Scrapbookpages Blog

February 8, 2011

Acupuncture and tachycardia

Filed under: Health — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 7:43 am

Since having a stroke a little over six months ago, I have learned to pay attention to warning signs that something might be wrong.  That’s why I became very worried about a month ago, when I woke up in the middle of the night, experiencing rapid heart rate.  My heart was pounding out of my chest.  I didn’t know if I should immediately call 911 and go to the emergency room.  Was I having a heart attack?  I was not having chest pain and my left arm was not numb, so I decided that it was not a heart attack.   (more…)

February 7, 2011

Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto were sent to the Treblinka death camp — except for Norman Finkelstein’s parents

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:30 am

Way back in the year 2000, I purchased a book, written by Norman G. Finkelstein, entitled The Holocaust Industry. Finkelstein mentioned on page 85 that his mother was “A survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, Majdanek concentration camp and slave labor camps at Czestochowa and Skarszysko-Kamiena.”  I was puzzled by this because I had visited Warsaw in October 1998 and learned that the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto had been transported to Treblinka.

What was so special about Finkelstein’s mother that she was sent to Majdanek, instead of Treblinka?  Did she first go to Treblinka and was then transferred to Majdanek, or was she sent on a special train that went toward Treblinka, and then turned south at the junction near Treblinka, and continued on to Majdanek?  Finkelstein didn’t explain why she managed to survive when all the other Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, except his parents, were killed at Treblinka.

Also on page 85, Finkelstein revealed that his mother received  only $3,500 in compensation from Germany.  Elsewhere in his book, Finkelstein wrote that his father had received around $100,000 from Germany before he died.  He doesn’t explain why his mother was slighted.

Memorial in the former Warsaw Ghetto

The photo above shows a memorial which was built at the spot where the Umschlagplatz once stood, on the northern boundary of the Warsaw Ghetto. The Umschlagplatz was where the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto had to assemble to board the trains which transported them to the death camp at Treblinka, beginning in July 1942.  The daily deportations continued until Sept. 12, 1942.

According to my tour guide, the design of the Memorial is supposed to represent a freight car with the door open. This memorial is located right on the sidewalk of a very busy street; notice the trolley car tracks on the street just a few feet in front of it.

On July 22, 1942 the Warsaw Ghetto was surrounded by Ukrainian and Latvian soldiers in German SS uniforms, as the liquidation of the Ghetto began in response to an order given by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler that “the resettlement of the entire Jewish population of the General Government be carried out and completed by December 31.” The General Government was the central portion of the former country of Poland that was occupied by the Germans between 1939 and 1944.

Two days before, on July 20ieth, the Judenrat (Jewish leaders) had been ordered to prepare for the resettlement (Aussiedlung) of the “non-productive elements” to the East. The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were to report voluntarily to the Umschlagplatz (collection point) at the corner of Stawki and Dzika streets, near a railroad siding for the Ostbahn (Eastern Railroad), on which they would be “transported to the East” on crowded freight cars.

Old photo shows the Umschlagplatz

The old photo above shows the location of the Umschlagplatz, which was where the Memorial now stands.

According to Raul Hilberg in his book, The Destruction of the European Jews, “As soon as the order was posted, a mad rush started for working cards. Many forgings took place and in the ghetto, everyone from top to bottom was frantic.” A similar scene is depicted in the movie, Schindler’s List, when a Jewish professor in Krakow suddenly becomes an experienced metal worker with forged papers, aged by tea stains.

Did Finkelstein’s mother have some special skill that made her too valuable to kill?  Did she forge some papers which showed that she was an experienced worker?

Side view of the Memorial in the former Warsaw Ghetto

The chairman of the Warsaw Jewish Council, Adam Czerniakow, was ordered by the Nazis to deliver 6,000 Jews per day, seven days a week, to the Umschlagplatz for deportation to Treblinka on the Bug river near the eastern border of German occupied Poland. A day later, the number was increased to 7,000 per day. Rather than cooperate with the Nazis, Czerniakow committed suicide on July 23rd, the first day that Jews were assembled ready for deportation.

The interior of the Memorial in the former Warsaw Ghetto

After I took this photo and returned to my tour guide’s car, she pointed out that two men immediately went inside the Memorial. She said that they were Israeli guards who were checking to see if I had defaced the Memorial with a swastika. Actually, there was a swastika, already painted on the wall inside the Memorial.  I was worried that I would be accused of painting this swastika, and that I might be hunted down and killed by the Israelis.

After Poland was conquered, following the joint invasion by the Germans and the Soviet Union in September 1939, the Polish Army escaped to Romania and the Polish leaders set up a government in exile in London. The Polish soldiers continued to fight underground as partisans in the Polish Home Army.

Raul Hilberg wrote the following in his book, The Destruction of the European Jews:

The Polish underground thereupon contacted the Ghetto. The answer of the Jewish leaders was that perhaps 60,000 Jews would be deported, but that it was “inconceivable that the Germans would destroy the lot.” The Jews had one request, which the Polish Home Army was glad to fulfill. They handed to the Poles an “appeal addressed to the world and to the Allied nations in particular.” The Jewish leadership demanded that the German people be threatened with reprisals. The appeal was immediately transmitted to London, but the BBC maintained complete radio silence. As we shall have occasion to find out later, the Jews did not have many friends in London, or for that matter, in Washington.

In his book The Holocaust, Martin Gilbert wrote the following:

In those seven weeks, a total of 265,000 Jews were sent by train for ‘resettlement in the East’. Their actual destination was Treblinka and its three gas-chambers. Death, not slave labour, was their fate. It was the largest slaughter of a single community, Jewish or non-Jewish, in the Second World War.

According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, by the Summer of 1944, all the Jewish Ghettos in Eastern Europe had been closed and two million Ghetto Jews had been transported to concentration camps or death camps. The three main death camps for the Ghetto Jews were the Operation Reinhard camps: Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor, all of which were near the eastern border of German occupied Poland.

Norman Finkelstein is considered by some Jews to be a “Holocaust denier.”  Was it his parents who made him a denier?  On page 5 of his book, he wrote that both of his parents were “survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi concentration camps.”  One of the main points in his book is that there are numerous survivors still living and getting compensation from Germany.  He quoted his mother as saying that with so many survivors, whom did Hitler kill?

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Warsaw Ghetto made up 2.4 percent of the land in the  city of Warsaw, but it contained 30% of the city’s population. To create the Ghetto, the Nazis moved 113,000 Christian residents out and moved 138,000 Jewish residents in. The remainder of the Warsaw Jews were already living in the neighborhood of the Ghetto.

In the Warsaw Ghetto, 450,000 Jews were forced to live in very crowded conditions. The population of the Ghetto included Jews from the surrounding villages in the General Government of German occupied Poland. The Ghetto was divided into two sections, the Small Ghetto at the southern end and the Large Ghetto on the north.

By the time deportations to the extermination camps began, about 100,000 residents of the Ghetto had died of starvation or disease, according to Raul Hilberg.

The last remaining section of the Warsaw Ghetto wall

To create the Warsaw Ghetto, the Germans built 11 miles of brick walls around the Jewish quarter; this area was then closed to outsiders on November 15, 1940. The wall was torn down in 1943 when the Ghetto was liquidated. Today there is only one short section of the original wall remaining; this section was outside the Ghetto when the original Ghetto became a smaller area after most of the Jews had been deported.

The photo above shows this remaining section of the wall, which is about 10 feet high. According to my tour guide, parts of the wall which connected two buildings, such as this section, were built higher than the rest of the wall, which was mostly lower than 10 feet.

Map shows the size of the Warsaw Ghetto

A map showing the area of the Ghetto is on the last remaining section of the wall, as shown in the photo above. The courtyard in front of the wall is located at ul. Zlota 62. (Some guidebooks says the address is Number 60 Zlota Street.)

Before World War II started on September 1, 1939, there were 375,000 Jews living in Warsaw. This was as many as in all of France, and more than in the whole country of Czechoslovakia. Only the city of New York had a larger Jewish population than Warsaw.

During the 15th century, the Jews had been expelled from the city of Warsaw, just as they were in Krakow. Between 1527 and 1768, Jews had been banned from living in Warsaw.

After Poland was partitioned for the third time in 1795 between Russia, Prussia and Austria, the Jews began coming back to Warsaw, which was in the Russian section, and by the start of World War I, Jews made up forty percent of the population of the city.

During the 19th century and up until the end of World War I, Warsaw was in the Pale of Settlement where all Russian Jews were forced to live; when Poland regained its independence after World War I, Warsaw was once again a Polish city. From the beginning, the Jewish district was located southeast of Old Town Warsaw.

February 6, 2011

Web site that challenges Holocaust denial

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:32 am

Back in April 2010, I read about a new web site that was soon to be launched by British historian Laurence Rees.  The web site that made the announcement put the photo shown below at the top of the home page.

On the web site that made the announcement, the caption under the photo reads: “Prisoners at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp: damning evidence to rebuff attacks on the Holocaust”

Prisoners at Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Exactly what is the “damning evidence” in this photo that rebuffs Holocaust deniers?  Is it the earmuffs that two of the prisoners are wearing?  Young people today probably don’t know what earmuffs are; they might think that the prisoners are listening to music.  In my opinion, this photo scores one for the deniers, but what do I know?

Sachsenhausen was not a “death camp” for Jews and the men in the photo do not appear to be Jewish.  Sachsenhausen was a concentration camp mainly for political prisoners.

I decided to take a  look at the new web site, that was advertised as a website to combat Holocaust denial, which is at  I found that the web site is really about the history of World War 2 and that it is aimed at teachers.  To use the web site, one must first sign up and pay a fee.  So the purpose of the web site seems to be to make money, not to combat Holocaust denial. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I clicked on the teacher’s option for a free look at Laurence Rees’ lesson plans here.  I found that the lesson plan for the segment on the Hungarian Jews directed teachers to “Explain (to the students) that the lesson will explore these issues and the fate of Hungarian Jewry through the testimony of Alice Lok Cahana.”

That name was very familiar to me.  Alice Lok Cahana is one of the Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust. Her story was told by Laurence Rees in his book entitled Auschwitz, a New History which I read in preparation for my second trip to Auschwitz in 2005. Alice was also featured in Steven Spielberg’s documentary The Last Days.

Alice Lok was 15 years old when she arrived at Auschwitz in 1944; she passed the selection for the gas chamber and was registered in the Auschwitz II (Birkenau) camp. Alice barely survived because children under 15 were sent immediately to the gas chamber and were dead within an hour or two.

According to her story, as told to Laurence Rees, Alice Lok was selected months later to be gassed in crematorium #5, also known as Krema V. This was one of the two gas chambers at Birkenau that were disguised as shower rooms; the other gas chamber disguised as a shower room was in crematorium #4.  Alice was told that she would be given new clothes after taking a shower. (This was the way that the SS men lured innocent young girls into the gas chamber. What teen-aged girl would not want new clothes?) Alice told Laurence Rees that the purpose of the red brick Krema V building was deceptively disguised by red geraniums in window boxes.  (Another way to lure young girls to their death.)

Old photo of crematorium #5 was taken before the window boxes were put up

By a remarkable coincidence, Alice was inside the gas chamber in Krema V at the exact time that the revolt by the Sonderkommando unit in Krema IV began on October 7, 1944. This was the occasion when the Sonderkommando prisoners blew up the Krema IV gas chamber building with dynamite that had been sneaked into Birkenau by some of the women prisoners who worked in factories outside the camp.

Laurence Rees wrote this in his book Auschwitz, a New History:

“But the revolt did save some lives. It must have been because of the chaos caused by the Sonderkommando in crematorium 4 that the SS guards emptied the gas chamber of crematorium 5 next door without killing Alice Lok Cahana and her group.”

Forget “combating Holocaust denial”; the story of Alice’s escape from the gas chamber would be a good way to explain the term “Deux ex machina” to students in fiction writing classes.   According to Wikipedia, “Deux ex machina”  is the name of a plot device used by writers  when “a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new character, ability or object.”

When I was studying fiction writing in college, this plot device was laughed at and frowned upon.  If Laurence Rees seriously wants to combat Holocaust denial, he should avoid including stories like this in his lesson plans for school kids.

Another reason that Alice Lok Cahana is not a suitable person to give testimony to school kids, who are studying the Holocaust, is the fact that, instead of being gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, she was transferred to Bergen-Belsen, just like Anne Frank. This fact tends to disprove the claim that Auschwitz-Birkenau was a “death camp.”

Alice was one of the Hungarian Holocaust survivors featured in Steven Spielberg’s documentary, The Last Days.  In the documentary there is a scene where Alice goes to the Memorial Site at the location of the Bergen-Belsen camp in order to find out what happened to her sister, who was also an inmate there.  Alice is filmed as she  is shown the detailed camp records kept by the Germans at Bergen-Belsen. She learns that her sister was using the name Edith Schwartz when she was at Bergen-Belsen and that she died on June 2, 1945.  The Bergen-Belsen camp was turned over to the British on April 15, 1945 so this means that Edith died while in the care of the British.

According to British historian Martin Gilbert, there were 27,000 Jews who died after the British took over the camp.

A photo of Alice, taken in Bergen-Belsen in 1945, is shown in the documentary The Last Days.  Strangely, Alice does not look emaciated and she has a full head of shoulder-length hair.  She appears to be in remarkable condition, considering that she was in the Auschwitz-Birkenau “death camp,” and then at Bergen-Belsen where the British claimed that the prisoners were starved to death.  So how does the story of Alice Lok Cahana combat Holocaust denial?

February 5, 2011

Famous photo of Settela Steinbach, a Gypsy girl who was gassed at Auschwitz

I was catching up on the news about 90-year-old John Demjanjuck, who is currently on trial in Munich for alleged crimes committed during World War II, when I came across the web site of the World Jewish Congress here.  The big news, according to the WJC is that Demjanjuck will be indicted by Spain on new charges as soon as the verdict on his current trial is in, which will be some time in March, 2011.

I noticed that the WJC web site is featuring a video about the Holocaust; the video is entitled “Holocaust denial is Anti-Semitism.”  I watched the video and saw a photo of Settela Steinbach, who is the Gypsy girl in an iconic photo of the Holocaust.

Famous photo of a Gypsy girl on a train to Auschwitz

You can watch the video that shows Settela Steinbach here.  The video is about the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, so why is there a photo of a Gypsy girl in the video?    (more…)

February 2, 2011

How many German Jews were killed in the Holocaust?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:27 am

Everyone knows that there were 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, but how many of them were Jewish citizens of Germany?

This question was on my mind today, as I was reading an article on the Huffington Post with the title “An American Jew Roams in Germany.”

This quote is from the article, which was written by a Rabbi:

Although this was my fifth visit, the specter of the holocaust always accompanied me. How could it not? The enormity of the crime leaves permanent shadows. Hints of it exist in all the holocaust symbolism that one cannot shake: the trains that pass, the Synagogues that were burned to the ground and later rebuilt, the large Third Reich ministries that still remain, and the police who carry automatic weapons (ironically, most of them are posted outside Jewish community centers to protect them). This was once the most dangerous of all places for a Jew and even today, though Germany is a thoroughly modern and tolerant society, the ghosts of six million dead still haunt it.   (more…)

February 1, 2011

5 million baby boomers have Alzheimer’s disease

Filed under: Health — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:00 am

Yesterday, when I heard on the news that 5 million baby boomers currently have Alzheimer’s disease, I was immediately fearful.  But not because I’m a baby boomer myself.  No, it’s much worse.  I’m more than old enough to have Alzheimer’s right now.  I am fearful because my three children are baby  boomers, born between 1945 and 1963.  One in 8 baby boomers is expected to have Alzheimer’s.   How is this possible and what can be done to prevent it?

Alzheimer’s disease is named after the German doctor who discovered it and first wrote about it in 1906.  Why was it a GERMAN doctor, and not a Chinese doctor or a doctor from India, who first discovered the disease?  Was it because the German doctors were the most advanced, or was it because this is a disease of white people, specifically German people?  I’m guessing that the disease was first noticed in Germany because it was related to the diet of the German people back in the early 1900s. (more…)

January 30, 2011

Who built the Arbeit Macht Frei gate at Dachau?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 6:46 am

This morning I was reading a travel blog written by a woman who had visited Dachau.  She was curious about who had made the Arbeit Macht Frei sign that is on the gate into the camp.

This is a quote from the blog post:

That Arbeit Macht Frei sign? That was someone’s job, to make that sign. Who was he? Did he know its final destination? Did he know what would happen on the other side of it? Did he appreciate the stark irony of prisoners being worked to death in the shadow of those words?    (more…)

January 29, 2011

The “Harvest Festival” at Majdanek on “bloody Wednesday,” Nov. 3, 1943

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:51 am

The photo below shows the Mausoleum at the Majdanek Memorial Site. According to the Majdanek Museum guidebook, the ashes under the dome are the ashes of the victims who were shot on “bloody Wednesday,” the third of November, 1943.  This was the largest mass execution carried out at any of the concentration camps in the history of the Holocaust. The victims were the last remnants of the Jewish population in the Lublin district, according to the Museum guidebook.

Dome covers ashes at the Majdanek Memorial Site

Daniel Goldhagen wrote in his book entitled Hitler’s Willing Executioners, that there were 43,000 Jews killed on Nov. 3rd and 4th, 1943 in the action called “Erntefest” (Harvest Festival in English). According to Goldhagen’s book, “this was the largest single shooting massacre of the war.”

According to the web site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on the occasion of the “Harvest Festival,” the SS and police killed about 42,000 Jews, which included the killing of between 11,000 and 16,000 Jews at Poniatowa and between 4,000 and 6,000 Jews at Trawniki.  The USHMM says that Himmler ordered the implementation of Operation “Harvest Festival” because he feared more incidents of armed Jewish resistance after the prisoner uprising at the Sobibor killing center.

Majdanek guard tower, October, 1998

I visited the Majdanek Memorial Site in October 1998 and purchased the official guidebook to the camp. According to the guidebook, Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation of the Jews in the Lublin district after the insurrection on October 14, 1943 at Sobibor, one of the Operation Reinhard extermination camps on the Polish-Russian border, in which 300 Jews, led by a Jewish Russian Prisoner of War, escaped into the nearby woods. At that time, the three largest concentrations of Jews in Eastern Poland were 1. the concentration camp at Majdanek, 2. the labor camp at Poniatowa, a tiny Polish village where 18,000 people were held, and 3. the Polish village of Trawniki where 10,000 Jews were imprisoned in a labor camp.

The guidebook says that “In the autumn of 1943, the Nazi authorities were alarmed by the uprisings in the Warsaw and Bialystok ghettos, by the activity of the resistance movement in the camps and by the rebellions in the death camps at Sobibor and Treblinka.” According to the guidebook, the greatest fear of the Nazis was that the Jewish prisoners at Lublin would start a rebellion that would result in their escape to the forests where they would join the Polish partisans who were fighting the German Army.

The guidebook explained that the Nazis also feared that their plan to exterminate the Jews was being thwarted by the cooperation of the camp resistance movement at Majdanek with the Polish underground organizations fighting as partisans outside the camp. The guidebook devotes a whole section to the activities of the camp resistance movement, which included activists from the Polish Home Army, and the main political parties: the Polish Socialist Party, the Peasant Party, the National Party, and the Polish Worker’s Party.

Along with the Polish civilian partisans and the Jewish partisans hiding in the forests, there were also escaped Russian Prisoners of War, who would sometimes shoot the Jewish partisans. Although Poland had been conquered, within a month after the country was invaded, by the joint effort of the Germans and the Russians, guerrilla warfare continued in Poland until the Germans finally surrendered to the Allies in May 1945.

According to a book entitled The forgotten Holocaust: the Poles under German Occupation, written by Richard Lucas, the Polish resistance fighters were responsible for 6,930 damaged train engines, 732 derailed trains, 979 destroyed train cars, 38 bridges blown up, 68 aircraft destroyed, 15 factories burned down, 4,623 military vehicles destroyed, 25,125 acts of sabotage and 5,733 attacks on German troops.

Around 100 SS men were brought in from Auschwitz and other locations to do the shooting, according to the guidebook. In preparation for the mass execution, ditches were dug for the bodies behind the spot where the Mausoleum now stands, 50 meters away from the crematorium building. It took 300 prisoners, working two shifts day and night to dig three big ditches over 2 meters deep and 100 meters long, running in a zigzag line. These open ditches are still visible, although they look like they have been filled in somewhat.

Very early on the morning of November 3rd, after roll call, all the Jews in Fields III and IV were ordered to form a column and march to the ditches. The gravely ill Jews from the three typhus barracks in Field III were dragged out of their bunks and dumped onto trucks for transportation to the ditches. Loudspeakers mounted on trucks had been placed near the ditches, and by the camp gate near the street, to drown out the noise of the machine guns.

Simultaneously, a column of over 10,000 Jews were marched toward the gate of Field IV; the first prisoners reached the gate before the end of the column had left the city of Lublin. These victims were from the sub-camps of Majdanek and the work gangs employed outside the camp. The Jewish political prisoners from the Gestapo prison in the Castle in Lublin were also marched to the camp. Around noon, the SS soldiers ordered the Jewish women out of their barracks in Field I, and again the sick were loaded onto trucks, while those able to walk were marched to the ditches.

The shooting started around 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning on Nov. 3, 1943, and lasted without a break until 5 p.m., with 100 victims at a time ordered to strip in a nearby barrack and then lie down in the ditches in groups of 10, where they were then machine-gunned to death. Each new group had to lie down on top of the dead bodies from the previous group. The men were shot separately from the women. The barbed wire fence was cut between Field V and the ditches, so that a column of armed policemen could form a passage, along which the victims were funneled into the ditches.

This operation was, by no means, done in secret. The Nazis even took photos of the victims, like the one shown below.

Jews being marched to the ditches to be shot

The shooting was done at the top of the low hill where the Mausoleum now stands and in full view of nearby residents who lived behind the area. The loud dance music which went on for almost 12 hours that day ensured that the local residents knew that something unusual was going on, even if they couldn’t see it. On the same day, there were other mass executions of Jews at the labor camps near the villages of Poniatowa and Trawniki.

The Mausoleum at Majdanek Photo Credit: Simon Robertson

Just behind the Mausoleum pictured above, and a little to the right, is a small stone which commemorates the deaths of around 18,000 Jews on that spot on November 3, 1943.

According to the Museum guidebook, the bodies of the victims of the Harvest Festival massacre at Majdanek were burned, near the ditches, on pyres formed from old truck chassis, and the ashes were thrown onto the compost pile behind the clothing warehouse barracks, which now hold the tourist exhibits. It is these ashes of the massacre victims which have now been given a place of honor in the Mausoleum.

Did the Nazis really put the ashes of 18,000 Jews onto a compost pile? When I visited the Majdanek camp in 1998, I looked under the dome of the Mausoleum and to me, the ashes did look just like a compost pile.

Heinrich Himmler had a degree in agriculture and he was noted for using organic farming methods; there were compost piles at Dachau, where there was a experimental farm. There was also an experimental farm near Auschwitz.  But did the Nazis really use the ashes of the Jews for compost?

January 28, 2011

How do you know when your kidneys are failing?

Filed under: Health, TV shows — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 6:57 am

A few nights ago, I was watching an old episode of the TV show “House” when the patient suddenly started having “rapid heart rate.”  The doctors, who were gathered around his bed, immediately started trying to bring down his heart rate by using some drug which they mentioned, but I didn’t catch the name of it.  Then I heard one of the doctors say that “rapid heart rate” was an indication of failing kidneys.   (more…)

January 26, 2011

Keith Olbermann vs. Bill O’Reilly on the Malmédy Massacre

Filed under: TV shows, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:24 am

I know that I am a bit late in blogging about Keith Olbermann, who has been in the news lately, but it took me a while to remember why I stopped watching his TV news commentary on MSNBC, and started watching Bill O’Reilly on Fox News instead.  On his show on June 1, 2006, Olbermann was outraged as he pointed out that Bill O’Reilly had said that it was U.S. troops that had killed German POWs in the Malmédy massacre during World War II.

During an interview with former NATO supreme commander, Wesley Clark, on May 30, 2006, O’Reilly had compared the incident at Malmédy to the alleged killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. soldiers in Haditha, Iraq.

I looked it up on the Internet and here’s what O’Reilly said:

“In Malmédy, as you know, U.S. forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air and they were unarmed and they shot them down. You know that. That’s on the record. Been documented.”

On the May 31, 2006 show, O’Reilly changed his story, in response to a viewer who noted that the Malmédy incident was “the other way around.”

This was not the first time that O’Reilly had made this mistake, according to Olbermann. During a previous interview with Wesley Clark, on October 3, 2005, O’Reilly had said essentially the same thing.  On his show, Olbermann had called attention to O’Reilly’s statements, saying, “the victims at Malmédy in December 1944 were Americans, Americans with their hands in the air, Americans who were unarmed.”

Bill O’Reilly is an educated man; he constantly brags about his degree from Harvard, which irritates me to death.  So why would O’Reilly make such a big mistake?  Well, he was a bit mixed up about the Malmédy massacre, but not completely wrong in his accusation that Americans had shot German soldiers who had their hands in the air.

The infamous Malmédy Massacre occurred, during the Battle of the Bulge, at approximately 1 p.m. on December 17, 1944 and the first survivors of the massacre were picked up at 2:30 p.m. on the same day by a patrol of the American 291st Engineer Battalion. The story of an unprovoked massacre, as told by the survivors, was immediately sent to General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of the war in Europe, who made it a point to disseminate the story to the reporters covering the battle.

One of the news reporters at the Battle of the Bulge was America’s most famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, who was covering the war for Collier’s magazine. When the gory details of the Malmédy Massacre reached the American people, there was a great outcry for justice to be done. To this day, the Malmédy Massacre is spoken of as one of the worst atrocities perpetrated by the hated Waffen-SS soldiers.

The Inspector General of the American First Army learned about the massacre three or four hours after the first survivors were rescued. By late afternoon that day, the news had reached the forward American divisions.

In his book , entitled “The Ardennes, The Battle of the Bulge,” Hugh Cole wrote the following:

Thus Fragmentary Order 27 issued by Headquarters, 328th Infantry on 21 December for the attack scheduled for the following day says: “No SS troops or paratroopers will be taken prisoners but will be shot on sight.”

In his book called “The Other Price of Hitler’s War: German Military & Civilian Losses Resulting from WW 2,” author Martin Sorge wrote the following regarding the events that took place after the massacre:

It was in the wake of the Malmedy incident at Chegnogne that on New Year’s Day 1945 some 60 German POWs were shot in cold blood by their American guards. The guilt went unpunished. It was felt that the basis for their action was orders that no prisoners were to be taken.

America had signed the Geneva Convention of 1929, which means that America was required to treat German POWs according to the rules of the convention.  The Geneva Convention did not allow for revenge killings of enemy soldiers.  It did not allow for orders that “no prisoners will be taken.”

O’Reilly was wrong when he said that this war crime happened at Malmédy.  It actually happened at Chegnogne, but it happened because of the so-called Malmédy Massacre.  You have to give O’Reilly credit for knowing about this obscure bit of history.  That’s why I switched from Olbermann to O’Reilly and I never looked back.

I have blogged about the Malmédy Massacre case before, but it bears repeating that America adhered to a double standard regarding war crimes committed in World War II.  The German soldiers involved in the Malmédy Massacre were prosecuted as war criminals, but there were no charges against the Americans who killed the German POWs.  During the proceedings against the Germans who were charged with killing POWs, the defense lawyers were not allowed to mention this. Any of the accused men who inadvertently said anything about American soldiers breaking the rules of the Geneva Convention were promptly silenced and these comments were stricken from the record.

In the Malmédy Massacre proceedings, the prosecution case was based on the accusation that Adolf Hitler himself had given the order that no prisoners were to be taken during the Battle of the Bulge and that General Sepp Dietrich had passed down this order to the commanding officers in his Sixth Panzer Army. This meant that there was a Nazi conspiracy to kill American prisoners of war and thus, all of the accused were guilty because they were participants in a “common plan” to break the rules of the Geneva Convention. Yet General Dietrich’s Sixth Panzer Army had taken thousands of other prisoners who were not shot. According to US Army figures, there was a total of 23,554 Americans captured during the Battle of the Bulge.

The prosecution claimed that General Sepp Dietrich, on direct orders from Hitler himself, had urged the SS men to remember the German civilians killed by the Allied bombing, and to disregard the rules of warfare that were mandated by the Hague Convention of 1907 and the 1929 Geneva convention. This meant that all of the accused were charged with participating in a conspiracy of evil that came from the highest level, the moral equivalent of the Nazi conspiracy to exterminate all the Jews in Europe, which was one of the charges against the major German war criminals at Nuremberg.

An important part of the defense case was based on the fact that the accused men in the Malmédy case were classified as Prisoners of War when they were forced to sign statements incriminating themselves even before they were charged with a war crime. As POWs, they were under the protection of the Geneva Convention of 1929, which prohibited the kind of treatment that the accused claimed they had been subjected to, in order to force them to sign statements of guilt. Article 45 of the Geneva Convention said that Prisoners of War were “subject to the laws, regulations and orders in force in the armies of the detaining powers.” That meant that they were entitled to the same Fifth Amendment rights as American soldiers.

During the Malmédy Massacre case, Lt. Col. Rosenfeld (the law member among the prosecutors) ruled against a defense motion to drop the charges, based on this argument; he said that the Malmédy Massacre accused war criminals had never been Prisoners of War because they became war criminals the moment they committed their alleged acts and were thus not entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention of 1929.

During the Malmedy Massacre proceedings, the prosecution claimed that Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper had instructed his men to fight as they had fought against the Russians, disregarding international law about the treatment of prisoners of war. The defendants testified that they had been instructed to take no prisoners, but they understood this to mean that because they were fighting in a tank unit, they were supposed to send POWs to the rear to picked up by infantry units.

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