If you don’t know by now what a “retort” is, you can look it up on google. You will find several web sites which give the definition of retort, which means a sharp reply. But what if you are reading something on the Internet, and you find the word “retort” used as a noun to mean an object at a former Nazi concentration camp? What is a “retort” at Dachau, for example. Several years ago, I took it upon myself to illustrate what a “retort” looks like at Dachau.
July 30, 2010
July 29, 2010
The sentence of Holocaust denier Gerd Honsik in a court in Austria has been recently reduced from 5 years to 4 years in prison. Honsik had appealed his sentence of 5 years, and the prosecution had also appealed, asking that the sentence be increased to 20 years, the maximum allowed in Austria for Holocaust denial. Honsik won his appeal and he will now spend only 4 years in prison in Austria for the crime of Holocaust denial, even though he still denies that there were gas chambers at Mauthausen and Dachau. You can read all about the case here.
July 26, 2010
Last night I read a commentary entitled “Could the Holocaust happen again?” written by John F. Floyd in the Gadsden Times and I was very upset about it. This morning I was still bothered about this article.
July 25, 2010
This morning, I came across two remarkable stories about the Holocaust. The first one is about a 13 year old Jewish boy who was sent to the Auschwitz death camp in 1944. The Jews under 15 years of age at Auschwitz were sent to the gas chamber, but for some reason, this boy stayed in Auschwitz for 5 months, and then he was sent to the Kaufering IV camp, a sub-camp of Dachau near Landsberg am Lech.
Kaufering IV was a “sick camp” where prisoners from the other 10 Kaufering camps were sent to die when they were too sick to work. Most of the sick prisoners at Kaufering IV had typhus, but remarkably one of them recovered; his story is told here.
This is a quote about the boy who was sent to Kaufering IV:
In October 1944, at the age of 13, after five months in Auschwitz, I was transferred to Dachau, where I was assigned to Camp #4, located near the Bavarian town of Lomitsberg. For some reason, perhaps because I was the only young boy in the entire camp, I found favor with the SS officer in charge of food supplies and services for both prisoners and guards in Camp #4, and so I was assigned to the kitchen. My job was to stand at the kitchen gate all day and to shout “Achtung!” when this SS officer entered for his periodic inspection of the kitchen.
Being on the kitchen staff meant that I had access to food. This was a lifesaving privilege not only for me but for others. I was constantly besieged by prisoners begging for any scraps of food I could get for them. I took what I could and was able to help keep many, many people alive. Many of these people survived only because of this kitchen job that I was lucky to get, and some still live in Williamsburg today.
The photo above shows a real-life scene which was re-created in the TV series “Band of Brothers.” You can read all about Kaufering IV here. I previously blogged about the remarkable story of seven Jewish women who were sent to Kaufering IV because they were pregnant; their babies were born there and the mothers with their babies were evacuated to the main camp so that they could be surrendered to the Allies. You can read about the mothers and their babies who survived Kaufering IV here.
The second remarkable story about the Holocaust is told here. This is the story of Jews who were hidden during the Holocaust and didn’t know that they were Jews until long after World War II.
This is a quote from the story:
After the Iron Curtain was lifted in Europe twenty years ago, a surprising thing occurred – thousands of people who had been raised as gentiles came to the startling realization that they were actually Jews. Poland is home to thousands of such stories. During the Holocaust and under Communist rule, many Jews there hid their identities and continued to conceal them even after the fall of Communism. On their deathbeds, some of them have revealed their true identities to their children or grandchildren. Other people found out from old family records or through other means.
July 24, 2010
“The Last Days” is a documentary, made by Steven Spielberg and released in 1998; the film won an Academy Award in 1999. A book about the documentary was published in 1999, with the same title. In 1998, I was just starting to study the Holocaust and I loved the documentary, which I assumed was the gospel truth. I bought two copies of the book, one to read, and one to preserve in pristine condition in my home library. The book is great; it has lots of good photos of the Holocaust. As I began to study the Holocaust, I gradually learned that the documentary and the book entitled “The Last Days” are both fictional. That doesn’t mean that “The Last Days” should be withdrawn because it is a fraud, but it should be reclassified as fiction and advertised as fiction.
July 23, 2010
Ohrdruf was a labor camp that was a sub-camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II. Ohrdruf was mostly unknown by Americans until President Obama revealed that his great-uncle (the brother of his maternal grandmother) was one of the liberators. General Walker and General Middleton had ordered that as many soldiers as possible should be brought to Ohrdruf to view the camp. The bodies were left out until at least the first week of May, so that visiting soldiers could view them.
Obama had first said that his great uncle had liberated Auschwitz, an understandable mistake that was easily caught by the press because Auschwitz was in what is now Poland and everyone knows that Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet soldiers. Obama quickly corrected his statement and Ohrdruf became famous.
July 22, 2010
As most people know, Holocaust denial is a crime, punishable by 5 years in prison, but up to 20 years in prison in Austria. Gerd Honsik was recently sentenced to 5 years in prison in Austria for saying that there were no gas chambers in Germany, including Mauthausen and Dachau. You can read about him here. But what about fake Holocaust survivors who tell outrageous lies in the books they write, such as the book entitled A Memoir of the Holocaust Years by Misha Defonseca who wrote a fake story about her escape, when she was four years old, from the Warsaw ghetto. Misha claimed that she was adopted by wolves, but was outed by the New York Times in an article that you can read here or Herman Rosenblat who allegedly survived by eating apples thrown over the fence by a nine-year-old girl, in a sub-camp of Buchenwald; you can read about that story here.
I’m not talking about mistakes which are made about the Holocaust, like mixing up Rudolf Hoess, the Auschwitz Commandant, and Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, who flew solo to the UK to try to make peace with the British during WW II. The biggest mistake I’ve ever heard was when Alan Colmes said on TV that “gas ovens” were used in the concentration camps to kill the Jews.
On the old Hannity and Colmes TV show on 12/13/06, Alan Colmes showed a photo of two cremation ovens at Buchenwald with the remains of partially burned bodies visible, as he said: “A number of people at this conference and your organization have said things like ‘The gas chambers did not exist.’ I want to put up on the screen the furnaces that were used to kill Jews.”
I wouldn’t put Colmes in prison for 5 years for saying that the Nazis killed Jews in gas ovens and I wouldn’t put Sean Hannity in prison for confusing Hoess and Hess in one of his books. But what about Holocaust survivor Irene Zisblatt who told a lie about swallowing diamonds at Auschwitz? You can read about her here.
Several years ago, the book entitled Fragments: Memories of a Childhood by Binjamin Wilkomirski was exposed as a fake account of the author’s alleged stay in the Majdanek concentration camp and other camps. After Wilkomirski admitted writing a fake memoir, the book was not withdrawn from the list of books that students in America were assigned to read; it was merely reclassified as a novel.
Another novel that is similar to Wilkomirski’s book is The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, a Polish writer whom I first learned about on my visit to Poland in 1998. His book was published in America in 1965; it is routinely assigned to American college students to read, although the stories that he wrote were made up, according to my Polish tour guide.
If a person deliberately tells a lie for the purpose of making money off a book and public speeches, shouldn’t that be a crime? Shouldn’t such a person be put into prison? Maybe not for 5 years, like Holocaust deniers, but for 90 days, like Lindsay Lohan. I would even allow a statute of limitations on Holocaust lies that would save Elie Wiesel from 90 days in jail, although there is no statue of limitations for Nazi war crimes. You can read about Elie Wiesel here.
July 21, 2010
As my regular readers might know by now, I recently suffered a mild stroke. The stoke happened while I was asleep, and when I suddenly awoke at 4:25 in the morning, I had some damage to the left arm and left leg, and was having some blurred vision, besides feeling some nausea. I rushed to an emergency hospital and got there within 15 minutes, but it was already too late. The doctors at the hospital could do nothing but give me tests which determined that my self diagnosis was correct. I was admitted to the hospital, and as soon as I could get out, after passing numerous tests, I headed straight to a Chinese doctor for acupuncture.
July 18, 2010
Origin of the belief that prisoners were burned alive on the “death marches” out of the concentration camps
The origin of the Holocaust story of the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps being sent on “death marches” and burned alive, at places like Gardelegen, is the best-selling book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust,” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.