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Tv Documentary Disputes View That Ordinary Germans Were Unaware of Fate of Jews During World War Ii

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A documentary titled “Concentration Camp Next Door,” broadcast on television and radio in various parts of West Germany, appears to refute the long-standing contention that ordinary Germans were unaware of what was happening to Jews during World War II.

The film produced by Barbara Schoenfeldt, deals with a concentration camp called Eidelstedt in the northwest outskirts of Hamburg where the inmates were women employed as slave laborers. Shortly before the end of the war, 500 of them were tortured and murdered by the SS. The film-maker conducted interviews with local residents who lived there during the war.

They said they often saw the women herded through the streets on their way to work, heavily guarded by 55 men who beat them sadistically. A former locomotive engineer whose train left from the nearby railroad station, said he had witnessed this spectacle daily. But nobody reacted at the time, either out of fear or because they refused to be involved in something they considered not their business, the documentary said.

Its broadcast in Hamburg coincided with the trial there of Walter Kuemmel, a former SS officer at Eidelstedt, accused of three murders. The site of the concentration camp is now occupied by a housing development, lawns and a soccer field. There is no plaque or any other sign that the camp existed. The local people are either unaware or do not want to be confronted with the issue nearly 40 years later, the documentary said.

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