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June 15, 2010

How the story of Dachau, as told to tourists, has changed over the years…

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:51 am

This morning, I came across some excellent photos of Dachau, taken by a visitor who was there on May 27, 2010.  Included among the photos, which you can see here, were two photos of signs that have been put up at the camp since I last visited.

One of the new signs has these words:

The particular hate of the SS men was vented [on the Jewish prisoners], they were beaten, hounded by dogs, starved, forced to heavy, trying work, and above all hit with rifle butts and batons until they died under the beating. If someone needed too long to die, a SS man with boots jumped on his chest, the breastbone broke with dry crackle, blood flowed out of the victim’s mouth, and then slowly the body went rigid.

“Listy spod morwy” (Leaves under the Mulberry Tree) prisoner account of Gustaw Morcinek (1940 – 1945 in the Dachau conentration camp), 1957 (excerpt)

Right away, I deduced that Gustaw Morcinek was not Jewish because he was a prisoner in the camp from 1940 to 1945, and he was not stomped to death by an SS man.

I had never heard of Gustaw Morcinek, nor his book Leaves under the Mulberry Tree, so I had to google him.  I learned from Wikipedia that Morcinek was arrested in Poland by the Gestapo on September 6, 1939, less than a week after Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  According to Wikipedia, the supposed reason given for his arrest was his “anti-German activity” before World War II.  Was Morcinek one of the Poles who were killing ethnic Germans in Poland or forcing them off their land?

Soon after the Germans crossed the border on September 1, 1939, they talked to tearful ethnic German women in Poland who told them all about the atrocities committed by the Poles; the Germans filmed this scene and you can still see it in some documentaries.

I think that the quote from Gustaw Morcinek needs an explanation, so that visitors can evaluate his degree of bias.  It should be mentioned on the sign that Morcinek was one of the first people arrested in Poland for his “anti-German activities” before the war.  An explanation of just what those activities were would be helpful.  One of the stories that I read was that the Poles were killing ethnic Germans, then cutting open the corpse and stuffing a dead rabbit inside.  I would really like to know what that was all about.

As for Morcinek’s description of how the prisoners were treated, the SS men had a different version of the story.  Rudolf Hoess, the infamous Commandant of Auschwitz, was a member of the Dachau staff from 1934 to 1938. With regard to Dachau and the other Nazi camps, Hoess testified as follows at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on April 15, 1946:

DR. KAUFFMANN: I ask you, therefore, first of all, whether you have any knowledge regarding the treatment of internees, whether certain methods became known to you according to which they were tortured and cruelly treated? Please formulate your statement according to periods, up to 1939 and after 1939.

HOESS: Until the outbreak of war in 1939, the situation in the camps regarding feeding, accommodations, and treatment of internees, was the same as in any other prison or penitentiary in the Reich. The internees were treated severely, but methodical beatings or ill-treatments were out of the question. The Reichsführer gave frequent orders that every SS man who laid violent hands on an internee would be punished; and several times SS men who did ill-treat internees were punished.

Another sign at the Dachau Memorial Site has these words:

Death from Starvation

In Dachau death only seldom had a heroic character. Death was something normal, it occurred everywhere: at roll call, at work, on the block road, at the toilets.  In normal life the death of a cat that has died on the street draws attention and arouses pity.  The emaciated, wretched prisoner lying in death attracted no great attention.

That was Dachau by Stanislav Zamecnik (1941 – 1945 in the Dachau Concentration Camp), 2002 (excerpt)

The Dachau Memorial site now sells the book written by Stanislav Zamecnik as the official history of Dachau. Previously, the official history of Dachau was a book written by a prisoner named Paul Berben.

According to Paul Berben’s book, the following items were for sale in the canteen at Dachau:

Beetroot jam, oatmeal, sauerkraut, dried vegetables, tinned mussels and fish, cucumbers, condiments, etc. were on sale The canteen also stocked articles such as needles and thread, and particularly lotions, creams and perfume: the close-cropped prisoner was invited to buy something to put on his hair!

Berben maintains that, in the early days before the war, the prisoners received adequate food, and even after the war started, the prisoners who worked received extra food.

The following quote is from Paul Berben’s book:

When manpower needs became pressing during the war supplementary food was sanctioned to increase output. Certain categories of workers were given a much appreciated “second breakfast,” called Brotzeit, consisting of an eighth or tenth part of a loaf and 2 ounces of sausage.

When prisoners went to the town of Dachau to work, the people in the town sometimes tried to give them food, but this was forbidden by the Nazis. They did, however, allow the clergy in Dachau to collect and send food packages to the camp for the prisoners.

Berben wrote:

From the end of 1942, however, large consignments of food and other useful things did reach the camp.

The following quote is from Paul Berben’s book:

Food parcels could be sent to the clergy and the food situation improved noticeably. Germans and Poles particularly received them in considerable quantities from their families, their parishioners and members of religious communities. In Block 26 one hundred sometimes arrived on the same day. This period of relative plenty lasted till the end of 1944 when the disruption of communications stopped the dispatch of parcels. Nevertheless the German clergy continued to receive food through the Dean of Dachau, Herr Pfanzelt, to whom the correspondents sent food tickets: the priests bought bread and sausage with these and sent the parcels by the local post.

Red Cross packages also reached the camp, according to Paul Berben, who mentioned that the Red Cross sent thousands of parcels to Dachau.

Nerin E. Gun, a journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau, wrote in his book The Day of the Americans, that there was a thriving black market operating in the shower room in the administration building at Dachau; cigarettes were used as currency and the items that were sold or traded were from the Red Cross packages or from packages that all of the inmates, except for the Nacht und Nebel prisoners, were allowed to receive from friends and relatives.

On pages 121 and 122 of his book The Day of the Americans, Nerin E. Gun wrote:

Then there was the matter of the Red Cross food parcels. A large number of them were issued to the prisoners during the last days of our captivity. The Germans no loner knew what to do with them. Because of the Allied advance, the only road open to the supply trains of the International Red Cross from Switzerland was the road to Dachau. So all the food packages intended for all the other prison camps had been funneled to Dachau. The camp commander, probably thinking he was making points for himself in the final days, decided to distribute them among the internees. It was manna from heaven, for food had become extremely scarce in the camp and the statistics of those dying of starvation had soared.

But the Geneva International Red Cross had a very “Swiss franc” concept of human solidarity. It had laid down the rule that the packages could be given only to nationals of those countries which contributed hard-currency dollars to the organization. Therefore the food could legally be given only to Frenchmen, Belgians, Dutchmen, to some Poles, to Scandinavians and other citizens of Allied countries. Russians, Germans, Italians and Jews were entitled to nothing.

[…]

These windfalls turned out to be the cause of serious trouble, arguments, sometimes bloody fights. Each parcel call meant that the following night there might be up to a hundred dead. The Russians, true to their Bolshevik catechism, used force to seize the packages belonging to others. The Poles, even though they got their own packages, wanted more, and organized regular armed expeditions to get them. The German Kapos demanded their rake-off.

Visitors to the Dachau Memorial Site don’t want to hear about the camp canteen nor about the Red Cross packages, and certainly not about the “second breakfast” given to the prisoners.  They don’t want to hear about how the SS men were punished for “laying violent hands on the prisoners.”  They only want to know about how the Dachau prisoners were starved to death, or beaten to death.  Only then can they return to Munich, having gotten their money’s worth on their tour of Dachau, and visit the Hofbräuhaus, the next stop on their tour of Germany.

4 Comments

  1. Morcinek was Silesian, Polish writer. He also wrote other books which inludes concentration camp theme, not only “Letters wrote under the Mulberry Tree” but also: “Letters wrote under the Mulberry Tree continuation”, “Letters from Rome”, “Lost keys”, “Seven clocks of gravedigger Rybka” and others. He was from Silesia, which was divisiveness territory. He was involved in polish cultural ennationalisation of this area. His books like “Hollowed tunnel” were very emotive and wrote against germanization. That why he was treated like the enemy of Reich.

    Comment by Marek — November 30, 2015 @ 12:43 am

  2. Keep drinking the Haterade!

    Comment by Mr.Tbag — June 24, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

    • My post is about the tour guides at Dachau promoting hatred of the German people by lying or exaggerating about the conditions at Dachau. I am not the one drinking “Haterade.” Quite the opposite. I am trying to make people aware of the fact that the story of Dachau has changed in recent years and those changes promote hatred of the German people.

      You live in Bizzaro world where everything is the opposite, including your name which suggests the opposite of what you believe.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 25, 2010 @ 7:41 am


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