In the last days of World War II, on 25 April 1945, the Nazis committed one of their last atrocities. A train with over 3,600 prisoners in 60 to 80 wagons departed from the concentration camp at Mühldorf, conveying mainly Hungarian Jews southwards to Tyrol. Declared goal of the Nazis: none of the prisoners should survive the end of the war.

Laszlo “Leslie” Schwartz was 14 years old at the time and probably the youngest prisoner on this train of death. For decades afterwards he remained silent about the events during this odyssey through Upper Bavaria. He first broke this silence when he met students of the Franz-Marc Grammar School in Markt Schwaben.

In years of voluntary research these young people have been trying to find out exactly what happened in the last days of the War on the railway tracks which still pass through their local communities. Together with Leslie the six teenagers retraced the journey of the train of death, supplementing the emotional memories of Leslie Schwartz with their own archival research and encountering “forgotten resistance” in their conversations with German contemporary witnesses.

Leslie Schwartz lost his entire family in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Having survived the selection process at the ramp only by fortunate coincidence, he followed his friend on a transport to Dachau. He was assigned to various satellite camps of the Dachau concentration camp in the Munich region before being sent to Mittergars in early 1945. This concentration camp belonged to the Mühldorf satellite complex in which the Nazis were constructing megalomaniac bunkers for the mass production of fighter aircraft engines. The project was never completed, but more than 4,000 people died at this murderous construction site.

Leslie Schwartz arrived in Ampfing on the train of death on the evening of 25 April 1945. It is hard for Leslie and the six youngsters to believe that the train was attacked several times by Allied planes at Beuerberg, Seeshaupt and Bernried, resulting in hundreds of deaths. That was a tragic mistake: for the Allies had assumed that the 600-metre long train was carrying ammunition or troops, not prisoners.

On 30 April 1945 Leslie Schwartz and other survivors were liberated by the Americans in Tutzing. At the end of his journey into the past Leslie Schwartz, who lives in USA and Germany, says it is time to forgive:

“Markt Schwaben was really the beginning of a wonderful, wonderful experience.  I am very grateful to be able to share it with the German youth of today and it has been nothing but a healing process. I only pray and hope that this feeling will never leave me. It will be with me until my dying days.”

Copyright: Beatrice Sonhüter

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