3300 km – 2050 miles to Auschwitz.
Each January 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. Today we have the 79th anniversary and the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Auschwitz has redefined Europe and it sends globally a warning against populism, intolerance, ignorance and silence. Against the major factors dismantling the democratic order and replacing it with a crooked dictatorships in democratic disguise.
No other German Nazi camp impacted Europe and its Jewish population the way Auschwitz did.
Last week I was at the edges of Europe, 360 km north of the polar circle in the Norwegian city of Tromsø .
There is a church in the city center. In front of the church a monument to all those who fell victim in WW II. Ethnic Norwegian victims. My mind wandered of how many of those were members of SS Task Force Einsatzkommando 1, Oslo , Task Force 6, Tromsö. This unit run two German controlled detention camps in Tromsø vicinity, Sydspissen and Tromsdalen. But I believe that most of those listed were the victims of the Nazis.
When the camps opened, they were initially used to house suspected communists and the Tromsø area’s male Jewish population. It would later hold intellectuals, teachers, and members of the Norwegian political left. It functioned as a transit camp which would either release prisoners after a short stay or send them further to Grini, Falstad, or camps in Germany.
There were couple of Jewish families in Tromsø prior to WW II. The Kleins, the Caplans, the Fischers… Most managed to flee and cross the border with Sweeden.
On the other side of the church but still on Kirkegata (Church street) there is a monument with 17 Jewish names of people who were deported from here through Oslo docks into Stettin or Hamburg to be then deported on trains to Auschwitz.
Major deportations were organized in November of 1942. On November 26th , 1942 a group of 532 Norwegian Jews were pushed into Donau ship in Oslo and send to Stettin.
Auschwitz records have an ice cold statistical entry under the day of December 1st , 1942.
“There came a RSHA transport from Bergen region in Norway. 532 Jews – 302 men , 230 women and children. After selection there were 186 men directed to the cam and numbered 79064-79249. The remaining 346 people were murdered in the gas chambers.”
The deportation route of 3300 km – 2050 miles is the longest I know in case of Auschwitz deportations. The distance and logistics involved is a testimony of how far the institutionalized hatred may take us once it is mixed with corporate organization and industrialized detention or murder system.
In 2024 there is still an A.Caplan store just in between the two monuments.
On January 14th, 2024 the Holocaust monument in Tromsø was secured with anti riot metal barriers and guarded by the local police. The city was loud with anti Israel chants and slogans as there was a march in support of Gaza organized. Graffiti, posters and stickers covered the city walls, shop windows and monuments. In such way somewhere at the very edges of Europe the old ghosts of hatred could be heard. The best intentions of supporting the Gaza civilian population shall never be drained in antisemitic hatred.