Saturday, May 9, 2009

Victory Day in Dachau

Today is Victory Day in Russia, marking the anniversary of the surrender of the Nazi government to the Soviet Union in 1945. The day will be marked in Moscow and elsewhere with the sorts of parades that we all remember from the days of the Soviet Union: tanks and soldiers and missiles rolling through Red Square as the power elite stands in rigid attention.

A very different sort of procession was organized today in the German Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Archpriest Ilya Limberger of the Church of St Nicholas in Stuttgart led a procession of young people on foot from the Monastery of St Job of Pochaev in Munich to the concentration camp in Dachau, a distance of some 12.5 kilometers (nearly 8 miles). Once at Dachau they served a panikhida (memorial service) for the reposed and a moleben (service of intercession) to St Nikolaj (Velimirović) of Ohrid and Ziča who, along with Patriarch Gavrilo of Serbia, was imprisoned in Dachau for several months in 1944.

Both services were performed in the Russian Orthodox chapel (depicted above) built in honor of the Orthodox prisoners who perished at Dachau. An online guide to the chapel notes the following:
A small Russian Orthodox Catholic [sic] Chapel stands on a mound just to the left of the tourist entrance into the crematoria area. It was built in honor of an estimated 6,000 Russian Prisoners of War who died in the Dachau camp or were executed at the SS firing range at Herbertshausen. All Russian POWs who were believed to be Communist Commissars were executed, in Dachau and elsewhere, on an order from Adolf Hitler who issued this directive on the eve of the German invasion of Russia on July 22, 1941. In all the camps, the Russian POWs were treated much worse than other prisoners in retaliation for the atrocities committed by the Russians against German soldiers. The Russians had not signed the most recent agreement at the Geneva Convention and were not following the rules of warfare with regard to German Prisoners of War. After the liberation of Dachau, the remaining Russian POWs were turned over to the Soviet Union in accordance with the Allied agreement at Yalta in 1943. The Soviet Union treated these returning prisoners as traitors and immediately sent them to the gulags, as the Communist concentration camps were called.
For an extraordinary account of the celebration of Pascha in Dachau in 1945, shortly after its liberation, go here. For another brief account (in French) of today's pilgrimage, go here.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Thy servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting

UPDATE: A fuller account of the procession can be read here.


aaronandbrighid said...

You may have noticed, Father, but I've already borrowed this for the German Orthodox Church blog.

Felix Culpa said...

I'm grateful you have, as it saves me from having to recommend it otherwise.