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August 21, 2010

Elie Wiesel’s book “Night” and the original Yiddish version

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 4:46 pm

A new post has just gone up on a web site about Elie Wiesel and the controversy about his tattoo and his best selling book, Night. You can read it for yourself here.  This post gives an excellent detailed analysis; I am still recovering from a mild stroke which has caused me to suffer from a little bit of ADD (attention deficit disorder) and I find it hard to concentrate on something so detailed.  But one passage on the web site did get my attention.

This quote is from which you can read here:

The most controversial part of Siedman’s essay is about the Jewish commandment for revenge against one’s enemies. The author of the Yiddish writes that right after the liberation at Buchenwald:

“Early the next day Jewish boys ran off to Weimar to steal clothing and potatoes. And to rape German girls [un tsu fargvaldikn daytshe shikses]. The historical commandment of revenge was not fulfilled.” 34

This reflects the same angry, stern Jew who demands the Jewish law of revenge upon one’s enemies be followed. He does not consider “raping German girls” to be sufficient revenge; thus he says the historical commandment was not fulfilled.  In the French and English, it was softened to: “On the following morning, some of the young men went to Weimar to get some potatoes and clothes—and to sleep with girls. But of revenge, not a sign.”35

Siedman comments on this passage:

“To describe the differences between these versions as a stylistic reworking is to miss the extent of what is suppressed in the French. Un di velt depicts a post-Holocaust landscape in which Jewish boys “run off” to steal provisions and rape German girls; Night extracts from this scene of lawless retribution a far more innocent picture of the aftermath of the war, with young men going off to the nearest city to look for clothes and sex. In the Yiddish, the survivors are explicitly described as Jews and their victims (or intended victims) as German; in the French, they are just young men and women. The narrator of both versions decries the Jewish failure to take revenge against the Germans, but this failure means something different when it is emblematized, as it is in Yiddish, with the rape of German women. The implication, in the Yiddish, is that rape is a frivolous dereliction of the obligation to fulfill the “historical commandment of revenge”; presumably fulfillment of this obligation would involve a concerted and public act of retribution with a clearly defined target. Un di velt does not spell out what form this retribution might take, only that it is sanctioned — even commanded — by Jewish history and tradition.”

Not too long ago, I got involved in an argument with two Holocaust experts who objected when I wrote that some of the Jewish prisoners were evacuated from Buchenwald, before the camp was liberated, to prevent them from going to Weimar and attacking civilians after they were liberated.

Holocaust historians, including Daniel Goldhagen, maintain that the Jews were sent out of the camps, when the liberators were on their way, in order to kill them. This was allegedly done on the orders of Heinrich Himmler who allegedly ordered all the Jews to be killed so that they wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Allies and live to testify against the Nazis.

Now it turns out that the original Yiddish version of the book, that is now known as Night, told about the Jews going to Weimar for revenge.

I was not familiar with the Jewish concept of revenge until I went to Poland in 1998 and visited Lublin and Auschwitz.  In Lublin, many Jews had signed a guest book at a yeshiva with messages about revenge.  At Birkenau, there were many small signs with Hebrew writing on them stuck into the ground.  I asked my Jewish tour guide what was written on the signs and she told me that words called for Revenge, Revenge, Revenge, which she said was a law of the Jewish religion.

New book about a Polish Jew who survived seven Nazi camps

Filed under: Dachau, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 7:35 am

You can read all about a new book entitled Treblinka Survivor, the Life and Death of Hershl Sperling here. The subject of the book, who changed his name to Henry Sperling when he moved to Scotland, was a Polish Jew who was first sent to the Czestochowa ghetto in Poland, and from there to Treblinka in 1942. Sperling escaped from Treblinka, during a revolt by the prisoners who worked there, just before the camp was closed.  After he was captured and arrested, Sperling was first sent to a penal camp, and then to the Auschwitz main camp.  From there he was sent to Birkenau (Auschwitz II camp), then transferred to Sachsenhausen, from where he was sent to Kaufering. Near the end of World War II, he was sent to the main Dachau camp, where he was finally liberated.

Sperling’s story parallels that of Jankiel Wiernik (Yankel Vernik)  who was transported from the Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka. Wiernik was from  Czestochowa, Poland.  He also survived Treblinka and after the war, he wrote a book entitled A Year In Treblinka. Despite his age, Wiernik had been assigned to the work squad, composed mainly of young men, which had to carry the bodies to the mass graves.  Sperling had been assigned to sorting the clothes taken from the prisoners at Treblinka.

I haven’t read the book yet, but Sperling was probably among the 60,000 prisoners who were marched out of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 18, 1945, just before the Soviet liberators arrived. He was supposedly taken to Sachsenhausen, but Kaufering was the name of 11 sub-camps of Dachau, so he was probably sent from Dachau to one of the 11 Kaufering sub-camps.

The Nazis referred to Treblinka as a Durchgangslager (transit camp).  It was one of the three Operation Reinhard camps that were set up after the Wannsee Conference, at which the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” and the “transportation of the Jews to the East” was discussed. The other two Operation Reinhard camps were Belzec and Sobibor.  The headquarters of the Operation was in Lublin.

By March 1943, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler  had completed the resettlement of 629,000 ethnic Germans from the Baltic countries into the Polish territory that had been incorporated into the Greater German Reich in October 1939. He had also deported 365,000 Poles from the part of Poland that was incorporated into the Greater German Reich to occupied Poland, and had deported 295,000 citizens from Luxembourg and the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, which were also incorporated into the Greater German Reich. After all this had been accomplished, Dr. Korherr, who was Himmler’s chief statistician, made a report on what had happened to the Jews in Eastern Poland; this was the famous Korherr Report.

In 2000, a document called the Höfle Telegram was discovered by Holocaust historians in the Public Records Office in Kew, England. This document consists of two intercepted encoded messages, both of which were sent from Lublin on January 11, 1943 by SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle, and marked “state secret.” One message was sent to Adolf Eichmann in the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) in Berlin and the other to SS-Oberststurmbannführer Franz Heim, deputy commander of the Security Police (SIPO) at the headquarters of German-occupied Poland in Krakow.

The encoded messages gave the number of arrivals at the Operation Reinhard camps during the previous two weeks and the following totals for Jews sent to the Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Lublin (Majdanek) camps in 1942:

Treblinka, 71,355; Belzec, 434,500; Sobibor, 101,370; and Majdanek, 24,733.

The number for Treblinka, 71,355, was a typographical error; the correct number should be 713,555, based on the total given. The total “arrivals” for the four camps matches the total of 1,274,166 “evacuated” Jews in the Korherr Report.

Samuel Rajzman, one of the few survivors of Treblinka, testified at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal that “Between July and December 1942, an average of 3 transports of 60 cars each arrived every day. In 1943 the transports arrived more rarely.” Rajzman stated that “On an average, I believe they killed in Treblinka from ten to twelve thousand persons daily.”

The following testimony was given by Samuel Rajzman at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal:

Transports arrived there every day; their number depended on the number of trains arriving; sometimes three, four, or five trains filled exclusively with Jews — from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Greece, and Poland. Immediately after their arrival, the people had to leave the trains in 5 minutes and line up on the platform. All those who were driven from the cars were divided into groups — men, children, and women, all separate. They were all forced to strip immediately, and this procedure continued under the lashes of the German guards’ whips. Workers who were employed in this operation immediately picked up all the clothes and carried them away to barracks. Then the people were obliged to walk naked through the street to the gas chambers.

At the camp, a storehouse was “disguised as a train station,” according to a pamphlet which I purchased at the Visitor’s Center in 1998. The fake station was designed to fool the Jews into thinking that they had arrived at a transit camp, from where they were going to be “transported to the East.”

Regarding the fake train station, Samuel Rajzman testified as follows at the Nuremberg IMT:

At first there were no signboards whatsoever at the station, but a few months later the commander of the camp, one Kurt Franz, built a first-class railroad station with signboards. The barracks where the clothing was stored had signs reading “restaurant,” “ticket office,” “telegraph,” “telephone,” and so forth. There were even train schedules for the departure and the arrival of trains to and from Grodno, Suwalki, Vienna, and Berlin.

According to Rajzman’s testimony at Nuremberg, “When Treblinka became very well known, they hung up a huge sign with the inscription Obermaidanek.” Maidanek was the German name for Majdanek; it was a concentration camp on the outskirts of Lublin, the headquarters of the Operation Reinhard camps.  Rajzman explained that “the persons who arrived in transports soon found out that it was not a fashionable station, but that it was a place of death” and for this reason, the sign was intended to calm the victims.

In spite of all this effort to reassure the victims, the SS soldiers at Treblinka were allegedly allowed to grab babies from the arms of their mothers and bash their heads in. The first person to be tried for war crimes committed at Treblinka was Josef Hirtreiter, who was put on trial in a German court in Frankfurt am Main, and sentenced on March 3, 1951 to life in prison. Based on the testimony of survivors, Hirtreiter was found guilty of killing young children at Treblinka, during the unloading of the trains, by holding them by the feet and smashing their heads against the boxcars.

The pamphlet from the Visitor’s Center says that “In a relatively short time of its existence the camp took a total of over 800,000 victims of Jews from Poland, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Jugoslavia, Germany and the Soviet Union.”

Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg put the number of deaths at Treblinka at a minimum of 750,000. Other sources say that the total number of deaths was 870,000. Although the Nazis kept detailed records of everything, they did not record the deaths by gassing.

The following quote is from the same pamphlet that I obtained from the Visitor’s Center:

The extermination camp in Treblinka was built in the middle of 1942 near the already existing labour camp. It was surrounded by fence and rows of barbed wire along which there were watchtowers with machine guns every ten metres. The main part of the camp constituted two buildings in which there were 13 gas chambers altogether. Two thousand people could be put to death at a time in them. Death by suffocation with fumes came after 10 – 15 minutes. First the bodies of the victims were buried, later were cremated on big grates out of doors. The ashes were mixed witch (sic) sand and buried in one spot.

Martin Gilbert wrote in his book entitled Holocaust Journey that the gas chambers at Treblinka utilized carbon monoxide from diesel engines. Many writers say that these diesel engines were obtained from captured Russian submarines, but according to the Nizkor Project, they were large 500 BHP engines from captured Soviet T-34 tanks. However, at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal proceedings against the major Nazi war criminals, which began in November 1945, the Nazis were charged by the Soviet Union with murdering Jews at Treblinka in “steam chambers,” not gas chambers. Steam chambers were used at Auschwitz and Theresienstadt for disinfecting the clothing of the prisoners.

The pamphlet from the Visitor’s Center  has this information:

Killing took place with great speed. The whole process of killing the people, starting from thier (sic) arrival at the camp railroad till removing the corpses from the gas chambers, lasted about 2 hours. Treblinka was known among the Nazis as an example of good organization of a death camp. It was a real extermination centre.

August 20, 2010

New movie about “the surgeon of Birkenau” coming in December 2010

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 4:52 pm

Today at the movies, I saw the trailer for a new movie The Debt which will open on December 29, 2010.  This movie should win an Academy Award next year; any movie about the Holocaust is sure to be a winner.  Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington star in the movie.  (more…)

August 19, 2010

Rev. Martin Niemöller: First they came for the Communists….

Americans today love to quote the famous words of the Rev. Martin Niemöller who spoke frequently after World War II about the failure of the German people, including himself, to stop Hitler and the Nazis before it was too late.  Just this week, Keith Olberman quoted Niemöller on his MSNBC  TV show; you can read about it here.

Here is an early version of Niemöller’s poem:

“When the Nazis arrested the Communists, I said nothing; after all, I was not a Communist.
When they locked up the Social Democrats, I said nothing; after all, I was not a Social Democrat.
When they arrested the trade unionists, I said nothing; after all, I was not a trade unionist.
When they arrested the Jews, I said nothing; after all, I was not a Jew.”

Here is the quote in the original German:

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Kommunist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
Als sie die Juden holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Jude.
Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

There are many versions of this famous quote; Niemöller himself tailored the quote to his audience. For example, when Niemöller spoke before the American Congress after the war, he mentioned the Jews first. Time magazine printed Niemöller’s quotation with the Jews in first place,  but didn’t include the Communists and the Social Democrats. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC  includes the Social Democrats, but not the Communists. Former Vice-President Al Gore used to quote Niemöller, but he always dropped the trade unionists and mentioned Catholics instead. In Boston, Catholics are included in the quotation which is inscribed on the Holocaust memorial.  Sometimes disabled people and homosexuals are included in the famous quotation.

As interpreted by people today, Niemöller seems to be saying that innocent people were arrested in Nazi Germany for no reason at all, and because he did nothing about it, he was eventually arrested himself for no reason at all.  But is this really what happened?

There were prison cells on both sides of the bunker at Dachau

The bunker at Dachau, on the left, had a courtyard on the right side where prisoners could walk around when they were not in their prison cells

Niemöller’s famous quote gives no hint as to why he was not arrested for four years after Hitler came to power, nor why he was eventually imprisoned at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin and then transferred to the Dachau concentration camp where he was set free just before the camp was liberated.

Niemöller had a private cell in the bunker, the building on the right

Door into a cell in the Dachau bunker

Niemöller was a German citizen and a Protestant minister in a country that was predominantly Protestant.  The quotation is repeated today to show that innocent people were sent to concentration camps by the Nazis for no reason at all, but good people did nothing, and this resulted in a good person (Niemöller) being wrongly imprisoned.  But is this the whole story?

The National Socialist (Nazi) political party was democratically elected in Germany in 1932 and on January 30, 1933, Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany because he was the leader of the National Socialist party.  There were more than two political parties in Germany, so a party did not have to get 51% of the votes to be elected.

The Communists and Social democrats were accustomed to gaining power through revolution, not a democratic vote. The German state of Bavaria was taken over by Communist revolutionaries on November 7, 1918, just four days before the Armistice which ended World War I was signed on November 11, 1918.  In the “November Revolution,” the Social Democrats overthrew the imperial government of Germany and proclaimed a Republic on November 9, 1918.

The Nazis knew that, if they wanted to stay in power, they would have to do something to eliminate the Communists and Social Democrats.  That’s why these two parties were banned after the Nazis were elected; political dissidents were locked up and that put an end to bomb throwing and revolutionary fighting in the streets.

Germany had been forced to ask for an Armistice in World War I because the trade unions called for a general strike of all the workers so that the  whole country of Germany came to a total stop. Germany lost World War I, even though the country was never invaded and the German Army was not defeated in the field.  After the Nazis took over, there were no more crippling general strikes because the trade unions were banned by Hitler.

The three major camps, in the Nazi concentration camp system in Germany, were Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald. Dachau was in Bavaria, where the Communists had taken over in a revolution in 1918; the Dachau camp was opened on March 22, 1933, less than two months after Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, and the first prisoners were Communists, just as Niemöller said.

Also in 1933, another camp was opened in an old brewery at Oranienburg, 35 kilometers north of Berlin. The Oranienburg camp was rebuilt in 1936 and named Sachsenhausen.

Buchenwald was built just outside the city of Weimar in 1937, and its first prisoners were transferred there from Sachsenhausen.  All three of the first camps were opened to imprison the opponents of Fascism and all three were located in areas which were hotbeds of Communist and Social Democrat political activity.

Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald were originally set up because the Nazis wanted to stay in power after they were elected.

One of the first laws that Hitler put into effect in Germany was known as the “Aryan Paragraph.”  This new rule stated that only Aryans could have positions in the German government; Jews were no longer allowed to have  government jobs.  This rule was soon expanded to ban Jews from becoming Pastors in Christian churches in Germany.

The main opposition to Hitler’s decree came from a group of young pastors led by Martin Niemöller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Heinrich Gruber. Initially, their main complaint was that Hitler had united all denominations of Germany’s Protestant churches under Ludwig Müller as the first Reich Bishop.

When the new law that Jews were not allowed to be Protestant ministers went into effect, Niemöller organized the Pastor’s Emergency League to protect Protestant pastors, who were violating the new law, from the police.

With the support of Karl Barth, a professor of theology at Bonn University, in May, 1934, the rebel pastors formed what became known as the Confessional Church. Over the next few years, hundreds of these pastors were sent to concentration camps; Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed. (Bonhoeffer was involved in the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler, which is why he was singled out to be executed.)

One of the major differences of the teaching of the Confessional Church was that Jews, who had converted to Christianity, could become pastors. Hitler wanted the Christian religion to be for Aryans only with all Jews excluded.

Niemöller objected to the way that a new church, called the German Christians, used the term “Positive Christianity” to mean that the German people had a “special virtue,” as opposed to “Negative Christianity” which held that all people, regardless of race, were guilty of sin and should repent.

The Rev. Martin Niemöller was not arrested until 1937 because he was originally a member of the Nazi party and a war hero.  He had been a U-boat captain in WW I, prior to becoming a pastor; he had supported Hitler prior to the time that Hitler  became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933.

On July 27, 1936, Time Magazine published this letter to Hitler from Niemöller and nine other Protestant ministers in the Confessional Church:

“Our people are trying to break the bond set by God. That is human conceit rising against God. In this connection we must warn the Führer, that the adoration frequently bestowed on him is only due to God. Some years ago the Führer objected to having his picture placed on Protestant altars. Today his thoughts are used as a basis not only for political decisions but also for morality and law. He himself is surrounded with the dignity of a priest and even of an intermediary between God and man… We ask that liberty be given to our people to go their way in the future under the sign of the Cross of Christ, in order that our grandsons may not curse their elders on the ground that their elders left them a state on earth that closed to them the Kingdom of God.”

On February 21, 1938,  Time Magazine printed this excerpt from one of Niemöller’s sermons:

I cannot help saying quite harshly and bluntly that the Jewish people came to grief and disgrace because of its own ‘Positive Christianity!’ It [the Jewish people] bears a curse throughout the history of the world because it was ready to approve of its Messiah just as long and as far as it thought it could gain some advantage for its own plans and its own aims for Him, His words and His deeds. It bears a curse, because it rejected Him and resisted Him to the death when it became clear that Jesus of Nazareth would not cease calling [the Jews] to repentance and faith, despite their insistence that they were free, strong and proud men and belonged to a pure-blooded, race-conscious nation!

“‘Positive Christianity,” which the Jewish people wanted, clashed with “Negative Christianity” as Jesus himself represented it! […] Friends, can we risk going with our nation without forgiveness of sins, without that so-called “Negative Christianity” which, when all is said and done, clings in repentance and faith to Jesus as the Savior of sinners? I cannot and you cannot and our nation cannot! Come let us return to the Lord!

Niemöller was finally arrested for treason.  He had disobeyed the laws of his country and flaunted his disagreement with Hitler.  There was no one left to stand up for him because many of the other pastors in the Confessional Church had already been arrested.

After Niemöller was put on trial and convicted of treason, he was sentenced to time served.  Then he was sent to a concentration camp because the Nazis were sending all convicted criminals to the camps for rehabilitation.

Hitler personally begged Niemöller to recant and go along with the teachings of the regular Protestant church, but Niemöller preferred to stay in a concentration camp.  He was treated very well at both Sachsenhausen and Dachau; he was allowed unlimited books to read; his wife could come and visit him, and he was allowed out of his cell at Dachau so that he could walk around the camp; he was even allowed to receive visitors at Dachau.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested in April, 1943 and was charged with participating in the July 20th plot to assassinate Hitler.  He was executed on April 9, 1945, just before the end of World War II.

Niemöller escaped execution because his old comrade, Adolf Hitler, protected him.  Why didn’t Niemöller tell the true story of what happened to him?  Hitler himself stood up for Niemöller — what was he talking about?

August 17, 2010

Lou Gehrig may not have had ALS

Filed under: Health — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 3:04 pm

I just heard on the TV news that Lou Gehrig may have been misdiagnosed; maybe he didn’t have Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, which stands for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The latest theory is that he may have suffered from many concussions in his athletic career.

On March 15, 2010, I blogged about Lou Gehrig and wrote this:

As I looked through the list of famous people that had died of ALS, I noticed that many of them were athletes, specifically baseball and football players.  It occurred to me that this might provide a clue as to the cause of ALS.  What do baseball and football players do that other folks don’t do?  Do they have a different kind of diet?  Do they take specific medications?  Are they exposed to chemicals that are used on baseball and football fields?

It never occurred to me that the athletes who were diagnosed with ALS may have suffered from many concussions. If the latest research is correct, this would explain why so many baseball and football players get something that resembles ALS.  You can read my full blog on ALS on March 15th here.

I still think that the onset of ALS has something to do with modern drugs prescribed by doctors.  I am suspicious about statin drugs which are given to lower cholesterol levels, particularly after a stroke. The earliest symptoms, that Lou Gehrig had, included “foot drop” or one foot scraping the ground when he walked, and difficulty in swallowing.  Those symptoms could have been caused by a stroke.  Lou Gehrig may have had one or more minor strokes and when he went to the Mayo Clinic for a checkup, the doctors gave him something to lower his cholesterol. Statin meds could have caused him to develop the symptoms of ALS.  Anyway, I am happy to learn that doctors are still trying to find the cause of ALS.

Congress pledges $15 million to save Auschwitz-Birkenau

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 8:43 am

In today’s news is an article, that you can read here, which states that  “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month announced a $15 million grant for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to help preserve the camp.”


August 16, 2010

Edward R. Murrow’s broadcast about Buchenwald

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:16 am

Edward R. Murrow was a CBS radio news reporter during World War II.  Today he is still famous for his report about the Buchenwald concentration camp which was found by American troops on April 11, 1945 after the prisoners had liberated themselves. College students in American today study Edward R. Murrow and praise him as a great reporter.

On Sunday, April 15, 1945, in Studio B-4 of the British Broadcasting Company, Murrow broadcast his first-hand account of what he had seen at Buchenwald on April 12, the day after the American troops had arrived.

The title of Murrow’s radio broadcast was “They Died 900 a Day in the Best Nazi Death Camp.”  One of the prisoners in the camp had told him that in 1939 when Polish prisoners arrived in the camp without winter clothing, they died at the rate of 900 per day.  Five different men in the camp, who had had experience in other concentration camps, told him that Buchenwald was the best of all the camps.

Edward R. Murrow

The most important part of his broadcast began with this:

And now, let me tell this in the first person, for I was the least important person there, as you shall hear.

There surged around me an evil-smelling stink.  Men and boys reached out to touch me.  They were in rags and the remnants of uniforms. Death already had marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes.  I looked over the mass of men to the green fields beyond, where well-fed Germans were ploughing….

Contrary to Murrow’s description of the prisoners, photographs of the Buchenwald camp, taken after the liberation, show that the prisoners were not dressed in rags.  Buchenwald was completely surrounded by a dense forest, just as it is today, and the green fields could not be seen from the camp.

Communist prisoners at Buchenwald were not dressed in rags

The camp was in a clearing on the northern slope of a hill and the surrounding fields were not visible from any spot in the camp.  Today, one can see the fields from the top of the hill where the Memorial to the Anti-Fascist Heroes stands, but not from the camp. At the time that Murrow was there, the top of the hill had a German monument called the Bismarck Tower.

Map of the Buchenwald area  

The camp is on the left side of the map and the tower is below the camp on the map

Buchenwald gatehouse overlooks the spot where the barracks once stood

One of the two guard towers still standing at the east entrance gate

As the photos above show, the Buchenwald camp was surrounded by trees and the fields outside the camp could not be seen from inside the camp.

It was very cold in Germany in the Spring of 1945.  Even if Murrow could have seen the fields from the camp, he probably would not have seen anyone plowing because there was still snow on the ground in some places. His misleading opening remarks were intended to paint a picture of the well-fed Germans living life as usual and suffering no hardship at all during the last days of their country’s destruction, while the political prisoners, who were mostly Communists, were dressed in rags and starving to death.

Prefabricated horse barn used as a barrack at Buchenwald

A German prisoner, who told Murrow that he had been in Buchenwald for 10 years, offered to show him around the camp. Buchenwald had opened in 1937 and the camp had been in existence for only 8 years.  The prisoners lied to Murrow in order to exaggerate their suffering.

Murrow’s broadcast from Buchenwald continued with these words:

I asked to see one of the barracks. It happened to be occupied by Czechoslovakians. When I entered, men crowded around, tried to lift me to their shoulders. They were too weak. Many of them could not get out of bed. I was told that this building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1200 men in it, five to a bunk. The stink was beyond all description.

They called the doctor. We inspected his records. There were only names in the little black book – nothing more – nothing about who had been where, what he had done or hoped. Behind the names of those who had died, there was a cross. I counted them. They totaled 242 – 242 out of 1200, in one month.

As I walked down to the end of the barracks, there was applause from the men too weak to get out of bed. It sounded like the hand clapping of babies. The doctor’s name was Paul Heller. He had been there since 1938.

As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.

The barrack that Murrow visited at Buchenwald must have been at the bottom of the slope in the “Small Camp” where prefabricated horse barns had been set up for the prisoners who were being held in quarantine because they were sick. The barracks in the rest of the camp were not horse barns; they looked liked the reconstructed barrack building shown in the photo below.

Reconstructed wooden barrack at Buchenwald

The 904 children at Buchenwald were in good health

Murrow continued his broadcast with a description of the children:

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said: “The children- enemies of the state!” I could see their ribs through their thin shirts.

The old man said, “I am Professor Charles Richer of the Sorbonne.” The children clung to my hands and stared. Men kept coming up to speak to me and to touch me, professors from Poland, doctors from Vienna, men from all Europe. Men from the countries that made America.

It was cold in Germany in April 1945 and all the prisoners were wearing coats, including the children. Only the Jewish prisoners at the Auschwitz death camp had their prison number tattooed on their arm. If any of the Buchenwald children had tattoos, they were Jewish teenagers who had been transferred to Buchenwald from Auschwitz in what is now Poland when it was abandoned by the Nazis on January 18, 1945. Other children in Buchenwald were orphans who had been there for several years; a baby had been born in the camp in 1944. Most of the children were teenagers; only 30 of the 904 children in the camp were under 13 years of age. The youngest was 4 years old.

If Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, had had her way, the children at Buchenwald would have been living in America in 1945.  Mrs. Roosevelt went before the American Congress and tried to persuade the men to pass the Child Refugee Bill which would have allowed 10,000 Jewish children a year, for two years, to enter the United States above the usual quota for German immigrants, but Congress refused to pass the bill.

Continuing his broadcast, Murrow reported:

We went to the hospital. It was full. The doctor told me that 200 had died the day before. I asked the cause of death. He shrugged and said: “tuberculosis, starvation, fatigue and there are many who have no desire to live. It is very difficult.” Dr. Heller pulled back the blanket from a man’s feet to show me how swollen they were. The man was dead. Most of the patients could not move.

There was a typhus epidemic in the Buchenwald camp and 13,056 prisoners had died of typhus just during the months of January and February 1945. At the height of the epidemic, the prisoners were dying at the rate of 222 per day, but in the last six weeks that the camp was in operation there had been only 913 deaths, according to camp records found by the US Army.

If 200 prisoners died on April 11th, the day that the first American soldiers arrived, it might have been because they got sick from the rich food given to them by the Americans. Elie Wiesel, who claims to be a Buchenwald survivor, wrote in his book “Night” that on April 14th “three days after the liberation of Buchenwald, I became very ill with food poisoning. I was transferred to the hospital and spent two weeks between life and death.”

A German Communist prisoner, who told Murrow that he had been at Buchenwald for 9 years, which was one year longer than the camp had been in existence, escorted him around the kitchen. This was the second prisoner who had survived for more years that the camp had been in operation.

The camp kitchen at Buchenwald Photo credit: Dan Curtin

Murrow’s broadcast continued with this description of the dead bodies on display:

We went again to the courtyard, and as we walked, we talked. The two doctors, the Frenchman and the Czech, agreed that about six thousand had died during March. Kersheimer, the German, added that back in the winter of 1939, when the Poles began to arrive without winter clothing, they died at the rate of approximately nine hundred a day. Five different men asserted that Buchenwald was the best concentration camp in Germany; they had some experience with the others.

On the day of Murrow’s broadcast, the American Army had not yet released the death records that they had confiscated from the camp. According to a U.S. Army report dated May 25, 1945, there was a total of 238,980 prisoners sent to Buchenwald during its 8-year history from July 1937 to April 11, 1945, and a total of 34,375 prisoners died in the camp. During March 1945 and the first 11 days in April, there had been 913 deaths, not 6,000 as the two doctors told Murrow.

A U.S. Army Intelligence report, dated April 24, 1945, put the Buchenwald death toll at 32,705. A later U.S. Government report in June, 1945 put the total deaths at 33,462 with 20,000 of the deaths in the final months of the war. The International Tracing Service at Arolsen, an affiliate of the Red Cross, released a report in 1984 which said that the number of documented deaths in Buchenwald was 20,671 plus an additional 7,463 at the notorious satellite camp called Dora, where prisoners were forced to work underground in the manufacturing of V-2 rockets for the German military. (In October 1944, Dora became an independent camp named Nordhausen.)

Two piles of bodies at Buchenwald  Photo Credit: Dan Curtin

Notice the wreaths in the photo above, which indicate that the photo was taken long after the liberation of Buchenwald.   The bodies were kept on display in all the camps so that American soldiers could be brought to the camps to see them.

According to an information booklet, which I obtained from the Buchenwald Memorial Site, records kept by the camp secretary show that there were 48 deaths in 1937, the year that the Buchenwald camp opened. In 1938, there were 771 deaths and in 1939, there were 1235 deaths. In 1940 the deaths increased to 1772, but in 1941 the deaths decreased to 1522. These figures indicate an increase in the deaths during the winter of 1939-1940, but no where near 900 per day, as the Communist survivors told Murrow.

Margaret Bourke-White prepares to take a photo in the courtyard at Buchenwald

Murrow’s broadcast continued with this description of the courtyard, shown in the photo above:

Dr. Heller, the Czech, asked if I would care to see the crematorium. He said it wouldn’t be very interesting because the Germans had run out of coke some days ago and had taken to dumping the bodies into a great hole nearby. Professor Richer said perhaps I would care to see the small courtyard. I said yes. He turned and told the children to stay behind. . . . We proceeded to the small courtyard. The wall was about eight feet high; it adjoined what had been a stable or garage. We entered it.

It was floored with concrete. There were two rows of bodies stacked up like cordwood. They were thin and very white. Some of the bodies were terribly bruised, though there seemed to be little flesh to bruise. Some had been shot through the head, but they bled but little. All except two were naked. I tried to count them as best I could and arrived at the conclusion that all that was mortal of more than five hundred men and boys lay there in two neat piles.

There was a German trailer (shown in the photo above) which must have contained another fifty, but it wasn’t possible to count them. The clothing was piled in a heap against the wall. It appeared that most of the men and boys had died of starvation; they had not been executed.

But the manner of death seemed unimportant. Murder had been done at Buchenwald. God alone knows how many men and boys have died there during the last 12 years. Thursday, I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now?

The above words were spoken by Murrow on Sunday, April 15, 1945. Thursday was a reference to April 12th, the day that he saw the camp. On April 11th when the first American soldiers arrived, they were told that there were 21,000 prisoners in the camp. The next day, the number had dropped to 20,000 according to what Edward R. Murrow was told by the prisoners.

The Buchenwald camp had not been in existence for 12 years, as Murrow reported; only the Dachau camp had been in operation for 12 years. Murrow was told that there were 20,000 prisoners in the main camp, but there had previously been 60,000. According to the camp records, there were 63,084 prisoners in the main Buchenwald camp and all its sub-camps in December 1944. By late March 1945, there were 80,436 prisoners in the main camp and all the sub-camps after prisoners had been evacuated from the camps in the east and brought to Germany. Just before the camp was liberated, 7,000 Jewish prisoners had been evacuated from the main camp and sent on trains to Dachau and other camps in an effort to keep them from being released for fear that they would exact revenge on German civilians.

The emaciated corpses in the camp were those of the typhus victims, not prisoners who had been deliberately starved to death. The Germans did not have a typhus vaccine, nor DDT, to stop the epidemics in all the camps near the end of the war. After the liberation of the camps, the Americans were able to stop the epidemics within 6 weeks with vaccine and DDT.

The death rate at Buchenwald was horrendous, but nothing like the death rate when the camp became a prison run by the Soviet Communists. In July 1945, the Buchenwald camp was turned over to the Soviet Union and it became Special Camp No. 2 for German prisoners. There were 122,671 persons arrested and interned between 1945 and 1950 in the Soviet internment camp system in Germany, and 42,889 of them died. In addition, 756 persons in these camps were executed by the Soviets.

Near the end of his broadcast, Murrow again reiterated how well-fed the German people were and he added that they were well-dressed.

Murrow said:

I have reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it I have no words. Dead men are plentiful in war, but the living dead, more than 20,000 of them in one camp. And the country round about was pleasing to the eye, and the Germans were well-fed and well-dressed.

After driving through Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Weimar, Murrow did not mention the bombing of civilian homes and historic buildings, nor the smell of corpses that were still buried in the rubble. The whole country of Germany lay in ruins, with bomb destruction in every city and an estimated 600,000 civilians killed in the bombing, yet the only thing that Murrow commented on was that the Germans were well-fed and well-dressed and the countryside was pleasing to the eye.

During his tour of Buchenwald on April 12, 1945, Murrow pulled out a leather wallet with the intention of offering money to the prisoners so that they could get back to their homes, but one prisoner advised him to be careful because there were criminals in the camp. One prisoner asked if he could touch the leather. This would have been a good time for the prisoners to tell this famous reporter about the leather lamp shades made from human skin, but apparently Murrow didn’t learn about the most heinous atrocity at Buchenwald before he did his broadcast.

On April 15, 1945, the day of Murrow’s broadcast, General George S. Patton arrived, along with the famous Life photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Exhibits had been set up by the prisoners for the benefit of the first group of German civilians who were brought to the camp that day to make them feel guilty about what their country had done.  The civilians were deliberately exposed to typhus.

Display table set up for the German civilians to see at Buchenwald

Edward R. Murrow was not some cub reporter who could be excused for getting the facts wrong. He had joined CBS in 1935 at the age of 27. From 1939 to 1945, Murrow was based in London. During the war, he was famous for broadcasting during air raids with the sound of bombs exploding in the background. When Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945, Murrow was there the next day; he had three days to check the facts, yet he chose to broadcast propaganda instead of reporting the story accurately and objectively.

August 15, 2010

Should the judgment at Nuremberg be thrown out?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 12:27 pm

I’m not talking about the movie Judgment at Nuremberg which starred Burt Lancaster; I’m talking about the convictions of the accused German “war criminals” in the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.

There have been numerous articles in the news lately about the Majdanek concentration camp where around 10,000 old shoes recently burned up.  Almost all of the articles mention that 78,000 or 80,000 prisoners died at Majdanek.

At the Nuremberg IMT, the Soviet Union submitted documents USSR-8 and USSR-29, which told in detail how the Germans killed 4 million prisoners at Auschwitz and 1.5 million at Majdanek.  Now it is accepted by historians that 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz and 78,000 died at Majdanek. Around 900,000 Jews died at Auschwitz and 59,000 Jews died at Majdanek, according to the latest figures.

The Charter of the International Military Tribunal allowed evidence that normally would be inadmissible in a trial.

Article 19 of the Charter read:

“The Tribunal shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence […] and shall admit any evidence which it deems to have probative value.”

Article 21 stipulated:

The Tribunal shall not require proof of facts of common knowledge but shall take judicial notice thereof. It shall also take judicial notice of official governmental documents and reports of the United Nations, including acts and documents of the committees set up in the various allied countries for the investigation of war crimes, and the records and findings of military and other Tribunals of any of the United Nations.

Using these rules, the Nuremberg IMT  allowed a report by American Congressmen as evidence of a homicidal gas chamber at Dachau, along with a documentary film in which it was shown how gas was put into a Dachau shower room through the shower heads.  Now the Dachau Memorial site tells visitors that gas pellets “could have been” put through two bins on the outside wall of the gas chamber building.  This means that, according to the Dachau Memorial site, the congressional report and the film were both false.

There was also a Polish government report, submitted to the Nuremberg IMT by the American prosecutor,  which claimed that prisoners were killed in steam chambers at Treblinka.  Now it is accepted that the Jews who were sent to Treblinka were killed in gas chambers which used Zyklon-B.

The defense attorneys at Nuremberg  protested  that some of  the prosecution documents were fake, and now it is generally acknowledged that some of the most important documents submitted by the prosecution were fraudulent.

The rule that “The Tribunal shall not require proof of facts of common knowledge but shall take judicial notice thereof.” was used to accept the Soviet claim that soap was made from human fat at Buchenwald without the proof of a forensic report.  Today, not even the Yad Vashem museum accepts the human soap story.

The alleged “death bed confession” of  Franz Ziereis, the Mauthausen commandant, is now believed to be a fake.  As I previously wrote in another blog, Ziereis never regained consciousness after he was shot “while attempting to escape” and he made no confession. Nuremberg documents 1515-PS, 3870-PS, and NO-1973, based on the non-existent confession of Ziereis, were entered into the IMT to prove that prisoners were gassed at Mauthausen and Hartheim Castle.

In a trial, the rule is “false in one, false in all.”  If the Germans had been given a trial instead of being accused at a Military Tribunal, all of the so-called evidence would have been thrown out because of the accusation that the Germans had killed thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn forest near Smolensk.   (Nuremberg document USSR-54) A detailed report by a Soviet investigative commission was submitted as proof for this charge which was  made in the joint indictment of the British, French, Soviet and American governments.

The Soviet prosecutor said this at the Nuremberg IMT:

We find, in the Indictment, one of the most important criminal acts for which the major war criminals are responsible was the mass execution of Polish prisoners of war shot in the Katyn forest near Smolensk by the German fascist invaders.

In 1990 the Russian government finally admitted that the Katyn massacre had been committed by the Soviet secret police, not by the Germans.

August 14, 2010

I want to hear Bayerish spoken again…

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

I am feeling much better now after recovering from a mild stroke, and I am thinking of taking a trip to Germany again.  I’ve been to Germany many times and I love Bavaria where Bayerish is the dialect that is spoken.  I love to listen to YouTube videos of Franzl Lang singing in Bayerish.


August 13, 2010

Michael Berenbaum’s blog post about Majdanek

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:14 am

As most people know by now, there was  a recent fire at the former Majdanek death camp and an estimated 10,000 shoes, formerly worn by the prisoners, were burned.  Michael Berenbaum is a well known Holocaust expert who has written books and appeared in documentaries shown on the History Channel on American TV.  According to Wikipedia, Berembaum “played a major role in the creation of the USHMM and the content of its permanent exhibition. From 1997 – 1999, Berenbaum served as President and CEO of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, and subsequently (and currently) as Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust, located at the American Jewish University (formerly known as the University of Judaism), in Los Angeles, CA.”

With all of these credentials, I was shocked to read this on Berenbaum’s blog post which you can read here:

A word about Majdanek: The camp is situated in a valley just outside the major town of Lublin, in proximity to Little Majdan from which it derived its name. It was in the Polish territory annexed to the Reich. During the war it was part of Germany proper.

I would interpret “Germany proper” to mean the German Reich (Deutsches Reich) which was Germany from 1918 up to 1938, but Berenbaum probably meant the Greater German Reich  (Großdeutsches Reich) which included all the territory that Germany annexed, beginning with Austria in 1938.  Lublin and Majdanek were in the General Government, which was the name for German-occupied Poland after 1939.

The General Government, which was occupied Poland, is shown in brown

The map above shows that Majdanek, as well as Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, were located in the General Government.  The territory in Poland that was annexed into the Greater German Reich is shown in dark orange; Chelmno was the only death camp in the annexed territory.

Berenbaum also wrote this on his blog:

Today it is on a side road, adjacent to the major road between Lublin and Zamosc, a picturesque and charming Polish city. During the war, the camp was obscured from the road – but not from the city. Farmers worked the fields adjacent to the camp.

It has been 12 years since I visited Majdanek, but at that time, and during the time that the camp was in operation, it was on a major road.  The road might have been turned into a side road and a new major road built since then.  The fact that Majdanek was on a major road when the camp was in operation is used by Holocaust deniers to prove that it was not a death camp.  When the camp was in operation, there were houses on two sides and a Catholic cemetery on one side, with the major road on the fourth side.

Here is another quote from Berenbaum’s blog:

Majdanek was captured whole in July 1944. Unlike what happened in Auschwitz, the Nazis had no time to evacuate the camp or to burn it and destroy the evidence.

Every news article about the fire at Majdanek repeats the information that the camp was captured intact because the Nazis had no time to evacuate the camp or to burn it and destroy the evidence.

Prisoners who were liberated from Majdanek by Soviet troops

In the photo above are some of the 1,500 survivors of Majdanek. The men are not cheering the liberators, as the photograph shows. Although the survivors do not look emaciated, most of the men shown in the movie taken by the Soviet liberators were on crutches or had missing feet and were walking on stumps. The movie had no explanation for this strange circumstance, but I later learned from the Museum guidebook that in early 1943, there was a hospital set up in Field II at Majdanek for wounded Russian soldiers who had been POWs, but had defected after their capture and were then wounded in fighting on the side of the Nazis against Communism.

The Museum guidebook that I purchased in 1998 also said that in anticipation of the arrival of Soviet troops, the Nazis had evacuated 15,000 prisoners in March and April 1944, transporting them westward by train to Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen, Ravensbrück, Natzweiler, Mauthausen, Lodz or Plaszow. The last 1,000 prisoners at Majdanek were marched off on foot only the day before the liberation, according to the guidebook.  The Russian defectors were left behind because they were too sick or crippled to join the death march out of the camp.

When I read the following quote on Berenbaum’s blog, I deduced that he had not visited the camp himself:

There are two gas chambers at Majdanek; the first one primitive, meant to murder a few. Simple, it has an entrance way, an undressing room, and then a small gas chamber with a motor next door and a sealed booth for the engineer who ran the diesel engine.

And then in the rear of the camp on top of the hill, the visitor sees the large gas chamber and crematoria, still intact, looking as if it is ready to go. The first gas chamber could kill a few people, one dozen or two. The second one could kill thousands and dispose of their bodies, leaving mounds of ashes.

The first gas chamber, described as primitive, was actually the largest of the two gas chambers at Majdanek; it had three or four rooms depending on whether or not you count an L shaped room as one or two rooms.  You can read all about the first gas chamber and see photos of it here.

The gas chamber “in the rear of the camp on top of the hill” is actually the smaller of the two gas chambers and it is a reconstruction done by the Soviet Union.  This gas chamber is used by Holocaust deniers to prove that Majdanek was not a death camp because this gas chamber, which was allegedly reconstructed according to the original blueprints, has the opening, where the Zyklon-B pellets were poured in, located directly above the floor drain.  If the original gas chamber had been constructed this way, the Zyklon-B pellets would have gone down the drain before the prisoners were poisoned.  Contrary to Berenbaum’s blog post, the gas chamber in the crematorium building was very small and it was certainly not big enough to kill thousands at one time.

Crematorium building at Majdanek

Reconstructed crematorium at Majdanek Photo Credit: Simon Robertson

Berenbaum included this information on his blog post:

Majdanek was captured by the Soviet Union in July 1944, captured whole before the Germans had time to destroy the camp.

The battle of Lublin between the German troops and the Soviet soldiers went on for two days.  During that time, the Germans allegedly burned down the crematorium after they allegedly brought the prisoners from the Gestapo prison in Lublin and shot them in front of the cremation ovens.  Supposedly, during the two-day battle, the Germans had no time to burn down the first gas chamber to destroy the evidence or to burn the 800,000 shoes in the camp to destroy the evidence.

Remains of the bodies of Polish politcal prisoners at Lublin

The photo above shows the bodies of prisoners from the Gestapo prison in Lublin.  The ovens were not damaged in the fire and they were put into the crematorium that was rebuilt by the Soviets.

Berenbaum wrote this on his blog:

Between October 1942 and September 1943 the SS built two and possibly three gas chambers at Majdanek. Modeled on the gas chambers that were not used at Dachau, they could operate either on Carbon Monoxide or Zyklon B which was in use elsewhere at Auschwitz.

The gas chamber at Dachau, which was not used, according to Berenbaum, did not operate on Carbon Monoxide, according to information at the Dachau Memorial Site where some of the tour guides tell tourists that the gas chamber was used.

There is a lot more in Berenbaum’s article about the number of deaths at Majdanek.  You can read all about the death statistics at Majdanek and how the numbers changed over the years here.

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