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November 19, 2011

“Lost Airmen of Buchenwald” — a new documentary (updated)

Update, Nov. 20, 2011:

I’ve been searching for more information on the documentary Lost Airmen of Buchenwald to find out if the film mentions the role of the Luftwaffe in the transfer of the prisoners to a POW camp after 2 months at Buchenwald.  I found an interview with the director which you can read in full here.

Here is a quote from the interview with Mike Dorsey, the director:

WAMG: Why were these particular prisoners not treated according to the Geneva Convention?

MD: What happened was, if you were a commando dropped behind enemy lines, and the Germans caught you, then they would say that you’ve voided your rights as of the Geneva Convention, that you will not be treated as a prisoner of war. You broke the rules. These guys were airmen that had been shot down. They were all hiding with the French Resistance. The Germans claimed they should have turned themselves in as soon as they crashed, but since they were hiding with the resistance, they were labeled saboteurs and terrorists and were treated the same way they would have treated a commando who purposely dropped in behind enemy lines. It’s because they were caught by the Gestapo and not by the regular military that that happened.

So it appears that the director of the documentary knew the reason why the airmen were sent to Buchenwald and not to a POW camp.  But did he also know that the airmen were saved by the Luftwaffe.  At least one of the airmen, Joe Moser, knew that the Luftwaffe was involved.  According to a 2009 newspaper article by Mike Siegel of The Seattle Times, 1st Lt. Joe Moser was a 22-year-old pilot from Ferndale, WA who was shot down over France on August 13, 1944 while he was flying his 44th mission in a Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft.

The following quote is from Mike Siegel’s article:

French farmers tried to hide Moser, but German soldiers who saw the crash soon caught up with him and demanded to know the whereabouts of his co-pilot, not realizing the P-38 was a one-man plane.

Moser was first taken to a French prison, but a week after his capture he and nearly 170 other captured Allied fliers were crammed into railroad boxcars for an five-day ride to Germany.

Fortunately for Moser, conditions in the SS-run camp apparently shocked even some members of Germany’s power elite, including high-ranking members of the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force.

Luftwaffe officers had heard that Allied aviators were at the camp, and arranged a visit with the top officers among the prisoner group, a colonel from New Zealand and an American captain.

“The disgust they felt for their fellow German SS officers was clear,” Moser said. “It was also certain that they did not approve of the way we were being treated.”

An unusual sense of fraternity was at work: Although Allied and German pilots wouldn’t hesitate to blast each other out of the sky in battle, they felt a kinship that predated World War II.

A week after the Luftwaffe visit, the Allied pilots at Buchenwald, which included about 60 Americans, were told to gather up their belongings. They were marched to a warehouse and handed back the clothes they had arrived in.

Continue reading my original post:

You can read all about a new documentary Lost Airmen of Buchenwald on the Huffington Post here.  The “lost airmen” were 168 Allied pilots who were captured after they were shot down over France; they were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp for two months before they were transferred to the Stalag III prisoner of war camp.

Here is a quote from the article on the Huffington Post:

While most captured airmen — pilots, navigators, radiomen — were held in prisoner-of-war (POW) camps and treated according to the Geneva Conventions, some were falsely accused of being “terrorists and saboteurs” and subjected to the far worse conditions — starvation, torture, isolation — of the notorious concentration camps. Whether for reasons of state secrecy or because it was the conventionally “known fact” that Allied combatants were never sent to the concentration camps, this tale has remained untold over the decades.

But why has the story of the lost airmen at Buchenwald remained untold for decades? The author of the article on the Huffington Post has a theory, which you can read in the quote below:

Adding to the film’s value are the archival footage — scenes of occupied Paris, of French citizens who risked their lives to help the airmen, of Buchenwald itself, and of the P.O.W. camp where finally, just as the war was ending, the airmen were marched.

This last-minute maneuver may explain why this tale went untold: One veteran surmises that, as the war closed, the U.S. Government was in negotiations with Germany’s rocket scientists to emigrate to the U.S.; that Allied combatants were treated to anything less than Geneva standards could have been a sticking point.

The veteran who gave this explanation implied that the German rocket scientists wanted to emigrate to the United States.  I agree with that — it was a choice between the United States or the Soviet Union and many of the German rocket scientists made their way to the American zone where they surrendered to the Americans.  However, I don’t think that America would have rejected Werner von Braun on the grounds that American airmen had been sent to Buchenwald.

The Huffington Post article continues with this quote:

Still, when General Dwight D. Eisenhower, head of all Allied forces, made his official visit to Buchenwald, he invited along a large contingent of the surrounding villagers — who entered the camp laughing and left somber or crying, even fainting, at the skeletal inmates. Why was there no media follow-up of the full story? Clearly, Eisenhower invited full scrutiny.

General Eisenhower did not make a visit to Buchenwald, official or otherwise.  The only camp that Eisenhower ever visited was Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald.  Eisenhower did not invite a large contingent of surrounding villagers to enter the Buchenwald camp.  Buchenwald was not surrounded by villages.  The nearest city was Weimar which was 5 miles from the camp.

After the Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated on April 11, 1945, by the prisoners themselves, the prisoners set up a tour of exhibits to be shown to German civilians. On April 15, 1945, the German civilians from Weimar were marched at gunpoint to see the evidence of Nazi atrocities including the shrunken heads and pieces of tattooed skin.

Weimar citizens forced to view dead bodies at Buchenwald

Famous photographer Margaret Burke-White arrived at Buchenwald on the 15th of April, just as a procession of German townspeople entered the camp, according to the Buchenwald Report. Her shot of a German woman, wearing walking shoes and her Sunday dress, hiding her eyes in shame, was one of several that were published in Life magazine. Another photo taken by Burke-White is shown below.

Weimar residents view Buchenwald camp

General George S. Patton wrote in his autobiography that the number of Weimar citizens brought to the camp was 1,500, although other accounts say it was 2,000. The German civilians had to march five miles up a steep hill, escorted by armed American soldiers. It took two days for the Weimar residents to file through the camp. No precautions were taken to protect them from the typhus epidemic in the camp.

General Patton had visited the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald on April 12, 1945 along with General Omar Bradley and General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

On April 15, 1945, the day that he visited Buchenwald, General George S. Patton wrote the following in a letter to General Dwight D. Eisenhower:

We have found at a place four miles north of WEIMAR a similar camp, only much worse. The normal population was 25,000, and they died at the rate of about a hundred a day. The burning arrangements, according to General Gay and Colonel Codman who visited it yesterday, were far superior to those they had at OHRDRUF.

I told the press to go up there and see it, and then write as much about it as they could. I also called General Bradley last night and suggested that you send selected individuals from the upper strata of the press to look at it, so that you can build another page of the necessary evidence as to the brutality of the Germans.

General Eisenhower did not visit Buchenwald himself, but he did follow General Patton’s advice to “build another page” about the “brutality of the Germans.” A group of “upper strata” reporters were flown to Germany, arriving at Buchenwald on April 24, 1945, and given the grand tour of the Buchenwald atrocities.

I have another theory about why the story of the Lost Airmen of Buchenwald was not generally known until now.  The Allied airmen were rescued from Buchenwald by a Luftwaffe officer.  General Eisenhower was trying to “build another page” about the “brutality of the Germans.”  The last thing that he wanted to tell the “upper strata” reporters was that the German Luftwaffe had done something good.  That would have ruined his efforts to build another page about the brutality of the Germans.

After the war, the American Military Tribunal at Dachau began trials of German war criminals in a building at the Dachau concentration camp complex on November 15, 1945.

At the opening of the trial of the Buchenwald war criminals, the court president, Brig. Gen. Emil Charles Kiel, asked the defense counsel, “How do the accused plead?”

To this, Captain Emmanuel Lewis of the defense counsel replied:

As chief defense counsel, I enter a plea of not guilty for all of the accused. Before we begin, if it please the court, there is a matter of great concern. The accused are charged with victimizing captured and unarmed citizens of the United States, and they seek to defend themselves against this charge. But despite our repeated requests, the prosecution has failed to furnish us with the name or whereabouts of even one single American victim.

Lt. Col. William D. Denson, the chief prosecutor, replied:

We are unfortunately unable to comply. The victims were last seen being carted into the crematories. From there they went up the chimney in smoke, and all the power of the United States and all the documents in Augsburg cannot tell us which way they went. We are sorry that we cannot furnish their whereabouts, but we fail to see that it is material whether one American or fifty thousand were incarcerated in Buchenwald. The crimes of these accused would be just as heinous.

The American prisoners at Buchenwald were members of a group of American Air Force pilots, who had allegedly been supplying the French resistance; they were captured after being shot down in France.

Buchenwald was one of the main camps for French resistance fighters, and the American pilots had been lumped in with captured French civilians who were fighting as insurgents.

According to the Geneva Convention of 1929, it was a war crime to aid insurgents in a country that had signed an Armistice and promised to stop fighting. Technically, these pilots had violated the Geneva Convention by helping insurgents that were illegal combatants who had continued to fight after their country had surrendered.

The defense motion to have the prosecution furnish the names of the Americans killed at Buchenwald was denied.

So this proves that the Allies lied about the fate of the “Lost Airmen” and claimed that they had been killed. But why?  The truth is that the Americans were desperate for war crimes, with which that they could charge the Germans.

According to the Huffington Post article:

“But now, at long last, history has been corrected with a moving documentary…”

I’m not sure that this moving documentary is correcting history, but it is at least putting it out there, so that somebody can correct it.

I previously blogged about Joe Moser, one of the Lost Airman in this post. Now Joe’s book is out and you can read about it on this website.


  1. Well check with me if you need more info about airmen held by the Krauts in the extermination camps.As an example
    they held as much as 220 Soviet pilots at Dachau, Auschwitz, Matthausen etc most were exterminated and treated
    much worse than their Allied collegues

    Comment by alex K — March 28, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  2. Oh no, Mr. Dorcey!
    It is you, who look foolish, trying to deny the logic and common sense.
    Of course, this is the first time I have heard about Yeo-Thomas and I have assumed that Wikipedia page is a good enough summary of his “Abenteuer in Deutschland”. Wasn’t he captured in Paris at the subway station as a spy and “illegal combatant”? Do you believe that assumed name would help him to save his live? Do you believe, that because he introduced himself as Kenneth Dodkin to Gestapo/SD interrogators at 84 Avenue Foch would save his life? May I ask you, why? You think they would really care, what is the real name of the spy they were about to execute? He was sentenced no matter what his real name was. Did he change his name in the camp, or in transition to the camp? I would not believe that story, and trust me, nobody will. Did he have Houdini’s skills, or something.
    I have never expressed any doubts, that he was in Buchenwald. You have read it wrong somewhere. But, I have doubts, that he was ever sentenced to die. The story of the miraculous transfer to typhus barrack is not believable, as well as the stories of his numerous escapes, or escape attempts, which all went unpunished.
    So, you have personally met Phil Lamason, the leader of the 168 airmen in Buchenwald? How was it? What did he tell you about Yeo-Thomas’ capture in Paris and his interrogation at Avenue Foch? Did he tell you anything about his escape from Marienburg camp? I bet he didn’t. He wasn’t there.
    What are you trying to prove? That you have met a new-Zealander war wet, who had happened to meet a SOE agent at Buchenwald? Okay! And how does it explain the story of escape from Marienburg? He knew real Ken Dodkin (whoever he was) and almost blew cover of SOE agent? And the Germans would care, why…? Y-T is a dead man for espionage, no matter what his real name was, right? Did you meet in person the SD/Gestapo interrogator, who would confirm the summary of his investigation of Y-T. Do you have a protocol of his interrogation at 84 Avenue Foch, that we all could read? I have seen no reports about escapes from Marienburg Stalag XXB
    Now, about your hero Phil Lamason.
    Did they really asked “Luftwaffe” officers to vouch for them and request the transfers to POW camps? Are you telling us, that brave RAF people from all over the empire were asking “Luftwaffe”, their arch-foes for compassion and mercy, after the had been bombed everything “German” which was moving? Why didn’t they start an uprising and die like the heroes? Oh no, they were asking about privileges. And for that reason, they appealed to Luftwaffe commanders. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am, that the request was granted. This is noble, but inappropriate, under the circumstances of that war, Prussian chivalry.
    Your hero Phil Lamason, a new-Zealander, should be ashamed of himself for asking privileges from the enemy forces.
    I don’t have respect for such men.
    Tell me, why would I need to read that Y-T’s book, if you cannot explain it’s worthiness in one paragraph?
    Do I still look foolish to you?

    Comment by Gasan — November 23, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

    • Gasan – There are so many strawman arguments in your latest hate-filled rant that there is no logical place to begin. I would first have to correct the “facts” you are questioning, which you misstate in almost every sentence, and then explain to you the answers to those correctioned questions. I am through with my little trip down the Nazi-defender, Holocaust-denial rabbit hole.

      Comment by DorseyFilm — November 23, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

  3. M. Dorsey and G. Baron,
    I would like to explain what problems do I have with that story. This not a denialism, just simple re-evaluation of the facts presented here.
    Yeo-Thomas and Peuleve were high-profile detainees, who were apprehended in France. SD and Gestapo have absolutely zero doubts about, who they both were and what their mission was. If they were sent to Buchenwald for subsequent execution, what are the chances they would be able to change their identity while in the camp. Don’t you think that SD in France would send the instruction to commandant of Buchenwald, regarding how theses agents to be treated/guarded? Wouldn’t be Commandant Herman Pister notified, that all detainees and, especially Yeo-Thomas and Peuleve, are “flight risks”? Peuleve had already tried to escape in France and was caught, right?
    Quote from Mr. Dorcey comment:
    “The airmen stated that one day they were forced to watch a hanging from the gallows of a group of prisoners who had been recaptured after escaping.”
    Then, why Germans did not executed Yeo-Thomas, or Peuleve, who claimed,that they made several attempts to escape and had been recaptured? Remember, they were spies and saboteurs, the Geneva Convention was not applicable to them.
    In his comment, Herbert Stolpmann pointed out that all detainees were provided with “Sonderbehandlung” or “Special Treatment by RSHA. What would it mean, if applied to high flight-risk detainees, who were also engaged in espionage and subversion? Would commandant of Buchenwald allow them to mingle with other inmates and change their identity? How would he or anybody else allow them to volunteer to become guinea pigs for some sort of typhus experimental treatment. This version of the events is highly improbable.
    Another questionable episode.
    If Yeo-Thomas was not liberated by Russians from Marienburg POW camp, he would have to escape from there before January 23 of 1945, the day the camp was evacuated. For how long did he travel before he was liberated by American troops? And the most important question: how many miles did he walk? Is it possible, that someone would give him a ride? I don’t think so! How many miles from Marienburg (now Malbork, Poland) to, let say, Elbe River, almost 400? The American troops reached that area only in late April of 1945. And how did he survived the Winter without access to food, shelter, etc?
    I do not believe in repetitious miraculous escapes and long journeys in the Winter, unless you are talking about some Norwegian Polar explorers.
    I hope, I made my point clear.

    For G Baron.
    I would never guess, that such thing as “very well established history” even exists! We are learning new things about the events of the past almost every day.
    But, if you are correct in that definition, than books about Yeo-Thomas, Peuleve and even Joe Moser are just “stories”. The personal memoirs and testimonies, even if they are supported by the accounts of friends, relatives, or comrades-in-arms, still do not fall into category of “well established history”.
    Thus, they are subject to evaluations and investigations. When some statements in these stories do not add up, critical approach becomes necessary.
    It does not mean, that I dismiss every story the war veterans are telling us, but I certainly would express my doubts, when people are talking about things which are beyond logic and common sense.

    Comment by Gasan — November 23, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

    • Gasan – By your own admission in this thread, you have only just recently read about Yeo-Thomas for the very first time, and all you have read about him to date is limited to a few paragraphs on his Wikipedia page. Having admitted your near-total ignorance of his story, you were still bold enough to immediately declare all of it “a lie.” You don’t look skeptical – you look foolish.

      I have personally met Phil Lamason, the leader of the 168 airmen in Buchenwald, on several occasions, and interviewed him at length for our film. He confirmed that he knew and worked with Yeo-Thomas in Buchenwald and confirmed that Yeo-Thomas had assumed the false identity of a Mr. Dodkin in order to stay alive. Lamason knew it was a fake name because he knew the real Dodkin, and he nearly blew Yeo-Thomas’s cover before other SOE officers took him aside and explained the situation to him.

      So there is zero doubt that Yeo-Thomas was in Buchenwald and that he was there under a false name. We have books and first-hand eye-witness testimony from people who are still living. Whatever doubts you have about whether he should have been immediately executed or could have existed there under a false name are completely moot because it has been settled without doubt that it happened. I understand questioning the full story of his other escape attempts – it is an incredible story. So read his book. We aren’t going to transcribe it here for you.

      Comment by DorseyFilm — November 23, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  4. Regarding the comments by Gasan on Yeo-Thomas and the other SOE agents. (“Yeo Thomas story is a lie.”)I might suggest you read the book on Harry Peuleve, one of the three SOE agents who escaped Buchenwald by way of the typhus ruse. The book “Spirit of Resistance” goes into considerable detail how the three escaped through the help of Alfred Balachovsky. By the way, I am the author of “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald: the Joe Moser Story” and served as a writer along with Mike Dorsey and Executive Producer of the Lost Airmen film. I’m having a little hard time understanding this questioning of some very well established history.

    Comment by gbaron — November 23, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

  5. Found some interesting information about those SOE agents, in particular, Forest Frederick Edward “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas
    It does not say, that he was ever sentenced to death penalty by Germans. He was “betrayed” (by whom?), “tortured” but left alive and sent to Buchenwald. After his brief escape from Buchenwald and recapture “he passed himself off as a French national and was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, Stalag XX-B, near Marienburg”.
    Care to look at the map? Marienburg? It is in Poland now. SOE Yeo-Thomas escaped from Buchenwald and Gestapo was not searching for him? I bet, they would have his pictures and every policeman or Gestapo officer would have them handy. How could he pass for a French national in Eastern Germany? Was it a common thing for “French nationals” to wander in that area? The survival story via typhus barracks fails any credibility. Why didn’t Germans just put him on the stretcher and shovel him straight to those dreaded crematorium ovens? Why even bring him to Buchenwald, if he was already sentenced to death in France. What a waste of transportation and expenditures funds! Even transfer from France to Buchenwald costs significant money. And after recapture, he was sent another few hundred miles east-bound to Marienburg? That area was liberated by Soviets. Wouldn’t they have some special interests in capturing a British agent? How come they released him to the Brits?
    Yeo-Thomas story is a lie. I think he was captured by accident (he used to live in France) and then he has betrayed the whole group, thus saving his life.

    Comment by Gasan — November 21, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

    • Gasan — Yeo-Thomas was a master at taking-on false identities. In fact, he was using a false identity inside Buchenwald, which is why he wasn’t immediately killed, as you suggest they would have. When the 168 Allied airmen arrived in Buchenwald, Yeo-Thomas was using the identity of a man name Kenneth Dodkin. Unfortunately, the senior officer of the 168 airmen – Phil Lamason, whom I interviewed – knew the real Kenneth Dodkin and nearly blew Yeo-Thomas’s cover before another SOE agent explained the situation to him. I believe this is covered in his Wikipedia entry. It’s verified by his book and by people who knew him in the camp – people I personally know.

      When word got to Yeo-Thomas through the underground groups in Buchenwald that his unit was set for execution, he attempted to get Lamason to help him stage an uprising using the combined forces of their two units. But Lamason’s first priority was his 168 airmen, not the SOE group, and he thought Yeo-Thomas was too reckless. Eventually, Balachowsky, the imprisoned French scientist heading-up Buchenwald’s typhus vaccine unit, offered to help Yeo-Thomas and two men in his unit to escape execution by hiding in his typhus test group. By this point, I believe the first group of 16 SOE officers had already been executed. Yeo-Thomas wanted to hide his entire remaining unit in the typhus test group, but there was no way they could have snuck that many people into it. He was then given the unenviable task of picking which two other men would live, and who would die.

      When the time was right, Yeo-Thomas and the two other men that he picked were given an injection that gave them a fever and other typhus-like symptoms. The entire plot is a bit more complicated, but long-story-short, they gained admittance to the typhus test group. Once there, their deaths were faked with the help of Balachowsky’s team. Since they had been in the camp for weeks at this point, they could have been recognized by other prisoners and had their cover blown, so they had to hide in a confined area within the typhus block. Now that they were listed as “dead” from typhus and reportedly taken to the crematorium, they could no longer be called up for execution.

      From here, they waited for three prisoners with actual typhus to die, and then took on those prisoners’ identities. Yeo-Thomas took on the identity of a French prisoner.

      In Buchenwald, if you recovered from an illness, you were sent back to work. One of the airmen that I interviewed was left behind in Buchenwald when the main group left because he was too sick to be moved. Once he was well enough, he was sent out of the camp to work in a rock quarry. This is similar to what happened to Yeo-Thomas and the other two with him. The underground network, and some bribed kapos, got them transferred to a sub-camp called Gleina, and later to Rehmsdorf, where they would be less likely to run into prisoners who would recognize them. All the way, Yeo-Thomas maintained his new identity as the dead Frenchman, whom he now was saying was an officer in the French air force. While being evacuated by train from Rehmsdorf, he escaped with a group of prisoners. Eventually, he was caught by the regular German military, who believed his story about being a French air force officer and sent him to a POW camp. And he was not liberated by the Russians — he was part of an escape from that POW camp and was liberated by the Americans when he made it to their lines.

      I urge you to pick up a copy of Yeo-Thomas’s book, The White Rabbit. You might also look into the book Solitary Confinement and the Dungeon Democracy, written by Christopher Burney. He was also an SOE agent in Buchenwald, but not in Yeo-Thomas’s group. He knew Yeo-Thomas and helped him make contacts with Buchenwald’s underground groups. I believe Burney also took credit for getting word out to the regular German military that the 168 Allied airmen were in Buchenwald.

      Comment by DorseyFilm — November 21, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

  6. Dear Herb,
    You have translated it very accurately. What caused the confusion, was the word “garroted”. I have always believed that “garrote” is an execution device originated in Spain. It was somewhat semi-mechanical device for strangulation of the condemned. I just read a little bit about it and found that this word is used also for sneak attack with a rope or a string for silent killing. Also, there are even some “garroting” self-defense techniques. Who knew!
    Were there any devices of that type in Buchenwald? Usage of the word “erdrosselt” (strangled) in that Guide Book also brings confusion. Let me explain why. The captured SOE agents were guilty of espionage and/or subversion at the time of war, and thus, their guilt was beyond any doubts. They could be sentenced to death just for being ham radio operators. Why would RSHA order their silent killing, when they could be executed ceremonially?
    Honestly, I would not rely on any tourists-oriented guide books.
    Dear Herb,
    Thank you for calling me an “excellent German reader and scholar”. I am really flattered. Seriously.

    Comment by Gasan — November 21, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

  7. I’m the filmmaker behind Lost Airmen of Buchenwald. Thank you for discussing the film. To answer a few questions posed here:

    – The film spends a good deal of time discussing how the airmen got out of Buchenwald and the Luftwaffe involvement in their transfer.

    – I am doubtful that their orders to not talk about being in Buchenwald had anything to do with not wanting to make the Luftwaffe look good. For starters, I doubt that the Western governments at that time had the whole story about what happened to these airmen beyond the basics that they had been held in Buchenwald. Also, at least three nations told their airmen not to talk about it – Canada, the US and Australia. In Australia, in fact, the 9 Australian airmen who were in Buchenwald reportedly sued the Australian Red Cross for publicly denying that there were any Australians in Buchenwald. There are several theories discussed in the film about why these governments ordered the airmen to stay quiet, including: not wanting the airmen to dwell on the painful memories – the psychological concerns about it; a desire to not further rile-up the Allied government’s citizens at a delicate time when we were still making peace arrangements; and a fear that the airmen might inadvertently reveal underground contacts and the methods employed by the Allied militaries. Mr. Bowen mentioned the German scientists in a news interview, but we don’t discuss that angle in the film.

    – Regarding the SOE agents who were executed: Executions in Buchenwald came in shifts. In the case of the SOE agents, they were executed in two separate groups. The first group was hung by wires or ropes strung to those hooks in the crematorium basement. The second group, who were executed later, requested that they be shot rather than hung, and the SS accepted that request. Supposedly the SOE group was taken into Weimar and put on trial before the executions were carried out. Three of them, including their leader Edward Yeo-Thomas, managed to avoid executions by posing as typhus patients in a section of the camp where a typhus vaccine was being developed. The scientist leading that work was named Balachowsky. He was also a prisoner and had been arrested in Paris for aiding the SOE’s Prosper Network that was operating there. He was a prominent figure in the Buchenwald underground and it’s no surprise that he attempted to help some of the SOE men there, considering his history with their organization in France. I believe that in addition to the three who escaped via the typhus group, four more SOE men avoided execution by luck – for whatever reason their executions were delayed long enough that the camp was liberated before they could be carried out. This is all detailed in the book The White Rabbit, about Yeo-Thomas.

    If you have interest in seeing the film, we are currently selling DVDs ourselves at

    Comment by DorseyFilm — November 21, 2011 @ 9:41 am

    • I am honored that you commented on my blog. Thank you for being so polite and civil in your comment. I have already ordered the DVD and I am happy to know that it will address the role of the Luftwaffe in the release of the prisoners.

      Regarding the SOE agents, I believe that they were executed, but I don’t believe that they were hung on ropes strung to the hooks in the basement of the crematorium. I did another blog post to address the issue of the hooks in the basement, which you can read at

      There was a gallows at Buchenwald, and I believe that the SOE agents were hung on the gallows. You can see a photo of the Buchenwald gallows on this page of my website:

      On that page of my website, you can also see a photo of an exhibit in the basement of the crematorium which shows a dummy hanging from a hook. This was part of a group of exhibits put up by the Communist survivors in the Buchenwald camp for the purpose of educating the German civilians about the atrocities committed in the camp.

      I’m from Missouri, the “show-me state.” I don’t believe anything until I see the proof.

      Again, thank you for your comment and all the information that you gave. I am looking forward to watching the DVD.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 21, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

      • All accounts, both from the airmen we interviewed and from books on the subject, state that the SOE were hung in the basement (the ones who weren’t shot). The White Rabbit, the story of the SOE group’s leader in Buchenwald, which was written with his direct cooparation, states specifically that the first group of SOE agents were hung in the basement of the crematorium, and that he got that information from one of his Polish contacts the day after it happened.

        I know the basement was a recent source of controversy because at one time you allegedly could still see the scrape marks on the walls from the hands and feet of people who had been hung. But the German government has since (literally) whitewashed this by painting the walls in the crematorium basement. When I visited the basement, another visitor there mentioned that he’d seen it on a previous visit years earlier and was upset that it had been “repaired,” and I believe I’ve seen some mention of it online as well.

        The basement would have been a very efficient place to execute people — it’s out of sight and the body elevator to the room with the ovens is right there.

        I am aware of the gallows – one set of them is on display inside Buchenwald’s museum. The airmen stated that one day they were forced to watch a hanging from the gallows of a group of prisoners who had been recaptured after escaping.

        Considering who the SOE agents were, it makes more sense that they would be executed quietly and out of sight, rather than a public execution that was meant more as a warning to other prisoners.

        Comment by DorseyFilm — November 21, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

        • You wrote: “The White Rabbit, the story of the SOE group’s leader in Buchenwald, which was written with his direct cooparation, states specifically that the first group of SOE agents were hung in the basement of the crematorium, and that he got that information from one of his Polish contacts the day after it happened.”

          So the information that the SOE agents were hung in the basement of the crematorium came from “a Polish contact.” This was presumably a Communist political prisoner who was among the Communists who actually ran the Buchenwald camp. But did the Polish contact report that the SOE agents were hung by the neck until dead, or were they hung on a hook after they were dead? Did the Polish contact actually witness the act of hanging the men by the neck until dead, or did he learn from the crematorium workers that their bodies were hanging in the crematorium in preparation for being burned in the ovens?

          I have written extensively, on my website and on my blog, about the alleged deaths of some of the women SOE agents, particularly about Noor Inayat Khan. I don’t believe the official version of her execution at Dachau and I don’t believe the official version of the deaths of the SOE agents at Buchenwald.

          Thank you for all the information that you have given us. The regular readers of this blog tend to be skeptical of everything.

          Comment by furtherglory — November 22, 2011 @ 6:47 am

          • Is it skepticism, sir, or denialism? I hope you enjoy the film. I suspect you will not.

            Comment by DorseyFilm — November 22, 2011 @ 8:56 am

            • I am accustomed to seeing films about World War II that tell only one side of the story. Any film that includes both sides of the story would be banned in Germany where the winner’s side of the story is protected by law. I would be very surprised if your film told both sides. I understand that your film is a tribute to the men who lived this story and you want to honor them for their service to their country. I also understand that you don’t want to take a chance on being renditioned to Germany to be prosecuted for breaking section 130 of the German law which forbids telling anything except the official story of World War II.

              “denialism” is a pejorative term which means not believing the official story. I prefer the term “skepticism” for the heretics who don’t believe official dogma.

              Comment by furtherglory — November 23, 2011 @ 8:53 am

              • Wrong – we gave German law zero consideration. That is one of a number of incorrect conclusions that you’ve jumped to here, including in your original post, because certain details don’t jive with what you’ve already decided happened. This is my third historical documentary film and I take getting the facts correct very seriously. But I don’t subscribe to wingnut conspiracy theories, especially when I have the people who were actually there – in this case a group of Christian, Western military officers – telling me what they personally experienced – not as liberators getting fed a story, but as actual prisoners inside Buchenwald.

                If you want to believe that the executions in the basement of the crematorium were nothing more than propaganda dreamed up by the Pols – that they were already planting the stories of these executions with prisoners 6-7 months before the camp was liberated – that somehow 16 SOE agents were hung from an outdoor gallows without any of the other 45,000 prisoners seeing it – that Lamason’s contacts with the French, Russian and Dutch groups – not just the Pols – which included agents who had infiltrated the SS – never countered the Polish claim that they were killed in the basement – then you’d better have a mountain of evidence to support it. But you don’t, which is why you keep saying you “believe” this or that. That’s not skepticism – that’s flat-out denial.

                I was concerned I might get pulled into the denier rabbit hole, and here I am. So I’ll leave the thread with this: I hope you watch the film with an open mind, and not with the preconceived notion that it’s just veteran-worship propaganda.

                Comment by DorseyFilm — November 23, 2011 @ 11:46 am

        • I know the basement was a recent source of controversy because at one time you allegedly could still see the scrape marks on the walls from the hands and feet of people who had been hung.

          People going to hang have their hands bound, don’t they ?

          If you were hung with unbound hands, what would you likely do ?

          – try to free yourself from that knot around your neck.

          – scrape the wall.

          Comment by Eager for Answers — November 22, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

          • Their hands were bound behind their backs.

            Comment by DorseyFilm — November 22, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

            • OK, and how did the victim scrape the wall with his feet ?

              Comment by Eager for Answers — November 22, 2011 @ 8:12 pm

              • Great point, Eager for Answers!

                Comment by Gasan — November 22, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

                • How is it a great point to ask how someone hung to death against a wall managed to kick that wall with their feet? With all due respect, isn’t the answer completely obvious?

                  Comment by DorseyFilm — November 22, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

              • With his heels. Their hands were bound behind their backs. They were then hung from the hooks with their backs against the wall, placing their hands and their heels against the wall as they struggled.

                A link was posted here in this thread showing photos of the room with the marks on the wall a few inches off the ground where a person’s heels would have hit:


                From that link: “Note the marks on the wall, which could be the “heel marks” that one of the American liberators reported seeing.”

                Comment by DorseyFilm — November 22, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

              • On second review, I assume you are referring to the fact that the dummy’s feet are on the ground? That’s because the dummy that they constructed is probably at least 6 1/2 feet tall.

                Here is a photo of the dummy with other people in the room for a reference:

                As you can see, the dummy towers over them. The marks on the wall in the other photo are exaclty where a person of normal height would have kicked while being strangled.

                Comment by DorseyFilm — November 22, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

                • OK, the dummy is oversized.

                  (By the way, did you notice the guy sporting a forage cap had a smaller head than the ceiling bulb)

                  Luckily for DIYers, having hooks in a basement and marks on the wall are irrefutable proofs of hanging only in a Nuremberg-style court. Moreover, it was of course streng verboten to hit the wall with that sledgehammer.

                  Comment by Eager for Answers — November 22, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

                • On this page of my website, there are more photos of the exhibits that were put up by the prisoners for the American soldiers who were brought to see the atrocities committed by the Germans at Buchenwald:

                  Scroll down to the last photo on the page. It shows a prisoner’s uniform hung up, with no dummy inside the clothes. The marks on the wall in that photo look like mold to me. Also, notice that the hooks are very close together. Only four hooks were there when the liberators arrived, but the American liberators had put up many more hooks before the German civilians, American soldiers and Congressmen were brought in to see the displays.

                  Note the whipping blocks shown in the displays. The whipping blocks had to be reconstructed for the exhibits. The authentic whipping blocks had been removed from the camps in 1942 when this punishment was discontinued. The hanging by the arms punishment had also been discontinued and Martin Sommer, the man who devised this punishment, had been sent to the Eastern front, after a trial conducted by the Nazis themselves.

                  Comment by furtherglory — November 23, 2011 @ 8:36 am

  8. FG
    Buchenwald: Allied Military Personal
    During August 1944 the Commander of the German Security Police and SD in France ordered the evacuation of the Detention Camp at Compiengne as well as all jailed Inmates within Paris in face of advancing Allied Troops. Most of the inmates were transported on August 20th 1944 to Buchenwald, which included 167 Allied Pilots which had been shot down over France and included:
    82 US-Americans(USA Air Force)
    48 Britons (Royal Air Force)
    26 Canadians (Royal Canadian Air Force)
    9 Australians(Royal Australian Air Force)
    2 New Zealander(Royal NZ Air Force)
    1 Jamaican(Royal Air Force)
    As the above had been declared by the NS-Propaganda Ministerium as “Terror Fliers” and not as POW’s their fate remained undecided for some time. On October 19th 1944 most of them were sent into the Prisoner of War Camp of the Luftwaffe Stalag III Luft at Sagan. Pilot LEVITT C. BECK of the US Air Force who was shot down over France during June 1944 and was betrayed to the Gestapo remained seriously ill in the camp. He died November 29th 1944 while in hospital.
    Under the so called Gestapo-Detainees were about 37 Allied SOE Agents who had been operating in France and had been apprehended. For them the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (The Reich Security Headquarters) had provided a “Sonderbehandlung” (Special Treatment). Beginning of September to the middle of October, 34 of the were garroted(gedrosselt) in the basement of the Crematorium. Only three of them could be saved.

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — November 19, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

    • What is your source for the information that 34 SOE agents were garroted in the basement of the Crematorium? (the basement of the Crematorium was the morgue) When you say that “Only three of them could be saved.” do you mean that 3 of the 37 SOE agents were revived after they had been garroted? The Buchenwald Memorial Site says that prisoners were killed in the morgue by hanging them from hooks so that they were strangled. Is this what you mean by “garroted”? I have put up a new blog post about prisoners at Buchenwald being killed in the crematorium.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 20, 2011 @ 4:58 am

      • FG
        Regarding Buchenwald Military Personal
        My source of information is the Guide Book, Title: Konzentrationslager Buchenwald 1937-1945, published by the Gedenkstätte Buchenwald and thus unbiased as it is not written of any KZ-Survivor. I am doing my own translation to write my blog and have shown the German word GEDROSSELT in brackets, as another expression in English could mean THROTTLED. There is certainly no mention of hanging in this article which is an equal word to the German expression and I would have used it. You have excellent German readers,(and scholars)Gasan for example that could translate the last paragraph which reads as follows in German:
        “Zu den Gestapohäftlingen, die am 17 August 1944 mit einem Transport aus Frankreich eintrafen, gehörten auch 37 Angehörige alliierter Geheimdienste, die im bestzten Frankreich operiert hatten und dabei verhaftet worden waren. Für sie ordnete das Reichssicherheitshauptamt “Sonderbehanglung” an. Von Anfang September bis Mitte Oktober wurden 34 von ihnen im Keller des Krematoriums erdrosselt. Nur drei konnten gerettet werden”.
        Source :Page 171
        PS> I translated “Geheindienst as “SOE” Agent and not as Secret Service, as that what the British terminological expression that was used at that time.
        Any more questions?

        Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — November 20, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

        • I purchased the English version of the Buchenwald Guide Book in 1999. The book might have been updated since then. I will have to dig it out and see if the SOE agents were mentioned. Google Translate gives the translation of erdrosselt as “strangled.” The English version of the Guide Book uses the word strangled. I don’t believe that the prisoners were strangled in the basement of the crematorium. I think the basement room was a morgue and that the bodies were hung on the walls after they were dead. I visited Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen on the same trip to Germany, so I saw the morgue at Sachsenhausen and the morgue at Buchenwald in the same week. The two morgues were similar and both had a corpse slide. There were no hooks on the wall of the morgue at Sachsenhausen and no claim that anyone was strangled in the morgue. I would not call the Buchenwald Guide book “unbiased.”

          Comment by furtherglory — November 20, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

  9. Those interested in a thorough analysis of the forced visit to the Buchenwald camp by the citizens of Weimar should watch “Buchenwald a Dumb Dumb Portrayal of Evil.” The liberation of Buchenwald presented an opportunity for a Psyche Warfare operation meant to denazify the Germans. But it ‘blew back’ into the USA which is why Americans remember growing up with stories of human skin lampshades. 22 episodes. 2 hours 22 min. After watching that they can go here to find out about the real Dwight David Eisenhower C.D. Jackson was a lawyer and a magazine editor (Time, LIFE, Fortune) and Eisenhower’s close friend and intelligence advisor. The wag who entered the on-line version of Blanche Wisen Cook’s excellent article about Jackson published in the December 1984 issue of The Radical History Review got the title wrong. It should read… First Comes the LIE not “First Comes the Tie.” The programmer must have been distracted by the jaunty bow tie Mr. Jackson is wearing in the photo insert. Either that or the person is one of those people (they are legion) who can’t tell the difference between lies and ties.

    Comment by who+dares+wings — November 19, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

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