Scrapbookpages Blog

March 11, 2011

Was it wrong for the Nazis to trick prisoners into going into the gas chamber at Dachau?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:50 am

This morning, I read a very interesting blog post, written by a young student who went with a group of students on a guided tour of the Dachau Memorial Site in February this year. I haven’t been back to Germany in a couple of years, so I was very interested in what the tour guides tell students now about the camp and how the students react to the information.

In reading this particular blog post, I was struck by the fact that this young student thought that it was “disgusting” the way the Nazis had gassed prisoners at Dachau by fooling them into thinking they were going to take a shower.  Was that so wrong?  Would it have been less cruel if the prisoners had been told that they were going into a gas chamber?  Was it because the Nazis had such a low opinion of the prisoners, as this student wrote, that they tricked them right up to the last second of their lives?

Here is a quote from the blog post, in which the student writes about how the tour guide explained the gassing process at Dachau to the student tour group:

The guards would pick the prisoners that were too weak to be of working-value anymore, or prisoners that were out of line in general. They would tell them that they were being moved to a better area, and take them to the crematorium. Here, they would strip the prisoners of their uniforms and shuffle them into the gas chamber. But not without one last pathetic attempt of trickery. Over the entrance to the gas chambers, they painted the German word for “showers.” So the prisoners entered believing they were going to get nice, warm showers, and instead they got asphyxiating poisonous gas. While I do think knowing what they were going into would have been scary for the prisoners, and some maybe would have rather stayed in the dark about what was happening.. I just think it’s disgusting that they would think so lowly of these people that they’d trick them to the last second of their lives. They even installed traditional shower heads in the room, even though they were unnecessary to the distribution of the gas to the prisoners. The gas could have come out of bare, open pipes. But instead, they chose to fool them til the last second. I can only imagine the terror they experienced when the warm shower they were looking forward to turned out to be lung-burning gas.

The usual explanation given by Holocaust historians, for the gassing of the prisoners, instead of shooting them, was that gassing was done in order to spare the feelings of the SS men who had to kill the prisoners.  The tour guide should have mentioned this important point.

The quote from the blog, about the gassing of the prisoners at Dachau, continues with this:

Stepping into the first room, where the prisoners undressed and prepared for their ‘warm shower,’ I saw the writing over the doorway. “Showers.” Such a cruel, low, final blow. I can only imagine that they laughed at the foolishness of the prisoners as they walked through that threshold with hope of a better future.

Did the tour guide forget to tell these students that the prisoners were handed a bar of soap and a towel before going into the gas chamber?  This detail is usually added to the story.  Maybe the tour guide wanted to spare the feelings of the students by not telling them of this added cruelty.

One thing that I learned from this student’s blog was that the last remaining shower head is now gone.  I was fortunate to be able to see Dachau in 1997 and again in 2001 when there was still one shower head left after the souvenir hunters had taken all the other shower heads.

Here is this student’s description of how the gas chamber at Dachau looks now:

I stepped down into the gas chamber, my foot hitting the tiled floor with a loud tap. And I was completely underwhelmed. It was an empty room, without a single showerhead in sight. I could see the remnants of the pipeline used to transport the gas, but that was all. It was just empty and dark. I remember thinking something would hit me, a wave of emotion, a feeling of dread, anything.. but I got nothing. It was too much when I started to force myself to imagine standing there and having it happen to me.. so I moved on to the next room.

I don’t recall that there is a step down into the Dachau gas chamber.  I have been in the gas chamber at Dachau several times, but I was never able to see “the remnants of the pipeline used to transport the gas.”  If I ever get back to Dachau, I am going to take a photo of one of the holes in the ceiling with the flash gun pointed right into the hole.  I hope that this will be enough to get a photo of the pipes.

I remember the first time that I stepped into the Dachau gas chamber. I was completely confused about how the gas entered the room so I asked a Memorial site staff member who was in the room.  She pointed to one of the light fixture boxes on the wall; I didn’t yet know that this information came from the film shown at the Nuremberg IMT.  At that time, I didn’t yet know that the gas was in the form of pellets, the size of peas. I was curious about how the gas came through an empty light fixture box, but I didn’t want to show my stupidity by asking dumb questions.

I wanted to know the reason for the little windows on the east wall of the gas chamber, but I didn’t want to sound stupid, so I didn’t ask.  Some of the Dachau tour guides now tell tourists that the Zyklon-B gas pellets were thrown into the gas chamber through these little windows, which were not included in the film that was shown by the American prosecutors at Nuremberg.

The last thing on this student’s blog post is a short video in which the sounds of the bell outside the Catholic chapel can be heard.  Apparently this student didn’t question why this bell was tolling.  (“Ask not for whom the bell tolls…”)  The Catholic chapel and the bell at Dachau were put there in honor of the Catholic prisoners; the majority of the prisoners at Dachau were Christians.  Most of the prisoners at Dachau were non-Jewish political prisoners which is a euphemism for Resistance fighters and illegal combatants.

But according to this tour guide, there were selections at Dachau, in which non-Jews who could no longer work, were sent to the gas chamber, and to top it all off, they were cruelly tricked into thinking that they were going to be transferred to a better place after they took a shower.

14 Comments

  1. Hello all,

    I’m the girl who wrote this blog. I just have to defend my post by saying that I’m writing this for my family back home to keep up with my travels. I never intended this to be a 100% historically factual piece of literature. I don’t know everything about Dachau, and much of what I wrote probably was distorted from what the original tour guide told us. Maybe I am gullible for believing the tour guide’s stories, but in my defense, I’m not a history buff and I did no serious research on this particular site prior to visiting so I just assumed he was telling us factual stories. On top of that, when I wrote my blog post I was still very emotionally charged from the visit, so that should be accounted for as well in my lack of good, factual info in this post. Like I said before, this blog was written for my friends and family back home, so I wrote this very informally & without doing much research. I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to WWII things. I never intended it to be an informational review of the Dachau tours, but I probably should have thought about that before posting a blog for the world to see. Just to get it out there, our tour guide was amazing, and he knew dates of events and numbers like no other person I’ve ever known. People who are way into history could have done a better job capturing the information he relayed to us. I was paraphrasing what I remembered him saying most (usually because of its shock value)and I probably exaggerated stories without intending to. I just remember the numbers being frighteningly huge, but I certainly didn’t write down exactly what was said & check up on it. So yeah. Don’t knock the tour guides too much because they’re really great. This post just wasn’t written with the knowledge that it would be analyzed by POWs and people who really know their WWII facts. Sorry! And especially to anyone who was there, if I muddled the facts I really am deeply sorry! Like I said, I’m no expert. I appreciate the feedback on my blog though, and I’ll be more careful about what I post in the future. Best wishes.

    Comment by Sarah — March 28, 2011 @ 6:40 am

    • Everything happens when you least expect it. You never know when something that you put on the Internet will go viral and be seen or read all over the world.

      Comment by furtherglory — March 28, 2011 @ 7:50 am

      • I don’t mind if people read it. I just want it to be clear that this was written for fun, and not to be taken so seriously.

        Comment by Sarah — March 28, 2011 @ 8:20 am

        • Unfortunately, people do take the Dachau story seriously. The promotion of the Dachau camp has caused a lot of harm because it promotes hatred of the German people. The Germans can no longer be proud of their heritage and their country because of the Dachau story, as told by the tour guides. When you were in Dachau or Munich, did you see any German flags flying from the houses? Did you hear the German National Anthem sung? Did you see any Germans wearing the colors of their country?

          Between 1965 and 2003, there was a sign in the Dachau gas chamber, which said in 5 languages that it was never used. The sign was taken down in 2003 so that tour guides can now give teenagers like you the thrill of walking into a real Nazi gas chamber. How would you feel if, instead of taking you to the gas chamber, a German tour guide had taken your group to the spot where the “Dachau massacre” took place and ranted against Americans who committed a war crime at Dachau?

          What if the tour guide had told you about the time when Dachau was converted into “War Crimes Enclosure No. 1” where German prisoners were kept in worse conditions and treated worse than the prisoners in the concentration camp? Most of them were held, without charges, for 3 years before they were released. There were 30,000 prisoners at Dachau when the camp was liberated, but half of them had been there for six weeks or less. There were 30,000 Germans held for 3 years in crowded conditions.

          Did the tour guide even mention that the Dachau camp was used for 17 years as a refugee camp for ethic Germans who had been kicked out of Czechoslovakia? The refugees were kicked out so that Dachau could be turned into a Memorial Site.

          Wise up, as Bill O’Reilly would say.

          Comment by furtherglory — March 28, 2011 @ 8:56 am

        • I think we all understand that you were just writing about your visit to Dachau and I made a similar “defense” regarding your post early on. You were just reporting what the guide told you. It’s really not a personal criticism of you, but you made an interesting observation regarding the trickery involved and hence the post.

          I was the one that commented on your blog post about the sign that used to be there at the museum. Have you thought about that sign?

          Again it’s not personal. It was informative to know what THEY are telling people. It’s more of a criticism of what the museum is telling people especially in regards to the gas chambers if you still believe they gassed people at Dachau.

          Comment by Kageki — March 29, 2011 @ 4:27 am

  2. I finally finished reading that entire blog post. The amount of details that was relayed during her visit was just incredible or perhaps I should say incredulous.

    From what allegedly the Germans said to the prisoners or how prisoners stacked on each in beds and urinated on each other. Another thing that caught my attention was that they were planning to or did cremate 10,000 bodies a day! How high do the numbers have to be until it becomes comically absurd for even the most obtuse visitor?

    This “disguise” of shower rooms has always been a curious point for me ever since I heard it. Truly it would ingeniously evil to “disguise” shower rooms as gas chambers, but wouldn’t Occam’s razor say it would be a shower room just as it says? If it looks like a shower room and they said it was a shower room then just maybe it was a shower room…

    Comment by Kageki — March 24, 2011 @ 10:24 pm

  3. Dear Gasan and Kagegi
    You can can call me Herb all others do, I am not very formal,but there is very little I can write about, the concentation camp and what was going on as I was transferred there from Allach in mid July 1948 and once I saw the actual sites I asked myself the question how could Germany posiibly have done this.
    So,where should I start? It was after the events and all will be second hand.
    I have been in touch with my Germman contacts and see what I can get out of them
    Until later
    PS>I made a mistake in the spelling of the inmate from Vienna it should read Kurt LANGE.”G”

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — March 23, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

    • I just finished reading your entire blog and your latest post about your experience as a POW. I didn’t realize you had written that until now. That is exactly what I was talking about and I was stunned to find out you were actually in those Eisenhower camps. It was incredible to read such raw history and you clearly write honestly and without any sensationalism.

      It is of course understood that any information you have of Dachau would be secondhand since you arrived after it was liberated, but certainly it is still worthwhile to hear about your experiences there.

      Have you heard of Russel Barton? He was a British medical student that went to Belsen during the liberation and even though he arrived after, his experiences while there have still proven to be valuable. He testified at Zundel’s trial and here is a video interview of him made by Zundel:

      You left off right as you arrived at Dachau so why not just keep continuing the way you have done so far? I respect the condition of your health so in no way I am imposing or trying to rush you, but you have done a great job so far writing on your blog.

      What was it like when you first arrived at Dachau? Did you hear about gas chambers before you arrived there? Maybe you can take it slowly in chronological order in brief posts. Probably the more interesting details as it pertains to the Holocaust is from your earlier years. Say the first 3-4 years since you got there.

      Really I would be interested in reading your entire autobiography. You are German born in Germany in 1928 and served in the Wehrmacht. You were literally right there during the Hitler years. I have been so curious to hear from the German perspective for a long time and not by some “historian” either.

      Comment by Kageki — March 24, 2011 @ 9:23 am

      • I didn’t try to embed that video by the way. I merely linked it and it automatically did that.

        Comment by Kageki — March 24, 2011 @ 9:37 am

  4. Dear Kageki
    It was not my intention to be critical of American Students what they publish on their blogs,(and this young girl is not the only one.)As I understand it the subject of the Holocaust is now taught on American Universities, it is disturbing to read the emotional impact once they have left the memorial site, those tour guides have on them by virtually telling them “stories” that are not factual.I have been asked to write about my stay after the “liberation” in Camp Dachau and just finished part of my experiences as a young POW inmate in some of Eisenhower “Death Camps”,which drained me mentally as I have few health problems.The only thing I can do reply to questions and comments made in this manner in my more lucid moments.

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — March 23, 2011 @ 2:46 am

  5. Mr. Stolpmann,
    I totally agree with reader Kageki that you need record everything in your blog. Also, I don’t agree that American students are gullible. There are already enough of them who are asking more questions and not buying the story as it is being sold to us. But, those who have believed the tour guides have been pre-selected to be sent on that “brainwashing” trip in the first place. Some students from East Side of Manhattan, NY are sent there. Oh well, we all know where they are coming from in the first place.
    Kageki is right, that we expect our professors, teachers, museum guides, etc to tell us the truth. Aren’t we paying money for their services?
    This is where the story of Kurt Lande, male prostitute is coming handy. By the way: this is not an issue of same-sex marriages or other politically correct stuff. The prostitution is still illegal in most of the United States, except State of Nevada. (You know, Las Vegas, The City of Vice, etc. It was legal there even ninety years ago).
    But my point is: what is the difference in between of Kurt Lande and those college professors or museum guides? If they do know their subject and are great at their jobs, how would it be possible for them not to know the truth. One of them by the name Harold Marcuse (U of CA Santa Barbara) used to post on this blog few months ago. He represents the dynasty of “career” historical liars. And guess what, he is being paid very well for telling us lies, while he must know the truth.
    Mr. Stolpmann,
    Can we call you Herb, if you don’t mind?
    Please add your recent comment to your blog. http://dachaukz.blogspot.com/
    Best regards.

    Comment by Gasan — March 22, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    • As an aside, didn’t you say you were in the military? Or just not involved in WWII? Just curious.

      Comment by Kageki — March 24, 2011 @ 5:55 am

  6. I am absolutely amazed how gullible American Students can be to accept stories that are being told by guides that seem to have only one purpose in mind to tell a gruesome tale to them to take home of what took place at Dachau KZ.
    German population had hardly any access to soap which was rationed. What a luxury to have a piece of soap plus a towel handed to inmates to be “gassed”!No one was ever gassed in Dachau, even the word “Brausebad” had been stencilled on after the “liberation” to give it more authentiticity, this was confirmed by inmates that stayed on and worked as I did for the US Army there.
    I first saw the crematorium site in 1946 when it was still in its original state and lived within the camp for almost 10 years, spoken to inmates and others that had to do work on the inside and outside of the building. The paintwork “Brausebad” was fresher in comparison to the wallpaint and I was told”Just touch the letters with your hand and you will feel the difference,so I did!
    When it comes to the ashes that were accumulated from those that were cremated, these had been put into flower pots,which originally puzzeled me as empty ones had been stacked in dog-like kennels of which there were six of them when approaching the crematorium.
    The person who stood as a model for the stylelized statue was Kurt Lande from Vienna,who was a male prostetute doing time for his activities and I knew him well!But now it no longer a crime,same sex marriages are blessed by some churches in the USA, or am I wrong?
    I do not think that your guide would have told you that, or that the prison proper were you see the sign “Arbeit macht frei” was used by the US Army as a stockade for their own soldiers until they left after 17 years.
    Next time you and others that might go there ask questions and dont swallow what a guide tells you.
    Oh, I am fully aware that thousands died there, but not from gassing!

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — March 21, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

    • In all fairness, I don’t think it has anything to do with being American. Anyone would expect the tour guide, teacher, professor, historian etc. to be telling you the facts and truth. In this particular case if you ask questions and show curiosity then you would be considered a revisionist or denier and therefore an evil person or a “Nazi”.

      However Dachau is a bit odd because some mainstream historians say that no gassings occurred so I’m certainly confused.

      Mr. Stolpmann,

      I would like to strongly encourage you to start writing. A book, essay, article or your blog. You were there and thus a witness and part of history. The information you are sharing as a witness of Dachau is too important to be relegated to the comment section. You are obviously not happy with what is being told at Dachau as a witness there and show desires to “set the record straight”. I would be very interested in hearing about your experiences in a more formal manner and again would like to encourage you to share your story.

      Comment by Kageki — March 22, 2011 @ 5:19 am


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