Yad Vashem features Death March survivors for Women's History Day

When the survivors were finally liberated by the US army, only 350 Jewish women were still alive.

March 7, 2019 18:33
1 minute read.
YOUNG HOLOCAUST survivors arrive at the Atlit detainee camp, 1945.

YOUNG HOLOCAUST survivors arrive at the Atlit detainee camp, 1945.. (photo credit: ZOLTAN KLUGER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)


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An online exhibition, The Death March to Volary, portraying a brutal death march endured by more than 1,000 Jewish women, is being featured by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, for Women's History Month and International Women's Day.

The exhibition portrays the harrowing fate of the 1,300 women, who were forced on a march from the Schlesiersee (today Sława) concentration camp in Upper Silesia, western Poland, in the unbearably freezing cold of January 1945.

The women reached the concentration camp of Helmbrechts in Bavaria on March 6, where they were stripped of their clothes so they could be fumigated. Meanwhile, the women stood naked in the cold, waiting for hours. This was only the beginning of their suffering in Helmbrechts which survivors described as "hell on earth – the hardest part of the death march."

In the face of the approaching Allied forces, the Germans evacuated the 577 surviving Jewish prisoners and 590 non-Jewish prisoners from Helmbrechts, arriving in Volary three weeks later. When the survivors were finally liberated by the US army, only 350 Jewish women were still alive.

The online exhibition includes the testimony of Major Aaron S. Cahan, a Jewish medical officer in the US army who was among those who liberated the survivors. "My first glance at these individuals was one of extreme shock, not ever believing that a human being can be degraded, can be starved, can be so skinny and even live under such circumstances," he said.

"When I entered the room, I thought that we had a group of old men lying... I was surprised and shocked when I asked one of these girls how old she was and she said 17, when to me she appeared to be no less than 50," Cahan concluded.

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