Following her acclaimed memoirs Against the Stream and Out of Passau, Anna Rosmus revisits the crimes perpetrated in her German hometown during the Second World War
Passau, a small Bavarian city situated along the border with Austria, had gone decades without acknowledging the roles—however small or large—its citizenry played in the atrocities of World War II. When Anna Rosmus attempted to rectify this oversight, she was met with praise from everywhere but Passau itself, where threats and vitriol from the local population eventually led her to emigrate from Germany to the United States. In Wintergreen, Rosmus writes of the prisoners of war and forced laborers, the Jews and other Eastern Europeans who lost their lives in Passau to the Nazi regime, and whose graves were hastily consigned to the cheapest plot of land in town.
Deftly researched and powerfully written, Wintergreen is a tragic history of the atrocities committed in and around Passau, a searing rebuke of those who seek to suppress them, and a moving tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and the importance of keeping their memory alive.
Rosmus whose work as a student tracing WWII-era crimes in Passau, her Bavarian hometown, was portrayed in the movie The Nasty Girl again trains her determined, accusatory gaze on the conduct of Germans during WWII and after. In the most revelatory part of the book, she details "the mass murder of 'offspring of alien descent.' " Female workers from Eastern Europe were imported into Passau's environs as slave laborers. When they became pregnant (often from rape), some were forced to have abortions. When others gave birth, the babies were taken and either murdered or neglected until they died, and then buried in unmarked graves. Rosmus also explores an unacknowledged local concentration camp and massacres of Russian POWs in the final days of the war. Rosmus's work is distinguished by her tenacity in digging up the history and in showing how most local residents were willing to ignore ugly facts both during and after the war. For example, the doctor responsible for some of the slave laborers' abortions was fined in a German court as an accomplice to wartime atrocities, but only a few years later she was able to set up a private practice. Rosmus, who now lives in Maryland, is not sensationalist: ably translated, her work is just old-fashioned, solid history.