Scrapbookpages Blog

March 30, 2012

Filling in the blanks ….what Bergen-Belsen survivors don’t tell gullible Americans

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:41 am

Every day in the news, there is yet another horror story told by a Holocaust survivor.  A few days ago, a story was published in the online Albany Times Union here.  The headline for the news article was

Recalling horror of Bergen-Belsen
WWII concentration camp survivor describes hellish experiences
By Paul Grondahl

This quote is from the article in the Times Union, which tells about a talk given by Holocaust Survivor Steven Hess to Albany teachers:

[Steven Hess] described his experiences during World War II and offered historical context Tuesday for two dozen middle and high school social studies teachers in Albany.”  […]

When Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the British on April 15, 1945, Hess, his sister and their mother and father had overcome what seemed like impossible odds.  […]

Hess has almost no memory of what came before. His parents, who were German Jews, fled Nazi Germany in 1936 and raised the twins in middle-class comfort in Amsterdam, Holland. Their father, Karl Hess (he changed his name to Charles in the U.S.) was a sales manager for a textile company.

The Hess family was among 110,000 Jews from Holland deported to Nazi death camps. Fewer than 5,000 adults and a very small number of children younger than 15 survived.  […]

The Hess family was allowed to board a train in April 1945 as the allied forces were routing the Germans and the Nazis tried to hide the evidence of Bergen-Belsen. The Hess family was jammed onto a cattle train with 2,500 Jews, and the “lost transport” meandered around Germany. More than 600 perished on the train ride until the survivors were finally set free after Russian soldiers killed the Germans operating the train.

There were around 35,000 deaths at Bergen-Belsen when the camp was in operation and 13,000 additional deaths after the camp was turned over to the British on April 15, 1945.  How did the Hess family beat the odds?  Is there something that Steven Hess left out of his story?  Was Bergen-Belsen a “death camp,” as reported by Paul Grondahl?

Map of prisoners barracks at Bergen-Belsen

There were 8 different camps at Bergen-Belsen.  You can read about all the different camps here.  The Hess family was probably in the “Star camp,” where they had a good chance of survival.  In the last days before Bergen-Belsen was turned over to the British (because it was in a war zone), the Jews in the Star Camp and also the prisoners in the Neutrals Camp were  evacuated, along with the Hungarian Jews, in three trains which held altogether about 7,000 Jews who were considered “exchange Jews.” Up until December 1944, Bergen Belsen was an exchange camp for the purpose of exchanging Jews, who wanted to go to Palestine, for German prisoners held in Allied camps.  There was also a training camp for German soldiers right next to the prison camps at Bergen-Belsen.

Bergen-Belsen training camp for German soldiers is shown on the right side of the Map

One of the three trains that left Bergen-Belsen finally stopped on April 14, 1945 near Magdeburg in northern Germany; the guards ran away and the Jews on the train were liberated by American troops. The third train halted on April 23, 1945 near the village of Tröbitz in the Niederlausitz region; they were liberated by Russian troops after the guards escaped.

The Hess family was probably on the train that was liberated by Russian troops on April 23, 1945.  In fact, Paul Grondahl wrote this in his article about Steven Hess:

The Hess family stayed in a small German farming village of Trobitz, which had been deserted. They squatted in an abandoned farmhouse and foraged for food.

Why had the German village been deserted?  There was a war going on and the Germans were trying to escape from the Russian soldiers who were raping and murdering their way across Germany.

According to the Memorial Site at Bergen-Belsen, the camp population on December 1, 1944 was 15,257. By February 1, 1945, there were 22,000 prisoners in the camp, and by March 1, 1945, the number of inmates had swelled to 41,520. On April 15, 1945, there were an estimated 60,000 prisoners in the camp.  The influx of prisoners was caused by the evacuation of other camps that were in the war zone.  I repeat: There was a war going on!

In February 1945, a transport of Hungarian Jews arrived at Bergen-Belsen at a time when the disinfection chambers were temporarily not in use, and as a result, lice got into the camp, causing a typhus epidemic to break out. Heinrich Himmler, who was in charge of all the concentration camps, ordered that “all medical means necessary to combat the epidemic should be employed” but in spite of this, the epidemic quickly spread beyond control.

The story of Bergen-Belsen can be summed up by a chart that hangs on the wall of the Museum there. It shows that there were 350 deaths in the camp in December 1944 before the typhus epidemic started. In January 1945, after a typhoid epidemic started, there were between 800 and 1000 deaths; in February 1945, after the typhus epidemic was out of control, there were 6,000 to 7,000 deaths. In March 1945, the number of deaths had escalated to an incredible 18,168 in only one month. In April 1945, the deaths were 18,355 in only one month, with half of these deaths occurring after the British took over. Unlike the death camps in Poland, the Bergen-Belsen camp was not equipped to handle this kind of death rate; there was only one crematory oven in the camp.

When the British arrived on April 15, 1945, there were 10,000 bodies that were still unburied, and more were dying every day because the Germans could not control the epidemics. By the end of April, in only two weeks time, 9,000 more had died. Another 4,000 died before the end of May.

Approximately 4,000 Jewish prisoners, mostly from the Netherlands, lived in the Star camp (Sternlager), where conditions were better than in other parts of Bergen-Belsen. In the Star camp, the prisoners wore a yellow Star of David on their own clothes instead of the usual blue and gray striped prison uniform.

The following quote is from Eberhard Kolb’s book Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945:

From the Dutch “transit camp'” at Westerbork all those inmates were transported to Bergen-Belsen who were on one of the coveted “ban lists”, above all the “Palestine list”, the “South America list”, or the “dual citizenship list”. Holders of the so-called “Stamp 120000” were also taken to Bergen-Belsen, i.e. Jews with proven connections to enemy states, Jews who had delivered up large properties, diamond workers and diamond dealers who were held back from transportation to an extermination camp but who were not allowed to go abroad, as well as so-called “Jews of merit”. A total of 3670 “exchange Jews” of these categories, always with their families were deported from Westerbork to Bergen-Belsen in eight transports between January and September 1944. 

The Hess family was probably in one of these 8 transports from Westerbork.  Did Steven Hess leave this out of his talk, or did he tell the teachers that his family was sent to Bergen-Belsen as exchange Jews, and the reporter left that part out?

If there is a need to instruct teachers in America about the horrors of war, then they should be taught about the Prisoner of War camp at Andersonville, Georgia where 12,912 Union soldiers succumbed to dysentery and malnutrition in only 14 months time during the American Civil war. The reason was that 32,000 prisoners had been crowded into a camp that was meant for only 10,000. It was the worldwide outrage at this disaster that finally led to the Geneva Convention where rules for the treatment of POWs were made a part of international law.

At Bergen-Belsen, 60,000 civilian prisoners were eventually confined in a camp that was in no way designed to handle this number of people; a typhus epidemic got started and the only way to stop it was to burn down the prison camp and move the prisoners to the German Army training camp next door, which is what the British did after the Germans voluntarily turned the camp over to them on April 15, 1945.

Instead of teaching American High School students about a disaster that did not happen in America, the students should be learning about the Andersonville camp and the American Civil War.

March 29, 2012

Poisoned bread at Bergen-Belsen — the story told by Holocaust survivor Anita Schorr

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:42 am

After I read the horror story of the Stanislawow Squeezing Massacre on this blog, I was prepared to award the prize for the best Holocaust lie to Robert Geminder who survived the massacre.  (3,000 Jews were allegedly killed when the German Gestapo surrounded them and squeezed them to death in the city cemetery of a Polish town on October 12, 1941.)

That was before I saw a video of a speech given by Holocaust survivor Anita Schorr here.  In her speech, Anita Schorr said that she was first sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto, which she called Terezin. She was sent from there to Auschwitz, and was then transferred to Hamburg, Germany to work in cleaning up the damage from the Allied bombing of the city.  She was 14 years old, but had lied about her age and said that she was 18 in order to avoid being gassed at Auschwitz.

After 7 months in Hamburg, Schorr was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  You can read about Bergen-Belsen here and about the liberation of the camp here.

At around 15:07 in the video, Schorr says that British soldiers came to liberate the Belsen camp on April 14, 1945 and the Jews “were asking for food.”  The British “looked around and found bread.”  But this was “poisoned bread,” according to Anita Schorr, who explained that “one slice of the bread had enough poison to kill a person.”  Anita said that everyone in the Belsen camp would have been killed (by the poisoned bread) if the British had arrived a day later.

Actually, the British did arrive a day later; as everyone knows, the British took over the Belsen camp on April 15, 1945 after several weeks of negotiations with the Germans.

Why am I awarding the prize for the biggest Holocaust lie to Anita Schorr instead of giving this honor to Robert Geminder? I am giving the prize to Anita Schorr because her lie is more egregious and more damaging to the German people.  Her lie promotes hatred while the amusing story told by Geminder is laughable and no intelligent person believes it.

Ignorant people might believe that the Germans poisoned the bread supply, during a typhus epidemic at Belsen, but the Jews were saved because the British arrived a day early, before the camp was voluntarily turned over to them to them by the Germans.  That’s why Anita Schorr gets the prize for the biggest Holocaust lie ever told.

March 28, 2012

Nazi Mass Murder … the gas chamber at Mauthausen

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:50 am

A reader of my blog has reccomended a book entitled Nazi Mass Murder, A Documentary History of the Use of Poison Gas which is available from here.  One of the “contributors” to this book was Pierre Serge Choumoff, a former concentration camp prisoner, who supplied information for the book about the Mauthausen gas chamber.

I have written on my website here about the trial testimony given in the Mauthausen case.

Gas Chamber in the former Mauthausen concentration camp

Pierre Serge Choumoff was a “Nacht und Nebel” prisoner at Gusen, a sub-camp of Mauthausen. He wrote in one of his books that the gas chamber at Mauthausen was put into operation in either March or May of 1942 and that 3,455 prisoners were gassed in it. He also wrote that the SS guards had removed the gassing equipment from the chamber on April 29, 1945, the day that Commandant Franz Ziereis turned the camp over to the Vienna police. A sign in the Mauthausen gas chamber confirms that the gassing apparatus was removed on April 29, 1945.

The following quote is from the website:

Book Description
Publication Date: February 23, 1994
In the years after World War II, personal accounts and judicial evidence documented how the Nazis used poison gas to murder Jews and other persecuted groups. Yet revisionist historians have recently attempted to deny the Nazi’s systematic gassing of millions. This remarkable book refutes these revisionists by confirming indisputably the grim historical truth about gassings. The volume was written by twenty-four authors from six countries (including Germany and Israel), most of them historians or jurists and many of them survivors of concentration camps. The authors set out the historical situation, provide new details about the dimensions of the gassings, and consider how it was possible for the Holocaust to have happened. Maps of extermination centres, plans of gas chambers and crematoria, and facsimile reproductions of secret Nazi documents are also included. Previously published in German and French, the book has now been translated and revised for English-speaking readers.

I  probably will not buy this book because I have done a lot of research on the Nazi gas chambers and have personally seen and photographed most of them.  I am familiar with the testimony of Pierre Serge Choumoff.  I have written extensively on my website about the testimony regarding the Mauthausen gas chamber.  I will now quote from my own website on a page where I have included the testimony of Choumoff.

In his book “The 186 Steps,” Christian Bernadac includes the statements of several former prisoners which were gathered by Pierre-Serge Choumoff, a former prisoner at Gusen, after revisionists began to deny that there was a gas chamber at Mauthausen. Choumoff was an engineer who had post-graduate degrees in mathematics; he was the author of numerous scientific articles. While he was a prisoner at Gusen, Choumoff was assigned to work in the arms factories of Rüstung Steyr, Daimler and Puch, which were in the immediate vicinity of the Gusen camp. He also served as an interpreter and a secretary at the Gusen camp. In the last week of the war, Choumoff was one of the Gusen prisoners who were evacuated to the main camp where the gas chamber is located.

In his book about the gas chambers, Choumoff quoted the testimony of the SS officers in Mauthausen, which he obtained from the trial testimony that was published in Rome in 1970. Dr. Krebsbach and Dr. Wasicky were among the 61 accused who were convicted by an American Military Tribunal at Dachau in 1946 after they confessed to their part in the gassing operation. Choumoff included in his book the following trial testimony from Dr. Krebsbach, the chief doctor at Mauthausen until June 1943, which is quoted by Bernadac in his book:

It was on the order of Ziereis, the Kommandant of Mauthausen that Doctor Wasicky, the SS pharmacist, proceeded to organize the installation of a gas chamber. It was he who provided the necessary gas. The first gassing, which I attended in my capacity as doctor, took place early in 1942. From two hundred to three hundred prisoners were gassed. I particularly remember the gassing of about one hundred thirty Czechs who were implicated in the Heydrich affair. Ziereis was present….

Note that Dr. Krebsbach names Dr. Wasicky as the man who was in charge of the gas chamber at Mauthausen. Commandant Ziereis, in his deathbed confession, said that it was Dr. Krebsbach who was responsible for the gas chamber, although Dr. Wasicky provided the gas. According to the testimony of some of the prisoners, the Mauthausen chamber did not use Zyklon B pellets. However, a sign in the gas chamber today says that gassing was accomplished by the use of Zyklon B pellets. The Museum at Mauthausen includes a glass display case in which there is an open can of Zyklon B pellets.

The statement of SS Oberscharführer Josef Niedemayer, the Kommandant of the bunker, which was the prison inside the camp, and also the officer in charge of the infamous Block 20, was included in Choumoff’s book and is quoted in Bernadac’s book, as follows:

There was a gas chamber in the camp. About four thousand prisoners were gassed there. When a transport arrived for the gas chamber, I informed the S.S. officers Bachmayer, Zutter or Altfuldisch. The men to be gassed were taken to the bunker where I, personally, with my assistants, S.S. officers Rommel and Proksch, verified the list of names and removed articles of value and documents. Then S.S. guards Roth and Gerber accompanied the condemned men to the gas chamber. After the execution, the S.S. dentists, Henkel and Franz Jutmann, removed the gold teeth. During March and April 1945, one thousand four hundred sick prisoners were gassed, selected by Doctor Wolter, the chief doctor (from August 1944).

This quote, from the same page on my own website, is the most interesting testimony about the Mauthausen gas chamber:

According to Bernadac’s book, Wilhelm Ornstein was a Polish prisoner at Mauthausen who was assigned to work in the crematorium on August 19, 1944 after he had arrived in the camp on August 10, 1944 and had been assigned prison Number 85224. He remained in this job until May 2, 1945 when he managed to hide himself in the infirmary. After the war, Ornstein became an American citizen.

When Zyklon B is used in pellet form, it must be heated in order to release the gas. Regarding the method of heating the pellets, Bernadac wrote the following, which he obtained from a deposition made by Ornstein before the General Consulate of the German Federal Republic in New York on March 6, 1969:

Ornstein further stated that, for the gassings, he had to bring a very hot brick, heated in the Krematorium, and place it in the box in the “gas cell,” in the presence of the S.S. Kommandoführer Roth. He then gave a detailed description of the “gas cell”: table, piping, gas masks, etc., as well as a description of the gassing procedure. When the chamber was not in use, it always remained closed.

Bernadac met with Ornstein in New York in 1971. At that time Ornstein “personally authenticated the preceding text concerning him.” He also gave Bernadac more information about the gas chamber which I have quoted from Bernadac’s book:

Among other matters, he mentioned that the men and women were gassed separately. The gas chamber could hold up to sixty-five to seventy persons, tightly crowded. He and his comrades of the kommando (with the exception of Kapo Kanduth who was housed in the camp) slept in one of the small rooms adjoining the Krematorium under the bunker, in order to be available day and night. They were never permitted to go into the camp itself. Kommandoführer M. Roth also slept in a tiny room close by.

Bernadac says in a footnote in his book that Ornstein acted as a Schreiber (secretary) and was able to take notes on the executions. On January 26, 1945, he noted down that 14 American aviators were executed by a shot to the neck (Genickschuss).

According to the testimony of other prisoners at Mauthausen, the gas used at Mauthausen was not in the form of pellets, but instead flowed through a tube placed low on the wall.

In his book, Bernadac quoted the testimony of Werner Reinsdorf, a prisoner who came to Mauthausen in 1941 and was assigned Prison Number 535 which had previously been assigned to another man who died. Reinsdorf  “took part in the construction of the gas chamber,” according to Bernadac. The follow quote is the words of Werner Reinsdorf:

There was a tube that led into the gas chamber, eighty centimeters above the floor, with its opening turned toward the wall so as to escape notice. The gas flowed through this tube…I, myself, saw Jews being led to the gas chamber….

The tube which Reinsdorf described is no longer in the gas chamber at Mauthausen. According to Choumoff, it was removed by the SS guards before they escaped from the camp.

March 27, 2012

When did the Holocaust gas chambers become common knowledge?

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

A reader of my blog, who has his own blog here, wrote a comment which I am quoting below:

At least since the summer of 1942 the Belzec extermination camp was known in far away remote areas of the General Government (German occupied Poland). Although not all the details were reported back to the public, the majority of Poles, Jews and Germans, had been aware of the name of this camp and associated it with a place of Jewish exterminations.

Belzec was the first of the three Operation Reinhard camps which were set up to carry out the Final Solution of the Jewish Question, which was planned at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. The other two Operation Reinhard camps were Sobibor and Treblinka. The Belzec camp was located just outside the village of Belzec, on the eastern border of German-occupied Poland.

Jews from the ghettos of southern Poland were sent to Belzec where there were three gas chambers that had been put into operation on March 17, 1942.  This was the start of the gassing of the Jews.

All three of the Operation Reinhard camps were conveniently located near a major Jewish ghetto. Belzec was between the Lublin and the Lvov ghettos. Treblinka was 60 miles from the Warsaw ghetto and Sobibor was near the Lublin ghetto. All three Operation Reinhard camps were near the Bug river, which formed the eastern border of German-occupied Poland.

In other words, the Jews were first rounded up and put into ghettos; they were then transported, as far as trains could go, to the eastern border of Germany territory, where they were killed.  In spite of the secrecy involved, the people in the area knew about the gassing.

Memorial to the Jews who were gassed at Belzec Photo Credit: Bonnie M. Harris

The memorial at the site of the Belzec camp was designed by Andrzej Solyga, Zdzislaw Pidek, and Marcin Roszczyk. It was opened in a solemn ceremony on June 3, 2004 as a joint project of the American Jewish Committee and the Council for the Protection of the Memory of Combat and Martyrdom in Warsaw. The complex at the former death camp consists of a memorial to the 600,000 victims, who were murdered in the camp, and a museum with an exhibition about the history of the Belzec death camp.

The Belzec death camp was only in existence for nine months, after which it was completely dismantled to destroy the evidence of the murder of the 600,000 Jews who were killed in the gas chambers. The bodies, which had been buried, were exhumed and then burned on pyres before the camp was abandoned.

When did people in the rest of the world first know about the gassing of the Jews?  I learned about it in elementary school when I was in the seventh grade.  I was in Catholic school where we studied Catholic history, which was actually world history. We had been learning about how the Jews had been persecuted for centuries, in many different countries, so the story of how the Jews were being gassed by the Nazis fit right in with what we had been learning about past history in Europe.

The first news of the gassing of the Jews had come from the BBC in June 1942.  My family did not have a radio, but our neighbors had a radio that was capable of hearing the BBC broadcasts.  Back then, news spread by word of mouth, so it was very quickly known around the world that the Jews were being gassed.

At the time that I first heard about the gas chambers, I didn’t think that this was anything unusual.  I lived in Missouri where there was a gas chamber in Jefferson City.  I had actually gone on a class trip to see “the Big House,” as the Missouri State Penitentiary was called.  The Missouri gas chamber was a very small stone building that was outside the huge prison.  I only saw it from a distance and didn’t see the inside, which had two chairs where two criminals could be gassed at one time.  I imagined that the Jews were being gassed, two at a time.  I didn’t dwell on this at the time; it never occurred to me that this would have been a very inefficient way to kill millions of people.

The photo below shows the broken concrete which now covers the entire area of the former Belzec camp where 600,000 Jews were gassed to death in only nine months.

Close-up of  Belzec memorial shows field of broken concrete  Photo credit: Bonnie M. Harris

March 25, 2012

Commemorating Jewish deaths in Poland? (the dilemma faced by Germany’s soccer team)

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 1:14 pm

The debate goes on: Should Germany’s National Football Team pay a visit to Auschwitz to commemorate the deaths of 1.1 million prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau, including 900,000 Jews?

International Monument at Auschwitz commemorates the deaths of 1.5 million prisoners

Today, March 25th, is the anniversary of the first transport of Jews, from the former country of  Slovakia, to the Auschwitz main camp in 1942.  That was 70 years ago.  Why stop at 70 years in commemorating Jewish deaths?

Before Hitler, there was a man named Bogdan Chmielnicki, who perpetrated the world’s first major pogrom against the Jews in 1648.  Shouldn’t the German National Football Team also go to the Ukraine to pay their respects to the Jews killed in 1648?

This quote is from The Jewish Virtual Library here:

In 1648, a Ukrainian officer Bogdan Chmielnicki, with the support of the Tatar Khan of Crimea, roused the local peasants to fight with him and the Russian Orthodox Cossacks against the Jews. The first wave of violence in 1648 destroyed Jewish communities east of the Dnieper River. Following the violence, thousands of Jews fled west, across the river, to the major cities. The Cossacks and the peasants followed them; the first large-scale massacre took place at Nemirov (a small town, which is part of present-day Ukraine). It is estimated that 100,000-200,000 Jews died in the Chmielnicki revolt that lasted from 1648-1649. This wave of destruction is considered the first modern pogrom.

In 1648, Germany had been completely destroyed as a result of the Thirty Years War which went on between 1618 and 1648.  It took 100 years for the Germans to recover.  Then came another 30-year period in which Germany was destroyed again during World War I and World II.  Germany has finally recovered from the destruction of World War II, but they have not recovered their national pride.  If the Jews have anything to say about it, the Germans will NEVER AGAIN be able to have pride in themselves.  They will forever be admonished to “take responsibility for the Holocaust” and hang their heads in shame.

Today, the German people cannot walk down the streets of 60 of their cities without stumbling (literally) over stones on the sidewalk which commemorate the deaths of individual German Jews who died in the Holocaust.

"stumbling stones" on a German sidewalk

There are over 10,000 of these stones in Germany. The stones have the names of the Jews that once lived in the house where the stone is located.

Enough already!  It is time for Germany to move on and forget about the Holocaust.

March 24, 2012

Should Germany’s national soccer team visit Auschwitz?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:00 am

An article in the online German publication Der Spiegel makes a case for why Germany’s National Team should NOT visit Auschwitz when they go to Poland this summer to play in the European Football Championship.  I agree, but not for the reasons given by Henryk M. Broder who wrote the article.

The photo below was included in the article with the following words under the picture:

The German national football team during a training session in February: “The young players don’t bear the blame, but they do bear the responsibility.”

Germany's National Football Team

Why do these young Germans “bear the responsibility” for Auschwitz?  Will every German citizen bear responsibility for Auschwitz until the end of time?

You can read here about how the prisoners played soccer at Auschwitz-Birkenau when the death camp was in operation.

Here’s why I don’t think these German men should visit Auschwitz:

When you go to Auschwitz: Seeing is unbelieving.  Unless a person has had a good Holocaust education, he is very likely to say something stupid, or even worse, to burst out laughing at the wrong time and place.

For example, let’s say they are taken on a tour of Birkenau, the Auschwitz II extermination camp.  The first stop on the tour is the Gate of Death — the gatehouse with a tower on top of it.  Tourists can climb up to the top of it and look out over the vast expanse of 425 acres of land.  A visitor might say something like “Why was the camp so huge when most of the Jews were gassed immediately upon arrival?”  or “Why so many barracks in an extermination camp?”

The first thing that I said, when I looked out over the former Birkenau camp, was “Who lived in all these barracks?” Before going to Auschwitz, I had seen the Treblinka death camp and was astounded by how small it was. The number of Jews gassed at each of these camps was nearly the same. Two extermination camps, one tiny and one huge; it doesn’t make sense, but what do I know?

But before going to the Auschwitz II camp, visitors usually start their tour at the Auschwitz main camp, where they are taken to see the gas chamber.  On my first visit to Auschwitz, the tour guides were still telling people that the Auschwitz gas chamber was original, not a Soviet reconstruction.  Allegedly, there were 900 people gassed at one time, but the first thing I noticed, even before I went into the gas chamber, was that there was no place for the victims to remove their clothes, and no place to put the clothes.

I learned later, from Filip Müller’s book that the victims went inside with their clothes on and even took their suitcases with them into the gas chamber.  (Filip famously wrote that he ate a piece of cheese that he found in a suitcase inside the gas chamber.)

A visitor to the main Auschwitz camp might notice the glass window in the door into the gas chamber.  The visitor might ask, as I did, how the Jews were prevented from breaking the glass.  My tour guide told me that a German SS man stood outside the door, ready to shoot anyone who broke the glass and let the Zyklon-B gas out of the room.

By the time I got to Majdanek on my first tour of Poland, I was saying to myself “Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh.”  In spite of this, I lost it and burst out laughing when I read the sign outside the Majdanek gas chamber which said that the victims were given a shower before they went inside the gas chamber, so as to warm up their bodies to make the poison gas work faster.  I quickly recovered and turned the laugh into a cough.  After that, I was more careful and didn’t say anything about the window in the Majdanek gas chamber.  My point here is that you can’t be too careful when visiting a Holocaust site; you have to maintain a respectful demeanor.  Especially, a German citizen must be very careful so as not to get arrested and thrown into prison for five years because of some stupid remark.

Visitors to the main Auschwitz camp are taken to see the exhibits in the former barracks buildings.  Tourists are always horrified by the huge case of rotting hair, cut from the heads of the prisoners, and the displays of suitcases and artificial legs.  Not me!  I was fascinated by the casement windows with double paned windows and the porcelain covered stoves.  There was nothing like that in the house where I lived as a child.

Double-paned casement window in Auschwitz building

Porcelain covered stove in Auschwitz barrack

The article in Der Spiegel ends with this quote:

Showing solidarity for dead Jews is a cheap exercise. The people who were murdered can’t be killed again, nor can they be rescued retroactively. But in case someone does feel something resembling “responsibility” — and there’s nothing wrong with that, in principle — then he would be better off declaring his solidarity with those who are alive today — and would like to stay that way.

Read an article here about mass tourism at Auschwitz.

March 22, 2012

the liberation of Dachau — no two accounts agree

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — furtherglory @ 11:08 am

On my scrapbookpages website, I have written extensively about the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp by American troops on April 29, 1945.  The anniversary of the liberation will be coming up soon and there will be a lot of discussion about which division actually liberated Dachau, the 45th division or the 42nd division of the US Seventh Army. Both divisions are officially credited with liberating the camp.

I have gone over the pages on my website about the liberation and picked out some of the highlights.

According to Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, the commander of the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Thunderbird Division, he received orders at 10:15 a.m. on April 29, 1945 to liberate the Dachau camp, and the soldiers of I Company were the first to arrive at Dachau around 11 a.m. that day.

However, John Degro, a soldier in the 45th division, claims that he arrived at the Dachau SS garrison at 7:30 a.m. and by 11 a.m., he had made his way to the concentration camp where he  shot the lock off the Arbeit Macht Frei gate, which was the entrance into the concentration camp.  This is the exact same time that some of the 42nd Division soldiers say they were liberating the concentration camp.

Soldiers of the 45th division had entered the Dachau SS garrison through the railroad gate.  My 2003 photo below shows a short section of the train tracks at the location of the railroad gate.

A section of the tracks at the railroad gate into the Dachau SS garrison has been preserved. The tracks are about a mile from the concentration camp

The "railroad gate" into the Dachau garrison was formerly in this location

On their way to Munich, a few 42nd Division soldiers had met some newspaper reporters and photographers who told them about the Dachau concentration camp and offered to show them the way. Lt. William Cowling was with Brig. Gen. Henning Linden when the first soldiers of the 42nd Division arrived at the Dachau complex around 3 p.m. They were met by 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker who was waiting near a gate on the south side of the Dachau SS garrison, ready to surrender the concentration camp.

I have written here on my website about 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker.  The photo below shows the surrender of the Dachau concentration camp.

2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker and Red Cross representative Victor Maurer surrender the Dachau concentration camp

In a book entitled The Day the War Ended, Martin Gilbert wrote the following about the liberation of Dachau, based on the account given by Albert Guérisse, a British SOE agent who was using the code name Patrick O’Leary:

As the first American officer, a major, descended from his tank, “the young Teutonic lieutenant, Heinrich Skodzensky,” emerged from the guard post and came to attention before the American officer. The German is blond, handsome, perfumed, his boots glistening, his uniform well-tailored. He reports as if he were on the military parade grounds near Unter den Linden during an exercise, then very properly raising his arm he salutes with a very respectful “Heil Hitler!” and clicks his heels. “I hereby turn over to you the concentration camp of Dachau, 30,000 residents, 2,340 sick, 27,000 on the outside, 560 garrison troops.”

The American major did not return the German Lieutenant’s salute. He hesitates a moment as if he were trying to make sure he is remembering the adequate words. Then he spits into the face of the German, “Du Schweinehund!” And then, “Sit down here” – pointing to the rear seat of one of the jeeps which in the meantime have driven up. The major gave an order, the jeep with the young German officer in it went outside the camp again. A few minutes went by. Then I heard several shots.

Lieutenant Skodzensky was dead. Within an hour, all five hundred of his garrison troops were to be killed, some by the inmates themselves but more than three hundred of them by the American soldiers who had been literally sickened by what they saw of rotting corpses and desperate starving inmates. In one incident, an American lieutenant machine gunned 346 of the SS guards after they had surrendered and were lined up against a wall. The lieutenant, who had entered Dachau a few moments earlier, had just seen the corpses of the inmates piled up around the camp crematorium and at the railway station.

Regarding the liberation of the Dachau camp, Nerin E. Gun, a prisoner in the camp who was the author of a book entitled The Day of the Americans, wrote the following about what happened when the American liberators reached the gate house into the prison compound:

Then came the first American jeeps: a GI got out and opened the gate. Machine-gun fire burst from the center watchtower, the very one which since morning had been flying the white flag! The jeeps turned about and an armored tank came on. With a few bursts, it silenced the fire from the watchtower. The body of an SS man fell off the platform and came crashing loudly to the asphalt of the little square.

The 42nd Division soldiers had arrived in jeeps, but there was no armored tank there when the Arbeit Macht Frei gate into the concentration camp was opened.  On the day of the Dachau liberation, the 45th and 42nd Infantry Divisions were both rapidly advancing southwest toward Munich with most of the troops riding in trucks or armored vehicles; between the two divisions lay the town of Dachau. Both divisions had been told that there was a prison camp at Dachau.   (more…)

March 21, 2012

Can the Jews ever get enough revenge? (the John Demjanjuk story)

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: — furtherglory @ 10:26 am

Can the Jews ever get enough revenge?

I remember very clearly the day in September 1998 when a tour guide took me to see the city of Lublin on my trip to Poland.  I was on a one-person tour of sites related to the Holocaust and a stop at a famous Yeshiva was on the agenda, before going to see the Majdanek death camp, which is now located within the city limits of Lublin.

Yeshiva Chachmei during Nazi occupation of Poland

The Yeshiva building was located at ul. Lubartoweska 85. I saw the former classrooms of the Yeshiva which were still being used by medical students. Known as “The School of the Sages of Lublin,” it was the world’s largest Talmudic school.

After seeing the classrooms, the guide took me to see a little room where there was a book to sign and add a personal comment.  I was appalled to see that the visitors, who had been there before me, had all signed the book with the words: REVENGE, REVENGE, REVENGE.

A day or two later, when another guide took me to see the Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau, I saw a collection of signs that had been put on sticks stuck into the ground near the ruins of the Krema II gas chamber.  The words on the signs were in Hebrew, and I asked the Jewish guide what the words meant.  She told me that all the signs said REVENGE, REVENGE, REVENGE.

All this was brought back to my mind when I read a blog post here about the death of John Demjanjuk.

The blog post, dated March 19, 2012, starts out with this quote:

As you may know, over the weekend former Nazi death camp prison guard and mass murderer John Demjanjuk a/k/a “Ivan the Terrible” died at the age of 91.  As I’ve lamented in many previous posts on this site, he lived three or four times longer than many of his tens of thousands of victims.  So, his death after a full life is little cause for celebration.  He lived more than half a century in freedom in the United States.

Seriously? Mass murderer?  When was John Demjanjuk convicted of mass murder?  I must keep up with the news.  I didn’t know that Demjanjuk was convicted of being the infamous “Ivan the Terrible.”  He had “tens of thousands of victims”?  This blogger must know something that I don’t know.

For example, I learned something new from this quote:

Demjanjuk lied on his documents to enter the United States and again to get immigration benefits and U.S. citizenship, never noting his membership in the Nazi Party or his role in murdering tens of thousands of Jews at the Treblinka death camp.

Now, I get it.  Demjanjuk was a member of the “Nazi party,” the German political party known as the NSDAP.  Who knew?

Here is another quote from the rest of the article about John Demjanjuk:

As I’ve also reported, even though Demjanjuk’s circus of a “trial” in Israel was a bust, that’s only because left-wing lawyers representing him introduced some silly claim that “Ivan the Terrible,” was only “Ivan the Not as Terrible.” And the left-dominated Israeli court bought it.  Never explained away was why Demjanjuk had a scar from the removal of his Nazi SS tattoo under his arm, a tattoo and location common to top SS guards.  The Israeli courts didn’t allow that evidence to be introduced, along with an avalanche of other proof this man was a cold-blooded killer of Jews.

So the Israeli courts would not allow evidence that Demjanjuk was a “top SS guard” with a “Nazi tattoo” under his arm? There was an “avalanche of proof” that the Israeli court would not allow to be introduced?  So that’s why Demjanjuk was not convicted in his first trial.  Who knew?

This quote is a continuation of the blog post :

As I’ve frequently noted on this site, Demjanjuk repeatedly gamed the system, with appeal after appeal.  It took well over a decade to deport him . . . for essentially the second time.  And it’s interesting that the only real jail time Demjanjuk did was his time in an Ohio ICE detention center.  That’s because one ICE deportation official, then-Michigan/Ohio ICE Field Office Director Robin F. Baker, had the guts to say no to this Nazi mass-murderer and make him serve at least a little time in 2005.  That’s little solace for the many victims of Demjanjuk, but at least this Nazi war criminal did some tiny amount of time in prison–a prison that, despite whining media reports, is paradise compared with what his Jewish victims endured.  At least his family, which refused to admit what they clearly knew to be true about their father, had to visit him behind plexiglass.

What’s amazing and sad in this country is that if you are an aging Nazi mass-murderer or a Muslim who lied on immigration forms, you can play games and stay here forever, escaping any form of justice for your fraud and your crimes.  And yet, Sean Hannity pal, neo-Nazi Pat Buchanan, was forever singing the praises of and defending this “angel of death” on earth.  So did Weekly Standard Editor Philip Terzian, who claimed Demjanjuk “was forced” to become a Nazi and that he was “only a concentration camp guard,” and therefore his murder of over 30,000 Jews is okay.  These are not leftists defending the mass-murder of the Jews.  These are conservatives.


So, as I’ve written before, John Demjanjuk had the last laugh.  He lived a full life,complete with generations of family he left, unlike most of his victims, the majority of whom perished in ovens and gas chambers but not before being subjected to his cruelty and the dogs and weapons he used against them to keep them from escaping and often to keep them from living.

March 20, 2012

The Demjanjuk affair (like another “Dreyfus affair”)

I got the idea for my blog post today from a comment made by a reader who provided a link to a website which published an edited transcript of an interview given by John Demjanjuk’s Israeli defense attorney, Yoram Sheftel, to Roma Hadzewycz of The Ukrainian Weekly.  Sheftel joined the Demjanjuk defense team just before the trial began in Israel in February 1987; on the 29th of July 1993, Demjanjuk was acquitted unanimously by the Israeli Supreme Court in the appeal case.

Sheftel wrote a book about the case in Hebrew, which was published in Israel in 1993 by Adam Publishers.  The English version was published in America under the title Defending “Ivan the Terrible”: The Conspiracy to Convict John Demjanjuk. 

Sheftel compared the Demjanjuk case to the trial of  Alfred Dreyfus, which was covered by Theodore Hertzl. Wikipedia calls Hertzl “an Ashkenazi Jewish Austro-Hungarian journalist and the father of modern political Zionism and in effect the State of Israel.”  If it had not been for the Dreyfus affair, there would have been no Zionism and probably no state of Israel.

This quote is from Wikipedia:

As the Paris correspondent for Neue Freie Presse, Herzl followed the Dreyfus Affair, a notorious anti-Semitic incident in France in which a French Jewish army captain was falsely convicted of spying for Germany. He witnessed mass rallies in Paris following the Dreyfus trial where many chanted “Death to the Jews!” Herzl came to reject his early ideas regarding Jewish emancipation and assimilation, and to believe that the Jews must remove themselves from Europe and create their own state.

The interview given by Sheftel is quite long, so I have quoted the most important part of it here and highlighted the important words:

One phase of this case was held in the state of Israel. In another phase it was held in the United States. In the United States it was held in a much worse way than in Israel, because in Israel it was a show trial, but in the United States it was a conspiracy to conceal evidence which shows unequivocally the innocence of Demjanjuk. This definitely is not the case with the Israeli part of this case. So the U.S. conducted itself in a much worse way than the Israelis.

Here [in America] they just founded a new organization within the Justice Department and yet it was able to put its hands on the worst Nazi criminal alive. Then, a year later, in connection with another case altogether, the case of Feodor Fedorenko, the OSI received a hundred pages of documents from the American Embassy in Moscow, which a day before had received these same 100 (pages of) documents from the Soviet procuracy. Now these documents dealt not only with Fedorenko, but with many other Treblinka guards, including the two guards who operated the gas chambers in Treblinka, that is, Ivan Marchenko and Nikolai Shelayev. Three of the statements contained unequivocal data that there is no way whatsoever that Demjanjuk could be “Ivan the Terrible” because Ivan Marchenko was the right one. And they concealed this evidence.

On the 12th of August, the OSI gets this material. This is 1978 – 1978! On the 25th of August, Joshua Eilberg, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration of the House writes a letter to (Attorney General) Griffin Bell, warning him of the consequences of Demjanjuk being found not eligible to be stripped of his citizenship as Fedorenko was found a few weeks before. And then, naturally, the OSI got scared about its own existence, about ensuring that it continue to exist. And in my book I quote from the decision of the Federal Court of Appeals, which not only declares the functioning of the OSI as fraud on the court, but also outlines the reasons which are political, largely political and obviously considerable. It would raise a political problem for us all, including the attorney general, if the case is lost. So actually, they wanted to preserve their bureaucratic organization just established and this was the motive of the OSI to conceal the evidence.

Now the Soviets, they must be commended. They never went as far as the OSI did. You see the Soviets, of course, knew all along that Demjanjuk could not be “Ivan the Terrible” because of their own data about “Ivan the Terrible.” Therefore, they suggested he was a camp guard from Sobibor, but they never ever even hinted, even after the identification of Demjanjuk by survivors as “Ivan the Terrible,” that he had anything to do with Treblinka, let alone that he was “Ivan the Terrible.” But, the Soviets wanted to cause a rift between the Jewish and Ukrainian communities in North America, which we all know were collaborating in the middle ’70s in anti-Soviet activities – each community for its own interest. And, the best proof of this is that the entire affair was exploded in the United States by Michael Hanusiak, who was then the editor of the Ukrainian Communist newspaper, called Ukrainian Daily News. And he is the one who wrote the book “Lest We Forget” in the early 1970s, warning – and I give quotes from this book – about the reactionary, dangerous, collaboration between the Ukrainian reactionaries and Zionist reactionaries against the Soviet Union, and warning that this must be stopped. And he stopped it. He stopped it. As far as this is concerned, the Soviets had complete success.

Now we come to the Poles. The Poles were not an independent entity in those days, and they were completely governed by the KGB. They knew exactly as the Soviets did that “Ivan the Terrible” was not Ivan Demjanjuk but someone else. And because they were protégés of the Soviets, they had no choice but to pursue the line of the Soviets.

Now the German part of the conspiracy relates directly to the Trawniki card. The world expert on the authenticity or non-authenticity of Nazi German documents is Dr. Louis Ferdinand Werner, who is the head of the BKA laboratories of the German police in Wiesbaden. He examined the Trawniki card three weeks before the case started in Israel, that is to say the middle of January 1987. He told the Israeli chief expert on documents, Amnon Bezaleli, who testified for four days in the witness box in the case in Jerusalem, that not only is the Trawniki card a forgery, but it is even an amateur forgery, obvious when you first look at it. And he asked for the document to be left with him for 10 days so he would be able to provide an extensive expert opinion about all the faults and forgeries on the card.

And in response Bezaleli took the document from him and didn’t allow him to pursue these tests. And, it is very important what Dr. Werner wrote in a memo when all this happened, and I quote this memo in my book as well. He said simply that it seems that in this case the facts are not interesting, and everything has to be subordinated to the political aspect of the case. Now that document, that memo was kept secretly by the German government for seven years in a safe and was not published until Stern magazine revealed it in March 1992. So this is the German end of the conspiracy.

And, of course, Israel is part of the conspiracy as far as this (Trawniki card) is concerned. It also was party to falsifying one identification made, not in the state of Israel, but by the OSI in the United States of one of the eyewitnesses, (Yehiel) Reichman. But I left for the reader to decide, because I don’t have 100 percent proof that Israel was involved in the cover-up of the OSI- concealed evidence which suggested that someone else and not Demjanjuk is “Ivan the Terrible.”

Maybe something good will come from the “Demjanjuk affair,” as Sheftel has named the “conspiracy” to convict Demjanjuk in Israel.  Demjanjuk died as a man without a country.  At the very least, his American citizenship should be restored and the United States Government should extend an apology to Demjanjuk’s family for concealing evidence that would have led to his acquittal in his first trial in Israel.

March 19, 2012

Holocaust survivor was saved because she chose to walk to the shower, not ride to the gas chamber

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:18 am

Rebecca Hauser, a Holocaust survivor who recently spoke to Duke University students, said that she was saved because she chose to walk, instead of waiting for the truck that transported new arrivals at Auschwitz to the gas chamber.  At the age of 22, she had been sent from Greece, in early April 1944, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

This quote is from the online Duke University newspaper:

Upon arrival at the [Auschwitz-Birkenau] concentration camp, individuals were given the option of either walking or riding to the showers, Bonnie Hauser [Rebecca’s daughter] said. Against her mother’s request, Rebecca Hauser chose to walk. She was then escorted in line to the showers, where everyone’s head was shaven (sic), and they were ordered to walk wet, cold and naked across the grounds to pick up their clothes. She was tattooed with an identification number, still visible on her left arm today.

Rebecca Hauser said her mother, father and the others who chose to ride to the showers were taken to the crematorium where they were killed. Although she occasionally regrets having disobeyed her mother’s request to ride with her on the last day of her life, she also recognizes that if she had done so, she would have been killed.

In 1944 trains arrived inside the Birkenau camp within a few yards of the two main gas chambers which are shown in the background

The photo above shows prisoners who have been brought inside the Birkenau camp; the tall chimneys of Crematorium II and Crematorium III can be seen in the background.  Crematorium II (Krema II) is on the left and Crematorium III is on the right.  Trucks were needed only for the elderly Jews who could not walk. The photo below shows Jews who are waiting for the trucks.

Jews waiting for a truck to take them to the gas chamber

According to Rebecca Hauser’s story, the prisoners were given the choice to live or die.  If they were in good enough condition to walk to the shower room, they would live.  The shower room at Birkenau was in the building shown below, which was located about a mile from where the trains stopped.

The Sauna building at Birkenau where prisoners took a shower and had their heads shaved

In the photo below, two women who have chosen to walk, head north toward the Sauna building. Note that the SS man has directed the women to the left, which is the direction of the Sauna.

Two women who have chosen to walk to the shower after going through the selection process at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Rebecca Hauser’s story of how she survived the Holocaust clears up a lot.  The tall SS man in the photo above is politely asking each new arrival “Do you want to walk to the shower or do you want to wait for a truck to take you?”  The two women in the photo have chosen to walk and they are headed north toward the Sauna where they will take a shower and live to tell their story to university students years later.

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