Thursday, May 01, 2014

Magdeburg, Now A Real Place

In the year 2000 Baen Books published an "alternate history" novel, first of a long-running series, by Eric Flint, titled "1632."  It involves the life of small U.S. town that has been transported through time back to 15th century Germany.

Much of the series' action takes place in the "downtime" city of Magdeburg, located in present-day North-Central Germany.  The writing about the city is evocative, but it was still just a fantasy setting, without any real, concrete connection for me.

Until today.

Indulging in the serendipity that is the World Wide Web, I came across a website, and a series of photographs, about an incident, near Magdeburg, in the waning days of WW II, when a scouting section of  two light tanks from the U.S. 743rd Tank Battalion came across a train, on a siding, that was filled with 2,500 people from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  People who were being shuttled across Germany, slated for elimination.

Those running the train, both civilians and guard troops, had abandoned the train, and its cargo, for in truth, these were, in those eyes, not people, but cargo to be delivered for destruction.  I truly cannot imagine what those 2,500 people felt, or what thoughts they had, when they saw those American tanks, and recognized the uniforms of the American soldiers. 

For most of us, "history" is observed from a safe remove, and we never have the connection to make any of the incidents, or even the places seem real to us.  This website, and the accounts from two of the tank crewmen, have made the city of Magdeburg real.

Please, please, read those brief accounts, and look at those photographs.

"A Train Near Magdeburg."

We must never forget.