Anna Rosmus, of Passau, Germany, has spent more than three decades trying to uncover the horrors of her hometown's hidden Nazi past.
She shared her story Tuesday during Heidelberg University's Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture series.
As a teenager just out of high school, Rosmus began uncovering her town's past. At the city level, there was much red tape before she was able to access archives.
Passau is known to be Adolf Hitler's hometown. Rosmus described several memorials in his honor, including an oak tree and a street named after his mother.
"(My) town shaped me and helped me to help reshape it," Rosmus said.
During her talk, "Community Responses to the Holocaust in Hitler's Hometown: Passau in the Third Reich and Today," in Heidelberg's Wickham Great Hall, Rosmus described violence, hatred and anti-Semitism that went on.
Rosmus said Jewish people were driven out of town and cut off economically. Germans were forbidden to buy or sell to the Jews, and if they did, they were considered to be traitors and had to deal with consequences, Rosmus said.
She said in 1933, only 40 Jews were left in Passau, and by 1935, the city was declared free of all Jews.
Eight concentration camps were built in and around Passau, Rosmus said. She said that days before Americans liberated the camps, a train transporting people to a concentration camp was bombed and the occupants were left stranded for six days. The train held 350 corpses, and those that managed to live were beaten and burned.
Rosmus also told of female slave laborers forced into abortions and the killing of 2,000 Soviet prisoners. Children were forced into children homes, where they were left in unsanitary conditions and fed spoiled food. Rosmus said 300 babies were killed this way.
"A mom of children in one of the homes went to work and neglected the other children to take care of her own that were in the home," Rosmus said. "She was later liberated with her children."
"The generation that I grew up in was clueless," Rosmus said. "We did not have much (information) to take a stand and right some of the wrongs."
Rosmus's research resulted in several lawsuits and death threats against her.
"Gradually change is happening," Rosmus said. "There is still a whole lot to be done. Passau is not the only town in this regard. I am working to fill that void on a local level."
Rosmus said she is willing to share her experiences with others and to support their endeavor.
In 2007, Rosmus reunited 1951 Heidelberg graduate Don Behm and Holocaust survivor Jimmy Lichtman, which resulted in the annual lecture series that began in 2010.
A tribute to Lichtman was given Tuesday. He died March 1, 2012.