Lessons from Winsen

Translated speech of welcome from, Dirk Oelman the Mayor of Winsen an der Aller 4/2/16

Dear Mrs. Brunstein, dear ancestors of Ester Zylberberg, dear companions of this commemorative walk:

It is an honour for me to welcome you in Winsen (Aller).

You sallied forth to understand the long walk of detainee Ester Zylberberg in February 1945 and also for thinking of her and all the others who came here as prisoners of National Socialism.

Unfortunately, I do not know when Mrs. Zylberberg was here in Winsen and whether the population noticed her. However, surely in 1945 there were small groups of detainees under guard of soldiers of the SS or Wehrmacht often. Actually, I talked to many contemporary witnesses, who are still alive, but they told me quite different things about when the people really started to get who these people are and what will happen to them. But at least during the death march in April 1945, where thousands of detainees were herded through Winsen, the fate of them became obvious. To remember that march, we have this commemorative stone.
Winsen memorial stone2
Nevertheless, lots of people did not talk about what happened, some of them because of fear, others because of their belief in the racial fanaticism of the National Socialists. Moreover, some people tried to give food and water to the captives, but were stopped by the soldiers using their weapons.

Furthermore, we want to remember Wilhelm Scheinhardt, a brave carpenter who saved nine detainees from the death march during an air raid. His exploit proves that sometime there is one moment one has to choose if one acts or not, if one follows one’s heart or head. Scheinhardt let his heart win. Unfortunately, only a few people of the Third Reich were as courageous as this carpenter.

Besides it took many decades for the people in Winsen to be able to talk about what they witnessed.

Only because of the research of Julius Kriszan from 2012 till 2014 these people, who saw the things happened here in 1945 with their own eyes, referred this part of our history and responsibility.

Suddenly the younger generations, who did not know anything about the marches, became interested in the stories of the contemporary witnesses who were actually happy for the opportunity to talk their experiences away. Thankfully, we got this genuine first-hand knowledge about that part of Winsen’s past in the nick of time. Now we are able to request, comprehend and learn by the history.

Especially today it is important to know about the past, because there are right-wing parties in some European countries, including Germany unhappily, trying to exclude people with another nationality or religion. We have to know how it could be possible that Ester Zylberberg came to this place in February 1945 and how one can prevent that people will get persecuted ever again.

Although our countries are united by lots of things today and you came here as friends, in my opinion it is really important and also right to remember what split us and made us to enemies once.

Because of your commemorative walk you contribute to bring the darkest chapter of our history into focus and thus to appeal to notice and prevent all factors making it possible that something like this will happen again.

Thank you very much for being here with us today to remember Ester Zylberberg and all the other people who were persecuted, tortured and murdered in the Third Reich.

Thank you for being here.

Winsen stone group1