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January 19, 2011

Camps for German war criminals, set up by the Allies after WWII

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 8:51 am

Everyone in the world knows about the concentration camps, set up by the Nazis, starting with Dachau in March 1933.  Every school child in America can rattle off the names of the six “death camps” where the Jews were gassed.  Even people in China are now getting interested in the Holocaust, which I learned from reading a Chinese magazine in the waiting room of my Chinese doctor.   (This was a magazine for Chinese-Americans who want to keep up with what is happening in China today.)

But how many people today know that, shortly after they were liberated by the Allies, the concentration camps were turned into camps for German prisoners?  

On my first two visits to the Dachau Memorial Site in 1997 and 2001, there was nothing at all in the Museum about the German prisoners who had been held in the Dachau camp from June 1945 to August 1948.  On my visits to the Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen Memorial Sites in 1999, I had learned for the first time that the Soviet Union had turned these camps into prisons for the Germans.  In fact, at both Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, there were separate Museums with information about the prisons for the Germans.

Separate Museum at Buchenwald for Soviet prison camp

The photo above shows the low white building which houses a separate Museum devoted to the atrocities committed by the Soviet Union when the Buchenwald camp was turned into a prison camp for German citizens after World War II.

Interior of the Museum at Buchenwald

When I visited Dachau in May 2003, I saw that the new museum, that had just opened, included one small display board about the prison camp for Germans at Dachau. The Dachau Museum also has one small display board about the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau.

Display board in Dachau Museum about camp for Germans.

Display board about the "Dachau trials"

The U.S. Third Army and the U.S. Seventh Army remained in Germany after World War II ended on May 8, 1945, and their War Crimes Detachments immediately began arresting suspected German war criminals; 400 to 700 persons were arrested each day until well over 100,000 Germans were incarcerated by December 1945, according to Harold Marcuse who wrote “Legacies of Dachau.” The former Dachau concentration camp already held 1,000 German accused war criminals by the end of June 1945, and they volunteered to clean up the barracks.

On the occasion of the opening of the new Museum at Dachau in 2003 in which War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 (for German prisoners) was mentioned for the first time, Barbara Distel, the director of the Dachau Museum, wrote the following on May 2, 2003:

Initially, around 25,000 persons were committed and placed in different sections of the camp. These persons were divided into the following groups:

– Members of the SS and functionaries of the Nazi party and its affiliated organizations who were covered by the category of “automatic arrest”: they formed the largest group initially. The first of these prisoners were released at the beginning of 1946.

– Members of the Wehrmacht who were being held in a sectioned-off POW camp located in the former SS camp. The first releases here took place in 1946 as well; this camp was disbanded in 1947.

– From these two groups persons were selected who were suspected of involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity. They were placed in a War Crimes Enclosure (closed-off area for suspected war criminals), where they either waited for trial or for extradition to other countries.

– Finally, in 1947, a transition camp was set up for civilian internees against whom no involvement in crimes could be proven. They went through the so-called de-Nazification proceedings, under the auspices of German arbitration tribunals. These tribunals were disbanded in 1948.

My photo of a poster in the Dachau Museum

The photo above shows a Museum display poster with a photograph of General Erhard Milch on his visit to the Dachau shower room some time before the end of the war. General Milch is the man with big white lapels on his coat.

After the war, General Milch was arrested as a war criminal and confined to one of the cells of the Dachau bunker, after he refused to testify against other Nazis.  General Milch was put into a one-man prison cell in the bunker at Dachau, along with 4 other men. There was only one cot for the 5 men and they had to take turns sitting and sleeping.

The caption on the display, shown in the photo above, reads: “These are the torments of hell.” This is a reference to the shower room being used for the hanging punishment, according to the Museum. An old Museum exhibit at Dachau showed a  fake photograph of prisoners hanging by their arms from trees, without identifying the photo as one that was claimed to have been taken at Buchenwald, not Dachau. (The fake photo is no longer displayed at Dachau.)

When the American liberators arrived at Dachau on April 29, 1945, they found 30,000 inmates crowded into a camp that was originally built for 5,000 prisoners. Half of those 30,000 prisoners had been in the Dachau camp for two weeks or less. Some had arrived only the day before. Thousands of prisoners had been brought to the Dachau main camp from other camps that were evacuated in the last days of the war.

Based on the number of inmates at Dachau when it was liberated, the capacity of War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 was set at 30,000 men and women, and the prisoners were held, without charges, in these crowded conditions for three years.

The former Dachau concentration camp had been a Class I camp where the political opponents of the Nazis and the captured Resistance fighters from German-occupied countries were treated relatively well; survivors of the American camp at Dachau claimed that the German prisoners were treated harshly and denied their rights under the Geneva Convention. The German prisoners in War Crimes Enclosure No. I made numerous accusations of torture against the Allies.

The prisoners in War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 did not work and had nothing to occupy their time; there was no orchestra and no soccer games as in the Nazi concentration camps, and of course, no brothel. The library of 15,000 books that had been available to the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau were taken by Albert Zeitner, a former prisoner, to the town of Dachau and a lending library was set up in the Wittmann building.

In July 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower had become the first military governor of the American Zone of Occupation in Germany. The accused Germans could expect no mercy from Eisenhower who had written in a letter to his wife, Mamie: “God, I hate the Germans.”

At the same time that America opened a prison for German war criminals at Dachau, the Soviet Union was setting up 10 Special Camps: the former Buchenwald concentration camp became Special Camp No. 2 while Sachsenhausen became Special Camp No. 7. Both of these camps were in the Soviet Zone of Occupation, behind the “Iron Curtain” and were run by the Soviet secret service, the NKVD.

Barracks in the Soviet camp for German prisoners at Sachsenhausen

The former Soviet camp at Sachsenhausen has been preserved and tourists can see how the German prisoners were treated.  There are video screens and you can see and hear former German prisoners telling about the atrocities committed by the Soviets.

The British also set up a number of camps for German war criminals: the former Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg became No. 6 Civil Internment Camp and KZ Esterwagen became No. 9 Civil Internment Camp.

The British camp at Bad Nenndorf was a particularly brutal place where former German soldiers were tortured between 1945 and 1947.  I first heard about Bad Nenndorf when Bill O’Reilly mentioned it on his TV show.

Suspects that were rounded up by the War Crimes Detachment of the U.S. Seventh Army were put into Civilian Internment Enclosure No. 78 in Ludwigsburg, Germany. In March 1946, the U.S. Seventh Army left Germany and their German prisoners were transferred to Dachau.

The authority for charging the defeated Germans with war crimes came from the London Agreement, signed after the war on August 8, 1945 by the four winning countries: Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the USA. The basis for the charges against the accused German war criminals was Law Order No. 10, issued by the Allied Control Council, the governing body for Germany before the country was divided into East and West Germany.

Law Order No. 10 defined Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity. A fourth crime category was membership in any organization, such as the Nazi party or the SS, that was declared to be criminal by the Allies. The war crimes contained in Law Order No. 10 were new crimes, created specifically for the defeated Germans, not crimes against existing international laws. Any acts committed by the winning Allies which were covered under Law Order No. 10 were not considered war crimes.

The German prisoners at Dachau were not treated as Prisoners of War under the Geneva convention because they had become “war criminals” at the moment that they committed their alleged war crimes. Every member of the elite SS volunteer Army was automatically a war criminal because the SS was designated by the Allies as a criminal organization even before anyone was put on trial. Any member of the Nazi political party, who had any official job within the party, was likewise automatically a war criminal regardless of what they had personally done.

One of the prisoners in the War Crimes Enclosure at Dachau was Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, an SS judge who had investigated corruption and crimes against the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps. Dr. Morgen was incarcerated as a war criminal at Dachau because he was a member of the SS.

During the war, Dr. Morgen had investigated 800 concentration camp cases and had then brought charges against 200 SS men, including 5 commandants, of whom 2 were shot after being convicted of murdering prisoners in their concentration camps. He had investigated the Buchenwald camp for 8 months before dismissing charges against Ilse Koch, the wife of Commandant Karl Otto Koch, who had allegedly ordered lamp shades to be made out of human skin. In Dr. Morgen’s court, Karl Otto Koch was convicted of ordering the murder of two prisoners and was subsequently executed by the Nazis.

American military interrogators tried to get Dr. Morgen to sign an affidavit, admitting that Frau Koch had ordered prisoners killed to make human lamp shades, but he refused, even after several beatings. He told historian John Toland after the war that he was threatened three times with being turned over to the Russians or the Poles, but he still refused.

Another top Nazi who was imprisoned in the war crimes enclosure at Dachau, but never put on trial, was Otto Ernst Remer. According to an article in the New York Times on the occasion of his death, at the age of 84, in Marbella, Spain on October 9, 1997, Otto Ernst Remer was “an unrepentant Nazi who as a young officer helped Hitler retain control of Germany in the crucial hours after a failed assassination attempt in 1944. Remer was later promoted to the rank of major general; he commanded an Army division and was responsible for Hitler’s personal security.”

In an interview after he had been released from Dachau, Remer told how the Americans had tried to indoctrinate the prisoners. Remer said that the prisoners were “forced to look at the so-called gassing installations.” Remer said that he was shown “normal shower installations that were supposed to be gassing installations,” but he scoffed at this and claimed that the Americans were engaged in a “campaign of hatred” against the Germans.

On October 8, 1945 a transport of German POWs, including SS Colonel-General Gert Naumann, arrived at Dachau’s War Crimes Enclosure No. 1. As a member of Hitler’s General Staff, Naumann was automatically a war criminal under the new “common plan” concept of justice which had not existed until after the war.

Naumann said that the incoming prisoners immediately saw a sign that said “To the Crematory.” The sign directed people to the first Dachau museum which had been set up in May 1945 in the Dachau crematorium building by Erich Preuss, an enterprising former prisoner, who earned money by charging a small admission fee to the thousands of American soldiers who were brought to Dachau on the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower so they could witness the gas chamber and the crematory ovens. A set of 10 photographs of Dachau were on sale at the Museum, so the soldiers could later tell their families that they were there when Dachau was liberated and they had the photos to prove it.

Soon after their arrival, the German prisoners were taken to see the Dachau gas chamber and the crematorium where wax dummies had replaced the bodies that were found by the liberators. The purpose of this visit was to make the prisoners feel guilty for not trying to stop the gassing of the Jews at Dachau, which all the accused German war criminals claimed they knew nothing about.

Outside the crematorium, a sign had been erected by Philip Auerbach, the Jewish State Secretary of the Bavarian Government, which read “THIS AREA IS BEING RETAINED AS A SHRINE TO THE 238,000 INDIVIDUALS WHO WERE CREMATED HERE PLEASE DON’T DESTROY.” The number of prisoners incarcerated at Dachau in its 12-year history was only 206,206.

The Reverend Martin Niemöller, who was a prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp, continued to speak out against the Nazis after the war, citing the number of prisoners killed at Dachau as 238,000. The records of the Dachau concentration camp had been confiscated by the American liberators, but eventually they were turned over to the International Red Cross Tracing Service. These records showed that 31,951 prisoners had died at Dachau during its 12 year history and that half of the deaths occurred during the typhus epidemic in the last six months. Today, tour guides at Dachau tell visitors that the number of deaths at Dachau was 41,951.

Upon arrival in the War Crimes Enclosure No 1 at Dachau, Naumann and the German POWs were relieved of their personal possessions. Naumann’s dairy was confiscated, but he continued to secretly scribble notes with the stub of a pencil on scraps of paper and when his diary was returned to him on 24 January 1946, he transcribed his notes.

The following is a quote from page 139 of Naumann’s Diary which was published in 1984:

We are in the concentration camp! On the right is a small, inconspicuous looking building, a wooden barrack, low, dark, featureless. American soldiers come out and lead the first ten men of us into the house. They come out again after a short time, and it seems to me that some stagger. One has a bleeding nose. The next ten are taken. I am part of the third group. There is a large room inside the barrack. Large photos of concentration camps hang at eye’s height at the walls, awful pictures of starved concentration camp inmates, piles of corpses, tortured creatures. We have to post ourselves very close in front of the pictures. Behind us walks an American soldier from one to the other and hits each with the fist from behind in the neck or on the head, so that everyone hits the picture wall with their face. ‘Let’s go!’ We go back in line outside. No one says a word.

Naumann mentioned “camps,” implying that the photos had been taken at more than one camp. Naumann was a Waffen-SS officer, but he had not been personally involved in any war crimes. Naumann had had nothing to do with the deaths in the concentration camps, yet under the “common plan” concept, he was guilty of allowing prisoners to die of typhus at Bergen-Belsen and he was equally responsible for gassing Jews at Auschwitz.

Although the 1929 Geneva Convention specified that Prisoners of War were to be allowed to send and receive letters, this right was denied to the German POWs by General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

On July 26, 1945, the International Red Cross asked that mail service be given to the German POWs so that they could inform their families that they were still alive. Eisenhower denied this request.

Regarding writing and receiving letters, Naumann wrote the following in his diary:

(It is) strictly forbidden to write letters and to possibly pass these on to outside work commandos. It is also forbidden to even possess letter paper, envelopes of any kind, or even to possess letters from relatives. Severe penalties are announced.

If, despite the ban, a prisoner would write a letter and smuggle it somehow to the outside, the recipient of such a letter would be punished with imprisonment for up to six weeks! Who writes a letter to the outside […] will be punished with a week arrest in a bunker with water and bread. Then he has for one week to march daily for eight hours with 50 pounds of packages. After this he has to stay for another week in the bunker with water and bread. There is no doubt that many of us would not have been able to sustain such a torture.

I could go on and on about how the German “war criminals” were denied their rights under the Geneva Convention and treated far worse than the prisoners at Dachau, but what is the point?  All this has been covered up by the Dachau Memorial Site which does not have a separate Museum about what happened after Dachau was liberated.

Mass graves of German prisoners who died at Sachsenhausen

The photo above shows one of the three mass graves where the German prisoners at Sachsenhausen were buried.  Out of 60,000 prisoners, 12,000 died of starvation and disease.

Metal poles have been put up where Germans were buried at Buchenwald

Since 1990, German prisoners who died in Special Camp Number 2 at Buchenwald have been commemorated. The anonymous mass graves are now marked by pillars of steel, arranged as a forest cemetery, as shown in the photo above.

Strangely, there are no graves at Dachau for the German prisoners, although there must have been at least a few deaths.

1 Comment

  1. […] You can read more about this photo here.  I previously blogged about Allied camps for German soldiers here. […]

    Pingback by Fake Holocaust photos at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum « Scrapbookpages Blog — December 28, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

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