For Holocaust Remembrance Day: Tainted Amber

The inscription on this stone reads: "One hardly can find any personal tomb. Together all fates here're joined."  (Yantarny, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia).

In Yantarny. Behind me:
 entrance to the "Anna" shaft

The Greeks thought amber was solidified sunshine, but back in January, 1945, the Amber Coast along the icy Baltic offered no warmth to thousands of emaciated women and children. 

10,000 Jewish women and children, former prisoners of the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig (now Gdańsk) were forced to march in the bitter cold northwards towards the town of Palmnicken (Now Yantarny).  

Open pit amber mining in Yantarny (former Palmnicken)

Only 3000 made it. They were to be stuffed into the “Anna” shaft, an unused shaft in the Palmnicken amber mine. But when the desperate SS had to change their plans as the Red Army came closer and closer, the Nazis forced the surviving prisoners into the Baltic Sea. Why waste ammunition when the sea could kill for them?

13 survived to tell their stories.

Desperate hands stretching out from the Baltic.

On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I want to remember the power of story. It is our responsibility to remember and to share. When I explored the Yantarny coastline, it was warm, sunny and beautiful. Did the ghosts of those 2987 who were murdered still haunt the area? Perhaps. But it could only be sensed by those who knew the story. We need the stories!

Nearby, the amber museum was filled with history and beautiful art and the fossilized pine resin gleamed like gold. 

Tainted amber, indeed. Stories within light. 

For German readers, I recommend, Der Junge von her Bernsteinküste, a memoir by Martin Bergau

The beautiful, tainted, amber coast

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