Eight Women Return to Germany, Where They Were Slave Laborers

Eight Jewish women used as slave laborers in the final months of World War II returned to the scene of their ordeal last week as guests of a group of Germans who refuse to suppress the past.

The town of Calw, in southern Germany’s Black Forest, was the site of a concentration camp that provided slave labor to a nearby factory, which assembled aircraft parts for the Luftwaffe.

Local residents, calling themselves “From Auschwitz to Calw,” spent several years documenting the camp’s history and trying to track down survivors.

They organized a series of public meetings to convince their neighbors of the need to come to terms with their town’s past.

The result was invitations to the eight former inmates, most of them originally from Hungary but now living in the United States, France, Israel and other countries.

Mayor Hans Bay, who greeted them, said he hoped they would return home with the knowledge “that the Germany you experienced so tragically has changed profoundly, not only in its appearance, but inwardly.”

At a meeting with local students, Fanny Kaufmann showed the concentration camp number tattooed on her arm.

“I won’t erase this number,” she said. “Forgive? Maybe. Forget, never.”

Agnes Zini, the 68-year-old widow of a rabbi who served in the French army, said young people in town told her they heard little or nothing from their parents about the Nazi era.

“This is too bad,” Zini said. “With the new generation, I can come to terms. With the old generation, I don’t want to be reconciled.”

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