Scrapbookpages Blog

September 12, 2010

Oprah and Elie Wiesel on their trip to Auschwitz in 2006

Filed under: Holocaust, TV shows — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:46 pm

In January 2006, Oprah Winfrey chose Elie Wiesel’s book Night for her Book Club selection.  Her previous selection had been James Frey’s memoir entitled A Million Little Pieces, which was later revealed to be full of lies.  So Oprah needed to find a book for her Book Club selection, which would be the absolute truth and would not turn out to be another fake.

Oprah traveled to Auschwitz with Elie Wiesel in 2006, in the dead of winter, and walked the grounds of the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau) camps.  The film of their trip was not aired until May 24, 2006, a long time for Oprah’s Book Club readers to wait.

Eli Wiesel and Oprah Winfrey stand beside the ruins of Krema III gas chamber

Eli Wiesel and Oprah Winfrey stand beside the ruins of Krema III gas chamber in 2006

Oprah did a good job of pronouncing all the words correctly, but she seemed to be at a loss for how to respond to Elie’s comments.  All she could do was echo Elie’s words, repeating what he had just said.

Oprah seemed to be confused about the gas chambers, which Elie didn’t mention in his book, Night.  She brought up the burning pits where Elie saw babies being burned alive, according to his book.

Elie Wiesel traveled down this road at Auschwitz and saw babies thrown into burning pits

Elie Wiesel traveled down this road at Auschwitz and saw babies thrown into burning pits

Elie’s narration in the film includes some contradictions: Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was a “death factory” where the average life expectancy was four months, but there are acres of barracks, and the ruins of barracks, as far as the eye can see at Birkenau, where the prisoners were sleeping two and three to a bunk, according to Elie.  Why were there so many barracks in a death camp where people were gassed, or thrown into burning pits, upon arrival?  There were no factories at Birkenau, so why were there so many prisoners living in the barracks there?

Barracks in main camp where Elie Wiesel was put into quarantine

Barracks in Auschwitz main camp where Elie Wiesel was put into quarantine

Elie took Oprah to see the exterior of Barrack #17 in the Auschwitz main camp, where he was put into quarantine for a few weeks before being sent to work at Auschwitz III (Monowitz), but he didn’t explain that he survived because he was put to work in a factory.

One thing that Elie told Oprah, which I found to be strange, was that any SS man had the right to kill anyone at Auschwitz at any time. The Germans are famous for their strict discipline, but apparently not at Auschwitz, where the SS men had no rules to govern their behavior.

It seems that Oprah did not do any research for the trip to Auschwitz, except for reading Night, and she didn’t ask “the hard questions,” as she usually does.

There is a new web site with the title “Elie Wiesel Cons The World” which you can read here.

Russian Orthodox Chapel at Dachau

At the Dachau Memorial Site, there is a small Russian Orthodox Chapel, called “Resurrection of our Lord,” located just to the left of the tourist entrance into the crematoria area.  The chapel was built by members of the Russian armed forces after the fall of Communism and the Soviet Union. It was dedicated on April 29, 1995, the 50ieth anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp by American troops.

Russian Orthodox Chapel at Dachau Memorial Site

As shown in the photo above, the chapel is set upon a mound of earth that includes some dirt that was brought from Russia.

The photo below was taken inside the Russian Orthodox chapel. It shows a painting of the resurrected Jesus Christ, leading the Russian prisoners out of their barracks on liberation day, and through a gate that is being held open by angels on either side of Christ. Two guard towers and the barracks in the concentration camp at Dachau can be seen in the background.

The interior of the Russian Orthodox Chapel

There are two memorials inside the chapel which show Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and Pilate presenting him to the people with the words “Ecce homo.”

The chapel is too small to have seats for visitors, but in spite of this, the chapel is used both for private prayer and regularly scheduled religious services.

The Chapel was built in honor of an estimated 6,000 Russian Prisoners of War who allegedly died in the Dachau camp or were executed at the SS firing range at Herbertshausen.  The alleged execution of 6,000 Russian POWs was not proved at the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal, held at Dachau after the war.

Ninety Russian POWs, who were believed to be Communist Commissars, were hanged at Dachau, on an order from Adolf Hitler who issued this directive on the eve of the German invasion of Russia on July 22, 1941.  Staff members at the Dachau concentration camp were convicted by an American Military Tribunal of a war crime, under the rules of the 1929 Geneva convention, for the execution of the 90 Russian officers, even though the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and were not following it with regard to German POWs.

In all the Nazi concentration camps, the Russian POWs were treated much worse than the other prisoners, in retaliation for the atrocities committed by the Russians against German soldiers.  After the liberation of Dachau, the remaining Russian POWs were turned over to the Soviet Union in accordance with the Allied agreement at Yalta in 1943. The Soviet Union treated these returning prisoners as traitors and immediately sent them to the gulags, as the Communist concentration camps were called.

There were 3,900 Russian prisoners at Dachau when the camp was liberated, the second largest ethnic group in the camp. The majority of the prisoners at Dachau were Polish Catholics.

A Catholic church was built at Dachau in 1960 even before the camp was turned into a memorial site.  There is also a Protestant Church and a Jewish Memorial at Dachau.

Jewish Memorial at Dachau Memorial Site with a Catholic Carmelite convent in the background

Protestant Church at Dachau Memorial Site

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

Catholic Church at Dachau Memorial Site

In deference to the Jews, who cannot pray within site of a Christian cross, there is a crown of thorns on top of the Catholic Church, instead of a cross.