Today I came across an old news article, dated July 2008, which told about a German prosecutor, Ulrich Maass, who had reopened the case against German soldiers, who destroyed the French village of Maillé and killed 124 civilians, in a reprisal action during World War II on August 25, 1944, the same day that German troops surrendered to the Allies in Paris. You can read the full news article here.
May 31, 2010
May 29, 2010
The World at War is a British television documentary consisting of 26 hour-long episodes. I don’t remember seeing the documentary when it was first shown on TV in 1973. I had lived through World War II and in 1973, I was watching shows like the Brady Bunch and the Mary Tyler Moore show with my family.
The World at War is currently being shown on the Military channel, and last night I watched Episode #20 which is entitled Genocide. It starts off with a young Heinrich Himmler who is concerned with turning the German youth into a strong, healthy “superior race.” Himmler is shown as the founder of the SS, which is described as a superior fighting force. The documentary is narrated by actor Sir Lawrence Olivier who has a cultured, upper class British accent.
One would think that what Himmler was doing was a good thing. What country wouldn’t want healthy young people and a strong, loyal army? Yet there is a sinister undertone to Olivier’s voice that signals to the viewer that what Himmler is creating will result in the worst crime in the history of the world: the genocide of the Jews.
The documentary shows Nazi propaganda posters in which Jews are depicted as ugly caricatures. It mentions that the Germans considered the Jews and also the Slavs (Russians and Poles) to be untermenschen or sub-human people.
The photo above was published in Julius Streicher’s newspaper “Der Stürmer.” I couldn’t find any of the Nazis posters that were shown in the documentary.
Jews are shown being forced into ghettos where, we are told, they were deliberately starved to death. Then we see the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto and the famous photo of the little boy with his hands up, which some people don’t believe was taken in the Warsaw ghetto. You can read more about this photo on my scrapbookpages web site here.
In the documentary, we see some real film footage of the Einsatzgruppen shooting the Jews in pits. A woman survivor describes how she was shot and how she fell into a pit of blood, but she didn’t die.
Another person, who spoke on camera in the documentary at that point, was Wilhelm Höttl, one of Himmler’s associates, who testified at the Nuremberg IMT after the war. Höttl said something about Himmler being dissatisfied with the shooting of the Jews because it was “not enough.” I was expecting Höttl to tell the famous story of Himmler’s leather coat being hit with bits of brains as the Jews were shot in the head only a few feet from where he was watching, but he didn’t. This story is usually told to explain why Himmler decided to use a more humane method of killing the Jews. More humane for the German soldiers who had to do the shooting, that is, not more humane for the Jews.
In any case, this led into how Himmler made the decision to use gas chambers instead of shooting the Jews. But first, Höttl repeated his hearsay testimony at Nuremberg by telling about the time that Adolf Eichmann told him that 4 million Jews had been killed in the gas chambers and 2 million had been killed by the Einsatzgruppen, who shot the Jews in pits. Apparently, the Germans didn’t think that there was anything wrong with shooting 2 million Jews because they recorded the whole thing with their movie cameras.
The photo above is shown in the documentary, and the camera zooms in on the face of the victim.
In the documentary, Himmler is credited with ordering a conference in 1942 to discuss the “Jewish Problem.” The exact date of the conference (January 20, 1942) and the exact title are not given, but I knew that this was a reference to the Wannsee conference, which was authorized by Reichsmarshall Hermann Göriong in a letter to Reinhard Heydrich, dated July 31, 1941. The title of the conference was “die Endlösung der Judenfrage.” The English translation of the title is usually “the Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” but Göring said, in his testimony before the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal in 1946 that what he had really meant was “the complete solution to the Jewish Question.”
Jewish web sites like to use the expression “Jewish Problem,” rather than “Jewish Question.” For example, the Shoah Education web site has an article about “die Endlösung” which you can read here.
Question or Problem? What’s the difference? The Shoah Education web site says that “Hitler and his men” had discussed the “Jewish Problem” for years. No, what everyone in Europe had discussed for years was the “Jewish Question” which was whether or not the Jews should have their own nation within a nation.
Hitler didn’t care if the Jews had their own nation, as long as it was not within the German nation. He was fine with the Jews going to Palestine and setting up their own nation, but at that time, Palestine was a British protectorate and the British were severely limiting the number of Jews who could settle in Palestine.
In 1934, Adolf Eichmann was put in charge of sneaking German Jews into Palestine, but of course, the documentary doesn’t mention this important information.
As soon as I heard “Jewish Problem” instead of “Jewish Question” in the documentary, I knew that the British were being disingenuous in telling the story. Sure enough, the next thing I heard was something about the “decision” to gas the Jews, which the documentary says was made at the conference. Wrong, wrong, wrong! There is nothing in the minutes of the Wannsee conference about gassing the Jews. Of course, it is possible that Adolf Eichmann, who wrote up the minutes of the conference, left that part out, but that’s not what we were told in the documentary. You can read about the Wannsee conference on my scrapbookpages website here.
Moving right along, we next see Karl Wolff, who was Heinrich Himmler’s adjutant. He tells us that he accompanied Himmler when he visited Auschwitz in 1942 and that he personally saw Zyklon-B being thrown through the roof of a gas chamber. You can read all about Himmler’s visit to Auschwitz here.
I was watching the documentary in a darkened room, so it is hard to read my writing on the notes that I made, but I wrote that it was mentioned that the gassing at Auschwitz was done by climbing up a ladder and putting the Zyklon-B poison gas through a hole in the roof. I can’t remember which witness said that, but that person had obviously never been to Auschwitz. The gas chamber in the main camp is on level ground, but has dirt piled up against the sides of the building. A person can walk up the pile of dirt to get onto the roof; no ladder is needed.
The roofs of two of the gas chambers at Birkenau were only three feet above ground, so a ladder was not necessary. Two other gas chambers at Birkenau were on the ground floor and the Zyklon-B was thrown in through the windows.
Two famous Holocaust survivors, Primo Levi and Rudolf Vrba, are shown in the documentary. We also hear about the gas chambers from a Polish guy named Dov P. (I didn’t write down his last name) who describes the gas chamber in Krema I in the main camp. What really caught my attention was when he said that the gas chamber in Krema I was disguised as a shower room, and right at that point in the documentary, a photo of the door into the gas chamber at Dachau was shown. Above the door is the word “Brausebad” which means shower bath.
In 1973, most people had never visited Dachau and Auschwitz was behind the Iron Curtain where no Westerners were allowed to go. In the documentary, Dov described how the Auschwitz Krema I gas chamber was filled to capacity and then little children were thrown in on top of the heads of the adults. After the prisoners were gassed, Dov said that it only took 15 minutes to burn the bodies.
The gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz took place around 30 years before the documentary was made. Dov, a Polish Jew, looked no more than 40 years old in the documentary. He must have been a child of 10 when he witnessed the gassing of prisoners in Krema I at Auschwitz. Children under the age of 15 were gassed upon arrival at Auschwitz, according to Holocaust historians, but Dov did not explain why he wasn’t gassed.
Lots of photos from the Auschwitz Album, taken in May 1944 when a train load of Hungarian Jews were brought to Birkenau, are shown in the documentary, but there is no explanation given about how and why the photos were taken.
On April 3, 2010, I blogged about the opening episode of The World at War in which the story of Oradour-sur-Glane is told from the viewpoint of the Allies. You can read it here.
I haven’t worked my way through all 26 episodes of The World at War yet, but what I have seen so far is completely disingenuous and not the least bit objective, as history should be.
May 27, 2010
Monika Hertwig, the daughter of Amon Goeth, is the subject of the 2008 PBS documentary film entitled Inheritance. James Moll, the film maker, deliberately used bad lighting to make Monika look like a scary monster when she is actually a beautiful woman, just like her mother Ruth Irene Kalder, a movie actress who was the mistress of Amon Goeth while he was the Commandant of Plaszow, the camp that is shown in the movie Schindler’s List.
The most famous scenes in the movie Schindler’s List show Commandant Amon Goeth shooting prisoners in the camp from the balcony of his villa. In the photo above, note the patio doors underneath the balcony. The photo below shows the real life Amon Goeth standing on the patio, not the balcony.
Pictures don’t lie. The photo above shows Amon Goeth, caught red-handed, with a rifle in his hand, but he is not standing on a balcony. Note the patio doors in the background.
Did the Commandant of Plaszow really shoot prisoners at random, from his balcony, just for the fun of it? Not unless he had some special kind of rifle that could shoot bullets over a hill.
Monika’s mother was Ruth Irene Kalder who was Oskar Schindler’s secretary before she became the mistress of Amon Goeth; she was a former movie actress.
In the fall of 1998, I visited the site of the former Plaszow camp and my tour guide took me to see Amon Goeth’s house, which is shown in the photo above. I asked the guide where the camp was located and she said, “You can’t see the camp from here because it is behind a hill.” The guide told me that the house next door, shown in the photo below, was actually used in the film “Schindler’s List” because it was nicer than Goeth’s real house.
The photo below is a still photo from the movie “Schindler’s List.” In the movie, the balcony of Goeth’s house is only a few yards from the camp. Visitors to Goeth’s villa today can see that the house was actually behind a hill and the camp was not visible from the balcony.
In the film Schindler’s List, which is a fictional story based on a novel entitled Schindler’s Ark, the villa where Amon Goeth lived is shown being right next to the Plaszow camp when it was actually far away from the camp. The camp was located in a quarry, but not the quarry where Steven Spielberg filmed the movie.
Thomas Keneally, the author of the book Schindler’s Ark, explained in his novel that Amon Goeth was not arrested for shooting prisoners from his balcony because Plaszow was a labor camp at that time and it was not yet under the jurisdiction of the SS Economic Administrative Main Office in Oranienburg, which controlled the concentration camps. A Commandant of a concentration camp was not allowed to shoot prisoners without permission from the Oranienburg office.
The house shown in the photo above was the last of three houses where Amon Goeth lived at the Plaszow camp. He did not live in this house when, according to the novel Schindler’s Ark, he shot prisoners from the balcony.
Of course, this is not mentioned in the documentary entitled Inheritance.
In the documentary Inheritance, Monika is shown at the site of the Plaszow camp as she meets Helen Jonas, who was one of the two women prisoners who worked for Amon Goeth in his home.
Commandant Amon Goeth had two Jewish housemaids who lived in the basement of his villa: Helen Hirsch and Helen Sternlicht. Helen Hirsch is now Helen Horowitz and Helen Sternlicht, who is shown in the photo above, is now Helen Jonas, formerly Helen Rosenzweig. According to a book, entitled Oscar Schinlder, written by David Crowe, Goeth differentiated between the two Helens by calling Helen Hirsch by the nickname Lena and renaming Helen Sternlicht with the name Susanna. In the movie, the two Helens are a composite of the two real life Helens, although both Helens appear together briefly in one scene.
Helen Hirsch moved to Israel after World War II ended, and became part of the close-knit circle of the “Schindler Jews” in Israel who provided the information that became the basis for Thomas Keneally’s novel Schindler’s Ark and Steven Spielberg’s movie Schindler’s List.
According to author David Crowe, Helen Hirsch was the older of the two Jewish maids who worked for Goeth. She had originally worked in the camp’s Jewish kitchen and was chosen by her superior, Leon Myer, to work for Goeth. Myer took several weeks to acquaint her with the commandant’s personal likes and dislikes. Initially, Helen lived in a special barracks for Jewish workers, but eventually moved into the maid’s quarters in the cold, damp cellar of Goeth’s villa. Living with Goeth, she said after the war, “was almost like living under the gallows twenty-four hours a day.”
David Crowe wrote that Helen Hirsch Horowitz told Martin Gosch and Howard Koch in 1964 that “insofar as she was concerned, he (Goeth) had made some attempts physically and sexually upon her.” Gosch and Koch decided not to put this in the film script because “she might be accused even today of having acceded to his physical demands in order to preserve her life, and this does not happen to be true.”
The story that is told in the movie about how Amon Goeth chose his housemaid is actually closer to the story of how Helen Sternlicht Jonas was selected by Goeth.
According to David Crowe’s book, the true story is as follows:
When the Germans began the construction of Plaszow in late 1942, Helen Sternlicht’s mother, Lola, and one of her older sisters, Sydel (Sydonia), were sent there to work. As the Krakow ghetto was being liquidated, Helen Sternlicht decided to try to sneak into Plaszow because she did not have the blue Kennkarte which was necessary for identification. Helen had already learned about the death trains to Belzec and was desperate to join her sister and mother at Plaszow. She hid in a milk wagon going to Plaszow but was discovered by the driver just before he arrived at the camp. She managed to escape his grasp and made it into the camp, where she was given a job cleaning barracks. One day while she was cleaning windows, Amon Goeth walked in and said, “I want this girl in my house. If she is smart enough to clean windows in the sunshine, I want her.”
Of course, the documentary does not tell you that Helen Sternlicht Jonas actually sneaked into the Plaszow camp.
When Plaszow was being closed in the fall of 1944, Oskar Schindler requested that Helen Sternlicht and her sister, Anna, be put on the female “Schindler’s List.”
In his book Oskar Schindler, David Crowe wrote that Helen Sternlicht Jonas never mentioned sexual advances toward her from Goeth. The sex scenes in the movie Schindler’s List involved Helen Hirsch.
The following quote is from the book Oskar Schindler, by David Crowe:
Mietek Pemper told me that Goeth, who had liver and kidney problems, was not attracted to women. In fact, he found the idea that Goeth was somehow sexually attracted to Helen Hirsch Horowitz pure “baloney.” She was not, he added, “Miss Krakow or Miss Poland.” Helen Rosenzweig added that Goeth was also a diabetic who drank heavily. He believed firmly in Nazi racial laws and would not have had relations with a Jew. This does not contradict Helen Hirsch’s claim that Goeth tried to sexually abuse her when he was drunk. However, the idea, as depicted in Steven Spielberg’s film, that Goeth was somehow infatuated with Helen Hirsch and even toyed with the idea of kissing her is totally fictitious.
In February 2009, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum did a series of interviews with Holocaust survivors called Voices on Antisemitism. As part of this project, Helen Sternlicht Jonas was interviewed by Aleisa Fishman.
The following quote is the words of Helen Sternlicht Jonas in her interview with Aleisa Fishman:
When I arrived in Camp Plaszow, I was assigned to clean barracks. At the third day, a tall SS walked in the room, and he was Amon Goeth. At the time, I didn’t know who he was. But he looked around and he said to the woman that was in charge of us to send me to his house. And I really didn’t know what a brutal man he is, but he was a madman. He was a madman. He always, from the balcony he watched the camp, and he’s standing with the little machine gun through the window. He said, “You see those dumb heads? They’re standing, doing nothing.” He says, “I’m going to shoot.” And you could hear shooting like hell. And I could hear him whistling a happy tune, like he did so well. And this face with such satisfaction! I can’t forget that. The dreams after so many years he’s chasing me, I’m hiding. Because I lived in constant fear, constant fear, just looking at him. He was barbaric.
So there you have it — actual eye-witness testimony that Amon Goeth shot prisoners, who were behind a hill, from a house in which he didn’t live at that time.
In 1943, SS Judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen of the Haupt Amt Gericht (SS-HAG) was given an assignment to investigate and prosecute corruption and unauthorized murder at the Buchenwald concentration camp. His next assignment was to investigate the Plaszow camp. As a result of his investigation, which involved interviewing the prisoners, Amon Goeth was arrested by the Central Office of the SS Judiciary and imprisoned. Goeth was charged with stealing from the warehouses and factories at Plaszow, but not with shooting prisoners from the balcony of his home. There is no evidence whatsoever that Amon Goeth shot prisoners from his balcony, which was not even possible in real life.
After World War II ended, the American military turned Amon Goeth over to the Polish government for prosecution as a war criminal. He was brought before the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland in Krakow. His trial took place between August 27, 1946 and September 5, 1946.
Goeth was charged with being a member of the Nazi party and a member of the Waffen-SS, Hitler’s elite army, both of which had been designated as criminal organizations by the Allies after the war. His crime was that he had taken part in the activities of these two criminal organizations. The crime of being a Nazi applied only to Nazi officials, and Goeth had never held a job as a Nazi official. In fact, at the time of Goeth’s conviction by the Polish court, the judgment against the SS and the Nazi party as criminal organizations had not yet been made by the Nuremberg IMT.
At Goeth’s trial, the Nazi party was characterized as “an organization which, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, through aggressive wars, violence and other crimes, aimed at world domination and establishment of the National-Socialist regime.” Amon Goeth was accused of personally issuing orders to deprive people of freedom, to ill-treat and exterminate individuals and whole groups of people. His crimes, including the newly created crime of genocide, came under a new law of the Allies, called Crimes against Humanity.
The charges against Amon Goeth were as follows:
(1) The accused as commandant of the forced labour camp at Plaszow (Cracow) from 11th February, 1943, till 13th September, 1944, caused the death of about 8,000 inmates by ordering a large number of them to be exterminated.
(2) As a SS-Sturmführer the accused carried out on behalf of SS-Sturmbannführer Willi Haase the final closing down of the Cracow ghetto. This liquidation action which began on 13th March, 1943, deprived of freedom about 10,000 people who had been interned in the camp of Plaszow, and caused the death of about 2,000.
(3) As a SS-Hauptsturmführer the accused carried out on 3rd September, 1943, the closing down of the Tarnow ghetto. As a result of this action an unknown number of people perished, having been killed on the spot in Tarnow; others died through asphyxiation during transport by rail or were exterminated in other camps, in particular at Auschwitz.
(4) Between September, 1943, and 3rd February, 1944, the accused closed down the forced labour camp at Szebnie near Jaslo by ordering the inmates to be murdered on the spot or deported to other camps, thus causing the death of several thousand persons.
(5) Simultaneously with the activities described under (1) to (4) the accused deprived the inmates of valuables, gold and money deposited by them, and appropriated those things. He also stole clothing, furniture and other movable property belonging to displaced or interned people, and sent them to Germany. The value of stolen goods and in particular of valuables reached many million zlotys at the rate of exchange in force at the time.
The last charge, as stated in number (5) above, was the crime for which he had been arrested by the Gestapo on September 13, 1944, after an investigation by Waffen-SS officer Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen. Note that he was not charged with shooting prisoners from his balcony.
At his trial, Goeth’s defense was that he was a Waffen-SS soldier who had to follow the orders of his superiors. He denied killing anyone except when ordered to carry out an execution. He called Helen Hirsch as a defense witness on his behalf.
The photograph below shows Amon Goeth as he was escorted from the courtroom after being sentenced to death. At 6 foot 4 inches tall, Goeth towered over his Polish guards.
Amon Goeth was found guilty on all counts. He was hanged in Krakow on September 13, 1946, exactly two years to the day that he left the Plaszow camp after being arrested. The scene of his hanging was filmed and the film clip is included in the documentary “Inheritance.” Goeth’s body was cremated and his ashes were thrown into the Weichsel river.
Holocaust denial is punishable by five years in prison in many European countries. But what about Holocaust exaggeration? For that, you get recognition, millions of dollars, and an Academy Award.
The first thing that visitors to Dachau are told by their tour guides is that the prisoners were taunted by a sign over the gate which said “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which is translated literally as Work makes Free. Today I read a blog written by Corrine, a visitor who said that her tour guide told her that the “no smoking sign” in the administration building, which is now the Museum, was “put there as a taunt to the prisoners who were not allowed cigarettes.” You can read Corrine’s blog here.
May 26, 2010
May 25, 2010
I am posting today in answer to a comment made by “tampalam” on my post about the scene in Shutter Island where SS soldiers are killed by the American liberators of Dachau.
“Tampalam” wrote: “I have no pity for any member of the SS. They knew what they were doing and they knew about the holocaust. There is no distinction between regular and Waffen SS. However, the summary execution of any person who has surrendered is wrong.”
This opinion of the SS seems to be shared by many people who believe Allied propaganda about the SS, which is totally wrong with regard to the true nature of the SS.
First of all, there was a distinction between “regular” and Waffen-SS. I assume that “tampalam” was referring to the Totenkopfverbände as the “regular” SS. Totenkopfverbände means Death’s Head unit; these were the SS soldiers who guarded the camps. However, “tampalam” is right that the guards and the Waffen-SS soldiers were interchangeable: the Death’s Head SS soldiers could be sent to the battle front at any time, and Waffen-SS soldiers could be sent to the camps for guard duty when they were wounded in battle and could no longer fight.
The letters SS stand for Schutzstaffel, which means protection squad. The SS started in 1925 with 8 men who were Hitler’s personal body guards. The Waffen-SS was the combat unit of the SS; the term Waffen-SS literally means “Weapons SS.”
The Waffen-SS was founded in 1939 after the SS was split into two units. The title of Waffen-SS became official on 2 March, 1940. Although nominally under the leadership of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the Waffen-SS saw action during World War II under the de facto operational control of the Wehrmacht, which was the regular German army. By the end of World War II, the Waffen-SS had grown to 39 Divisions, which served as elite combat troops alongside the Wehrmacht.
In American terms, the Waffen-SS was comparable to the US Marines, but unlike the Marines, the Waffen-SS had volunteer divisions from many other countries. In 1944, there were 910,000 soldiers fighting on the side of Germany in the Waffen-SS, but less than half of these SS men had been born in Germany; there were 310,000 ethnic Germans from other countries such as Rumania, Yugoslavia and Hungary who were fighting with the Waffen-SS.
The photo above shows a Polish prisoner at Dachau who was given a rifle by the American liberators and allowed to confront a Hungarian SS soldier, who was sent from the battlefield to surrender the Dachau camp. Notice the cap that the Hungarian soldier is wearing. This same Polish prisoner, who was a member of the Polish Resistance, is shown in the center of the photo below, celebrating the killing of Waffen-SS soldiers at Dachau. Notice that he has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in both photos.
Altogether, there were 200,000 volunteers in the SS from other countries including Great Britain. There were 40,000 Spanish volunteers in the Waffen-SS, and another 40,000 volunteers from Belgium. The Dutch volunteers numbered 50,000. There were 20,000 Frenchmen in the Charlemagne Division from France, and there was a Flemish Division from Flanders.
The Waffen-SS included three Divisions from Finland, and volunteers from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Denmark. There were also Waffen-SS units from the Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Armenia.
So why were soldiers from other countries fighting on the side of Germany? Because the Germans were fighting the Communists, and these soldiers did not want Europe to be taken over by the Communists. America fought on the side of Communism and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave half of Europe to the Communists at the Yalta Conference. It was not until 1989, with the fall of the Soviet Union, that Europe was freed from Communism.
John Toland wrote in his book entitled Adolf Hitler, that Himmler wanted his SS soldiers “to be hard but not hardened.” Regarding Himmler’s reason for establishing SS training centers, such as the one at Dachau, Toland wrote the following:
He imbued the SS, therefore, not only with a sense of racial superiority but with the hard virtues of loyalty, comradeship, duty, truth, diligence, honesty and knighthood. His SS, as the elite of the party, was the elite of the German Volk, and therefore the elite of the entire world. By establishing castles of the order to indoctrinate SS members in his ideals, he hoped to breed a New Man, “far finer and more valuable than the world had yet seen.”
The “castle of the order” referred to in the paragraph above was located at Wewelsburg, Germany. You can read all about the Wewelsburg castle here.
The words on the SS emblem, translated into English, are “My Honor is named Loyalty.”
The SS soldiers were held to higher standards than regular Wehrmacht soldiers in the German Army and the SS was subjected to the strictest discipline. Sentences handed down by SS courts were more severe than sentences passed by other courts for the same offense.
A separate wing on the east side of the bunker (camp prison) at Dachau was reserved for SS soldiers who had committed a criminal act. This section has been torn down and can no longer be seen at the Dachau Memorial Site. When Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, there were 128 SS men incarcerated in the Dachau bunker. They were released and given the job of guarding the prisoners until the American liberators arrived. Most of the regular guards at Dachau had fled the night before the camp was liberated.
At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, SS Lt. General Ernst Kaltenbrunner testified that there were 13 Stammlager (main concentration camps) in the Nazi camp system. One of these camps was Matzgau, located near Danzig; it was a camp where SS guards were imprisoned for offenses such as physical mistreatment of concentration camp prisoners, embezzlement, or theft. Yet tour guides at Dachau routinely tell visitors that the guards could do anything they wanted to with regard to abusing or killing the prisoners.
In 1943, a Waffen-SS officer named Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, who was also an attorney, was authorized by Himmler to conduct investigations into corruption and brutality in the concentration camps. Around 800 investigations of the SS were conducted, which resulted in around 200 indictments.
Among those who were indicted by Morgen was Amon Goeth, the Commandant who was featured in the film, Schindler’s List. Goeth was arrested and was awaiting trial when World War II ended. Dr. Morgen spent two months at Dachau doing an investigation of the camp but found no crimes that had been committed by the SS men at Dachau. The Dachau commandant, Martin Gottfried Weiss, was given a good report. Yet he was prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal and hanged after he was convicted. His crime was that he was the Commandant of a Nazi concentration camp and as such, he was a war criminal.
Even before Morgen started his investigations, two of the Commandants of Dachau, Hilmar Wäckerle and Alex Piorkowski, had been dismissed from their jobs by Himmler, after accusations of murder in the camp were brought to his attention. The common belief that the SS guards at Dachau and other camps were allowed to abuse or kill the prisoners is completely unfounded. In spite of this, tour guides at Dachau tell visitors that the SS men were trained in a “school of terror” at Dachau, when they were actually trained to be concentration camp administrators.
You can read more about the history of the SS on my web site here.
A former German SS soldier, who is now an American citizen, wrote a book entitled SS Panzergrenadier: A True Story of World War II, about his army service when he was a teen-aged volunteer in the 1st SS Leibstandarte Division of the Waffen-SS. In his book, Schmidt defends the SS and describes the life of an SS soldier in World War II. He also writes about his days as a member of the Hitler Youth.
The photo below is from the cover of his book.
May 24, 2010
I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal, published on November 25, 2003, about a young Jewish boy who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald and the death train to Dachau; you can read the full article here. After Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, the boy was moved, along with other Dachau survivors, to the SS garrison next door to the concentration camp, which had been taken over by the American Army. There he met some African American soldiers who were in a supply convoy. Lt. John Withers, the leader of the all-black convoy, violated Army orders by hiding this boy and another Dachau death train survivor among the black soldiers in his unit. The two boys stayed with the African American unit for more than a year while they recovered their health. They could have remained with the other Displaced Persons at the SS garrison and been taken care of, but these two boys decided that they wanted their freedom after being in Nazi prison camps for years. (more…)
May 23, 2010
Last night I saw a TV show about the Holocaust survivors who live in the state of Tennessee and the American liberators of the Nazi concentration camps who also live in Tennessee. Among the survivors who spoke on camera were Eva Rosenfeld and Hedy Lustig. Some of the survivors were in the Lodz ghetto until late in the war when they were sent to Auschwitz. One of the American liberators was Jimmy Gentry who was with the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US Seventh Army during World War II. (more…)
Lawrence Rees, a well known British historian, is launching a new web site (www.WW2history.com) which will tell the true story of World War II and combat Holocaust denial, according to a news article which you can read here.
According to the article, “Among the main features will be timelines for four theatres of war; the Western Front, the Eastern Front, the Pacific Front and the Holocaust.” (more…)
May 22, 2010
Martin Sommer was the SS man who was in charge of the bunker, which was the camp prison at Buchenwald. Sommer is famous as the alleged innovator of the hanging punishment in which prisoners were hung by their arms from the trees in the forest surrounding the Buchenwald camp. In 1942 Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the man in charge of all the Nazi concentration camps, had decreed that the guards were forbidden to “lay violent hands on the prisoners.”
Martin Sommer was put on trial by SS judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen in a Nazi court in 1943 at the same time that Buchenwald Commandant Karl Otto Koch and his wife Ilse were put on trial for embezzlement and abuse of the prisoners at Buchenwald. Karl Otto Koch was convicted and executed, but his wife was acquitted of all charges. Martin Sommer was transferred to the Russian front after the trial.
Martin Sommer escaped punishment for his alleged crimes until 1958, when he was put on trial in Bayreuth district court in West Germany and convicted of the murder of 25 prisoners by injection. Sommer received a life sentence; the case was upheld in May 1959 by the Federal Court. (more…)