Author Topic: Pascha In Dauchau - 1945  (Read 1618 times)

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Offline Orthodoc

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Pascha In Dauchau - 1945
« on: February 16, 2004, 02:37:03 PM »
The following was written by an Othodox Christian who was interred by
the Nazis at Dachau. I obtained it from another chat group:

This is my father's account on this Easter Service:

Dachau 1945 (Gleb Alexandrovich Rahr/Prisoner R(for "Russian")64923)

Dachau concentration camp, April 27th, 1945: The last transport of
prisoners arrives from Buchenwald. Of the 5,000 orginally destined
for Dachau, I was among the 1,300 who had survived the trip. Many
were shot, some starved to death, while others died of typhus...

April 28th: I and my fellow prisoners can hear the bombardment of
Munich taking place some 30 km from our concentration camp. As
the sound of artillery approaches ever nearer from the west and the
north, orders are given proscribing prisoners from leaving their
barracks under any circumstances. SS-soldiers patrol the camp on
motorcycles as machine guns are directed at us from the
watch-towers, which surround the camp.

April 29th: The booming sound of artillery has been joined by the
staccato bursts of machine gun fire. Shells whistle over the camp
from all directions. Suddenly white flags appear on the towers - a
sign of hope that the SS would surrender rather than shoot all
prisoners and fight to the last man. Then, at about 6:00 p.m., a
strange sound can be detected emanating from somewhere near the
camp gate which swiftly increases in volume... Finally all 32,600
prisoners join in the cry as the first American soldiers appear just
behind the wire fence of the camp.

After a short while electric power is turned off, the gates open and
the American GIs make their entrance. As they stare wide-eyed at
our lot, half-starved as we are and suffering from typhus and
dysintery, they appear more like fifteen-year-old boys than
battle-weary soldiers...

An international committee of prisoners is formed to take over the
administration of the camp. Food from SS-stores is put at the
disposal of the camp kitchen. A US military unit also contributes
some provision, thereby providing me with my first opportunity to
taste American corn. By order of an American officer
radio-receivers are confiscated from "prominent Nazis" in the town
of Dachau and distributed to the various national groups of
prisoners. The news come in: Hitler has committed suicide, the
Russians have taken Berlin, and German troops have surrendered in
the South and in the North. But the fighting still rages in Austria
and Czechoslovakia...

Naturally, I was ever cognizant of the fact that these momentous
events were unfolding during Holy Week. But how could we mark
it, other than through our silent, individual prayers? A
fellow-prisoner and chief interpreter of the International prisoner's
committee, Boris F., paid a visit to my typhus-infested barrack
"Block 27" to inform me that efforts were underway in conjunction
with the Yugoslav and Greek National Prisoner's Committees to
arrange an Orthodox service for Easter day, May 6th.

There were Orthodox priests, deacons and a group of monks from
Mount Athos among the prisoners. But there were no vestments, no
books whatsoever, no icons, no candles, no prosphoras, no wine...
Efforts to acquire all these items from the Russian parish in Munich
failed, as the Americans just could not locate anyone from that
parish in the devastated city.

Nevertheless, some of the problems could be solved: The
approximately 400 Catholic priests detained in Dachau had been
allowed to remain together in one barrack and recite mass every
morning before going to work. They offered us Orthodox the use of
their prayer room in "Block 26", which was just across the road
from my own "block". The chapel was bare, save for a wooden
table and a Czenstochowa icon of the Theotokos hanging on the
wall above the table - an icon which had originated in
Constantinople and was later brought to Belz in Galicia, where it
was subsequently taken from the Orthodox by a Polish king. When
the Russian Army drove Napoleon's troops from Czenstochowa,
however, the abbot of the Czenstochowa Monastery gave a copy of
the icon to czar Alexander I, who placed it in the Kazan Cathedral
in Saint-Petersburg where it was venerated until the Bolshevik
seizure of power.

A creative solution to the problem of the vestments was also found.
New linen towels were taken from the hospital of our former
SS-guards. When sewn together lengthwise, two towels formed an
epitrachilion and when sewn together at the ends they became an
orarion. Red crosses, originally intended to be worn by the medical
personnel of the SS-guards, were put on the towel-vestments.

On Easter Sunday, May 6th (April 23rd according to the Church
calendar), - which ominously fell that year on Saint George the
Victory-Bearer's Day, Serbs, Greeks and Russians gathered at the
Catholic Priests barrack. Although Russians comprised about 40
percent of the Dachau inmates, only a few managed to attend the
service. By that time "repatriation officers" of the special "Smersh"
units had arrived in Dachau by American military planes, and
begun the process of erecting new lines of barbed wire for the
purpose of isolating Soviet citizens from the rest of the prisoners,
which was the first step in preparing them for their eventual forced

In the entire history of the Orthodox Church there has probably
never been an Easter service like the one at Dachau in 1945. Greek
and Serbian priests together with a Serbian deacon adorned the
make-shift "vestments" over their blue and gray-striped prisoners
uniforms. Then they began to chant, changing from Greek to
Slavonic, and then back again to Greek. The Easter Canon, the
Easter Sticheras - everything was recited from memory. The Gospel
- "In the beginning was the Word" - also from memory. And
finally, the Homily of Saint John - also from memory. A young
Greek monk from the Holy Mountain stood up in front of us and
recited it with such infestious enthusiasm that we shall never forget
him as long as we live. Saint John Chrysostomos himself seemed to
speak through him to us and to the rest of the world as well!

Eighteen Orthodox priests and one deacon - most of whom were
Serbs, participated in this unforgettable service. Like the sick man
who had been lowered through the roof of a house and placed in
front of the feet of Christ the Saviour, the Greek Archimandrit
Meletios was carried on a strecher into the chapel, where he
remained prostrate for the duration of the service.

The priests who participated in the 1945 Dachau Easter service are
commemorated at every Divine Service held in the Dachau Russian
Orthodox Memorial Chapel, along with all Orthodox Christians,
who lost their lives "at this place, or at another place of torture"
("na meste sem i v inykh mestakh mucheniya umuchennykh i

The Dachau Resurrection-Chapel, which was constructed by a unit
of the Russian Army's Western Group of Forces just before their
departure from Germany in August, 1994, is an exact replica of a
North-Russian "tent-domed" (Shatrovyie) church or chapel. Behind
the altar-table of the chapel is a large icon depicting angels opening
the gates of the Dachau concentration camp and Christ Himself
leading the prisoners to freedom.

Today I would like to take the opportunity to ask you, Orthodox
Christians all over the world, to pass on the names of fellow
Orthodox who were imprisoned and died here in Dachau or in other
Nazi concentration camps so that we can include them in our

Should you ever come to Germany, be sure to visit our Russian
Chapel on the site of the former concentration camp in Dachau and
pray for all those who died "at this place, or at another place of

Khristos voskrese! Christos anesti! Christ has risen!

(Name Withheld)
Oh Lord, Save thy people and bless thine inheritance.
Grant victory to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries.
And by virtue of thy Cross preserve thy habitation.

Offline Brigid of Kildare

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Re:Pascha In Dauchau - 1945
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2004, 06:39:24 PM »
Thank you for posting this. To me it brought home the true meaning of unity and how, without all the externals which make Orthodox worship so beautiful, this was a true celebration of Pascha. It also made me realize a couple of other things:

1. how important it is to try and commit prayers etc. to memory

2. how the world has never recognized the suffering of Orthodox Christians in the death camps of WWII.

Bríd Naomhtha, Mhuire na nGaeil, Guí Orainn

Offline carpo-rusyn

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Re:Pascha In Dauchau - 1945
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2004, 07:29:33 PM »
approximately 400 Catholic priests detained in Dachau had been
allowed to remain together in one barrack and recite mass every
morning before going to work. They offered us Orthodox the use of
their prayer room in "Block 26", which was just across the road]

Amazing how the RC and EO cooperate when under persecution.  A good lesson for us today.

[how the world has never recognized the suffering of Orthodox Christians in the death camps of WWII.]

With the exception of St Maximilian Kolbe the world has not fully recognized the sufferings of any Christians in the camps.