FACEism: Beautiful wildflowers camouflage ugly truth of Holocaust in fields of Germany

It's a crucial reminder on why remembering that dark chapter is so important in today's world.

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Saturday, January 28, 2023
FACEism: Beautiful wildflowers camouflage ugly truth of Holocaust
It's a crucial reminder on why remembering that dark chapter is so important in today's world.

GERMANY (KABC) -- In this episode of ABC7's new series "FACEism," we explore an important story as we approach International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Six million innocent Jews were systematically murdered during World War II and 1.5 million of them were children.

That's the Holocaust. It's what Hitler, his Nazis, and their followers did. It's a crucial reminder on why remembering that dark chapter is so important in today's world.

Holocaust Remembrance Day shows we must acknowledge how evil and weak man can be, and fight against it.

It can happen again.

We call this episode of "FACEism: Wildflowers."

When you see the German countryside in the spring, you'll see wildflowers everywhere, reaching for the sun.

It's a beautiful sight, but in those fields, located in Bavaria, if you wander deep enough, you'll find something that's hiding behind the bloom.

The truth.

German historians, husband and wife Helga and Manfred Deiler, have been fighting the flowers, the trees, and the fog of distant memory for decades, trying to keep that truth in plain sight. It's a fight where the opposition is growing stronger.

Eyewitness News visited Kaufering camp No. 7, a sub-camp of the Dachau concentration camp. During World War II, Kaufering camp, in Landsberg, was one of the most horrible places on Earth. Jewish prisoners were forced into slave labor, leaving them starving and freezing. Then, they were crammed into earthen huts, without an inch to spare.

"This is incredible and of course, you have in the morning maybe a dead person beside you. This must have been terrible," said Helga Deiler.

You've seen the shocking images of people being rounded up, put behind barbed wire, and heard the incredible stories from the brave survivors and liberators. Yet there is a growing number of hateful people choosing to deny it ever happened.

Even in Germany, where it actually took place, there are disturbing efforts to erase the past.

Helga said, "I'm born here in Landsberg, 58, and we haven't heard about the history of the camps here in the area."

She has lived just blocks from this camp, yet never was taught what it was. Helga said they did learn about Dachau and Auschwitz in school, but only in terms of pre-World War II.

They learned nothing about the war itself or about this notorious Dachau sub-camp that sits in her own small town.

"We wanted to know the truth," Helga said. "We wanted to know what all happened in the Nazi time within our city, and then we realized it's so hard to get answers, and we said, 'Why is it?'"

The only way Helga and Manfred learned of this camp was from reading the English transcripts of the Dachau trials where Nazis and their shocking atrocities were exposed.

"This can't be true. This can't be in our neighborhood and you'd never hear anything about it."

It was then, Helga and her husband made a remarkable commitment. They bought the land to preserve the Kaufering camp so that they can tell the story.

"I think it's so important that something is left of this time," Helga said. "I think also these monuments, they have their own, how to say? I think they talk to us."

In the fields, there are so many lessons. Not just about Nazis, Hitler and hate, but about how everyone looked the other way, enabling mass murder against fellow humans.

They showed ABC7 photos of the infamous Death March when Hitler ordered the Jews to be marched away from the front lines so he could continue to use their slave labor.

Thousands died during the March, either from exhaustion or shot by guards, their bodies simply left where they fell. The photos prove atrocities weren't hidden in the camps, they were out in the open.

We went to stand on the very spot where these were taken, transported back to that moment. Manfred showed ABC7 a picture of that same road, with prisoners walking, armed guards at the ready.

He describes the image showing ordinary citizens watching it go by.

"You see normal people sitting and looking at the Death March," Manfred said.

Nearby, you'll find a monument to the March. In fact, 22 of them went up along the route in 1989. But Helga said attitudes have changed since then.

There's a growing number of Germans who no longer want to talk about the Holocaust, even the government.

Helga and Manfred applied for a permit to build a simple restroom on their property for visitors. That was 10 years ago. They are still waiting.

To further the point, Helga brought ABC7 to a cemetery in town.

It's the sight of a mass grave where thousands of murdered Jews from the camps are buried.

Yet, never, in the many times she's visited, has she ever seen another person visit. Not one.

As she left the cemetery, Helga teared up, frustrated. They have given everything to this cause, yet feel they have fallen short.

"There has not done enough. I can do more," she said.

We often say, time heals all, but does it?

Eighty years later, truth and the horrible lessons about hate are still here. However, they are getting much harder to see.

The beautiful wildflowers are simply camouflage.