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December 31, 2010

I have unwittingly opened up a can of worms

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 12:16 am

Until just recently, I was not aware of the significance of the evacuation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and the so-called “death march” out of the camp.  When I previously blogged about the “death march” out of Auschwitz, this generated a lot of comments with strong opinions.

A “death march” is usually defined as a long hike from one place to another with the stragglers being shot.  The most famous “death march” during World War II was the Bataan Death March which you can read about here(more…)

December 27, 2010

More stories from Dachau Liberated: The Official Report

Filed under: Dachau, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 1:22 pm

Dachau Liberated: The Official Report, a book written by the American liberators of Dachau, was published in 2000.  Chapter 5 of the report was entitled “Rudolf Hoess’ Mistress.”

Rudolf Hoess was the infamous Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  His so-called mistress, a woman named Eleanor Hodys, was a prisoner in Block 11 at the main Auschwitz camp for nine months, but after she became pregnant, allegedly by Hoess, and had an abortion, she was released and transferred to Munich. She was then sent to Dachau, ten miles from Munich, where she was liberated on April 29, 1945.  To protect her identity, The Official Report only gave her initials: E.H.

Eleanor Hodys told the American liberators that she had been a prisoner in Block 11, waiting to be executed at the Black Wall. She said that Commandant Hoess entered her cell on the night of December 16, 1942.

Block 11 at Auschwitz; black wall on the left

The Official Report mentioned that E.H. had been working in the Commandant’s house in May 1942 when she was first approached by Hoess, who kissed her.  She was frightened and locked herself in the toilet.  She reported herself sick and did not go back to his house anymore.

Then one day, an SS officer came to tell E.H. that she should bathe, have her hair dressed, put on her best clothes, and call on the Commandant’s wife on Sundays.  After awhile, the Commandant’s wife told her that she need not come to call on Sundays any more because the Commandant was sick and she was staying with him in another town. Two or three days later, E.H. was told that she “had committed some infraction in the Commandant’s house.”

The house where Rudolf Hoess lived at Auschwitz

E.H. claimed that she wrote letters to the Commandant and his wife and the cook at the Commandant’s house in which she “explained the facts and asked them to take no account of rumors and to do something for me.”

E.H. said that she received no answer, but the next day after her letters had been received, she was sent to Block 11, where prisoners were customarily held to await execution.  This was on October 16, 1942, the day that she was scheduled to begin work in a camp hospital and it had been hinted that she might be released to work in a hospital on the Eastern Front.

So what really happened?  Did Commandant Hoess really try to seduce E.H. or did she do something wrong while she was visiting at the Commandant’s house?  Why did she write a letter to the cook who worked in the Hoess house?

Heinrich Himmler had urged his SS officers to have at least four children and to take a mistress if necessary.  Himmler himself took a young mistress when his wife became too old have any more children.

From the account given to the Americans by Eleanor Hodys, it seems that the Commandant’s wife was O.K. with her husband trying to woo a prisoner by inviting her to visit his house on Sundays.  But then something happened and his wife told E.H. not to come on Sundays any more.

Was rejection of the advances of the Commandant enough reason to condemn a woman to be executed?

In her account given to the Americans, E.H. said that she was “taken to execution.”  She described how an SS man named Gehring had come to her cell (Cell #26) and had instructed her to get ready because she was going to be shot.  But suddenly, two SS men named Maximilian Grabner and Hans Aumeier came into the courtyard to “meet the prisoners” who were walking to the Black Wall to be shot that day.  E.H. said that these two SS men were shocked to see her among the prisoners to be executed and “made everyone go back” to their cells in Block 11.  Grabner called her an hour later and told her that “the whole thing was a joke.”

He “called” her?  Did she have a phone in her cell in Block 11?   The Nazis were some real pranksters, but did they really execute prisoners as a joke?

E.H. was in Cell #26 right next to Cell #27

Maximilian Grabner, head of the Gestapo department at Auschwitz

E.H.’s description of the way that Hoess allegedly seduced her in her cell in Block 11 borders on rape.  Hoess was a nice looking man before he was tortured by the British.  He could have had any woman he wanted, and apparently his wife would have approved, so why did he relentlessly harass E.H. until she finally consented to have sex with him?

Commandant Rudolf Hoess is the man in the center

E.H. said that she was moved to Cell #6 “that one could open and shut from the inside.”  This was apparently for the convenience of the Commandant, so that she could let him in and out of her cell.  What kind of a prison has cells that the prisoners can go in and out of whenever they please?

This quote, from the words of E.H., is in Chapter 5 in Dachau Liberated: The Official Report:

Some days later, he (the Commandant) came again during the night.  He asked then if he should go away.  I said “no.”  He asked me what I had to say. I told him he knew what I had to say.  Then he came to me in the bed, and we had sexual intercourse.  […] All in all we had four or five nights of sexual intercourse.

Photos of Hoess show that he was a well-groomed, fastidious man.  He doesn’t look like a man who would practically rape a woman in a dirty prison cell.

E.H. said that she asked the Commandant what would happen to her if it were discovered that she was having sex with him.  He told her that she should deny it.  Then he advised her to say that she was having sex with a prisoner named Fichinger.  Nothing would happen to her if she were having an affair with a fellow prisoner.  Then E.H. claims that the Commandant “took a sheet of paper out of his notebook” and ordered her to write out  a “declaration” that she “had an acquaintance” with Fichtinger.  Did the Commandant of Auschwitz really carry a notebook with him when he went, in the middle of the night, into a prison cell to have sex with a prisoner?

Later on, in her account, E.H. referred to Fichtinger as her finance, and she mentioned that he advised her under all circumstances not to mention the Commandant’s name. Was E.H. really having an affair with the Commandant, or did she get pregnant by Fichinger and then blame it all on the Commandant?

Was E.H. crazy?  Just in case someone might say that she was crazy, E.H. took care of that little detail in her account.  She said, “I was careful enough to put myself under psychiatric care.”  A Polish camp doctor had treated her in Auschwitz and a “certificate” from him was in the possession of Fichtinger, according to her account.

The important thing about Chapter 5 is that all of the events described by E.H. happened at Auschwitz, not at Dachau.  She mentioned the “standing cells” in Block 11 at Auschwitz and claimed that she had once been put into a standing cell herself — for NINE WEEKS.  How could anyone survive for nine weeks in a standing cell like the ones that have been reconstructed at Auschwitz?

Reconstructed standing cell at Auschwitz

E.H. claimed that she was not told why she was put into a standing cell.  This punishment was usually given to prisoners who had committed a serious crime, such as sabotage.

The Dachau Museum claims that there were “standing cells” at Dachau, although the Commandant and other staff members at Dachau denied this.  The standing cells at Dachau were allegedly torn down by the Americans.  Or did the Americans learn about standing cells from E.H. and decide to include them in the Dachau atrocities?  It seems strange to me that the Americans would destroy evidence at Dachau.

Hans Aumeier, the SS man mentioned by E.H. in her story of almost being executed as a joke, was originally one of the prisoners that was scheduled to be prosecuted, at Dachau, by the American Military Tribunal, but he was cut from the list and sent to Poland instead for trial.  Was he originally included in the AMT proceedings because E.H. had named him?

E.H. also mentioned the infamous hanging punishment in her account.  She said that a prisoner named Bruno Graf died “after he had been hung by the arms for five hours in the sun.”  One of the atrocities that allegedly happened at Dachau was that prisoners were hung by their arms in the shower room.  Did the American liberators learn about the hanging punishment from E.H. or did this really happen at Dachau?

The whole story of E.H., as told in Chapter 5 of the Dachau report, seems suspicious to me.  Why did the Americans seek her out as one of the 20 prisoners that they questioned?  Her imprisonment had been mainly at Auschwitz, not at Dachau.

December 26, 2010

Dachau Liberated: The Official Report

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 12:09 pm

Shortly after the American liberators of Dachau arrived on April 29, 1945, they interviewed 20 of the prisoners “in order to determine what conditions had been like in the judgement (sic) of these men.” According to the report, “Care was taken to pick only those with red triangles on their uniforms.”  The political prisoners wore red triangles and the German criminals wore green triangles.

The Americans did not want to talk to the German “hardened criminals in the camp,”  according to the Report.  The political prisoners at Dachau were mainly Communists and were allies with the Americans.  Many of the German criminals were Kapos who were prisoners who helped in running the camp.  The Kapos might have told the story from the point of view of the SS administrators of the camp.  Obviously, that’s not what the Americans wanted to hear.

A few weeks later, a report entitled Dachau was released.  The report was later retitled Dachau Liberated, The Official Report and published in 2000; it was edited by Michael W. Perry and the book includes some additional material as well as some drawings done by an American soldier who was there when the camp was liberated.

Recently there has been some discussion about the one Irish person who was allegedly a prisoner at Dachau.  The Dachau report does not mention an Irish prisoner.  There were many countries listed in the Dachau Statistics as having one prisoner in the camp, but not Ireland.

The Official Report lists 1 Dane, 1 Maltese, 1 Arabians, 1 Finns, 1 Iraqs, 1 Irans, 2 Swiss, 2 Armenians, 3 Turks, 6 Americans, and 8 British.   There were 9082 Poles in the camp, according to The Official Report, and 4258 Russians, 3918 French, 2907 Slovenes, 2184 Italians, 1632 Czechs, 848 Belgians, 670 Hungarians and 558 Dutch.  Other countries that were included in the statistics had smaller numbers of prisoners.

There were 2539 Jews, including 225 women, but most of them had only recently arrived, after having been evacuated from the sub-camps and brought to the main Dachau camp.

Here is a quote from The Official Report:

The purpose of this investigation was to find out two things:  (1) What conditions in the Camp actually had been like, and (2) How much did the townspeople of Dachau know of the goings-on and what was their present attitude toward this monumental crime of twelve years’ duration that had transformed their sleepy little town into a world-famous place.

Dachau was “world-famous” in 1945?  I don’t think so.  Some of the American liberators said later that they had never even heard of the camp before they liberated it.  In German, the term “world-famous” would be “weltbekannt,” an expression that I have frequently heard German speakers use.   Did Americans use the words “world-famous” with a hyphen in 1945?  This seems to have been written by someone in the American military who could speak German.  Someone in the OSS perhaps?

The most important point in the quote that I put up is that it seems that the Americans had already made up their mind that the issue of the townspeople of Dachau should be addressed immediately.  In case the townspeople should dispute the stories told by the 20 prisoners, this had to be nipped in the bud.

The Americans wisely decided to find out what the camp was “actually” like from the Communist prisoners and then find out how much the townspeople knew, so that any stories that differed from the “actual” account could be immediately discredited.  To this day, it is claimed that the townspeople knew everything that was told by the prisoners, but they decided not to do anything about it.

More importantly, the Americans wanted to know the “present attitude toward this monumental crime of twelve years’ duration.”

It seems that the Americans had already decided, before talking to the townspeople, that there had been “monumental” crimes going on at Dachau for 12 years.  And they needed to know the “present attitude.”  The townspeople needed to change their attitude and acknowledge that they were guilty because they had sat around for 12 years and had not lifted a finger to stop the “monumental” crimes.

Strangely, the 20 prisoners, who told about what Dachau was “actually” like, did not include any of the 6 Americans in the camp.  One of these Americans was in the OSS.  If he ever said anything, one way or another, about what it was like in Dachau, I’ve never heard about it.

December 25, 2010

the “death march” out of Auschwitz on Jan. 18, 1945

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 5:26 pm

I can vividly recall the moment when I first learned about the “death march” out of Auschwitz.  It was when I read an article in my local newspaper about a Holocaust survivor who explained how she had managed to survive the march out of Auschwitz when the camp was abandoned on January 18, 1945.  She said that her father had advised her to wear her ski boots when the family was transported on a train to Auschwitz.  She managed to keep her ski boots throughout the time that she was a prisoner at Auschwitz and she wore them during the march out of the camp.  This was what saved her life.   (more…)

December 23, 2010

Judging a book by its cover: Murderous Medicine by Naomi Baumslag

Filed under: Buchenwald, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 8:20 am

On July 11, 2010, a reader of my blog made a comment in which he provided a link to a book review of a book entitled “Murderous Medicine,” by Naomi Baumslag.

In his comment, the reader quoted the first paragraph of the book review:

In Murderous medicine Naomi Baumslag documents the complicity of Nazi doctors and pharmaceutical companies in murderous medical experiments related to epidemic typhus to further Jewish genocide. On the book’s cover is a picture of the shaved heads of newly dead men, frozen in snow, with snow caps as skull caps, reminiscent of the Jewish yarmulke. Eyes and mouths are closed, forever blinded and silenced about the conditions of their deaths. Perhaps only pictures can capture the essence of Nazi medical atrocities; but pictures also limit these atrocities, which are almost too numerous to catalog.   (more…)

December 22, 2010

What I didn’t know about the Holocaust — until now

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:32 am

I thought I knew a lot about the Holocaust; I’ve been studying it for around 17 years.  It turns out that I was wrong about many of the important details.

Today I read this on a wordpress blog:

Another example Eaton gave was a photograph widely circulated by the Holocaust deniers of General Eisenhower standing next to one of the gas chambers at Dachau. “And they hold this up and say, here is Eisenhower being shown a false gas chamber. And they are correct. At Dachau, which was a camp in Germany used mainly for political prisoners, they started to construct a gas chamber. They used inmates to construct the gas chamber. The inmates sabotaged the chamber and it was never actually used as a gas chamber.”    (more…)

December 21, 2010

SS men prosecuted for gassing prisoners at Mauthausen, but not at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:41 am

After World War II, staff members of the concentration camps in Germany and Austria were prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal which was held at Dachau.  The charge against all of the accused in all of the AMT proceedings was that they had participated in a “common plan” to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Geneva Convention of 1929 and the Hague Convention of 1907.

In all of the proceedings of the AMT, only crimes committed against the Allies during World War II were included.  Since the names and nationality of the prisoners who were allegedly gassed at Dachau were unknown, there could be no testimony, during the proceedings against the Dachau staff, about any citizen of an Allied country, or an Allied soldier, who had been killed in the gas chamber at Dachau.   (more…)

December 20, 2010

Why did the SS leave a gas chamber for the American liberators to find at Dachau?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: — furtherglory @ 3:42 pm

For years, I wondered why the staff at the Dachau concentration camp had left behind a gas chamber when they escaped the night before the American liberators arrived.  The Americans had already found the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald on April 4, 1945 and the main Buchenwald camp on April 11, 1945.  Bergen-Belsen had been turned over to the British on April 15, 1945.  There had been plenty of time to blow up the Dachau gas chamber before the Americans arrived on April 29, 1945.  So why did the SS men leave evidence of war crimes behind for the Americans to find?

The fact that the acting Commandant, Martin Gottfried Weiss, and his men escaped before the Americans got there means that they were expecting to be charged with war crimes, or maybe even shot without being put on trial.  So why did they leave evidence behind?

I finally learned the answer to this question a couple of years ago, and the answer may surprise you.   (more…)

Why do the numbers for Auschwitz-Birkenau keep changing?

The number of deaths at Auschwitz has changed drastically over the past 75  years. The Nazis were famous for keeping detailed records, so why are the number of deaths at Auschwitz an estimate that keeps changing?

At the Nuremberg IMT, the German war criminals were charged with killing 4 million prisoners at the three camps known as Auschwitz I (the main camp), Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Auschwitz III (Monowitz).  What was this figure based upon?

The charge against the Germans at Nuremberg was based on a document written on May 6, 1945 by the Soviet Union that was accepted into evidence by the Nuremberg IMT although there was no proof whatsoever given in this document that 4 million people had been killed. The Soviet figure of 4 million was based on the estimated capacity of the ovens at Auschwitz and Birkenau.  The ovens at Birkenau had been removed by the Germans two months before they abandoned the camp, but the Soviets were still able to somehow estimate their capacity.

The Soviets also charged the German war criminals with killing 1.5 million prisoners at Majdanek. That figure has now been reduced to 78,000 by the Majdanek Museum.  Out of this number, 59,000 were Jews.

In 1990, the plaques with the figure of 4 million at the International Monument at Birkenau were removed. It was not until 1995 that new plaques were placed at the International Monument with 20 metal plates inscribed in Yiddish, English and all the major languages of Europe; the plaques were set on granite slabs on the steps of the International Monument. The number of deaths at Auschwitz, according to each of the 20 metal plates, is 1.5 million.

Original plaque at Birkenau had 4 million deaths

New plaque with 1.5 million deaths

It is very hard to read the words on the plaque in my photo.  Sorry about that.

The words on the English plaque are:

FOR EVER LET THIS PLACE BE A CRY OF DESPAIR AND A WARNING TO HUMANITY, WHERE THE NAZIS MURDERED ABOUT ONE AND A HALF MILLION MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN MAINLY JEWS FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES OF EUROPE. AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU 1940-1945

But 1.5 million is not the official number of deaths at Auschwitz.  The official estimate, currently given by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, is 1.1 million deaths.

In 1980, Franciszek Piper, the former director of the Auschwitz Museum, began a study of all the available documents at Auschwitz; he calculated that 1,077,180 prisoners, of which 90% were Jews, had died at Auschwitz, based on his ESTIMATE of the number of ARRIVALS minus the number of liberated prisoners and the number of transferred, escaped and released prisoners. This number includes the Jews, not registered in the camp, who are assumed to have been gassed immediately upon arrival.

Franciszek Piper wrote the following in an article on the official Auschwitz web site:

After an overall analysis of the original sources and findings on deportation to Auschwitz, I CONCLUDED that a total of at least 1,300,000 people were deported there, and that 1,100,000 of them perished. Approximately 200,000 people were deported from Auschwitz to other camps as part of the redistribution of labor resources and the final liquidation of the camp.

According to the Auschwitz Museum, no records of the number of prisoners who died at Auschwitz-Birkenau have ever been found. In an article on the official Auschwitz website, the former director, Franciszek Piper, wrote the following:

When the Soviet army entered the camp on January 27, 1945, they did not find any German documents there giving the number of victims, or any that could be used as a basis for calculating this number. Such documents (transport lists, notifications of the arrival of transports, reports about the outcome of selection) had been destroyed before liberation. For this reason, the Soviet commission investigating the crimes committed in Auschwitz Concentration Camp had to make estimates.

[…]

The absence of the most important of the statistical sources that the Germans kept in Auschwitz made it practically impossible for historians to research the issue of the number of victims. The reluctance to research this issue also resulted from a conviction of the impossibility of drawing up a full list of transports reflecting the total number of deportees, and above all of the people who were consumed by the gas chambers and crematoria with no registration or records.

Strangely, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russians released some of the records, that had allegedly been destroyed, and turned them over to the Red Cross.  The records were incomplete, but the numbers are embarrassingly low. I can’t even tell you the numbers for fear of being charged with being a criminal the next time I go to Germany, so you will just have to look it up yourself.

Rudolf Hoess, the former Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau, was put on trial in Poland in 1946.  He was charged with the murder of “around 300,000 people held at the camp as prisoners and entered into the camp’s records and around 4,000,000 people, mainly Jews, who were brought to the camp in transports from other European countries for immediate extermination and thus not listed in the camp’s records.”

Photo that hangs in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The caption underneath the photo that hangs in the USHMM reads:

On May 14, 1946, Rudolf Hoess, the former commandant of Auschwitz, signed a declaration stating that during his tenure in office, 2 million Jews had been gassed at Auschwitz and another 500,000 killed in other ways. Hoess overestimated the number of Jews gassed by about 1 million.

During his trial in Poland, Hoess changed the figure in his confession to a total of 1,130,000 Jews that were gassed but declared “During my tenure at Auschwitz, millions of people died, whose exact number I cannot determine.”

Hoess was the Commandant.  Why couldn’t he determine the number of people that were gassed?  When asked about this, Hoess claimed that, after each action (gassing), the records were destroyed.  The only person who knew, according to Hoess, was Adolf Eichmann.

At the Nuremberg IMT, a quote, allegedly made by Eichmann in 1945, was introduced into evidence:

“I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction.”

December 19, 2010

Why did Germany invade the Soviet Union in 1941?

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: — furtherglory @ 1:27 pm

Years ago, I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.  In an exhibit about the German invasion of the Soviet Union, I read that the reason for the invasion was that the Germans wanted “Lebensraum.” This makes sense: the Germans needed some Lebensraum (living space) after a big chunk of Germany was given to Poland, France and Czechoslovakia in the Treaty of Versailles that Germany was forced to sign after World War I.

In 1939, Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression agreement with the Soviets, and the two countries then jointly invaded Poland.   Was Germany willing to risk violating the non-aggression pact to invade a former Ally, less than two years later, just to get some living space?  After all, Germany had taken back the territory that they had lost to Poland and they had gotten the Sudentenland back from the Czechs in 1938.

Napoleon famously said that “History is lies agreed upon.”  The official history of World War II includes the lie that the USSR was not planning to invade Germany, and that the Germans were the aggressors.  Now a reader of this blog has come up with some proof that the Russians were on the verge of invading Germany and the Germans made a pre-emptive  strike.   (more…)

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