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Honouring the memory of Camp Hope

Visitors to the Germany Army barracks in Bad Reichenhall are now greeted with a new sign telling the story of the thousands of displaced people for whom the barracks were a sanctuary of hope after the horrors of World War II.

And I am proud beyond words to say I had a hand in the development of the new sign, advising on the design and translation.

Some of my earliest memories as a child were of the camp, and it was from there that my mother and I emigrated to Canada.

My mother had been abducted as a teenager from her native Ukraine by Nazi soldiers. In Germany she was forced to work as a slave in a munitions factory, where she survived repeated Allied bombing raids. After the war she tried to rebuild her life, with an abusive husband and a newborn daughter, in Displaced Persons camps. The last of these was a predominantly Jewish camp, Tikwah, in Bad Reichenhall. Tikwah is Hebrew for Hope.

Last year I visited the camp, part of the research for the book I am writing, The Golden Daughter. The camp was getting more and more visitors. Just the week before I arrived, a large party had made the trip from Israel, most of them children of former camp residents.

Chatting then with the camp commander and the city archivist, we agreed that the existing notice board outside the camp would benefit from a make-over.

"Why don't you write something?" said Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Nockelmann. So I joined forces with archivist Dr Johannes Lang to create a new orientation board, telling the story of the barracks and the camp's role in helping the recovery of so many victims of Nazi inhumanity.

This week Thomas sent me pictures of the unveiling. This picture shows one of the three panels, with text in German and English. As we say on the sign, Camp Tikwah was an important turning point in the lives of many DPs. They had escaped the horrors of the Holocaust or lives as slave labourers. Now they had the chance to rebuild their lives.

I am so grateful to Thomas and Johannes for including me in this project. Dr Lang was a great help to me in my research last year, and Colonel Nockelmann is a quite remarkable campaigner to ensure that the atrocities of the past are never forgotten.

It was fitting that among the first people to see the new signs and the memorial plaque were a couple, Mr and Mrs Beraru, from Haifa in Israel, seeing at first hand the camp that gave hope - tikwah - to so many for whom, just a few years before, hope had seemed a distant dream.

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