From Dachau to Durham, N.C., Holocaust survivors’ ashes find fitting burial

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Joseph Corsbie holds up a photo of his father, David Walter Corsbie Jr., who came into possession of ashes from the Dachau concentration camp during his military service.

Photo Yonat Shimron

Joseph Corsbie holds up a photo of his father, David Walter Corsbie Jr., who came into possession of ashes from the Dachau concentration camp during his military service.

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DURHAM, N.C. (RNS) The journey of the ashes from Dachau to Durham is a remarkable story of a soldier’s witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust and his son’s commitment to finding them an honorable resting place.

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  • Atheist Max

    We should all ponder this sentence:
    “My dad was horrified by what he saw,” said Corsbie. “All he could do was shake and cry when he told me about it.”

    It makes the blood run cold to think about what he must have witnessed.

    “….the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.
    – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
    “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.”
    – Adolf Hitler, to General Gerhard Engel, 1941

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King, and execute them in front of me.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    Religion must face its responsibilities. It is repeatedly used to promote the destruction of civilization.

    “I have come to bring fire to the Earth…how impatient I am…to bring ruin.” Jesus (Luke 12:49)

  • Larry

    “We need all the reminders we can get.”

    I have a great uncle (by marriage) who survived Dachau and came to America after the war. He died decades ago, he was the only survivor of his family. We only have the stories of his experiences 2nd hand from my grandparent’s generation (in their 90’s at this point) and whatever family records existed before and after his internment.

    Most of my parent’s generation weren’t even aware of my uncle’s experiences until after administrating the estate of his surviving widow decades later (when we saw checks coming from the German government, “Article 2 pensions”)

    I think one of the greatest regrets I have, is that he passed away long before we had things like “The Shoah Project” to record the experiences of such survivors for historical posterity, unfiltered, unedited. Something that shows the world that pile of caked ashes in this story were real breathing people.

  • Norm Martin

    To: Atheist Max
    It is obvious that anything Hitler said should be taken with suspicion. His promise to Lord Chamberlain and his agreement with Stalin. He said whatever he felt he needed to say to further his cause.

    Max, sadly, this is what you are doing when you ignore hundreds of scriptures on love and duty to ones fellow person and instead take scripture of the Bible out of context even leading words out. Your first scripture (Luke19:27) reference is a parable referencing when King Herod the great died and His kingdom was divided. It was not a reference to Jesus being blood thirsty. It does have to do with faithfulness. The second scripture (Luke 12:49) has to do with the revolutionary message of Christ which will and did divide families and fire in the theological sense is referring to “judgement”.

    I embrace your passion concerning the Holocaust but while many Christians failed the Jews many attempted to help them. No certainly not enough and it is our shame, but we cannot blame it on the Prince of Peace.

  • Larry

    Don’t try disassociating the Nazis from Christianity. It is merely revisionism.

    It doesn’t matter what Hitler said on the subject. We can see what happened in how people acted under his control.

    The Nazis were able to find more than enough willing collaborators, volunteers and fanatics through Christian appeals. Many supported Fascism as a way to oppose Communists. Especially churches. Franco’s Fascists had the full support of the Catholic Church as did Mussolini. The Nazis had no problem co-opting the churches for their own purposes in occupied Europe. The Rexists, Chetniks, Arrow Cross, and a host of other quisling groups joined the Nazis for religious reasons. Nazi collaborators were the perpetrators of the last forced conversion to a Christian faith.
    Churches drummed up volunteers from occupied nations to be cannon fodder in Russia, to commit atrocities when German forces did not feel like getting their hands dirty and to work in the death camps.

    Whatever scriptures you want to quote, don’t mean jack. It is how people followed the religion which matters most. Christians under the Nazis had NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER in committing genocide against Jews, Roma, gays, fellow Christians. It wasn’t until long after the war that the Catholic Church officially dropped its antisemitic dogma.

    No need to blame the Prince of Peace. His followers and the systems which grew around worshiping him have more than enough blame on their shoulders to last generations.

  • Atheist Max



    Your defense of Christianity by referring to a few people who came to the rescue of a few Jews is nonsense.
    It is like thanking Smallpox for the Smallpox Vaccine!

    Poland was Catholic and stood by as Auschwitz and other camps burned millions of lives. Nazi occupied Poland found support on the question of the Jewish camps – but not for the occupation which they fought against.

    As for your claim that I have somehow ignored examples of love and compassion in the bible, please show me what you are talking about – because it isn’t ‘Hundreds’ and it they aren’t about ‘love’.

    You have failed to understand the implications.
    “God is love” for example, cannot be true if also we must “FEAR the Lord.”

    To FEAR that which you LOVE is called Sadomasochism.
    It is inhuman, disgraceful and indefensible. Religion perverts love.

    The injunction to Love that which you must Fear is the corruption of ‘love’.
    I challenge you to show me anything that is not an inhuman or immoral idea regarding love as it is preached by Jesus or Yahweh.
    You will find none.

  • Larry

    The only church I would give a pass on in this situation is the Danish Lutheran Church. They were the only ones to really organize and actively resist the Nazis in their entirety.

    The Danish Church worked with the government and resistance to rescue almost the entire Jewish population of the nation from genocide in a series of secret boatlifts. At the US Holocaust Memorial Museum lists many individuals as “Righteous Gentiles” by nation. For Denmark, the entry is simply the whole nation.

    As for Christendom, outside of the Danes and a few very brave individuals, they were overwhelmingly more likely to be the perpetrators than the rescuers. Moreso, the Christian churches stood by and did nothing or actively joined in the mass murders.

  • Atheist Max

    @Norm Martin,

    If religion causes a wound but then also treats the wound
    It is doing nothing more than breaking your leg to give you a cast.

    This is not a defense of religion. I assure you.

  • Chaplain Norman Martin

    The ceremony of the burial of the ashes of the victim or victims of Dachau prison camp was beautiful to read about. After nearly seventy years Josbe Corsbie was able to find a resting place for the ashes (of victim or victims) placed in his fathers had as he helped liberate those held in Dachau. How appropriate the 23rd Psalm. Loved by both Jews and Christians.

    When I was seventeen years old (1958) as a high school ROTC officer we were shown the actual Nuremberg Trials. These included films made by the Germans of their “efficient” killing methods and the trial proceedings. The affect on me was not immediate but I never forgot what I saw, and it has impacted me for the rest of my life, especially one scene that pops into my mind anytime I think of the trials.

    Leon Jaworski in his book, Crossroads tells how German officers could go home and be loving to their families and attend church then go command a labor camp. Compartmentalizing their life to the extreme.

    After World War II it was said genocide on such scale would never happen again yet it happens every day in increasing fervor around the world.

  • Atheist Max

    @Chaplain Norman Martin,

    Thanks for sharing your story. These are breathtaking horrors to be contemplating.
    But don’t you think when one feels they are “ridding the world of evil” it can be very easy to be cruel – and not know it?

    30 years ago a number of us lifeguards working at a huge outdoor pool had been absolutely fed up with the number of rule-breakers; young teens and little kids who refused to stop running and jumping. Safety was becoming a problem.
    So we decided to crack down. We started throwing rule breakers out of the pool without giving them a first warning.

    Even though the pool started to quiet down and the kids started behaving better we didn’t stop. Yet we felt the control was not enough. Chewing gum? out! Walking too fast? OUT! Mean looks at the lifeguard? OUT!

    Sweet little kids sent out of the pool for no good reason. I remember the tears as little brothers and sisters held hands exiting the pool. Yet I only saw evil jerks.

    Anyone who argued with us would be ejected right away. By the end of the day we tallied up which lifeguard ejected the most kids. It was me – 120 or so. We all thought we had been very clever.

    I felt no sadness about it. I had it in my mind that I was right. Sure, a lot of kids were sent home crying, maybe some didnt deserve it – I rationalized the pool was safer thanks to my aggressive approach.

    But now, 30 years later, I look back on that day as the one I would erase if I could. So many kids who had done nothing wrong except maybe give me a nasty look were so unfairly treated. Breaks my heart to remember.

    Thankfully, being unfairly ejected from a pool shouldn’t cause anyone permanent harm. But those tears on those innocent faces i will never forget.

    I tell this because I remember how I thought I was ejecting “Evil Little Kids”.
    It is so easy to be callous when in your mind the victim ‘deserves it’.

    I think religion, especially my strict Catholic upbringing, helped me feel comfortable in expelling those ‘evil’ kids. It was fascism on a very small, thankfully rather benign scale.

    And I see the religion in the Nazi – and what scares me is I think I understand.
    It makes me hate religion even more.