Visit of exhibition, Brussels, 16 June
As we often assist and advice towards other projects around the war and forced labor, we recently visited a newly opened exhibition about this theme in the Royal Army Museum, Brussels.
The exposition had been created by two young museum staff members and was very esthetic and informative. New concepts on presentation, usage of latest lighting technology, colors, choice of artefacts and texts were combined into a modest, but very poignant combination and a clear message to the visitor.
With new ideas and ways ahead, we feel confident for the new future exhibition regarding the “REIMAHG” in the Kahla town museum. The visit took around two hours to complete.
A trip into the past
Since many years, in the framework of international relationships, our association has kept a close contact with the veterans of the 89th Infantry Division, that liberated in April 1945 the camps around the “REIMAHG”.
Already in 2010, following the 65th anniversary of the liberation, veterans and relatives of the unit came to Kahla.
This year, beginning of June, Erwin Davis, 354th Infantry Regiment/89th Infantry Division, traveled to Normandy, together with his escort John Moseley, to participate at the celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings. Once again, he wanted to retrace the road he took in 1945.
His voyage took again over the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, he visited the former concentration camp in Ohrdruf and went to Kahla. From Zwickau, he continued to Nuremberg, to finally return to Frankfurt, in order to fly back to the USA.
Erwin, who is 93 years old, was together with his twin brother Ervin, in the same unit. This is quite unusual and remarkable, especially since both brothers were all the time together during the war in a combat team. Both survived the war and ist horror. Erwin’s brother Ervin died in 2018.
The trip Erwin undertook, was filled with many human encounters and memories. Our association organized the trip, once he arrived in Thuringia. Upon his arrival in Ohrdruf he was greeted very heartfully by the District Chairman and the Mayor of Arnstadt. They thanked him with warm words for his commitment for the liberation of Thuringia and the peace that has prevailed since then. These were emotional moments for Erwin, especially as he was asked to add his name in the honor book of the district. His history through Thuringia was also of interest of the local German press.
The trip continued towards Kahla and as in April 1945, in the Leubengrund Valley. In the Linzmühle Hotel we finished the day. The following day started by laying down a wreath at the monument for the victims of the Lager 7. This camp was liberated by his unit. We were able to explain the history and background of the camps by visiting the exhibition in the Kahla city museum. Here was he was welcomed by Mayor Jan Schönfeld. He was very keen on learning about the history of the factory and the people who worked there. As a token of remembrance and gratitude, we handed Erwin and John the book “REIMAHG – a pictorial history”, something which touched both. With a beautiful sun, we drove up to the Leuchtenburg Castle, where the view over the Saale Valley was breathtaking and overwhelming.
Together with Erwin and John, we continued the trip towards Zwickau, where his unit was situated at the end of the war. Upon Erwin’s request, we then continued to Nuremberg. He wanted to discover the history of the former Nazi party rally grounds and the International Military Tribunal.
The farewell was hard, they thanked us with warm and heartfelt words, and we knew that Erwin and John felt really well while we were escorting them, enjoying their trip with many memories and present impressions.
We wished both safe travels home and hope that we may greet them again in 2020, when we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Liberation.
Visit to the International Military Tribunal (IMT), Nuremberg
The Eastern wing of the Justice Palast was 1945/46 the location of the first trial against famous people of the NS-Regime, organized by the International Military Tribunal.
In a military court there is no jury, as the verdict is set by judges. As the Justice Palast hadn’t suffered any major damage, it provided the best infrastructure as a tribunal. It also gave the city, where once the Nazi party rally grounds and the Nuremberg racial laws took place, a special symbolical meaning.
The permanent exhibition explains how the trial went along, as well as many stories behind the screens. The former Schwurgerichtssaal 600 can also be visited. As to the 24 main persecuted war criminals that were put to trial, there was also Sauckel, who never spoke about the „REIMAHG“ and was never held accountable. Göring did however mention being at Kahla.
Informational visit – Exhibition regarding Forced Labour
In preparation for our new exhibition regarding the history of forced labour, we visited the special exposition „The Nazi Party Rally Grounds in World War II – Imprisonment, Mass Murder and Forced Labour“ in Nuremberg.
The exhibition shows the latest results in researching forced labour. Through five levels the life and suffering in the camps is touched. The presentation with this part of history is very well documented with many personal artefacts and reports.
US Veteran E. Davis honours the victims of Lager 7, Leubengrund
Last week, our association escorted US veteran Erwin Davis at the remembrance stone of the Lager 7 in the Leubengrund.
It was this camp that his unit, as a soldier of the 89th Infantry Division, discovered in April 1945, while advancing. The camps of the „REIMAHG“ had been evacuated before, leaving those who were sick and unable to walk in Lager 7, to die.
Erwin laid down a flower piece at the monument, in order to remember that shocking discovery. The information board, set by our association also brought back emotional memories and he told us his story upon arrival in that camp.
Visit to Danesfield House, Medmenham/England
June 2019, for our research as to the aerial reconnaissance and the “REIMAHG”’, we headed for Danesfield House near Medmenham, Buckinghamshire/England.
The luxurious, 1750 constructed, rural castle, was the seat of the Allied Central Interpretation Unit between 1941 – 1946 (ACIU, Allied Central Interpretation Unit). As this location 1.700 experts worked in different sections around the daily intake of 25.000 aerial photos, from the development to the interpretation and 60.000 prints.
By the end of the war the total amount of photos was five million and 40.000 interpretation reports.
One of the best photo interpreters was Constance Babington Smith. She discovered not only the Me-262 production in Kahla but also the V1 site in Peenemünde. For her work, she received numerous commendations and medals.
One of the other female photo interpreters was Sara Oliver, the daughter of Winston Churchill.
The current castle, in it’s neo-Tudor style (1899 – 1901) is since 1991 a luxurious country hotel with the typical atmosphere and flair of a old and decent mansion. All building that were constructed 1941 within the area, have been disassembled and the large park has returned to its old shape.
Many photos and a memorial plaque remind us of the special history of this house. The present staff was very kind to pass the information and gave us a flyer.
We had the possibility to visit the entire house and installations, for which we are very grateful.
5. June, Visit to the Military Intelligence Museum, Chicksands, England
We received an invitation from our English friend and veteran Mick Mockford to visit the Military Intelligence Museum in Chicksands. The museum is situated within a military base of the British army and holds an extensive collection as to the Allied aerial reconnaissance during World War 2.
Especially of interest to us was the filed of the aerial reconnaissance, the use of technology and in particular the work of Constance Babington Smith, who discovered on March 19, 1945 the Me-262 on the Walpersberg.
Constance (15 October 1912 – 31 July 2000) had donated a large amount of her working equipment, personal items and the medals she received for her work during WW2. In over three hours, we were given a very clear and in dept view on the work around aerial reconnaissance in WW2.
We really appreciated the time that Mick, a long-lasting friend, was able to give us, despite his more as 80 years of age, but still enthusiastic and competent regarding the exhibition, as well as the other staff members of the museum.
Today, May 11, at 9.30 Hr, the annual commemoration of the victims and the liberation of the „REIMAHG“ camps in April 1945 by the 89th Infantry Division of the US Army, bringing also the end of the war in Thuringia took place.
Despite the rain, guests from Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany came to the Leubengrund near Kahla and the surrounding communities.
In solemn speeches, the district and the mayors commemorated this event. Together with the pastors one spoke the „Father our“ and received the blessing.
It was an emotional day for all participants.
New memorial plaque Lager 6
In cooperation with the Saale-Holzland District, our association installed a new commemorative plaque for the Lager 6 in the Leubengrund Valley (Kahla). Several years ago, the old commemorative stone disappeared. Despite research, the stone didn’t resurface. Also, a small plaque that was installed by unknown, was incorrect. As the current plaque didn’t match the original text and was historically incorrect, we made a new commemorative plaque with the agreement of the Saale-Holzland District.
We would also like to express our gratitude to the Eißmann/Kahla company for the mounting of the commemorative plaque.
Presentation regarding the end of WW2, Kahla
In cooperation with the town and the Partner Association Kahla, our association organized on May 10 a presentation, that lasted several hours about the Liberation of Thuringia in April 1945. Many people came, even from faraway and applauded at the end of the interesting documentation. The many questions of the public were answered by our member of the association Patrick Brion with a large knowledge about the theme of the evening.
We were invited to the yearly meeting of army veterans in Zwevegem. After the ceremony to remember the Fallen, speeches and the handing out of medals, the official part was over. We met old friends, had good conversations, enjoyed the great food, but the day passed quickly.
Having received an invitation of a fellow Association, we decided to take a field trip to the tomb of Napoleon in Paris. Our association member Steffi has a special connection towards this history. In 1979, she worked very intense at the construction of the Museum, dedicated to the Battle of Jena/Auerstedt. In the Louvre museum you can discover, besides beautiful paintings, also the throne that belonged to Napoleon. His tomb, a massive porphyrin sarcophagus is situated in Les Invalides since 1840. Other personal artifacts are located in the French Musée de l’Armée. Here, his horse ‚Le Vizir‘, has been preserved for future generations. It carried Napoleon during the Battle of Jena/Auerstadt and followed him later during his exile.
Visit of the „REIMAHG“ exhibition in the Kahla City Museum, followed by a a guided tour around the Walpersberg.
Contacts, meetings and guided tours with like-minded people, interested in the history of the „REIMAHG“
Our Association researched for more then one week in the Thuringian archives, with many news documents and contacts.
We said goodbye to a good friend. Inviation and participation at the burial of Louis Laeremans, Veteran, 1940-45
Joined research with the Russian Association „That Side“, in order to coordinate research on the Russian forced laborers in the „REIMAHG“
Visit to the Pieters Family, Zoetermeer, Holland
Organization and meeting regarding the upcoming commemorations in May in Kahla and Langenorla
Contact with the city of Bruges for the commemorations 2020
Presentation in Kahla City Hall, May 10th at 1930 Hr, regarding the end of WW2 in Thuringia with a special focus on the Saale Valley
Prepartion of an informative publication regarding the presentation
Meeting and exchange of information with local historians
Research in several Thuringian archives in order to prepare the upcoming presentation