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January 30, 2012

Who wrote Obama’s statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:59 am

On January 27th, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Obama issued a “written statement” which was reported by the press.  You can be sure that he didn’t write this statement himself.  Not after he goofed when he said this in a speech in May 2008:

“I had a uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps,” Obama said, slowly and methodically. “And the story in my family is that when he came home, he just went into the attic, and he didn’t leave the house for six months. Alright? Now, obviously something had affected him deeply, but at the time, there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain.”

Did whoever wrote Obama’s Remembrance Day statement get it right this time?  This is a quote from Obama’s statement on January 27, 2012:

“We commit ourselves to keeping their memories alive not only in our thoughts, but through our actions,” Obama said in a written statement.

“As we remember all those who perished in camps from Auschwitz to Treblinka, Dachau to Sobibor, we pledge to speak truth to those who deny the Holocaust.”

I would not have put Dachau in the same sentence as Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor. Dachau was not a death camp, although thousands “perished” there from typhus.  The other three were death camps where Jews were gassed.

Even Auschwitz doesn’t belong in the same list as Treblinka and Sobibor. Auschwitz was a large complex consisting of three separate camps; it was a transit camp and a labor camp, as well as a death camp. Since this sentence seems to be directed at “those who deny the Holocaust,” the author should have named Belzec instead of Dachau.  Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec were strictly extermination camps where Jews were gassed immediately upon arrival, while Dachau was mainly a camp for political prisoners.

Charles T. Payne, who helped to liberate Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, was Barak Obama’s great uncle, the brother of his maternal grandmother. Charles T. Payne was a member of Company K, 355th Infantry Regiment, 89th Infantry Division. According to an Associated Press story, published on June 4, 2009, Charles T. Payne’s unit arrived at the Ohrdruf camp on April 6, 1945. Ohrdruf was discovered by American soldiers on April 4, 1945.  The camp had been abandoned on April 2nd.

Why is all this important?  In his written statement, Obama said “we pledge to speak truth to those who deny the Holocaust.”  In speaking the truth to Holocaust deniers, one must pay attention to details.  Holocaustians regard any tiny detail that deviates from their official story as “Holocaust denial.”  When someone lumps together Dachau, Treblinka and Sobibor, this borders on “Holocaust denial.”

Dr. Deborah Lipstadt famously wrote in Denying the Holocaust that there is no “other side” when discussing the Holocaust.  There is the official version, which is protected by law in at least 16 countries, and that’s it.  Anyone who tries to present the “other side” is a criminal, as far as the Holocaustians are concerned.  In view of this, President Obama should not have mentioned “those who deny the Holocaust.”  It was a big mistake for him to acknowledge that there are people who believe in the “other side” of Holocaust history.

Yesterday, Hillary Rodham Clinton issued her statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day.  This quote is from her statement:

This past year, we have seen Holocaust denial increasing throughout Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. There has been an upsurge in anti-Semitic acts, including hateful graffiti, cemetery desecrations, verbal and physical assaults on Jews, incitement to anti-Semitic violence, and cartoons demonizing Jews.

Denying the truth of the Holocaust is an insult to history. We urge governments, civil society leaders, clerics, human rights groups, and all people of conscience in all nations to speak out against this kind of hatred. The United States will work with all of those who are committed to a world free of anti-Semitism and all other forms of ethnic or religious intolerance.

Her statement puts heavy emphasis on Holocaust denial.  Big mistake — in my humble opinion.  She should have accentuated the positive, instead of bringing up the negative.  Maybe a reference to the Nuremberg IMT, which provides irrefutable proof of the Holocaust, or some mention of the new discovery of mass graves at Treblinka, would have been better.

January 29, 2012

Thank you postcards sent from the Auschwitz and Majdanek death camps

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:27 am

Official postcard that was given to prisoners to send as a "Thank You" card

The photo above is a copy of a page in the Majdanek Museum guidebook; it shows the official Thank You postcard provided by the Nazis for the prisoners to send in acknowledgment of the receipt of a package.  The text on the page reads: “Official postcard which a prisoner could send from the camp to his family or to the Polish Red Cross after receiving a parcel.”  You can read about the Majdanek camp on my website here.

I am indebted to one of the regular readers of this blog who gave me the idea for my blog post today.  In a comment on my blog yesterday, this reader gave a link to a video which shows a postcard sent from Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Young people today might be surprised to learn that, even in a death camp, the Nazis required the prisoners to have good manners.  Yes, you read that right — the prisoners at all the Nazi camps were required to send a Thank You postcard to the Red Cross or to civilians who sent packages to the camps. 

The postcards were provided by the Nazis and mailed for the prisoners.  Just because the prisoners were waiting to be gassed at Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau doesn’t mean that they were exempt from the rules of society and could get by with scarfing down food sent by their friends and relatives without sending a Thank you card.

When the Nazi War Criminals were put into camps, awaiting trial for their crimes, were they required to send a Thank You postcard to the Red Cross or the families who sent food?  This is a trick question.  The German war criminals were not allowed to receive Red Cross packages or food from civilians and they were not allowed to send letters or postcards.

January 28, 2012

the remarkable story of Leslie Schwartz who survived Auschwitz and Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:48 am

I have blogged twice in the past about the remarkable story of Holocaust survivor Leslie Schwartz here and here. A reader of my blog, Marc Bonagura, who has his own blog Talking Weeds made a comment on my blog and provided a link to his blog. This blog post on Talking Weeds is also about Leslie Schwartz.

I have done some research on the Internet about the story of Leslie Schwartz, who is a cousin of Tony Curtis, and here are the highlights of his remarkable story:

Leslie Schwartz was born in 1930 in a small village in Hungary that had a population which was one third Jewish, mostly Hasidic or Orthodox Jews.  In 1943, when the Germans came into Hungary, the Jews were deprived of their Hungarian citizenship; at the age of 13,  Leslie was sent, along with the rest of his family, to the Ukraine.  In 1944, they were brought back and sent to a ghetto in Hungary, from which they were transported in May 1944 to Auschwitz in cattle cars.

Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944

According to Schwartz’s own account, when he arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau at the age of 14, he was sent to the children’s barrack where there were “kids” under the age of 15 who were waiting to be killed in the “crematoriums.”  All of these “kids”  were killed, according to Schwartz, but he survived because, after 10 days in the children’s camp, he asked his friend Sandor Grosz to allow him to sneak into the adult barracks. This saved his life because he was able to join the adults on a transport train out of Auschwitz.  Schwartz says that Sandor is the reason that he is living today.  (more…)

January 27, 2012

other people’s blogs….or how I learned about Dachau and Auschwitz

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:24 am

This morning, having nothing better to do, I decided to check out other people’s blogs.  I use wordpress to do my blog and I used their software to find other blogs.  WordPress directed me to blogs that I might find interesting, based on my own history of blog posting.  That’s how I found this blog post entitled Dachau and My Heavy Heart with this statement:

In truth, one concentration camp is no different from another.  If there were any significant differences between Dachau and Auschwitz, it had to be the numbers who never walked out of the camps.  But a death is a death; it doesn’t make it less painful for me just because the numbers are fewer in Dachau.

My first thought was to scoff at this, but then I realized that this blogger is right.  The significant difference between Dachau and Auschwitz is the numbers.  The first report, released by the American liberators, gave the number of deaths at Dachau as 238,000, while the first estimate of the number of deaths at Auschwitz, given by the Soviet liberators, was 4 million.

“But a death is a death,” as this blogger correctly noted.  There was one big typhus epidemic at Dachau which started in December 1944 and quickly got out of control.  There were two typhus epidemics at Auschwitz, but when the Soviet liberators arrived, there was no epidemic in progress.   How many of the deaths at Dachau and Auschwitz were caused by typhus? (more…)

January 26, 2012

January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 4:08 pm

In honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th, I am posting some of the photos that I took in 1998 and in 2005 at Auschwitz, the main extermination camp of the Holocaust. Auschwitz was liberated on January 27th, 1945 by soldiers of the Soviet Union.

Ruins of Krema II gas chamber at Auschwitz II, aka Birkenau

Early morning photo of the ruins of Krema III at Birkenau

The Germans marched 60,000 prisoners out of the three camps in the Auschwitz complex on January 18, 1945.  They came back twice, on January 20th and again on January 26th, to blow up the gas chambers in order to destroy the evidence.   (more…)

“scuppering” …. the new word of the day …. as in “fresh evidence of mass graves at Treblinka, scuppering the claims of Holocaust deniers”

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:56 am

I read this headline today in the Mail Online, a British newspaper:

British archaeologist destroys Holocaust deniers’ argument with mass grave find at Treblinka

The lead of the story is this quote:  “A British forensic archaeologist has unearthed fresh evidence to prove the existence of mass graves at the Nazi death camp Treblinka – scuppering the claims of Holocaust deniers who say it was merely a transit camp.”

I had a third-grade teacher who taught me to look up every word, that I didn’t know the meaning of, in the dictionary.  So I went directly to an online dictionary and learned that “scuppering” can be used to mean destroy or ruin.  I think a better word might be “demolish.”  But have the arguments of the Holocaust deniers been “scuppered?”  I don’t think so.

The spot where Jews disembarked from the trains to Treblinka

A lot of good comments about this subject have been posted on my previous blog about the “fresh evidence” at Treblinka here.

This article in the Mail Online states that “a lack of physical evidence in the area has been exploited by Holocaust deniers.”  The whole article seems to me to be gloating over the scuppering of Holocaust deniers, instead of just giving the facts, as a newspaper article should.  (more…)

January 25, 2012

More Holocaust education needed: one in five young Germans has never heard of Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:20 am

Today, the British newspaper Mail Online is reporting this startling news:

ONE-FIFTH of young Germans have never heard of Auschwitz, survey reveals

Does this mean one-fifth of young “ethnic Germans” (Volksdeutsche) have never heard of Auschwitz, or does it mean one-fifth of all young citizens of Germany have never heard of Auschwitz?

It is hard for me to believe that anyone in Germany has never heard of Auschwitz  — unless they are recent immigrants from Africa or the Middle East.  Did the people asking the survey question pronounce the word Auschwitz correctly? If the surveyers used the British or the American pronunciation of the word, the ethnic Germans might not have known what they were talking about.

According to the article in the Mail Online, “Twenty one per cent of people aged between 18 and 30 quizzed about the most notorious Nazi extermination camp had not heard of it, the survey revealed.”   How was the question posed:  Did the survey people ask “What was the most notorious Nazi extermination camp?”

This quote is from the article:

The Nazis built six extermination camps – Auschwitz, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek – all of them in occupied Poland.The murder of prisoners, most of them Jewish, began in 1941 when Nazi officials enacted Hitler’s ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’.

The “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was enacted in 1941?  Does that mean “enacted into law?”  NO, NO, NO! There was no German law in which the murder of the Jews was ordered. The murder of the Jews did, in fact, begin in 1941, but the Wannsee conference where the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was discussed did not begin until January 20, 1942.  So the murder of the Jews was not ordered at the Wannsee conference.

Auschwitz was not in occupied Poland when the camp was in operation, as stated in the Mail Online article.  It was in the Greater German Reich.  So was Chelmno.

Chelmno was located in the Warthegau, a district in the part of Poland that had been annexed into the Greater German Reich after the joint conquest of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.

This quote is also from the article in the Mail Online:

The survey, published in Stern magazine, showed that of people over 30, 95 per cent had heard of Auschwitz and the crimes committed there.

But less than 70 per cent could name the country it lies in.

Auschwitz is in Silesia which was also annexed into the Greater German Reich in 1939.  Silesia was given to Poland after World War I, in the Treaty of Versailles.  After the conquest of Poland in 1939, Germany took back Silesia.  Maybe 70 per cent of the Germans who were surveyed do not believe that Silesia should belong to Poland.  Or maybe they were answering the question with the name of the country that Auschwitz was in when the camp was in operation.

I’m guessing that the reason the survey found that one out of five young Germans had never heard of Auschwitz is because one out of five Germans are afraid to speak about the Holocaust, for fear that they will get a notice in the mail that they have to pay a fine for breaking the German law against Holocaust denial.  It has been my experience, in visiting Germany many times, that Germans of all ages are afraid to speak about the Holocaust.

I think that this survey might have been flawed by the survey takers not asking the questions in the right way.

I have found that, when talking to German people, one must be very precise.  For example, if you ask for a ticket to Frankfurt, you will hear “Which one?”  Don’t go to Berlin unless you know how to pronounce the name of the city.  If you want to go to Rothenburg, you must specify Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  There are special places in Germany where Americans, who can’t pronounce Dachau correctly, can buy their tickets without being frowned upon for not knowing how to speak properly.

January 24, 2012

Good news! Mass graves found at Treblinka extermination camp

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 3:17 pm

The BBC broadcast a program yesterday entitled The Hidden Graves of the Holocaust, which was about new information regarding the mass graves at Treblinka, one of the three Operation Reinhard camps.  I didn’t see the program, but I read about it here.  The article starts off with this quote:

Any doubts about the existence of mass graves at the Treblinka death camp in Poland are being laid to rest by the first survey of the site using tools that see below the ground, writes forensic archaeologist Caroline Sturdy Colls.

The most important part of the article is this quote:

A 1946 report by investigators into German crimes in Poland found “a cellar passage with the protruding remains of burnt posts, the foundations of the administration building and the old well” and here and there “the remains of burnt fence posts, pieces of barbed wire, and short sections of paved road”.

Bone fragments can still be seen on the surface of the ground, especially after rain”

They also discovered human remains as they dug into the ground, and on the surface “large quantities of ashes mixed with sand, among which are numerous human bones”.

Despite this, in a later statement they said they had discovered no mass graves.

The section on Treblinka in the German Crimes in Poland. Volume I. Published by the Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. Warsaw, 1946 can be read in full here.

At the very end of the Treblinka section of the report of the Central Commission is this quote:

The eradication of all traces of the crime by wholesale burning of corpses began after Himmler’s visit in the early spring of 1943 and lasted till the Warsaw Rising, or even later. The camp was finally closed in November, 1943.

During the investigation when the ground was levelled, no collective graves were found, and this together with the evidence given by the witnesses leads to the conclusion that almost all the remains were burnt; the German authorities having had plenty of time to do it since the camp was closed. The site of the camp was ploughed over and sown, and on it Ukrainians were settled. They fled, however, on the approach of the Red Army.

Now the mass graves, that the Polish Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland was unable to find in 1945, have been found.  And it was the BBC that reported it.  The very first report of the gas chambers where Jews were being gassed was made by the BBC in 1942.

For another opinion, watch this video:

the alleged “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at Auschwitz III, aka Monowitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:04 am

The question of the alleged Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the Monowitz (Auschwitz III) camp came up in a recent comment on my blog.  As proof that this sign taunted the prisoners in the Monowitz camp, as well as in other Nazi camps, we have the eye-witness account written by Primo Levi, who was a prisoner at Monowitz.  I previously blogged about Primo Levi here, but I didn’t include the information that Levi mentioned the sign on page 22 of the book Survival in Auschwitz, the Nazi Assault on Humanity.

On page 19, Levi wrote this about his arrival at Auschwitz on a transport train:  “A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors.”  This is a reference to the Judenrampe, which was a large train platform, near the Birkenau camp, which was used from 1942 to May 1944. The Judenrampe was torn down when the train tracks were extended inside the Birkenau death camp, so that the prisoners could be brought to a spot within a few feet of the gas chambers in Krema II and Krema III.  (God forbid that the Jews should have to walk to the gas chambers.)

Levi’s description of his arrival at Monowitz begins on page 22:

The journey [to Monowitz from the Judenrampe] did not last more than twenty minutes.  Then the lorry [truck] stopped and we saw a large door, and above it a sign, brightly illuminated (its memory still strikes me in my dreams): Arbeit Macht Frei, work gives freedom.

We climb down, they make us enter an enormous empty room that is poorly heated.

So the sign was on a DOOR, not a gate.  It was the door to an enormous empty ROOM, not the door into a camp.  Note that he not only saw the sign on the door, he also saw it in his dreams.

Denis Avey also mentioned an Arbeit Macht Frei sign at Monowitz in his book The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz. On page 140, Avey describes the scene when he entered the Monowitz prison camp:

It was still light when we passed through the gate and I saw the sign bearing the cruel promise ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ — work sets you free.

I didn’t know that the irony of those words would scream across the decades. This was Auschwitz III–Monowitz.

Note that the sign that Denis Avey saw was on a GATE, not a door.

Rob Broomby co-wrote Denis Avey’s book.  On page 235, we learn that Rob questioned whether this sign was actually on the Monowitz gate.

This quote, written by Denis Avey, is from page 235 of the American edition of his book:

As Rob’s research continued it threw up some interesting questions about the nature of memory. He kept asking me if I was certain I had seen that Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the gates to Auschwitz III–Monowitz.  I was, but he said some experts had questioned it and nothing survives at the site today to testify one way or the other. The sign everyone knows these days is at the gates of the main camp, Auschwitz I. After more than sixty years it is that one which is emblazoned on the collective memory although many camps had them. Rob said the most influential account of life in the camp — that of survivor and writer Primo Levi — mentioned the sign at Auschwitz III more than once but the head of Research at Auschwitz wasn’t convinced.

So was there an Arbeit macht Frei sign at Monowitz or not?  I would say NOT.  Primo Levi saw the sign in his dreams, and Denis Avey read about it in Primo Levi’s book.  The Arbeit Macht Frei sign was used on the gates of the Nazi camps that were classified as Class I camps. Auschwitz I was a Class I camp and it had the sign.  Monowitz was a labor camp which probably did not have the sign.  I explained all this on a previous post which you can read here.

January 23, 2012

The famous Buchenwald photo — is that Elie Wiesel or a 40-year-old man?

Filed under: Buchenwald, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:57 am

This morning I googled “famous photo of Elie Wiesel at Buchenwald” and the first website that came up in the search results was the website “Elie Wiesel Cons the World” which has a wealth of information about the famous Buchenwald photo, which you can read here.

Famous photo taken in Buchenwald Barracks #56

Elie Wiesel claims to be the man in the circle

Is this the face of 16-year-old Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel? Or is this the face of a 40-year-old man?

Elie Wiesel wrote in Night that he got out of his hospital bed at the Monowitz camp in Auschwitz and joined the death march out of the camp on January 18, 1945.  He also wrote that he became sick three days after the liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945 and was confined to a hospital bed for 2 weeks.  Did he also get out of his hospital bed and go over to barracks #56 to get into this famous picture?  Elie Wiesel was an orphan after his father died at Buchenwald, and he was allegedly in barracks #66, the orphan’s barracks, when the camp was liberated.

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