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April 30, 2010

Nazis put Moses Tobias in Dachau for trying to flee Germany.

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:06 am

I learn something new every day.  In today’s news, I read about a talk that College professor Sigmund Tobias  gave at the 27th annual Holocaust Commemoration in Holyoke, MA. The article was written by Mike Plaisance of The Republican and posted on the MassLive.com web site.  Sigmund Tobias told a group of Peck Middle School students that he “was 5 when the Nazis put his father Moses Tobias in Dachau for trying to flee Germany.”  I was always under the impression that the Nazis wanted the Jews to leave Germany, but apparently I was wrong.

According to the news article:

Authorities told the family the only way he could be freed was if they agreed to leave Berlin for the Japanese occupied section of Shanghai, China.

They lived there in a ghetto with 17,000 other Jewish refugees. It was one of the few places in the world willing to accept Jews fleeing Germany.

O.K. let me see if I understand this correctly: The Nazis put Moses Tobias into Dachau because he was trying to flee Germany, but then they told his family that the only way he could get out of the Dachau camp was if he agreed to leave Germany and go to Shanghai, China.

So the Nazis wouldn’t allow the German Jews to go to America in 1938?  That’s not the way I heard it.

Ten years ago, I went to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.  The tour of the exhibits starts on the fourth floor where I saw a semicircular niche in the wall that was completely covered with a huge photograph of Lake Geneva. The title of this exhibit is “No help, No haven.” It is the story of the Evian Conference, which President Roosevelt organized in July 1938.

Representatives of 32 countries met at a luxury hotel to discuss the refugee problem after the Germans had taken over Austria in March and made it known that they wanted to get rid of all the Jews. Hitler jokingly offered to send all the German Jews on luxury liners to any country that would take them, but no country wanted the Jews.  America had laws at that time, which were intended to keep Jews out, but after the conference, America did agree to admit the full quota of Eastern Europeans and Germans allowed by our immigration laws, which had not been done up to that time.

An exhibit called  “Night of Broken Glass” is in the next section of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum uses the Polish word “pogrom” to characterize this event which happened on November 9, 1938. A pogrom is a state organized or state sanctioned riot in which Jewish property is destroyed, and the Jews are beaten and killed in an effort to force them to leave a town or province, or in this case, a country. The exhibit does not make it clear that pogroms had been a regular occurrence in Europe for at least a thousand years, and that this was the Mother of all Pogroms.

The caption of the USHMM exhibit mentions that the Jews were sent to the three main German concentration camps, Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald, where they were released if they agreed to emigrate quickly. The caption does not say that they could only go to Shanghai, China. Moses Tobias was probably arrested on the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) and he was one of the 10,911 Jews who were sent to Dachau.

The news article continues with this quote:

“The Japanese didn’t have the personal animosity and hatred to the Jews that the Germans did,” Tobias said.

Still, he said, while Japan resisted Germany’s demand that it execute the Jews, life in the ghetto was a struggle.

So the Nazis demanded that the Japanese kill the Jews for them?  But the Japanese resisted?  Like I said, I learn something new every day.

Another quote from the news article:

He showed slides of a trip to Dachau, which was destroyed but has been rebuilt, including the Nazi ovens.

I didn’t know that Dachau was destroyed and then rebuilt. I always thought that the “Nazi ovens” at Dachau were original, but I guess I was wrong.

According to the news article:

He read from his 1999 book, Strange Haven: A Jewish Childhood in Wartime Shanghai. Dolores R. Stein, of Holyoke, said that in the face of Holocaust deniers, such remembrances are necessary for each generation.

April 29, 2010

Who entered Dachau first on April 29, 1945?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 7:34 pm

Several American soldiers claim to have been the first person to enter the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945. Private First Class John Degro, the lead scout of I Company, 3rd BN, 157th Infantry, 45th Division, says that he was the first American soldier to enter the camp. Col. Howard Buechner, a 45th Division Medical Corps officer, quoted Degro in his book “Dachau, the Hour of the Avenger”:

“As lead scout, I shot the lock off the gate and entered the compound. There were 32,000 inmates, screaming, between hugging and kissing us. The stench was unbearable. We backed out the gate, let a few inmates out and gave them weapons. We cleaned out the guard towers, took knapsacks off of the dead SS and threw them over the barbed wire into the compound.” (more…)

American veterans remember the liberation of Dachau 65 years ago today

Today is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945 and  nothing makes me angrier than reading the exaggerated stories of  the US Army veterans who claim that they were there that day.  I just sat down at my computer to check the news while I eat my lunch.  The very first story that I read about the liberation of Dachau was an article in The Bay City Times, which you can read here. (more…)

Gas chamber at Ravensbrück women’s camp?

I am writing today in response to a comment made by a person in Germany who wrote: “My entire class was put in a bus and made visit the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp in 1986, when we were 12. We were disappointed to learn that there had been no gas chamber at Ravensbrück.”

I am surprised that these school children were not told about the Ravensbrück gas chamber in 1986 because the existence of a gas chamber at Ravensbrück had already been proved in a court of law. SS officer Johann Schwarzhuber, who was the second in command at Ravensbrück, had given detailed testimony about the gas chamber when he testified at the British Military Court in Hamburg.

Schwarzhuber was one of the 16 staff members of Ravensbrück who were put on trial by the British, from December 5, 1946 to February 3, 1947, on charges of killing women British SOE agents who were prisoners at Ravensbrück.

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

Vera Atkins, an officer in the British SOE, had interrogated Schwarzhuber on March 13, 1946 and had gotten him to confess to witnessing the murder of the SOE agents. Schwarzhuber filled in all the details that Atkins wanted to hear, about how the women had died bravely and how the SS men had been impressed with their bearing. (Or maybe Vera Atkins wrote the confession for him.)

In his deposition, which was repeated in the courtroom, Schwartzhuber said that Fritz Suhren, the Commandant of Ravensbrück, had ordered him to organize a mass gassing of the women prisoners at the end of February 1945. (This was in the middle of a typhus epidemic.)

Sylvia Salvensen, a former prisoner in the camp, testified in the British court that Cecily Lefort, a British SOE agent, died in the Ravensbrück gas chamber on May 1, 1945. However, it is now claimed that the gas chamber at Ravensbrück was only in operation for two months and that it was destroyed by the SS in April 1945. (Source: “Gaskammern und die Ermordung durch Gas in KZ Ravensbrück” by Anise Postel-Vinay, 1997, pp. 37 – 40)

Here is a quote from Schwartzhuber’s deposition which was read in court: (Source: “Ravensbrück, Everyday Life in a Women’s Concentration Camp 1939 – 1945” by Jack G. Morrison )

“There were always 150 women who were forced into the gas chamber at one time.  Hauptscharführer (Otto) Moll ordered the women to undress and told them that they were going to be deloused. They were thereupon sent into the gassing room and the door was closed. A male inmate, wearing a gas mask, climbed onto the roof and threw a canister into an opening, which he immediately closed again. I heard moaning and whimpering from inside. I can’t really say whether the women were dead or unconscious because I was not present when the room was cleared out.”

Why would Schwartzhuber confess to the gassing of prisoners at Ravensbrück, knowing that he would be convicted and executed?  Maybe for the same reason that Rudolf Hoess confessed: he could no longer endure the torture by  the British interrogators.  Or maybe to protect his family.  The one sure way to get the Germans to talk was to threaten to turn their families over to the Russians.

The former Ravensbrück camp is one of the few Holocaust sites that I’ve never visited.  I didn’t go to Ravensbrück because I didn’t think there was anything of interest there; it was only recently, when I read Jack G. Morrison’s book, that I learned that Ravensbrück had a gas chamber.

Still, there’s nothing to see at Ravensbrück because the SS men destroyed the gas chamber before they abandoned the camp.  Curiously, the SS did not want the Soviet soldiers to find any of their gas chambers, but they didn’t mind if American soldiers saw the gas chambers at Dachau, so they left them intact.

April 28, 2010

Women prisoners liberated at Dachau

There were a few women at the Dachau concentration camp when it was liberated by American soldiers on April 29, 1945.  A short time before the liberators arrived, these women had been brought from various labor camps in Germany to the main Dachau camp so that they could be surrendered to the Allies.  One of the women, who was liberated from Dachau, was Ann Rosenheck, who told her story to students at Troy University in Dothan, Alabama a week ago. You can read all about it here on the web site of the Dothan Eagle newspaper. (more…)

April 27, 2010

George F. Will’s article about Japanese Americans liberating Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:26 am

On April 25, 2010, the Washington Post published an article by George F. Will with the headline, “Japanese American heroes, bereft of bitterness.”  The gist of the article is that the Japanese-American soldiers, who fought in Germany during World War II, were liberating Dachau while their families were imprisioned in internment camps in America, but they’re not bitter.

Here is a quote from the article:

By March 1945, the 442nd was in southern Germany. Soon it was at Dachau. Eddie Ichiyama of Santa Clara, Calif., who also was here recently, says that “even right now” he can smell the stench. The ovens were still warm. On a nearby railroad flatbed car, what looked to be a supply of cordwood was actually stacked corpses.

[…]

Such cheerful men, who helped to lop 988 years off the Thousand Year Reich, are serene reproaches to a nation now simmering with grievance groups that nurse their cherished resentments. The culture of complaint gets no nourishment from men like these who served their country so well while it was treating their families so ignobly. Yet it is a high tribute to this country that it is so loved by men such as these.

Japanese-American soldiers liberated prisoners on a “death march”

The 522nd Field Artillery Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which consisted entirely of Japanese-American soldiers, is acknowledged by the US Army as the liberators of one of the 123 sub-camps of Dachau, and also as the liberators, on May 2, 1945, of some of the prisoners who were on a death march out of the main Dachau camp.  The photo above shows Japanese-American soldiers on May 2, 1945, as they liberated Dachau prisoners from a “death march” out of the main camp.

Jews and Russian POWs were marched out of Dachau before the camp was liberated

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was composed of second generation Japanese-Americans (Nisei), but commanded by Caucasian officers, was a volunteer unit that was created on February 1, 1943. One third of the soldiers in the 442nd were recruited from the 70,000 native-born Japanese-Americans, who had been interned on the American mainland, and the remainder were Japanese-American volunteers from Hawaii.

Will’s article is disingenuous.  He is falling all over himself to be politically correct, as he praises a minority group.  He quotes Eddie Ichiyama’a description of  the Dachau main camp. If Will had done a little research, he would have known that Ichiyama could not have been at the Dachau main camp on the day it was liberated, April 29, 1945.

It’s a miracle! Seven babies “slipped through the Nazi killing machine” at Dachau

On February 12th, 2010, I blogged about the “New born babies at Dachau.”  Yesterday, I was very happy when I read in a news article that all seven of the Dachau babies are alive and well and even some of the mothers are still alive. Six of the Dachau babies will be attending a Reunion at Dachau as part of the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau on April 29th. (more…)

April 26, 2010

The question that won’t go away — Does Elie Wiesel have a tattoo or not?

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:48 am

According to my blog statistics, the subject that most people are interested in is Elie Wiesel’s tattoo or lack thereof. Why is this so important?  Well, if he has a number tattooed on his arm, that might mean that he was  a prisoner at Auschwitz.  Of course, anyone can get a fake Auschwitz tattoo after the fact, so a number tattooed on one’s arm proves nothing.  On the other hand, if Elie Wiesel does not have a tattoo on his arm, that might mean that he was not at Auschwitz.  But what if he was in Auschwitz and had his identification tattoo removed?  So the lack of a tattoo proves nothing.

I’ve never had the opportunity to see Elie Wiesel in person and if I ever did see him, I don’t think I would demand that he show me his tattoo.  Others have said that Elie refuses to show his tattoo to audiences when he gives his talks.  Elie Wiesel is a Holocaust icon.  Who would be so rude as to ask the most famous Holocaust survivor in the world to publicly display his tattoo as proof that he is what he says he is?

A few years ago, I heard Elane Geller, a survivor of the Auschwitz II camp (Birkenau) give a talk at a local college.  Geller is famous for saying that she ate toothpaste and drank her own urine to survive at Birkenau.  This doesn’t make any sense at all. I had to use baking soda to clean my teeth when I was a child during World War II, yet the Nazis provided expensive toothpaste for the Jews at Birkenau?  More likely, the toothpaste was in the Red Cross packages that were handed out at Birkenau.

In her talk, Geller spent almost an hour ranting about “Holocaust deniers,” and barely mentioned her ordeal at Birkenau.  She did say that she does not have an Auschwitz identification tattoo because her father sneaked her into Birkenau.  Yes, you read that right. At the age of four, Elane Geller was sneaked into the Birkenau camp, hidden under a tarp on a truck; her father was not able to find a Polish family to take care of his daughter and he didn’t know what else to do with her, so he decided to sneak her into Birkenau where her aunt was a prisoner.  But I digress.

Elie Wiesel did not sneak into Auschwitz-Birkenau as Elane Geller did.  Elie wrote in his most famous book, Night, that he arrived at Birkenau on a train transport from Hungary in May 1944, although he did not mention the exact date. The train arrived at night, and Elie and his father were assigned to the former Gypsy camp at Birkenau.

According to his own account, in his book Night, Elie was transferred from Birkenau to Block 17 in the main Auschwitz camp, where he was put into quarantine for a period of three weeks. It was only after his time in quarantine that Elie was tattooed with the number “A-7713,” according to his book. However, the records in the archives at Birkenau show that the number A-7713 was given to another man: Lazar Wiesel, born Sept. 4, 1913; Auschwitz tattoo #A-7713, Buchenwald ID #123565.  The archives at Buchenwald do not show an ID number for Elie Wiesel.

Could two people have been given the same ID number at Auschwitz?  Yes, but not in the series of numbers that started with an A.

This YouTube video shows Elie Wiesel on a visit to his home town and then on a tour of Birkenau.  His bare arms are shown, and there is no tattoo visible.

Newspaper accounts of the liberation of Dachau on April 29, 1945

Mon., April 30, 1945***** Chicago Herald-American

BY HOWARD COWAN

DACHAU, Germany, April 30. –(AP)–

The U.S. 42nd and 45th divisions captured the infamous Dachau prison camp today and freed its 32,000 captives.

Two columns of infantry, riding tanks, bulldozers and Long Tom rifles – anything with wheels – rolled down from the northwest and surprised the S S (Elite Corps) guards in the extermination camp shortly after the lunch hour. (more…)

April 25, 2010

Letter from American soldier describes Gardelegen massacre on April 13, 1945

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:34 pm

I received an e-mail from a lady who sent me a pdf of a letter that her uncle, John Lobb, wrote to his Mom and Dad from Camp Washington in France, probably on July 13, 1945.  He included five pictures of the massacre in the town of Gardelegen, where concentration camp prisoners were burned in a barn by the Germans during World War II.  The photos have since been lost, but I have added photos taken by other soldiers which will illustrate what John Lobb saw on April 14th or 15th in 1945.  (more…)

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