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February 20, 2010

Shutter Island – Dachau flashbacks

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  It turns out that the Dachau scene was completely changed and those photos are no longer valid.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.

Teddy’s purpose in speaking German seems to be that he wants to express his hatred for German doctors by reminding Dr. Naehring 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 the doctors 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.

Real life photo of Dachau prisoners touching the barbed wire

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 not until many years later that 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, that Teddy saw, 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 had really happened.

After Weiter had 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: “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.  In the movie, the buildings inside the Dachau camp are brick; the whole scene looks like Auschwitz, not Dachau.

Real life Arbeit macht Frei sign on Dachau gate

In real life, the first shots of the Dachau massacre did not take place inside 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, and before they saw 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.”

Dead bodies piled up at Dachau crematorium

The photo above, taken in May 1945, shows the bodies of Dachau prisoners who died of typhus AFTER the camp was liberated. There were up to 400 prisoners dying each day in the typhus epidemic; the photo shows some prisoners still wearing their striped uniforms, which indicates that they died after the camp was liberated.

Railroad gate and tracks at Dachau

The soldiers of the 45th Infantry Division of the US Seventh Army actually entered the Dachau SS garrison through the railroad gate, into the SS garrison, which was open because the “death train” was part way inside the garrison.  My 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.

Real life execution of German soldiers at Dachau

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 inside the Dachau camp.

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 had been 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 was 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. There had been 128 SS men in the prison the day before Dachau was liberated. 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 by the American liberators 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 19, 2010

The Diary of Anne Frank – Is it authentic?

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 12:48 am

There is a subset of Holocaust denial which involves the denial of the Diary of Anne Frank as an authentic true story written by Anne herself.  The leading proponent of this denial is French professor Robert Faurrison who wrote an article in 1978, entitled “The Diary of Anne Frank – Is it authentic?”

Faurrison is now 80 years old, the same age as Anne Frank would be if she were still alive. He claims that the Diary of Anne Frank is fiction and that it was written by her father, Otto Frank.

With all due respect to Mr. Faurrison, I think that he and all the other deniers of the Diary of Anne Frank are completely and totally wrong.

Here is my answer to those who claim that the Diary of Anne Frank is fiction written by Otto Frank:

1.  The deniers claim that the Diary of Anne Frank was written with a ball point pen, so the Diary can’t be authentic since ball point pens were not in use until 1951.

The first edition of the Diary of Anne Frank was published by her father in 1947.  Was the Diary written after it was published?

There are allegedly a few notes in the margins of Anne’s original manuscript, which were written with a ball point pen, but it is easy to see that the whole manuscript, some of which is on display in the Museum in Amsterdam, was not written with a ball point pen.

2.  Anne wrote that when the Franks moved into their hiding place, they immediately put up curtains.  Faurrison thinks that the curtains would have  alerted the neighbors to the fact that someone was living in the annex. He assumes that the neighbors would have immediately come to the conclusion that some Jews had gone into hiding.

The neighbors did notice the curtains, but they thought nothing of it, since the annex had previously been used by Otto Frank for his business.  The neighbors assumed that the annex was now being used again for office space for Otto Frank’s business.  At night, all the windows of every building in Amsterdam were covered with blackout cloth because of allied bombing, so the lights in the annex could not be seen at night.

3.  Anne writes about all the noise that they made while in hiding. Faurrison thinks that, with all this noise, the people in hiding would have been caught long before two years and one month, when they were finally reported to the Gestapo.

In particular, Anne wrote in her diary on August 5, 1943 that Mrs. van Pels vacuumed her beautiful rug at 12:30 p.m.  Then she added that Mr. van Maaren and Mr. de Kok had gone home for lunch. Anne didn’t say that Mrs. van Pels always vacuumed the rug at 12:30 p.m. but she could have, since all the workers, who weren’t in on the secret, left the office each day from noon to 1 p.m. so this was the perfect time for vacuuming.

Anne also wrote that an alarm clock might go off at any hour of the day or night.  The annex was a separate building and only the ground floor of the annex was used by the workers.  The people in hiding spent most of their time on the third floor above the ground floor, which would be the fourth floor in American terms.  The sound of an alarm three stories above them probably could not be heard by the workers on the ground floor.

At night and on weekends, the people in the annex could make noise and there was no one there to hear them. Before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m., there was no one in the main building to hear them. During the lunch hour, Anne and the others could go into Otto Frank’s office on the second floor in the main building and listen to the radio or use the toilet.

4.  Faurrison questioned the fact that Margot received her notice to report to a labor camp on July 5, 1942 and the Frank family moved into the annex the next day.  Wouldn’t the Gestapo have followed up on the notice after Margot failed to report?

Otto Frank had been preparing the annex as a hiding place for months, bringing in food and furniture.  He had also been telling people for months that the family was going to escape to Switzerland.  If the Gestapo had checked on Margot, the neighbors would have told them that the Franks had gone to Switzerland.  There were 20,000 Dutch Jews in hiding during the war; the Gestapo couldn’t spend much time searching for just one family.

5.  Faurrison says that Anne Frank’s personality was invented by Otto Frank, whom he claims is the actual author of the book. If Otto Frank had actually made up a diary, wouldn’t he have made up the diary of his older daughter Margot? One reason why some people are skeptical is because the writing in the Diary of Anne Frank is too good to have been written by a girl between the ages of 13 and 15.

Otto Frank revealed after the war that he found out that Margot also kept a diary while the family was in hiding.  Margot was three years older than Anne, and she was very quiet and reserved, not at all a brat like Anne.  Her diary never got published, probably because it was totally boring.

To me, the proof that Anne wrote the diary herself is that no one could have invented her personality, certainly not a man over fifty, like her father.  There is no way that any man could have faked the writing of a young girl who was as unique as Anne Frank. The reason that the Diary of Anne Frank is so popular is because it is genuine.  It is timeless because it captures the feelings of young girls everywhere.

6.  Faurrison questions the handwriting in the original small book that Anne received for her 13th birthday and the later handwriting in the notebooks and the 338 loose sheets, which seems to be the handwriting of an adult.

Of course, Anne’s handwriting changed during the course of the two years that she was in hiding, as she matured from a child to a young woman.  The content of her writing also changed.  The first diary entries showed a child who was very shallow and a total brat.  Her later writing showed a young girl who was becoming more mature and even more of a brat. (Yes, of course, Anne Frank was a brat.  That’s why kids today love her.  She hated her mother.  Doesn’t every teenager hate their mother?)

7. Faurrison questions whether Anne Frank would have known on October 9, 1942 that the Jews were being gassed.

At the Museum in Amsterdam, there is a poster with a quotation from Anne’s entry into her diary on October 9, 1942, regarding the gassing of the Jews:

“The English radio says they’re being gassed. I feel terribly upset.”

The following quotation, which proves that the gassing of the Jews was well known, even at this early date, is from a footnote in The Diary of Anne Frank, the Critical Edition:

In June 1942 the British press and the BBC began to refer to the gassings in Poland. Thus the 6 p.m. news on the BBC Home Service on July 9, 1942, included the following item: “Jews are regularly killed by machinegun fire, hand grenades – and even poisoned by gas.” (BBC Written Archives Center, Reading)

When Anne wrote on October 9, 1942 in the original diary (the one that she had received for her birthday in June 1942), she did not mention the gassing of the Jews. The entry on that date mentions only that Miep had told her that Jews were being “dragged from house after house in South Amsterdam.”

Anne’s original entries are called version A in the Critical Edition. The quotation that is in the Museum is from version B, which is the diary as rewritten by Anne between May 20 1944 and August 4, 1944, and published in the Critical Edition in 1986.

Version C in the Critical Edition is the diary as edited by Otto Frank who chose entries from both version A and version B, publishing it as “Het Achterhuis” in 1947. In 1952, version C was published by Doubleday & Co. in America under the title “Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl.”

As published in The Critical Edition, the following is Anne’s entry for October 9, 1942 in version B, the rewrite, which is also used as the entry for that date in version C, which was published in 1947 by Otto Frank:

“If it is as bad as this in Holland, whatever will it be like in the distant and barbarous regions they are sent to. We assume that most of them are murdered. The English radio speaks of them being gassed; perhaps that is the quickest way to die. I feel terribly upset.”

8.  Faurrison finds fault in the fact that there are two versions of Anne Frank’s Diary.

According to information given to visitors at the Anne Frank House, Anne heard on the English radio on March 28, 1944 that after the war there would be a collection of diaries published and this was what prompted her to rewrite her diary. During the period from May 20, 1944 until her arrest on August 4, 1944, Anne rewrote all the entries in her original diary up to and including her original entry for March 29, 1944, the day before she began writing with publication in mind. According to Anne’s own words, her goal was to convert her diary into “a novel about the Secret Annex.”

According to Miep Gies, who was the main helper for the people hiding in the annex, the adults in the annex all helped Anne when she rewrote her diary.  They didn’t do any of the writing, but they pointed out to her what was important to include, such as mentioning that the Jews were being gassed.

Anne was planning to hide the identity of the characters in her novel with fake names. Anne Frank was to be Anne Robin, the van Pels family was to be called the van Daan family, and Dr. Pfeffer would be called Alfred Dussel. The helpers Kleiman and Kugler would be named Koophius and Kraler. Bep would be called Elli. In the published version of the diary, only Miep is referred to by her real name.

On May 11, 1944, Anne wrote in her diary, regarding her ambition to become a famous writer:

“You’ve known for a long time that my greatest wish is to become a journalist some day and later on a famous writer. Whether these leanings towards greatness (or insanity) will ever materialize remains to be seen, but I certainly have the subjects in my mind. In any case, I want to publish a book entitled Het Achterhuis after the war. Whether I shall succeed or not, I cannot say, but my diary will be a great help.”

On May 20, 1944, Anne wrote in her diary regarding her plan to rewrite her original diary:

“In my head it’s already as good as finished, although it won’t go as quickly as that really, if it ever comes off at all.”

According to the museum exhibit, Otto Frank organized Anne’s papers and typed up what she had written. The pamphlet handed out at the museum says:

For making a transcript of Anne’s diary notations he uses Anne’s loose-leaf pages as the starting point.

Otto Frank took some entries from each version which Anne had written and combined them into the final version, which he published in June 1947 under the title that Anne had chosen: Het Achterhuis (The House Behind). One of the 1,500 copies that were printed in the first edition of the diary is on display at the museum.

Otto Frank used his own judgment in editing his daughter’s writing: he left out a few pages, added a few words here and there and changed a few sentences. He also made corrections in grammar and punctuation with the help of others whom he consulted.

All three versions of the diary can now be read simultaneously in The Diary of Anne Frank, the Critical Edition, which was prepared by the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation and copyrighted in 1986. This is a huge volume, weighing about 10 pounds, which contains diary entries that Otto Frank left out of the original version because they contained embarrassing sexual references. The book also contains the results of an extensive handwriting analysis which established once and for all that the diary is genuine, and not a fake as the deniers claim.

February 18, 2010

Anne Frank – What if…?

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , , , , — furtherglory @ 2:56 am

Statue of Anne Frank in Amsterdam

In July 1942, Anne Frank and her family went into hiding along with four other people, in an annex behind her father’s office building. They stayed there for a little more than two years until some unknown person betrayed them and they were arrested by the Gestapo.  Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was the only survivor.

What if Anne and her family had not gone into hiding?  Would they have had a better chance of surviving?

A few years ago, I visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam which has been turned into a Museum.  There are TV monitors on the wall and visitors can watch interviews with some of Anne’s Jewish school friends who are still alive and well, living in Israel. They didn’t go into hiding and they survived.

Otto Frank office and factory building in Amsterdam

After they were arrested by the Gestapo, Anne and the others who hid in the annex were sent to the Westerbork transit camp in Holland. Westerbork had originally been set up as an internment camp for Jews who were illegal immigrants in Holland, so it was a nice camp, not like the typical Nazi concentration camp.

But Anne didn’t get to enjoy her time in Westerbork. Because Anne’s family had gone into hiding, they were put into the “punishment” section of Westerbork.  There, Anne and her sister Margot and her mother were put to work taking apart old batteries.

I wouldn’t touch an old battery with a ten foot pole, much less take one apart.  Think of what being exposed to battery acid for a couple of months will do to your health.  Anne’s mother died of tuberculosis, or possibly some other lung condition, after five months at the Auschwitz II camp, also known as Birkenau.

After less than two months at Birkenau, Anne and her sister Margot were transferred to the Bergen Belsen camp in Germany in October 1944.  We know that the train carrying Anne and Margot to Bergen-Belsen was a “sick transport” because the Red Cross was asked to monitor the train along the way.

The Bergen-Belsen camp had 8 different sections, including a sick camp where prisoners who were terminally ill, and could no longer work, were sent to die. But Anne and her sister were not being sent to the sick camp at Bergen-Belsen.

Anne and Margot Frank were put into a new section in Bergen-Belsen where prefabricated barracks from the abandoned Plaszow camp were supposed to have been set up.  (Plaszow was the camp shown in Schindler’s List where the Commandant shot prisoners from the balcony.)

For some reason, the barracks from Plaszow never arrived at Bergen-Belsen and tents had to be set up for the sick prisoners on this transport.  If Anne and Margot were not sick already, they certainly would be after a few weeks of sleeping on the ground inside a canvas tent in October.

The tents blew down during a storm a few weeks later, and Anne and Margot were put into barracks that were already full.  A typhus epidemic started at Bergen-Belsen in December 1944 and Anne and Margo had virtually no chance of surviving in an over-crowded barrack.

Meanwhile, Anne’s school friends from Amsterdam were living in the Star camp at Bergen-Belsen where they had uncrowded barracks and received better food, including Red Cross packages.  The Red Cross packages were important for survival because they contained oranges and other items necessary for maintaining good health.

Anne and Margot Frank didn’t get Red Cross packages at Bergen-Belsen because they were being punished for going into hiding.

So how did Anne’s childhood friends get into the best section of Bergen-Belsen?  Their families  were Zionists who wanted to go to Palestine.

Bergen-Belsen was originally set up as a holding camp for Jews who wanted to go to Palestine; they were available to be exchanged for German citizens being held in prison by the Allies.  It was not until December 1944 that Bergen Belsen became a concentration camp.

Anne Frank’s mother was an Orthodox Jew but her father was not very religious; he was not a  Zionist.  Besides that, the Franks didn’t qualify for the prisoner exchange camp at Bergen-Belsen because Otto Frank was a fugitive from justice.

In 1933, when Hitler came to power, Otto Frank was not in danger of being persecuted — he was in danger of being prosecuted.  That’s right, Otto Frank and his brother were both indicted for bank fraud in 1933, and were scheduled to be put on trial.  Otto Frank tried to get a visa to come to America, but was denied, so he escaped to Holland and entered the country illegally.  His family followed him a few months later.

Otto Frank had been preparing a hiding place for months, while he told everyone that the family was planning to escape to Switzerland. In July 1942, Margot Frank received a letter from the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration), ordering her to report to a work camp. The next day, the Frank family moved into the annex.

Otto Frank’s family had been rich for  many years, and his wife’s family was even richer.  For centuries, no one in either of their families had ever worked a day doing manual labor.  It was unthinkable that 16-year-old Margot would have to work with her hands on a farm or in a factory.

But what if Margot had reported for work?  She would have worked in a labor camp for a year or two and then would have been allowed to return to her family. She would have been paid a small amount of money for her work and she would have been allowed to send food home to the family. On weekends, she would have been allowed to go into a nearby town.  (Source: “The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer, published in 2003.)

Instead Margot spent the next two years cooped up in a room where she had to be quiet the whole day.

Otto Frank’s office and the annex behind it

Photo Credit: Anne Frank Stichting, Tekening: Eric van Rootselaar

Shown above is a cross section of the house and the Annex. On the left is the main house, with the annex on the right. Tourists enter the house through a door that has been cut into the wall of the passageway which connects the main building and the annex on the ground floor. Anne Frank’s room is on the 2nd floor (3rd floor in American terms) on the side nearest to the viewer.

The officer who came to arrest the Franks in August 1944 was Karl Silberbauer.  He noticed that Otto Frank had an Iron Cross medal that he had received in World War I.  Silberbauer asked Otto why he had gone into hiding when Jewish veterans of World War I were initially exempt from being sent to a concentration camp, and were later sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto. In other words, Otto Frank would have been one of the “prominent” Jews because of his status as a veteran and a holder of the Iron Cross, and as a prominent Jew, he could have stayed at Theresienstadt throughout the war. (Source: Anne Frank, the Biography by Melissa Mueller)

It is possible that Otto Frank was never in the military in World War I and that he purchased his Iron Cross medal like many other Jews.  This was so common that Hitler commissioned a study to find out exactly how many Jews had served in the Army in World War I.

Anne Frank at age 13

If Anne Frank had survived, she would be 80 years old in June this year.

What if Anne Frank had lived? What kind of person would she be?

Here is a clue:

The first thing you see, on your way through the building at 265 Prinsengracht, is the famous photo of Anne (shown above) which appears on the cover of the American edition of The Diary of Anne Frank, and a large poster with one of the most famous quotations from her diary, written on April 9, 1944.

“One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we will be people again, and not just Jews! We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. But then, we’ll want to be.”

That quote from Anne Frank’s diary reveals that Anne herself was a Zionist.  If she were alive today, she would probably be living in Israel with her childhood friends.

February 16, 2010

Jehovah’s Witnesses – mistreated by the Nazis?

Jehovah's Witnesses at the Niederhagen camp near Wewelsburg

The photo above appears on my web site on this page.

Under the photo, I wrote this sentence:

“Note that the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the photo above appear to have been well treated.”

Recently, I got an e-mail from a woman who claimed that I was wrong in saying that the prisoners in this photo look like they were well treated.  She claims that the photo was taken long after the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the photo had been released and had recovered from their torture and mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis.

It is possible that some of the Jehovah’s Witnesses from the Niederhagen camp kept their striped prison shirts and posed years later for a photo.  It is also possible that their prison shirts still fit them when they gained weight after being released.

There is nothing that indicates the date of the photo.  Most of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Niederhagen camp were over 40 years old when they were sent there. They were selected from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp because of their building skills.  The Niederhagen camp was set up to house prisoners who were working on restoring the  Wewelsburg castle.

North tower of Wewelsburg Castle

The following quote is from my own web page about the Jehovah’s Witnesses at Niederhagen concentration camp:

After several escape attempts by the German criminals at Niederhagen, they were replaced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, called “Bible students,” who were considered to be more trustworthy and not likely to escape. The Nazis called the Bible students “volunteer prisoners” because they could have been released at any time if they would only renounce their religion and join the German Army. Note that the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the photo above appear to have been well treated.

According to a book by Hans Hesse, entitled “Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Nazi Regime,” published in 2001, there was a total of 306 Jehovah’s Witnesses sent to the Niederhagen-Wewelsburg camp and 19 of them died. Other sources say that there were 21 Jehovah’s Witnesses who died in the camp.

Hans Hesse attributed the low mortality rate among the Jehovah’s Witnesses to group cohesiveness and their willingness to help and support each other. By way of comparison, there were 903 German prisoners in other categories at Niederhagen-Wewelsburg and at least 357 of them died, according to Hans Hesse’s book.

Hans Hesse wrote that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were selected from prisoners at Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald for their professional skills in building construction. Although younger workers were preferred by the Nazis, 65% of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at Niederhagen-Wewelsburg were over 40 years of age, according to Hesse’s book.

Hermann Pister, the Commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp claimed in his testimony before the American Military Tribunal at Dachau that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned “not for their religious convictions, but for their Communist tendencies.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses who were sent to the Niederhagen camp when they were over 40 years old could not have been imprisoned just because they refused to serve in the Army.  Could they have been arrested because of their “Communist tendencies?”

My e-mail correspondent also claimed that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were separated in the camps and were not allowed to live together.  So how did they support each other with “group cohesiveness” as Hans Hesse wrote?

In the early days at the Dachau concentration camp, visitors were brought to see the “model camp”  including some prison wardens from America.  According to a book written by Paul Berben, a former prisoner who wrote the official history of the camp, the visitors were always shown the barracks of the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they were the neatest and cleanest barracks of all.

Typically, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were given jobs in the homes of the SS officers because they were considered trustworthy.  In the movie “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” there is a scene where a Jewish doctor is peeling potatoes with a knife in the home of the Commandant of a camp that is supposed to be like Auschwitz.  There is no way that the Commandant of Auschwitz would have allowed a Jew to use a knife in his home, at least not while there were trustworthy Jehovah’s Witnesses available.

So what is the truth?  Were the Jehovah’s Witnesses mistreated by the Nazis or not?

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, there were 20,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany and during the Nazi years, around 10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, mostly from Germany, were imprisoned in concentration camps. The USHMM estimates that 2,500 to 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses died in the concentration camps or prisons; more than 200 men were tried by the German War Court and executed for refusing military service.

According to the USHMM:

“After 1939, small numbers of Witnesses from Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland (some of them refugees from Germany) were arrested and deported to Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and other concentration camps.”

February 14, 2010

History of gas chambers at Auschwitz

Prior to the gassing of prisoners at Auschwitz, the Nazis began gassing mentally and physically handicapped persons with carbon monoxide in May 1940 at Hartheim Castle in Austria, and at other locations.

Gas chamber at Hartheim Castle used carbon monoxide which came through a pipe near the floor

The sign in the photo reads:

Gas Chamber – The victims entered the room through a low narrow steel door. Shower installations gave the impression that it was merely a bathroom. As soon as the door closed behind the victims, gas (carbon monoxide) was pumped in through a perforated pipe near the floor. When it appeared there were no more signs of life, the gas was pumped out to enable the removal of bodies. Since 1969, this room could be visited as a memorial.

The first mass killing of human beings by the Nazis, using a poison gas called  Zyklon-B, took place in cell #27 in Block 11 at the  Auschwitz main camp on September 3, 1941, according to the tour guide on a trip which I made in October 1998.

First gassing at Auschwitz was in Cell #27 in Block 11

Adolf Eichmann was visiting the Auschwitz camp on that day, although Commandant Rudolf Höss was away on business, according to the Auschwitz Museum guidebook.

Since 1939, Adolf Eichmann had been the head of Department IV, B4 in the Reich Central Security Office (RSHA); Eichmann’s department was in charge of getting rid of the Jews in Europe.

Karl Fritzsch, the Lagerführer (camp commander of Auschwtz I) took it upon himself to carry out this first gassing, while his superior officer, Commandant Rudolf Höss, was away.

The tour guide told me that  Cell #27 was sealed by packing dirt into the concrete well around the window outside; then the prisoners were shoved inside, Zyklon-B crystals were thrown in through the door, and the door was quickly shut.

The photo below shows the exterior of Block 11 with concrete wells around the windows of the cells in the basement.

Window well was packed with dirt to seal Cell #27

The first tests using Zyklon-B had been done in August 1941 in one of the basement prison cells. These experiments were done long before the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was planned at the Wannsee conference on January 20, 1942. Zyklon-B was, at that time, being used extensively in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and at most of the other camps, as an insecticide to kill body lice in clothing in an effort to prevent typhus epidemics.

The subjects of this first mass killing on September 3, 1941 were 600 Russian POWs and 250 sick prisoners. According to my tour guide, testing done in the previous months had determined the right amount of Zyklon-B needed to kill a room full of people.

In a book entitled Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, edited by Israel Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, it was stated that the murder of 600 Soviet Prisoners of War and about 250 sick prisoners took place in Block 11 between September 3rd and September 5th. The authors also quoted from a report by the prisoner underground which said that 600 Soviet prisoners and 200 Poles were gassed in Block 11 on the night of September 5th and 6th.

Reconstructed gas chamber in Auschwitz main camp

According to a guide book sold at the Auschwitz Museum, the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp was used from September 1941 to March 1942 and after that, the gassing of the Jews continued in “the little red house” at Birkenau. Later, gassing was also done in “the little white house” at Birkenau. However, Danuta Czech wrote that the last gassing in the main camp was done in Krema I  in December 1942.

Ruins of “the little white house” where prisoners were gassed

In March 1943, the first gassing took place in Krema II at the Auschwitz II camp, also known as Birkenau. According to Holocaust historian Robert Jan van Pelt, there was a total of  500,000 Jews gassed in Krema II.

Model of Krema II gas chamber and undressing room

In the photo of a model of the Krema II gas chamber, the undressing room is on the left and the gas chamber is on the right.

Krema III gas chamber building at Birkenau

Krema II and Krema III were the largest gas chambers at Birkenau.  There were two other gas chambers, known as Krema IV and Krema V which had above-ground gas chambers disguised as shower rooms.

Krema IV gas chamber building at Birkenau

The photograph above shows the gas chamber building known as Crematorium IV, or Krema IV, taken in the Summer of 1943 after it became operational. This building was blown up by Jewish inmates in a camp rebellion on October 7, 1944.

The Krema IV gas chamber, disguised as a shower room, was located above ground in the wing of the building which is to the left in the picture. Note that the roof line of the gas chamber is lower than the roof of the main part of the building. Zyklon-B poison gas pellets were thrown into the fake shower room through windows on the outside wall of the gas chamber.

Recent photos of Auschwitz-Birkenau at this web site

February 13, 2010

The bombing of Coventry … and Dresden

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 11:08 pm

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.

Ruined church in Berlin that is now a memorial

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.

Coventry memorial inside ruined church in Berlin

Cross in ruined Berlin church in honor of Soviet soldiers who liberated Berlin from the Nazis

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.

Holocaust survivor turned cartwheels at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 6:36 am

Upon arrival at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, the Jews had to go through a selection process, as shown in the photo below.  Dr. Josef Mengele was one of 36 SS men that decided who would live and who would die.

Selection for the gas chamber or work at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Every Auschwitz survivor has his or her own unique story about how they beat the odds. Some lied about their age when they went through the selection line, claiming that they were 4 or 5 years older than they actually were, so that they would be selected for work. Some jumped off the truck  that was taking them to the gas chamber. A few lucked out because the gas chamber was already full by the time they got there. Others survived  because they could play a musical instrument or paint pictures.

Then there is Holocaust survivor, Dr. Edith Eger, who not only survived Auschwitz, but also Mauthausen and Gunskirchen, two of the worst camps in the Nazi system.

According to a news article in the Del Mar Times, written by Delores Davies on Feb. 11, 2010,  Edith  “foiled an attempt to drag her to the gas chamber by disorienting a guard by doing a cartwheel and the splits.”

Dr. Josef Mengele, Commandant Rudolf Hoess, and Josef Kramer

Delores Davies also wrote the following in her article about Dr. Edith Eger:

“At Auschwitz, Eger, who was a talented gymnast as a child, was selected by SS officer and physician Josef Mengele to dance for him when he visited the barracks. As a token of thanks, Mengele, known as the Angel of Death, would give her a piece of bread.”

You can read the full article about Dr. Edith Eger here.

February 12, 2010

New born babies at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:15 pm

New born babies at the Dachau Concentration Camp

Shown from left to right in the photo above are: Iboyla Kovacs with her daughter Agnes; Suri Hirsch with her son Yossi; Eva Schwartz with her daughter Maria; Magda with her daughter; and Boeszi Legmann with her son Gyuri.

How come we don’t hear much about the babies at Dachau?

Well, for one thing, they didn’t arrive at the Dachau concentration camp until April 30, 1945,  the day after the camp was liberated by American soldiers.  The sub-camps of Dachau were being evacuated by the Germans in the last days of the war and the prisoners were being bought to the main Dachau camp where they could be taken care of by the Americans.  The mothers and babies were evacuated from one of the eleven Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau.

The reason, that the babies and their mothers got to Dachau a day late, was because the train they were on was bombed by American planes.

War is Hell, but for the winners, it is great fun.  The winners get to shoot or bomb everything in sight, including trains carrying people.

The bomb that hit the train carrying the mothers and babies to Dachau was no accident.

In the last days of World War II, America had P51 Mustang bombers which could fly at tree-top level and shoot anything on the ground with 50 caliber bullets.  Or they could bomb any target with precision, using the Norden bomb sight. American bombardiers liked to boast that they could drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from 20,000 feet.

From their P51 Mustangs, Americans were shooting cows in the field in Germany and even strafing trains carrying prisoners that were being evacuated from the war zone.

On their way back, after bombing churches and historic buildings in German cities, the P51 Mustang bombers would get rid of any left over bombs by hitting “targets of opportunity.”  The train carrying the babies to Dachau was a “target of opportunity.”

But I digress.  This is about babies and their mothers who survived the concentration camps.

The following information about the Dachau babies is from my own web site,

Starting in May 1944, thousands of Hungarian Jewish women were transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, but were then transferred to one of the eleven Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau, which were located near Landsberg am Lech in Germany. Seven of the Hungarian women who became pregnant were put into the “Schwanger Kommando,” in one of the eleven Kaufering sub-camps in December 1944. All seven of the mothers gave birth to healthy babies between February and March 1945. Just before Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, the women and their babies were evacuated from the Kaufering camp and put on a train bound for the main camp. On the way, the train was hit by Allied bombs, but the women and their babies survived; they arrived at Dachau shortly after the liberation.

Babies and their mothers in a Dachau hospital

Shown from the left in the photo above are Iboyla Kovacs with her daughter Agnes; Suri Hirsch with her son Yossi; Eva Schwartz with her daughter Maria; Magda with her daughter; Boeszi Legmann with her son Gyuri; Dora Loewy and her daughter Szuszi; and Miriam Schwarcz Rosenthal with her son Laci (Leslie).

Miriam Schwarcz Rosenthal was the last of the mothers to give birth at Kaufering. Miriam was one of the 14 children of Jeno and Laura Schwarcz of Komarno, Czechoslovakia. After Czechoslovakia was jointly invaded by Germany, Hungary and Poland in 1938, the section of Czechoslovakia where the Schwarcz family lived was taken over by Hungary. On April 5, 1944, Marian was married to William Rosenthal, and two weeks later, she became separated from her husband when she was sent to a ghetto. Miriam was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, along with her husband’s family, in the middle of May 1944.

Miriam survived the first selection for the gas chamer upon her arrival at Birkenau and was assigned to the women’s barracks where, after several weeks, she realized she was pregnant. In order to get out of Birkenau, she volunteered for a transport to the Plaszow concentration camp in Krakow. After only a few weeks of working at Plaszow, the camp that is shown in the movie Schindler’s List, she was sent back to Auschwitz-Birkeanu.

Upon her arrival at Birkenau, Miriam survived another selection for the gas chamber, although she was six months pregnant. According to Miriam, the SS guards would ask the women who were pregnant at Auschwitz-Birkenau to step forward to receive extra rations, but the women thought that this was a trick to get them to identify themselves so that they could be sent to the gas chamber.

Miriam was soon transferred again, this time to a sub-camp of Dachau in Augsburg, Germany where she was assigned to work in a Messerschmitt airplane factory. One day in December 1944, while at work in the factory, two SS men saw that she was pregnant; they escorted her on a passenger train to one of the Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau near Landsberg am Lech, where she was placed in a barrack with six other pregnant women who would soon be ready to give birth. Even though they were pregnant, the women were forced to work in the camp laundry.

In February 1945, the women at Kaufering started to give birth. A Hungarian Jewish gynecologist was assigned to help them through, even though he was too weak to stand. A Jewish kapo working in the kitchen had kept the women alive during their pregnancy by sneaking them extra rations.

In March 1945, Miriam was the last to give birth and became very ill afterwards. Boeszi Legmann nursed Miriam’s baby until Miriam recovered.

Mothers with babies at Dachau, shown during a protest

February 11, 2010

Josef Schillinger – the SS man who was shot in the undressing room of Gas Chamber # 2 at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 5:56 am

There are five different versions of the untimely death of Josef Schillinger, the SS man who was allegedly shot by Franceska Mann, a beautiful Polish Jewess, in the undressing room of the gas chamber in Krema II at the Auschwitz II death camp, also known as Birkenau.

All versions of the story agree on these points:

1. The killing took place at Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau.

2.  Josef Schillinger was shot in the stomach by a woman, and he died on the way to the hospital.

3.  The shooter was a strikingly beautiful woman.

4.  After the shooting, all of the prisoners in that same transport  were killed.

These are the five versions of the story  that I know of:

1. The story told by Auschwitz Commandant, Rudolf Hoess, in a deposition that he gave to the British after he was captured; this deposition was entered into the proceedings of the Nuremberg IMT.

2. The story told by Filip Müller in his book entitled “Eyewitness Auschwitz, Three Years in the Gas Chambers.”

3.  The story told by Auschwitz survivor Tadeusz Borowski in a short story entitled “The Death of Schillinger,” published in the book “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.”

4.  The story told by escaped Auschwitz prisoner Jerzy Tabau, whose report, called “The Polish Major’s Report,” was entered into the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as Document L-022.

5.  The story told in a book written by Eberhard Kolb and sold at the Museum at Bergen-Belsen from where this ill-fated transport originated.

I will start with the Filip Müller version of the story:

Before he gets to the part about Schillinger being shot, Müller cleared up one point that I had always wondered about. Where did they put the bodies of prisoners who died of starvation or disease at Birkenau?

According to Müller, there were three underground rooms in the Krema II gas chamber building: an undressing room, a gas chamber and a morgue.  The shooting of Josef Schillinger took place in the undressing room and it happened after dark, when Müller was on night duty at Krema II.

Before he reported for duty that night, Müller says that four SS men (Voss, Georges, Kurschuss and Ackermann) were already there, making sure that everything was perfect for a transport that was due to arrive.

Müller wrote:

“They checked to see if the fire in the ovens was burning well; they checked the door to the mortuary to make sure it was properly locked; they checked that there were no traces of blood anywhere; they checked the fans; and they switched the light in the gas chamber on and off a few times.”

Müller wrote that the concrete floors in the undressing room and the gas chamber were normally wet, but for this “clearly out-of-the-ordinary transport,” they had set up stoves that burned all day to dry the floors, and then Kurschuss sprayed a sweet fragrance in the rooms.

In another part of his book, Müller wrote that the gas chamber in Krema II had fake shower heads, but for this transport, the SS men wanted the victims to be doubly reassured, while they were still in the undressing room, that they were going to take a shower.

Then five more SS men arrived (Quackernack, Hustek, Emmerich, Schillinger and Schwartzhuber) together with Dr. Thilo, the medical officer on duty.

Müller noticed two things about this transport that were unusual: none of them wore a Star of David on their clothes, and none of them had any luggage.

The 1,000 prisoners on this transport were assembled in the yard outside Krema II and a representative of the Foreign Ministry made a speech in which he told them that this was their last stop before their departure for Switzerland.

Now here’s the really interesting part: The man from the Foreign Ministry was in reality Franz Hössler, the SS man whose job it was to calm the prisoners before they went into the gas chamber.  His nickname among the prisoners was “Mosche the Liar”  because of the way he lied to the people just before they entered the gas chambers.  Hössler was hanged by the British in December 1945 after he was convicted of war crimes committed at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Filip Müller wrote that he was one of 18 prisoners who were brought to the crematorium to help with this transport.  They were taken down in the lift (elevator) and “There we waited in the corridor from which doors led  to the gas chamber, the mortuary, and the changing room.”

Hössler “that cunning fox” gave another speech, telling the victims to take off their clothes, but some of them were becoming suspicious and were hesitant to undress.  Half of the prisoners (500 people) who had already undressed were hurriedly herded into the gas chamber.

The SS men began to shout at the reluctant victims and beat them with sticks to get them to undress.

“Quackernack and Schillinger were strutting back and forth in front of the humiliated crowd with a self-important swagger. Suddenly, they stopped in their tracks, attracted by a strikingly handsome woman with blue-black hair who was taking off  her right shoe.”

According to Müller’s story, this beautiful woman, whom he does not identify, began to undress as though she were doing a strip tease.  Then, she grabbed her shoe and slammed the high heel of the shoe violently against Quackernack’s forehead.

As Quackernack covered his face with both hands, the beautiful woman grabbed his pistol and shot Josef Schillinger; then she fired the pistol at Quackernack but missed him.  A panic broke out and the SS men started leaving the undressing room.  Then SS man Emmerlich was shot; he survived but was crippled for life.

The lights went out in the undressing room and the door was bolted from the outside.  Müller was inside the undressing room the whole time.

In the darkness, one of the prisoners in the undressing room spoke to Müller:

“I don’t understand what this is all about. After all, we have valid entry visas for Paraguay; and what’s more, we paid the Gestapo a great deal of money to get our exit permits.”

The doors to the undressing room were flung open and the Sonderkommando prisoners, including Müller, were ordered out.  Outside the door to the undressing room, two machine guns had been set up. At this point, Commandant Rudolf Höss showed up, just in time to see the prisoners shot in “a terrible blood-bath,”  including the beautiful woman. While all this was going on, the SS men had dropped Zyklon-B into the gas chamber and gassed the 500 people already inside.

Müller ends his story with these words:

“The promises of the SS, ranging from work inside the camp to emigration to Switzerland, were nothing but barefaced deception, as they had proved to be for these wretched people who had wanted to emigrate to Paraguay.”

At this point, the version told in a book written by Eberhard Kolb and sold at the Bergen-Belsen Museum will clear up any questions the reader might have:

On October 23, 1943, a transport of around 1700 Polish Jews with foreign passports was transported out of the Special Camp at the Bergen-Belsen Exchange camp in Germany; they arrived on passenger trains at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, although they had been told that they were being taken to a transfer camp called Bergau near Dresden, from where they would continue on to Switzerland to be exchanged for German POWs.

One of the passengers was Franceska Mann, a beautiful dancer who was a performer at the Melody Palace nightclub in Warsaw. She had probably obtained her foreign passport from the Hotel Polski on the Aryan side of the Warsaw Ghetto. In July 1943, the Germans arrested the 600 Jewish inhabitants of the hotel and some of them were sent to Bergen-Belsen as exchange Jews. Others were sent to Vittel in France to await transfer to South America.

Photo allegedly taken outside the Hotel Polski

The controversial photo above was allegedly taken outside the Hotel Polski where Franceska Mann was staying, but it was included in the Stroop Report of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Kolb wrote that all the prisoners on the transport were gassed; none of them were shot in his version of the story.

Now here is  the story told by Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss in the deposition which he gave to the British:

“Sometimes it happened that prisoners knew what was going to be done. Especially the transports from Belsen knew, as they originated from the East, when the trains reached Upper Silesia, that they were most likely (being) taken to the place of extermination.

“When transports from Belsen arrived, safety measures were strengthened and the transports were split up into smaller groups which we sent to different crematoriums to prevent riots. SS men formed a strong cordon and forced resisting prisoners into the gas chamber. That happened very rarely as prisoners were set at ease by the measures we undertook.

“I remember one incident especially well.

“One transport from Belsen arrived, approximately two-thirds, mostly men were in the gas chamber, the remaining third was in the dressing room. When three or four armed SS Unterfuhrers entered the dressing room to hasten the undressing, mutiny broke out.

“The light cables were torn down, the SS men were overpowered, one of them stabbed and all of them were robbed of their weapons. As this room was in complete darkness wild shooting started between the guard near the exit door and the prisoners inside.

“When I arrived I ordered the doors to be shut and I had the process of gassing the first party  finished and then went into the room together with the guard carrying small searchlights, pushing the prisoners into a corner from where they were taken out singly into another room of the crematorium and shot, by my order, with small calibre weapons.”

Note that Höss mentioned the dressing room, the gas chamber and “another room of the crematorium” which must be the morgue which Müeller described.

The story as told by Jerzy Tabau has a few minor points that are different:

According to Jerzy Tabau, the new arrivals were told that they had to be disinfected before crossing the border into Switzerland. They were taken into an undressing room next to one of the gas chambers and ordered to undress. The beautiful Franceska caught the attention of SS Sergeant Major Josef Schillinger, who stared at her and ordered her to undress completely. Suddenly Franceska threw her shoe into Schillinger’s face, and as he opened his gun holster, Franceska grabbed his pistol and fired two shots, wounding him in the stomach. Then she fired a third shot which wounded another SS Sergeant named Emmerich. Schillinger died on the way to the hospital.

According to Tabau, in his report, called “The Polish Major’s Report,”  the shots served as a signal for the other women to attack the SS men; one SS man had his nose torn off, and another was scalped. Tabau’s report was quoted by Martin Gilbert in his book entitled “The Holocaust.”

The story, as written by Tadeusz Borowski in his short story entitled “The death of Schillinger” is based on hearsay, and it disagrees with the other stories almost entirely.

Borowski wrote that the incident happened in August 1943 and that the transport  consisted of Polish Jews from Bedzin.  (Other versions say that it was in October 1943 and the transport was from Belsen.)

Borowski’s version, as told to him by the Sonderkommando foreman, is as follows:

“On Sunday, after the midday roll-call, Schillinger came to the cremo courtyard to visit our chief.  The chief was busy as the first truckloads of the Bedzin transport had just been brought over from the loading ramp.”

The foreman told Borowski that these were Polish Jews who “knew what was up. And so the whole place was swarming with S.S. and Schillinger, seeing what was going on, drew his revolver.”

According to Borowski’s version, as told to him by the foreman, “Schillinger took a fancy to a certain body” and walked up to her and took her by the hand.

“But the naked woman bent down suddenly, scooped up a handful of gravel and threw it in his face, and when Schillinger cried out in pain and dropped his revolver, the woman snatched it up and fired several shots into his abdomen. The whole place went wild. The naked crowd turned on us screaming. The woman  fired once again, this time at the chief, wounding his face. Then the chief, as well as the SS men made off, leaving us quite alone. But we managed, thank God.  We drove them all right into the chamber with clubs, bolted the doors and called the S.S. to administer Cyclone B.  After all, we’ve had some time to acquire some experience.”

February 10, 2010

Shutter Island scene shows Dachau massacre

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 3:36 am

The movie Shutter Island, based on a 2003 novel by Dennis Lehane, opened in American theaters on February 19, 2010. The Dachau massacre scene was completely changed and some of the photos on this page, which I began writing on Feb. 10th, no longer show what is in the movie.

The movie plot centers around Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who is investigating the disappearance of a woman patient in the Ashecliffe mental hospital on Boston’s Shutter Island.

In Lehane’s novel, there is a one paragraph flashback scene which briefly describes the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945. Lehane wrote that “500 Krauts” (German soldiers) were killed by the American liberators.

The photo below shows a scene which was cut from the movie; this scene depicts American soldiers entering Dachau on April 29, 1945. The gate vaguely resembles one of the real gates into the Army garrison next door to the Dachau concentration camp, which is shown in the second photo below. In real life, the American soldiers entered through a different gate.

American soldiers entering fictitious  gate at Dachau

One of the real gates at Dachau

When the American soldiers arrived, they were horrified by the sight of the “death train” that was parked on the railroad tracks outside the Dachau camp.

The train had left the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 7, 1945 and had not reached Dachau until April 28, 1945 because American bombs had destroyed the railroad tracks on the 220 mile route from Buchenwald to Dachau.

Some of the prisoners, riding in open gondola cars on the train, had been killed by American bullets as U.S. planes strafed the train.

Prisoners had been killed by American bullets

In 1954, at the time that the story in the movie is taking place, the shooting of unarmed German soldiers at Dachau was still a closely guarded secret, which would not become known for another 31 years. One of the first newspapers to publish the story of the Dachau massacre was the Boston Globe.

The main character in the movie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, lives in Boston; he was involved in the “Dachau massacre,” that is shown in the flashback in the movie.

Movie scene shows corpses piled up at the “death train”

The photo above shows a scene from the movie Shutter Island which depicts the corpses found on the 39 cars of the “death train” at Dachau. In the movie, there is only one railroad car. This fictitious scene resembles the real photos of the train, combined with real photos of the pile of corpses found outside the crematorium at Dachau.

Note what appears to be barbed wire in the photo, which indicates that the train in the movie was parked inside the Dachau concentration camp enclosure; the real-life “death train” was partly inside, and partly outside, the SS garrison, which was next door to the concentration camp.

The "death train" parked at the Dachau concentration camp

The “death train” parked at the Dachau concentration camp

Bodies piled up outside the crematorium at Dachau, April 1945

Bodies piled up outside the crematorium at Dachau, after the camp was liberated in April 1945

The regular guards at Dachau had all fled from the camp the night before the Americans arrived and there was no one to take care of the dead bodies. There was a typhus epidemic in the Dachau camp and 400 prisoners were dying each day from the disease.

The body of a prisoner beside the “death train”

There were no naked corpses piled up outside the “death train.”  There were only a few bodies on the ground beside the train, as shown in the photo above.

The horrible scene of the “death train” was what prompted American soldiers of the 45th Infantry Division to kill Hungarian Waffen-SS soldiers who had been sent directly from the battlefield, wearing their camouflage uniforms, to surrender the Dachau camp.

Dead Waffen-SS soldier who was sent to surrender Dachau

This scene, which shows German SS soldiers at Dachau, was cut from the movie

Waffen-SS soldier killed by the American liberators at Dachau

Movie extras who played German soldiers

The 45th Thunderbird Division soldiers, who executed the “500 Krauts,” had come upon the abandoned train of 39 railroad cars just before they entered the SS training camp through the railroad gate on the west side of the Dachau SS complex.

German soldiers being executed at Dachau

When the photo above was published, the caption read as follows:

“SC 208765. Soldiers of the 45th Infantry Div., U.S. Seventh Army, order SS men to come forward after one of their number tried to escape from the Dachau, Germany, concentration camp after it was liberated by U.S. forces. Men on the ground in background feign death by falling as the guards fired a volley at the fleeing SS men. 157th Reg. 4/29/45.”

This caption is a total lie.  The soldiers were not trying to escape; they remained standing with their hands in the air until Lt. Col. Felix Sparks ordered the execution to stop. Some of them were wounded Wehrmacht soldiers who had been dragged out of an Army hospital at the Dachau garrison.

Note real life Dachau survivor wearing a warm jacket

Prisoner in movie wearing an identical warm jacket; this actor’s scene was cut from the movie

German guards at Dachau were killed by the prisoners

The American liberators allowed the prisoners to kill the guards and mutilate the bodies. Note the German guard in the photo above with his pants pulled down.

SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrenders camp to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden

The photo above shows 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrendering the Dachau camp to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden of the 42nd Rainbow Division while Red Cross representative Victor Maurer holds a white flag of surrender.

Note that Wicker’s face is scarred; after he was wounded in battle on the Eastern front, Wicker was transferred to Dachau to work as a guard.  Wicker was killed, but no one knows whether he was killed by the liberated prisoners or executed by the American soldiers.  His family was never notified of his death.

2nd Lt. Wicker had been persuaded by Victor Maurer to stay behind when the other guards left the camp.  He had been away from the camp and had only recently arrived, leading a group of prisoners from one of the sub-camps to the main Dachau camp.

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