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May 21, 2010

What tourists are told at the Dachau Memorial site

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:10 am

Just once, I would like to see a blog post by someone who has just been to visit the Dachau Memorial site, and has written an objective account of the history of Dachau.  Today, I came across a blog written by Sam and Jamie Lacy which you can read here.  Sam and Jamie visited Dachau on Christmas Day in 2009.

Their blog post includes a photo, which they took, of one of the display posters at Dachau.  I took a photo of this same display when I visited Dachau in 2003 and put it on my web site here.  My photo is shown below.

Photo taken at Bergen-Belsen is on display at Dachau

Regarding this poster, I wrote on my web site:

The photograph above shows a display about how the Dachau prisoners, who were unfit for work, were murdered. I was startled to see this photo, used in a display about the camp at Dachau, because it shows an inmate at Bergen-Belsen, which was initially an exchange camp where most of the prisoners didn’t work and the others did only light work. Bergen-Belsen also had a section called the “sick camp” where prisoners from other camps, who were unfit for work, were sent to recover or die. However, the text on the display does identify the photo as one that was taken at Bergen-Belsen, not Dachau.

This display is completely disingenuous because prisoners at Dachau who could no longer work were not killed, as the poster implies.

Sam and Jamie included this photo of another display at Dachau on their blog.

This disingenuous poster quotes Josef Jarolin as saying to incoming prisoners: “You are without rights, dishonorable and defenseless.  You’re a pile of shit and that is how you’re going to be treated.”  Unfortunately, the poster goes not give the source of this alleged quote from Josef Jarolin, who was a low level camp leader at Dachau.

The quote sounds to me like it came from the testimony of a former Dachau prisoner at the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal against 40 staff members of Dachau after World War II ended.  The prisoners who testified for the prosecution were housed in the SS garrison at Dachau and they were paid for their testimony.  Josef Jarolin was hanged after he was convicted of  the crime of  “participating in a common design to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Geneva Convention of 1929.”  Under the “common design” charge against the Dachau staff members, anyone who had anything whatsoever to do with Dachau, including the Kapos who were prisoners themselves, was guilty of a war crime, regardless of what they had personally done.

Dachau classification of prisoners

On their blog, Sam and Jamie wrote this regarding a poster about the classification of the prisoners at Dachau:

These are the various markings that were sewn on the prisoner’s clothes. The different colors and shapes signified things such as “Bible Researcher” “Jew” “Homosexual” “Pastor” and “Handicapped”. If you had a bar above your triangle it meant you had returned for a second time. A circle under your triangle meant you were receiving “special punishment”. The purpose of these symbols were for disciplinary efficiency–that is, to aid SS guards from a distance to distinguish “what kind of prisoner they were dealing with” and act accordingly without having to see who the man was. Of course, the men’s names were forgotten and they were referred to by a number.

I have read many other blog posts in which the blogger said that “handicapped” people were sent to Dachau.  I didn’t know, until now, that this information is apparently coming from the displays in the Dachau Museum.   Sorry, but I believe that this is completely wrong.

When a prisoner arrived at Dachau, or any other concentration camp in the Nazi system, a Hollerith punch card was made for him. These cards could be searched and sorted by an IBM Hollerith machine; Dachau had four Hollerith machines. One line of the card had a hole punched to indicate the prisoners classification.

According to a book entitled IBM and the Holocaust, by Edwin Black, the IBM Hollerith cards, used at the Nazi concentration camps, had sixteen classifications of prisoners: The number 1 was punched for a political prisoner, 2 for a Jehovah’s Witness, 3 for a homosexual, 4 for dishonorable military discharge, 5 for a member of the clergy, 6 for a Communist Spaniard, 7 for a foreign civilian worker, 8 for a Jew, 9 for an asocial, 10 for a habitual criminal, 11 for a major felon, 12 for a Gypsy, 13 for a Prisoner of War, 14 for a spy, 15 for a prisoner sentenced to hard labor, and 16 for a Diplomatic Consul.

There was no classification for “Handicapped,” because handicapped people were not sent to concentration camps.  They were sent to places like Hartheim Castle, where they were killed.


2 Comments

  1. I just visited the camp on July 14, 2010, and was shaken to my soul. In regards to your comments about the presence or absence of handicapped prisoners at Dachau, many arrived at the camp and were transported to Hartheim Castle where they were murdered(gassed or lethally injected). There was no need for classification so your comment about the absence of an IBM Hollerith classification punch is without foundation. I don’t understand your attempt to discredit or confuse what went on at this camp. Your comments about disingenuous quotes is without merit. How do you know if the quotes or individuals pictured were in this camp? It sounds like you are attempting to smooth over the horrors that happened in this facility. This was the model for all camps and very sick people managed the day to day lives of the prisoners. A very dark time in our history and a visit I will never forget.

    Comment by rab4us — July 17, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

    • The prisoners who were sent from Dachau to Hartheim Castle were not handicapped persons, but prisoners who were terminally ill. When I first visited Dachau in 1997, there was a form shown which the camp doctor had to fill out, giving the name of the terminal illness.

      Here is a quote from the website of the USHMM:
      “In 1942, the crematorium area was constructed next to the main camp. It included the old crematorium and the new crematorium (Barrack X) with a gas chamber. There is no credible evidence that the gas chamber in Barrack X was used to murder human beings. Instead, prisoners underwent “selection”; those who were judged too sick or weak to continue working were sent to the Hartheim “euthanasia” killing center near Linz, Austria. Several thousand Dachau prisoners were murdered at Hartheim. Further, the SS used the firing range and the gallows in the crematoria area as killing sites for prisoners.”

      There were 3166 sick prisoners at Dachau who were sent to Hartheim. Handicapped people from the state hospitals were sent directly to Hartheim, not to Dachau.

      Every prisoner who arrived at Dachau was registered and given a number and a classification, except the ones who were sent immediately to a sub-camp.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 17, 2010 @ 6:32 pm


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