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October 31, 2010

Dorothea Puente house in Sacramento

Filed under: California, True Crime — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 5:16 pm

Dorothea Puente house at 1426 F St. in Sacramento, California

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

It’s Halloween and time for ghosts and haunted houses.  Today I went to see where Dorothea Puente buried the bodies of 7 of the 9 people, that she had allegedly murdered, in the back yard of her house at 1426 F Street in Sacramento.  (more…)

October 29, 2010

“Priestblock 25487” by Jean Bernard, Part III

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 2:49 pm

Visitors to the Dachau Memorial Site might notice that there is a street, that borders the former Dachau concentration camp, which is named Pater-Roth-Strasse, after a Catholic priest who was imprisoned at Dachau because he was arrested as a pedophile.

There is no street, nor anything else, at Dachau that is named after Father Jean Bernard, who wrote the book Priestblock 25487 in which he claimed that he never knew why he was arrested by the German Gestapo in January 1941.  The number in the title of the book is Father Bernard’s prisoner identification number.

The very first sentence in the Forward of Father Bernard’s book is this:

I unburdened myself of the pages that follow immediately after my release.

In other words, his greatest burden, the cross that Father Bernard had to bear at Dachau, was committing to memory the stories of the abuse, about which he was planning to write, the moment that he was released.  Father Bernard was released on August 6, 1942, after a little over 14 months at Dachau. He had previously been given a 10-day furlough to go home to pay his respect to his mother who had just died. The movie The Ninth Day by Volker Schlöndorff is a fictional film, loosely based on the 10-day furlough.

On page 86 of his book, Father Bernard wrote the following about the death of his mother:

I had to go to the cemetery to say good-bye to my mother. Her loyal heart had been forced to endure too much suffering and distress. Some days before people from the Gestapo had made a nasty scene.  It was too much for her. She gave her life to save mine.

Father Bernard does not give any details about the cause of his mother’s death, but he implies that her death was caused by a “nasty scene” perpetrated by the German Gestapo.  On page 85 of his book, Father Bernard reveals that after his furlough, he had to report to the Gestapo in Luxembourg. The Gestapo man asked him about his colleagues at Dachau: “Have they had enough?  Don’t they want to  come home?” He interpreted this to mean that the Gestapo had given him a furlough for the purpose of propaganda and that they might be thinking of the propaganda value of releasing six of the Luxembourg priests at Dachau.

Regarding the possible plans of the Gestapo to release all of the Luxembourg priests, Father Bernard wrote “Was it possible, for a moment, that I held the lives of my friends in my hands?”  All he had to do was to tell the Gestapo man that his friends from Luxembourg had learned their lesson, that they had been “re-educated,” and they would have been released.  But he refused to play along with the Gestapo.  It was this theme that was expanded upon in the film, The Ninth Day.

Pater-Roth-Strasse runs along the border of the Dachau camp

Father Roth never wrote a book, so we don’t know what he suffered as a prisoner at Dachau.  He had to wear a black triangle on his prison uniform because he had been arrested as a pedophile; Father Bernard wore a red triangle to show his classification as a political prisoner.

The reason that Father Roth has a street named after him is because, instead of writing a book about Dachau the moment that he was released, he volunteered to serve as the priest for the SS men who were imprisoned at Dachau, starting in July 1945, in “War Crimes Enclosure No. I,” the prison for 30,000 SS prisoners who were awaiting trial for their alleged crimes.  A Chapel was erected for the Catholic SS men in the former Dachau camp and Father Roth was their pastor.  You can read about War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 here.  When the War Crimes Enclosure was closed, Father Roth stayed on to serve the German expellees from Czechoslovakia who lived in the Dachau barracks as refugees for the next 17 years.

Throughout his book, Father Bernard shows himself to be a selfish, self-centered person who was always out for himself and who rarely thought of helping others.  He certainly never thought of staying at Dachau to administer to the imprisoned SS men or the ethnic German refugees.  He didn’t help to take care of the typhus patients at Dachau, as Father Roth did.

Father Jean Bernard was possibly the first person to attribute guilt to all the German people for the crime of putting people in concentration camps. In the forward of his book, Father Roth wrote:

… for we must never forget what happened there and in many similar places. Forgetting would be cowardice on the part of the people in whose name all these crimes were committed.  It would be a flight from their own consciences and from the indictment of the world, showing an unwillingness to make reparations and to atone. And by not imputing such cowardice to them, we honor the German people.

Father Jean Bernard died at the age of 87 on September 1, 1994.  He lived long enough to see his dream come true: the German people are still paying reparations and atoning for their sin of allowing crimes to be committed at Dachau in their name.

Meanwhile, Father Roth atoned for his sins by serving as a priest for the accused SS men, imprisoned at Dachau. Father Roth has a street named after him, while Father Jean Bernard’s legacy is that his stories of abuse are still being told by the tour guides at Dachau today. The idea that Father Bernard first came up with, that the crimes at Dachau were done in the name of all the German people, is still expressed today by millions of people.

In his book, Father Bernard wrote about his 10-day release from the camp; it is in the chapter entitled “Ten Days Leave and My Return to Dachau.”  Regarding the remarkable 10-day leave, which began on February 15, 1942, he wrote:

Such a thing has never happened before in the whole history of the camp!

Father Bernard reveals many details about the Dachau concentration camp.  For example, he mentions that the prisoners had “winter clothing,” which included gloves. The prisoners were allowed to send and receive letters.  Father Bernard had “Thirty marks,” apparently in real German money, not camp money, on the day that he was released.  He doesn’t say how he happened to have German money in a concentration camp, but apparently the money had been sent to him by relatives or friends.

In his book, Father Bernard revealed that the camp Commandant personally took him to the warehouse where all the prisoners’ clothing was stored and he was given back his suitcase and the cassock and “clerical hat” that he had been wearing when he arrived ten months earlier.

He also reveals a lot about the methods of the Gestapo. For example, how did the Gestapo prevent him from escaping to Switzerland the moment that he was released?

On page 86, he wrote that the Gestapo man in Luxembourg told him that he was scheduled to be released soon and then said, “If you go back, it won’t be for long.”  The Gestapo man didn’t say what would happen if he didn’t go back to Dachau, but Father Bernard wrote:

That was the silken thread with which the Gestapo kept me more firmly bound than a guard posted in front of my family’s house could have done.

The prisoners at Dachau who worked were given more food, so Father Bernard was happy when he was assigned to “Transport Commando Praezifix.”  The work involved 18 men pulling wagons which transported machines and material from the old factory in the town of Dachau to the new factory just outside the concentration camp in the “SS town.”  Father Bernard wrote that the former Praezifix Commando “had been disbanded after complaints from the men in charge of the factory, who announced that in the future they would be willing to work only with priests.”

The following quote is from page 93 of the book:

My first day as a member of the “Transport Commando Praezifix” is March 19, the feast of St. Joseph.

He did not give the year, but this was after he returned to Dachau on Feb. 25, 1942, so it was the year 1942.

Prisoners at Dachau are pulling a wagon

The photo above shows how prisoners at Dachau were used like horses to pull wagons. Father Bernard was part of a work group of 18 men who had to pull a wagon.

The area outside the gate into the Dachau concentration camp where the factories were located

The factories that were formerly outside the Dachau concentration camp have been torn down and the rubble is now covered with grass which visitors can see on either side of the entrance.  The photo below shows one of the factories at Dachau before they were torn down.

Dachau gatehouse and a factory on the right

One thing that young readers might not realize is that civilians in Germany and even in America were living much like the prisoners in Dachau.  For example, Father Bernard spends a lot of time describing the straw mattresses in the camp.  I was a child in America in 1941, but I didn’t have any mattress at all.  My older brother had a mattress filled with corn husks, but I had only  a thick pad on a folding bed.

Father Bernard also wrote about the stove in the camp, which was covered with ceramic tile.  These stoves are not shown at the Memorial Site, but there is one on display at Auschwitz, which is shown in the photo below.

Ceramic stove at the Auschwitz main camp

My home had a covered stove in the “front room,” although it was not covered with ceramic tile, like the one in the photo above. The importance of a covered stove, as opposed to a pot bellied stove, is that you can stand with your back against a covered stove and really get warm.

Father Bernard mentioned that the prisoners got pea soup on Sundays.  I was eating pea soup in the school lunches, and I hated it. The soldiers in the Waffen-SS were fed pea soup and when they were POWs in Eisenhower’s camps, they were given a handful of dried peas from the German Army storage centers and a cup of water.  At least, the prisoners at Dachau were given dried peas that had been cooked into a hot soup; they didn’t have to chew the dried peas, and try to wash them down with a cup of water, as the German prisoners had to do, in Eisenhower’s camps.

He mentions that the priests had to do exercises at Dachau.  I had to do calisthenics in the classroom when I was a child.  Father Bernard was from Luxemboug and maybe he didn’t know that exercise was virtually invented by the Germans and it was compulsory.  Old videos show young German girls doing exercises that look like aerobic exercise done in America today.

He tells about the meal served in the Dachau camp around 9:30 a.m. to the prisoners who worked.  When I was a child, German Americans called this “lunch” and the mid-day meal was called dinner.  The Germans called it “Brotzeit,” (Bread time) but Father Bernard did not mention this.  He did say that he sometimes had bread and liverwurst for his meal at 9:30 a.m.  That was my favorite “lunch.”

I lived in a German American community where the song “Ach du lieber Augustin” was frequently sung.  Father Bernard tells about the German prisoners at Dachau singing this song. (Play the video to the end to hear the English words of the song.)

October 28, 2010

“Priestblock 25487” by Jean Bernard, Part II

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:49 am

As I continue to read the book Priestblock 25487 by Father Jean Bernard, I realize that he, and the other priests who were prisoners, completely misunderstood the purpose of the Dachau concentration camp.  Father Bernard describes the treatment of the Dachau prisoners in terms which make it clear that the Dachau camp was a correctional facility, not a “death camp.” According to his description, Dachau was much like an American Marine boot camp.  In today’s world, unruly teenagers in America are sometimes sent to a boot camp to learn discipline.

But to Father Bernard, everything that he experienced at Dachau was “torture.”

The priests took a nap every day which meant that they had to make up their beds after their naps.  In German culture, an unmade bed is a metaphor for a sloppy, slovenly person who lacks discipline and does not conform to the very important German ideal of ORDER.

Here is Father Bernard’s opinion of bed making:

Then it’s time to make the beds. What a horrible phrase! It sums of the whole brutal idiocy of camp discipline.

On page 10, Father Bernard describes what he saw on his arrival at Dachau:

The broad avenue leading to the second gate has well-tended lawns and plants on either side.

In other words, incoming prisoners were immediately aware that this is a place where beauty and order are important.  At the Memorial Site today, visitors see nothing but gravel as they approach the concentration camp which is inside what Father Bernard calls the “SS town.”

Following his description of the lawn and flowers, Father Bernard wrote this:

How much blood and tears go into maintaining the insane degree of cleanliness and tidiness in this part of Dachau….

To Father Bernard, the beauty and cleanliness of Dachau was just another method of torturing the prisoners who had to maintain the grounds.

Father Bernard did not mention the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign which was installed in 1938, three years before he arrived in May 1941.  Today, the tour of the Dachau camp begins with the tour guide telling visitors how offended the prisoners were by the sight of this motto because the only way out of Dachau was “through the chimney.”

Father Bernard claims that he received “the obligatory slap in the face from each one” of the “camp officials” immediately upon his arrival.  Throughout his book, he mentions being slapped, but he doesn’t explain the reason for slapping.  Maybe he didn’t know the reason.  The SS men in all the camps were forbidden to punish the prisoners without permission from the head office in Oranienburg.  Instead of reporting a prisoner and requesting permission to punish the prisoner by whipping, the SS men would just slap a prisoner with an open hand.  Father Bernard didn’t realize that slapping was a way of maintaining discipline by getting around the rules of the concentration camps.

Upon arrival at Dachau, Father Bernard had all his body hair shaved before he took a shower and was then assigned to “the newcomer’s block.”  He describes this as though it were some sadistic form of abuse.  He didn’t realize that the body hair was shaved to prevent lice and the newcomer’s block was a quarantine block where prisoners had to stay for several weeks until it was determined that they were free from contagious diseases.  He mentions going to visit the “newcomers” from Luxembourg, not realizing that he could have spread a contagious disease throughout the camp by doing his.

Father Bernard mentioned that he wore a red triangle at Dachau which means that he was classified as a political prisoner.  He was most likely sent to Dachau because he was helping the French Resistance. In his book, Father Bernard claims that he didn’t know why he was arrested.

Father Bernard wrote that the prisoners called the SS man who was in charge of their barrack by the initials B.B. which stood for “blond beast.” This comes from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who coined the term “splendid blond beasts.”  You can read about more about it here.

On page 54, Father Bernard mentions “gassing” at Dachau. He is describing the scene in “early October 1941” when the priests were ordered out of their barracks and told “Germans and Poles line up separately!”

Here is the gassing quote from the book:

“We are going to be gassed!” screams a Pole next to me who is an ethnic German.  He tries to squeeze over to the German ranks.

This scene took place in October 1941 although it was not until June 1942 that the British first broadcast the news that Jews were being gassed in the camps in what is now Poland.  I was amazed to learn that there were rumors of prisoners being gassed at Dachau as early as October 1941, even though there was no alleged “gas chamber” until 1943. Today many of the tour guides at the Dachau Memorial Site tell visitors that prisoners were gassed at Dachau, although this was never proved.

At this point in my reading of Father Bernard’s book, I skipped to the back to read more about Father Bernard in the Biographical Note, which I presume was written by Robert Royal who wrote the Introduction.

Here is a quote from the Biographical Note:

In 1929 Bernard became involved in the work of the Church on films and the cinema, and in 1934 he became general secretary of the International Cinema Office, which had its headquarters in Brussels.  […]  In June 1940 the German Gestapo closed the office and seized its files.  […] After the collapse of France, Bernard worked […] to organize the return of many Luxembourg citizens who had fled to France before the advancing German army. This effort […] required Bernard to make eleven trips between Paris and Luxembourg.  […] After the operation was completed, Bernard was arrested by the Germans on January 6, 1941.  […] he was accused of having “incited” the returning Luxembourg citizens with “separatist propaganda” on various occasions, and to have carried letters and messages on his trips between Luxembourg and France.

With his background in producing films, Father Bernard knew how to use details that would attract attention.  One of his work assignments at Dachau was working on the “plantation.”  This was a huge farm where Heinrich Himmler, who had a degree in agriculture, was growing medicinal plants.  He was using the latest methods in organic gardening, including the use of compost.  On page 139, Father Bernard wrote about the “huge compost heap, where sometimes we could find something edible.  One day, “a garbage pail of boiled bones was emptied there.”

Then he told a story that was designed to show just how cruel the SS men were and how the priests were humiliated and starved.

The following quote is from page 139 of the book:

At once we threw ourselves on them (the boiled bones).  The thought indeed occurred to me the bones probably came from the dog kennels…but what difference did that make? Just because an SS dog found nothing more to gnaw on, that didn’t mean a prisoner would give up yet.

Another time a capo brought a hand basket full of discarded leek seedlings to the compost.  When he saw our longing glances, he tossed them out, then spread his legs and urinated on the pile of them.  “That’s so you’ll lose your appetites,” he said.

He was mistaken, however.  I learned on this occasion that some of my fellows were even hungrier than I was…

You can read Part III here.

October 27, 2010

“Priestblock 25487” by Jean Bernard, Part I

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 1:48 pm

I am reading the new release of the book Priest Block 25487 which was published in English in 2007.  The book was written by Jean Bernard, a Catholic priest, immediately after his release from Dachau in August 1942 and first published serially in 1945 in the weekly supplements of a Catholic newspaper, the Luxemburger Wort.

I first heard about this book from someone who visited my web site and e-mailed me that my original section about the treatment of the priests at Dachau was all wrong.  I updated and revised that section of my web site, which I had written before I was told about Father Bernard’s book.

After reading the book, I am very dubious about some of the incidents which Father Bernard described.  I got most of my information about the treatment of the priests at Dachau from the book entitled What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau? by Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler.  Curiously Dr. Neuhäusler didn’t mention any mistreatment of the priests at Dachau.

In his book, Dr. Neuhäusler wrote this about Jean Bernard:

In his memoirs he writes: “My first day at the transport commando “Präzifix”: It is March 19, 1941, the feast of St. Joseph – As we push the wagon through the door, I pray to him.”

In the new version of Jean Bernard’s book, I learned that he arrived at Dachau on May 19, 1941 and he did not mention being put to work on his first day in the camp.  Obviously, there was an error in either Dr. Neuhäusler’s book or in the memoir of Father Bernard when it was first published in 1945.

I went to Catholic school as a child and we were taught that the most wonderful thing in the world is to be a martyr. We were told that some of the saints wore hair shirts in order to create misery for themselves so that they could become martyrs. We were taught that when something bad happened to us, we should be happy because this would give us the opportunity to “offer it up to God.”

My overall impression of Father Bernard’s book is that he dwells excessively on every tiny bit of his alleged mistreatment at Dachau so that he will be considered a martyr, and potentially be canonized as a saint.

For example, the passage on pages 33 and 34 of the book in which Father Bernard writes about the priests being given a daily ration of  wine which they were forced to drink.

As we take our seats at the tables with our metal cups, as quiet as mice, the “wine detail” has returned and is distributing the bottles. […]

An SS man must always be present for the occasion. […]

Three men to a bottle.  […]

Not everyone is capable of drinking a quarter-liter of wine in one gulp. As soon as our cups are empty we have to hold them upside down above our heads.

Note that he wrote “three men to a bottle” which would be a third of a liter of wine, but then he also wrote “a quarter-liter.” So which was it?  A third of a liter of wine per day or a quarter liter of wine?  Note that he writes that not everyone can drink a quarter-liter in one gulp, implying that they were not punished if they didn’t drink the wine in one gulp.

Then he writes:

One prisoner chokes out of nervousness and falls behind. In a flash the SS man is on him and slams his fist into the bottom of the cup so violently that the metal rim slices a semi-circle through his lips and cheeks, all the way down to the bone.

I don’t believe this story. I think that this was Father Bernard’s way of turning a privilege, that was given only to the priests, into an act of torture. What was the name of this priest?  How about including a photo of this man’s facial scar in the book?

I’ve never seen a cup with a sharp metal rim. The prisoners at Dachau ate from enameled dishes and drank from enameled cups.  Look at  the photo below, which shows Dachau prisoners carrying metal bowls coated with enamel.

Prisoners at Dachau carry enameled bowls for their soup

Bowls and cups used at Mauthausen camp

Look at the photo of a cup used at the Mauthausen concentration camp.  Does it look like the cup has a sharp rim that could cut a man’s face to the bone?

Father Bernard also wrote extensively about how the priests were forced to make up their beds.  He mentioned that the bed covers were blue and white striped.  Look at the photo below which clearly shows that the bed covers had checks, not stripes. Was Father Jean Bernard actually at Dachau?

Bed covers at Dachau had blue-and-white checks

Many of the “tortures” that Jean Bernard describes in his book are still told to tourists at Dachau; for example, his story about an SS man who turns up the water in the shower room so hot that the prisoners think they are being “scalded alive, then suddenly makes it ice cold.”  Is it possible that the SS man was only trying to get the temperature just right by first turning on the hot water and then the cold water?

On the same page, he tells about being given a shirt, jacket, a pair of trousers and also socks. This is news to me.  I didn’t know the prisoners were given socks.  Maybe this was only for the priests.

Then he writes about how the SS photographer has a “spring-mounted spike” on the seat of the chair where the prisoners had to sit for their photo when they were first brought to the camp. No one told SS judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen about this when he came to investigate the Dachau camp, and he gave the SS men and the Commandant at Dachau a good report.

Father Bernard didn’t even know the name of the Commandant of Dachau; he mentioned that the Commandant’s name was Hoffman, but there was never a Commandant by that name at Dachau.

An Introduction to the book is provided by Robert Royal who writes excessively about the truthfulness of the book, making me suspicious that he knows that the  book is full of lies.  For example, Royal writes “He takes great pains to be accurate…” and “His strict regard for truth…”  Royal wrote that in 1932 there “were 21 thousand priests in Germany, but by the time Nazism was defeated a decade later, more than eight thousand of these men had either been threatened, beaten, imprisoned, or killed by the regime.”  To me, this sounds like a gross exaggeration.

The Introduction gives a good preview of the disingenuous nature of the book, as for example, this quote:

Priests were sent to every camp the Nazis had created, either because they had expressed dislike for Nazism or because the Nazis disliked them. (Bogus charges of financial misdealing or sexual impropriety were often trumped up, but many priests, like Father Bernard, never knew what, exactly, they had been arrested for.)

Finally Robert Royal writes in the introduction that the priests were sent to Dachau “as a way of keeping them together and thereby preventing them from ‘infecting’ other prison populations with Christianity.”  Does he not know that the German bishops and the Pope persuaded the Nazis to send all the priests to Dachau, the mildest camp of all, so that they could be given special privileges?  Or is he just denying that the priests were treated better than the other prisoners?

For example, Marcel Pasiecznik was a Polish priest who was first sent to the Flossenbürg concentration camp.  According to Father Pasiecznik’s own account of his stay at Flossenbürg, the prisoners were not expected to live longer than three months; they were forced to work 12 hours a day at hard labor while receiving only 1,000 calories of food per day. In only two months, he lost 50 pounds. He did not hide the fact that he was a priest: he would hear the confessions of his fellow prisoners as they worked side-by-side. Eventually, he was transferred to Dachau which was the designated camp for Catholic priests.

In 1987, Father Pasiecznik wrote the following in the “Homiletic and Pastoral Review” regarding his short stay at Flossenbürg and his later transfer to the Dachau concentration camp:

I should have died at Flossenbürg, but God had other plans. Once again, he intervened at the last moment, and I was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp. Strange as it may sound, Dachau saved my life.

Priests were imprisoned under relatively less rigorous conditions at Dachau – this was one of the few concessions which the Holy See had been able to wrest from Nazi Germany. God’s merciful providence sent me on my way with a package from a local pastor, a German Catholic priest. It contained bread, apples and a Latin edition of The Imitation of Christ. After the war I was able to thank him personally, and that’s when I determined that he had arranged my life-saving transfer.

When I arrived in Dachau, my death was further forestalled thanks to the good graces of the other Polish priests there and the American Red Cross, which sent us care packages. I was made a tailor, which meant light work done indoors. There were 800 priests in one barrack, all Poles, and 400 priests from Germany and all over Europe, in the other. There were 28 barracks in Dachau in total. The authorities permitted the German priests to say Mass daily in the chapel in their barracks. They in turn smuggled bread and wine to the Polish priests for them to say Mass as well. I participated every morning in this secret Mass and received Holy Communion. And three times I celebrated Mass for my colleagues before our liberation. I even made visits to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the German priests’ chapel, but you had to tell one of them the watchword. One time I remember it was “Lux de luce,” light from light.

I received a care package from Poland, which contained bread, stockings, a cap and the “Novena to God’s Mercy,” revealed to Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska. This last was a miracle because the package must have passed through Nazi hands. Pope John Paul II has elevated Sister Faustina to “Blessed” in recent years.

You can read Part II here and my impression of the book cover here.

October 26, 2010

Sometimes you have to judge a book by its cover: Priestblock 25487 by Jean Bernard

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 3:41 pm

I finally broke down and ordered the book by Jean Bernard, a priest imprisoned at Dachau, who wrote Priestblock 25487, A Memoir of Dachau.  You may have heard the old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.”  In this case, I eagerly tore open the wrapper when the book arrived in the mail and immediately judged it by its cover, which is shown in the photo below.

Cover of the book by Jean Bernard

I immediately recognized the cross on the cover.  This is the cross that was erected by the Polish political prisoners soon after the Dachau camp was liberated in 1945.  The large wooden cross was set up in the roll call square in front of the administration building; it is shown in the photo below.  It was obviously not at Dachau when Jean Bernard was a prisoner there in 1941 and 1942.

Catholic Cross at Dachau concentration camp, 1945

Father Jean Bernard was a prisoner at Dachau from May 19, 1941 to August 6, 1942 when he was released.  The book is based on a diary which he kept while he was a prisoner; he didn’t choose this cover for the book which was published in 2007 by Zaccheus Press, but the cover sets the tone of the book which is disingenuous to say the least.

The cover picture, which is evocative of a crucifixion, shows something that could not have happened in this way.  It attempts to portray a story that Father Bernard was told by another prisoner; the story was about 60 priests who were hung by their arms on Good Friday in 1940, more than a year before Father Bernard arrived at Dachau in May 1941.

In his book, Father Bernard mentioned that the Good Friday hanging took place in the large shower room in the administration building; the priests were hung from wooden “rafters” that have since been removed.  His fellow prisoner had told Father Bernard that “the SS found some pretext to punish 60 priests with an hour on ‘the tree.’ ”  Father Bernard then writes that the “tree hanging” punishment “is the mildest camp punishment.”  Actually, “tree hanging” was the most severe punishment, not the mildest camp punishment, and it was used at Buchenwald, not at Dachau.   “Tree hanging” was rarely used, and only for the worst of crimes, such as sabotage in the munitions factories.

The old black and white photo shows one of the beams, on the right hand side, from which prisoners were hung by their arms as punishment.

The color photo immediately above shows the shower room at Dachau the way it looks now; you can see where the beams have been removed.  The hanging punishment was discontinued in 1942 by the order of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler.  The man who devised this punishment was Martin Sommer; I wrote about him in a previous blog post which you can read here.

I’m on page 55 of the book now, and I will write a review of the whole book when I finish it.  The book is pocket sized and has only 177 pages.  On the last page is a photo of Father Bernard from the 1930s when he was a young man.  Not a bad looking fellow.  He doesn’t look like a hateful person, but  his book seems to have been written by a  person who was consumed by hate.

You can read part one of my review of the book here.

October 25, 2010

New Clairvaux Abbey — using stones from the 12th century to build a Chapter House

Filed under: California — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 2:10 pm

On Sunday, I took a trip to northern California and visited the Chapter House of a monestery located just outside the town of Vina.  The Chapter House of a monestery or abbey is where the monks go to read a chapter of the Bible every day.  It is not the living quarters of the monks.   (more…)

October 23, 2010

Dr. Oz recommends oatmeal, a banana and walnuts for breakfast

Filed under: Health — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 7:57 am

Yesterday, I watched the Dr. Oz show on TV and heard him recommend a nutritious breakfast consisting of a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and a banana.  Not a bad idea. Oatmeal lowers cholesterol and walnuts are a good source of healthy fat.  Bananas are loaded with potassium which will lower blood pressure.  (more…)

October 21, 2010

Did Himmler really order all the prisoners at Dachau to be killed?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 3:25 pm

A few days before I suffered a stroke in July this year, there was a comment on one of my posts that I never answered because I was in no condition to argue about such things after being hospitalized.  The comment made a reference to a message from Reichsfürher-SS Heinrich Himmler, which he allegedly wrote by hand on a plain piece of paper on April 14, 1945 and sent to the commandant of the Dachau camp.  This note was stored in the files of the International Tracing Service in Germany and it was revealed to the public for the first time in March 2007.

The discovery of this note at the ITS in Arolsen, Germany, caused a media sensation in 2007. No order by Hitler or Himmler had ever been found and this note finally proved that the Nazis intended to kill all the prisoners in the concentration camps. On April 14, 1945, Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler had previously authorized SS Colonel Kurt Becher to negotiate the surrender of Dachau and other camps to the Allies because conditions in the overcrowded camps were now totally out of control.  Becher had been involved in negotiating with the Allies in the infamous “Blood for Goods” deal in which the Nazis offered to trade a million Jews for 10,000 trucks.

Allegedly, Himmler immediately RESCINDED his order to turn Dachau over to the Allies in a note hurriedly written by hand, dated 14 April 1945 and 18 April 1945.

Here is a quote from the reader’s comment in July 2010:

…. Because of Himmler’s orders not to let the prisoners survive. They could have been sent West to be handed over to the Allies (US & UK). Can you prove your claim that Himmler’s order in the archives is a fake? Probably not.

No, I can’t prove that “Himmler’s order in the archives” is fake.  However, I can use common sense in forming an opinion that the “order” is fake.

Here is the text of the message, allegedly written by Himmler on April 14, 1945:

A handover is out of the question. The camp must be evacuated immediately. No prisoner must be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy alive. The prisoners have behaved horribly to the civilian population of Buchenwald.

Buchenwald was the name of a concentration camp, not the name of a town, and there was no “civilian population of Buchenwald,” which Himmler would have known. On April 14th, there were around 25,000 prisoners at Dachau, with thousands more arriving every day, as the prisoners from the sub-camps were brought to the main camp. Keeping this mass of prisoners out of the “hands of the enemy” would have been virtually impossible.

Arthur Haulot, a Belgian political prisoner at Dachau, wrote in his diary that he heard about this order, one hour after it arrived in Dachau. Haulot referred to the order as a “pessimistic rumor.” He had heard about it from a German nurse in the camp, who was his lover.  So it seems that Arthur Haulot, who was a member of the prisoner’s organization called the Committee of Dachau, did not believe that the message allegedly from Himmler was genuine.

On April 14th, negotiations for the handover of the Bergen-Belsen camp to the British Army had already been in progress for several days. A cease fire had been ordered on April 12th. On the 14th, the date that Himmler allegedly rescinded his order for Dachau, he did not rescind the agreement to turn Bergen-Belsen over to the Allies on the 15th.  Why not?

Note that Himmler’s alleged hand written note read “The camp must be EVACUATED immediately. No prisoner must be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy alive.”  The note did NOT order the prisoners to be killed.

On April 15, 1945, British soldiers entered the Bergen-Belsen camp, as per the negotiated surrender of the camp. Hungarian troops were sent to Bergen-Belsen to keep order during the transfer of the camp; they were promised that they could return to their lines after six days, but some of them were shot by the British.   Hungarian SS soldiers were also sent to Dachau to keep order during the surrender of the camp, and they were killed by the American liberators.

On my first visit to Dachau in 1997, I purchased a Handbook written by Barbara Distel who was the director of the Dachau Memorial Site at that time.

This quote is from the Handbook written by Barbara Distel, published in 1972:

Every day the prisoners saw the Allies’ bombers in the sky. The mood in the camp vacillated between hopeful impatience and anxious despair. The dominating questions became: What did the SS intend to do with the prisoners who numbered over 30,000? Would the prisoners all be slain before the arrival of the Allies?

After the war it was revealed that the plans had, indeed, existed to kill the inmates of the concentration camp by bombs and poison. On April 14, 1945, Himmler telegraphed the following command to the camp commanders of Dachau and Flossenburg: “There is to be no question of surrender. The camp must be evacuated immediately. Not a single living prisoner must fall into the hands of the enemy.” Representing various countries, the prisoners who had been working loosely together decided to organize an underground camp committee which would try to ensure the survival of the prisoners and, if necessary, organize resistance to SS plans of action.

On April 26th, the secret committee authorized two prisoners to escape from the camp and to find their way to the American troops whose approach could be heard by the roar of the guns. They were to ask them to come to Dachau as quickly as possible. The prisoners were successful and, two days later, the Americans, who had originally planned to capture Munich first, arrived in Dachau.

On that same day, April 26th, the command rang out in the camp to form up in the roll-call square; provisions and blankets were distributed and nearly 7,000 prisoners were forced, under SS guard, to march south.
On the march, hundreds were shot as soon as they could continue no longer, or they died from hunger, cold, and exhaustion as the marches through rain and snow lasted for days and the nights were passed out in the open. The American troops overtook those columns on the march at the beginning of May. Only then, just before the approach of the Americans, did the accompanying SS guards take to flight. Thus, only two days before the liberation of the camp, these prisoners fell victim to a fanatical ideology carried through to its ultimate consequences, in the name of which innocent people were driven relentlessly to their death.

By April 28th tension in the Dachau camp had risen even higher. No new evacuation marches had been made, and the prisoners discovered that the greater part of the SS had disappeared; only the machine guns on the guard towers were still manned.

The prisoners in the disinfection barracks suddenly heard, from their hidden radio receiver, appeals from the “Bavarian Action for Freedom” (Freiheitsaktion Bayern). Soldiers were told to lay down their arms. A short time later, shots and tank alarms could be heard from the town of Dachau. As the prisoners knew that fifty of their comrades from various branch detachments had escaped and were hiding in Dachau, they were full of concern and wondered what could have happened.

Not until after the liberation did they learn that these prisoners-in-hiding and some citizens of Dachau had taken the call of the “Bavarian Action for Freedom” as the signal for the occupation of the Dachau city hall. An SS unit, returning unexpectedly, forced them to give up their plan. In an exchange of shots in the city hall square, six resistance fighters were killed. The following morning, the first American tanks reached the city of Dachau.

Note that Ms. Distel wrote that “Himmler telegraphed” the order.  Arthur Haulot wrote in his diary that the order was sent by telex.  The order that is stored in the files of the International Tracing Service is a hand written order that was not signed by anyone.  We know what was written on paper, but not what was in the telegraphed message.  Note that Ms. Distel quoted the order with a different wording.

Barbara Distel might have been refering to the testimony of Bertus Gerdes at the Nuremberg IMT when she wrote:  “After the war it was revealed that the plans had, indeed, existed to kill the inmates of the concentration camp by bombs and poison.” Gerdes testified at Nuremberg that Ernst Kaltenbrunner had ordered the sub-camps at Landsberg am Lech and Mühldorf to be bombed to kill all the prisoners.  This plan was never carried out and the prisoners in these sub-camps were evacuated to the main camp.

We may never know the truth because Himmler allegedly committed suicide after he was captured by the British and the Commandant of the Dachau camp also allegedly committed suicide after he led a group of prisoners out of the Dachau main camp to a sub-camp called Schloss Itter.

“life unworthy of life” (in German: “Lebensunwertes Leben”)

Filed under: Germany, Health — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:26 am

The title of this post, “life unworthy of life” (in German: “Lebensunwertes Leben”) was used in Nazi Germany in reference to the people who were killed because they were mentally or physically disabled. The Nazi concept of “unwertes Leben” or “unworthy lives” is believed to have eventually led to the Holocaust.

In the news recently, there is the sad story of a seven-year-old girl who was the victim of cyber-bullying by an adult neighbor who posted horrible photos, alluding to the fact that the child will eventually die of Huntington’s Disease.  The little girl’s mother recently died from Huntington’s Disease, which is a genetic condition.

The recent news stories, which mention Huntington’s Disease, reminded me that, in Nazi Germany, this disease was on the list of conditions that Germany attempted to wipe out by sterilizing people — against their will, if necessary.

On July 14, 1933, Hitler signed the “Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring,” one of the first laws Hitler implemented after he was appointed the Chancellor of Germany. In German, it was called Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses and it was the law of compulsory sterilizations. The ideology of the Nazi Party included the concept of  “racial hygiene” which was the plan to produce a race of strong, healthy people.

Article I of the “Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring” defined who was to be examined and then sterilized:

(1) Anyone who suffers from an inheritable disease may be surgically sterilized if, in the judgment of medical science, it could be expected that his descendants will suffer from serious inherited mental or physical defects.

(2.) Anyone who suffers from one of the following is to be regarded as inheritably diseased within the meaning of this law:

1. congenital feeble-mindedness
2. schizophrenia
3. manic-depression
4. congenital epilepsy
5. inheritable St. Vitus dance (Huntington’s Chorea)
6. hereditary blindness
7. hereditary deafness
8. serious inheritable malformations

Hartheim Castle in Austria was the place where disabled people were killed during the Nazi regime.  The castle has now been turned into a memorial site which is used to promote the idea that disabled people are “worthy to live” and that disabled children should be “main-streamed” in elementary schools, not sent to special schools for the handicapped.  You can read all about the memorial site at Hartheim here.  You can read about the disabled people who were gassed to death at Hartheim here.

I don’t know if Huntington’s Disease has been wiped out in Germany, but I do know that hereditary deafness has not been eliminated.  On one of my many trips to Germany, I observed a mother and father who looked enough alike to be brother and sister; their son looked exactly like his parents.  All three were using sign language.

This family was eating in a restaurant. When another person came in and communicated with them in sign language, it was clear that none of them could hear. The visitor was able to speak to others in the restaurant. If any of the three people in this family had been able to hear, the visitor would have spoken to them, instead of using sign language.

The young boy in this family will probably carry on the tradition by marrying a girl who is deaf, producing more children with hereditary deafness.  Meanwhile, the children of former Nazis are having themselves sterilized to prevent future generations of evil German monsters.

If I had Huntington’s Disease, I would adopt a child, rather than passing on this disease to future generations.

October 18, 2010

The International Monument at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 4:41 pm

Back in August this year, a group of American imams and Muslim leaders made a trip to visit Auschwitz and Dachau, accompanied by Hannah Rosenthal who is with the U.S. government.  The trip was organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Center for Interreligious Understanding; the purpose was to combat Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial which is rampant among Muslims who have not had the advantage of Holocaust education.

Following the trip, Ms. Rosenthal wrote a debriefing letter which you can read here.

Her letter begins with this quote:

As Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I had the special honor of joining the delegation of the Imams and Muslim leaders to Dachau and Auschwitz last month.  I went for a very simple reason: Holocaust denial is growing in many places, especially in Muslim countries. Holocaust denial doesn’t just feed anti-Semitism; Holocaust denial is a form of anti-Semitism.

It was this part of her letter which caught my attention:

This was an historic trip. As soon as the imams decided to pray by the Dachau sculpture commemorating the 6 million Jewish lives exterminated, I knew history was being made. When they prostrated to the ground in prayer, every tourist, every passer-by, stopped in their tracks to witness the moment.

The Dachau sculpture that is referred to in the above quote is part of the International Monument.  The sculpture is shown in the photos below.

Sculpure in front of the Museum building at Dachau

The dates 1933 to 1945 are the years that Dachau was a concentration  camp for anti-Nazis

Close-up of the sculpture at Dachau

The sculpure as seen from the door of the Museum

Contrary to Ms. Rosenthal’s statement that the Dachau sculpture commemorates the 6 million Jews who were exterminated, the sculpture represents all of the prisoners at Dachau, most of whom were not Jewish.  Dachau was not a “death camp” for Jews. Remember the Rev. Niemöller’s little poem: “First they came for the Communists.”

In the photos, you can see that the sculpture is not flat, but has a depth of about four feet. Notice the hands of the skeletons which resemble the barbs on a barbed wire fence. The sculpture is approximately 48 feet wide and 19 feet tall. It symbolizes the emaciated bodies of the prisoners who died of starvation and disease in the camp, not the Jews who were killed in gas chambers in Poland.

No one was sent to Dachau, just because they were Jewish, until November 1938.  During the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, there were around 10,000 Jews sent to Dachau but they were released as soon as they were able to arrange to leave Germany.

The general roundup of all the Jews did not begin until after the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, and then the Jews were sent to death camps in Poland.  Of the 6 million Jews who were exterminated, very few died in the main Dachau camp where this sculpture is located.  To say that the Dachau sculpture commemorates the 6 million Jews is an insult to the Communists, British SOE agents, Polish Resistance fighters, and Catholic priests who made up most of the prisoners.  The majority of the Dachau prisoners were Catholic Resistance fighters from Poland, France, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, who were captured while fighting as illegal combatants in World War II.

Between 1945 and 1965, Dachau was first a prison camp for German war criminals who were awaiting trial, and then a refugee camp for Germans who were expelled from the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.  Prisoners from many different countries lived in the Dachau barracks for 12 years, but the German expellees lived in these same barracks for 17 years. The Dachau Memorial Site opened in 1965, after the German refugees were kicked out, and the  International Monument  was formally dedicated in September 1968.

The sculpture, which is just one part of the large International monument, was designed by Nandor Glid.  A competition to find a suitable design was announced to artists who were concentration camp survivors on New Year’s day in 1959.  Surviors from other camps besides Dachau were allowed to enter the contest.

Forty-five of the 63 entries were exhibited in November 1959 at the Ministry for Health and Family in Brussels. The final decision, to choose the entry by Nandor Glid, was made by Albert Guérisse, a Belgian Communist who was imprisoned at Dachau after he was captured while working as a spy for the British SOE. Guérisse was the President of the International Committee which planned the Memorial Site and still controls what is included in the Dachau Museum.

When the Dachau concentration camp was in operation, the area where the International Monument is located was covered with grass and there was a flower-lined path from the roll-call square up to the service building which is now the Museum.

The former path is now covered with squares of marble and the grass and flowers have been replaced by a ramp with a zig-zag border around a field of gravel. A wall in front of the museum, at the south end of the path, is the base for the sculpture done by Yugoslavian artist Nandor Glid. This wall obstructs the entrance to the Museum and visitors have to walk across a field of gravel and go around the sculpture to gain entry.

The Dachau Museum building as it looked in 1945

The German words on the roof translate into English as follows: “There is one road to freedom. Its milestones are: Obedience, Diligence, Honesty, Orderliness, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Truthfulness, Self-Sacrifice, and Love of the Fatherland.”  These words have long since been painted over and the sculpture now blocks the entrance to the building.  The sculpture itself represents the kind of art that the Nazis didn’t like, so it is an anti-Nazi sculpture which replaces the Nazi words that were formerly on the roof.

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