This diary is written for the collection of the World War II and Holocaust Library at the Daily Kos.
(This diary is written by an American expat living in the European Union)
As a young US Army soldier serving at Ft Lewis, Washington, while it was the home of the 9th Division, I was aware that during World War II the famous 9th Division spearheaded the liberation of Germany by first freeing the city of Aachen. I wasn't however aware of the extensive allied bombing during World War II that Aachen had been exposed to. So it is on March 31th 2010 while in the city of Aachen I suddenly found myself in the middle of a massive evacuation of the city center, because a construction crew had unearthed an unexploded World War II bomb. So it was that I suddenly found myself by de facto briefly transported back to a World War II life threatening event, which this diary chronicles in some detail, as I found myself evacuated by a train on track one of the Aachen train station.
To my surprise one year later, I found myself back on track one of the Aachen railway station. Suddenly inexplicably at first transported back in time by a World War II exhibit, wherein a German steam locomotive pulled a train onto track one, which unknown to me was closed to regular railway traffic. The steam locomotive was part of a train of remembrance, for during German World War II the Reichsbahn used steam locomotives like the one I was standing in front of, built in 1923 transported concentration camp prisoners often of Jewish and Slavic ancestry to the Nazi death camps. As such I appended near this of diary (in the body portion of this diary)a short one minute video of the aforementioned steam locomotive train, as it is pulled out of Aachen station April 2011 as a piece of living World War II era living history, and a reminder of the tragedy of the Holocaust.
On a separate note lets please remember that the German city of Aachen is located right on the Netherlands border. As such many brave Americans who perished during the liberation of Aachen are buried in Belgium and in the Netherlands American military cemeteries. To these soldiers we own a debt of gratitude to be paid with grateful remembrance! As such I invite you to watch the Armed Forces and Television network report in the video below.
This was the day as an American expat living overseas while in the fair city of Aachen in Germany when suddenly I found myself in the middle of a mass evacuation from what was believed to be a WWII American bomb discovered by a construction crew. While some people may think that it's just a bomb threat, those people would do well to remember just a few months later in the Germany city of Göttingen:
Three killed in WWII bomb explosion (June 2 2010)
Three members of a bomb squad have been killed and two seriously injured when a World War II bomb they were trying to defuse exploded in Göttingen, police said on Wednesday.
For me, March 31st 2010 started pretty much like any other day. Hours later however I found myself in the midst of a mass evacuation in the city center of Aachen. While in a shop I noticed a large amount of noise in the street, people were looking out the windows and an eerie hush seemed to almost all at once fall across everyone's lips in a room where moments before the place was filled with conversation; idle chit-chat of the day. Some people were laughing and others looked bored and then it happened suddenly, as if someone had dropped a silence mechanism in the middle of the city and all at once everyone had stopped speaking. I mean, everyone stopped speaking except for the blow-horns outside piercing the eerie quiet. The blow-horn said "This is Fire Dept. This is not a drill. This is an emergency mass evacuation. You are ordered to immediately leave your homes and come to the rally point." The people inside the shop all seemed wooden and flexible at first, incapable of movement or even speech. They looked at each other with look of bewilderment and just complete confusion. Someone said it must be a gas leak and then somebody stormed in (I don't know who) and said the city is under siege from a bomb threat, it's an emergency mass evacuation "We have to leave NOW."
And then it happened. Some people spontaneously started to cry, others dropped things, others cried out for their children or family members (are they safe?). Is it just the city center or is it the whole city? Are we at war? There were no immediate answers. As we got outside, the policemen told us it was a World War II American bomb that was discovered at a construction site found by digging equipment and that we should proceed and follow the evacuation orders and directions. Minutes later I was in a train, which was so quiet you could hear a pin drop as the train pulled out of the station. The station was shut down. Within a few minutes time we were all in safety and it was over. At that moment, I realized what the people of Aachen during World war II must of experienced. It's something that I don't believe I will ever forget. It changed me and I hope that reading the report of my account will help change you and that some of you may choose to support an explosive ordinance and landmine removal charity because the good work they do saves people's lives. Just like the German Polizei bomb squad saved my life and through their bravery, the lives of the people around me. Life is precious, as is your charity.
For anyone who can read German, here is a press account of the events that this diary described (from the Aachener Zeitung). For anyone who can't read German, here's a link to a free online translator. http://babelfish.yahoo.com/
Here also a wiki on the German city of Aachen providing background information on the city and its history.
About the Holocaust train of remembrance exhibit - April 5th and 6th 2011, main railway station in Aachen.
I think it's important to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust which befell humanity during the Second World War, in which 6 million people of Jewish ancestry lost their lives, along with millions of Slavs and half a million gypsies and large numbers of gay persons, persons with physical handicaps, as well as political prisoners, Catholic priests and Jehovah Witnesses. What had happened was the Reichsbahn that is to say the German state railway system during the Second World War was responsible for transporting prisoners to these death camps. So it is that on the 5th April 2011 just a few days past the one year mark when I had been evacuated after the bomb threat previously described in this diary. I saw this Holocaust exhibit on track one which had been the very same track that I had been evacuated from by train one year earlier. So again I was confronted with an unexpected World War II era event on track one of the Aachen railway station. As I looked at this beautifully built German steam locomotive built in 1923, lovingly maintained in perfect working order since then, it was almost impossible to believe that this beautifully built historical masterpiece of engineering and ones just like it, had been used to transport millions of people to the Nazi death camps during the World War II era Holocaust in Germany and throughout Europe.
Please watch the video that I took of the Train of Remembrance at the Aachen train station.
Standing in front of this locomotive, watching the steam rise from it, the smoke come out of its chimney, hearing its whistle blow, somehow made the World War II era and the Holocaust real for me, in a way that I had only previously experienced during my visit to the Dachau concentration camp memorial site located just outside of Munich. The difference being I was prepared for my visit to the concentration camp, whereas I was not prepared for the impact that the train of remembrance would have on me. As I went through its old rail cars and saw the pictures and read the personal stories of people and families, who had been transported by the Reichsbahn, I noticed that the people around me going through these rail car exhibits spoke in hushed tones, and I noticed an intense look of concentration on their faces. As such I thought this was important to share with people who couldn't be in Germany with us on that day, and therefore I offer you my readers this humble diary of these my experiences. I also want to offer a link to their website for the Train of Remembrance (the German title is Zug der Erinnerung).
Press Statement No. 11-10
"A Final Offer" to Nazi Victims: Survivors of the Reichsbahn's Complicity in Mass Murder Receive 25 Euros
Lawsuit Against Deutsche Bahn AG
East European victims of Nazi deportations have accepted the Deutsche Bahn AG's (DB AG) "final offer". Survivors of Reichsbahn transports to Nazi concentration and death camps had sought support from the DB AG for former prisoners, who, today, are very old and frail. At the end of September, after months of negotiations, the DB AG board of directors tabled their "final offer." If it is not accepted, the victims will receive nothing at all, reported participants in the negotiations.
According to this "offer", the approximately 200,000 survivors of the Reichsbahn's complicity in mass murder should receive a one-time payment totalling 25 Euros per person. These 25 Euros would be paid in instalments covering several years, so that the company would be paying 5 Euros per year per person.
As historians often tell us those who don't learn from history are certainly destined to repeat it. Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for your support of this diary.
Special thanks to the soldiers of the US Army's 9th Division who in 1945 not only went on to liberate multiple German cities starting with Aachen, but went on to liberate with members of other divisions several concentration camps.
PS: Please note, for anyone who is interested in joining our group at the Daily Kos or following our group at the Daily Kos please feel invited to click on the link below
or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org