Searching for Holocaust massacre victims

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Each year, Peter Fischer drives from his Berlin home to this small rural town 75 miles away to keep alive what he says is a flame of truth.

Fischer, who is an expert on aging, long believed East Germans were above the anti-Semitism that had gripped the nation a generation earlier. But two things - the taunts of the son of a former SS member who told him that it was time to turn the ovens back on at Auschwitz, and a tour of the infamous Polish camp in 1987 - persuaded him to dedicate his life the memory of Holocaust victims and work as a representative of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Over the years, he perceived the reluctance of East German authorities to search for the victims' remains. Nevertheless, he and historian Morsch lobbied for forensic anthropologists to search for the mass graves.

One of the most likely areas, according to Morsch and other experts, was a plot on privately owned land whose owner had long refused to allow any search, even though he had moved to the southern state of Bavaria. After a lengthy legal dispute, the unidentified farmer reached an agreement last fall with a Brandenburg state court over compensation, and a team began digging in late April.

On the day the long-delayed dig was announced, Fischer stood alone in the nearby village of Staakow on the site where the 589 victims had been discovered accidentally by a work crew in 1971, laying a beribboned wreath of flowers at the site.

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