The 60th Anniversary of Liberation
Having fled with my parents from Germany to Shanghai in 1939, where I spent eight years, six of those before the liberation by US troops, yours truly wishes to join in spirit the countries that commemorated on their postage stamps this year the 60th Anniversary of Liberation of Concentration Camps. A stamp from Austria, shown in figures one, was perhaps the most graphic and thought provoking attention getter to be discussed later in the article.
Thanks to China’s open door policy in the late 30’s, close to twenty-thousand Jews that may have fallen victim to the Holocaust found refuge in Shanghai. A German Nazi passport of my mother shown in figure two, with the mandated middle- name, “Sara”, shows a rubber stamp from the Chinese emigration authority at Point of Entry. Considering that they came to a land that was strange to them compounded by make-shift housing and primitive surroundings, they led a comparatively, to say the least, comfortable life.
Those that stayed, however, in Europe by choice following “Kristal Nacht,” or were unable to leave anymore, were not as fortunate.
It is fitting to mention at this point that all other countries, including the United States closed their doors to Jews that were in desperation to flee during this critical period of Nazi persecution...
The 0,55 euro stamp from Austria mentioned above was designed by Adolf Tuma, and released on May 6, 2005. It describes implicitly the agony faced by inmates of the concentration camp, Mauthausen. The camp with the front entrance, shown on a postcard in figure three, was located on a leveled hilltop 20 km from the city of Linz, along the Danube River. At the edge of the camp was a granite quarry called “Wiener Graben,” owned by the city of Vienna.
Commemorating “60 Year Liberation KZ Mauthausen,” the postal adhesive illustrates the 186 steps of the Staircase of Death at the stone quarry (excavation for obtaining stone) with blood running down and over the steps onto the border of the stamp. Prisoners were forced to climb the steps while carrying blocks of granite to the top while SS guards beat or deliberately pushed them down to the bottom where they would be killed by the granite blocks rolling behind them. An official envelope from the onset of the camp when prisoners were still allowed to write to their loved ones is shown in figure four.
Mauthausen Concentration Camp was established on August 8, 1938 when Himmler ordered a couple of hundred prisoners from the Dachau Concentration camp to be transported to the little town, Mauthausen. An envelope sent by an inmate from Dachau Concentration Camp to a relative in Vienna is shown in figure five. It was during that time when the plan was made to build the new camp in Mauthausen to supply slave labor for the stone quarry. The estimated number of victims at Camp Mauthausen reached approximately 150,000.
Austria had no compunction by releasing the stamp in spite that this act of “man’s inhumanity to man” was carried out in their own country after the Austrian National Socialists took power following the “Anschluss,” the annexation of Austria into the German Reich in 1938. Jews were also bared from participation in the election in Graz, as shown on a voting identification card in figure six while Austrian intellectuals and known personalities publicly supported Hitler’s annexation. And who can forget the infamous phrase “Der ewige Jude” (The eternal Jew) featured several times at exhibits in the city of Vienna? A postcard cancelled with a rubber stamp announcing one of those exhibits is shown in figure seven. A mockery of the popular Jewish composer of Viennese music, Oscar Straus, with the same anti-Semitic phrase, is shown in figure eight.
Today, there is in Austria a new sense of rededication and reconcilement of this tragic era. Liese Prokop, the Federal Minister of the Interior, recently made the following statement:
“American soldiers were the first to publish pictures of the atrocities committed behind the walls of Mauthausen for seven years. The traces of these crimes have sunk into collective memory. However, the question as to who was responsible was avoided for too long. The decision to preserve the former concentration camp and to establish a memorial site is a clear commitment to keep these memories alive for all generations to come. Remembering and denouncing the Nazi crimes of which Mauthausen is a symbol should become a central aspect of a new Austrian national consciousness.”
Many former refugees from Shanghai meet at a bi-annual reunion to reminisce with their peers about the good times they spent together in the Hongkew Ghetto. Unlike the six million that perished in the Holocaust, those that came to Shanghai not only survived, but were also able to continue with their formal education and live a relatively normal life while waiting for the Pacific War to end. Granted that many of our parents had to struggle in Shanghai to make ends meet, nevertheless they are able to talk and sometimes even laugh about it today in what became their new country and permanent home.
The stamp may be obtained by sending a donation to Temple Knesset Israel, 1260 No. Vermont Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90029