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April 8, 2010

Short critique of “Joe Moser — Buchenwald Flyboy”

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 6:00 pm

There is a new book about Joe Moser, soon to be published, which was written in the first person by a “ghostwriter.” Joe Moser was an American fighter pilot who was shot down over France in World War II; he was captured and taken, along with 167 other Allied pilots, to the Buchenwald concentration camp, not to a POW camp.  After two months, the 168 pilots were rescued by a Luftwaffe general and taken to a POW camp.

American liberators at Buchenwald gate house

When I read a few chapters in the book, which are on this blog, I was put off by the attitude of Joe Moser.  Joe was fighting in a war, and by his own admission, he was killing people, destroying the property of civilians, and doing as much damage as he could.  Yet, when he was captured, he expected to be treated like royalty.

Here is a quote from the book:

The Germans fought hard and brought up all the reinforcements they could. It was our job to disrupt this as much as possible. Anything that moved on the roads or rail lines was a target. The locals were keeping their heads down now as war raged around them and the trucks, trains, cars, motorcycles were almost certain to be enemy forces.

[...]

“If it moves, smash it,” said Major Glass. The days of trying to determine first if the vehicles on the road were German or French countrymen were coming to an end. Now we had orders that anything that moved was German.

Joe Moser was fighting to free France from German occupation.  France had surrendered four years before and was no longer fighting in World War II, except for a few people who were fighting as illegal combatants (the French Resistance).  That means that Joe was fighting to help illegal combatants.  When Joe was shot down, he was taken first to a Gestapo prison and then to Buchenwald, a camp for Resistance fighters and political enemies of Germany.

This quote from the book shows Joe Moser’s attitude regarding his capture:

We, of course, thought we were going to Prisoner of War camp, that our life would be quiet and simple, with respectful wardens, and continual whispering plots of how we would escape and rejoin the fight. And we would be fed three decent meals a day, which right now was one of my greatest concerns.

Sign on gate into Buchenwald: Jedem das Seine

The sign on the gate into Buchenwald reads “Jedem das Seine,” which is translated into English as “Everyone gets what he deserves.” Buchenwald was a Class II camp for hard-core Communists and Resistance fighters who had been captured while fighting as illegal combatants.

Joe Moser should have been told, before going overseas, what he could expect  if he were captured. He thought he was going to live like the American POWs in Hogan’s Heroes, an old TV series, but the reality was quite different.

This quote from the book contains several errors:

We knew nothing of concentration camps or death camps and certainly had no reason to believe any such thing would be our destiny. The world knew little to nothing of such atrocities on August 20, 1944 when we arrived. It would not know of such places and the Nazi plan to exterminate the world’s Jews and all others it hated until almost eight months after I arrived, on April 11, 1945. That’s when the first of these camps was liberated—Buchenwald. Because it was the first to be liberated, the first three weeks after the liberation saw the camp visited by reporters, photographers, officers, U.S. Congressional delegations, British Parliamentary delegations and many others. This was because General Eisenhower, after touring the camp on April 13, just two days after its liberation, determined that it was necessary that the world see the unbelievable atrocities of Hitler’s regime. He and others who first visited the camp were concerned that no one would believe them if they simply described what they saw. More eyes had to be there, more noses to smell it if the world was to take it seriously.

General Eisenhower watches a demonstration at Ohrdruf

General Eisenhower toured Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, on April 12, 1945 but he never went to the Buchenwald main camp, nor to any other camp.  After seeing Ohrdruf, where there were about 40 dead bodies in a shed, Eisenhower ordered that as many soldiers as possible should be brought from the battlefield to Ohrdruf and the Buchenwald main camp so that these soldiers could spread propaganda lies for the next 65 years.

Shrunken heads, human lampshades, and tattoos at Buchenwald

A display table was set up at Buchenwald to show American soldiers the shrunken heads and human lampshades allegedly made there.

Another quote from the book with more mistakes:

Buchenwald was not a death camp like Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, and others. The death camps were much smaller than concentration or labor camps because they never were intended to house people for labor. They had a single purpose: kill and dispose of as many people—mostly Jews—as the technology of the time permitted. Buchenwald, like Dachau and Bergen-Belsen, was a camp originally intended to house political prisoners. It contained large industrial factories as part of or adjacent to the camp to take advantage of the “free” labor offered by the prisoners. Dachau was the first of these created by the Nazi party in March, 1933. Buchenwald was created in 1937 with German communists, the hated political opponents of Nazism, its primary intended victims. While created as a political prison and a work camp, Buchenwald largely crossed the line between a work prison and extermination camp. An estimated 56,000 prisoners died in the camp among the approximately 250,000 who were imprisoned. And a special method for efficient killing of Russian prisoners of war was devised. Most prisoners died, however, due to the horribly unsanitary conditions and brutal work without much in the way of food or medical care. In other words, they were worked and starved to death.

The Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau, was a “death camp,” which was 425 acres in size, so it was not “much smaller,” as the ghostwriter wrote. Birkenau could house at least 140,000 prisoners and was in the process of being expanded to hold 50,000 more prisoners when the camp was abandoned.

Bergen-Belsen was not “originally intended to house political prisoners.”  Bergen-Belsen was originally set up as an exchange camp for Jews who wanted to go to Palestine; they were made available to the Allies in exchange for German prisoners interned by the British and Americans. It was only in December 1944 that Bergen-Belsen became a concentration camp.

Buchenwald was created in 1937 as a camp where prisoners would work to produce building materials for Hitler’s projects, such as his planned construction in Berlin and Linz, Austria.  The first prisoners were criminals who had been arrested twice and had served two prison sentences.  A new law was made in 1937 which said that these criminals would have to spend some time in a concentration camp in order to be rehabilitated. It was only later that the Buchenwald prisoners were primarily Communists and Resistance fighters.

The figure of 56,000 deaths was an estimate, made by the Communist prisoners. According to a U.S. Army report dated May 25, 1945, there was a total of 238,980 prisoners sent to Buchenwald during its 8-year history from July 1937 to April 11, 1945, and 34,375 of them died in the camp. This report was based on records confiscated from the camp by the US military, after the camp was liberated.

Buchenwald was in Communist East Germany after the war, so the Communist estimate became the figure that was used.

It is NOT true that “Buchenwald largely crossed the line between a work prison and extermination camp.”  The term “extermination” is an English translation of the German word Ausrottung, which means the act of getting rid of something or someone. No one was “exterminated” at Buchenwald; there was no gas chamber there.

The “special method for efficient killing of Russian prisoners of war” is controversial.  It was certainly not “efficient.” In fact, it was the exact opposite of efficient. The alleged execution device, which is shown in the photo below, was reconstructed at Buchenwald, but there is no proof that such a device was ever used.

Reconstruction of Buchenwald Measuring stick used in the execution of Soviet POWs

Russian POWs were allegedly brought into a room, one at a time, told to stand against the wall, then slide along until they were in front of a measuring device that had a slit in it.  The executioner, who was standing in a booth behind the measuring device, would shoot through the opening in the device and execute the POW.

The truth is that only Russian POWs, who were Communist Commissars were executed, and this was on the orders of Adolf Hitler.

Why would the Germans go to such lengths to fool the Russian POWs so that they would not know that they were going to be shot?  After each execution, they would have had to clean the blood off the floor for the next execution. Why go to all that extra work, just to spare the feelings of the Russians?

Strangely, this execution device was only allegedly used at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen which were in the Soviet zone of occupation in Germany.  There was no such device at Dachau, in the American zone of occupation, although Russian Communist Commissars were also executed there.  This suggests that this was a story made up by the Soviets.

The Buchenwald prisoners were not “worked and starved to death.”  If they were, it was the fault of the Communist prisoners who ran the camp. The Buchenwald Report, which was written by the Buchenwald prisoners, tells about how the Communist prisoners were allowed to take over the camp; the Communists decided who would work and who would eat.

Buchenwald survivors, April 14, 1945

The photo above shows a barrack filled with the survivors at Buchenwald,  Funny, they don’t look starved.

This quote from the book shows that the ghostwriter has not done enough research:

We were marched to an open area at the northeast corner of Little Camp. Little Camp was a section of the barracks where the prisoners received the least food and harshest treatment.

The Small Camp at Buchenwald was a quarantine camp

The Little Camp was a quarantine camp for prisoners who had recently arrived from the East after the camps, in what is now Poland, were closed.  These were mostly Jewish prisoners who had been brought from Auschwitz, where there had been two typhus epidemics.

The Jews who were kept in Little Camp were sick and could not be put in with the rest of the prisoners for fear of spreading disease throughout the camp.  As new prisoners, the American pilots were first put into quarantine in the Little Camp.

Camp kitchen at Buchenwald concentration camp

The following quote from the book is what really made me angry:

The soup was usually cabbage soup made from dehydrated cabbage. Once in awhile it would be made from turnips or kohlrabi, but usually cabbage. The first time I looked at it I wondered what kind of soup it was. It looked like there was meat in it, small chunks of white meat that looked a little like worms. They were moving, just like worms. Oh no, they are worms. The top of the soup was covered in worms. But I was starving. I hadn’t eaten hardly anything in almost a week. I was shaky all over from hunger and I felt I had to get anything I could find into my stomach to try and survive. So I tried to push the worms away from my finger so I could get at the thin gruel underneath. I closed my eyes and let a little of it into my mouth. It was warm but sour and tasteless—more like dishwater than anything I might describe as recognizable food. Then I felt a one of those worms squirming in my mouth and I instinctively spewed it all out. I felt a wave of nausea. But I had to eat. Somehow I had to get this down or I would get weaker and weaker and then, well, I knew what that meant. If I ever forgot, the constant stench reminded me. So I tried again and again I began to wretch as I tried to force it down. In disgust I tossed the soup onto the ground. But that was the only time I turned down the German idea of a slave worker’s meal. After that first attempt, I learned to force it down, worms and all, and strangely enough, after awhile it began to taste good.

The black bread served by the kapos was hardly bread. In fact, it was about thirty to forty percent sawdust. So it was almost more wood than bread. It was almost as inedible as the soup. But we knew that the part that wasn’t wood was badly needed to keep us alive. It was unbelievably difficult, especially at first, to choke it down, but after awhile we learned better how to deal with it. After we got into our barracks, we discovered the best way to get the nutritional value out of the bread and force it down was to slice it into very thin slices, stick it against the wood stoves used to heat the barracks until the sawdust burned off like charcoal. It was a little like eating a barbeque briquette but we knew it was giving us precious strength. We needed every calorie we could get.

I think that Joe Moser exaggerated about the food at the Buchenwald camp.  I’m not buying it.

First of all, why would the Germans “dehydrate cabbage?”  Cabbage was preserved in Germany by salting it to make sauerkraut.

Can worms live in hot soup?  I don’t think so.  In any case, why would there be worms in dehydrated cabbage?

There were “root cellars” at Buchenwald where potatoes, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi, celery root, and other root vegetables were stored.

Door into root cellar at Buchenwald where vegetables were stored

I defy anyone to make bread that is 30 to 40 percent sawdust.  Bread in Germany is mostly made with rye flour which requires the addition of a little bit of wheat flour.  If you try to make rye bread with sawdust, you will be very disappointed. It can’t be done.

You can do a search on “Eisenhower’s death camps” to learn how 1.7 million German POWs died while in captivity after World War II.  For example, this website tells all about it. There were more German soldiers who died in American POW camps, after World War II ended, than in the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and more than in all the concentration camps in Germany put together.

One of Eisenhower’s death camps for German POWs

Joe Moser should get down on his knees every day for the rest of his life and Thank God that he was not a prisoner in an American POW camp, such as the camp near Gotha, which is shown in the photo above. The POWs are shown digging holes for shelter. When it rained, their shelters collapsed, resulting in an ignominious death for the prisoners.

The German POWs would have been happy to get cabbage with worms in it.  They got no food at all and their families were not allowed to bring food to them. The Red Cross packages that were sent to them were returned because Eisenhower had ordered that these POWs should not get any food except what little food the German Army had left.

One former POW, who managed to escape from Eisenhower’s death camp, told me that he was given only a handful of dried peas to eat with a cup of water to wash them down.

The German POWs were designated as Disarmed Enemy Forces, not POWs, so that America would not have to treat them according to the Geneva Convention of 1929, which America had signed.

The German people have identified with the victors in World War II and instead of honoring the 1.7 million German soldiers who were murdered by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, they are honoring American POWs who suffered for two whole months at Buchenwald.

11 Comments

  1. happened 70 years ago, stop arguing you fools!

    Comment by theheheheheheheheheh — January 30, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  2. [...] previously blogged about Joe Moser, one of the Lost Airman in this post. Now Joe’s book is out and you can read about it on this website. Share this:TwitterLike [...]

    Pingback by “Lost Airmen of Buchenwald” — a new documentary « Scrapbookpages Blog — November 19, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  3. As I mentioned on another site. My uncle Robert Ward was one of the men sent to Buchenwald. He suffered a broken ankle that was never treated, he became ill and nearly died even before getting to the camp. How he survived I really do not know. He told that many of the men were stripped of their clothing while being taken to the camp. The German government and even our Government denied they were there. He is no longer living, but before he died he was given a settlement from the German government for the abuse during the time they were held. It was war, but they definately weren’t like Hogan’s Heros. He came home a very different person.

    Comment by Peg — September 23, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  4. “Jedem das seine”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jedem_das_Seine

    This phrase is pretty old, and still commonly used, usually to indicate (amused) indifference, for instance if you find a person’s food/fashion choices a bit funny.

    Comment by Rachel — April 29, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  5. “Other Losses” is a very poor source and will result in making legitimate claims alongside lose legitimacy.

    Personally, I don’t think the way to combat atrocity exaggeration is to exaggerate atrocities on the other side.

    This is not to suggest that the German POW experience was not an enormous tragedy and suffering in its own right. But inflating the numbers to bring it into equity with the inflated claims of the victors is a profitless cul-de-sac.

    I think Stephen Ambrose got it right when he suggested James Braques book was the perfect strategy to ensure the issue of German POW experience never received serious academic scrutiny.

    Comment by littlegreyrabbit — April 12, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

    • littlegreyrabbit,

      Your comment that “Other Losses” is a poor source ensures that your other comments do not receive serious attention.

      James Bacque’s meticulously researched book broke new ground, and also broke the silence that academic historians like Steven Ambrose agreed to keep about any German victimhood.

      Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s treatment of German POW’s following the German capitulation is a horror story – so beyond the pale that it has to be covered up, and that’s what historians like Steven Ambrose and people like you agree to do. Are you proud of yourself because you think you are keeping the MYTH of the Allied “good guys” alive?

      The book “Other Losses” did not exaggerate. If anything, it did not report all of the terrible crimes committed by Americans in their zone, led by Eisenhower and FDR’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. Try reading Morgenthau’s book, “Germany is Our Problem.” And go to this site http://www.scribd.com/doc/13736816/Eisenhowers-DeathCamps-September-1989-Saturday-Night and look at the photographs (all 9 pages) that were published in Saturday Night magazine. This was not something that went on for a month or two, but for two years! The aim was to kill the German POW’s through starvation and disease, and the “good guys” succeeded in doing just that. It was part of the overall plan to destory German power, influence and competitiveness forever and ever, by killing off the German bloodline. This is called genocide.

      Attacking the messenger of news that you don’t want to see the light of day – Bacque is the messenger – is the typical manner of Establishment Hacks. Enjoy the company you keep.

      Comment by sceptic — April 15, 2010 @ 7:28 am

  6. firstly France had like Poland an legitimete fighting force abroad, mainly in the UK, recognised by at what existed at that time of International organisations, so the Americans were not helping illegal fighting forces.

    Secondly read up on the articles of war, if another country occupies one country, trying to liberate this country is not an illegal act if war is declared. I belive that Germany declared war on the USA after the “illegal” attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

    You claim of 1,7 mio German soldiers dying in the POW camps lack any source, and credibility.

    It is clear that the camps were severely under funded and under staffed early on.

    Comment by Michael — April 11, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

    • France and Poland had a government in exile in the UK. Germany did not recognize these governments. After D-Day, General Eisenhower unilaterally recognized the French Resistance as a legal fighting force, but the Germans did not agree with this. The French Resistance did not treat captured German soldiers according to the Geneva Convention. Germany was Allies with Japan, so it was legal for them to declare war on an enemy of their Ally.

      The number of 1.7 million deaths of German POWs is based on the number of German soldiers who surrendered and never came back home after the war. My source for this information is the book “Other Losses.”

      Comment by furtherglory — April 11, 2010 @ 10:03 pm

    • See my reply to littlegreyrabbit to answer your erroneous statement that 1.7 million German soldiers did not die in Allied POW camps.

      It is an outright lie that the American (or any Allied POW camps) were underfunded and understaffed. Funds and medical/kitchen staff were simply not provided. There was tons of food stacked up around these camps that had been sent from all around the world, but Allied personnel and guards were prohibited (on pain of death!) from supplying any of it to the starving prisoners. The German civilian population who tried to bring scraps of food to throw in to the prisoners were also warned they would be shot if they tried it again. A couple of women were shot, or shot at!!

      This is all true, true, true. Very few try to deny it anymore, but they do try to keep the information suppressed. This went on not because of lack of funds, but as high-level policy. Finally, mostly Republican congressmen and Senators in the U.S. learned of what was going on and raised hell until the policy was eventually changed. But it took about two years; by that time millions of Germans had died. This was a true holocaust.

      Comment by sceptic — April 15, 2010 @ 7:45 am

  7. As the author or ghost writer you are accusing of making so many mistakes, I certainly have to wonder where you are coming from. I’m actually working on a new book on a German Panzer officer who was in the Allied POW camps–so much for your last statement about them all being dead. But if you are so convinced about the true state of Buchenwald and other examples of the Holocaust to directly contradict those who were there, there’s not a lot of point in trying to convince you otherwise.

    Comment by gbaron — April 9, 2010 @ 11:42 am

    • I deleted the sentence about the POWs being dead. I am convinced that “those who were there” tend to exaggerate, or even lie, about what it was like in the concentration camps. For example, the bread that was allegedly made of sawdust. Every major concentration camp, including Buchenwald, had an SS garrison next door to it and the same kind of bread was distributed to the SS men and the prisoners. They didn’t make special sawdust bread for the American pilots who were at Buchenwald for two months.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 9, 2010 @ 4:11 pm


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