On the last train out of Paris, just before the Allies liberated the city, were 168 American fighter pilots who had been shot down over France. They were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, not as POWs, but as “terrorfliegers” (terror flyers) because they had been aiding French Resistance fighters, whom the Nazis called “terrorists.” (more…)
March 31, 2010
March 1, 2010
Last night I watched an episode of Band of Brothers for the umpteenth time. I never tire of this TV series. This particular episode was about the 101st Airborne Division (the real life Band of Brothers) when they were in southern Germany near the end of World War II.
The photo above shows the real life scene at the Kaufering IV sub-camp of Dachau, which was near Landsberg am Lech. This scene is very accurately re-created in the Band of Brothers.
Kaufering IV was first liberated by the 12th Armored Division of the US Seventh Army on April 27, 1945. Soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division didn’t arrive until April 28, 1945, but in the Band of Brothers, they are shown as being there first. The prisoners greet them and act as though they have never seen an American soldier before.
Kaufering IV was one of 11 camps, all named Kaufering and numbered I through XI; Kaufering IV had been designated as a “sick camp” where prisoners who could no longer work in the Kaufering factories were sent. But in the TV series Band of Brothers, this is not mentioned.
There was a typhus epidemic in Germany in 1945 and all Kaufering prisoners with typhus were sent to the Kaufering IV camp. The dead bodies in the photo above were prisoners who had died of typhus and other diseases.
In Band of Brothers, the barracks at Kaufering IV have been accurately re-created, but it is not explained that the barracks were built partially underground in order to hide the camp from American planes that were bombing everything in sight. The photo above shows the real life camouflaged huts where the Kaufering IV prisoners lived.
The eleven Kaufering sub-camps had been set up specifically to build three huge underground factories for a project called Ringeltaube. In these subterranean factories, the German jet fighter plane Messerschmitt Me 262 was to be built. Allied bombing raids had made it necessary for the Nazis to build their factories underground.
In the last days of the World War II, all the Kaufering camps were evacuated except for the sick prisoners in the Kaufering IV camp. Some of the Kaufering prisoners arrived at the Dachau main camp on April 27, 1945, only two days before Dachau was liberated by American troops.
In the Band of Brothers TV series, civilians from the town of Hurlach are shown burying the bodies, but what is not mentioned is that they were forced at gun-point to handle bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus. The Germans had not been vaccinated and some of them undoubtedly got typhus and died as a result. (At Bergen-Belsen, out of 80 unvaccinated German guards who were forced to handle the bodies of typhus victims, 20 died of typhus.)
The Germans are shown in Band of Brothers, arriving at Kaufering IV wearing nice clothes. This is true to life; they had been ordered to wear their Sunday best for the burial of the bodies. This was the case at all the concentration camps where civilians were ordered to bury the bodies.
Then there is a scene in Band of Brothers where one of the 101st Airborne soldiers is screaming at a German shop keeper who is objecting because all of his goods are being taken by the Americans to feed the Kaufering IV prisoners. The shop keeper keeps repeating “Ich bin kein Nazi.” But the soldier is angry because the shopkeeper didn’t do anything about the Kaufering IV camp, although he must have smelled the burning bodies. Of course, the German civilians would not have been told anything about the top secret underground factories in the Kaufering camps, but this American with a Harvard background couldn’t understand that.
One of the next scenes shows 600,000 German soldiers marching in perfect formation down the center of the Autobahn after they surrendered. The Americans knew of the legendary discipline of the German Army, so the German soldiers are completely unguarded as they march.
Meanwhile, undisciplined American soldiers are shown killing two German soldiers, who have just surrendered in good faith, and then stealing their prized Luger pistols. The 101st soldiers just shrug this off, while Harvard guy screams at the Germans soldiers who are marching by. He is angry because Germany started the war and his Harvard education had been interrupted as a result. The Germans completely ignore this verbal abuse and keep marching in step.
Band of Brothers is a true story, based on real soldiers in the 101st Airborne. It is highly accurate except for how the liberation of the Kaufering IV camp is shown. Why do movies and TV shows always have to misrepresent the concentration camps?
February 27, 2010
Gaskammer is the German word for gas chamber. This word was used by the Germans during World War II to mean a room where clothing was deloused with a poison gas called Zyklon-B; the Germans were trying to save lives by killing the lice that spreads typhus. The doors and the interior of the disinfection chambers have been repainted, but a few of the tour guides at Dachau still tell visitors that these rooms were used to kill people.
The photo above was taken by an American soldier in the Army Signal Corps, named Sidney Blau. The caption which the US Army put on this photo was as follows:
Gas chambers, conveniently located to the crematory, are examined by a soldier of the U.S. Seventh Army. These chambers were used by Nazi guards for killing prisoners of the infamous Dachau concentration camp.
Note that the caption says the gas chambers were used for “killing prisoners” without specifying that they were killing Jews. Note the plural (gas chambers) in the caption on the photo. There were four identical chambers at the south end of the Baracke X building, shown below.
Pretend that you are Sidney Blau and you have been sent to Dachau on April 30, 1945, the day after the camp was liberated, to take photos for the Army Signal Corps. You see four doors with the word “Gaszeit” which means gas time. Each door has a skull and crossbones with the word Gas.
Outside the Baracke X building, you see clothing hung up on hangers. On one side of the building, you see huge piles of prison uniforms.
What conclusion would you have come to? Would you have concluded that these rooms were homicidal gas chambers where prisoners were killed? Would you have thought that it was stupid for the Germans to put a skull and crossbones and the word Gas on the door so that the prisoners would balk at entering the room? Would you have thought that it was cruel to make the prisoners hang their clothes neatly on a hanger before they were killed?
What about the bars on the ceiling of each Gaskammer? Would you have thought that they hung the prisoners from the bars to torture them before they were gassed?
If you were Sidney Blau, would you have noticed that there were no floor drains in the four rooms with the word Gaszeit on the door? When a person dies, all their body fluids are released; the floor would have been covered with filth after each gassing. Yet, for some reason, the floor drains were outside of each Gaskammer.
Did they deliberately avoid putting a drain in the Gaskammer so that the poison gas would not get into the sewer system and poison the whole camp?
Was Sidney Blau ordered to take this particular photo or was he just told to take photos? Did he take a photo of the shower room door after the prisoners told the Americans that the shower room was really a gas chamber? The door into the shower room, which has never been repainted, would not have been a dramatic shot, like the famous photo at the top of this page.
The Official Army Report published after the camp was liberated had these words:
“…the new crematorium was completed in May 1944, and the gas chambers, a total of five, were used for the executions and the disposals of the bodies.”
Actually, the new crematorium was completed in May 1943.
The five gas chambers, mentioned in the Official Army Report, included the shower room and the four chambers where the clothing was deloused. Did anyone stop to think about why there were four identical gas chambers and one that was totally different?
The following quote is from the Report of the Atrocities Committed at Dachau Concentration Camp, signed by Col. David Chavez, Jr., JAGD, 7 May 1945 :
“The new building had a gas chamber for executions… the gas chamber was labeled “shower room” over the entrance and was a large room with airtight doors and double glassed lights, sealed and gas proof. The ceiling was studded with dummy shower heads. A small observation peephole, double glassed and hermetically sealed was used to observe the conditions of the victims. There were grates in the floor. Hydrogen cyanide was mixed in the room below, and rose into the gas chamber and out the top vents.”
“… a gas chamber?” What about the four rooms with the word Gas on the door? “… grates in the floor?” Were these dummy floor drains, like the “dummy shower heads”? “… the top vents”? How come they didn’t mention the vents on the east wall of the shower room?
Visitors to the Dachau Memorial Site are told that the poison gas was poured onto the floor of the shower room through these vents on the east wall. Zyklon-B gas comes in the form of small pellets about the size of peas.
The delousing chambers had a fancy machine that was used to input gas pellets. Why didn’t they use one of these machines in the shower room?
If I had been an Army photographer, assigned to take photos at Dachau on April 30, 1945, I would probably have been just as gullible as Sidney Blau. I would have believed the prisoners who came forward and led me to the gas chambers. After all, the British had been broadcasting information about the Germans gassing the Jews since June 1942.
February 24, 2010
Who started World War II? Well duh! Germany started World War II, of course. How could anyone not know that? It was proved at Nuremberg, for Christ’s sakes.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the Nuremberg trials:
The first and best known of these trials was the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), which tried 22 of the most important captured leaders of Nazi Germany. Testimony was given from November 21, 1945 to October 1, 1946.
Note the date that testimony began: November 21, 1945
One of the charges against the “major war criminals” was Crimes against Peace, a new crime that was made up by the Allies. The most serious Crime against Peace committed by the German war criminals was the unprovoked attack on Poland on September 1, 1939.
On the day of the attack, Hitler went on the radio in Berlin at 8 a.m. and said, “Since 5:45 a.m., we’ve been shooting back.”
What in the hell was he talking about? Shooting back? It was the Germans who fired the first shots. Or was it? This was something that had to be cleared up before the Nuremberg trial began.
On November 20, 1945, a German traitor named Alfred Naujocks signed an affidavit in which he told all about how he had helped to perpetrate a fake attack on a radio station in Gleiwitz, a town on the German border with Poland. According to Naujocks, the Germans had staged this fake attack in order to have an excuse for starting World War II.
Naujocks had turned himself in to the Allies in October 1944. He was held in prison as a potential war criminal until World War II ended; then he was released. Apparently no one thought about getting his story in writing in a sworn affidavit until just the day before testimony in the trial began. Considering that Naujocks was a traitor who defected and went over to the side of the enemy, how much is his affidavit worth? Did he even write this affidavit himself?
There were 21 similar border incidents the night before the Germans attacked Poland, according to Wikipedia. Were these incidents all faked?
The German people are famous for planning everything carefully; they leave nothing to chance. You see, the Nazis anticipated that, in case they lost the war, the Allies might make up an ex post facto law called Crimes against Peace, so they wanted to be prepared to prove that it was really Poland that had started the war by attacking a radio station the night before.
That’s why the Germans faked an attack by dressing up an inmate from a Nazi concentration camp in civilian clothes and planting his dead body outside the radio station while several Germans, dressed in Polish uniforms, went inside the station and terrorized the staff before one of them made a 3 minute speech in Polish over the radio. The concentration camp prisoner had first been given a lethal injection to make sure that he didn’t survive, and was then shot several times.
Sorry, but I don’t buy this preposterous story.
What was the dead guy’s name? Is there a record of him being registered at any of the concentration camps? The attackers were wearing Polish uniforms, so why didn’t the Germans put a Polish uniform on the dead guy? Was this just an innocent bystander who was killed by real Polish soldiers when they attacked the radio station?
Of course, Naujocks never took the witness stand at Nuremberg, so he was never cross examined by the defense. There were only 33 witnesses for the prosecution at the IMT; most of the testimony was by affidavit only, giving the defense no chance to cross examine.
The following quote is from the Nuremberg transcripts on December 20, 1945 when the Naujocks affidavit was read in court by prosecution attorney, Col. Story. Notice the date of the affidavit signed by Naujocks – November 20, 1945 – the day before testimony at the war crimes trial started.
I now offer in evidence Document 2751-PS, which is Exhibit USA-482. It is an affidavit of Alfred Helmut Naujocks, dated November 20, 1945. This affidavit particularly refers to the actual occurrences in connection with the Polish border incident. I believe it was referred to by the Witness Lahousen when he was on the stand:
“I, Alfred Helmut Naujocks, being first duly sworn, depose and state as follows:
“1. I was a member of the SS from 1931 to 19 October 1944 and a member of the SD from its creation in 1934 to January 1941. I served as a member of the Waffen-SS from February 1941 until the middle of 1942. Later I served in the Economics Department of the Military Administration of Belgium from September 1942 to September 1944. I surrendered to the Allies on 19 October 1944.
“2. On or about 10 August 1939 the Chief of the Sipo and SD, Heydrich, personally ordered me to simulate an attack on the radio station near Gleiwitz, near the Polish border, and to make it appear that the attacking force consisted of Poles. Heydrich said: ‘Actual proof of these attacks of the Poles is needed for the foreign press, as well as for German propaganda purposes.’ I was directed to go to Gleiwitz with five or six SD men and wait there until I received a code word from Heydrich indicating that the attack should take place.
My instructions were to seize the radio station and to hold it long enough to permit a Polish-speaking German, who would be put at my disposal, to broadcast a speech in Polish. Heydrich told me that this speech should state that the time had come for the conflict between the Germans and the Poles and that the Poles should get together and strike down any Germans from whom they met resistance. Heydrich also told me at this time that he expected an attack on Poland by Germany in a few days.
“3. I went to Gleiwitz and waited there a fortnight. Then I requested permission of Heydrich to return to Berlin but was told to stay in Gleiwitz. Between the 25th and 31st of August I went to see Heinrich Muller, head of the Gestapo, who was then nearby at Oppeln. In my presence Muller discussed with a man named Mehlhorn plans for another border incident, in which it should be made to appear that Polish soldiers were attacking German troops …. Germans in the approximate strength of a company were to be used. Muller stated that he had 12 or 13 condemned criminals who were to be dressed in Polish uniforms and left dead on the ground at the scene of the incident to show that they had been killed while attacking. For this purpose they were to be given fatal injections by a doctor employed by Heydrich. Then they were also to be given gunshot wounds. After the assault members of the press and other persons were to be taken to the spot of the incident. A police report was subsequently to be prepared.
“4. Muller told me that he had an order from Heydrich to make one of those criminals available to me for the action at Gleiwitz. The code name by which he referred to these criminals was ‘Canned Goods.’
“5. The incident at Gleiwitz in which I participated was carried out on the evening preceding the German attack on Poland. As I recall, war broke out on the 1st of September 1939. At noon on the 31st of August I received by telephone from Heydrich the code word for the attack which was to take place at 8 o’clock that evening. Heydrich said, ‘In order to carry out this attack, report to Muller for “Canned Goods.”‘ I did this and gave Muller instructions to deliver the man near the radio station. I received this man and had him laid down at the entrance to the station. He was alive, but he was completely unconscious. I tried to open his eyes. I could not recognize by his eyes that he was alive, only by his breathing. I did not see the shot wounds, but a lot of blood was smeared across his face. He was in civilian clothes.
“6. We seized the radio station as ordered, broadcast a speech of 3 to 4 minutes over an emergency transmitter, fired some pistol shots, and left.”
And then “sworn to and subscribed to before Lieutenant Martin”.
The following quote is from the transcripts of the Nuremberg IMT on August 27, 1946 when Dr. Hans Gawlik spoke for the defense:
DR. HANS GAWLIK (Counsel for the SD):
I shall now turn to Section B: Crimes against Peace (Statement of Evidence V of the English trial brief against the Gestapo and SD).
As a crime against peace the SD is accused of having staged so-called border incidents before the outbreak of the war to give Hitler an excuse for starting the war. The Prosecution, however, referred to only one border incident in which the SD is alleged to have participated. That is the alleged attack on the Gleiwitz radio station.
In this connection the Prosecution made reference to the affidavit of Alfred Naujocks of 20 November 1945. This is Prosecution Document 2751-PS. The deponent of Document 2751-PS, Alfred Naujocks, was heard before the Commission. On that occasion he declared that the execution of the attack on the Gleiwitz radio station was not included in the aims and purposes of Aemter III and VI.
The witness further testified that no sections of Aemter III and VI were used for the execution of that border incident in Gleiwitz and that the men who with him attacked the Gleiwitz station did not belong to the SD, Amt III.
The witness also stated that by the term “SD men” in his affidavit of 20 November 1945 he did not mean the members of any definite office of the RSHA; but common usage of the term “SD men” referred to RSHA members of all offices which were subordinate to Heydrich.
The witness further stated that he was charged with the execution of the border incident at Gleiwitz, not because he belonged to Amt VI and worked there, but that exclusively personal reasons were responsible for that decision. The witness testified that on the basis of the conversation he had had with Heydrich he had gained the impression that Heydrich would have given him that assignment even if he had not been a member of Amt VI and the SS. The order for the execution of this assignment reached the witness Naujocks not through the official channels of the chiefs of Aemter III or VI. The chiefs of Aemter III and VI had no knowledge of this action.
The members of the SD, Amt III and Amt VI, had no knowledge that the attack was carried out by Naujocks, a member of Amt VI. Particularly the members of the SD-Leitabschnitt which was in charge of Gleiwitz, and the outpost of the SD, had no knowledge of this activity and could not have had, because Naujocks had been forbidden to get in touch with any members of the SD whatsoever in that territory.
The statements of this witness have been reaffirmed by the witness Somman and through Affidavit Number SD-11, deposed by Dr. Marx.
I also submitted 215 affidavits for the office of the RSHA as well as for all territories of the SD-Leitabschnitte and the SD-Abschnitte, particularly for those situated in the regions of Katowice, Danzig, and Saxony. Those affidavits testify that the members of the SD during the critical time had no knowledge of the faked border incidents or the participation of the SD in them.
February 22, 2010
I’ve been reading hundreds of reviews of Shutter Island, looking for one in which the reviewer understands the Dachau Massacre flashbacks, but so far, no luck.
For example, here is a quote from a review by Arron Mesh posted on the Willamette Week Online web site on Feb. 19 at 6:34 p.m.
As Leo gazed at the dead bodies piled like human waterfalls at Dachau, a woman seated behind me at the screening asked, “Is that the Holocaust?” Yes, ma’am.
No, ma’am, that’s not the Holocaust. The Holocaust, with a capital H, was the state sponsored genocide of the Jews, which took place in what is now Poland, not at Dachau. And yes, I know about the Gypsies, the homosexuals, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and all the others that the Nazis considered to be inferior, but they are not counted as part of the big H.
Dachau was the equivalent of Guantanamo bay. It was a prison camp for “enemies of the state.” The majority of the prisoners at Dachau were “political prisoners” who were there because they had been captured as illegal combatants, who were fighting in violation of the Geneva convention of 1929.
Poland never surrendered in World War II, and the Polish soldiers continued to fight as illegal combatants, instead of fighting on the battlefield. It was perfectly legal, under the Geneva Convention of 1929, to send them to a concentration camp instead of a POW camp.
According to the official report by the US Army, there were 31,432 survivors in the main Dachau camp, including 2,539 Jews. Some of the Jews had been brought to Dachau from ghettos in Lithuania. Others had been brought to the main Dachau camp from the sub-camps just a few weeks before the liberators arrived. Some of the Jews had arrived only the day before. Some of the Jews at Dachau had originally been sent to Auschwitz, but had been brought back to Germany when the Auschwitz camp was abandoned. When the Americans entered Germany in March 1945, the Germans started bringing the Jews from the sub-camps to the main Dachau camp so that they could be turned over to the Allies.
The dead bodies that the American soldiers saw were prisoners who had died in a typhus epidemic that started in December 1944 and accounted for half of the deaths in the 12-year history of Dachau.
The American soldiers couldn’t understand why the Dachau camp was not in pristine condition, at a time when Germany was 8 days away from surrendering, after fighting a war for 6 years. Every major city in Germany had been bombed; refugees were clogging the highways, trying to escape from the Soviet soldiers who were raping and pillaging their way across Germany. Food was scarce because all the men who normally produced the food were in the Army, including, by this time, old men and young boys.
Dachau had been bombed by American planes three weeks before, and there was no electricity nor running water in the camp. There was plenty of food though, because the transportation system had broken down and Dachau was the only camp that the Red Cross could reach. Just the day before the Americans arrived, the Red Cross had brought in 5 truck loads of food.
The Germans were doing the best they could to feed the prisoners; they were cooking over wood burning stoves and hauling drinking water into the camp.
The Germans were trying to stop the typhus epidemic – without access to vaccine and DDT which America could have sent through the Red Cross. The toilets wouldn’t flush without running water and the prisoners had not been able to take a shower for three weeks. The barracks were terribly overcrowded because around 15,000 prisoners had recently been brought in from the sub-camps.
If the American soldiers had arrived in 1938 at Dachau, they would have been astounded at how neat and clean the camp was. They would have complained about the Nazis being too hard on the prisoners, making them take their shoes off before entering the barracks and insisting that the prisoners keep everything in perfect order in their lockers. Dachau was like an Army boot camp, only worse.
The political prisoners at Dachau were there to be rehabilitated and to learn the most important Nazi virtues which were painted on the roof of the main building where all the prisoners could see them.
The German words on the roof translate into English as follows: “There is one road to freedom. Its milestones are: Obedience, Diligence, Honesty, Orderliness, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Truthfulness, Self-Sacrifice, and Love of the Fatherland.”
The American liberators should have looked at the uniforms of the German soldiers before taking revenge because of the conditions in the camp. Some of the German soldiers who were killed were Wehrmacht soldiers or Waffen-SS soldiers who had no responsibility for the concentration camps.
February 20, 2010
Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited new movie Shutter Island opened on February 19, 2010. I was there when the doors opened because I was very anxious to see how the flashback scene of the Dachau massacre would be portrayed.
I previously posted some photos of the movie set for the Dachau flashbacks. It turns out that the Dachau scene was completely changed and those photos are no longer valid.
Before I saw the movie, I foolishly thought that Teddy Daniels, the main character, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, was having nightmares about Dachau because he felt some guilt or remorse about shooting German Prisoners of War in cold blood. It turns out that the fictional Teddy Daniels is a German-hater and he was traumatized by seeing the dead bodies of prisoners who had died in the typhus epidemic at Dachau, not by what he refers to as the “murder” of the guards.
In the film, there is a German doctor at the Shutter Island mental hospital, played by Max von Sydow, who looks German, but according to some of the reviews, he is actually Swedish in real life. As Teddy Daniels is talking with Dr. Naehring, played by von Sydow, Teddy suddenly starts speaking German out of the blue. In real life, Leonard DiCaprio speaks fluent German, which he learned from his German grandmother. The German words are not translated, but most people will catch the German word Konzentrationslager, which means concentration camp in English.
His purpose in speaking German seems to be that he wants to express his hatred for German doctors by reminding him of the experiments done by the Nazis. Teddy is angry that a Nazi doctor was allowed to emigrate to America after the war. The Nazi doctors did experiments on the concentration camp prisoners and some of them were brought to America to continue their experiments. In another scene, Teddy Daniels says that Nazis provoke him.
There are several flashbacks of Dachau, lasting about 10 seconds each, before the main flashback which shows the murder of the guards. The first flashback is triggered when Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck are listening to some German music. Chuck asks Teddy: “Brahms?” and there is a ten second pause during which we see the bodies of a couple of dead children at Dachau, before Teddy answers, “No, Mahler.”
Just the thought of anything German triggers mental pictures of Dachau in the mind of Teddy Daniels. Lucky for him, they weren’t listening to Wagner, or he might have had a hemorrhage and dropped dead on the spot, ending the movie right there.
If there were any dead children at Dachau when the American liberators arrived, no one took a photo of them. The dead children that Teddy Daniels sees are his own children, but we don’t know this at this point.
Another flashback shows concentration camp prisoners, wearing striped uniforms, standing with their hands touching the barbed wire at Dachau. The electricity was off in the camp because Dachau had been hit by an American bomb on April 9, 1945, but a generator was still maintaining the electricity in the barbed wire, and a few prisoners died when they ran to the wire and touched it as soon as they saw the American liberators. The photo below was taken after the electricity was turned off.
Very early in the movie, Teddy Daniels mentions that the barbed wire around the mental hospital grounds on Shutter Island is electrified; he explains that he knows this because of some past experience he has had with electrified barbed wire. This is the first reference to his participation in the liberation of Dachau.
Then there is a brief flashback which shows a German officer lying on the floor with his face bleeding, as Teddy Daniels looks at him with an expression of extreme hatred on his face. It appears that Teddy has shot the German officer. We know that the officer is lying on the floor of an office room at Dachau because we have seen earlier flashbacks of papers flying all over the office as American soldiers go through the camp records. Yeah right, like the American liberators bothered to look at the records at the camp before shooting the guards who had surrendered!
In real life, the American liberators confiscated the records at Dachau, then put up a sign at the crematorium which said that 238,000 prisoners had been burned in the ovens at Dachau. It was many years later before the American military turned the Dachau records over to the Red Cross. The total number of prisoners registered at Dachau during the 12 years that the camp was in existence was 206,206. In addition, there were around 7,000 prisoners, who arrived in the last couple of days before the camp was liberated, that were never counted.
In another flashback, we learn that the wounded German officer was the Commandant of Dachau and that he had tried to kill himself shortly before the American liberators arrived. This didn’t happen in the real life story of Dachau.
The last Commandant of Dachau, Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, allegedly killed himself a few days after the camp was liberated. He had escorted a group of prisoners to a sub-camp in Austria, and then allegedly shot himself when American troops arrived. I don’t buy the story of his suicide. I think he was killed for the same reason that Heinrich Himmler was killed by the British after he was captured. The Allies didn’t want to put any Germans on trial who might tell the truth about what really happened.
After Weiter conveniently committed suicide, the previous Commandant of Dachau, Martin Gottfried Weiss, was put on trial by an American Military Tribunal, although there were no specific charges against him and several prisoners testified in his defense. He was convicted and hanged; his crime was that he was the Commandant of Dachau.
The main Dachau massacre flashback shows the American liberators entering the Dachau concentration camp through a gate with a large sign that reads “Arbeit macht Frei.” I guess someone told Martin Scorsese that “You gotta show the Arbeit macht Frei sign because that is the universal symbol of the Holocaust, known by everyone in the civilized world.”
Unfortunately, the scene does not show anything resembling the real Dachau gate house; the sign is just hanging there, like at the Auschwitz main camp. The buildings inside the Dachau camp in the movie are brick and the whole scene looks like Auschwitz, not Dachau.
In real life, the first shots of the Dachau massacre did not take place in the Dachau concentration camp, but in the SS garrison that was next door to the camp. The first SS soldiers were shot before the Americans even saw the dead bodies in the camp or the gas chamber. It was the sight of the bodies on the “death train” that caused the American soldiers to lose all control and murder the guards. In the movie, the guards are killed before the Americans see the “death train.”
The photo above, taken in May 1945, shows the bodies of prisoners who died at Dachau. There were up to 400 prisoners dying each day in a typhus epidemic; the photo shows some prisoners still wearing their striped uniforms, which indicates that they died after the camp was liberated.
The soldiers of the 45th Infantry Division of the US Seventh Army actually entered the Dachau SS garrison through the railroad gate which was open because the “death train” was part way inside the SS garrison. The photo above, taken in 2001, shows the location of the railroad gate and a short section of the tracks, which have been preserved as a memorial to the prisoners.
The photo above shows the execution scene inside the SS garrison at Dachau. Note the hospital in the background on the right. There were other executions of German soldiers in various locations at Dachau.
In the flashback scenes, there is great emphasis placed on the snow at Dachau. The ground is covered with snow and the bodies are frozen and encased in ice. The most visible bodies are a woman and a young girl. None of the photos taken at the liberation of Dachau show dead bodies of women or children.
There were some snow flurries at Dachau, but it was not snowing on April 29, 1945, the day that Dachau was liberated. It did snow on May 1, 1945 at Dachau. The snow seems to be symbolic because it matches the ashes that fall in other flashback scenes.
The actual shooting of the guards at Dachau is so short that it was impossible for me to identify the uniforms that they were wearing. The German guards were lined up against a barbed wire fence and shot by a number of American soldiers who were firing rifles. The first shot was fired at a guard who was trying to run away. The excuse that the real life American liberators gave for shooting Prisoners of War at Dachau was that “they were trying to get away.”
In real life, the regular guards at Dachau had fled the night before the liberation of the camp, and there were 128 SS soldiers in prison at Dachau who were released and forced to guard the camp until the Americans arrived.
The general impression that most people have is that the SS men who guarded the concentration camps were allowed to abuse or murder the prisoners any time they felt like it. Actually, any SS man who did something like that was put into a wing of the camp prison at Dachau that was reserved for the SS. That part of the prison at Dachau has long since been torn down and the tour guides tell visitors that the inmates were beaten for something as minor as having a button missing on their uniform.
The surrender of the Dachau camp is not shown in the movie, and viewers are led to believe that the SS men at Dachau had to be shot because they were defending the camp.
The German soldiers who were murdered at Dachau included Wehrmacht soldiers in the regular army, as well as Waffen-SS soldiers who were sent from the battlefield to surrender the camp to the Americans. The Wehrmacht soldiers were dragged out of a military hospital and shot by the American liberators.
In one scene in the movie, Teddy Daniels says that after seeing Dachau, he knew what men are capable of doing to other men. This trite expression is repeated by every tourist who gets anywhere near Dachau; it makes me want to scream every time I read it or hear it. But in the movie, it has some significance, as viewers will learn at the end of the movie.
Leonardo DiCaprio should win an academy award for best actor for his performance in this movie. The movie is good, but not that good; it is too contrived.
February 13, 2010
A few years ago, I was sitting in an airport in France when an older woman sat down beside me. She had recognized me as being possibly British. If you see anyone with blond hair in France, you can be pretty sure that they are not French.
She introduced herself to me and said that she was from Coventry. Then without any prompting from me, she said that she was a child during World War II and that she was there when Coventry was bombed several times because of the munitions factories in the city. This was news to me. I had always heard that Coventry was bombed by the Germans for no good reason, but only once, because there was nothing there of any military importance.
February 13th is the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden by British and American planes. The bombing of Dresden is usually only mentioned with the word Coventry in the same sentence, as in “The Germans in Dresden got what they deserved because the Germans started it by bombing Coventry.”
I have since learned that Coventry was an industrial city of about 320,000 people when World War II started; the city had metal working industries, including factories that made airplane engines and, since 1900, the city was noted for its munitions factories. The most devastating bombing raid on Coventry occurred on November 14, 1940; the raid lasted more than 10 hours and left much of the city in ruins. The bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe destroyed a 14th century cathedral, which has since been restored. Three quarters of the factories in the city were also destroyed, along with around 4,330 homes.
The estimated number of people killed in the bombing on the night of November 14th varies between 380 and 554, with hundreds more injured, for a total of around 1,000 casualties.
I have been to Germany many times, but never to Dresden. I can’t stand the thought of standing where so many people were burned to death 65 years ago today. I couldn’t even finish David Irving’s book about the bombing of Dresden. In all the news stories today, the number of people killed in the bombing of Dresden is given as 25,000.
In Berlin, there is a bombed out church that has been preserved with a new modern building right beside it, as shown in the photo below.
The German people today love to hang their heads in shame over what their ancestors did in World War II, and they never miss an opportunity to acknowledge German guilt in starting a war that killed 60 million people. It is considered politically incorrect to say that you are proud of being German. The Germans don’t display their country’s flag, nor do they sing their national anthem.
When Hitler came to power in 1933, he gave the Germans back their pride after their defeat in World War I and look what that led to: the killing of 6 million Jews and around a half a million Gypsies.
Inside the ruined church in Berlin is a memorial to the bombing of Coventry and a memorial to the brave Soviet soldiers who liberated Berlin in 1945.
While I was inside the ruined church, taking these photos, I was followed around the whole time by a young Gypsy boy who was begging for money. The church was filled with German tourists, but he had targeted me, probably because my camera served to identify me as a rich American. He didn’t speak a word of English, so I had to rely on my limited German. “Geh weg!” (Go away.) He refused to leave me alone and I appealed to some of the German tourists to speak to him in German for me, but they respectfully declined.
I didn’t want to give this boy any money because he was dressed better than I was, and he was obviously young and healthy, perfectly able to work. I tried to explain this to him, but he couldn’t understand what I was trying to say, so I finally just left the church.
February 8, 2010
The photo above shows the front page of the 45th Division News, an American Army newspaper, published on May 13, 1945. The soldiers in the 45th Thunderbird Division of the U.S. Seventh Army were the first liberators to arrive at the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945. The first thing they saw was a train with 39 cars, filled with dead bodies.
They were so angered by the sight of these dead bodies of prisoners, wearing striped uniforms, that they immediately started killing the first German soldiers who surrendered to them inside the SS garrison which was right next to the Dachau concentration camp. The photo in the middle of the newspaper shows Thunderbird soldiers looking inside one of the railroad cars. The photo at the bottom shows Thunderbird soldiers sitting in Hitler’s apartment in Munich.
The newspaper article begins with these words:
Thunderbirds who last week still wondered why we fought the Germans and their beliefs got their answer at the Dachau prison camp where death claimed victims by the carload and murder was a wholesale sadistic business.
The headline about “Why We Fought” is reminiscent of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous quote, after he saw Orhdruf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, on April 12, 1945, the day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Eisenhower said:
The American soldiers didn’t know what they were fighting for, until they saw the concentrations camps, then they knew what they were fighting against.
The 45th Thunderbird Division soldiers didn’t know and didn’t care why that train loaded with corpses was at Dachau, nor did they care how these prisoners had died. The soldiers made up their minds that they would take no prisoners; they entered the SS army garrison, next door to the concentration camp, through the railroad gate, and proceeded to kill every German soldier that surrendered to them with his hands in the air, no questions asked. Geneva Convention? Never heard of it!
In November 1945, when the staff members of the Dachau camp were put on trial by an American Military Tribunal at Dachau, the first prosecution witness was asked about the victims on the train. The Dachau staff was being tried only on charges related to the death and mistreatment of Allied nationals, and the witness didn’t know what country the dead prisoners on the train were from. The American prosecutor quickly moved on to another subject.
The massacre of the German soldiers at Dachau was kept secret for 40 years. No one knows how many were killed but it was somewhere between 17 and 520. The families of the dead German soldiers were not notified of their deaths; if they asked, they were told that their family member had escaped when Dachau was liberated.
The American Army took over the SS garrison and stayed there for the next 28 years. There are rumors that the German soldiers who were killed in the “Dachau massacre” were buried in a mass grave on the grounds of the former Army base after their dog tags had been removed.
A new movie, Shutter Island, which is due to be released on February 19, 2010, will show a flashback scene which will depict the Dachau massacre.
If you go to Dachau, notice that there is a plaque on the wall of the gatehouse in honor of the 42nd Rainbow Division, which also participated in the liberation of Dachau, but there is no plaque for the 45th Thunderbirds.