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Construction has stopped on a memorial in Salina after the German government said it cannot help finance the project to remember nine prisoners of war who were murdered 70 years ago in the central Utah town.
Mike Rose, who wrote a book about the 1945 massacre of the German POWs and is leading efforts to build the memorial, said the German diplomats he spoke to had been supportive. He thought he had a commitment for the money and had stopped fund raising. But Rose received an email on May 20 from the German consulate in Los Angeles saying the German government would not send money.
Rose says he needs $5,100 to finish the memorial.
"One way or another we're going to get this thing done," Rose said.
In an interview Wednesday, Stefan Biedermann, the German deputy consul general in Los Angeles, said he supported the memorial and sent requests to the embassy in Washington, D.C., and then to Berlin. But the German government, Biedermann said, determined its laws prevented financing the project.
"There are different budget positions for memorials," Biedermann said. "Unfortunately this one did not fit into the categories we have."
Work had stopped about two weeks before the email from the German government. Salina's municipal government has already spent about $3,000 to remove an old water line and pump and to pour a concrete foundation, Salina Mayor Dustin Deaton said.
The old Civilian Conservation Corps camp on the east side of Salina was one of the sites in Utah where the U.S. military held German prisoners during and after World War II.
Just after midnight on July 8, 1945, Army Pvt. Clarence V. Bertucci, of New Orleans, climbed the guard tower and began firing a .30-caliber machine gun into the tents where German prisoners were sleeping.
Nine of the prisoners died. Rose's book lists another 19 prisoners who were injured. The Army deemed Bertucci insane and kept him in psychiatric care until his death in 1969.
A barracks and a few antiquities are about the only things that still exist of the camp. Rose's plan had been to erect a cinder-block kiosk at the site. The memorial would be about 5 feet wide and 8 feet tall, with a marble plaque listing the names of the victims and a description of the massacre. Rose had planned a July 12 dedication ceremony, but that has been canceled.
Separate from the memorial fund raising, Salina wants to refurbish the barracks and hang old photos and items from the prisoner camp to create a tourist attraction for the town. Deaton said the barracks could be a complement to the town's Miss Mary's Historical Museum, which has antiquities and tells the history of Sevier County.
Deaton said that even some residents in Salina don't know about the massacre.
"It was something that was not really talked about a lot," Deaton said, "but those who did [discuss it] commented on how hard of workers the Germans were, how well-mannered they were and they built relationships with them. The day [the massacre] happened, the town pulled together."
Rose said he had hoped for a dedication ceremony this year because one of the victim's daughters in Germany is getting frail. Also, the wife of an interned survivor is living in Canada.
"I would certainly like to do it in these people's lifetime," Rose said. "It's important to me to get this thing done."
About the Salina massacre
On July 18, 1945, Army Pvt. Clarence V. Bertucci, of New Orleans, climbed the guard tower at a German prisoner-of-war camp in Salina and began firing a .30-caliber machine gun into the tents where German prisoners were sleeping. Nine of the prisoners died and another 19 were injured.
The incident is considered the largest mass murder of German POWs on U.S. soil in World War II.
Source • Mike Rose