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January 24, 2012

Good news! Mass graves found at Treblinka extermination camp

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 3:17 pm

The BBC broadcast a program yesterday entitled The Hidden Graves of the Holocaust, which was about new information regarding the mass graves at Treblinka, one of the three Operation Reinhard camps.  I didn’t see the program, but I read about it here.  The article starts off with this quote:

Any doubts about the existence of mass graves at the Treblinka death camp in Poland are being laid to rest by the first survey of the site using tools that see below the ground, writes forensic archaeologist Caroline Sturdy Colls.

The most important part of the article is this quote:

A 1946 report by investigators into German crimes in Poland found “a cellar passage with the protruding remains of burnt posts, the foundations of the administration building and the old well” and here and there “the remains of burnt fence posts, pieces of barbed wire, and short sections of paved road”.

Bone fragments can still be seen on the surface of the ground, especially after rain”

They also discovered human remains as they dug into the ground, and on the surface “large quantities of ashes mixed with sand, among which are numerous human bones”.

Despite this, in a later statement they said they had discovered no mass graves.

The section on Treblinka in the German Crimes in Poland. Volume I. Published by the Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. Warsaw, 1946 can be read in full here.

At the very end of the Treblinka section of the report of the Central Commission is this quote:

The eradication of all traces of the crime by wholesale burning of corpses began after Himmler’s visit in the early spring of 1943 and lasted till the Warsaw Rising, or even later. The camp was finally closed in November, 1943.

During the investigation when the ground was levelled, no collective graves were found, and this together with the evidence given by the witnesses leads to the conclusion that almost all the remains were burnt; the German authorities having had plenty of time to do it since the camp was closed. The site of the camp was ploughed over and sown, and on it Ukrainians were settled. They fled, however, on the approach of the Red Army.

Now the mass graves, that the Polish Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland was unable to find in 1945, have been found.  And it was the BBC that reported it.  The very first report of the gas chambers where Jews were being gassed was made by the BBC in 1942.

For another opinion, watch this video:

the alleged “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at Auschwitz III, aka Monowitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:04 am

The question of the alleged Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the Monowitz (Auschwitz III) camp came up in a recent comment on my blog.  As proof that this sign taunted the prisoners in the Monowitz camp, as well as in other Nazi camps, we have the eye-witness account written by Primo Levi, who was a prisoner at Monowitz.  I previously blogged about Primo Levi here, but I didn’t include the information that Levi mentioned the sign on page 22 of the book Survival in Auschwitz, the Nazi Assault on Humanity.

On page 19, Levi wrote this about his arrival at Auschwitz on a transport train:  “A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors.”  This is a reference to the Judenrampe, which was a large train platform, near the Birkenau camp, which was used from 1942 to May 1944. The Judenrampe was torn down when the train tracks were extended inside the Birkenau death camp, so that the prisoners could be brought to a spot within a few feet of the gas chambers in Krema II and Krema III.  (God forbid that the Jews should have to walk to the gas chambers.)

Levi’s description of his arrival at Monowitz begins on page 22:

The journey [to Monowitz from the Judenrampe] did not last more than twenty minutes.  Then the lorry [truck] stopped and we saw a large door, and above it a sign, brightly illuminated (its memory still strikes me in my dreams): Arbeit Macht Frei, work gives freedom.

We climb down, they make us enter an enormous empty room that is poorly heated.

So the sign was on a DOOR, not a gate.  It was the door to an enormous empty ROOM, not the door into a camp.  Note that he not only saw the sign on the door, he also saw it in his dreams.

Denis Avey also mentioned an Arbeit Macht Frei sign at Monowitz in his book The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz. On page 140, Avey describes the scene when he entered the Monowitz prison camp:

It was still light when we passed through the gate and I saw the sign bearing the cruel promise ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ — work sets you free.

I didn’t know that the irony of those words would scream across the decades. This was Auschwitz III–Monowitz.

Note that the sign that Denis Avey saw was on a GATE, not a door.

Rob Broomby co-wrote Denis Avey’s book.  On page 235, we learn that Rob questioned whether this sign was actually on the Monowitz gate.

This quote, written by Denis Avey, is from page 235 of the American edition of his book:

As Rob’s research continued it threw up some interesting questions about the nature of memory. He kept asking me if I was certain I had seen that Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the gates to Auschwitz III–Monowitz.  I was, but he said some experts had questioned it and nothing survives at the site today to testify one way or the other. The sign everyone knows these days is at the gates of the main camp, Auschwitz I. After more than sixty years it is that one which is emblazoned on the collective memory although many camps had them. Rob said the most influential account of life in the camp — that of survivor and writer Primo Levi — mentioned the sign at Auschwitz III more than once but the head of Research at Auschwitz wasn’t convinced.

So was there an Arbeit macht Frei sign at Monowitz or not?  I would say NOT.  Primo Levi saw the sign in his dreams, and Denis Avey read about it in Primo Levi’s book.  The Arbeit Macht Frei sign was used on the gates of the Nazi camps that were classified as Class I camps. Auschwitz I was a Class I camp and it had the sign.  Monowitz was a labor camp which probably did not have the sign.  I explained all this on a previous post which you can read here.

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