The photo above shows the entrance to the Birkenau camp, taken from the outside of the camp. Not a very dramatic shot, is it? If you want a dramatic shot of the tracks leading into the camp, you have to photograph the gate house from the inside of the camp and pretend that it is the outside; the gate house looks the same on both sides.
June 30, 2011
June 27, 2011
Someone asked me where the ashes of the 1.1 million people who were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau are located. I had to look it up because I really don’t know. At Birkenau, there is no huge memorial that holds the ashes, as at Sobibor and Majdanek.
I found an article on this web site which mentions the “Field of Ashes” at Birkenau. So where is the Field of Ashes? A news article in the N.Y. Times on December 13, 1997 mentions “a large swath of land, known as the field of ashes, that stretches behind the gas chambers at the Birkenau camp.”
The “large swath of land” must be where the “little white house” was formerly located; the house was one of the two little houses that were used as gas chambers while Krema II and Krema III were under construction.
The photo above shows a “swath of land” which is behind the Birkenau camp. Note the mound on the right. Is this the Field of Ashes? (more…)
June 26, 2011
The decision to build a new crematorium at Dachau was made in April 1942. An order was issued from Berlin on July 23, 1942 to begin construction of Baracke X, the new crematorium, at a cost of 150,000 Reichsmark.
When was construction of the building, as seen today, completed? Did Baracke X look the same as it does now when American soldiers liberated the camp on April 29, 1945? There have been persistent rumors that the new crematorium was built or modified after the Americans arrived.
A reader of this blog recently sent me an e-mail with two links to the web site of David Irving here and here. These pages on Irving’s web site were put up in 1999. Each page has a letter written by someone who claimed that the Baracke X building was not completely finished in April 1945 and that the construction was completed later by German POWs being held in the former camp.
According to the book Legacies of Dachau, by Harold Marcuse, “In the fall of 1945 the legend that the Americans had forced German POWs to build the crematorium after the war was not yet in circulation.”
Was the “legend” not in circulation yet because the crematorium was not COMPLETED until some time later, like maybe in 1947?
Marcuse quoted extensively from the diary of German general Gert Naumann in his book, but on page 85, he wrote “I did not attempt to find Naumann” to interview him about the crematorium.
This quote is from Legacies of Dachau:
But I did interview several other internees (of War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 at Dachau). In the Dachau memorial site archive I found a copy of the diary of General Karl Schnell, who had donated the seven volumes of his magnum opus in 1993. I called him at his home in Karlsruhe in July 1993, and he was quite willing to talk. When I asked him whether he had been taken to the crematorium (when he was first brought to War Crimes Enclosure No.1), he answered: “I couldn’t have done that. The crematorium wasn’t built yet. The Americans had German POWs build it after I left the camp [in 1946].” Even when I told him what Naumann, a good friend of his, had written, he refused to concede the point. Not wishing to listen to more, I ended the conversation.”
What had Naumann written that convinced Marcuse that the crematorium was there in 1945? This quote is from page 81 of Legacies of Dachau:
He (Naumann) arrived in Dachau with a transport of other internees on the roll-call square, and a sign “to the crematorium” on the gatehouse. The men were taken in groups of ten into a small wooden barrack, and returned reeling, some with bloody noses.
I have deduced from this quote that Naumann did not write that he was taken to see the crematorium, although he did report seeing a direction sign to “the crematorium.” There were two crematoria at Dachau. Why didn’t the sign say “to the crematoria” or “to the crematoriums”?
The first time that I visited Dachau, in 1997, I sat outside on a bench before going into Baracke X which is the building where the gas chamber is located.
I love brick buildings, and as I was sitting outside Baracke X, I couldn’t help but notice the front wall which seemed to me to have some sloppy construction that I would call “un-German.”
Those things on the wall looked like mailboxes to me, but why were there two of them? I didn’t ask any questions because I didn’t want to show my ignorance. It was only after I returned from my trip that I learned, from doing some research, that the things on the wall were bins for pouring the gas pellets into the gas chamber.
The gas pellets were poured through the bins and came out of two little windows inside on the east wall of the gas chamber. I took the photo below when I returned to Dachau in 2007.
It appears to me that this window was cut into the gas chamber wall AFTER the room was built. A sign in the undressing room for the gas chamber tells visitors that gas pellets “could have been” put into the gas chamber through the two windows.
A couple of years ago, I compiled a list of descriptions written by American soldiers who were taken to see the gas chamber in 1945. None of the soldiers mentioned the bins on the wall, nor the little windows in the gas chamber. It could be that the bins were there, but they were closed and no light was coming through the little windows, so none of the soldiers noticed them.
It is possible that the person who made the film that was shown at Nuremberg did not notice the little windows. The film showed the “engineer’s room” behind the west wall, where the SS men allegedly controlled the pipes through which the “lethal smoke” was put into the gas chamber. The west wall was not shown in the film.
This controversy could be laid to rest if the Dachau Museum would just display a photograph of Baracke X, taken after the building was completed in 1943. It is possible that the Germans never took a photo of the front of the building, but this is highly unlikely since I have seen old photos of the back of the building and the north end of the building.
A photo of the east wall of Baracke X, taken a day or two after the camp was liberated, is shown below.
On the right, in the photo above, are two control wheels for letting gas into the Dachau gas chamber. To the left of one of the control wheels is a small peep hole with the cover lifted up. This photo was taken by an American soldier who saw the gas chamber in 1945, after the camp had been liberated.
A film entitled Atrocities at Dachau, Story RG-60.0843, Tape 828 was made on May 3, 1945, the day that a group of US Congressmen visited the gas chamber. It shows the two black objects to the left of the control wheels in the center of the black and white photo above but the movie camera did not pan down to include the peep hole which can be seen in the photo.
In their report, the Congressmen wrote: “….The supply of gas into the chamber was controlled by means of two valves on one of the outer walls, and beneath the valves was a small glass-covered peephole through which the operator could watch the victims die….”
The valves were not on one of the “outer walls” but rather in a hallway behind the west wall which was called “the engineer’s room.” The quote is from Document No. 47 of the 79th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Report (May 15, 1945) of the Committee Requested by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Congress of the U.S. relative to Atrocities and other Conditions in Concentration Camps in Germany. This document was entered into the Nuremberg trial proceedings as IMT Document L-159.
June 24, 2011
The title of my blog post today is from the subject line of an e-mail that I got from a follower of my blog. My first thought was: Which chimneys at Auschwitz? According to the official account of the Holocaust, all the crematoria at the Auschwitz II camp at Birkenau were destroyed by the Germans just before the Soviet soldiers liberated the camp on January 27, 1945 and there were no chimneys still in existence. So how did the Soviet liberators determine that there was 18 inches of fat inside the chimneys?
My e-mail correspondent sent me a link to an article in the Daily Mail here which mentions a new book about the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz.
Here is a quote which I copied from the Daily Mail article:
The insanity was worse when the extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau were reached. Most of the inmates had been marched away, but some remained. The sight of them was shattering.
“I had seen many innocent people killed. I had seen hanged people and burned people,” wrote one hardened company commander, “but I was still unprepared for Auschwitz.”
Another Red Army soldier recalled “emaciated, brutally tortured people wrapped in rags. Most were unable to stand, but lay on plank beds or sat propped up against the wall. It was a vision of hell”.
Horror after horror revealed itself – mounds of corpses; the children’s barracks, with just two survivors; warehouses stuffed with a million men’s suits and women’s dresses; the 18-inch layer of fat caking the inside of the chimneys.
“I could not comprehend how a human mind could conceive of this,” said a sergeant after seeing inside a “shower room”.
This devastating evidence of the massacre and torture of their people spurred on the Russian Army. Another witness told his comrades: “Show the German bastards no mercy. Smash them to pulp.” (more…)
June 23, 2011
On his TV show today, Glenn Beck said to his guest Rick Santorum:
“I’m going over to Poland in a couple of weeks on something that’s a venture that I’m doing. I am not doing a special on Auschwitz per se — I’m visiting Auschwitz, but I’m talking about the town which is just a few miles outside of the gate.”
Beck plans to broadcast from Oświęcim, the Polish town formerly known as Auschwitz. He wants to “figure out” what happened at the Nazi extermination camp. He wants to know “How did this happen?”
It is common for tourists to blame the Germans in the town of Dachau for not doing anything to stop what went on in the Dachau concentration camp. Now, it seems that Glenn Beck is thinking the same thing about the people in the town of Auschwitz.
If Beck does some research before his trip, he will learn that the Auschwitz main camp was set up in June 1940 for Polish Resistance Fighters, not for Jews. There was a war going on and Poland was occupied by the Germans. If the people in the town had tried to rise up and stop the Germans from putting their enemies inside the old Polish Army garrison, they would have soon wound up as prisoners themselves. Poland never surrendered during World War II and the Poles continued to fight as illegal combatants throughout the war.
Oświęcim is now a factory town with 50,000 residents, but before the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, it was a market town with a population 12,000, of which 7,000 residents were Jewish. The next largest ethnic group in Oświęcim in 1939 was the Roma (Gypsies). The Jews, who had lived for over 500 years in the town, which they called Oshpitzin, were evacuated by the Nazis to three different ghettos in 1941, but eventually ended up back at Auschwitz, where most of them perished in the death camp.
At one time there were more than 12 Synagogues in Oshpitzin, but all except one were destroyed by the Nazis. The one surviving Synagogue, originally opened in 1930, has been reconstructed and since the year 2000, it has been open to tourists.
The Synagogue, which is shown in the photo above, is located on a small square near the Catholic Church that was formerly called Church Square, but was renamed Jana Skarbka square after the Synagogue was opened to the public in 2000. The building is connected to the Auschwitz Jewish Center.
A movie is shown on a TV screen in a small room in the Jewish Center. In the movie, several survivors, who were children in 1939, tell about what it was like in Oświęcim before the German invasion of Poland. There was a “large Jewish presence in Auschwitz,” according to one survivor. All of the survivors said that they now live in Israel or the United States, but none of them mentioned anything about how they managed to survive the Holocaust.
One survivor said that the Jewish houses in Oświęcim had no running water, no electricity, no central heating or air conditioning, and no inside toilets, but the Jews had “culture.” Another said that the Jews were not rich, but they had a “rich Jewish life.” One survivor described the life in Oswiecim before the war as “a life of dignity.” All that is now gone; the Nazis not only killed the Jews, they destroyed their rich, dignified way of life in Europe.
Prominently mentioned in the Jewish Center are the Haberfeld and Hennenberg families who were engaged in distilling and selling liquor. Some of this liquor found its way to America during Prohibition.
Poland is a Catholic country and the Poles will not be pleased if Beck makes a big fuss about the Poles not rising up to save the Jews. If Beck wants to know “How did it happen?” he should know that the Poles hated the Jews more than the Germans did and still do.
The area of Europe that was inhabited by the German tribes in the Middle Ages became the Holy Roman Empire in the year 800 and by 1270, the Empire had expanded to include the area known as Upper Silesia, where the town of Auschwitz was built by the Germans that year. In 1457, Auschwitz became part of the Kingdom of Poland and it then became known as Oświęcim.
Most of Silesia was annexed to the German state of Prussia in 1742, except for four duchies. The duchy of Auschwitz was annexed to Galicia, a province which was given to Austria when Poland lost its independence in 1772 and the country was divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria. Western Galicia soon became known as The Corner of Three Empires: Russia, Prussia and Austria. The town known as Auschwitz, or Oświęcim or Oshpitzin, became a prime location for Jewish traders or merchants during the time that Galicia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
In 1871, Prussia and the other German states, except Austria, united into the country of Germany. After the defeat of Germany and Austria in World War I, Galicia and the industrial area known as Upper Silesia were given to Poland. In 1939, after the joint conquest of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, Upper Silesia was annexed into the Greater German Reich, which at that time consisted of Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland in what is now the Czech Republic.
Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and the town of Oświęcim was captured on September 6th. Following the conquest of Poland, the name of the town reverted back to Auschwitz.
The city of Krakow, located 37 miles from Auschwitz, became the capital of German-occupied Poland, known as the General Government. Auschwitz was located literally at the junction of the Greater German Reich and occupied Poland; it was also in the heart of “The Black Triangle,” an industrial area with large coal deposits, which is why it was such an important location for the Nazis.
The gateway to Auschwitz is the city of Krakow which has its own airport. The airport is actually closer to Auschwitz than to the city of Krakow, so it is best to drive directly from the airport to Auschwitz. On the way you will see charming houses like the one shown in the photo below.
The photo below is a view of the front of the Catholic church in the town of Auschwitz, as seen from the road that enters the town over a bridge that crosses the Sola river. The Auschwitz Museum, which is the former Nazi concentration camp, is on the opposite side of the Sola river, and a world away from the town.
The actual town of Oświęcim has virtually nothing to recommend it to a typical tourist. There is a 17th century Catholic church at the entrance to the Old Town, shown in the photo above. There is the ubiquitous Duke’s castle on a bluff overlooking the Sola, a small stream that passes for a river, but nothing is left of the original castle except a small tower, now obscured by trees, which is not at all impressive. Like the church, the castle tower will never make it into most tourist guidebooks.
The Castle in Oświęcim is located on what appears to be a man-made hill, which overlooks the Sola river. Most of Poland is as flat as a pancake and a hill rising out of nowhere seems out of place. According to information in a brochure about the town, the hill was built in the 11th century as a place of pagan worship. When the hill was first constructed, it was the site of a fortified stronghold with wooden buildings. The buildings were repeatedly destroyed by fires and floods, and in 1813, almost half of the city buildings fell into the Sola river in a mud slide.
The tower of the Castle dates back to the 13th century when it was one of the earliest brick buildings in the region called Malopolska or Lesser Poland. It is now almost completely hidden by trees and can only be seen when the leaves have fallen. The southern section of the Castle, originally built in the beginning of the 16th century, was later rebuilt. The middle part of the Castle was built in the first half of the 20th century. The castle looks like an ordinary building, not at all ornate like a typical Castle.
The town of Auschwitz is almost completely devoid of charm. No famous artists come here to paint. There is no house that has been preserved as the birthplace of a famous person, nor any important historical buildings. The town square is surrounded by very ordinary looking buildings, constructed during the last 200 years, and has only one building of interest: the District Court building.
An ugly looking modern store built right in the middle of the town square has totally ruined any character that Auschwitz might have had. In the town, there were no thatched-roof cottages, no log houses, nor half-timbered buildings that I saw on either of my trips there in 1998 and 2005. It appears that most of the residents live in high-rise apartments built during the Communist era.
There are many ordinary towns in Poland and it is only because Auschwitz has become the most famous town in the history of the Holocaust that anyone today marvels at how ordinary it is. Yet a suburb of this ordinary town is included in every package tour of Poland or Eastern Europe: an afternoon of horror at the Auschwitz concentration camp, sandwiched in between stops to see the famous salt mine and the Black Madonna, the other main tourist attractions of Poland.
The photo above shows the Siebarski house, which was built by Michael Siebarski, the Parish priest of the Church of Assumption of Holy Mary in the early 1800s. It is a two-story brick building with a basement. It was modernized by the Germans during their occupation of Poland in World War II. This building is currently the seat of the District Court in Oświęcim.
The town square in Oświęcim dates back to the Middle Ages when it was first built with wooden structures. The buildings were all destroyed in the numerous fires in the city. The present buildings were all built over the last 200 years.
Today, Oświęcim is a modern town with 50,000 inhabitants. It is a factory town where 5,000 of the residents are employed in one chemical factory. Upon entering the town from the east, visitors are immediately aware of the factories with their high smokestacks. Some of the factory buildings that were built during the German occupation of Poland are still in use, and still surrounded by a high wall topped with barbed wire.
The first Catholic church in Oświęcim was a wooden building, built in the 12th century. After it was burned in 1241 during an invasion by the Tartars, it was rebuilt out of bricks in the second half of the 13th century. It was repeatedly damaged by fires and was rebuilt. The present church is called The Parish Church of the Assumption of Holy Mary.
Driving through the Polish countryside, you can’t fail to notice the numerous statues of the Virgin Mary or Catholic saints placed close to the road. Many of them are decorated with streamers of ribbons and usually there are fresh flowers left there. I learned from my tour guide, on my trip to Poland in October 1998, that they are called “little chapels” and the custom of putting statues for protection along the road dates back to the pagan days before Poland was converted to Catholicism about 1,000 years ago.
The little chapels are located at a crossroads or any place that might be dangerous on the highway. In 1998, that meant almost anywhere on the road since the highways were all two lanes with opposing traffic. When one driver from each opposing lane of traffic decided to attempt to pass, both cars were driving down the center of the road, ready for a head-on collision. Adding to the danger on Polish roads were the many horse-drawn wagons carrying loads of coal, traveling in the same lanes as the cars and trucks. Then there were the pedestrians, all dressed up, who seemed to be walking to work along the highway. It was only by the grace of God, and the protection of the Virgin Mary along way, that we made it safely from Krakow to Auschwitz and back on my 1998 trip.
Glenn Beck is planning to broadcast live from the town formerly known as Auschwitz. I’m guessing that he will broadcast from the Jewish Center which is connected to the one remaining synagogue in the town. The Jewish Center has a large reception area that is mostly empty.
Notice the old black and white photo on the left in the picture. The photo shows Jewish women drawing water from the well that was in front of the synagogue before the Germans took over the town in September 1939. This is proof that the town of Auschwitz was very primitive before the Germans fixed it up in 1940 so that German engineers and their families could move there.
The steps in the photo lead up to the Synagogue, which I thought was very attractive when I visited it in 2005. The photo below shows displays in the reception area.
Today, there are no more Jews left in Oświęcim. Shimshon Klueger, the last surviving Jew, died in 2000. Klueger is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Oświęcim. However, there are still plenty of Gypsies in the town.
If Beck wants to pay his respects to the Jews of Oshpitzin, who were wiped out (literally) after 500 years, the Jewish Center is the logical place for him to do his broadcast.
June 22, 2011
On February 18, 2011, the New York Times published an article written by Michael Kimmelman with the headline “Auschwitz Shifts From Memorializing to Teaching.” The article has this sentence: “All or nearly all visitors will be shepherded by guides to field questions and keep crowds moving.” I’m glad that I got to see Auschwitz when it was still possible to tour the camp without a guide.
Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, was quoted as saying this:
“To me the whole educational system regarding the Holocaust, which really got under way during the 1990s, served its purpose in terms of supplying facts and information. But there is another level of education, a level of awareness about the meaning of those facts. It’s not enough to cry. Empathy is noble, but it’s not enough.”
This is the theme to which officials here return often. Auschwitz, they say, must find ways to engage young people (some 850,000 students came last year), so they leave feeling what the director called “responsibility to the present.”
As I understand it, this means that students learn at Auschwitz that they must take responsibility for stopping genocide in the present day. What this also means is that the days of investigators going to Auschwitz and taking samples from the walls of buildings is now in the past. Visitors must stay on the beaten path and listen to their tour guide. They cannot poke around on their own and discover things.
June 19, 2011
I got into a discussion recently with a young student who is a music major. It started with Stravinsky and ended with Richard Wagner. After the student told me that one of his college professors said that Wagner was anti-Semitic, I decided to end the conversation because this is not something that should be discussed in polite society.
If I could go back in time and continue this discussion, I would say to the student: “Define anti-Semitic.” In Wagner’s day, the term anti-Semite had a different meaning than it has today. Back then, an anti-Semite was a person who wanted the Jews to assimilate into German society, rather than have their own “state-within-a-state.” It was all tied up with the “Jewish Question.” (more…)
June 16, 2011
Elie Wiesel, the world’s best known Holocaust survivor, who was a prisoner at both Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald, famously wrote, regarding the “stories” in his books: “Some events do take place but are not true; others are—although they never occurred.” Elie Wiesel was a Talmud scholar at 15 when he was sent to Auschwitz. At 16 and 1/2, he was one of “the boys of Buchenwald,” the orphan boys who were protected by the other prisoners in the camp.
Now there is a web site, called “Elie Wiesel Cons the World, at http://www.eliewieseltattoo.com, which is devoted to the events in Elie’s life that are true — although they never occurred. This web site claims that Elie Wiesel’s time as a prisoner at Buchenwald did not occur. This could be one of those events that are true, even if it never occurred. Like Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account that was hacked, although this never occurred, as Weiner admitted today when he resigned from Congress.
According to the Elie Wiesel Cons the World web site, there is a new book that has been in the works for six years, which is supposed to be all about the orphan boys at Buchenwald. So what has happened to the book? You can read all about it here. I previously blogged about Ben Helfgott, a Buchenwald survivor, here.
Update, June 19, 2011:
In reading some of my old posts, I noticed a comment, written by Ken Waltzer on Nov. 14, 2010 at 6:57 a.m. Here is the comment:
For the skeptics and know-nothings who have written in suggesting Eli Wiesel was not in the camps, that Night is purely fiction, you are all dead wrong. The Red Cross International Tracing Service Archives documents for Lazar Wiesel and his father prove beyond any doubt that Lazar and his father arrived from Buna to Buchenwald January 26, 1945, that his father soon died a few days later, and that Lazar Wiesel was then moved to block 66, the children’s block in the little camp in Buchenwald. THese documents are backed up by military interviews with others from Sighet who were also in block 66, and by the list of Buchenwald boys sent thereafter to France. All of this is public domain.
Wishful thinking by Holocaust deniers will not make their fantasies true. While Wiesel took liberties in writing Night as a literary masterpiece, Night is rooted in the foundation of Wiesel’s experience in the camps. The Buchenwald experience, particularly, runs closely to what is related in Night.
On the same date, Nov. 14, 2010, at 10:34 a.m., Ken Waltzer made a comment on this post by Carolyn Yeager:
Carolyn Yeager wrote:
Lazar Wiesel, born Sept. 4, 1913 arrived at the camp on January 26, 1945, along with his brother Abram, born Oct. 10, 1900, in a large transport from Auschwitz. They both have Buchenwald registration (or entry) numbers.
After the liberation in April, a questionnaire is filled out by a Lázár Wiesel who accents his name in the Hungarian style, giving a birth date of Oct. 4, 1928, and this Lazar is listed on the “childrens” transport to France in July. Neither of these Lazar Wiesel’s fit Elie Wiesel with his birth date of Sept. 30, 1928, and now we find his signature doesn’t match either.
Ken Waltzer commented:
Contrary to Carolyn Yeager’s wishful thinking, Eli Wiesel was indeed the Lazar Wiesel who was admitted to Buchenwald on January 26, 1945, who was subsequently shifted to block 66, and who was interviewed by military authorities before being permitted to leave Buchenwald to go with other Buchenwald orphans to France. Furthermore, there is not a shadow of a doubt about this, although the Buchenwald records do erroneously contain — on some pieces — the birth date of 1913 rather than 1928. A forthcoming paper resolves the “riddle of Lazar” and indicates that Miklos Gruner’s Stolen Identity is a set of false charges and attack on Wiesel without any foundation. ~~ by kenwaltzer
Has Ken Waltzer finally figured out that there were three separate people involved in this controversy and all three are named Wiesel. One of the three was in the orphan’s barrack, but it was not Elie Wiesel. Is that why his book has not been published?
June 14, 2011
In a trial, there is an opening statement given by both sides, then testimony given by both sides, followed by closing statements given by both the defense and the prosecution. In the opening statement, the lawyers tell the jury what they are going to prove. In the closing statements, both sides sum up what they have actually proved. The last thing the jury or judges hear is the closing statements; this is where the lawyers have their best chance to influence the decision in the case.
Sir Hartley Shawcross is famous for his powerful closing statement at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. This quote is from his closing statement:
…. on the lowest computation 12 million men, women, and children, are done to death. Not in battle, not in passion, but in the cold, calculated, deliberate attempt to destroy nations and races, to disintegrate the traditions, the institutions, and the very existence of free and ancient states. Twelve million murders. Two-thirds of the Jews in Europe exterminated, more than 6 million of them on the killers’ own figures. Murder conducted like some mass production industry in the gas chambers and the ovens of Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Maidanek, and Oranienburg.
Oranienburg is a reference to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp which is located in the city of Oranienburg, near Berlin. Maidanek is the German name for the camp that is now better known as Majdanek. Dachau, Buchenwald and Mauthausen were liberated by American soldiers, while Auschwitz and Oranienburg were liberated by the Soviet Union. Treblinka had been abandoned before the Soviet soldiers found it.
Note that Shawcross implied that the 12 million people who were killed by the Germans were killed in OVENS, as well as in gas chambers. The Treblinka camp did not have ovens.
Today, every school child in America can rattle off the names of the six “extermination” camps where humans were gassed: Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and Chelmno. Keep in mind that the prosecution’s closing statement, in any trial, represents what was proved during the testimony. So how did the prosecution at the Nuremburg IMT prove that there were gas chambers at Dachau, Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Sachsenhausen?
With regard to the gas chambers (plural) at Dachau, the evidence presented at Nuremberg included proof of the use of Zyklon-B, as found by the American liberators. The photo below shows the labels from the cans of Zyklon-B, found at Dachau, that were entered into evidence.
These labels were obviously peeled off of cans of Zyklon-B that were empty, or had never been opened. If the Americans had opened a full can of Zyklon-B, they would have seen that the poison gas was in the form of pellets the size of peas. The American prosecutors at the Nuremberg IMT showed an American-made film about the Dachau gas chamber which claimed that the gas came though the shower heads. The judges did not know that this would have been impossible because they were not told that the Zyklon-B was in pellets.
The defense at Nuremberg was at a loss as to how to prove that there were no homicidal gas chambers at Dachau because they had never heard of this accusation before the trial. There was no such thing as “discovery” at the Nuremberg IMT. In other words, the prosecution was not required to tell the defense what they were planning to present at the trial. The defense was only permitted to see the documents that the prosecution was planning to present at the trial. All the German documents had been confiscated by the Allies; the defense did not have access to all the documents in existence, so they were at a disadvantage in proving their case.
But what about Buchenwald? Did the Buchenwald concentration camp have a gas chamber? Some people still believe that it did. After all, this was proved at Nuremberg, according to the closing statement of Sir Hartley Shawcross.
On June 3, 2009, President Barack Obama said in a speech in Cairo, Egypt:
Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich.
So how did the Allies prove the Buchenwald gas chamber at the Nuremberg IMT? The French prosecutor submitted an official report which stated:
Everything had been provided for down to the smallest detail. In 1944, at Buchenwald, they had even lengthened a railway line so that the deportees might be led directly to the gas chamber. Certain [of the gas chambers] had a floor that tipped and immediately directed the bodies into the room with the crematory oven.
The claim that the Buchenwald gas chamber had a floor that tipped so that the bodies could be directed into the oven room is close to the truth. The Buchenwald crematorium had a “chute” which was used to drop bodies into the basement morgue room. However, the ovens were on the ground floor, and the bodies had to be brought up to the ovens on an elevator.
A Catholic priest claimed that he saw prisoners being gassed at Buchenwald. Jean-Paul Renard, a French priest who was an inmate at Buchenwald, wrote a book about his time in the camp, in which he stated this:
I saw thousands and thousands of persons going into the showers. Instead of liquid, asphyxiating gases poured out over them.
Why did the Nazis allow a Catholic priest to witness the gassing of prisoners, when they must have known that priests are not allowed to lie? Telling a lie of this magnitude would be a mortal sin for a Catholic. What was a priest doing at Buchenwald anyway? Dachau was the designated camp for priests.
In a book published in 1947, Georges Henocque, another French priest, wrote a detailed description of the inside of the gas chamber at Buchenwald, which he claimed that he had visited. Supposedly, he had visited the gas chamber after the war. So where is the gas chamber at Buchenwald now?
What about the Sachsenhausen camp at Oranienburg? This camp was liberated by the Soviet Union, so their prosecutors would have given the evidence of a gas chamber there. The Commandant of Sachsenhausen confessed that he had built a gas chamber — on his own authority! This contradicts one of the main facts of the Holocaust, which is that the gassing of the Jews was ordered by Adolf Hitler.
A little known fact is that Hitler actually visited the Sachsenhausen camp. I saw a photo of him, taken at Sachsenhausen, which was on display at Majdanek; this proves that he was there. Maybe Hitler gave an order to the Sachsenhausen Commandant on his visit, but the Commandant lied and said he did this on his own.
The Soviet prosecutors also gave evidence about Treblinka. Their claim was that “steam chambers” were used at Treblinka, not “gas chambers.” Where did they ever get this idea?
Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Soviet Union and “steam chambers” were found there in the Sauna building. This building was closed to tourists until 2005 and for years, no one could see what a steam chamber looks like. In October 2005, I had a chance to see the steam chambers at Auschwitz. I doubt that the Germans transported steam chambers to Treblinka.
There were around 870,000 Jews killed at Treblinka. How many “steam chambers” were used to kill that many people? It would have taken years to burn the bodies in ovens at Treblinka, as Sir Hartley Shawcross implied in his closing statement.
Sometimes, in a trial in America, the jury is taken to the scene of the crime. Remember the O.J. case, when the jury was taken to see O.J.’s home? The judges in the Nuremberg IMT should have been allowed to see Auschwitz. Auschwitz was in the Greater German Reich, and it is not that far from Nuremberg. Students in the UK are routinely taken to Auschwitz for a day trip now. The judges could have gone on a day trip to see what “steam chambers” look like.
The judges could have enjoyed a nice outing at Mauthausen, which is in Austria. The town of Mauthausen is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. But no! Instead of seeing the gas chamber themselves, the judges relied on the testimony of witnesses like Lt. Col. Jack Taylor, an American, who claimed that he had been scheduled to die in the Mauthausen gas chamber four times, but he was saved by the inmates who changed the schedule four times. What kind of a death camp has the inmates in charge of the killing schedule?
Here is another quote from the closing statement of Sir Hartley Shawcross. This part comes right before the quote I put at the top of this post:
That these defendants participated in and are morally guilty of crimes so frightful that the imagination staggers and reels back at their very contemplation is not in doubt. Let the words of the Defendant Frank, which were repeated to you this morning, be well remembered: “Thousands of years will pass and this guilt of Germany will not be erased.” Total and totalitarian war, waged in defiance of solemn undertakings and in breach of treaties; great cities, from Coventry to Stalingrad, reduced to rubble, the countryside laid waste, and now the inevitable aftermath of war so fought-hunger and disease stalking through the world; millions of people homeless, maimed, bereaved.
And in their graves, crying out, not for vengeance but that this shall not happen again: 10 million who might be living in peace and happiness at this hour, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians killed in battles that ought never to have been.
Nor was that the only or the greatest crime. In all our countries when perhaps in the heat of passion or for other motives which impair restraint some individual is killed, the murder becomes a sensation, our compassion is aroused, nor do we rest until the criminal is punished and the rule of law is vindicated.
Source of the closing statement quotes:
June 13, 2011
Yesterday, I saw the new movie “Midnight in Paris.” This is the best movie that I’ve seen in a long time. It includes many characters who were famous writers and artists in the 1920’s. They gathered at the home of Gertrude Stein, who is also a character, along with her partner Alice B. Toklas who is briefly mentioned. (Remember the famous brownies baked by Alice.)
One of the characters is Man Ray (real name Emmanuel Radnitzky), who was a famous photographer in the 1920’s. In 1929, Man Ray met Lee Miller, a fashion model from New York who became his student and later his lover and an excellent photographer in her own right.
Lee Miller is famous for her photos taken during World War II, and especially for her well-known photo of a German soldier at Dachau, who was found floating in the canal, after he was killed during the Dachau massacre. You can see Lee Miller’s photo here.