Bad Orb

Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History, Entertainment

Bad Orb
Bad Orb

[ source: Wikipedia]

Bad Orb (Bad Orb vacation rentals | Bad Orb travel guide) is a spa town in the state of Hesse, located near the Nature Park Spessart, one of the biggest forested areas in Germany. The first written reference to this charming town dates back to 1059. In 1244, the town received its municipal rights. At this time, Bad Orb also received the right to mint its own coin, called the Orber, which amounted to a half-penny. As the years passed, the major industry to emerge in this area was salt. The peak of the salt mining years came in the 17th and 18th centuries. As the selling of crystallized salt fell off, the products of saline and brine began to be used for medicinal purposes, which is how Bad Orb became associated with the health industry and its booming growth in the 1800s. A children's medical facility was opened here in 1884, and in 1909, the town became a nationally certified spa town.

Besides being a spa and medical destination, Bad Orb became the location of a notorious prisoner-of-war (POW) camp during World War II. According to eyewitness reports, Stalag IX-B may have been one of the worst POW camps in Germany to hold American prisoners. The Russians were treated particularly badly here, and those that died in the camp were buried in mass graves that can be visited today. The situation at the Bad Orb camp was bad enough that the U.S. Army planned a separate mission to liberate the camp, which was accomplished on April 2, 1945. The camp held 3,000-4,500 American soldiers and an undetermined number of Russian, Italian, French, and Yugoslavian prisoners. Most of the Americans were captured during the Battle of the Bulge. With their arrival in December 1944, Stalag IX-B became severely overcrowded. In January 1945, during the daily prisoner line-up, the camp's commandant ordered all Jewish prisoners to step forward. No one did so immediately, but after being kept standing for several hours, 130 men stepped out of the line. The commandant had been ordered to provide 350 prisoners for transfer to the Berga (Berga vacation rentals | Berga travel guide) labor camp, so to supplement this number he picked out other American prisoners who were troublemakers or who "looked" Jewish. This lot of 350 American prisoners was then sent to Berga, a camp located in Thuringia near Gera (Gera vacation rentals | Gera travel guide). This was a slave labor camp, and the use of POWs here was a clear violation of the Geneva Convention. Along with inmates from Buchenwald concentration camp, the POWs were forced to dig tunnels 150 feet underground for an ammunition plant. The inhumane conditions, the cold, and malnutrition resulted in the deaths of 47 POWs, an event that was never acknowledged by the U.S. military authorities. On April 4, 1945, Berga was evacuated, and the prisoners were forced on a 2 1/2 week march to evade the advancing U.S. Army. During this march, another 36 POWs died. Despite this dark period in Bad Orb's history, the town is definitely worth a visit.

Cultural events, such as musical performances, exhibits, and wine festivals, supplement the health and fitness aspects to the town's offerings.

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About this Article

Rachel Hildebrandt

This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.

Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).

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