Scrapbookpages Blog

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.”?