On 7 May 1945, the American town major William McEllroy ordered the inhabitants of Nordhausen to visit the honorary cemetery for the victims of the Boelcke-Kaserne subcamp the following Sunday. He wanted to confront them with the crimes committed “by the Germans”.

Most Germans refused to admit any responsibility for the crimes committed in the concentration camps, portraying themselves as victims instead. At the event carried out at the honorary cemetery, even the new mayor and former Buchenwald inmate Otto Flagmeyer declared the audience victims of the “despicable system”. The persons attending had had “nothing to do” with the crimes committed against the camp inmates.

Twenty years later, one of his predecessors, the former Nazi mayor Heinz Sting, recalled the event. He described the obligation of the Nordhauseners to pay their last respects to the murdered concentration camp inmates as an “especially humiliating intimidation”.

(Karsten Uhl)

Reference: Jens-Christian Wagner, Produktion des Todes: Das KZ Mittelbau-Dora, 3rd edition, Göttingen 2015.