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September 17: Death March from the Bor Mines

September 16, 2016

Nearly 4,000 Hungarian Jews who had been conscripted into forced labor since 1941 were led on a death march towards Hungary from the Bor mines in Yugoslavia, where the labor camps were concentrated, on this date in 1944. About 1,300 of them were shot or killed by exhaustion en route; the others were deported to Germany, where the great majority were murdered. A second death march of 2,500 Jews began soon after; several hundred of these liberated by Tito’s partisans. Yugoslavia had been occupied and divided up by German, Hungarian, Italian, and Bulgarian armed forces. The death marches were a panicked Nazi response to a massive Soviet 1944 summer offensive which overran the Nazi concentration camp of Majdanek and led to international exposure of Germany’s genocidal activities. SS chief Heinrich Himmler then ordered all prisoners in concentration camps to be evacuated toward the interior of the Reich. According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, “SS guards had strict orders to kill prisoners who could no longer walk or travel. As evacuations depended increasingly on forced marches and travel by open rail car or small craft in the Baltic Sea in the brutal winter of 1944-1945, the number who died of exhaustion and exposure along the routes increased dramatically. . . . Thousands of prisoners died of exposure, starvation, and exhaustion.”

“Hungarian soldiers shot randomly into the straggling column of survivors....Miklós Radnóti, one of Hungary’s major poets and translators, was among the victims. He and twenty-one of his companions were shot to death in the outskirts of Abda, a village near Győr. After the war, the mass grave was exhumed and the poet was identified by a notebook full of his poems written on the death march.” --National Committee for Attending Deportees