Scrapbookpages Blog

December 23, 2012

Holocaust survivor who volunteered for the gas chamber, but a Nazi doctor intervened

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 7:50 am

Holocaust survivor Rose Sherman Williams told her story recently to students in San Antonio, Texas.  Her emphasis was on the consequences of bullying.  The Nazis were the greatest bullies of all time, and God forbid that today’s American children should grow up to be Nazis.

Rose is now speaking out after years of silence. The most remarkable detail in her story is that she was in such misery at the Auschwitz death camp that she VOLUNTEERED to go to the gas chamber so that she could end it all.  But a Nazi doctor stopped her.

In her speech to the school children, Rose said that when “Nazi Germany troops” invaded her home town in Poland, she was about the same age as the middle school students, who were visiting the Jewish Community Center that day to hear her speech.

Rose told the students that, instead of water, gas would come out of the shower heads in the camp where she was taken.

Rose was eventually sent to Auschwitz.

This quote is from the news article about her speech, which you can read in full here:

“They gave us a number which I still carry on my hand, tattooed: “A15049,” Williams said while holding up her arm so students could see the tattoo. “That was the name I had to answer to and God forbid if I didn’t hear my name called. You cannot imagine the beating I would get.”

So much suffering, and Rose said she wanted to die: she volunteered to go to the concentration camp’s gas chamber.

But a Nazi doctor intervened. For years, Williams wondered why.

For years, Rose wondered why a Nazi doctor would not let her volunteer for the gas chamber at Auschwitz?  (By the way, who was this Nazi doctor?  Was this the famous Dr. Mengele, who appears in every Holocaust survivor story?)

Rose was not allowed to volunteer for the gas chamber because she had already been tattooed. She had already been registered in the camp and there was an IBM Hollerith punch card for her in the camp administration records. I previously blogged about the Hollerith punch cards on this blog post.

If her card had been found after Auschwitz was abandoned, this would have been proof that someone had been gassed at Auschwitz after they had been registered.   Of course, the Nazis were not going to let that happen.  The Jews who were gassed were sent immediately to the gas chamber without being registered and tattooed.  The names of the Jews who were gassed are unknown.

Nice try, but no cigar!  Sorry, Rose.

December 10, 2012

British students “walk into Crematorium II” at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 1:02 pm

On Thursday [Nov. 22, 2012] 200 students from north London schools visited Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons From Auschwitz.  This was reported by the Islington Tribune newspaper in an article written by Pavan Amara.

This quote is from what Pavan Amara wrote in the Islington Tribune:

With that, we enter the death camp Birkenau.  [...]

As we walk into Crematorium II, Liza Pacarda of Parliament Hill School notes the average everything, apart from the ovens next door used to dispose of the bodies.

She says:  They [the prisoners] would have seen these pipes at the top, really would have thought they were taking a shower.  I can’t get over the lies, they were numbing my mind.  They were told to remember their clothes pegs before they went in there… why?  When the officers knew they were going to die?  It’s beyond words.  I couldn’t describe it in one word, I couldn’t describe it in 10 words.  This isn’t [a human experience], but what is it? I can’t decide.  We hear the Nazis were monsters, they were so average, but if you believe that, it’s frightening because if they weren’t monsters, they were humans, which means what?

I was amazed to read this description of the underground ruins of Crematorium II at Birkenau.  Did the students actually walk into the ruins of the Crematorium II gas chamber at Birkenau?  It is clear that the gas chamber being described is not Krema I in the main camp, which is at ground level.  There are no pipes on the ceiling of Krema I, which is shown in my 2005 photo below.

Reconstructed gas chamber in Krema I in the Auschwitz main camp

Reconstructed gas chamber in Krema I in the Auschwitz main camp

The ruins of Krema II at Birkenau

The collapsed roof of Crematorium II at Birkenau.  The gas chamber is 5 feet underground

I know that it is possible to enter the ruins of Crematorium II, by crawling through a hole in the collapsed roof.  Fred Leuchter and Germar Rudolf (two famous revisionists) climbed down into the ruins many years ago, but I had no idea that it is now possible for British students to “walk into” Krema II, the “Holy of Holies,” where 500,000 Jews were gassed.

Ruins of Krema II at Birkeanau

Ruins of Krema II at Birkeanau —the gas chamber was 5 feet underground

It has been 7 years since I photographed the ruins of Krema II, but apparently, there is now a hole cut into the roof of the ruins, so that British students can walk down a ramp into the underground space.

The British student described the ovens next to the gas chamber.  The photos below show the ruins of the room where the ovens were located.  The ovens were removed by the Nazis before the building was blown up.

Ruins of the oven room at Krema II in Birkenau

Ruins of the oven room at Krema II in Birkenau have been propped up because they are collapsing

Another view of the oven room which was above ground

Another view of the oven room which was above ground

Ruins of the undressing room of Krema II which was 5 feet underground

Ruins of the undressing room of Krema II which was 5 feet underground

Ruins of Krema II at Birkeanu

Ruins of Krema II at Birkeanu

December 5, 2012

Yanina Cywinska gets a standing ovation after she tells how she survived the gas chamber at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:18 am

As everyone knows, the lethal gas that was used in the gas chambers of Auschwitz was Zyklon-B, the same gas that was used to disinfect the clothing of the prisoners. But according to Holocaust survivor, Yanina Cywinski, carbon monoxide was originally used at Auschwitz.  Yanina Cywinska was inside the Auschwitz gas chamber, where she watched her father die, before she passed out, but was secretly resuscitated by another prisoner.

If someone survived the gas chamber, it was the policy of the Nazis to allow them to live, never sending them to the gas chamber again.  Thanks to this policy, Yanina is still alive today; she recently gave a talk to students on the Pleasant Valley High School campus in Chico, CA.

Yanina Cywinska, a non-Jew, was sent to Auschwitz, after her family was arrested as Polish Resistance fighters early in World War II.

According to the talk that Yanina gave to students at Pleasant Valley High in November, she was put to work, at the age of 10, dragging bodies out of the gas chamber at Auschwitz. One day, she realized, to her horror, that she was pulling her mother’s body out of the gas chamber.  The Sonderkommandos who dragged the bodies out of the gas chambers were all men, except for Yanina and Greta, another female Sonderkommando who yelled at Yanina to stop whining, which prompted her to continue her grim duties, after the horror of finding her mother’s dead body.

The Sonderkommandos, who worked in the gas chambers, were killed every three months, and replaced by new prisoners.  Strangely, Yanina was not killed along with the others.

This quote is from an article in the online Chico News and Review, which you can read in full here:

Cywinska’s 20-minute speech was the most powerful of the performances. She recounted two harrowing escapes from Nazi execution. Her Polish, non-Jewish family was captured by the Nazis for stockpiling weapons and literally going underground, living in sewers as part of the Polish resistance. Cywinska was separated from her family and forced with other prisoners over five days without food or water to dig an enormous ditch that was to serve as their own mass grave.

She recalled that, while lined up along the ditch, she stepped behind a mother and baby to support them as they stumbled. Her maneuver shielded her from the firing squad’s bullets, allowing her to fall unharmed into the grave. She escaped only to be recaptured and sent to Auschwitz with her family. In the gas chamber she held her father’s hand as he died with the others. She passed out but somehow survived the gas—it was carbon monoxide, not the Zyklon B ordinarily used—and was secretly resuscitated by an inmate.

Her spirit, she said, triumphed after the war, when she went on to fulfill her dreams of becoming an actress and ballerina.

Cywinska’s talk elicited several standing ovations. “I’ve been crying for about an hour now,” exclaimed one woman.

I previously blogged about Yanina Cywinska here.

December 4, 2012

8th grade student and 82-year-old Holocaust survivor share stories in Toronto

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:40 am
Mother and bay were directed to Krema II on the left side of the train

Mother and baby are directed to Krema II gas chamber on the other side of an incoming train at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp

Sally Rosen is an 82-year-old survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Joshua is a student in a middle school in Toronto. They shared Holocaust survival stories when Ms. Rosen recently gave a talk at Joshua’s school.

According to her story, Ms. Rosen was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau on a train in 1944. It is well known that everyone under the age of 15 was destined for the gas chamber, but Ms. Rosen was saved when Dr. Josef Mengele looked away for a moment, and she was able to join the saved line and also shove her mother into the saved line.

How did Ms. Rosen know about the two lines at Birkenau?  Note the prisoner, wearing striped “pajamas,” on the left side of the photo above.  The Nazis had the courtesy to post prisoners, who were Kapos, at the selections; the Kapos informed the incoming prisoners on methods of survival.

In the photo below, new arrivals at Auschwitz-Birkenau are shown in two lines, one line for men and another line for women and children.  Dr. Mengele is shown at the head of the line of men, holding a cigarette at chest height, totally unconcerned that some of the Jews might try to sneak into a different line.

Dr. Mengele turns his back on two columns at Birkenau

Dr. Mengele turns his back on two columns of prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau

This quote is from an article, about the talk that Ms. Rosen gave to middle school students in Toronto, which you can read in full in the Canadian National Post here:

New arrivals were broken into four lines and inspected by Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor. They were divided into two groups. One lived. One died.

“Mengele looked at me and I looked down,” Ms. Rosen says. “You couldn’t look him in the eye. And then God said — ‘I shall make you a miracle’ — and Mengele, in that moment, he looked away, and so I pushed my mother into the [group that lived].”

Note that Ms. Rosen did not refer to Dr. Mengele as Doctor, although he had two degrees:  A Doctor of Medicine and a PhD in Anthropology.  Most Holocaust survivors are alive today because Dr. Mengele made some kind of mistake. Yet, he gets no respect.

Where are the photos of the alleged four lines and two groups, one group that was intended to live and one group was intended to die?  Of course, the Nazis didn’t photograph that.  The photo below shows a line of men and a line of women; two women have just been sent to the left of the incoming train.  This road led to Krema III, Krema IV and Krema V, but it also led to the Sauna where incoming prisoners took a shower.  (Part of this road is now covered by the International Monument.)

Two women are sent to the left at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Two women at Auschwitz-Birkenau are sent to the SS man’s left

As you are facing the end of the tracks into the Birkenau camp, with your back to the “Gate of Death,” Krema II is on the left, as shown in the photo below.  Krema III, Krema IV, Krema V and the Sauna are on the other side of the tracks.

Krema II is on the left side of an incoming train at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Krema II is on the left side of an incoming train at Birkenau

This quote is from the article about Ms. Rosen’s talk to the students:

She [Rosen] remembers the sign on the camp gates: “Work will set you free.” She remembers a terrible stench. Death. It is a smell that has followed her through the years, a sensory memory she can’t shake.

The photo below accompanies the article about Ms. Rosen’s talk to the students.

Gate into the Auschwitz main camp.

Gate into the Auschwitz main camp; Sally Rosen was sent to the Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau

Photo Credit:  REUTERS /Kacper Pempel

How could Sally Rosen have seen the Arbeit Macht Frei gate at the Auschwitz I camp, as she told the students?  Did the train from the Lodz ghetto arrive first at the main camp, where she was marched though the gate under the iconic sign? No, the train tracks didn’t go to the main camp.

I previously blogged about the meaning of the Arbeit Macht Frei sign here.

In her talk, Ms. Rosen made a big fuss about Holocaust deniers telling lies.  The quote below is from the article:

Ms. Rosen grew tired of people forgetting about a decade ago, tired of people telling lies. She couldn’t stand the stories she would see bubble up in the media about an Ernst Zundel, the German-Canadian hate-monger, or a David Irving, the so-called British historian, or a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the erratic Iranian president, spouting off about the Holocaust.

So Ms. Rosen decided to tell a few lies herself?

What about Joshua, the 8th grade student, who wanted to tell his story to her?  This quote is from the article:

Joshua’s Zadie, or was it his Bubby, [grandfather or grandmother] survived the Holocaust, just like Ms. Rosen did. On the way to Auschwitz they fell deathly ill and were thrown off the train so that the other unwitting concentration-camp-bound passengers wouldn’t contract whatever it was they had. They were left for dead. And yet, somehow, they lived.

Who threw grandpa (or was it grandma) off the train?  The Nazis or the other passengers?  The Nazis would not have cared if all the passengers on a train to a death camp contracted a disease and died.  This would have saved them the cost of the Zyklon-B gas pellets needed to gas the sick prisoners when the train arrived.  The passengers could not have unlocked the doors on the train, because if this had been possible, they would all have jumped off the train.

Prisoners in the Lodz ghetto were among the last of the Jews to be sent to Auschwitz.  This quote is from this website:

On June 10, 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto. The Nazis told Rumkowski who then told the residents that workers were needed in Germany to repair damage caused by Allied air raids. The first transport left on June 23, with many others following until July 15. On July 15, 1944 the transports halted. The decision had been made to liquidate Chelmno because Soviet troops were getting close. Unfortunately, this only created a two week hiatus, for the remaining transports would be sent to Auschwitz.

On August 4, 1944, a final liquidation transport of 74,000 Jews from Lodz was sent out from the ghetto on its way to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Though a few remaining workers were retained by the Nazis to finish confiscating materials and valuables out of the ghetto, everyone else living in the ghetto had been deported. Even Rumkowski and his family were included in these last transports to Auschwitz.

Five months later, on January 19, 1945, the Soviets liberated the Lodz ghetto.

November 25, 2012

“stuck in the door of the gas chamber” How Irene Zisblatt survived Auschwitz-Birkenau

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:50 am

Irene Zisblatt was 13 years old, 4 feet tall and weighed 60 pounds when she got stuck in the door of the Krema III gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

During a routine roll call, Irene was confronted by Dr. Josef Mengele who asked her:  “Was machst du da?”  She should have been sent to the gas chamber long ago because she was only 13 and everyone under the age of 15 was gassed immediately.

A photo of the Krema III gas chamber building at Auschwitz-Birkenau is shown below.  Note the 10 ft. high barbed wire fence around the building.  Right next to the fence is a convenient railroad track where a gondola railroad car was parked on the day that Irene was sent to the gas chamber by that evil monster Dr. Josef Mengele.

Irene was all alone, and the gas chamber was already full.  She tried to squeeze into the gas chamber, but she got stuck in the door.  But not to worry.  An SS man pulled her out of the doorway.  Then a young Sonderkommando came to save her; he wrapped her up in a blanket and tossed her over the 10 ft. high fence, into a gondola car that was parked outside the gas chamber building. (The Sonderkommandos were Jews who helped the Nazis, by carrying the victims out of the morgues gas chambers after they were gassed.)

Krema III building surrounded by 10 ft. high fence

According to this quote from another blog which you can read here:

…the young man must have been an athletics champion, as the distance between the railroad tracks and the fence around crematorium III was over 100 ft., the fence had a height of about 10 ft., and Chana weighed about sixty pounds.[71] Fifth, if there had been a train with open cars[72] waiting with prisoners near the crematoria, it would have been guarded by SS personnel who doubtlessly would have noticed the unconventional arrival of Chana by “air lift.” And last not least, she would have been noticed at the latest at roll call on arrival, because her name would not have appeared in the transport list.

Gondola cars on the “death train” at Dachau

A gondola car is a railroad car that is open on top; it is used primarily to haul coal or similar items, not passengers.  The photo below shows a railroad car of the type that was used to transport passengers to Auschwitz.

Railroad car on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Irene Zisblatt recorded her story of how she escaped from the gas chamber and you can hear her tell it on a YouTube video.  Don’t try to deny her story or you might wind up in prison for 5 years in 17 different countries.

November 18, 2012

the infamous Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 3:04 pm

With nothing better to do, I did some searching on the Internet today, and came across two blogs which feature photos of the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp.

I visited the Natzweiler-Struthof Memorial Site in the Fall of 2004 and took some photos, including the photo below, which shows a wooden bench, used for whipping prisoners.

Whipping block on display at Natzweiler Memorial Site

This blog shows a photo of the same bench with this caption:

Implements of torture, before waterboarding was in vogue. They just strapped you to this and removed body parts.

Not quite. The photo on the blog shows a bench used for whipping prisoners, not a bench for removing body parts.

Punishment of prisoners at Natzweiler and all the other concentration camps had to be approved by the WVHA economic office in Oranienburg, where Rudolf Hoess was a member of the staff after he was removed as the Commandant of Auschwitz in December 1943.

At the Nuremberg IMT, on April 15, 1946, Hoess testified that punishment on the whipping block was seldom used and that this punishment was discontinued in 1942 because Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler gave a new order that the SS men were forbidden to strike the prisoners.

On my trip to Natzweiler-Struthof in 2004, I took a photo of the exterior wall of a shower room, which is shown below.  The photo clearly shows water pipes entering the shower room.  In the lower right hand corner of the photo, you can see the rear of the cremation oven.

Water pipes on the outside wall of a shower room in Natzweiler

This blog shows a similar photo, which the blogger claims to be a photo of the interior of the gas chamber at Natzweiler.

This quote is from the blog, cited above:

In August 1943 a gas chamber was constructed in Natzweiler, in one of the buildings that had formed part of the hotel compound. The contractors for the project, Waffen –SS Natzweiler left behind a rare document in which, contrary to the coded terminology generally employed by the Nazis, specific mention was made of “the construction of a gas chamber at Struthof.”

This appeared in an invoice that the SS sent to the Strasbourg University Institute of Anatomy, charging it 236.08 Reichsmarks for the job. It was for the skeleton collection of the director of that institute, Professor August Hirt, that at least one hundred and thirty prisoners were transferred from Auschwitz to be killed in the Natzweiler gas chamber. Most of these prisoners were Jews.

Another member of the Strasbourg University faculty, Professor Otto Bickenbach, also availed himself of the Natzweiler gas chamber, to conduct experiments on prisoners with antidotes of phosgene, a poisonous gas.

The victims were Gypsies who had been transferred from Auschwitz, the previous year to serve as human guinea pigs for SS doctors experimenting with anti-typhus injections.

After my trip to Natzweiler-Struthof, I did a lot of research and wrote about the alleged gas chambers there on this page of my website.

October 27, 2012

The ruins at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1979, compared to today

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 1:28 am

An article in the online Telegraph, which you can read here, includes a photo that allegedly shows the ruins of one of the gas chambers at Auschwitz II, aka Birkenau.  It is an old black and white photo, taken in 1979.  I enhanced the photo, using Photoshop and reproduced it below.

Here is the caption on the photo, copied from the Telegraph:

FILE – In this undated file photo from 1979, a former inmate of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland sometime in 1979, gazes down at ruins of gas chambers where hundreds of people were exterminated during World War II. The oldest known survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, a teacher who gave lessons in defiance of his native Poland’s Nazi occupiers has died at the age of 108, an official said Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. Antoni Dobrowolski died Sunday in the northwestern Polish town of Debno, according to Jaroslaw Mensfelt, a spokesman at the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum.

1979 photo of an Auschwitz survivor viewing the ruins at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My 2005 photo of the ruins of the undressing room in Krema II

In the color photo above, note the steps of the International Monument on the right hand side. Note the guard tower in the background on the right.  My 2005 photo matches the 1979 black and white photo above, indicating that the man is not looking at the ruins of a gas chamber, but at the ruins of the undressing room of Krema II.

Another 2005 photo of the undressing room of Krema II

Again, note the guard tower and the steps of the International Monument on the right in the photo above. In the foreground, you can some of the ruins of the oven room, which was at ground level.  The undressing room was 5 feet underground.

The ruins of the Krema II gas chamber

My 2005 photo of the ruins of the Krema II gas chamber shows the International Monument in the background, slightly to the left.

Now look at the old black and white photo again.  It appears that some reconstruction of the ruins was done between 1979 and 2005.  Also, look at the background of the photo.  It looks like wide open countryside, with no trees hiding the view of the Jews walking into the undressing room.  Shouldn’t there have been a fence or a row of trees to hide the “mass murder” that was going on in the camp?

My 2005 photo of the ruins of the undressing room in Krema II

My 2005 photo above shows that the undressing room has been reconstructed, and a row of trees has been planted to hide the prisoners entering the undressing room from onlookers outside the camp.  The path, that the prisoners walked, up to the undressing room entrance should also have been reconstructed.

I am not convinced that there was an entrance to the undressing room in this location. A model of Krema II and the blueprint for the Krema II building are shown below.

Model of Krema II gas chamber building

In the photo above, notice that there is a door into the gas chamber building shown on the wall of the building on the left side. There was an exterior entrance with a staircase on the north side of the Krema II building, which led to the Vorraum of Krema II so that the SS men could enter Leichenkeller 1, the gas chamber, without going through Leichenkeller 2, which was the undressing room. In case of emergency, the gas chamber could be used as a bomb shelter for the SS men working in the area, since it had a gas-tight air raid shelter door.

Blueprint of the Krema II building

On the blueprint shown in the photo above, the undressing room is on the right hand side. To the left of the undressing room is the above-ground oven room with the ovens designated by 5 squares. There were 5 ovens with 3 openings in each oven. The gas chamber was perpendicular to the undressing room. On the blueprint, the gas chamber is labeled L-keller which is an abbreviation for Leichenkeller, which means corpse cellar in English. The undressing room was also called a Leichenkeller on the blueprint. Note that the length of the undressing room is two or three times as long as the length of the gas chamber.

Now that we see that there was a way to get into the undressing room without going around the building to enter from the end of the room, why didn’t the prisoners enter the undressing room through the door into the Vorraum?

Was the undressing room reconstructed to show an entrance down some steps that weren’t actually there before the reconstruction?

Update, 5:22 p.m.

A reader has alerted me to the website of The Daily Mail which shows a photo of Wilhelm Brasse standing beside the ruins of the undressing room in Krema II at Auschwitz in 1979.  In The Daily Mail photo, it looks like there are steps at the far end of the undressing room.  However, when I converted the photo to 300 dpi, from the 63 dpi in the original, it looks more like a brick wall.  I did not enhance the photo in any way.

High resolution photo of the ruins of the undressing room (Click on the photo to enlarge)

The photographer who took this photo in 1979 focused on Brasse in the foreground of the picture. The background, which shows the end of the undressing room, is not in sharp focus, so it is hard to tell if there are really steps in the photo.

September 2, 2012

“Brief Encounter With a Hero, Name Unknown” a poem about the Josef Shillinger story

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 12:06 pm

I was doing some research on the Josef Shillinger story this morning when I came across a website featuring University of Utah Professor Jacqueline Osherow, who wrote a poem entitled Brief Encounter with a Hero, Name Unknown.

I am pretty sure that the Hero, Name Unknown is not Josef Schillinger, but rather the woman who shot him.

Jacqueline Osherow has written several books.  One of her books, published in 1994, is entitled Conversations with Survivors.

This quote about the book is from the website:

[Osherow] expanded more into her traditional background in Judaism, from the Yiddish language to the Holocaust. “I was introduced far too young,” Osherow says of the Holocaust. “It was such a gigantic overwhelming presence.” Osherow recalls at age 7 admitting to her mother the reason she refused to take showers: She feared that gas would come out of the showerhead.

A grown Osherow wasn’t seeking accounts, but her then-husband’s entire family survived the Holocaust. This included his stepmother, Fany, who wanted her memories documented. The result was “Conversations With Survivors,” a poem recalling Fany’s experience during the Holocaust and in present day.

“Brief Encounter With a Hero, Name Unknown,” a poem from her third book, With a Moon in Transit (1996), is one of her most acclaimed. Osherow tells how the poem took shape: She asked her father-in-law, a Holocaust survivor in charge of delousing at Birkenau (an extermination camp annex of Auschwitz, the Nazi’s largest concentration camp), if he knew any of the SS. He told the story of Josef Schillinger, an SS officer. In the tale, a woman brought to the gas chamber grabs Schillinger’s gun, killing him and three other guards before being gunned down herself. The story haunted Osherow until she wrote the poem. Since then, “Brief Encounter” has taken on a life of its own.

Last year, Susan Gubar released Poetry After Auschwitz: Remembering What One Never Knew, in which she discusses “Brief Encounter.”

Osherow was stunned—and incredibly thrilled—to discover the story had a history beyond her father-in-law’s account. Merely searching online, Osherow found various accounts of the incident: It occurred in October 1943, and the woman was most likely a Polish dancer named Franceska Mann.

“My mind exploded,” Osherow recalls, still astonished. “I thought it was something that only existed in my father-in-law’s head and my head. Suddenly, there was external proof.” It also lends insight to the way Osherow writes poetry: It’s about conversations, stories and experiences, not historic research.

Note that Osherow’s father-in-law was in charge of delousing at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  The main place where delousing was done was at “the central Sauna” which you can read about on this page of my website.

I previously blogged about the death of Schillinger here.  This is a fascinating story, which must be true, since there are so many versions of it. I first heard the story when I visited the Memorial Site of the Bergen-Belsen camp.  Franceska Mann was an exchange prisoner at Belsen before she was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau to be gassed.  I wrote about her on this page of my website.

One of the Sonderkommando prisoners at Birkenau was Zalmen Gradowski, who participated in the revolt of prisoners at Krema IV, the gas chamber that is close to the Central Sauna at Birkenau.  Gradowski wrote a statement which he buried at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Included in his message was his version of the death of Josef Schillinger.

Here is what Gradowski wrote about the famous incident when Shillinger was shot:

The second incident was… that of the “Warsaw convoy”. They were from Warsaw who had taken American citizenship; some of them had been born in America. They were supposed to be transferred to an internment camp in Germany then eventually to Switzerland where they would be placed in the care of the Red Cross.

But instead of doing so, the great and “civilized” powers-that-be had them brought to the crematoria here. It was at this point that a heroic young woman, a dancer, committed an act of great bravery. Seizing the revolver of Kwakernak, the head of the camp’s political section, she used it to shoot Schillinger, a notoriously nasty character. Her act inspired the other brave women with her, who launched bottles and other missiles at those savage, rabid animals, the uniformed SS.

June 23, 2012

The Ravensbrück gas chamber …. and the Lachout document

Ravensbrück is one of the few Nazi concentration camps that I have never visited.  I am writing about it today because the subject came up in the comments on my last post, which was about Joe the Plumber, who thinks that the Holocaust was allowed to happen because Hitler instituted gun control in 1939.

One of the regular readers of my blog, The Black Rabbit of Inlé, who has just returned from a trip to Germany, wrote a comment which included a link to his photos of the Ravensbrück crematorium and the memorial stone that marks the spot where the gas chamber was located before it was destroyed by the Nazis on April 23, 1945.

Wait a minute!  The Ravensbrück gas chamber was destroyed a week before the camp was liberated by the Russians on April 30, 1945?  This sounds just like the story of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the Russians arrived on January 27, 1945 and found that the Germans had destroyed the gas chamber on January 20, 1945. Very suspicious!

Another coincidence is that all the records from both the Auschwitz camp and the Ravensbrück camp were confiscated by the Russians.  The Ravensbrück records have never been released.

Years ago, I contemplated a visit to the Ravensbrück Memorial Site, and to prepare for the trip, I read the book Ravensbrück, Everyday Life in a Women’s Concentration Camp 1939-45 by Jack G. Morrison.  The section about the Ravensbrück gas chamber begins with this sentence:

The existence and operation of a gas chamber are not in doubt.

Seriously?  The gas chamber at Ravensbrück is not in doubt?  Everything about the Holocaust is in doubt.  Ever hear of “Holocaust deniers”?  Ever hear of the Lachout Document?  You can read the text of the Lachout Document on my website here.  Ravensbrück is one of the camps that is included in the document.

Note that, on my website, I have a link to The Nizkor Project which claims that the Lachout Document is a forgery.

I consider the deathcamps.org website to be the best of the True Believer Holocaust websites.  You can read their page about the Ravensbrück gas chamber here.

This quote is from the deathcamps.org website:

The last gassings happened when the Swedish Red Cross was in the camp to compile transports with weakened prisoners to carry them to neutral Sweden (via the still occupied Denmark).

Strangely, the same thing happened at the Mauthausen concentration camp where the Nazis were gassing prisoners while the Red Cross was taking prisoners out of the camp.

This quote is from this page of my own website:

As further evidence that prisoners at Mauthausen were gassed in the final days of war, Christian Bernadac quotes [in his book] the testimony of Maurice-Georges Savourey on May 4, 1945 at La Plaine, near Geneva, immediately after he was taken out of the camp by the Red Cross convoy. Savourey’s testimony, obtained from Choumoff’s book, is quoted below from Bernadac’s book:

“…The day on which the first Red Cross convoy left, Saturday, April 21, 1945, out of two thousand men…one hundred, exhausted by the short route to be covered, were led to the gas chamber and executed…One (sic) Sunday, the 22nd, one hundred fifty men went to the gas chamber; on Monday, the 23rd, eighty men met the same fate…; on Tuesday, the 24th, one hundred eighty, in two groups, all Slavs, were gassed. One of them broke away, ran through the “free camp” in his nightshirt, stumbling, not knowing which way to turn, made his way back to camp 3. There he was retaken by the S.S. and the inner camp police, and returned for execution in the gas chamber. In addition, some forty French were said to have been gassed.”

In his account of the liberation of Mauthausen, the Red Cross representative, Louis Haefliger, confirms that the “annihilation” of the prisoners in the gas chamber continued until Commandant Ziereis fled the camp on the night of May 2-3, 1945. Apparently the Nazis were gassing as many of the prisoners as they could, while at the same time, the Red Cross was allowed to take selected prisoners out of the camp.

The section about the gas chamber in the book by Jack G. Morrison continues with this quote:

However, there are some uncertainties surrounding this issue, caused in part by the SS’s destruction of the gas chamber in the closing days of the war, and by their virtual annihilation of those prisoners who worked in the crematorium and gas chamber.  The SS did a quite thorough job of destroying evidence that might be used against them.  Following the war, the Russians did not help matters by keeping researchers out of the camp and making sweeping changes, turning it into a military post.

In April 1945, the Ravensbrück prisoners, who were still able to walk, had been marched out of the camp toward one of the sub-camps. Eventually the marchers reached the Allied lines and were liberated in early May, 1945.

To his credit, author Jack G. Morrison includes the story of the liberation of Ravensbrück in his book on page 303.

That night (30 April) the Russian arrived.  Rather than being liberators, they put the French women [prisoners] through a more hellish ordeal than what they had experienced in the camp.  The women were raped repeatedly by the Russian troops, to the point where some of them were too weakened to continue their journey  [the march out of the camp].  When Soviet forces liberated the subcamp at Neustadt-Glewe, they raped all the women and girls: Jewish, Hungarian, German — it didn’t matter.

One of the prisoners at Ravensbrück was Odette Sansom, a British SOE agent, who was allegedly having an affair with the camp Commandant, Fritz Suhren.   When the march out of the camp started, Odette rode with Fritz Suhren in his car to the American lines where he surrendered on May 3, 1945. He was expecting Odette to put in a good word for him to save himself from being charged as a war criminal, but she refused.

After the war, there were rumors that Odette had survived Ravensbrück because she had been the mistress of Suhren, who was a handsome man. But Odette claimed that her toenails had been pulled out while she was a prisoner at Ravensbrück.  Strangely, Odette was the only one who was tortured this way even though she had told her captors that she was married to a relative of Winston Churchill.  Did Fritz pull out all of Odette’s toenails to convince her to sleep with him?  Is that why she refused to testify on his behalf?

Odette was one of the three SOE agents who survived Ravensbrück; the other two were Yvonne Baseden and Eileen Nearne.

Four of the 8 female SOE agents, who were sent to Ravensbrück, were executed there, according to eye-witness testimony. Their names are Denise Bloch, Lilian Rolfe, Violette Szabo and Cecily Lefort.   According to the testimony of Sylvia Salvensen, a former prisoner in the camp, Cecily Lefort was one of the women who died in the gas chamber on May 1, 1945.  This was after the march out of the camp began and the marchers were overtaken by Russian troops.

The SS man who was the second in command at Ravensbrück, Johann Schwarzhuber, gave detailed testimony in the British Military Court at Hamburg, where 16 staff members of Ravensbrück were on trial from December 5, 1946 to February 3, 1947. Schwarzhuber testified that SOE agents Violette Szabo, Lilian Rolfe and Denise Bloch were executed by a shot in the neck shortly after Schwarzhuber was transferred to the camp on January 12, 1945.

Until Vera Atkins interrogated Schwarzhuber on March 13, 1946 and got him to confess to witnessing the murder of the SOE agents, nothing was known about the fate of these three women who had been at Ravensbrück since August 22, 1944. Schwarzhuber filled in all the details that Atkins wanted to hear, about how the women had died bravely and how the SS men had been impressed with their bearing.

I previously blogged about Vera Atkins here.

Schwarzhuber, who was on trial himself, said in the deposition taken from him by Vera Atkins and repeated in the courtroom, that Commandant Fritz Suhren had been annoyed that the Gestapo had not carried out these executions themselves. Suhren was not on trial since he had escaped from custody. Schwarzhuber also testified that Suhren had ordered him to organize a mass gassing of the women prisoners at the end of February 1945 at a time when sixty to seventy prisoners were dying each day during a typhus epidemic.

Prior to being sent to Ravensbrück, Schwarzhuber had worked at Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Auschwitz II, better known as Birkenau. Schwarzhuber was convicted and executed on May 3, 1947.

Schwarzhuber was the most important witness at the Ravensbrück proceedings; he had first told his story when he gave a deposition after being interrogated by Vera Atkins. How was Vera Atkins able to get Schwarzhuber to confess to crimes for which he knew that he would surely be executed? Did she threaten to turn his family over to the Russians, a threat that was usually effective?

If any of the camp records were ever found, they were not released. All of the information about the women who were executed at Ravensbrück came from the testimony of Johann Schwarzhuber and from some of their fellow prisoners.

June 9, 2012

Football players from England learn about Dr. Heinz Thilo who did selections for the gas chamber at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 7:41 am

According to a news article in the online Telegraph, the England football players stood “transfixed” in front of a photo in the Auschwitz Museum which showed an SS officer, Dr. Heinz Thilo, doing a selection for the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  These photos have been added to the Auschwitz Museum since I was there in 2005, so I am not sure which photo they saw, but it was probably a photo from the Auschwitz Album, like the photo below.

SS officer making selections for the gas chamber

The photo above, which is from the Auschwitz Album, shows Dr. Thilo, who is partly hidden behind another man.  The place where this photo was taken is midway along the railroad tracks into the Birkenau camp. In the background of the photo, you can see men walking down the road which is to the left of the railroad tracks as you enter the Birkenau camp.  This road goes to the two largest gas chambers, Krema II on the left side of the road and Krema III on the right side of the road.  Where else could these men be going, except to the gas chamber?

Dr. Heinz Thilo making selections at Birkenau

This quote is from the news article:

Roy Hodgson, his close friend Avram Grant and the Football Association chairman David Bernstein, whose father escaped from the Nazis, stared at the picture. Thilo’s arrogant stance, the way he was casually pointing an elderly Jew towards his death, symbolised the Final Solution.

“There was the guy who made all the decisions, whether they lived or died,” said Rooney, talking on the team bus after the seven players’ visit to this hell on earth. “He’s probably gone home after that, listened to music, and had dinner with his family as if nothing had happened. It’s crazy. It’s hard to understand.”

There were over 30 doctors who made the selections at Birkenau, including the famous Dr. Josef Mengele.  Now there will be a new Nazi doctor to hate: Dr. Heinz Thilo.

Hungarian Jews arriving on a train at Auschwitz-Birkenau

In the photo above, you can see the tall chimneys of Krema II and Krema III, in the background, on opposite sides of the train.  On the left side of the photo, you can see the building that is shown in the first photo above.

Close-up of Dr. Thilo making selections for the gas chamber at Birkenau

The football players thought that the man, shown in the Museum photo, looked “arrogant.”  Maybe the photo above is the one they saw.  Note the man wearing a striped uniform in the foreground.  This man was a Kapo, a prisoner who assisted the SS men.

These gullible young men from England were taken to Auschwitz for indoctrination in Holocaust propaganda, after a visit to Oscar Shindler’s factory in Krakow where they learned that Amon Goeth had “killed 500 prisoners” by shooting them from the balcony of his house.  (They were not told that there was a hill between Goeth’s house and the camp, but Goeth had a special rifle that could shoot over a hill.)

What the football players were not told at Birkenau is that the main road through the Birkenau camp went beyond the gas chambers and intersected with another road that went to the Sauna where prisoners took a shower.  That intersection is now covered by the monstrosity called the International Monument, located between the ruins of Krema II and Krema III.

The International Monument, on the left, is between the ruins of  Krema II and the ruins of Krema III, shown on the right in the background

You can see a collection of photos here taken when the England players toured Auschwitz-Birkenau, including a photo of one of the players coming out of the reconstructed gas chamber in the main camp. The news article with these photos includes these statements:

The most harrowing moment came when the players were led into the only surviving gas chamber at Auschwitz.  [...]

David Bernstein, the FA chairman and grandson of a Hungarian Jew, shook his head in disgust and despair when he was told prisoners were made to think they were going for a shower when they were asked to take their clothes off and enter the gas chamber.

But the prisoners were not asked to take their clothes off before entering the gas chamber in the main camp because there was no place to put the clothes.  Filip Mueller, a prisoner who worked in the gas chamber, removing the bodies for burning, wrote that the victims wore their clothes and even carried their suitcases into the gas chamber.

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