Pickaxes That Belonged to a Group of Women Who Marched Over 800 km on the Death March from Schlesiersee to Volary
Following the collapse of the Eastern Front, a group of Jewish women was sent from Auschwitz Birkenau to the border between Czechoslovakia and Germany in order to dig anti-tank trenches; they worked, digging in the Schlesiersee region from October 1944.
In January 1945 the women were evacuated from Schlesiersee. Following a 95 km march on foot, they stopped for one night at the Grünberg camp in Schlesiersee; from there they continued, together with the inmates from Grünberg for a further 800 km to the town of Volary in Czechoslovakia.
On the 29th of January 1945 about 1,350 women left Grünberg for a murderous journey that lasted for 106 days, during which their fate was dependent on the perils of the journey and the mood of their guards who murdered anyone that stumbled or tried to escape.
On the 5th of May 1945, 118 women from among those on the march reached the forest near VoIary in Czechoslovakia where they were liberated and taken to an improvised hospital established in the town by the American army. Twenty six of the women passed away within a matter of days.
The women had taken the pickaxes with them from Schlesiersee. During the march the pickaxes broke and were given to a local blacksmith to repair.
Among the women who survived was Amalie Mary Reichmann. She married an American soldier Bernard Robinson. When Bernard investigated what had happened to the group of women that had been liberated in Volary he found the blacksmith with whom the pickaxes had been left and received them from him.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection, Gift of Bernard Robinson, Los Angeles, CA, USA