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July 24, 2010

“The Last Days,” a documentary by Steven Spielberg

Filed under: Dachau, Holocaust, movies, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:48 am

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  That doesn’t mean that The Last Days should be withdrawn because it is a fraud, but it should be reclassified as fiction and advertised as fiction.

The Last Days is about five Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust who travel to Auschwitz and Dachau to relive their stories.  Also included are the stories of three American soldiers who liberated Dachau: one Caucasian, one African American, and one Japanese.

Dr. Paul Parks is the African American who liberated Dachau, according to the book.  This was what caught my attention, because I knew that the U.S. Army was segregated during World War II and I knew that there were white soldiers who liberated Dachau.  So how did an African American liberate Dachau?

Dachau prisoners who were liberated by American troops

In the book The Last Days, about the Steven Spielberg documentary with the same name, Dr. Parks explained why African-American soldiers were chosen to liberate the concentration camps:

“About our role near the end of the war, though I have no proof of this, a Bostonian who was on General Eisenhower’s staff told me that the decision was taken that, wherever possible, the liberators of the camps would be black soldiers – United States soldiers. He said that they had come to the conclusion that if the people who were in the camps saw black soldiers they would feel more at ease with them. It wasn’t some sort of weird cruel trick – people who saw us come into the camps, some of them my friends now, have told me, ‘We knew when we saw you that you weren’t Germans….we knew you had to be Americans’ – so it did work.”

The U.S. Army and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum credit the 45th Thunderbird Division, the 42nd Rainbow Division and the 20th Armored Division of the US Seventh Army as the liberators of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945. There were no African-American soldiers in these three divisions because the American Army was segregated during World War II.

Lt. Col. Felix Sparks of the 45th Thunderbird Division insists that there were no black soldiers among the liberators of Dachau.

A page from the book The Last Days shows Dr. Paul Parks

The photo above shows a menorah, which is claimed to have been made out of nails by a Jew, who was liberated at Dachau by Parks.  Parks claims a man showed up at his home and didn’t give his name, but on behalf of the unnamed Jew who had made the menorah, he gave the menorah to Parks as a gift. The menorah was allegedly created by Edwin Theiberger; numerous copies of this menorah exist, including one at The White House.

According to a news article in the Boston Globe on October 12, 2000, Dr. Paul Parks was slated to receive the Raoul Wallenberg Award from B’nai B’rith, but the plan to honor Parks for his role in liberating Dachau was canceled after retired Army Col. Hugh F. Foster III informed B’nai B’rith spokesman Eric Rozenman that there is no military record of Dr. Parks being at Dachau when the camp was liberated.

Dr. Parks served with the 365th Engineer Regiment from 1943 to 1945; he has acknowledged that his regiment was not at Dachau on April 29, 1945, but he told a Boston Globe reporter that he was on a special assignment to deactivate mines throughout France and that is how he came to be at Dachau when the camp was liberated.

Dr. Parks claimed that his military records were lost in a fire in 1973, which means that his story of being with the soldiers who stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day also cannot be confirmed. Foster claims that the 365th Engineer Regiment was in England on D-Day.

This quote is from the Boston Globe article:

“Parks has been among the most prominent black leaders in Massachusetts over the last half century. He was vice president of the Boston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the 1960s, education secretary under then-Gov. Michael Dukakis and founder of a program that for 34 years has bused black children from Boston to suburban schools.”

So why am I picking on an African American when the whole documentary The Last Days is full of lies? I’m not picking on anyone; I am recovering from a recent stroke and it is very difficult for me to type, so I can’t write about all the characters in the documentary.

You can read all about the lies in The Last Days here. You can read about the soldiers who liberated Dachau here.

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