REIMAHG Commemoration, May 2006

Plate Commemorating Liberation of Reimahg Slave Labor Camps

The Commemorations for the victims of the former “REIMAHG” armament factory at Kahla

May 4th – May 6th 2006

Shortly after the 2005 commemoration, organised to remember the 60th anniversary of the liberation and the end of World War Two, planning began for the commemoration in 2006.

By December 2005 most of the organisational aspects were covered. Invitations were sent all over the world and various requests were submitted to several institutions. Consequently, the practical aspects of the organisation were well underway in January 2006 with monthly association meetings to guarantee perfect preparation.

By the time May arrived, we were ready.

The site preparation on the Walpersberg Mountain began on the Wednesday, May 3rd, and was both supported and assisted by the Belgian Armed Forces.

Veterans of the Belgian 16th Fusiliers Battalion, which followed the 89th after the liberation in April 1945, salute the dead.

The close and good cooperation with the Eissmann lock-making company from Kahla was ably demonstrated during the afternoon, when they arrived punctually to mount different new commemoration plaques on the large concrete wall of the bunker.

As a result of the immense amount of effort devoted to the organisation, a varied programme of events were arranged for our guests and visitors.

On Thursday evening, the first traditional commemoration took place in the park of the Hummelshain Castle.

The Association, in close cooperation with Mayor Manfred Teichmann from Hummelshain and the town clerical community, had prepared a special programme – the most important aspect being the inauguration of the completely renovated monument near the Castle. An evening drinks reception, organised by the town, further contributed to the successful event.

Survivors and relatives, together with the mayor of Hummelshain, lay down wreaths near the memorial stone at the town's cemetery.

Time to rest wasn’t a luxury given to the Association.

Early Friday morning, Steffi had to set out the entire visual exhibition which included photos, a film, exhibits and artefacts. She was assisted by a small team of competent assistants, which guaranteed a perfect historical exhibition on view for our visitors.

After the commemorations, the visitors could visit the well-prepared exhibition.

The many former forced labourers present, their relatives and friends, as well as the invited guests, received an extensive programme.

A close-up on the sign of a former political prisoner, who survived the camps at Kahla.

This year’s commemoration highlights were the speech given by the chairman of the Volksbank Saaletal eG; the inauguration of three new commemorative plaques (the province of Macerata, the American Army and the Belgian Army); the choreography by the ‘Sunset’ dance group, and the numerous wreaths that were laid.

The dance group "Sunset" from Kahla, for the third year in a row, presented a very emotionally dance during the commemoration at the Walpersberg site.

At this point we would like to thank the 89th Infantry Division Veteran’s association and the Belgian 16th Fusilier Bataillon for their kind support in handing over the commemorative plates that have now their place at the Walpersberg Mountain.

Commemorative plate of the 89th Infantry Division.

Two Belgian army veterans inaugurate the commemorative plaques of the 89th Infantry division and the 16th Fusilier Battalion.

Ellen Hoffmann, the vicar from Altendorf spoke sensitively, which gave those present room for thought.

At the end of the commemoration, there was a surprise. Paul Baert, Chairman of the Belgian Survivors association, and Steffi Brion, Chairwoman of our Association, spoke on behalf of all the guests present who had written their names in a long list and had given many letters of congratulation to Patrick Brion, thanking him for the work he has done for the European understanding between nations, and the research about the ‘REIMAHG’ history and the people who worked there.

A close-up of Paul Gennart , current chairman of the Belgian 16th Fusiliers veteran's association.

After the commemoration the guests could visit the exhibition. This was sited just off the mountain, and there were many new items shown to the visitors. Steffi was very eager to answer every question and was supported by Gunter Fuhrmann, our translator. The exhibition was indeed very successful.

A camera team from the Belgian Army was present to film the preparations and the commemorations with extra emphasis on the human element.

Many interviews were conducted on site.

Norbert and Annemarie took on the important task of catering with bravura.

Over lunch, people had the opportunity to meet and talk under a perfect clear blue sky.

The commemoration at the Walpersberg ended, but Friday still had much to get through. The town of Langenorla, situated in the beautiful Saale-Orla District, greeted the numerous visitors in the late afternoon. Mayor Georg Graven and District Chairman Frank Rössner gave a short speech during this event.

Yet another highlight, and a very emotional one, was the moment when children of the basic school of Langenorla walked hand in hand with former forced labourers from various nations, and with German time-witnesses, and laid a flower at the monument. The initiative for this came about as a result of Patrick Brion having given a presentation about the ‘REIMAHG’ at the school the week before.

There was a further commemoration at the cemetery in Kleindembach, and this was followed for the first time by the ‘Feast of nations understanding’. Very well organised by the town, this encouraged people from the region and guests to meet.

Besides the adult choir, presentations by the school and music, the youngest inhabitants of the community gave their best with different displays. The atmosphere was truly great and the Italians, present in large numbers, also gave their best by singing some songs of their own.

At one point during the event, a group picture was taken which included survivors and the young children; this proved to be yet another highlight of the day. It was very impressive to see how these children dealt with the experience of contact with the time-witnesses.

It was a long day…

Saturday morning, we had made it possible for the public to visit the exterior installations and the exhibition at the Walpersberg Mountain. Many came and received an accurate account of what had happened there, assisted by guided tours and an exhibition concerning the history of the mountain.

At the same time, the other traditional commemorations had started.

Lunch for the many participants was organised by our Association in the ‘Rosengarten’ restaurant in Kahla, where Gunter Dietrich and his team had prepared an exquisite buffet.

A very important moment of the day was without doubt the reception in the Town Hall of Kahla, where Mayor Bernd Leube handed over the Honour Medal of the city of Kahla to former forced labourers and German time-witnesses.

During that event, Balilla Bolognesi, a former Italian forced labourer, gave a very emotional speech.

Later in the evening all the displays were painstakingly disassembled at the Walpersberg and moved, thus ending this year’s commemorations.

We would like to thank the following for their kind support:

Albert Vandael and his wife Karine
André Flahaut, Belgian Secretary of Defence
All members of our Association and their spouses
André Schattlack and Daniel Weise
André Van Hasebroeck and his wife Karine
BIMA, Erfurt
Mayor Bernd Leube, City of Kahla
Mayor Georg Graven, Langenorla
Mayor Jens Hild, Town of Grosseutersdorf
The Press and Television media present
The Chairman of the Volksbank Saaletal eG
Our guests from Belgium, Italy, Poland, France, Slovakia, Byelorussia and the Netherlands
Doris Kuschke, Kahla
The German Red Cross of the Saale-Holzland District
Ms. Vicar Ellen Hoffmann
Getränkemarkt Gügold, Grosseutersdorf
Mr. Dietzel, REWE Market Kahla
Ingo and Christian of the Eissmann company, Kahla
Jörg Kobs, Town of Grosseutersdorf
Flowers Klaus Putsche, Kahla
Flowers Krug, Kahla
Marc, Kurt and Daniel of the Belgian Army for filming these events
Ruth and Horst Partschefeld
The veterans of the 16th Fusiliers Battalion, Belgian Army
The veterans association of the 89th Infantry Division, United States Army
Tony Page

The numerous hours of preparation and planning followed by the different commemorations have shown that our Association is heading the right way: the way of remembrance - thus allowing and encouraging talk about this regional piece of history as well as objective documentation. The feedback we received from both foreign and German guests confirm this.

We will continue to work for remembrance and historically correct facts concerning the Walpersberg thereby ensuring it will never be forgotten, and that it all becomes accessible to everyone as a permanent memorial site.

Belgian army veterans, together with German children, 61 years after the war, commemorate together.

Belgian survivors lead the way towards the commemoration.

Italian survivors participate every year in greater numbers, together with scholars.

Lance Corporal Albert Vandael of the Belgian armed forces, helping the official representatives during the wreath laying ceremony at the Walpersberg.

Survivors and youth join together during the commemoration at the Walpersberg site.

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