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March 10, 2010

Controversial photo from the Warsaw ghetto

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:57 am

Photo Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Here is the USHMM caption of the photo above:

“Jews captured by German troops during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April-May 1943. This photograph appeared in the Stroop Report, an album compiled by SS Major General Juergen Stroop, commander of German forces that suppressed the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The album was introduced as evidence at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. In the decades since the trial this photo has become one of the iconographic images of the Holocaust.”

The following quote, from the USHMM, explains the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising:

In the summer of 1942, about 300,000 Jews were deported from Warsaw to Treblinka. When reports of mass murder in the killing center leaked back to the Warsaw ghetto, a surviving group of mostly young people formed an organization called the Z.O.B. (for the Polish name, Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa, which means Jewish Fighting Organization). The Z.O.B., led by 23-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz, issued a proclamation calling for the Jewish people to resist going to the railroad cars. In January 1943, Warsaw ghetto fighters fired upon German troops as they tried to round up another group of ghetto inhabitants for deportation. Fighters used a small supply of weapons that had been smuggled into the ghetto. After a few days, the troops retreated. This small victory inspired the ghetto fighters to prepare for future resistance.

On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. Seven hundred and fifty fighters fought the heavily armed and well-trained Germans. The ghetto fighters were able to hold out for nearly a month, but on May 16, 1943, the revolt ended. The Germans had slowly crushed the resistance. Of the more than 56,000 Jews captured, about 7,000 were shot, and the remainder were deported to camps.

The Stroop Report is very important because it was mentioned in the opening statement by Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal:

I shall not dwell on this subject longer than to quote one more sickening document which evidences the planned and systematic character of the Jewish persecutions. I hold a report written with Teutonic devotion to detail, illustrated with photographs to authenticate its almost incredible text, and beautifully bound in leather with the loving care bestowed on a proud work. It is the original report of the SS Brigadier General Stroop in charge of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and its title page carries the inscription, “The Jewish ghetto in Warsaw no longer exists.” It is characteristic that one of the captions explains that the photograph concerned shows the driving out of Jewish “bandits”; those whom the photograph shows being driven out are almost entirely women and little children. It contains a day-by-day account of the killings mainly carried out by the SS organization, too long to relate, but let me quote General Stroop’s summary:

“The resistance put up by the Jews and bandits could only be suppressed by energetic actions of our troops day and night. The Reichsführer SS ordered, therefore, on 23 April 1948, the clearing out of the ghetto with utter ruthlessness and merciless tenacity. I, therefore, decided to destroy and burn down the entire ghetto without regard to the armament factories. These factories were systematically dismantled and then burned. Jews usually left their hideouts, but frequently remained in the burning buildings and jumped out of the windows only when the heat became unbearable. They then tried to crawl with broken bones across the street into buildings which were not afire. Sometimes they changed their hideouts during the night into the ruins of burned buildings. Life in the sewers was not pleasant after the first week. Many times we could hear loud voices in the sewers. SS men or policemen climbed bravely through the manholes to capture these Jews. Sometimes they stumbled over Jewish corpses; sometimes they were shot at. Tear gas bombs were thrown into the manholes and the Jews driven out of the sewers and captured. Countless numbers of Jews were liquidated in sewers and bunkers through blasting. The longer the resistance continued the tougher became the members of the Waffen SS, Police and Wehrmacht who always discharged their duties in an exemplary manner. Frequently Jews who tried to replenish their food supplies during the night or to communicate with neighboring groups were exterminated.

“This action eliminated,” says the SS commander, “a proved total of 56,065. To that, we haste to add the number killed through blasting, fire, etc., which cannot be counted.” (1061-PS)

We charge that all atrocities against Jews were the manifestation and culmination of the Nazi plan to which every defendant here was a party.

The defendants at the Nuremberg IMT were charged with participating in a “common plan” to commit war crimes, and Jackson is saying that the “Stroop Report” is evidence of that plan, which means that the photo of the little boy with his hands in the air, which is in the “Stroop Report,” is included in the evidence of a “common plan” to exterminate the Jews.

So far, so good.  So why is this photo controversial?  Well, some people think that this photo was not taken in the Warsaw Ghetto, so what is it doing in the “Stroop Report”?  Good question.

Long after the war, Tsvi Nussbaum claimed to be the 7-year-old boy in the photo above.  According to the “Stroop Report,” the photo was taken during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which took place between April 19, 1943 and May 16, 1943 before Tsvi was arrested. However, Nussbaum claims that the photo was taken when he was arrested on July 13, 1943 in front of the Hotel Polski on the Aryan side of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Tsvi C. Nussbaum claims that he and his aunt had been living as Gentiles in the Hotel Polski.  Since they had foreign passports, they were sent, after they were arrested, to the Bergen-Belsen detention camp as “exchange Jews.”

Tsvi was one of the survivors of Bergen-Belsen. In 1945, he went to Palestine, but in 1953 he moved to America. He became a doctor, specializing in ear, nose and throat, in Rockland County in upstate New York.

Coincidentially, another person arrested at the Hotel Polski was the  beautiful Franceska Mann, who allegedly shot  SS man Josef Schillinger in the undressing room of the gas chamber in Krema II at the Auschwitz II death camp, also known as Birkenau.  Franceska Mann was one of the Jews who had a foreign passport and was initially sent to Bergen-Belsen.  I blogged about Schillinger on February 5, 2010.

So who is right, Nussbaum or the “Stroop Report”? And why would Jürgen Stroop put a fake photo into his report?  Was he trying to impress his superior officers with the brutality of the soldiers who put down the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising?  I don’t know the answer to these questions.  You tell me.

The reason why these questions are important is this:  If the photo was taken in the Warsaw Ghetto and if Nussbaum is the boy in the photo and he wasn’t killed, then this means that the Nazis  had no “common plan” to commit the war crime of genocide of the Jews.  If Nussbaum is the boy in the photo, regardless of where it was taken, and he survived, then there was no “common plan” to kill all the Jews.  That is why so many researchers have concentrated on this photo, trying to prove something, one way or another.