For those who are interested in our travelling route, my recent entries have been a bit higgledy-piggledy. Our actual route was Valencia – Chulilla – Montanejos, and then we came to a town called Morella, visible from far away, looking very impressive as you approach it.
There is a big castle high up, and the town, like so many others in this region, is draped below the castle like a skirt.
Compared to other towns in the area, Morella looks wealthier, with big old houses lovingly restored. We spend an hour walking around the castle grounds and admiring the panoramic view from its lofty walls. The adjoining church building has an informative photographic exhibition about the concentration camp Mauthausen. We ask about the connection of this exhibition to the town and learn that Spanish antifascists from this region were deported to Mauthausen. It’s not easy to understand the Spanish subtitles by the pictures, so I am not sure whether Franco was involved in the deportation of his own people, or whether they joined the French antifascists to fight Hitler’s regime and thus fell into the hands of the German army. I resolve to research this, especially about the ‘Commando Poschacher’, which keeps being mentioned. The exhibition was created with photographic evidence drawn from three sources: the inmates themselves who managed to keep or smuggle some photos out of the camp, the SS who took photos of the camp, mostly showing it in a better light than was the reality, and finally the American liberators.
Next time on the internet, I come across two things: one is that there still is a large quarry firm in Mauthausen with the name of Poschacher, with no mention of its connection to the concentration camp. Presumably the inmates of Mauthausen were used as forced labour for this company. But there is no easily accessible information on the internet that corroborates this. The only other thing I come across when searching for ‘Commando Poschacher’ are internet sites that claim the Holocaust was a hoax!
This is a picture from the exhibition. Recently liberated inmates, still in their prison uniform, help to gather evidence of the atrocities, the day after liberation.
Mauthausen is in Austria. I am reminded of an experience I had when I was on my gap year, travelling through Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland, busking to make a living, singing yiddish songs. It was in Austria that I had a potentially dangerous experience, when I sang in a large town (can’t remember which one, it might have been Salzburg), and a man pushing a bicycle came towards me, shouting at me at the top of his lungs: “You jewish Pig, didn’t you get the message the last time, we don’t want you here, you can p*** off and take your dirty music with you!”
I remember not knowing what would happen next, feeling slightly frightened that he would become physical but he just carried on past me, pushing his bike and swearing, so I carried on playing, not stopping and neither contradicting his belief that I was Jewish. What really shocked me was that this happened in broad daylight and NO-ONE said anything to him, or even to me afterwards. People just watched and condoned by their passive watching, some even nodding their heads in agreement. I’m not Jewish, I’m German and as a generation that followed the Holocaust, I acutely feel the pain from what my people did to the Jewish people. Being shouted at like this in broad daylight with no-one reacting was very insightful, allowing me to experience what it must feel like to be threatened for your race, colour or creed.
We left Austria that night, and I have never felt drawn to go back there.
I cannot believe that people would want to deny the horrors that have happened, but it’s obvious when looking on the internet that denial is in full swing.
For photos of this chapter, including some from the exhibition, go to Flikr
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