An Eastward Homage, Day 32, Part II: The Two Faces of Berga

June 27, 2014, Gera- The wait for the train to Berga, while standing on the platform at Gera Hauptbanhof, was almost as long as the time I actually spent in the former prison camp town.  It was due at 1:15, and came at 2:15.  In the meantime, I was amused by a man chasing his 9-year-old son around the platform, as the child giggled and hid behind the concrete posts.  This became the child’s fault, when the train actually did pull in, and Pater-Meister was embarrassed that the boy was almost hit.  The boy took his tongue-lashing quietly, but I could tell he had no idea what he had done wrong.

The Jews who were taken prisoner, and given unwanted special attention by the Nazis, had no idea what they had done wrong, other than to be distantly related by blood to the Rothschilds and a handful of money lenders and grifters, who had contributed somewhat to the collapse of the European economy- a collapse which would have happened regardless of the level of mercantilism in any one country.

I digress, however. Berga, a small town southeast of Gera, was a satellite station of Buchenwald, the much larger Concentration Camp in northern Thuringia.(Photo courtesy of http://www.freerepublic.com)

bberga

Here were brought Jewish soldiers from the US, Canada and Britain, especially after the Battle of the Bulge, in late 1944, when Buchenwald itself was at saturation point. One of these was my future father-in-law, Norman Fellman, 6’3″ tall, weighing into the camp at 175 pounds.  He was part of a group assigned to work a gypsum mine.  He and his fellows walked up a trail like this, (Photo courtesy of http://www.thirdreichruins.com)

splittergraben2

through a door like this, (Photo courtesy of http://www.kilroywashere.com)

LaborTunnel

to a place like this (Photo courtesy of http://www.tripmondo.com), every day, for a hundred days. When General Patton’s men found him, in April, 1945, he weighed 87 pounds.

Old gypsum mine, near Berga

They spent time, after coming back from the mine, in this “work station”. (Photo courtesy of http://www.thirdreichruins.com)

Old dormitory  for prisoners, Berga

The camp where they were held, from their capture in the Vosges of southern Lorraine, to the date of Gentle George’s arrival, looked something like this. (Photo courtesy of http://www.channelnationalgeographic.com)

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Now, the area looks like this. (Photo courtesy of en.immostreet.com)Prison camp for Jews, Berga

I walked around this decrepit, southern edge of Berga, even walking the periphery of the abandoned V-1 Rocket Factory, now closed off by a fence, with only a small security team allowed inside. (Photos courtesy of andrea-kublitz.de)

V1 Rocket factory, Berga

Old rocket factory, Berga

Understandably, Pop never went back to Germany, and the less said about that country in his presence, the better.  I told him, two months before he passed on in May, that I intended to go to Berga, to try and put the ghosts to rest.  Ghosts, demons, visionaries of Hell- they seem to hang over this part of the town, in a way that the giggling school children who were waiting at Berga Train Station can only dimly imagine.  The kids, of course, were waiting for their families, from the north end of town.  Few people live in the old camp zone- a farmer or two, perhaps even an aging former guard, released from prison to live out his ignominy.

Berga today remembers its victims and its enslaved “guests”, with this memorial. (www.en.wikipedia.org)

Denkmal_Berga

North of the train station, Berga could be Everytown, Deutschland.  There is a bright, red Rathaus. (Photo courtesy of http://www.commons.wikipedia.org)

Feuerwehr_Rathaus_Berga

A small town square sits in front of the Town Hall. (Photo courtesy of http://www.stock-clip.com)

Village Square, Berga

Not far from here, I guided a mother and small child to an ice cream parlour, where I had just stopped, perhaps to comfort myself and return to the more benign reality of this “new” Berga.  There are churches nearby as well.  I can only imagine what the churches, and the schools, impart to their patrons. Below, is the legacy of Marxism for Berga.  These apartments are still highly occupied. (Photo courtesy of http://www.amberrom.org)

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9 thoughts on “An Eastward Homage, Day 32, Part II: The Two Faces of Berga

  1. What a grim prison experience! Even the memorial looks a little meager! The new part of town almost looks like an overreaction in its gaiety! Not surprising that your father in law never wanted to hear about Germany again!

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  2. You really bring the history to life with your descriptions, and never more so than here. Fascinating and awful and so important to learn about and remember.

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