a silent march through the city. It begins at 10 a.m. at Otto-Oppenheimer-Platz and leads through the pedestrian zone and Friedrichstraße, past the fire station, where the Jewish Synagogue once stood, to Viktoria Park. At the beginning and end of the march there will be short commemorations. The participants carry posters with photos of Bruchsal Jews who were deported on this day, giving names and faces to this Jewish people of Bruchsal. Faces of the fellow citizens of that time, whose descendants could be members of our city society today.

Because of Corona, the number of participants is limited. However, the population is invited to attend the commemorative march as bystander in the pedestrian zone. The mayor of Bruchsal, Cornelia Petzold-Schick, will open the memorial action with a speech.

Yes, now you know what this traffic sign in Bruchsal is all about. And maybe you will tell this story to others in the next few days. Or even better, maybe you will come to the pedestrian zone on Thursday and give this commemoration march a worthy backdrop.