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April 30, 2011

Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 3:31 pm

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yom Hashoah which falls on May 2nd this year, is observed in honor of the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which began on April 19, 1943.  According to the Museum, the United States has an official eight-day period, known as Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, that begins the Sunday before Yom Hashoah. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is mandated by Congress to lead this national observance in America. The 8 Days of Remembrance this year will begin on May 1st.

On the Hebrew calendar, April 19, 1943 was the 14th of Nissan – the day before Passover, a very important and happy holiday. Orthodox Jews objected to this date for a Holocaust Remembrance day.  The 27th of Nissan was chosen instead for Holocaust Remembrance because this date falls beyond Passover but within the time span of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ended with the destruction of Mila 18, a house which was the entrance to an underground bunker where Jews were hiding from the SS men who were trying to take them to the Treblinka extermination camp.  Today a memorial stone marks the location of the house.    (more…)

the US 7th Army IG Report on the killing of guards in Tower B at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:48 am

Dead guards at Tower B in the Dachau camp

The infamous Dachau concentration camp was liberated on April 29, 1945 by the 42nd Infantry Division, along with the 45th Infantry Division, of the US Seventh Army. Yesterday, on the 66th anniversary of the liberation, newspapers were filled with the stories of 42nd Division veterans who recalled the the horror of what they saw and did that day.  The photo above shows the bodies of Dachau guards who were killed at Tower  B on the day that Dachau was liberated.

The shooting of disarmed German soldiers during the Dachau liberation was investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the Seventh Army. Their report was finished on June 8, 1945 but was marked Secret. The report was eventually made public, around 40 years later, and a copy of it was reproduced in Col. John H. Linden’s book entitled Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 April 1945.

Here are four paragraphs from the report which pertain to the shooting of the guards at Tower B.

11. After entry into the camp, personnel of the 42nd Division discovered the presence of guards, presumed to be SS men, in a tower to the left of the main gate of the inmate stockade. This tower was attacked by Tec 3 Henry J. Wells 39271327, Headquarters Military Intelligence Service, ETO, covered and aided by a party under Lt. Col. Walter J. Fellenz, 0-23055, 222 Infantry. No fire was delivered against them by the guards in the tower. A number of Germans were taken prisoner; after they were taken, and within a few feet of the tower, from which they were taken, they were shot and killed.

12. Considerable confusion exists in the testimony as to the particulars of this shooting; however Wells, German interrogator for the 222 Infantry, states that he had lined these Germans up in double rank, preparatory to moving them out; that he saw no threatening gesture; but that he shot into them after some other American soldiers, whose identities are unknown, started shooting them.

13. Lt. Colonel Fellenz was entering the door of the tower at the time of this shooting, took no part in it and testified that he could not have stopped it.

18. It is obvious that the Americans present when the guards were shot at the tower labored under much excitement. However Wells could speak German fluently, he knew no shots had been fired at him in his attack on the tower, he had these prisoners lined up, he saw no threatening gesture or act. It is felt that his shooting into them was entirely unwarranted; the whole incident smacks of execution similar to the other incidents described in this report.

Tower B as it looks today

On the day that Dachau was liberated, white flags had been flying from all seven of the Dachau guard towers since 7 o’clock in the morning, according to Nerin E. Gun, a Turkish journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau. When American soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division first entered the prison enclosure of the Dachau concentration camp, eight SS men descended from Tower G, the one closest to the gatehouse, and then surrendered with their hands in the air. One of the guards in Tower G was an SS man named Stahl, who survived to tell the story.

Eight guards from Tower A, which is on top of the gatehouse, then came down the stairs and surrendered to the Americans.  The photo below shows the Waffen SS soldiers with their hands in the air after they had come down from the towers.

Guards in the guard towers at Dachau surrendered with their hands in the air

The dead bodies of some of the guards from Tower B were thrown into the canal which borders the western side of the Dachau camp.  American soldiers continued to shoot at the bodies.  The photo below shows one of the bodies being pulled out of the canal.

Body of dead German soldier, who was killed by American liberators, being pulled out of Dachau moat

Here is the back story on the liberation of the Dachau camp:

Victor Maurer, a Red Cross representative from Switzerland, had arrived at the Dachau prison compound on April 27, 1945, two days before the liberation. Maurer had tried to persuade Obersturmführer Johannes Otto, the Adjutant to the last Commandant, Edward Weiter, to leave guards in the towers in order to secure the camp until the Americans arrived, but most of the regular guards left on April 28th, along with Martin Gottfried Weiss, the acting Commandant. The Commandant of the camp, Eduard Weiter, had already left on April 26th with a transport of prisoners headed toward Austria.

Finally, Maurer convinced SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker not to abandon the camp, but to leave guards posted in the towers to keep order until the prisoners could be turned over to armed American soldiers. Wicker was in charge of a group of SS men who had recently arrived at Dachau; they were former guards in three sub-camps of the Natzweiler-Struthof camp in Alsace. The guards, who were gunned down by Wells and the other American soldiers, had only been at Dachau for a few weeks and they were, in no way, responsible for the conditions in the camp.

Maurer knew that there were around 800 common criminals, including convicted murderers, who had been imprisoned at Dachau. He was fearful that an estimated 40,000 vengeful Dachau inmates would be released to wreak havoc in the surrounding area which was still a battle zone. There was also a typhus epidemic in the camp and Maurer did not want the prisoners to be released until the epidemic could be brought under control.

When an advance party from the 42nd Division arrived in a jeep on the street that borders the south side of the SS complex, they saw Maurer and Wicker waiting to surrender the camp under a white flag of truce. By that time, I Company of the 157th Regiment of the 45th Division had already arrived at the railroad gate into the SS camp, on the west side of the complex, almost a mile from the prison enclosure. Waffen-SS soldiers who had surrendered to I Company were immediately gunned down in the coal yard of the SS camp; this incident is usually referred to as the “Dachau massacre.”

You can see a color video of the liberation of Dachau here.

April 29, 2011

the final resting places of the victims of the Dachau death camp

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:48 am

Waldfriedhof cemetery in Dachau

When Dachau was liberated by the American Seventh Army on April 29, 1945, most of the German guards had fled the night before, and mounds of unburied corpses were found in the camp. There were also 2,310 bodies found on an abandoned train outside the camp. Everything was left untouched until newpaper reporters, American Congressmen and film makers could be brought in to document the horror. Burial began on May 13, 1945 after the bodies could no longer be kept on display because they were beginning to constitute a serious health hazard.

18 American newspaper reporters view Dachau bodies

The photo above was taken on May 3, 1945, the same day that a film of the Dachau gas chamber was made; the film was shown at the Nuremberg IMT as proof that the victims at Dachau had been gassed.

In May 1945, the first month after Dachau was liberated, there were 2,226 deaths in the camp. There were 196 deaths in June 1945 before the typhus epidemic in the camp was finally brought under control. The people of the town of Dachau were forced to bury 1,268 of these victims at Waldfriedhof, the town cemetery of Dachau.  Other victims of the typhus epidemic were buried in mass graves at the Leitenberg cemetery, and around 800 bodies were burned in the crematorium at the concentration camp.   (more…)

April 27, 2011

Learning about the Holocaust from the Denis Avey story

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:12 am

In doing a search on Denis Avey, whose Holocaust story has been in the news a lot lately, I came across a video of Denis, and also an article about how Christian youth groups can use the Denis Avey story to learn about the Holocaust, while at the same time, learning about the Christian religion.

Here is a quote from the article, which you can read here:

The Bible tells us that Jesus did exactly what Denis did. He chose to put himself in a dangerous situation and swap places with those who were going to die. But unlike Denis, Jesus actually died on our behalf. […]  Theologians call this trading of places ‘Substitutionary Atonement’. It’s a complicated way of saying something very simple: Jesus died in our place.

The most interesting part of the article is the suggestion for a game that could be played by youth groups to learn about the Holocaust.  Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t approve of role-playing games about the Holocaust.

Here is a quote from the article which describes a Holocaust game for youth groups:

Game: Sweetie Smuggling
In order to lighten the mood and to keep the group active and interested, you could play the following game.

Promote two people in the group to become ‘guards’ and station them outside of the room. Tell the rest of the group that they are ‘prisoners’. The aim of the game is for the prisoners to smuggle as many sweets (candy) past the guards as possible, and the guards to confiscate as many items as possible. The winning side is the one with the most items at the end.

One by one, the prisoners have to choose if they want to smuggle an item, then walk out of the room past the guards. If they are carrying an item, it should not be visible. This should lead to some very creative hiding items on people. The two guards are only allowed to ‘search’ half the number of people in the group. For example, if you have a group of ten prisoners, the guards can only search five of them. This way, the guards must choose carefully who they want to search.

Obviously it is not a good idea for the young people to physically search each other, so an adult should keep an eye on who has an item, and make sure they are honest when challenged by the guards. If the guards catch someone smuggling, then they confiscate the item. If a prisoner makes it through with an item, then they get to keep it. If a prisoner is accused of smuggling but is not carrying an item, then they can go free.

When the game is finished, get everyone sitting down again and tell the story of Denis Avey.

You can hear Denis Avey describe his Auschwitz experience in a video here.

The video starts with an advertisement, so wait for Denis, who begins by explaining the selection process at the Auschwitz II camp, which was not the camp that Denis allegedly sneaked into.  Then we immediately see a photo of elderly women in the barracks at the Auschwitz II camp, who survived the selections for the gas chamber.

Next, we see an old photo of the Arbeit Macht Frei gate at the entrance into the Auschwitz I camp, which also has nothing to do with his story of trading places with a Jewish prisoner at the Auschwitz III camp.

Finally, we are told in the video that it was Auschwitz III where British prisoners were held.  You can read about the POW camp where Denis Avey was a prisoner here. The POW camp was very close to the barracks where the Jewish workers lived at Auschwitz III.  After Denis explains that the SS guards at Auschwitz III were “shooting from the hip for nothing at all,” we see a photo of child survivors at the Auschwitz II extermination camp.

Towards the end of the Denis Avey video, there is a photo of a man who appears to be near death.  The word “Why?” is printed on this photo, which was taken by the British at the Bergen-Belsen camp.  Why is this man dying?  Because the Nazis did not have a typhus vaccine.  The photo on the video is the one shown below.

Iconic photo of man dying of typhus at Bergen-Belsen

We are told in the video that Denis Avey observed what the Nazis were doing to destroy the Jews and other victim groups.  Avey allegedly learned this at the Auschwitz III camp where the Jews and the British POWs were working in factories. There are no photos of Auschwitz III shown; instead we see lots of recent footage of the Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau.  You can read about the Auschwitz III camp, aka Monowitz, here.

This crazy mixed up video about Denis Avey, and the games that are suggested for youth groups, only serve to trivialize the Holocaust.  What’s next?  A Denis Avey video game?  I previously blogged about the Sonderkommando Revolt video game, which was withdrawn in December 2010 before it went on the market and another video game about Bergen-Belsen.

I tried to buy a copy of Denis Avey’s book at my local Barnes and Noble store, but  I was told that the book had not been published yet. It will not be available until July.  So I went online and located a website that has an excerpt at  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8391302/Denis-Avey-The-Man-Who-Broke-Into-Auschwitz.html

Here is a quote from The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz:

There was a sign with that cruel promise: Arbeit macht frei – “Work sets you free”. This was Auschwitz III-Monowitz.

This is a huge mistake by Denis Avey.  This sign was not on the Auschwitz III Monowitz gate, but rather on the Auschwitz main camp gate, as shown in the photo below.

Gate into the Auschwitz main camp

Denis Avey stayed for two nights in the barracks of the Auschwitz III camp.  The barracks are shown in the photo below.

Barracks at Auschwitz III

Avey tried to question the prisoners but all they would tell him is something about the “Frauenhaus,” which was their name for the brothel where the prostitutes stayed.  According to this excerpt from the book, the prisoners at Monowitz did not tell him about the gas chambers.

Avey described the soup, which he said was made from rotten cabbage and potato peels.  He said that he didn’t eat the soup, so how does he know that the cabbage was rotten.

Avey wrote that “Breakfast was odd-tasting black bread smeared with rancid margarine. I couldn’t eat it.”  Again, how does he know that the margarine was rancid if he didn’t eat it.  The prisoners were given whole grain bread instead of fluffy white bread because “black bread” is nutritious.  During World War II, everyone ate margarine because butter was scarce and very expensive.

April 26, 2011

If there is no hell, will Adolf go to heaven?

Filed under: Holocaust, TV shows — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:01 am

Last night on his TV show “The Factor,” Bill O’Reilly brought up the subject of the April 25th cover of Time magazine which has the headline: “WHAT IF THERE’S NO HELL?” in large red letters.  The magazine article is based on a book entitled “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived,” written by Rob Bell, a preacher who thinks that hell might not exist.    (more…)

April 23, 2011

Holy Toledo! students learn about Holocaust horrors (Updated)

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:42 am

I was planning to write today about the ship St. Louis, which was carrying Jewish passengers to Cuba. When the passengers were turned away, the St. Louis then docked in an American port but the Jews were not allowed to enter the United States.  Then I read a comment made on this post that I wrote a year ago, and decided to update it.

Here is a quote from the original news article upon which this post was based:

MONROE — For several weeks, ninth graders at Monroe High School had been assigned to read Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night.

The book Mr. Wiesel penned more than 50 years ago was used to introduce the approximately 300 students to the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Last week, they learned about multiple facets of one of history’s darkest chapters, with some of them getting a firsthand account from a woman who lived through it.

Over a one-hour period, students were jammed standing up into a space that simulated a railroad car. They tasted cabbage and bread, the typical meal given to Jews in concentration camps. In one class, they learned of the staggering number of people killed.

Mr. Wiesel’s book, required reading for the ninth graders’ English class, and the classroom sessions were for Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 1.

Deborah Mau, an English teacher who helped organize the program, said the main focus was to have students delve deeply into the Holocaust and World War II. “This gives them a lesson on tolerance and recognizing that not everyone has to look like you and to accept people for their differences and uniqueness,” she said.

Nine segments ranging from stories about Holocaust survivors to slides on Dachau to poetry and Jewish holidays were available. Students could attend three sessions.

I am sorry that my criticism of the Monroe High School program offended anyone, but I truly feel that students in the 9th grade should not be taught about the Holocaust in this way.  First of all, Elie Wiesel’s book Night should be taught as literature, not as a way to “introduce students to the atrocities of the Holocaust.”  The atrocities in the book Night are fiction, and the book should be taught as fiction.  Babies were not thrown, alive, into a burning ditch at Auschwitz, and students should be told that this atrocity did not happen.

Mark Scoles, left, conducts a “Remembrance Walk” through the hallway in which a march to the death camps is reenacted during an afternoon of Holocaust Remembrance activities.

The students who were on the pretend “march to the death camps” should have been told that prisoners were marched OUT of the death camps, not TO the death camps. They were marched out to get them out of a war zone and into a safer camp.  The purpose of these marches was to save the lives of the prisoners, not march them to their death. Elie Wiesel volunteered to join the march out of Auschwitz and was then taken to the Buchenwald camp where he survived.

The students, who were fed cabbage and bread, should have been told that Heinrich Himmler, who was in charge of all the concentration camps, had a degree in Agriculture and he was growing cabbage, using the method of organic gardening, which was pioneered by the Germans.  The bread given to the prisoners was whole grain bread, not the fluffy white bread that Americans were eating during World War II. The students should have been told that food was rationed in all countries during World War II, including America.

The students, who had to stand for an hour in a crowded space, should have been told that, during World War II, there was a scarcity of trains and even upper class German citizens were riding in cattle cars.

These students were taught “a lesson on tolerance and recognizing that not everyone has to look like you and to accept people for their differences and uniqueness.”  Teaching tolerance is fine, but it is wrong to tell high school students that the Jews were deported to camps because of “intolerance or differences or uniqueness.”  This is a touchy subject that might be too offensive to teach in the 9th grade, but the students should at least have been told that one of the main reasons that the Jews were kicked out was because Hitler, and many of the German people, thought that the Jews were responsible for causing Germany to lose World War One.

The students should have been taught that the “staggering number of people” who were killed is unknown.  The numbers keep changing and there are no records to prove the “staggering number.”  The “staggering number” of people killed in the Holocaust should be taught in context with the number of non-Jews killed during World War II, who were not in concentration camps.

The students should have been taught that the reasons for genocide vary from one country to another, but there is always a reason that a group of people are targeted. Genocide is not caused by intolerance or racism or differences between people.  Jews have been targeted for thousands of years, in many different countries, and it is not because of their religion.

The students should have been told that there were “internment camps” in America where Japanese-Americans, citizens of Germany, and German-Americans were imprisoned in violation of the American constitution.  German-Americans, who had not committed any crime, were kept in these camps for two years AFTER the war.  German citizens were kidnapped in South America and brought to America to be put into the internment camps.

There was a war going on when the Holocaust happened.  The students should have been told about the war crimes committed by BOTH sides during World War II. Along with the lessons on the “death camps” for Jews, the students should also learn about Eisenhower’s “death camps.”

Continue reading my original post:

According to a news article on the Toledo Blade website, 9th graders in Monroe, Ohio are spending several weeks learning about the horrors of the Holocaust in preparation for Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 1st.  How many Holocaust Remembrance Days are there?  Enough, already.

The Toledo students saw a slide show on the cremation ovens at Dachau; they ate cabbage and bread just like the concentration camp prisoners and even stood for an hour in a cramped space to feel what it was like to be jammed into a railroad car on the way to a death camp.  Prior to this, they had spent several weeks reading Elie Wiesel’s book “Night.”   (more…)

April 22, 2011

What would Anne Frank have written if she had continued writing in a diary after her hiding place was found?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:13 am

American high school students, who are studying the Holocaust, are sometimes assigned by their teachers to write a few entries in an imaginary diary, writing as Anne Frank might have done, if she had continued her diary after her hiding place was raided by the Gestapo.  I believe that Anne Frank did continue to write in a new diary after she was sent from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen in October 1944.  I am basing this on the fact that many inmates of the Bergen-Belsen camp did, in fact, keep a diary in which they described what it was like in the camp.   (more…)

April 20, 2011

April 20th — on this day in history…

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:33 am

April 20th is an important day in history.  On this day in 1945, American soldiers of the 3rd, 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions of the US Seventh Army were celebrating their conquest of Nürnberg, the most German of all cities, considered to be the capital of German nationalism, and Hitler’s favorite city. Where Hitler’s soldiers, a hundred thousand at a time, had once goose-stepped past the reviewing stand at the Zeppelin Field in Nürnberg, American soldiers were doing a victory march on April 20, 1945 and mocking Hitler with a stiff-armed salute from the speaker’s platform.

Nürnberg in 1945 Photo Credit: Charles J. Sheridan

(more…)

April 19, 2011

The Wabash Cannonball

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 2:41 pm

I have always loved trains.  I have many fond memories of the old steam engine trains and the “streamliners,” the fast trains in the 1940s that had diesel engines. Amtrak just isn’t the same.    (more…)

Yanina Cywinska: “Eat your heart out Hitler, I made it”

The title of my blog post today is a line spoken by Yanina Cywinska in a video which was shown recently on a TV program.

Yanina Cywinska is an 82-year-old woman, now living in Concord, CA, whose Holocaust survivor story is in a book called The Sugar Plum Fairy Nut. In the book, we learn that she survived the gas chamber at Auschwitz. She lived in the Auschwitz camp for four more years before being sent on a death march to Dachau where she was liberated by Japanese soldiers in the 552nd Field Artillery Battalion.  You can read about the 552nd on my web site here.

Yanina Cywinska was just 11 years old when she arrived at Auschwitz, where children under the age of 15 were sent immediately to the gas chamber. She was actually inside the gas chamber and the people around her were dying, but she survived because the gas was carbon monoxide. According to her story, the Nazis had not yet started using Zyklon-B at Auschwitz.  A woman prisoner pulled her out of the pile of bodies and sneaked her into a work group.  In the video, she mentions that a Nazi was standing in the corner of the gas chamber, watching the people die.

The title of Yanina Cywinska’s book is a reference to the name that the other prisoners at Auschwitz called her: “the Sugar Plum Nut.”  The women at Auschwitz thought that Yanina was a “nut” because she dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer and dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy ballerina in the Nutcracker.  As it turned out, she made it, so eat your heart out, Hitler.

Yanina had already had three years of ballet training before she was sent to Auschwitz in 1941, and as luck would have it, her ballet teacher was living in Paris after the war.  Yanina was just 15 when she was liberated from Dachau.  She made her way to Paris, where she moved in with her ballet teacher and resumed her training.

In the video, Yanina says that the Nazis were trying to kill as many people as possible to eliminate witnesses, and just before soldiers arrived to free the inmates at Dachau, the prisoners “were lined up to be shot.”  But before the Nazis could shoot all the prisoners, the Japanese soldiers in the 552nd Field Artillery arrived in the nick of time.

Here is a quote from the web site of Mike Carroll, where you can read the story of Yanina and watch the video:

She had been born in Poland and raised in Warsaw. Her father was a doctor. After Germany invaded and they were living in occupation, her father was summoned to treat a high-ranking German officer inside the Warsaw Ghetto, where 500,000 Jews were barricaded in an area of only several city blocks. He was so appalled by the living conditions that he began smuggling food into the starving inhabitants. He was caught and he and his wife and children were loaded into railroad boxcars, along with the Jews from the Ghetto, and sent into the countryside.

When the train stopped and the people were herded out they were in a barbed wire prison. They were sent to get showered so they could begin to work. The doors to the shower chamber were closed, then the gas began to come out of the vents. When Yanina awoke she was lying among a pile of corpses, among them her family. Amazingly, she was still alive. A Jewish woman worker shook her to her feet and pressed her to work in one of the working gangs.

You can read about the Warsaw Ghetto on my web site here.  You can read here about the Jews being sent from the Warsaw Ghetto to be gassed with carbon monoxide.  The video about Yanina shows a photo of the Auschwitz gas chamber; you can see photos of the Auschwitz gas chamber on my web site here.

P.S. Yanina’s book is available on Amazon.com.  I buy lots of books on Amazon and I always get suggestions for other books that I might like.  The suggested books are listed as books purchased by other customers who have bought this book.  I have some suggestions for people who buy Yanina’s book:  Dennis Avey’s book and Irene Zisblatt’s book.  BTW Yanina’s book has the “Search Inside” feature on Amazon.

I used the “Search Inside” feature on the Amazon web site and read a few pages of Yanina Cywinska’s book.  I discovered that the book was first published on January 7, 2008.  It was not written in the first person, so the real author is apparently a ghost writer.

I have hope that some day there will be a law against Holocaust lying, and Yanina will be carried into a courtroom on a stretcher to be prosecuted for her lies.  I am assuming that the ghost writer just wrote down the lies, as told to her by Yanina.  But the ghost writer should also be prosecuted as an accessory to the crime of Holocaust lying.  Just reading a few pages of this book made me extremely angry and upset.  I wish I had not turned on my computer today.

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