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March 30, 2011

The urns used for ashes at Dachau and other concentration camps

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:06 am

This morning, I was looking at the blog of a former German soldier which you can read here.  He mentioned the clay pots, which resembled flower pots, that the Germans used for the ashes of the prisoners who were cremated at Dachau.  Hundreds of these pots were found at Dachau by the American liberators, but for some reason, the pots are nowhere to be seen now.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so I thought I would show you what the urns found at Buchenwald and Natzweiler looked like.

Clay pots for the ashes of prisoners who were cremated

According to stories that I have read, the clay pots at Dachau were red, just like the pots shown in the photo above; I took this photo at the Natzweiler Memorial site at Natzweiler in Alsace, which is now in France.

The photo below shows urns that are displayed at Buchenwald.  What happened to the urns found at Dachau?  Were they just thrown out?

Clay urns found at the Buchenwald concentration camp

Before October 1944, the bodies of prisoners who died in the Dachau concentration camp were either buried in the Old Cemetery in the town of Dachau or they were cremated in the double oven of the old crematorium or the four ovens inside Baracke X, the new crematorium. When the American Seventh Army liberated Dachau, the inmates told them clay pots were used to send the ashes to the relatives. Only the ashes of German prisoners were sent to the families, and only if the relatives paid a small fee.

After October 1944, when the supply of coal ran out, the Dachau victims of the typhus epidemic were buried on the hill called Leitenberg, which is a few miles from the camp.

As you enter the gate into the crematoria area at Dachau, you will see straight ahead of you, behind the crematorium building, the location where the ashes of thousands of unknown victims at the Dachau camp were buried. The photo below shows a small monument, which stands at the back of the mass grave. The monument has three tiers with a star of David in the middle and a Menorah on top. The marker in the foreground says “Grave of thousands of unknown.” A path to your right leads into the woods where there are other mass graves of the ashes of prisoners who died at Dachau.

Grave of ashes for Jewish victims at Dachau

The photo below shows the grave of ashes for non-Jewish prisoners at Dachau.

The photo above is deep into the woods that are north of the crematorium at Dachau. Just before you enter the woods, you will see the grave of ashes that is shown in the photo below.

Grave of ashes at Dachau Memorial site

The photo below show the fourth and last grave of ashes at Dachau.

Site of ashes buried at Dachau Memorial site

Curiously, there are no graves or ash pits where the bodies of German soldiers, who may have died in the War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 at Dachau, were buried.  The burial place for the bodies and/or ashes of more than 500 German soldiers who were killed in the Dachau Massacre is unknown.

February 21, 2011

Update on the execution of Noor Inayat Khan at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:53 am

It has come to my attention that there is a misconception that Germans were put on trial for the alleged execution at Dachau of British SOE agent Noor Inayat Khan and that one of the defendants said during the trial that Noor had not given them any information when she was tortured.  This morning, I learned that this information comes from the book written about Noor by Shrabani Basu.  You can read the story here.  At the top of the page, you will read this:

“In the war crimes trial, they [the Germans] said that they had not been able to get anything out of Noor Inayat Khan.” Author Shrabani Basu

At which war crimes trial did the Germans say that?  There were two secret war crimes trials, involving the alleged executions of British SOE women, which were conducted by the British, but nothing was said by the defendants at these trials about whether or not they “got anything out” of Noor.  That remark was allegedly made to SOE staff member Vera Atkins by Hans Kieffer, the man who had ordered Noor to be sent to Pforzheim prison in Germany after she had made two escape attempts in Paris.  He said this in an interview in which he was told by Vera Atkins that Noor had been executed. Kieffer cried when he learned that Noor had been executed; he claimed that he knew nothing about her execution.

This quote is from the news story that you can read here:

I believe as she was killed, she shouted out, “Liberte!”

“That’s right. Her spirit just remained with her, she was so defiant that eyewitnesses say that though she was beaten to pulp, she was half-dead, she was almost kicked to death. They couldn’t break her spirit, and that was what even the Germans admired about her. In the war crimes trial afterwards, they said that they had not been able to get anything out of Noor Inayat Khan. In fact, they did not even know her name they knew her only as Nora Baker, which is the name she gave them.

Here is another misleading quote from the news article:

Then, finally, the orders came and she was sent to Dachau concentration camp with two other women agents and they were executed. But Noor was singled out that whole night, she was singled out and tortured even more, even on the last day she was shot.

If there were orders to send Noor to Dachau from the Pforzheim prison, why were 9 men at the Natzweiler camp put on trial for her execution at Natzweiler?

On May 29, 1946, Dr. Werner Röhde and 8 others at Natzweiler were brought before a British Military Court in Wuppertal, Germany. According to Rita Kramer, who wrote a book entitled Flames in the Field about the four women, who were allegedly executed at Natzweiler, “The evidence for the prosecution had been gathered by Squadron Officer Vera Atkins and Major Bill Barkworth of the SAS War Crimes investigation team, well after the organizations to which they and the missing men and women had belonged had officially ceased to exist. It was a kind of personal vendetta of principle.”

In fact, the nine staff members at the Natzweiler camp who were tried by the British were CONVICTED of executing Noor Inayat Khan at the Natzweiler camp.  It was not until 1947 that Vera Atkins came to the conclusion that Yolande Beekman and Noor Inayat Kahn had been executed at Dachau, not at Natzweiler.

Obviously, the testimony that Noor had been executed at Natzweiler was wrong. So how did all this happen?

After the war, the British SOE had been disbanded, but Vera Atkins had taken it upon herself to do an independent investigation to determine the fate of the agents who were missing. She interviewed surviving SOE agents, Gestapo agents and concentration camp staff members who had been captured by the Allies, including Rudolf Hoess, the infamous Commandant of Auschwitz.

Among those that she interviewed were Albert Guérisse and Brian Stonehouse, two British SOE agents who were prisoners at Natzweiler at the time of the alleged execution of Noor Inayat Khan. Based on information that Atkins got from them, she interrogated staff members from the Natzweiler camp, starting with a prisoner named Franz Berg.

Atkins selected Berg as the first person to be interrogated because he had previously told American investigators about some “elegant” women in the French resistance group known as the Alliance Réseau, who were brought to Natzweiler to be executed, after they were captured near the camp. Berg was a common criminal who was a prisoner in the camp; he was a KAPO in charge of stoking the fire in the crematory oven at Natzweiler. He was the first person to tell Vera Atkins that women had been brought to Natzweiler to be executed and then burned in the one oven in the crematorium.  From this, Atkins deduced, with no evidence at all, that four SOE women had been executed at Natzweiler, including Noor Inayat Khan.

Franz Berg was one of the main witnesses at the trial; he was a German criminal with a long rap sheet that included 22 crimes. A group photograph, taken in the courtroom when Berg was prosecuted by a British Military Court, shows him to be more than a foot shorter than the rest of the accused men.

The first time that he was interrogated by Vera Atkins, Franz Berg said that he had, at first, thought when he saw the women walking down the Lagerstrasse, that it was a party inspecting the camp. He said that the women were carrying suitcases and coats over their arms, and he thought that one woman had a traveling rug.

In a deposition that Berg gave to Vera Atkins before the trial, he stated that four women had been killed by injection at Natzweiler and burned in the oven which he had fired up. He identified two of the women in photographs shown to him as Vera Leigh and Noor Inayat Khan.

Albert Guérisse and Brian Stonehouse were two British SOE agents who had been transferred from the infamous Mauthausen camp in Austria to the Natzweiler camp in the Summer of 1944, just a few weeks before the women were allegedly executed.

Guérisse was a medical doctor who worked in the Natzweiler camp infirmary; he testified that he had seen the four women SOE agents being escorted, after dark, by the camp doctor to the crematorium. Then he saw flames shoot out of the crematorium chimney four times. He learned later, from Franz Berg, that this meant that the oven door had been opened and then closed four times as the four women were cremated.

Franz Berg said in his deposition, given to Vera Atkins, that all four of the women were cremated at one time in the one oven in the crematorium.

What would have been the best way to burn four bodies at one time in one oven?  Would the bodies have been put in all at once, or would the door have been opened four times?

The one and only cremation oven at Natzweiler

Brian Stonehouse had observed that one of the women was carrying a ratty fur coat, and a few days later, he saw an SS man nicknamed Fernandel “walking up the steps in the middle of the camp, carrying a fur coat.” Fernandel was a French comic actor whom this SS man resembled.

The identification of the Natzweiler victims at the trial had been based purely on speculation by eye witnesses like Guérisse, Stonehouse and Berg. The trial transcript had to be altered in 1947 to show that one of the victims was “unidentified” at the time of the trial; this unidentified victim had previously been identified as Noor Inayat Khan.

Records from Karlsruhe prison showed that another SOE agent, Sonia Olschanezky, had been taken to an UNNAMED concentration camp on July 6, 1944, the same date that three other women left Karlsruhe for an UNKNOWN destination. Vera Atkins assumed that these four women had been taken to Natzweiler to be executed.

Atkins had not recognized the name Sonia Olschenesky because she had been recruited in France to work with the British SOE, not sent over from England. Atkins assumed that Noor Inayat Khan, also known as Nora Baker, had taken this name as a new alias.

It was not until 1947 that Vera Atkins learned that Sonia Olschanezky was a real person. Atkins then assumed that Olschanezky had been murdered at Natzweiler, not Noor Inayat Khan, but this new assumption was not publicly known until 1956 when it was revealed by an investigative reporter.

The man who allegedly tortured and killed Noor Inayat Khan at Dachau was put on trial as a war criminal by an American Military Tribunal in November 1945, but he was not charged with the execution of Noor Inayat Khan at Dachau because this was not yet known.

Ruppert was prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal

In the photograph above, a prosecution witness  identifies Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert in the courtroom of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau. Ruppert is wearing a card with the number 2 around his neck because he was the second most important man on trial, after Martin Gottfried Weiss, the acting Commandant when Dachau was liberated.

Ruppert was accused of being the officer in charge of executing condemned prisoners at Dachau. He was a high-ranking SS officer, who would not have personally tortured nor executed a prisoner.

There were no eye-witnesses to the all night torture of Noor Inayat Khan.  Albert Guérisse and Brian Stonehouse were both prisoners at Dachau when Noor Inayat Khan was allegedly executed there, but they knew nothing about it.  Guérisse was the one who met the American liberators at the Dachau gate and escorted them to the gas chamber, which was outside the concentration camp.  Strangely, Guérisse knew all about the gassing of the prisoners at Dachau, but the story of the execution of one of his fellow SOE agents at Dachau, he didn’t know.

According to the prosecution’s case in the Dachau proceedings, one of the main crimes committed in the Dachau camp was the execution of 90 Russian military officers who were executed at Dachau on Hitler’s orders in September 1944. Before the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Hitler had issued an order that all captured Russian soldiers who were Communist Commissars were to be taken to the nearest concentration camp and executed. According to the prosecution, any man among the Dachau accused, who had merely witnessed this execution, was guilty of a violation of the Laws and Usages of War because he should have acted to stop these executions which were a violation of the Geneva Convention, even though the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and was not following it.

The alleged execution of Noor Inayat Khan at Dachau was unknown when this trial took place, but even if her alleged execution had been known, this would not have been a war crime because illegal combatants were not protected under the Geneva Convention.

In any case, nothing was said in any trial about how brave Noor had been in not giving any information to the Germans.

Ruppert, the man who allegedly shot Noor Inayat Khan, was the first person who was executed by the Americans after the trial of the staff members at Dachau.  The eye-witness who allegedly saw the execution of Noor by Ruppert at Dachau did not come forward until long after Ruppert had been tried and executed.

What information did Noor have that was so important that this caused the Germans to allegedly torture her for 10 months at the Pforzheim prison and then continue to torture her right up to the moment that she was allegedly shot at Dachau?

Noor was a radio operator.  She had already foolishly written down her secret codes so that the Germans were able to use her radio.  Or had she been instructed to write down the codes because the real purpose of sending her to France was to get a radio into the hands of the Germans?  The British wanted to send fake messages to the Germans and they were able to accomplish this after Noor got caught.

December 19, 2010

Update on the Irish prisoner at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:09 am

I previously blogged here about an Irishman who was allegedly a prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp.  It turns out that I was wrong in assuming that the Irish prisoner was a British SOE agent who was using the code name Patrick O’Leary.  A reader who commented on that blog post yesterday wrote that there was another Irishman who was at Dachau, but so far I have not been able to find out his name.

The reader mentioned in his comment that there were a lot of prisoners brought to Dachau in the last months before the camp was liberated.  In fact, there were 7,000 prisoners who arrived in the last days who were not registered.   (more…)

March 5, 2010

Women in the British SOE – what really happened to them?

This morning I got an e-mail from a woman who wrote that she is a cousin of Diana Rowden, a British SOE  agent in World War II, whom she says was murdered at the Natzweiler concentration camp.

This brought back memories of my trip to France and my visit to the Natzweiler Memorial Site a couple of years ago.  I had a hellavuh time getting to the place.  The former Natzweiler camp is located on a steep, winding mountain road, 5 miles from the nearest train station and there is no bus service. I had to hire a taxi driver to drive me there from the nearest town.

While I was in the crematorium building at Natzweiler, I noticed a small plaque on the wall in honor of four women SOE agents who were executed there; their bodies were burned in the one oven of the crematorium.  I remembered that I had seen a similar sign, honoring four other women SOE agents on the wall of the crematorium at Dachau.  I couldn’t help wondering why four women would be brought such a long way,  to a place as isolated as Natzweiler, for execution.  They were brought from a Gestapo prison in Germany to Natzweiler, a camp in Alsace, which is now in France. Why weren’t all eight of the women taken to Dachau for execution, I wondered.

After I got back from my trip, I started doing some research on Natzweiler and I learned that there were several male SOE agents who had been prisoners at Natzweiler and when this camp had to be closed, they were transferred to Dachau.  The SOE men had arrived at Dachau just a week before the SOE women were brought in for execution.  Curiously, the four SOE women had been executed at Natzweiler shortly before the men were transferred.  This struck me as being more than a coincidence.

Did the Gestapo deliberately arrange for several male SOE agents to be at Natzweiler, and then at Dachau, so there would be witnesses to the execution of the SOE women?  And why weren’t the men executed?  Not only were the SOE men not executed, they were privileged prisoners who were treated very well.

One of the SOE men, Albert Guérisse, claimed to be an eye-witness to the arrival of the four SOE women at Natzweiler. Guérisse said that the Commandant of the camp had driven his car down to the railroad station to pick up the women and he drove a couple of laps around the camp, as if he were giving them a tour.  All the prisoners inside the camp were able to  see these women who had been brought to Natzweiler for a secret execution.

Another SOE man, Brian Stonehouse, claimed that he was working near the gate and saw the women arrive on foot; he just happened to be an artist and a fashion expert, so he was able to sketch the women and describe their outfits in detail, right down to the hair ribbons they wore.

The cousin of Diana Rowden, who e-mailed me, wrote that she had met one of the former prisoners at Natzweiler when she visited the Memorial Site. This man told her that he had seen the women SOE agents as they  arrived at night. So we have three different eye-witness versions of the arrival of the women SOE agents at Natzweiler.

I believe that what may have happened is that all three of these witnesses saw the wives and girlfriends of the SS officers at Natzweiler arriving for a party that was going on in honor of an SS man who was leaving because he was being transferred to another camp.

Then I found out that there were four more British SOE women who were executed at Ravensbrück, the women’s concentration camp.  This makes no sense at all.  Why not take all 12 women to the women’s camp for execution?  Both Dachau and Natzweiler were camps for men.

There was one British SOE woman at Ravensbrück, Odette Sansom, who was not executed; she survived because she was having an affair with the Commandant, Fritz Hartjenstein. Odette claimed that all her toenails were pulled out by the Gestapo men who were trying to make her talk.

I spent a great deal of time researching the British SOE and read several books pertaining to the SOE women. On my web site http://www.scrapbookpages.com, I wrote about what I found out here and here.

Here is a quote from this page of my web site:

Of the four British SOE agents allegedly executed at Dachau, Noor Inayat Khan has become the most famous. Noor has gone down in history as a great heroine because she defied her captors to the end, never cooperating with the Germans in any way.

Noor Inayat Khan was the first woman to be sent to France to work as a wireless operator, even though there were other women in the SOE who would have been better suited for this job. Her trainer thought that Noor was too emotional and when she was given a mock interrogation to see how she would hold up under an interrogation by the Gestapo, she failed miserably. Physically tiny and fearful of guns, she was also “not overly burdened with brains,” according to her instructor. Moreover, her exotic beauty might draw attention to her, causing her to be more vulnerable to arrest by the Gestapo.

Noor Inayat Khan was sent to France, even before she had finished her training, on an RAF Lysander plane on the night of June 16, 1943 to become a wireless operator for the Cinema sub circuit of the Prosper line; her organizer was Emile Garry. Noor was captured around October 1, 1943 after she was allegedly betrayed by the sister of Emile Garry.

According to the book “A Life in Secrets,” by Sarah Helm, Noor was denounced by Renée Garry who told the Gestapo where to find her. Renée was in love with another SOE agent named France Antelme, but when Nora arrived, Antelme gave his affection to her.

Renée Garry allegedly sold Noor to the Gestapo for money and revenge, but what was the real motive for Noor’s betrayal? Did the British deliberately select their least qualified female agent to send to France because they wanted her to be caught? Was this a deliberate plan to allow the Germans to capture a British radio?

In her book “Flames in the Field,” Rita Kramer wrote that Henri Déricourt, who was a double agent in the Prosper line, said that the British had deliberately sacrificed women SOE agents as part of a scheme to distract from the invasion of Sicily. These women were “decoys” who were meant to be captured after the British learned that the Germans had infiltrated the Prosper Network. The purpose was to plant disinformation about the invasion of Sicily.

You can read more about the women who were allegedly executed at Dachau here and about the women who were allegedly executed at Natzweiler here.

There are no records whatsoever that would prove that these 12 SOE women were executed.

So what really happened to the women SOE agents?  My theory is that all 12 were sent to Ravensbrück and they died in the typhus epidemic there, or they were transferred from Ravensbrück to Bergen-Belsen where they died in the typhus epidemic.  The records from Ravensbrück were confiscated by the Soviet liberators and have never been made public.

The British deliberately sacrificed these women SOE agents by arranging for them to get caught, and now the women are being widely promoted as heroines in order to cover up the truth.  I have explained this in another blog post.

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