Shortly after the end of the war, the clergyman Ludwig Betzinger gave a drastic account of what hardly anyone wanted to talk about for decades. “Almost all of them were like skeletons, only covered with human skin, some had swollen feet, swollen hands … the dirt they lay in and their smell was indescribable! … an unprecedented picture of horror!” This is how the Degerndorf pastor wrote to Michael Cardinal Faulhaber in July 1945. At the end of April, thousands of concentration camp prisoners had camped miserably for two days on the death march south in the forest above Achmühle. When they moved on, 68 of them were dead, 28 were buried in a mass grave at Degerndorf Cemetery.
There are no longer any visible traces of what the municipality of Münsing wants to change. Before Christmas, Mayor Michael Grasl (FW) had presented the plans for a commemorative plaque at the site of the former mass grave – the bodies were exhumed in 1960 and buried at the concentration camp cemetery in Dachau Leitenberg – in the municipal council. The Eurasburg filmmaker Max Kronawitter supports the project. When he had finished his most recent documentary on the death march – “When the horror came at the front door” – the contact was made. “What happened here was so unbelievable that every generation has to rediscover it for itself,” says Kronawitter. As a reminder that something like this should never happen again, it is important that such events remain present.
Only relics have remained in the forest near Achmühle. In Kronawitter’s film, Moritz Sappl, who has died in the meantime, talks about parts of cookware, gas masks or shoes that were found years later during forest work. His father, whose name was also Moritz Sappl, had to, like other Degerndorf farmers (at that time the area around Achmühle, which is now part of Eurasburg, belonged to this local community, which later merged into Münsing) had to transport dead concentration camp prisoners by horse and cart. 28 bodies were buried in a mass grave on the northern wall of the cemetery around the Degerndorf parish church. Until it was dissolved in 1960, there was a wooden cross with the inscription “Here lie concentration camp prisoners who lost their lives during the stopover on the march from Dachau to Tyrol.”
In the final phase of the Nazi dictatorship, SS henchmen drove more than 10,000 concentration camp prisoners from Dachau through the Würm Valley and further south. Among them Jews, but also so-called Ostarbeiter such as Russians, Ukrainians and Poles, as well as Catholic priests. The walk led from Starnberg via Aufkirchen, Dorfen, Wolfratshausen and further through the Loisach valley. According to the filmmaker, based on the sources, it is doubtful whether some of the concentration camp prisoners marched through Münsing.
In any case, thousands camped in the forest near Achmühle between April 28 and 30, 1945. “They were guarded by 500-700 SS guards, including real devils in human form, worse than their dogs, which they had with them as companions!”, writes Expositus Betzinger in his report to the Archdiocese. When the prisoners were driven on towards Beuerberg, 68 dead remained. Some of these victims starved to death, others froze to death or were shot. Some were buried at the Degerndorf cemetery, others buried at the Loisachbogen near Achmühle.
With the commemorative plaque at the Degerndorf cemetery, the municipality of Münsing now wants to close a historical memory gap. Today there are 22 memorials along the route of the death march of the prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp, designed by the Pullach sculptor Hubertus von Pilgrim. When the initiative for this began in the 1980s, municipalities such as Dachau and Karlsfeld initially did not participate and only did so later. At the time, Münsing didn’t want to take part either. According to the minutes of the February 1988 meeting, the community council was of the opinion that the death march had hardly affected the community, “but actually the part of Achmühle that now belongs to the community of Eurasburg”. However, the community decided to contribute 3,000 marks to the cost of the memorial in Wolfratshausen. Since the late 1990s, one of the 22 bronze sculptures has stood in Achmühle near the spot where concentration camp prisoners were once buried and later exhumed.
In Degerndorf, the new information board, reminiscent of the former mass grave, is to be inaugurated in April. The municipal council and sculptor Ernst Grünwald from Ammerland also supports the project, which has been coordinated with the church administration. The final design is still open. A memorial stone could possibly be added, according to Kronawitter. At the inauguration, its death march documentation is to be shown. For Münsing’s Mayor Grasl, the commemorative plaque is an important reminder not to forget and suppress the murders of the Nazi regime.