75 years ago today, the fighting actions of World War II ended in Europe with the unconditional surrender of the German Wehrmacht. The Altenburg County had already been liberated before.
On 15th April 1945, US troops occupied the town of Altenburg after a short artillery fire during the morning. With the invasion of the 304th Infantry Regiment of the 76th US Infantry Division, the Nazi rule ended in town.
Just before, on 12th April 1945, the Altenburg subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp (on the grounds of today's Poststraße commercial area) was evacuated and the remaining concentration camp prisoners - according to the latest knowledge around 2.400 women and about 200 men - been sent on a death march. Their path led from Altenburg via Gößnitz, Meerane and Remse to Waldenburg (Saxony) where the columns were divided. While part of the detainees were freed in Waldenburg, Meerane or Pfaffroda, the other part of the prisoners was driven towards the Czech border. So some of the concentration camp prisoners were probably only liberated on Czech soil.
The Altenburg subcamp at the armament producer HASAG had been put into operation on 1st August 1944 and was assigned to Buchenwald after a short assignment to the Ravensbrück concentration camp at the end of August 1944. According to current findings, the camp captured between around 1.100 and about 2.600 detainees (at the same time) with the proportion of male detainees always less than ten percent. The detainees came from different countries and groups: While almost 90 percent of the 230 men were Jews, the much larger number ofemale prisoners consisted of around 1.000 Jewish women, at least 1.000 Sinti and Roma, over 1.300 Polish women, at least 150 Soviet prisoners and smaller groups from Belgium, Germany, France, Yugoslavia, Norway, Slovakia and Czech Republic. 12 prisoners died in Altenburg, others on the death march or after the transfer of sick and incapable detainees in the concentration and extermination camps Buchenwald, Ravensbrück, Bergen-Belsen or Auschwitz.
The occupation of Altenburg by US troops was also the day of liberation for thousands of foreign forced laborers and prisoners of war in the city and surrounding areas. It was also liberation for the inhabitants - although many of them did not see it at the time - and ended the Nazi rule of terrorism, which also claimed several victims in Altenburg itself. Whether the inhumane "Polenaktion" of 28th October 1938 which expelled around 50 Jewish victims of the Altenburg County out of the country and far too often to death, whether the pogrom night a few days later, the deportations of Altenburg Jews in the years 1942, 1943 and 1944, the multiple persecution of dissidents, the murder of Altenburg residents in concentration camps or the human and cultural victims of the acts of war: In addition to the abolition of the democratic republic, fundamental human rights or freedom values the Nazi regime has been guilty in many ways of virtually unimaginable crimes.
The German surrender ended the Nazi rule of terrorism, but its consequences are still working and will continue to do so in the future. It is all the more incomprehensible when to this day people deny the events, talk them down or try to justify the events. An old Jewish saying describes in wonderful words the commandment of past, current and future days: "The secret of reconciliation is called memory".