A large bowl of flowers stands in front of the pilgrim memorial at the crossroads at the Starnberg district office. The words “In silent memory”https://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/starnberg/.”District Administrator Stefan Frey” and “Landkreis Starnberg” are printed on the ribbon. The floral decorations cannot mitigate the depressing sight of the 13 bent, skinny figures of misery with their mask-like faces, which the sculptor Hubertus von Pilgrim had placed at 22 points along the route of the “Death March”, just as little as the wistful songs that Stefan Komarek wrote on the playing the clarinet.
In this 77th year after the end of the World War, the memorial seems more topical than ever. For eleven years, Rainer Hange, founding member of the Starnberg Dialogue and member of the association “Against Forgetting – for Democracy”, has been commemorating the procession of misery in which thousands of prisoners were driven from the Dachau concentration camp and its satellite camps towards the Alps in the last days of April 1945.
“Those of these starving, exhausted and sick women and men who could not go any further were mercilessly beaten to death on the spot or shot,” said Hange at the commemoration on Sunday. About 70 participants had gathered in front of the memorial to remember. That is “the least we can do for the victims and their families,” said Hange. In view of the war of aggression in Ukraine, he regretted that “Mr. Putin and his vassals no longer want to remember the Second World War with the many dead and murdered”.
At that time, in the face of the miserable train, those in Starnberg who had not previously believed in the atrocities had to see with their own eyes that National Socialism had “wrought incredible misery and suffering,” said District Administrator Stefan Frey. He was stunned and angry that something similar was happening again in Ukraine today. He is happy to live in a “stable democracy”. You argue and discuss, but you pull yourself together and then sit down together at a table. “A democracy has not yet started a war of aggression in this century,” Frey exclaimed. He appealed to the people of Starnberg to continue their willingness to help the Ukrainian refugees. “We need staying power. This war will not be over anytime soon.”
Frey recalled the many elderly eyewitnesses who now have traumatic childhood memories of the war coming up again. There are fewer and fewer people who can tell first-hand about the horrors of the Second World War.
The Protestant pastor Johannes de Fallois remembered one of them, 96-year-old Boris Romanchenko. The Ukrainian had survived forced labor in Germany and three concentration camps during World War II. After the liberation, he worked in Ukraine for a world of peace and freedom and, even at an advanced age, took part in commemorative events in the former Buchenwald concentration camp. It seemed downright cynical to the pastor that Romanchenko was killed by a Russian rocket in his home in Kharkiv, Ukraine. “But it was the Russians who liberated many concentration camps at the time.” The Catholic pastor Tamas Czopf and Micaela Graf from the Israelite religious community in Munich commemorated the victims who were killed then and now.
Even if you can’t stop the war, everyone can make a small contribution to peace by respecting others, not speaking bad words and not engaging in any form of violence, Fallois said. Starnberg’s Deputy Mayor Angelika Kammerl wanted a culture of remembrance that dealt with the role of the ancestors. The bent figures of the pilgrim memorial on their way into the unknown are a reminder to deal with the past as well as to look at Ukraine.