U.S. Jewish Soldiers, German Jews Hold Services at Dachau Crematorium

American Jewish soldiers, together with German Jews and former DP’s gathered at the crematorium in the infamous Dachau concentration camp for a Tisha B’av service conducted by Rabbi George Vida, U.S. Army Jewish chaplain of the Munich area. Chaplains from the neighboring cities also attended the religious ceremony.

Guest speaker was Bavarian State Secretary Dr. Joseph Panholzer, a devout Catholic and staunch anti-Nazi who left Germany after Hitler’s advent, went into hiding in a French monastery during the war and more recently had the courage to volunteer as defense counsel for the late Dr. Philipp Auerbach at the height of the frenzied campaign against him. At the Dachau service, Dr. Panholzer spoke movingly about Jewish suffering in places such as Dachau.

In an interview over the Bavarian Radio, Dr. Panholzer declared that the crematorium would remain open as a memorial, because of international obligations assumed by Germany and also as a matter of principle. His statement is of particular significance because only two weeks ago the governmental administrator of Dachau county, Christian Social Union Landtag deputy Heinrich Junker, demanded that the crematorium be closed to the public “so as to forestall pernicious propaganda.”

That demand elicited strong protest from the Munich Jewish community, the Bavarian State Council for Freedom and Justice and other groups of Nazi victims, Bavarian Minister-President Dr. Wilhelm Hoegner and Finance Minister Friedrich Zietsch made it clear that they disagreed with the Junker proposal and would not give their consent to the padlocking of the crematorium in Hitler’s oldest and best known concentration camp. Dr. Panholzer’s clear-cut statement adds further reassurance because in the Bavarian Ministry of Finance he is in direct charge of a department of the governmental administration that is responsible for the Dachau concentration camp site.

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