In today’s Jewish Exponent you can read about the upcoming trial of John Breyer, who was a guard at Auschwitz in 1944.
This quote is from the article:
Breyer has admitted that he served as a guard at Auschwitz but said he had nothing to do with the 1.5 million Jews who were slaughtered at the camp. His attorney said he worked in the prison section of Ausch-witz, not in the extermination area.
That’s not a viable excuse, said Eli Gabay, a Philadelphia attorney who worked on the case against John Demjanjuk, who was accused of being “Ivan the Terrible,” a Nazi guard responsible for killing thousands of Jews at Treblinka.
“You cannot be in Auschwitz, Treblinka or Sobibor without understanding the horrific nature of what these camps were doing,” Gabay said. “Any and every guard at these death camps could be tried. Just because that person made it to have a lovely home in Northeast Philadelphia should not allow for him to get away.”
Let’s back up a bit. Did Breyer really say that “he had nothing to do with the 1.5 million Jews who were slaughtered at the camp”? Or did the person who wrote this article supply the 1.5 million number?
My 2005 photo of the International Monument at Auschwitz-Birkenau
Stone at International Monument at Auschwitz-Birkenau
The 1.5 million number on the stone, shown in the photo above, was made up by Lech Walesa when the numbers on the stones at the International Monument at Auschwitz were changed in 1990. The original number of deaths, claimed at Auschwitz, was 4 million, which was the number given by the Soviets at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.
From 1986 to April 3, 1990, the words on the English plaque read:
FOUR MILLION PEOPLE SUFFERED AND DIED HERE AT THE HANDS OF THE NAZI MURDERERS BETWEEN THE YEARS 1940 AND 1945.
Four million was the number of Auschwitz-Birkenau victims that the Soviet Union had included in their charges against the Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, which began in November 1945.
After the fall of Communism in 1989, the Soviet Union released the 46 death register books (Sterbebücher) which they had captured when they liberated the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps on Jan. 27, 1945. The books, which were turned over to the International Red Cross, contained the names of 69,000 prisoners who had died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps from July 27, 1941 to December 31, 1943.
The Auschwitz I camp had opened on May 20, 1940 and both camps were evacuated on Jan. 18, 1945, so some of the death registers were missing. The Red Cross extrapolated these figures and estimated that there was a total of 135,000 registered deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The Jews, who were gassed, were not registered in the camp and their deaths were not recorded, so no one really knows the number of deaths at Auschwitz.
The original charge against Breyer was that he was responsible for the deaths of Jews who arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 158 trains in 1944 when he was a guard at the Auschwitz main camp. According to other news sources, new evidence shows that Breyer also served as a guard at the Birkenau death camp.
This quote is also from the article in the Jewish Exponent:
For 85-year-old Bala Cynwyd resident Michael Herskovitz, who survived the camp where Breyer was stationed, the trial absolutely matters.
When Herskovitz was 13, he and his parents and three siblings were shipped from Czechoslovakia to Auschwitz. Upon their arrival, the guards immediately broke the family into three lines.
“My mother did not want to let go of the child,” Herskovitz said, referring to his younger brother. “So they went with the handicapped and the old folks straight to the gas chamber.”
Herskovitz later was separated from his father, who also was killed. He and his sisters survived. After the war, he went to Czechoslovakia, then to Israel and eventually arrived in Philadelphia, where he opened an auto repair shop.
As for Breyer, Herskovitz said, “If he did the crime, he should be prosecuted. Not so much for him, but his family should know that their father, their grandfather, was prosecuted for this.”
So Herskovitz survived the gas chamber, even though he was 13 years old when he arrived. As everyone knows, children under the age of 15 were immediately gassed at Auschwitz.
In spite of the fact that Herskovitz was saved from certain death in the gas chamber, he wants Breyer to be dragged into court so that his children and grandchildren will know that he “was prosecuted” for the crime of not stopping the gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz.
If Breyer had tried to stop the gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz, he would have been shot dead. Still, it was his duty to save the Jews from the gas chamber, even if it meant his own death.
The Germans, who were in charge of the Auschwitz camps, made sure that everyone knew about the gas chambers. So every SS man, who was anywhere near Auschwitz, is guilty of not stopping the gassing of the Jews.