Scrapbookpages Blog

December 20, 2011

Holocaust denial = anti-Semitism

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:45 am

If you are not familiar with a blog with the title “Inconvenient History,” you should check it out.  Currently, the blog is featuring an article by Richard A. Widmann.

Widmann’s article starts with this quote:

The terms “Holocaust denial” and “anti-Semitism” are hopelessly bound together in the public consciousness.   In an article published this November on a blog page of the Chicago Sun-Times, it was reported that the US State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, would pay particular attention to a growing level of Holocaust denial.  The article goes on to report that Rosenthal, the daughter of a survivor of the Buchenwald camp, conducted a group of seven American imams and Muslim community leaders to the sites of the former concentration camps of “Dachau and Auschwitz where millions were systematically murdered by Nazi Germany.”  The article concludes with the statement that Rosenthal managed to get from the imams bearing witness to the tragedy of the Holocaust.

Ms. Rosenthal made a mistake when she wrote this after the trip to Dachau:

As soon as the imams decided to pray by the Dachau sculpture commemorating the 6 million Jewish lives exterminated, I knew history was being made.

The International Monument at Dachau commemorates all of the prisoners who suffered and died there, not just the Jews.  I previously blogged about the imans and their visit to Dachau here.

December 19, 2011

Deaths in gas chambers at Auschwitz recorded by Ernest Michel

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:42 am

On a previous post on my blog, which you can read here, I wrote in the comments section that the Jews, who were immediately gassed upon arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau, were not registered in the camp, which makes it impossible for anyone to know how many Jews were killed at Auschwitz.  A reader wrote this in answer to my comment:

I know Auschwitz Birkenau filed false death certificates for the new arrivals sent directly to the gas chambers.

Survivor Ernie Michel discussed his work assignment at Auschwitz was to create these certificates because they liked his handwriting.

This sounds plausible because we know that the German people are very neat and meticulous, so the Nazis would have wanted someone with good handwriting to write the false death certificates at Auschwitz.

In writing my comment on the previous post, I didn’t take into account that the Jews, who survived the first selection but were too weak to continue working, were gassed months, or even years, after they arrived.  In the movie Schindler’s List, there is a famous scene where a number of Jews are forced to run naked as the German doctors decide whether they are still healthy enough to work.  It is well known that Dr. Josef Mengele would regularly visit the women’s barracks to select sick prisoners for the gas chamber.   (more…)

December 18, 2011

Strasbourg mentioned in new Sherlock Holmes film

Filed under: Germany, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:21 am

Yesterday, I went to see the new Sherlock Holmes film, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.  Very early in the film, the French city of Strasbourg was mentioned and I perked up because I once spent an afternoon in the city.

Strasbourg is in the province of Alsace which was a German state until France took it at the end of the Thirty Years War.  It took Germany 100 years to recover from the Thirty Years War, but the Germans finally took back Alsace after a war with France that started in 1870, only to lose the state again after World War II.

The Sherlock Holmes Film is set in 1891, which was twenty years after France lost Alsace.

Strasbourg is a beautiful city.  It is the closest city to Natzweiler that has an airport, so I went there when I made a trip to the Natzweiler Memorial Site. I took some photos of the city, which you can see below.

The Cathedral in Strasbourg, shown in my photo below, is famous.   (more…)

December 16, 2011

What was it really like in Dachau? Ask the Jews!

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 8:35 am

A regular reader of this blog, who has his own blog here, recently wrote in a comment that “Dachau was THE HILTON of KZ Camps.”  Not according to the Jews who were sent to Dachau on November 10, 1938, following the pogrom known as Kristallnacht. (Pogrom is a Polish word which means an event in which ordinary citizens use violence to drive the Jews out.)

Photo on display in Dachau Museum was taken in 1936

This quote is from David Solmitz, the son of Walter Solmitz, who has written a book about his father.  You can read the full story here:

Solmitz said when his father was arrested Nov. 10, 1938, in Munich, he correctly predicted that things would get worse.

Walter Solmitz detailed that he and the 200 others in his barracks were awakened day after day at 4:45 a.m. to face hours of degradation, threats, chores, roll calls and marching. Many collapsed and suffered from frostbite. Punishment, he wrote, consisted of isolation in darkness, being hung upside down from a tree for several hours and being struck with a cane.

Walter Solmitz believed that six men in his barracks died during his six-week imprisonment. Walter Solmitz was released Dec. 21, 1938.

Walter and his wife, Elly, who was instrumental in freeing her husband, made their way to the United States and eventually to Brunswick.

Elly Solmitz was “instrumental in freeing her husband” because she arranged for the family to leave Germany. Approximately 30,00 Jewish men were arrested on the night of November 9, 1938, allegedly for their own protection, and taken to the 3 major concentration camps in Germany, including 10,911 who were brought to Dachau and held as prisoners. The majority of these Jews were released within a few weeks, after they promised to leave Germany within six months; most of them wound up in Shanghai, the only place that did not require a visa, because other countries, except Great Britain, refused to take them.

Kristallnacht was the night that German citizens smashed windows in Jewish shops and set fire to over 200 Jewish Synagogues throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland in what is now the Czech Republic. Ninety-one people were killed during this uncontrolled riot which the police did not try to stop. That night, Hitler and his henchmen were gathered at the Bürgerbräukeller, a beer hall in Munich, celebrating the anniversary of Hitler’s attempt to take over the German government by force in 1923; Hitler’s failed Putsch had been organized at the Bürgerbräukeller.

Joseph Goebbels made a speech that night at the beer hall in which he said that he would not be surprised if the German people were so outraged by the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan that they would take the law into their own lands and attack Jewish businesses and Synagogues. Goebbels is generally credited with being the instigator of the Kristallnacht pogrom.

In anticipation of such violence against the Jews by the Nazis, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had invited 32 countries to a Conference in Evian, France in July 1938 to discuss the problem of Jewish refugees. The only country which agreed to allow Jewish refugees as immigrants was the Dominican Republic; 5,000 German Jews emigrated to the Dominican Republic before the start of World War II. The American Congress refused to change the US immigration laws, passed in 1920 and 1921, to allow a higher quota of Jewish refugees from Germany to enter, although America did start filling the quota under the existing laws for the first time. The American immigration laws were finally changed in 1948 after the Jewish homeland of Israel became a reality.

According to information given at the Dachau Memorial site, some of the first Jews to be murdered at Dachau were Ernst Goldmann, Arthur Kahn, Erwin Kahn, Karl Lehrburger and Wilhelm Aron. Herbert Hunglinge committed suicide to escape the unbearable conditions in the camp.

The first Commandant of Dachau, Hilmar Wäckerle, was charged with murder for the deaths of Louis Schloss on May 16, 1933 and Dr. Alfred Strauss on May 24, 1933. Wäckerle was never put on trial, but he was dismissed from his position as Commandant and transferred to another camp.

On August 7, 1933, Felix Fechenbach, another Jewish prisoner at Dachau, died in the camp after being punished. He was a newspaper editor from Detmold.

After Wäckerle was dismissed because of his cruel punishment of the prisoners, the new Commandant, Theodor Eicke, issued a new set of rules for the camp in October 1933. The SS guards and administrators were forbidden to strike the prisoners or to punish them on their own authority. Punishment for such offenses as stealing or sabotage had to be approved by headquarters, which was at first located in Dachau, but was later moved to Oranienburg near Berlin.

According to Martin Gilbert, author of a book entitled “Holocaust”:

“News of individual Jewish deaths in Dachau continued to reach the West. On October 10 (1933) Dr. Theo Katz who had worked in the camp hospital was killed. Also in October, Dr. Albert Rosenfelder, a Jewish lawyer, disappeared while in his cell, and was never heard from again.”

According to information in a display in the bunker at the Dachau Memorial Site, Dr. Albert Rosenfelder was among the first people to be arrested by the Nazis in March 1933; he was sent to Dachau on April 13, 1933.

Dr. Rosenfelder was well known because of his involvement in a criminal court case in which the defendant, a non-Jew named Huszmann, was accused of a murder in which the motive was said to be “unnatural lust.” The murder victim was 20-year-old Helmuth Daube whose body was found in front of his home in Gladbeck, Germany in March 1928. His throat had been cut and his genitals were missing; there were wounds on both hands, and a stab wound in the abdomen, although no blood was found near the body. Huszmann was acquitted and subsequently Julius Streicher, the notorious editor of an anti-Semitic newspaper called “Der Sturmer,” made the outrageous statement that Daube’s death had been a “ritual murder” committed by Jews.

The Dachau bunker exhibit says that Dr. Rosenfelder was responsible for Streicher being sent to prison in 1929. Streicher had been convicted of “libeling the Jewish religion under Paragraph 166 of the Weimar Penal Code” and his newspaper was banned for a time. No one knows if Dr. Rosenfelder’s disappearance was the result of a revenge murder or if he escaped, or was secretly released and allowed to leave Germany.

According to an unnamed former Jewish prisoner, who had been sent to Dachau on February 4, 1938, the Jews received far worse treatment than the other prisoners in the camp. Martin Gilbert quoted from an account published in Paris in 1939, which was written by this unnamed prisoner after he was released from Dachau:

The Jewish prisoners worked in special detachments and received the hardest tasks. They were beaten at every opportunity – for instance, if the space between the barrows with which they had to walk or even run over loose flints was not correctly kept. They were overwhelmed with abusive epithets such as “Sow Jew”, “Filth Jew” and “Stink Jew”. During the working period, the non-Jewish prisoners were issued with one piece of bread at breakfast – the Jews with nothing. But the Jews were always paraded with the others to see the bread ration issued. […] When, during great heat, it was allowed to fetch water for the working detachments, it sometimes happened that the Jews were forbidden to drink.

In spite of this, the Nazis continued to release Jewish prisoners from Dachau, even though the Jews would then tell the world about the atrocities committed in the camp. According to Martin Gilbert, author of “Holocaust,” there were 15,000 Jews from Austria sent to Dachau and Buchenwald in June 1938, following the Anschluss of Germany and Austria. One of the Jews, who was in Dachau during this period and was later released, reported that “In June (1938) a Jew was brought here under suspicion of ‘race pollution’. He was so ill that we had to wheel him into camp on a wheelbarrow, and to wheel him to morning and evening roll-call, as the doctor would not put him on the sick list. In a week he was dead.”

Around 8,000 of the 30,000 Jews, who were taken into “protective custody” on Kristallnacht were allowed to enter Great Britain without a visa and thousands more went to Shanghai, where no visa was required. Altogether, more than 50,000 German Jews found safety in Britain before World War II started, including 10,000 Jewish children, who were sent on Kindertransports, according to Martin Gilbert.  

December 14, 2011

Time Magazine’s 1938 Man of the Year was Adolf Hitler

Filed under: Germany — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 8:08 am

Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” has been an annual tradition since 1927 when Charles Lindbergh became the first Man of the Year.

On January 2, 1939, when Time Magazine published its annual Man of the Year issue, the person who was chosen for this honor was Adolf Hitler. Hitler was selected because he was the person or thing that had most influenced events of the preceding year.  However, Time made it clear that Hitler had not influenced events in a good way.

This year, the Person of the Year will be “The Protestor.”

Cover of Time Magazine for January

Back in January 1939, Time’s cover picture featured Hitler playing “his hymn of hate in a desecrated cathedral while victims dangle on a St. Catherine’s wheel and the Nazi hierarchy looks on.” This picture, which is shown below, was drawn by Baron Rudolph Charles von Ripper, a German Catholic who had fled Hitler’s Germany.

cover of Time magazine for January 1939 featured hatred for Hitler

The article about the 1938 Man of the Year in the January 2, 1939 issue of Time is quoted below:  (Caution hatemongering ahead.)    (more…)

December 13, 2011

Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a second generation survivor of the Holocaust

The following quote is from Wikipedia:

Menachem Z. Rosensaft, an attorney in New York and the Founding Chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Survivors, is a leader of the Second Generation movement of children of survivors,[1] and has been described on the front page of the New York Times as one of the most prominent of the survivors’ sons and daughters.[2] […] In March 2009, Menachem Rosensaft was appointed as general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, the umbrella organization of Jewish communities around the world based in New York. […] The son of two survivors of the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, he was born on May 1, 1948 in the Displaced Persons camp of Bergen-Belsen in Germany. From 1945 until 1950, his father, the late Josef Rosensaft, was chairman of the Jewish Committee of the Bergen-Belsen DP camp and of the Central Jewish Committee in the British Zone of Germany.[8]

Note that Rosensaft’s parents survived Auschwitz and were transferred to Bergen-Belsen, but according to his story, his grandparents and his brother were gassed at Auschwitz.

The Displaced Persons camp at Bergen-Belsen was located in the German Army garrison, right next door to the Bergen-Belsen camp, which had been originally set up in 1943 as an exchange camp for Jews who wanted to go to Palestine.  The DP camp remained open for five years, as Jewish survivors of the Holocaust waited to emigrate to Palestine.

German Army Garrison and Training Center where DP camp was located from 1945 - 1950

(more…)

the remarkable story of Martin Hecht, a Holocaust survivor

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 5:41 am

Martin Hecht was among the Hungarian Jews who were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau to be gassed in the Spring of 1944.  He was born in the town of Ruskova in Transylvania on March 2, 1931, so he was 13 years old when he arrived at Birkenau.  According to the book Auschwitz, a New History by Laurence Rees, published in 2005, almost one half of all the Jews that were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau were Hungarian Jews who were gassed within a period of 10 weeks in 1944. Up until the Spring of 1944, it had been the three Operation Reinhard camps at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor, that were the main Nazi killing centers for the Jews, not Auschwitz.

Hungarian children under the age of 15, walking to the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau

A booklet which I purchased from the Auschwitz Museum stated that 434,351 of the Hungarian Jews were gassed upon arrival. If these figures are correct, only 3,051 Hungarian Jews, out of the 437,402 who were sent to Auschwitz, were registered in the camp. However, the former Auschwitz Museum director, Francizek Piper, wrote that 28,000 Hungarian Jews were registered at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Men selected to work were registered at Auschwitz-Birkenau and given a uniform with no prison number

Martin Hecht was only 13 years old, too young to work, when he was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, so how did he manage to survive?  Children under 15 and adults over 45 were automatically sent to the gas chamber on the day that they arrived. Those who were selected to work were given a prison number but the photo above shows that the number was not put on the uniform, as Martin Hecht told a Ynetnews reporter.  Martin said that he did not get a tattoo on his arm.

According to an article which you can read in full on Ynetnews.com here, there were many times that Martin could have died while in captivity, but by some miracle, he survived.   (more…)

December 12, 2011

the sad case of Martin Bartesch, the infamous Mauthausen war criminal

On March 7, 1946, charges of participating in a “common design” to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the 1929 Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention of 1907 were brought by an American Military Tribunal against 61 men, who had been on the staff at the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp near Linz, Austria.  Although Mauthausen was in the Soviet zone of occupation in Austria, America had jurisdiction over the war criminals in the Mauthausen camp by virtue of being the liberators of the camp on May 5, 1945.

Mauthausen war criminals listen as the indictment is read

Martin Bartesch, a vicious “Nazi war criminal” who had served as an SS guard at Mauthausen for three whole weeks, was not among the 61 men in the dock.  In October 1955, Bartesch emigrated to America, where he managed to escape justice until April 9, 1986 when his evil past was finally exposed by the Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Justice Department.

This Associated Press news story from May 29, 1987 gives the details of this infamous case:

Chicagoan Stripped of Citizenship–Hid Past as Nazi Guard

May 29, 1987 | Associated Press

A 60-year-old janitor from Chicago who hid his past as a Nazi SS concentration camp guard during World War II flew to Austria and was stripped of his U.S. citizenship, the Justice Department announced today. Martin Bartesch, a native of Romania, was listed in a “death book” compiled by the operators of the Mauthausen camp as having shot to death a French Jew in 1943, said Neal Sher, head of the Office of Special Investigations, the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit.

Remember The Reader, a movie which was based on a book written by German writer Bernard Schink?  The book is about a fictional character named Hanna Schmidt, who was an ethnic German girl from Romania.  Hanna had moved to Berlin at the age of 16 to get a job; she eventually wound up as an SS guard in a labor camp at the age of 17.

Martin Bartesch was also an ethnic German from Romania who left the family farm at the age of 16, and went to Germany, where he volunteered to join the SS.

After the war, the fictional Hanna was put on trial as a war criminal because she had refused to allow Jewish prisoners to escape from a barn where they had been locked inside for the night on a death march out of Auschwitz.  She was accused of killing the women because she allowed them to burn to death after the church caught fire; her excuse was that she was just doing her job which was to prevent the women from escaping.

Martin Bartesch was a war criminal because he shot and killed a Jewish prisoner at Mauthausen who was trying to escape.  “Trying to escape?” Oh sure, that’s what they all say.  The photo below shows two Czech prisoners who were shot by guards at Mauthausen while trying to escape.

Two Czech prisoners who were shot at Mauthausen while attempting to escape

In the photo above, note the position of the bodies near a barbed wire fence. According to Holocaust survivors, this was a favorite way for the guards in the camps to kill the prisoners. Survivors of Mauthausen said that sometimes the guards would entice the prisoners to leave the work site by telling them to pick strawberries and then shoot them when they got near the fence. Or a guard would throw a prisoner’s cap near the fence and when the prisoner tried to retrieve it, he would be shot.   (more…)

December 9, 2011

Dachau death camp — where inmates were worked to death

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:45 am

Although Dachau had a gas chamber, which was shown in a film at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, the preferred method of killing the prisoners in the Dachau camp was by working them to death.  When tourists take a guided tour of Dachau today, the tour typically starts at the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate into the prison enclosure where the tour guide tells visitors that the sign on the gate, which means “Work makes (one) free,” was intended to taunt the prisoners because no amount of work would lead to their freedom since the policy of the camp was to work the prisoners to death.

Dachau was opened in 1933, the year that I was born.  Back then, it was common for people to die from over work. Almost no one in America exercised in those days; people felt that they got enough exercise by doing hard work.  I recall that people were frequently admonished not to “work yourself to death.”  The German people are famous for being hard workers.  So it is not surprising that the prisoners at Dachau were “worked to death” as a means of extermination.

But is there any proof that prisoners at Dachau were “worked to death”?  Yes.  Just look at the photo below.

Prisoners marching to work at Dachau

After Dachau was liberated by American troops on April 29, 1945, a select group of prisoners were questioned by the Americans for two days.  Information gathered from these prisoners was written in a book entitled Dachau Liberated, the Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army.

According to what the prisoners told the American liberators, the Labor Allocation Office (Arbeitseinsatz) was the most important office in the Dachau camp administration. This office allocated the laborers for the work commandos (Arbeitskommandos) and also determined which prisoners would be transported to other concentration camps or to the Dachau sub-camps to work.

According to information gathered by the Americans during the two days of interviews with the Dachau survivors, the Labor Allocation Office “was run entirely by prisoners.”  So it was the prisoners themselves who decided who would live and who would be worked to death!    

The following quote is from The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army,  which was released only days after Dachau was liberated:

The staff (of the Labor Allocation Office) consisted of a chief, several assistants and a group of clerks. The office maintained files which contained all personal data pertinent to the allocation of individuals for work of various kinds. The three main sources of employment at Dachau were (a) work inside the camp, (b) work at the SS camp, (c) work in farms and in factories in the area. The lists of people to be shipped off on transports was usually compiled from those prisoners who were not part of a regular “Working Commando.”

The Work Allocation Leader at Dachau was SS-Oberscharführer Wilhelm Welter, who had been on the Dachau staff since 1935. Welter was singled out in The Official Report which stated that “[Welter] was very brutal and was accused of killing many prisoners and prisoners of war.”

Welter was among the 40 staff members who were put on trial by an American Military Tribunal at Dachau in November 1945. Dr. Franz Blaha, a Communist prisoner at Dachau, testified at the trial that Wilhelm Welter was responsible for the deaths of prisoners at Dachau, but he also stated that the only deaths that he could remember had occurred in 1944, which was a year after Welter had left the Dachau main camp to work for six months in the Friedrichshafen sub-camp of Dachau. Welter was found guilty by the American Military Tribunal and was executed by hanging on May 29, 1946.

The following quote is from book entitled The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army:

Nevertheless, the positions in the Labor Office and the subsidiary command over the “work commandos” afforded sufficient power to serve as an incentive for individuals and groups to seize these positions and defend them against outsiders. Historically, these groups were Germans simply because Germans were the oldest inhabitants of the camp.

As far as we could trace the developments back, some kind of a group or clique seems to have first formed in 1937 under an Austrian Socialist by the name of Brenner. The “Brenner Group” in the Labor Office included both German and Austrian Socialists. After the release of Brenner, it was superseded by a combination of German Socialists and Communists under a certain Kuno Rieke (Socialist) and a certain Julius Schaetzle (Communist). This combination and their staff were in control of the Labor Office until June 1944, when Schaetzle was suspected of conspiratorial activities and shipped off in a transport. A temporary regime succeeded the Rieke-Schaetzle group until September 1944, when a new regime gradually took over, eliminating all Germans from positions of influence in the Labor Office. This last group, composed of Alsatians, Lorrainers, French, Luxembourgers, Belgians and Poles, is still in charge of the Labor Office today.

Dachau prisoners being “worked to death”

Most of the prisoners at Dachau worked in factories, or on the nearby herb farm, which was called the Plantage. In addition to a factory where rifles were made, there was a factory at Dachau for making uniforms for the German Army, a porcelain factory, a paper factory, and a screw factory.

Dachau prisoners were worked to death in factories

Other prisoners worked in the town of Dachau at a meat packing plant. A few of the women and the younger inmates were employed by residents of Dachau in their homes.

Heinrich Himmler, on the far right, at the Plantage

The photo above shows Himmler inspecting some herbs on the Plantage.

Marcus J. Smith, a US military doctor who was assigned to Dachau after it was liberated, wrote that there was an “experimental farm, the Plantage” just outside the Dachau concentration camp. Smith wrote in his book The Harrowing of Hell that “When the Reichsfuehrer-SS (Himmler) inspected, he seemed particularly interested in the Plantage, discoursing enthusiastically on the medicinal value of herbs.”

Smith wrote that the farm was the “brainchild of the Reichsfuehrer-SS, that it was operated by the Institute for the Study of Medicinal and Alimentary Plants, an SS research organization, that German scientists, particularly physicians, botanists, and chemists, supervised the research, that political prisoners who had been scientists in the past were permitted to contribute their talents to the program in return for the privilege of staying alive.”

Smith was told by the former inmates of Dachau that “many ambitious projects were undertaken, such as the production of artificial pepper, the evaluation of seasoning mixtures, the extraction of Vitamin C from gladioli and other flowers, the potentiation of plant growth by hormone-enriched manure, and of most importance to Germany, the development of synthetic fertilizer. As a profitable sideline, garlic, malva, and other medicinal plants, and vegetable seeds, were cultivated by the prisoners and then sold; the profits went to the SS.”

The following quote is from page 48 of the book entitled Dachau Liberated, The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army:

It is estimated that approximately 3,000 Jews died on the Plantages. When the camp officials felt that these internees were too ill and too weak to work, they would march them into a lake (since drained) regardless of the time of year. They were forced to stay in the water until dead. Those who remained conscious were placed in wheelbarrows, brought back to camp, where they died a few hours later.

The Kiesgrube detail was considered the worst work detail the internees could be put on. They would have to load wagons with crushed rock at a speed which caused the internees to collapse and die on the spot.

The Kiesgrube, mentioned above, was the gravel yard, located in the spot where the Carmelite convent now stands. The gravel was used in the construction of new buildings at Dachau.

In 1938, two Dachau prisoners, Jura Soyfer and Herbert Zipper, wrote a song called Dachaulied.

The words of the song, in German and then in English, are given below:

Stacheldraht, mit Tod geladen,
ist um unsere Welt gespannt.
Drauf ein Himmel ohne Gnaden
sendet Frost und Sonnenbrand.
Fern von uns sind alle Freuden,
fern die Heimat, fern die Frauen,
wenn wir stumm zur Arbeit schreiten,
Tausende im Morgengraun.
Doch wir haben die Lösung von Dachau gelernt
und wurden stahlhart dabei:
Sei ein Mann, Kamerad,
bleib ein Mensch, Kamerad,
mach ganze Arbeit, pack an, Kamerad,
denn Arbeit, Arbeit macht frei!

Barbed wire, loaded with death
is drawn around our world.
Above a sky without mercy
sends frost and sunburn.
Far from us are all joys,
far away our homeland, far away our women,
when we march to work in silence
thousands of us at the break of day.
But we have learned the solution of Dachau
and became as hard as steel:
Be a man, comrade,
stay a human being, comrade,
do a good job, get to it, comrade,
for work, work makes you free!

Note the words in last line of the song: “Arbeit macht frei!”  The tour guides are right.  The workers at Dachau were taunted by the promise that work would make them free.  Or could the words of the song be interpreted as “work makes you free in the spiritual sense,” not literally?

December 6, 2011

War crimes committed by Hermann Pister — the last Commandant of Buchenwald

Yesterday, I blogged about Irving Roth, a survivor of Buchenwald, and Rick Carrier, one of the liberators of Buchenwald.  The Huffington Post did an article about this same story, and mentioned that “Hermann Pister, the commandant of Buchenwald, was hanged for his crimes in 1948.”

Actually, Hermann Pister was not hanged; he died before the death sentence for his crimes at Buchenwald could be carried out.

Hermann Pister, the last commandant of Buchewald, was born in 1896

You don’t hear much about Hermann Pister. Karl Otto Koch, the husband of the infamous Ilse Koch, is much better known. Koch was executed after he was tried by the Nazis and found guilty of ordering the death of two Buchenwald prisoners. The alleged crimes of Hermann Pister were ignored by Dr. Konrad Georg Morgen, the Nazi judge who tried and convicted Karl Otto Koch.

In the trial of the Buchenwald war criminals, there were 30 men and one women (Ilse Koch) in the dock, whereas there were 40 war criminals in the Dachau trial and 61 in the Mauthausen trial.  Why so few war criminals in the Buchenwald camp?

One possible reason is because the Buchenwald camp was actually run by the Communist prisoners, who secretly stored weapons inside the camp, and took over the camp as soon as American troops arrived in the vicinity. The SS staff members fled the scene, but the prisoners chased them down, brought them back to the camp and beat them to death, with the American liberators joining in.

The trial of Hermann Pister began on April 11, 1947, two years to the day after the Buchenwald camp was liberated.  The trial was conducted by the American Military Tribunal in a courtroom at the former Dachau concentration camp.

So exactly what were the crimes of Commandant Hermann Pister?

The charge against Hermann Pister was that he had participated in a “common plan” to violate the Laws and Usages of war against the Hague Convention of 1907 and the third Geneva Convention, written in 1929, which pertained to the rights of Prisoners of War. 

The “common plan” charge was a new concept of co-responsibility, which had been made up by the Allies after World War II ended. 

Under the “common plan” concept, anyone who had anything whatsoever to do with a concentration camp was a war criminal and there was no defense against this charge. 

During the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal against the Buchenwald war criminals, American prosecutor Lt. Col. William Denson confronted Pister on the witness stand with his crime of violating The Hague Convention:

“You knew that according to The Hague Convention, an occupying power must respect the rights and lives and religious convictions of persons living in the occupied zone, did you not?”

To this question, Commandant Pister replied:

“First of all, I did not know The Hague Convention. Furthermore, I did not bring these people to Buchenwald.”

The basis, for charging the staff members of the Nazi concentration camps for violating the Geneva Convention of 1929, was that the illegal combatants who were prisoners in the concentration camps were detainees who should have been given the same rights as Prisoners of War because, in the eyes of the victorious Allies, they were the equivalent of POWs. The Geneva Convention of 1949 now gives all detainees the same rights as POWs, but the 1929 Geneva Convention did not.

Many of the prisoners at Buchenwald were Resistance fighters from the German-occupied countries in Europe who were fighting as illegal combatants in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1929.

Besides the Resistance fighters, who were illegal combatants under the rules of the 1929 Geneva Convention, there were also Soviet POWs in the Buchenwald camp . The American prosecutors of the American Military Tribunal declared that the Soviet POWs should have been treated according to the 1929 Geneva Convention even though the Soviets had not signed the convention and were not following it.  Soviet POWs who were Communist Commissars had been executed at Buchenwald on the orders of Adolf Hitler.

Before he took the stand to testify on his own behalf, Pister’s defense attorney, Dr. Richard Wacker, told the court:

“The defense will prove that the accused Pister was responsible neither for the existence of Buchenwald nor the orders he received there, and is therefore not guilty. The defense will give the accused Pister an opportunity to express his point of view and show for what reasons he did not look upon those orders as criminal, but carried them out, believing in good faith in their legality.”

The defense that the accused was acting under “superior orders” was not allowed in the American Military Tribunals. Hermann Pister was a war criminal because he had not stopped executions that had been ordered by Adolf Hitler himself.    (more…)

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