>Last week the City Museum hosted a talk on a rather obscure but interesting little corner of Innsbruck, specifically a field at the edge of town called Osterfeld, in Amras. This little piece of land was farmland for a long time, and for the past few decades it’s held community garden plots. But for a couple of years it was the resting place (not so final, it turned out) for the hundreds of victims of the Allied bombing raids on Innsbruck. Plans were underway to make the Osterfeld into a new, central cemetery in Tirol, not only for the air strike victims but for the newcomers from South Tirol, who had no family plots up here. According to an article in ORF, the landowner initially refused to give over his property, so the authorities simply had him reconscripted into the war. He survived, and returned after the war’s end to demand that the bodies be exhumed from his land. They were then transferred into a memorial plot in the cemetery in Pradl.
What seems like something that everyone would remember, ended up being another part of the general amnesia concerning events from that time. Eventually the community garden plots were parceled out, and all was forgotten until 1979, when a woman came upon two small cross pendants in the earth. And then a piece of bone, which upon further inspection was determined to be human. Which means that not everyone made it in one piece into the new cemetery.
I asked Paschberg, an Amras resident, for his take on this story, and he in turn asked his mother if she could remember the field’s use as a wartime cemetery. She remembered a convoy of trucks bearing coffins as it passed her family home
, and this must have been even more keenly remembered due to the fact that one of her cousins, a young woman barely 18, lay in one of the coffins. (15.04.11. This I misread; her cousin was indeed killed in that air raid but was buried later in the regular Amras cemetery, not in Osterfeld and so would not have been among the dead transported there.)
She also noted that one did not ask questions at the time, nor speak too pointedly about anything with the neighbors, lest it all be turned around somehow and used against you. It must have been somewhat frustrating for my informant, quite the train enthusiast, to find that another victim of that collective amnesia had been a railway by-pass, not 100 meters from the family home, built to circumvent the (bombed out) train station, and promptly and completely forgotten after the war. As he tells it, describing what the older generation remembered of the line, “[i]t just appeared. One didn’t ask questions, nor did one make trouble to find out when – or even if – trains ran, and afterward it was just another thing to forget as quickly as possible. All in all, a time of deliberate looking away.”