• Belower_Wald

Welcome to the online anniversary of liberation at the Death March Memorial in Below Forest

#sharingmemory – Our motto to mark the 76th anniversary of liberation at the Death March Memorial in Below Forest

We particularly focus on the perspective of subsequent generations: How do families live with their parents’ and grandparents’ history of persecution? How should we commemorate the crimes committed at Sachsenhausen today and in future? More information on the programme:

Painting by Swiss death march survivor Gino Pezzani, 1950. 

The death march in April 1945

From 20 April 1945, the SS forced more than 33,000 inmates of Sachsenhausen concentration camp to march on foot towards the north-west. Most were liberated by American and Soviet forces in early May in the Parchim-Ludwigslust-Schwerin area. Hundreds died en route or were shot dead by the SS. 

Between 23 and 29 April 1945, the majority of the columns, amounting to more than 16,000 prisoners, were coralled in Below Forest near Wittstock. They were left in the forest for several days, without food, water or shelter and surrounded by a chain of SS guards.

Trees still bear the traces of the provisional forest camp: carvings in the bark, traces of wire, and bare patches on tree trunks as people, in their desperation, attempted to eat bark in order to survive. Around 4,000 objects were also found in the forest ground.

In 2010, an open-air exhibition opened next to the historical forest camp. Photographs, drawings and memories of contemporary witnesses show the clearance of Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the death march, the camp in Below Forest and liberation. A display case holds some of the finds from Below Forest.

  • Death March Memorial in Below Forest

    Open-air exhibition of the Death March Memorial in Below Forest, 2010. 

  • Death March Memorial in Below Forest

    Scots pine stripped of bark in Below  Forest, 2010.

  • ICRC, Geneva | Photo: Willy Pfister, delegate of the International Red Cross.

    Death march out of Sachsenhausen concentration camp, April 1945

    My liberation – Survivors speak about their liberation in 1945

    Mano Höllenreiner (*1933)

    “… when we were on the death march, I wanted to beat it, but didn’t dare to, because there was nowhere to go.”

    Zwi Steinitz (*1927)

    “I had never ever imagined that this was how I would go into freedom.”

    Pierre Gouffault (*1924)

    “… we shared a loaf of bread and a slice of sausage between the five of us; after that we didn’t have anything to eat for the next three or four days …”

    Stanisława Imiołek (*1923)

    “… and suddenly I noticed that we were all alone, no guards anywhere.”

    Living with memories – The survivors and the 2nd and 3rd

    Emmanuelle Cassan speaking about her book “Sous les ormes de Grabow” [Under the elms of Grabow]

    Efforts to investigate the disappearance of her grandfather prompted Cassan to write a book about the death march and liberation.

    Michel and Valérie Claverie speaking about their book “Traces/Spuren”

    His father survived the death march. The son goes out on his own memorial march and writes a book about it. 

    Commemorative events

    Commemorative ceremony to mark the 76th anniversary of liberation on 16 April 2021 in Below Forest

    Minister Manja Schüle, French Ambassador Anne-Marie Descôtes, the director of the foundation and other invited guests commemorate the death march and its victims.