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July 18, 2010

Origin of the belief that prisoners were burned alive on the “death marches” out of the concentration camps

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 11:28 am

The origin of the Holocaust story of the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps being sent on “death marches” and burned alive, at places like Gardelegen, is the best-selling book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.

Chapter 14 of Goldhagen’s book is entitled “Marching to What End?”

Goldhagen wrote that “marching the Jews to death, was an end in itself.” Goldhagen did say that Himmler, the head of all the concentration camps, had given an order not to kill any of the Jews being marched out of the camps, but he wrote that, in spite of this order, the Germans continued to kill the Jews on the marches.

I read Goldhagen’s book before I knew very much about the Holocaust, and I was amazed to read this on page 367:

Finally, the fidelity of the Germans to their genocidal enterprise was so great as seeming to defy comprehension. Their world was disintegrating around them, yet they persisted in genocidal killing until the end.

Goldhagen then quotes a survivor of the Gardelegen massacre:

One night we stopped near the town of Gardelegen.  We lay down in a field and several Germans went to consult about what they should do.  They returned with a lot of young people from the Hitler Youth and with members of the police force from the town. They chased us all into a large barn. Since we were 3,000 – 6,000 people, the wall of the barn collapsed from the pressure of the mass of people, and many of us fled. The Germans poured out petrol and set the barn on fire.  Several thousand people were burned alive. Those of us who had managed to escape, lay down in a nearby wood and heard the heart-rending screams of the victims. This was on April 13. One day later the place was conquered by Eisenhower’s army. When the Americans got there, the bodies were still  burning.

The book includes this photo of a victim of the Gardelegen massacre.

Prisoner clutched a handful of straw as he burned to death

This photo was shown all over America in a traveling exhibit which ended at Washington, DC.  Remarkably, the straw and the man’s clothing didn’t burn.  I think that this photo proves that the prisoners were not deliberately burned alive.

Goldhagen also included this photo, which I think was staged. I think a dead body was placed in the doorway and then the sliding barn door was pulled across his body.

Prisoner who tunneled under the door face-up on his back.

After reading about this terrible crime, I went to Gardelegen to see for myself.  I wrote about the Gardelegen massacre here and here. I wrote about the reason for the massacre here.

To this day, the official story of the Holocaust, as taught in American universities, is that the prisoners were marched out of the camps in order to kill them and that prisoners on the marches were deliberately burned to death. According to the official story, the Germans had no fear of the Jews and the Russian POWs killing and raping civilians; they just wanted to kill the Jews for no reason in the last days of the war.

Read the full story of Gardelegen for yourself here.