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February 28, 2011

Surviving the Auschwitz gas chamber umpteen times

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 8:59 am

This morning, I read an article here about the death of Arnost Lustig, a Czech Holocaust survivor who wrote many books about his ordeal.  This quote, about his time in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Buchenwald, is from the article:

“During the three years there, I was three times sentenced to be shot dead and umpteenth times to be gassed,” Lustig said after the war.

In spite of the fact that he survived so many death sentences, the article adds that Lustig said he never pardoned the Germans.

According to the article in the online Prague Daily Monitor, Arnost was first sent to the Theresienstadt camp, then to Auschwitz and later to Buchenwald; his father was gassed at Auschwitz. His mother and sister both survived their stay at the Mauthausen camp.

I learned from other news articles that Lustig was on a train from Buchenwald to Dachau when the engine of the train was bombed by an Allied plane, and he was able to escape.

I have never read any of his books, but now I am very interested in learning about how he survived the Auschwitz gas chamber umpteen times.

February 27, 2011

Nazi myths and legends

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: — furtherglory @ 7:55 am

When I was a young college student, majoring in Journalism, I took a course in Greek mythology because I knew that a good journalist should sprinkle into his stories lots of references to Hercules, Pandora, Medusa, and the Trojan War.  A journalist today, or even a writer of a TV comedy series, needs to know Nazi mythology so that he can make references to Mengele, Goebbels, and Rudolf Hoess (often confused with Rudolf Hess).  For example, two of my favorite TV shows, Two and a Half Men and Seinfeld, have frequent jokes about the Nazis.

A good knowledge of Nazi myths and legends is required for all writers today.  For example, the myth of the concentration camp prisoners being forced to move rocks from one place to another and then move them back again to the original place.

This myth was featured in the movie entitled Bent, which is about two gay men in a concentration camp.  They are shown carrying rocks from one location to another for no reason at all, then carrying snow from place to place with their bare hands in the winter.  Today, I read a blog written by a young high school student who had recently visited Dachau. This person was told by a tour guide that the prisoners at Dachau were forced to carry rocks from one place to another.  Can this really be true?   Were there no factories where the prisoners could do productive work at Dachau?

Dachau prisoners working in a factory

Work was a serious business at Dachau.  When prisoners were registered at the camp, a Hollerith card was made for each man and holes were punched in the card to indicate what skills each prisoner had.  You can read all about the Labor Allocation at Dachau here.

In the photo below, the black circles under the badges in the third row denote prisoners who were assigned to the penal colony. They were given the most difficult work assignments, usually in a rock quarry or gravel pit. Many of the camp locations were chosen because they were near a quarry which could furnish building materials for the new buildings Hitler was planning for Berlin and Linz, Austria, his former home town. Dachau had a gravel pit which was located where the Carmelite convent now stands.

Chart shows the badges worn  at Dachau

This quote is from the original Dachau guidebook, written by Barbara Distel:

At first within the Dachau camp area every sort of hand industry was set up, from basketry to wrought-iron work. Initially the production of the camps was directly under the control of the individual camp commander. But as the camps continued to grow, the range of production increased apace, till in 1938 the “Wirtschaftliche Unternehmungen der SS” (the SS Industries) were centralized under their main office in Berlin.

Dachau prisoners were also required for the management and maintenance of the camp; still others had to work under SS guard outside the camp in so-called branch detachments, at road construction, in gravel pits, or at marsh cultivation.

[…]

In the course of the war the work force of the concentration camps became more and more indispensable to the German armament industry. The network of camps which gradually extended over the whole of Central Europe took on gigantic proportions. The camp at Dachau alone had, besides numerous smaller ones, thirty-six large subsidiary camps in which approximately 37,000 prisoners worked almost exclusively on armaments.

So why would a tour guide tell tourists at Dachau today that the prisoners worked at mindless tasks like moving rocks from one place to another?  What rocks?  There was no quarry at Dachau.  Did they put the small rocks at the gravel pit into piles and move the piles from one place to another?  Do the guides then say “If you believe that story, I have a gas chamber that I want to show you.”?

February 25, 2011

Who is Pierre-Serge Choumoff and why should we believe anything that he wrote?

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 5:27 pm

Pierre-Serge Choumoff was a former prisoner at the Gusen sub-camp of Mauthausen who wrote a book that was intended to prove that there was a gas chamber at Mauthausen.  Choumoff was an engineer who had a post-graduate degree in mathematics; he was the author of numerous scientific articles. During the time that he was a prisoner at Gusen, Choumoff was assigned to work in the arms factories of Rüstung Steyr, Daimler and Puch, which were in the immediate vicinity of the Gusen camp. He also served as an interpreter and a secretary at the Gusen camp. In the last week of World War II, Choumoff was one of the Gusen prisoners who were evacuated to the Mauthausen main camp where a gas chamber was allegedly located.

Choumoff did not use his scientific knowledge to determine that there was a gas chamber at Mauthausen. Nor did he do any tests. He did no research at all.  So on what did he base his book?  His book about the Mauthausen gas chambers is based solely on the testimony of the SS officers at Mauthausen, which he obtained from the trial testimony, given at an American Military Tribunal held in 1946. This testimony was published in Rome in 1970.

I have not read Choumoff’s book, but I have read The 186 Steps by Christian Bernadac which quotes extensively from Choumoff’s book.

Pierre-Serge Choumoff was a “Nacht und Nebel” prisoner which means that his family was not told where he was.  “Nacht and Nebel” prisoners were typically Resistance fighters; with his French name, we can deduce that he was sent to Gusen after he was captured while fighting as an illegal combatant in the French Resistance.  As a member of the French Resistance, he would have had a motive to make the Germans into evil monsters who gassed innocent prisoners, so I don’t consider him to be an objective witness.

In one of his books, Choumoff wrote that the gas chamber at Mauthausen was put into operation in either March or May of 1942 and that 3,455 prisoners were gassed in it. He also wrote that the SS guards had removed the gassing equipment from the chamber on April 29, 1945 the day that Commandant Franz Ziereis turned the camp over to the Vienna police. A sign in the gas chamber confirms that the gassing apparatus was removed on April 29, 1945.

So Choumoff didn’t know when the gas chamber was put into operation, but he knew the exact number of prisoners that were gassed?  He knew the exact date that the gassing apparatus was removed, although he was not at Mauthausen on that date.

Choumoff gave the following statistics for the gassings at Mauthausen and Gusen, as quoted in The 186 Steps by Christian Bernadac:

For the installed gas chamber at Mauthausen: 4000; for the mobile gas chamber (Sauer truck): 1,560; Hartheim: 28,000 to 30,000 of which 4,600 to 8,000 came from Gusen or Mauthausen; finally occasional gassings in Gusen: 800. Total 34,000. At least 11,000 of these 34,000 were registered at Mauthausen or Gusen.

In his book, Christian Bernadac included the statements of several former prisoners which were gathered by Pierre-Serge Choumoff.

I am writing about Choumoff because his name came up in a blog post which you can read here.  The title of the blog post is “The latest effort to combat denial, i.e. Holocaust revisionism.”

This quote is from the blog post:

Lastly, we have the actual Introduction by Messrs. Morsch and Perz. They began by informing us that in 1983, concentration camp survivors Eugen Kogon and Hermann Langbein — along with the head of Ludwigsburg Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, Adalbert Rückerl, as well as others — published the book Nationalsozialistische Massentötung durch Giftgas. This was published on the initiative of two Mauthausen survivors, Pierre-Serge Choumoff and Jean Gavard. All of this resulted from a meeting with officials of the centre for political education who discussed the increase in Revisionist debates about NS mass murder in the 1970s.

In my humble opinion, the writings of Pierre-Serge Choumoff should not be used to combat Holocaust denial.  He had no way of knowing what went on at Mauthausen because he was only there for one week. The testimony of the SS men at the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal, which he included in his book, is not believable because it was obviously obtained by torture.

You can read about the trial testimony at the proceedings against the SS men at Mauthausen on my website here and here.

John Demjanjuk’s alleged crimes against the Red Spaniards (Rotspanier)

Filed under: World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:04 am

If John Demjanjuk survives his current trial in Germany, his next trial will be held in Spain where he has been charged with war crimes in connection with the deaths of 60 Red Spaniards at the Flossenbürg concentration camp, where he served as a guard after his service at Sobibor.

“Red Spaniards” was the name for the Spanish Republicans who fought in the Spanish Civil War against General Francisco Franco’s forces.  They were called the Red Spaniards (Rotspanier) because they were Communists and Red was the color of the Communists. After their defeat by General Franco’s Army, the Spanish Republicans escaped to France where they were put into internment camps by the French government. After Germany conquered France in 1940, around 30,000 of these prisoners were deported by the Nazis to concentration camps in Germany and Austria as political prisoners because of their anti-Fascist or Communist political affiliation.

On June 19, 2008, a criminal lawsuit was filed at the offices of the Audiencia Nacional (Madrid) on behalf of several survivors and family members of the Red Spaniards who were sent to concentration camps. (more…)

February 24, 2011

Will 90-year-old John Demjanjuk live long enough for a third trial?

John Demjanjuk, now 90-years-old, is currently on trial in Germany, charged with being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Dutch Jews at the Sobibor death camp in 1943. Demjanjuk was previously tried and convicted over 20 years ago in an Israeli court after he was identified by eye witnesses as a Ukrainian guard nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” at Treblinka. He spent 7 years in prison in Israel before he won the case on appeal.

John Demjanjuk as a young man and in a courtroom today

A verdict in the current case is expected in late March this year, but if 90-year-old Demjanjuk is still alive, he could be brought in on a stretcher to another courtroom in Spain for a third trial.

In January 2011, a Spanish judge indicted Demjanjuk on charges of being an accessory to genocide and Crimes against Humanity, based on the accusation that he was a guard at the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Germany. The Spanish are expected to have Demjanjuk extradited to Spain when the German trial ends.

“Crimes against Humanity” is a new crime that was made up specifically for the Germans in the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal after World War II ended. Genocide is also a concept that did not exist before the Holocaust. As far as I know, no one claims that there was a gas chamber at the Flossenbürg camp in Germany.  On the other hand, it is officially accepted that Sobibor was a “death camp,” built by the Nazis in March 1942, for the sole purpose of killing European Jews in gas chambers.

The exact number of Jews who were murdered at Sobibor is unknown; allegedly, the bodies were first buried, then dug up and burned on pyres. All the train records are missing so the number of Jews who were transported to Sobibor is unknown. Estimates range from 170,000 to 250,000 deaths in the short time that Sobibor operated as a death camp.  The US Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 250,000 Jews were murdered at Sobibor during a period of only 18 months.

Sobibor was one of the three Aktion Reinhard camps; the other two were Belzec and Treblinka.  Demjanjuk was first charged with being Ivan the Terrible, a guard at Treblinka.  Shouldn’t his third trial be for being a guard at Belzec, not Flossenbürg?

The three Aktion Reinhard camps were all in remote locations, but “each site was on a railroad line linking it with hundreds of towns and villages whose Jewish communities were now trapped and starving” in the spring of 1942, according to Martin Gilbert’s book entitled The Holocaust. Sobibor was linked by rail with many large Jewish communities, including Lublin, Wlodawa and Chelm.

Gilbert also wrote a book called Atlas of the Holocaust which is mainly a book of maps pertaining to the Holocaust.  On page 108 of this book, there is a large map that shows that Sobibor was in the “General Government” which was the name given to German-occupied Poland.  Sobibor was right on the border between the General Government and the Ukraine.

On January 20, 1942, a conference was held in Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, where plans were made for the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” According to the figures given by the Nazis at the Wannsee Conference, there were approximately 5 million Jews in the Soviet Union in January 1942, including 2,994,684 in the Ukraine and 446,484 in Belorussia. There were another 2,284,000 Jews in the area of German-occupied Poland known as the General Government. At the Conference, the Nazis claimed that they were planning to resettle some of the Jews who were living in the General Government into the Ukraine, an area of the Soviet Union which they then controlled.

The three camps, called the Aktion Reinhard Camps, were planned at the Wannsee conference. All three of the Aktion Reinhard camps were located on the western side of the Bug river. On the eastern side of the Bug river was the Ukraine, according to the maps drawn by Martin Gilbert.

Railroad bridge over the Bug river near Treblinka

The photo above shows a one-way bridge over the Bug river that is designed for trains, cars and pedestrians.  When I visited Treblinka in 1998, my private tour guide took me over this bridge.

There must be another way to get to the Treblinka Memorial Site because this bridge would collapse if a tour bus tried to cross it.  I’m not sure if the trains to the camp went over this bridge; the bridge is a reconstruction, according to Martin Gilbert.

So why is this bridge so important?  Being a train buff, I knew that the train tracks in the Soviet Union are a different gauge than the tracks in Poland.  Trains did not cross the Bug river during World War II because the trains would not have been able to run on the tracks across the river.  There is a bend in the river near Treblinka, which required a bridge over the river in order to get to the Treblinka camp, although the camp is located on the western side of the border between the former General Government and the Ukraine.  There were no railroad bridges for trains to cross the Bug river into the Ukraine during World War II, so all train transports to the East had to stop at the Bug river.

After the joint conquest of Poland by the Germans and the Russians in September 1939, the river Bug (pronounced Boog) became the border between the German-occupied General Government of Poland and the Russian zone of occupation. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Germans quickly conquered the territory that was being occupied by the Russians.

Hardly more than a creek, the Bug is shallow enough in some places so that one can wade across it, and according to historian Martin Gilbert, some refugees, from both sides, did wade across. The movie Europa, Europa has a scene in which Jewish refugees are shown walking toward the Russian sector, trying to escape the Nazis in September 1939 by crossing the Bug river on rafts.  The river is shallow enough that trucks could drive across it, and in winter, people could walk across on the ice.

If the Nazis were really planning to “evacuate the Jews to the East” as was claimed in the minutes of the Wannsee Conference, it would make sense to establish three transit camps near the Bug river, which was on the border between two areas that had different size railroad tracks.  If the Nazis were planning to kill the Jews, the gas chambers did not need to be right on the border between German-occupied Poland and Russian-occupied territory.

Martin Gilbert wrote that Jews were brought from the Theresienstadt ghetto, located in what is now the Czech Republic, and from the Netherlands, to be gassed at Sobibor.  Wait a minute!  The Netherlands?  Why would Dutch Jews be transported all the way to Sobibor in what is now Poland to be gassed?  Why not gas the Dutch Jews in the Westerbork camp in the Netherlands and use these valuable trains for transporting goods and soldiers during World War II? Or why not gas them in Germany at the Sachsenhausen camp which was not far away?

According to Dutch historian Johannes Houwink ten Cate, the transportation list of the Jews sent on 19 trains to Sobibor from the transit camp at Westerbork in the Netherlands contains the names and place of birth of  34,000 Dutch Jews, but the names of the Jews sent from other countries to Sobibor are unknown.

This Dutch Historian claims that 33,000 Dutch Jews were killed in the gas chambers at Sobibor and 1,000 were chosen as workers at Sobibor, or to be sent to a nearby labor camp. There were 19 Dutch Jews who survived. So the Germans left 1,000 potential witnesses alive so that they could testify against them?  How stupid was that?

In his book entitled The Holocaust, Martin Gilbert wrote about a survivor of Sobibor, Dov Freiberg, who was a 15-year-old boy on a transport of 2,750 Jews from the town of Torobin in Poland on May 12, 1942. The Jews were assembled in the town square and told that they were going to be “resettled in the Ukraine,” according to Freiberg. They were then taken to the nearest railroad station at Krasnowka, where they were joined by Jews from other nearby towns and villages. When their train arrived at the camp, the story of resettlement seemed to be coming true: a sign at the entrance to the camp said “SS Sonderkommando Umsiedlungslager.” which means “SS special unit resettlement camp” in English.

According to Freiberg, there was a band playing at the entrance. The women and children “went straight to the gas chambers,” but since the gas chamber “didn’t really operate in the night,” the men “stayed there on the spot during the night.” Freiberg was one of 150 Jews from this transport who “were sent to work” in the camp itself, sorting the belongings of the victims.  Another case of the Nazis stupidly leaving witnesses behind.  Were they trying to get caught?

Martin Gilbert wrote that in the month of May 1942, there was a total of 36,000 Jews, from 19 communities between the Vistula river and the Bug river, who were transported to Sobibor and immediately killed in the gas chamber. This was the largest number of Jews gassed that month in any one camp, surpassing Auschwitz, Belzec and Chelmno. The Treblinka camp was not yet open at that time.

Gilbert also told the story of Yaakov Biskowitz, who was sent, at the age of 15, on a transport of 3,400 Jews to Sobibor from the town of Hrubieszow in Poland on June 1, 1942. According to his testimony at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel, Yaakov and his father were among 12 Jews who were selected to work in the Sobibor camp.

As told by Martin Gilbert in his book entitled The Holocaust, Biskowitz recalled how those who were too sick or too old to walk the length of the path to the gas chamber were taken to the so-called Lazarett (hospital) on a small rail spur used to carry coal. Men who could not run fast enough, and small children, would be thrown into the coal wagons and sent to the hospital where they would be shot by the Ukrainian guards.

According to Yaakov Biskowitz, as reported by Martin Gilbert, there were 8 Jews who were forced to work in Camp 3, burning the bodies of the victims who had been gassed. These 8 Jews also sorted the belongings and burned all damaged clothing, personal documents and photographs.

Biskowitz testified at the Eichmann trial that his father was shot at the Lazarett (hospital) because he came down with typhoid. (The German word for typhoid is “spotted fever,” the same as the word for typhus; it is more likely that Biskowitz had typhus, which was a problem in the camps in Poland.)

During World War II, and for years afterward, the Sobibor death camp was virtually unknown. William Shirer did not even mention it in his monumental 1147-page book entitled The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It was not until the release of a 1987 TV movie, Escape from Sobibor, based on a book with the same name, that the public knew of this remote spot where thousands of Jews lost their lives. The movie tells the story of the revolt during which around 300 prisoners escaped; no more than 50 of them survived to the end of the war.

One of the survivors of the escape from Sobibor was Esther Terner Raab, who made her home in New Jersey after the war. In a TV documentary, Esther told about a party that the SS had before her escape. The SS men told Esther that they were celebrating the fact that one million Jews had been killed at Sobibor.

Unlike the other Nazi death camps, the SS barracks were located inside the Sobibor camp. According to Toivi Blatt, the Jewish workers in the camp socialized with each other and sometimes with the SS guards.
Another Sobibor survivor, Moshe Bahir, testified in 1965, at the trial of several of the Sobibor perpetrators in Hagen, Germany, that he was a witness to a celebration by the Germans in February 1943 after one million Jews had been killed at Sobibor. However, Raul Hilberg wrote in his book entitled The Destruction of the European Jews that the number of Jews killed at Sobibor was estimated to be 200,000.

So the SS guards at Sobibor had a party to celebrate killing one million Jews and they invited at least two of the Jewish workers at the camp?  This was the height of stupidity!  And why did they exaggerate the number of Jews that had been killed?  This doesn’t make any sense at all.

Deportations to the Sobibor death camp began in mid April 1942 with transports from the nearby town of Zamosc in Poland, according to Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert. He wrote that Jews from the Lublin ghetto were sent to Sobibor to be gassed, although there were several gas chambers at the Majdanek death camp just outside the city of Lublin.

During the first phase of the extermination of the Jews at Sobibor, which lasted until July 1942, around 100,000 Jews were gassed, according to Martin Gilbert. Their bodies were buried in mass graves, then later dug up and burned on pyres. During the next phase, the bodies were burned immediately, according to Toivi Blatt, one of the survivors of Sobibor. At the age of 15, Blatt had been selected to work in sorting the clothing taken from the Jews, which was then sent to Majdanek to be disinfected.

The survivors of Sobibor do not agree on the number or size of the gas chambers. The victims were allegedly killed with carbon monoxide from the exhaust of engines taken from captured Soviet tanks, which had been stored at Sobibor. There is also disagreement among the survivors on whether these were diesel engines or gasoline engines.

The Sobibor camp was initially divided into three camps (Lager 1, Lager II and Lager III) but a fourth camp was added later to store munitions captured from the Soviet Army. Lager I was where the Jewish workers in the camp lived. A moat on one side of this camp prevented their escape. Lager II was where the victims undressed; Jewish workers sorted the clothing in this camp.

From Lager II, an SS man escorted the victims through a path lined with tree branches to the gas chambers in Lager III. Only the Ukrainian SS guards and the German SS officers were allowed in Lager III, so the survivors could not have known what happened in Lager III.

The Sobibor camp was 400 meters wide by 600 meters long; the entire area was enclosed by a barbed wire fence that was three meters high. On three sides of the camp was a mine field. The watch towers were manned by Ukrainian SS guards who had been conscripted from captured soldiers in the Soviet Army to assist the 30 German SS men who were the administrators of the camp. In 1965, a German court put 11 of the German SS guards on trial; 6 of them were sentenced to prison, and one committed suicide during the trial; the others were acquitted.

The victims arrived on trains which stopped at the ramp across from the Sobibor train station, or in trucks from nearby Polish villages. Most of the Jews were transported in cattle cars, but the 34,000 Dutch Jews who were sent to Sobibor arrived in passenger trains, according to Toivi Blatt. The luggage of the Dutch Jews was transported in separate cars and the victims were given tags which they were told would be used to reclaim their bags. All of the belongings of the Jews were confiscated upon arrival.  According to Toivi Blatt, all documents, photos and personal items were removed from the confiscated baggage and anything that could not be recycled to send to Germany was burned in open fires that lit up the night sky.

The Jews were then forced to walk along the path, called the “Himmelfahrtstrasse” (Street to heaven), which led to the spot where the hair was cut from the heads of the women, and then on to the gas chambers disguised as showers.  Demjanjuk is accused of being one of the Ukrainian guards who herded the Jews into the gas chambers disguised as showers.

Demjanjuk’s trial is being conducted in Germany where judges takes judicial notice that Jews were killed in gas chambers by the Nazis, so no proof is required.  If his attorney were to ask for proof that there were gas chambers at Sobibor, he would promptly be arrested for being a Holocaust denier.  He would have no defense because the Holocaust is considered to be “manifestly obvious” by the German courts and does not have to be proved.

February 22, 2011

Joy Behar: “Do you consider yourself Anti-Semitic?” Helen Thomas: “Hell no! I’m a Semite.”

Filed under: Holocaust, TV shows — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:56 am

On a recent TV show, Joy Behar gave former White House correspondent Helen Thomas a chance to apologize for her Anit-Semitism and re-join the human race.  But Helen refused to admit that she is Anti-Semitic, claiming that she is a Semite herself.  What in the hell was she talking about?  It was quite clear that Joy Behar obviously didn’t understand what Helen meant when she said she was a Semite. (more…)

February 21, 2011

Update on the execution of Noor Inayat Khan at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:53 am

It has come to my attention that there is a misconception that Germans were put on trial for the alleged execution at Dachau of British SOE agent Noor Inayat Khan and that one of the defendants said during the trial that Noor had not given them any information when she was tortured.  This morning, I learned that this information comes from the book written about Noor by Shrabani Basu.  You can read the story here.  At the top of the page, you will read this:

“In the war crimes trial, they [the Germans] said that they had not been able to get anything out of Noor Inayat Khan.” Author Shrabani Basu

At which war crimes trial did the Germans say that?  There were two secret war crimes trials, involving the alleged executions of British SOE women, which were conducted by the British, but nothing was said by the defendants at these trials about whether or not they “got anything out” of Noor.  That remark was allegedly made to SOE staff member Vera Atkins by Hans Kieffer, the man who had ordered Noor to be sent to Pforzheim prison in Germany after she had made two escape attempts in Paris.  He said this in an interview in which he was told by Vera Atkins that Noor had been executed. Kieffer cried when he learned that Noor had been executed; he claimed that he knew nothing about her execution.

This quote is from the news story that you can read here:

I believe as she was killed, she shouted out, “Liberte!”

“That’s right. Her spirit just remained with her, she was so defiant that eyewitnesses say that though she was beaten to pulp, she was half-dead, she was almost kicked to death. They couldn’t break her spirit, and that was what even the Germans admired about her. In the war crimes trial afterwards, they said that they had not been able to get anything out of Noor Inayat Khan. In fact, they did not even know her name they knew her only as Nora Baker, which is the name she gave them.

Here is another misleading quote from the news article:

Then, finally, the orders came and she was sent to Dachau concentration camp with two other women agents and they were executed. But Noor was singled out that whole night, she was singled out and tortured even more, even on the last day she was shot.

If there were orders to send Noor to Dachau from the Pforzheim prison, why were 9 men at the Natzweiler camp put on trial for her execution at Natzweiler?

On May 29, 1946, Dr. Werner Röhde and 8 others at Natzweiler were brought before a British Military Court in Wuppertal, Germany. According to Rita Kramer, who wrote a book entitled Flames in the Field about the four women, who were allegedly executed at Natzweiler, “The evidence for the prosecution had been gathered by Squadron Officer Vera Atkins and Major Bill Barkworth of the SAS War Crimes investigation team, well after the organizations to which they and the missing men and women had belonged had officially ceased to exist. It was a kind of personal vendetta of principle.”

In fact, the nine staff members at the Natzweiler camp who were tried by the British were CONVICTED of executing Noor Inayat Khan at the Natzweiler camp.  It was not until 1947 that Vera Atkins came to the conclusion that Yolande Beekman and Noor Inayat Kahn had been executed at Dachau, not at Natzweiler.

Obviously, the testimony that Noor had been executed at Natzweiler was wrong. So how did all this happen?

After the war, the British SOE had been disbanded, but Vera Atkins had taken it upon herself to do an independent investigation to determine the fate of the agents who were missing. She interviewed surviving SOE agents, Gestapo agents and concentration camp staff members who had been captured by the Allies, including Rudolf Hoess, the infamous Commandant of Auschwitz.

Among those that she interviewed were Albert Guérisse and Brian Stonehouse, two British SOE agents who were prisoners at Natzweiler at the time of the alleged execution of Noor Inayat Khan. Based on information that Atkins got from them, she interrogated staff members from the Natzweiler camp, starting with a prisoner named Franz Berg.

Atkins selected Berg as the first person to be interrogated because he had previously told American investigators about some “elegant” women in the French resistance group known as the Alliance Réseau, who were brought to Natzweiler to be executed, after they were captured near the camp. Berg was a common criminal who was a prisoner in the camp; he was a KAPO in charge of stoking the fire in the crematory oven at Natzweiler. He was the first person to tell Vera Atkins that women had been brought to Natzweiler to be executed and then burned in the one oven in the crematorium.  From this, Atkins deduced, with no evidence at all, that four SOE women had been executed at Natzweiler, including Noor Inayat Khan.

Franz Berg was one of the main witnesses at the trial; he was a German criminal with a long rap sheet that included 22 crimes. A group photograph, taken in the courtroom when Berg was prosecuted by a British Military Court, shows him to be more than a foot shorter than the rest of the accused men.

The first time that he was interrogated by Vera Atkins, Franz Berg said that he had, at first, thought when he saw the women walking down the Lagerstrasse, that it was a party inspecting the camp. He said that the women were carrying suitcases and coats over their arms, and he thought that one woman had a traveling rug.

In a deposition that Berg gave to Vera Atkins before the trial, he stated that four women had been killed by injection at Natzweiler and burned in the oven which he had fired up. He identified two of the women in photographs shown to him as Vera Leigh and Noor Inayat Khan.

Albert Guérisse and Brian Stonehouse were two British SOE agents who had been transferred from the infamous Mauthausen camp in Austria to the Natzweiler camp in the Summer of 1944, just a few weeks before the women were allegedly executed.

Guérisse was a medical doctor who worked in the Natzweiler camp infirmary; he testified that he had seen the four women SOE agents being escorted, after dark, by the camp doctor to the crematorium. Then he saw flames shoot out of the crematorium chimney four times. He learned later, from Franz Berg, that this meant that the oven door had been opened and then closed four times as the four women were cremated.

Franz Berg said in his deposition, given to Vera Atkins, that all four of the women were cremated at one time in the one oven in the crematorium.

What would have been the best way to burn four bodies at one time in one oven?  Would the bodies have been put in all at once, or would the door have been opened four times?

The one and only cremation oven at Natzweiler

Brian Stonehouse had observed that one of the women was carrying a ratty fur coat, and a few days later, he saw an SS man nicknamed Fernandel “walking up the steps in the middle of the camp, carrying a fur coat.” Fernandel was a French comic actor whom this SS man resembled.

The identification of the Natzweiler victims at the trial had been based purely on speculation by eye witnesses like Guérisse, Stonehouse and Berg. The trial transcript had to be altered in 1947 to show that one of the victims was “unidentified” at the time of the trial; this unidentified victim had previously been identified as Noor Inayat Khan.

Records from Karlsruhe prison showed that another SOE agent, Sonia Olschanezky, had been taken to an UNNAMED concentration camp on July 6, 1944, the same date that three other women left Karlsruhe for an UNKNOWN destination. Vera Atkins assumed that these four women had been taken to Natzweiler to be executed.

Atkins had not recognized the name Sonia Olschenesky because she had been recruited in France to work with the British SOE, not sent over from England. Atkins assumed that Noor Inayat Khan, also known as Nora Baker, had taken this name as a new alias.

It was not until 1947 that Vera Atkins learned that Sonia Olschanezky was a real person. Atkins then assumed that Olschanezky had been murdered at Natzweiler, not Noor Inayat Khan, but this new assumption was not publicly known until 1956 when it was revealed by an investigative reporter.

The man who allegedly tortured and killed Noor Inayat Khan at Dachau was put on trial as a war criminal by an American Military Tribunal in November 1945, but he was not charged with the execution of Noor Inayat Khan at Dachau because this was not yet known.

Ruppert was prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal

In the photograph above, a prosecution witness  identifies Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert in the courtroom of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau. Ruppert is wearing a card with the number 2 around his neck because he was the second most important man on trial, after Martin Gottfried Weiss, the acting Commandant when Dachau was liberated.

Ruppert was accused of being the officer in charge of executing condemned prisoners at Dachau. He was a high-ranking SS officer, who would not have personally tortured nor executed a prisoner.

There were no eye-witnesses to the all night torture of Noor Inayat Khan.  Albert Guérisse and Brian Stonehouse were both prisoners at Dachau when Noor Inayat Khan was allegedly executed there, but they knew nothing about it.  Guérisse was the one who met the American liberators at the Dachau gate and escorted them to the gas chamber, which was outside the concentration camp.  Strangely, Guérisse knew all about the gassing of the prisoners at Dachau, but the story of the execution of one of his fellow SOE agents at Dachau, he didn’t know.

According to the prosecution’s case in the Dachau proceedings, one of the main crimes committed in the Dachau camp was the execution of 90 Russian military officers who were executed at Dachau on Hitler’s orders in September 1944. Before the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Hitler had issued an order that all captured Russian soldiers who were Communist Commissars were to be taken to the nearest concentration camp and executed. According to the prosecution, any man among the Dachau accused, who had merely witnessed this execution, was guilty of a violation of the Laws and Usages of War because he should have acted to stop these executions which were a violation of the Geneva Convention, even though the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and was not following it.

The alleged execution of Noor Inayat Khan at Dachau was unknown when this trial took place, but even if her alleged execution had been known, this would not have been a war crime because illegal combatants were not protected under the Geneva Convention.

In any case, nothing was said in any trial about how brave Noor had been in not giving any information to the Germans.

Ruppert, the man who allegedly shot Noor Inayat Khan, was the first person who was executed by the Americans after the trial of the staff members at Dachau.  The eye-witness who allegedly saw the execution of Noor by Ruppert at Dachau did not come forward until long after Ruppert had been tried and executed.

What information did Noor have that was so important that this caused the Germans to allegedly torture her for 10 months at the Pforzheim prison and then continue to torture her right up to the moment that she was allegedly shot at Dachau?

Noor was a radio operator.  She had already foolishly written down her secret codes so that the Germans were able to use her radio.  Or had she been instructed to write down the codes because the real purpose of sending her to France was to get a radio into the hands of the Germans?  The British wanted to send fake messages to the Germans and they were able to accomplish this after Noor got caught.

February 20, 2011

Porrajmos — the persecution of the Roma and Sinti by the Nazis

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 12:01 pm

The Roma and Sinti have their own term for their genocide at the hands of the Nazis.  They call it the Baro Porrajmos which means the “Great Devouring.”  The total number of Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) who were murdered in the Nazi death camps is still unknown. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 220,000 were killed, but other sources put the total deaths at 500,000 or more than half the total number of Gypsies in all the countries of Europe.

After World War II ended, Germany gave compensation to the Jewish survivors, but compensation claims by the Gypsies were denied by the Germans in the 1950s on the grounds that the Gypsies had been persecuted under the Nazi regime because they were “asocial” or had broken the laws of the country, not because of racism.  After a few years of protest by the Gypsies, compensation was finally given to the survivors.   (more…)

February 19, 2011

The history of the liberation of Majdanek, as taught by an American teacher

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 11:47 am

If you want to learn about the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, as taught by an American History teacher, you can go online and read about it here.

This quote tells about the liberation of Majdanek:

Soviet forces were the first to approach a major Nazi camp, reaching Majdanek near Lublin, Poland, in July 1944. Surprised by the rapid Soviet advance, the Germans attempted to hide the evidence of mass murder by demolishing the camp. Camp staff set fire to the large crematorium used to burn bodies of murdered prisoners, but in the hasty evacuation the gas chambers were left standing.

Note that the date for the liberation of Majdanek is given as July 1944, but not the precise day of the liberation.  Why is the day of the month important?  It is important because the “Soviet advance” had reached Lublin, the city where the Majdanek camp is located, on July 22nd and the camp was liberated on July 23, 1944 after a two-day battle for the city of Lublin.   The crematorium was burned on July 22, 1944, allegedly by the Germans, but the Soviets were also in Lublin that day. (more…)

February 18, 2011

An American soldier with the 81st Field Hospital describes a visit to Dachau in 1945

A document that belonged to an American soldier who was with the 81st Field Hospital in Germany after the end of World War II has been recently put on line by his daughter.  Page 9 of the document can be read here.  I found page 9 of the document to be very revealing because it describes a visit by some members of the hospital unit to the Dachau concentration camp.  No date was given for this visit, but the “death train” was still there and the bodies of SS soldiers who had been killed after the surrender of the camp were still there, so it must have been a few days after the camp was liberated on April 29, 1945.    

This quote is from the daughter’s blog post which you can read in full here:

Several members of the unit went over to Dachau and obtained entrance to the notorious concentration camp. It was a place of unbelievable horror and a sight that no one can forget. Guided by one of the prisoners, we visited the gas chamber where prisoners marked for extermination were sent. Outside the building was a huge pile of naked dead bodies, grotesquely sprawled one upon the other. The bodies were scrawny, emaciated, like wax dummies of skeletons. Slightly to one side lay a number of SS troopers beaten to death in sadistic revenge by the liberated prisoners. A stench of death hung in the air. It was all macabrely unreal.

Bodies of SS soldiers on the left outside the Dachau crematorium

Note the soldiers on the extreme right in the photo.  They seem to be visitors who are viewing the macabre scene at Baracke X, the building where the gas chamber and the ovens were located. On the left, in the photo, are the bodies of some of the SS soldiers who were killed during the liberation of the camp.

Here is how the soldier with the 81st Field Hospital described the gas chamber that he saw that day:

Stepping inside the building, one entered the reception room where incoming victims slated for extermination were told to undress in preparation for showers. Each person was given a bar of soap and a towel. Scarcely suspecting, they were told to enter the adjoining room which was marked “Shower-Bath” and a heavy steel door closed upon them.  There was nothing alarming about the room which was of ordinary size. A number of apparent shower jets protruded from the ceiling.

Note that the “shower jets protruded from the ceiling.”   In 1945, many homes in rural America did not have bathrooms, much less a shower stall. Maybe this soldier didn’t know that shower jets in a shower room normally hang from the ceiling, as in the photo below, which I took at the Mauthausen camp.

Shower jet hanging from water pipe at Mauthausen camp

Apparently this soldier was not at all suspicious that the shower room had been modified after the camp was liberated.  He didn’t question why the shower heads were just stuck into the ceiling and not connected to any pipes.  He didn’t even mention that the ceiling was only 7 and a half feet high.  Did Germany have building codes back then which allowed a shower room ceiling that was not at least 8 feet high?

Little windows on the east wall of the Dachau gas chamber

What about the little windows on the east wall of the Dachau gas chamber, which are shown in the photo above?  How come this soldier didn’t see them?  A sign inside Baracke X tells Dachau visitors today that the gas pellets “could have been” thrown through these little windows.  Yes, the Zyklon-B could have been put into the gas chamber through these openings, but strangely, no one even noticed the little windows until several years after the war.

Page 9 of the document continues with this quote:

When the 250 victims were crowded into this room and the heavy steel door shut and locked, the “shower” was turned on. In approximately two minutes, the entire 250 would be dead of asphyxiation.

Note that this visiting soldier did not mention what kind of gas was used or how it was able to come through the shower jets.  Apparently, the visiting soldiers didn’t question the former prisoner who was leading their tour.

The following quote from page 9 is the most shocking:

According to the inmate, perhaps a million people had been exterminated in Dachau’s gas chamber and crematorium –  the largest percentage being persons brought there solely for the purpose of extermination and never seeing the inside of the prison stockade.

Perhaps a million people had been exterminated?  Or perhaps not.  Who cares?  America won the war and we can lie if we want to.

The largest percentage were brought there solely for extermination?  What about the smallest percentage?  Why were they taken inside the prison stockade before being exterminated?  The most important question is: Why was an inmate giving this tour?  And how did the inmate get the information about the million people who were perhaps exterminated at Dachau?

This quote is also from page 9 of the document:

… the long rows of kennels where huge-ferocious dogs were kept and set upon living prisoners hung just off of the ground, and the string of 50 boxcars on a siding just outside the camp crammed full of dead bodies.

The visit to Dachau was obviously very disturbing so it is not surprising that this soldier got the atrocities a little mixed up.  At the time of his visit, the dog kennels were empty because all the dogs had been killed by the American liberators.  The inmates had told the Americans stories about the prisoners being hung by their arms with their feet just off the ground.  But the dogs were not set upon the prisoners while they were hanging.  And there were 39 railroad cars on a siding just outside the camp, not 50.  Not all of the 39 cars were boxcars and not all were crammed full of bodies.

Here is the story that this soldier was told about the train on which dead bodies were found:

There were prisoners just arrived at Dachau who were awaiting entrance into the camp. For eight days they remained crammed inside the boxcars without food, water or sufficient air. A few that managed to break out and attempted to escape were shot and found with legs or arms hanging outside the cars.

Body of German soldier who was shot by American liberator of Dachau

Body of German soldier who was shot by American liberator of Dachau

The photo above shows the first four German soldiers, who were shot by Lt. William Walsh, before the American liberators of Dachau saw the concentration camp which was next door to the SS garrison at Dachau.

The real story is that this train had taken 20 days to get to Dachau because the tracks had been bombed by American planes.  On the way, some of the prisoners who were riding in open gondola cars had been killed when the train was strafed by American planes.  When the train arrived, around 1,300 living prisoners were immediately brought into the camp. The bodies with legs hanging outside the cars were the bodies of SS soldiers who had been taken to the train to be shot after they surrendered to the Americans.

According to this document, every member of the Hospital unit was taken to see the “horrors of the camp.”  Their stories are now being told to a new generation of Americans.

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