E. Israel Bornstein recalls his arrival in Muehldorf when his train stopped at the local station. A civilian passenger train was passing and Bornstein clearly remembers the reaction of the people inside.
"Most of them were well-dressed, well-fed and there were also many women amongst them and they looked at us wide-eyed and seemed to be uncomprehending of the situation…"
Eugen Kogon, a German journalist, states that this was almost too typical of the periods. The German people were also frightened by the power-hungry criminals who ruled the country. What went on in concentration camps wasn’t known to the vast majority of Germans. The SS did an excellent job in preventing nosy Germans from coming close to the camps. Propaganda also told local peoples that the prisoners were composed of criminals, social misfits and of course, Jews. Germans were prohibited from speaking to inmates. Even passing near the camp fence was threatened with immediate shooting by the guards. To deceive the public even further, misleading signs were posted outside that lied about inmate activity and tasks.
However, since 1933, the newspaper-reading citizen would have known or developed a sense for what concentration camps were for. Beginning in 1933, the first arrests took place in Muehldorf under the guise of Schutzhaft (protective custody). Nevertheless, the citizens of Muehldorf must probably have developed an idea about the true purpose of the camps. On a daily basis, they encountered the haggard prisoners as they were marched to work. Reports of the brutality of the guards also spread quickly amongst the local populations.
Showing disgust and disdain at the treatment of prisoners was not possible in a police state like Nazi Germany. The Gestapo had an abundance of informers and this instilled fear into the German population. When reading today about what little Germans did to aid Jews or prisoners, it has to be taken into view that the aiding of enemies of the state was a crime and meant either harsh treatment at the hands of the Gestapo, imprisonment or even death. Despite this, there were many Germans who tried to help. Below are some examples of courageous locals who helped in their own way.
A family from Ampfing hid potatoes inside a bucket and filled it with pig food. The bucket was positioned so that inmates could easily find it and help themselves. At the same time, the accompanying SS guard, allowed himself to be “invited” for a cup of tea and thus allow the inmates to eat. Sadly, this particular SS guard was later transferred out.
A female farmer hid bread the food-wagon that supplied food to the camp oxen.
A woman from Ampfing was imprisoned for three days after having given inmates some apples. She was told that if she were caught aiding prisoners again, she’d be arrested and imprisoned in the same camp as the inmates.
Life-saving help was given to some of the inmates who managed to escape. A few local farmers hid these escaped prisoners at their own risk. Things didn’t always work out well for both parties. In a tragic incident, seven farmers from nearby Poing were executed for showing their good side and sheltering escaped inmates.
After the war, former Nazis were forced by the occupying Americans to uncover the bodies of dead camp inmates who were hastily buried in mass graves inside the forest. The bodies were exhumed and reburied in cemeteries strewn across the region.
Only through these actions did the local civilian population finally understand what had occurred in their forest during the last few months of the war.
The bodies from the mass graves were reburied in small concentration camp cemeteries in Burghausen, Kraiburg, Muehldorf and Neumarkt. Buried in each are the following:
← last page overview