Scrapbookpages Blog

July 27, 2011

future American military leaders visit Auschwitz Synagogue

Filed under: Holocaust, movies, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:23 am

In a recent news story which you can read in full here, I read the following quote:

Oswiecim, Poland — In an upstairs room at the only remaining synagogue in this town, 37 miles west of Krakow, 13 future American military officers wrestled with ethical questions in the actual shadow of Auschwitz.

One of the ethical questions that these cadets struggled with was mentioned in this quote from the article:

For example, German army units could have questioned orders to kill Jewish civilians. According to Frey, a few German army units in the 691st Wehrmacht battalion that fought in Russia refused orders to kill Jews and were not punished. Most of the units, however, obeyed the orders.

I was not familiar with this particular incident, but I immediately suspected that there is more to this story than what was included in the news article.  Were Wehrmacht soldiers ( in the regular German army) ordered to take time out from fighting on the Russian front in order to “kill Jewish civilians” for no reason other than that they were Jews?

I did a search on the “691st Battalion” and found lots of information here, including this quote:

»Partisan threat«
In the fall of 1941, the Wehrmacht’s 691st Infantry Regiment was charged with »security and pacification duties« in occupied Belorussia, in the area west of Mogilev, Orsha, and Vitebsk. Although the regiment’s first battalion reported daily about »enemy contact,« there was no indication of a partisan threat.

When I read that this incident concerned partisans in Belorussia (White Russia) that immediately rang a bell.  Around four years ago, there was a movie about the Bielski brothers, starring British actor Daniel Craig. The Bielski brothers led a gang of Jewish partisans in Belorusssia during World War II.  For some reason, this movie never caught on.  It was totally gone and completely forgotten after only a few days in American theaters.  Maybe because it was too bloody and portrayed the Jews in a negative way, fighting as illegal combatants.  The official story of the Holocaust is that the Jews were innocent victims who did nothing to provoke the Nazis.

This quote is from a review of the movie which you can read here:

They (the Bielski brothers) did not hesitate to eliminate Jewish snitches and collaborators and were responsible for saving 1,200 Jews from being killed in the Holocaust. Their courageous story went untold for decades but later this year a movie based on their tale and starring Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, will hit the screens. The screenplay is based on a book, “Defiance: The Bielski Partisans,” written by Dr. Nechama Tec, a sociologist from the University of Connecticut and herself a Holocaust survivor.

The German officer who refused to shoot “Jewish civilians” was  Oberleutnant Josef Sibille.  This quote from this web site explains what happened:

According to his own testimony, the leader of the first company, Oberleutnant Josef Sibille, born 1894, a teacher in civilian life and a member of the NSDAP since 1933, did not carry out the order. He explained to the battalion commander that he could not recognize a link between Jews and partisans. In any case, said Sibille, the only Jewish inhabitants remaining in his area were the aged, women, and children, none of whom posed a threat to the safety of the troops. A day or two later, Commichau inquired by telephone whether the order had been carried out in the meantime. Sibille expressly rejected the order. In response to Commchau’s question, when he, Sibille, intended to at last get tough, Sibille reported that he answered: »Never.«

Apparently, at least one of the American cadets on the visit to the town formerly known as Auschwitz knew about this incident when a German Wehrmacht officer refused to carry out an order and nothing happened to him.  Two other German officers who did carry out the order were put on trial in a German court after the war.

Here is a quote from the article about the Wehrmacht soldiers and the order to kill “Jewish civilians”:

On May 8, 1954, the Landgericht Darmstadt [Darmstadt State Court] found the former company commander Friedrich Nöll and his Hauptfeldwebel Emil Zimber guilty of acting as accessories to manslaughter and sentenced them to four and three years in prison respectively. The sentences were reduced to three and two years in 1956. In the opinion of the court, Nöll and Zimber were responsible for the execution of the Jewish inhabitants of Krutsha – most of whom were old people, women, and children.