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English -> 606 Quartermaster Graves Registration Company in Leipzig, 27 April 1945

606 Quartermaster Graves Registration Company

 

Report on Atrocity Burial

 

Sud Friedhof, Leipzig, 27 April 1945

 

MISSION: Reported to Col Rhodes 1600 on 24 April. He outlined the job, stating that Leipzig had reported an atrocity crime and that they wanted an officer from Grave Registrations to go down to be of assistance in technical details in connection with selection of a cemetery site, burial, registration, etc, and further to supervise operations. I was instructed that all labor would be performed by civilian workers recruited from the townspeople as a whole.

 

LEIPZIG: I checked in at Headquarters, Provisional Detachment ?A?, Military Government of Leipzig and was referred to Lt Harwell of the Public Health department. It developed that he was assigned the job of disposing of the remains of these displaced persons, Russians, Poles, etc, who had died in and around the city. Some had inadvertently drunk brake line fluid and were poisoned, others died in the attack on the city, others through malnutrition. We discussed the problem thorougly. He said that the local civilians were collecting and burying the civilian dead and were also taking.care of registration of graves and records thereof.

 

25 April 1945

 

Reported in to Col Jim Dan Bill. Met Lt Col Perman with whom I was to work. I told my mission here and offered my services mentioning that I would. be more than glad to assist in any way, shape or manner in the case at hand.

 

CEMETERY SITE: Drove out with Col Perman to the Friedhof Cemetery, which is a very large city cemetery adjacent to the Napoleon Monument. Only local citizens of high official rank are buried in this part of the cemetery. We looked at a long sloping plot bordered by high shrubs and flowers which was to the Colonel?s liking. I suggested that inasmuch as the intention was that this burial was to be a sort of shrine to impress upon the German citizens the nature of the atrocious crime and as this spot was out of the way and rather secluded, it would be better to select a spot more accessible and at the same time more obvious. We drove around further and stopped in front of the chapel. Stretching out a quarter of a mile was the main drive into the cemetery. It was a two way street with islands of green in the center. There, I recommended, would be the ideal location- not onlywas it in a prominent spot, but anybody who ever entered the cemetery by the main gate for a subseqent funeral or casual visit could not but help see the graves of the victims. It was agreed to have the burial here.

 

Securing an interpreter from the MG I then went to a local carpenter whose address had been given to me by the MG officials. His place had been bombed out and he was not to be found. Obtaining the address of a lumber yard I proceeded there and arranged to have stakes cut. I drew up a sketch and ordered 75 crosses to be made according to the specifications set forth thereon. The bill was to be paid by the City of Leipzig. I told the propietor I would be back in an hour for the stakes and that the crosses would be picked up at four olclock tomorrow.

 

26 April 1945

 

DIGGING THE GRAVES: 200 German civilians who represented a cross section of the civil population of Leipzig were assigned to dig the 75 graves. The graves were laid out in the manner indicated in the attached sketch. Ihe first plot consisted of 38 graves - two rows of 19 graves each, making 38 in all. The second plot consisted also of two rows, one containing 19 graves, the other 18, making a grand total of 75 graves. The graves were dug to a depth of a good six feet, they were four feet in width and eight feet in length. An aisle of four feet separated the rows, while there was a four foot space between graves. The graves were aligned laterally as well as lengthwise. Men were detailed to fill in bomb craters, one of which was located outside the main gate while two others marred the main approaches to the cemetery. The cemetery director complained that the men couldnt t fill craters and dig graves, they couldn't do this, that and the other thing. I told him very definitely that we had a job to do ? graves to be dug, craters to be filled, the entire area to be cleaned up, and when the job was finished to my satisfaction, the men could leave. And further? I would keep them on the job even until eight o?clock at night if necessary. They wanted to leave at four of o?clock in order to give them time to get to their homes before curfew. I told them. lf necessary, I would procure special passes to allow them to return to their homes after curfew, but that the job would be completed. I wrote out a simple pass and had 200 of them prepared by the cemetery director, for signature and official stamp of the Military Government officals.

 

The wreaths were inspected. They were made up of greens with a garland of yellow daffodils. I suggested that ten or fifteen white narcissi be added to each wreath. I checked the rostrum also and suggested that it be covered with greens and decorated by a simple wreath and that a small potted tree be placed on either side of it.

 

After all the holes were dug the excavated dirt was levelled down in a common mound outside each plot. The size of the mound was arbitrary except that it would be low enough to allow one to see the caskets from the street. Upon the excavated dirt were placed evergreen boughs. All mounds were lined up with the street. The caskets were placed on polen laid over the graves. The alignment of these was checked to my satisfaction by a laborer with a string. Upon each casket was tacked a simple pressed cardboard cross.

 

Everything having been completed - craters filled, graves dug, caskets lined up, excavated dirt dressed up, streets swept - the workers were dismissed. Those who could reach their homes were advised to leave immediately after they had been checked out. The others were told to remain for the passes which I sent for.

 

Reporting back to the MG, I arranged with the MG police commissioner to have a guard of civil police placed around the caskets. Later I went out after dinner and checked them and gave last minute instructions to the cemetery director.

 

ABTNAUNDORF ? SCENE OF THE ATROCIOUS CRIME: The airplane factory was located in the NW part of the city. The concentration camp was to the rear of the factory. The story given to me was that on 18 April 1945 the Germans had forced some 300 people into a barracks, poured gasoline on it, and fired incendiaries into it.

 

As the men came running out, clothes afire, they were shot down by guards. In the grotesque positions in which they had fallen, they burned to a crisp. Some were on hands and knees, others were lying with their legs up in the air, some were hung up on the electrically-charged barbed wire, and one was a cripple flat on his back with his charred crutch beside him. Three had gotten over the fence but were shot down by a tank outside the encampment. Nothing remained of the barracks except charred ambers and the remnants of human flesh. In one heap, a tangled mass of twisted and charred pieces, were the remains of some 20 bodies. All but 3 or possibly 4 bodies had been burned beyond recognition. Most of them had bullet holes in them. Several were probed for tags or other identification, but nothing could be found. I found some barracks' rosters with names and numbers which I turned over to Maj Baten, MGO. I gave him the address of Maj Bolker, WCIT 6822, who investigated the crime. Same 100 persons managed to escape but it would be impossible to estimate how many bodies were yet there whose ashes still remained in the charred debris. Suffice to say, 75 charred bodies were taken out of the place by the local undertakers. These were placed in uniform, mahogany stained caskets.

 

The Americans came in on the morning of the 19th. It was their early arrival which prevented some women internees from receiving the same horrible fate.

 

27 April 1945

 

THE FUNERAL: In anticipation of possible trouble with the displaced persons, four half-tracks had been assigned to mount guard over the funeral proceedings. I advised a Field Artillery Lieutenant in charge of them of the various approaches to the spot and helped him in spotting his half-tracks at strategic cross-roads, main gate, and at the chapel. The chapel tower, immcidentally, was checked for snipers just prior to the ceremony.

 

The procession formed at the main gate and moved in the direction indicated by arrows in the attached sketch. 100 displaced persons from a nearby camp led off with their various national colors. They were followed by Col Bill and his party of two other colonels, a major, an interpreter and myself. After came about 900 German civilians. Among these were represented the City Government, the Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations. The Director of Leipzig University, Dr. Schumann of the Thomas Church, and other city officials also attended. They were all dressed in top hats and long frock coats.

 

The mass burial services without chapel were simple but impressive. The Catholic, Jewish and Protestant services were conducted by Chaplains Charles V. McSween of 190th FA Group, Goldstein of V Corps and W. E. McCrory of the 190th FA Group, respectively. As a fitting close, taps were blown by a buglar standing before the chapel. After the ceremony, the displaced persons filed around the caskets and placed additional flowers upon them.

 

After the procession had moved out, the caskets were lowered into the graves and the dirt replaced by civilian laborers. Instructions were given to the cemetery director that the crosses were to be spaced equally and that they would be lined up laterally and lengthwise.

 

Later in talking with Chaplain McGrory it developed that he had to make a report for the General. I drew up a hasty sketch for him similar to the one attached herewith.

 

Having completed my work and there being nothing further which I could be of assistance, I checked out with Col Hill and reported back to my unit.

 

 

 

Wiliam G. FROST

1st Lt.

606th QM GR Co.

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