The Forgotten Victims of the Death March // Thousands of Jews were buried at the side of the road after the Nazis marched them from one concentration camp to another. One man is making sure we remember them.

At the end of World War II, as the Nazis found themselves losing territory to the Allies on one side and the Russians on the other, they began forcing Jews to march from concentration camps near the battlefront closer to Germany.
The Germans didn’t want the Jews telling their stories to the liberators. They still needed the Jews as a work force to continue the war. And some German leaders believed they could use the Jews as a bargaining tool to save themselves. For all these reasons, the Jews were marched out of camps like Auschwitz, Stutthof and many others towards the west, closer to the heart of German-controlled territory.
In some marches, cattle cars were used to move the Jews along part of the route. But they were still forced to march tens or even hundreds of miles by foot, in snow, rain and mud.
During these brutal marches, tens of thousands of Jewish prisoners died, some murdered directly by the Nazis, others from the extreme conditions, disease and stress. Cold weather froze some of the prisoners. Because they were already emaciated and weak from their imprisonment, some couldn’t go on and were shot by the SS or other Nazis. For others, their weakness meant that they simply died as they struggled to continue walking, usually without food or water. And the Germans often shot down or otherwise murdered those who made it through the entire march, in an attempt to hide their crimes.
In most cases, the bodies of those who died along the marches simply lay on the ground until the liberating forces arrived and saw the horrors that the Germans had left behind. Allied soldiers buried the prisoners, sometimes forcing locals to dig the graves.
After the war, some of the places where Jews were murdered were preserved and remembered. Camps like Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen are visited by many people every year, and there are visitor centers and tour guides who explain the history.
But the Jews who died along the death march routes are not memorialized in the same way. Although there are some markers, few people visit them, and the memory of these Jews has mostly faded.
Holocaust survivor Reb Leibel Friedman has not forgotten. In recent years, he has been working to revive the memory of the Jews who died on the death marches in a specific area of Austria, from the concentration camps around Mauthausen and to the west. There was a series of marches all the way to the small town of Gunskirchen. Some Jews were marched from the border of Hungary, some from the Gusen concentration camp, some from Mauthausen, and some from other camps. All along that route, there are Jewish burial sites that are hardly known in the outside world; these are the Jews whose memory Reb Leibel is fighting to keep alive.
In these articles, Reb Leibel explains his mission, and some of the people who have helped him talk about the way they have fought to preserve the memory of the victims in this part of Austria.

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