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April 30, 2012

Student trip to Auschwitz sponsored by the Holocaust Education Trust

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 5:15 pm

I like to read newspaper accounts of the student trips from the UK to Auschwitz.  I always learn something new.

In a recent article in the Westminster Chronicle, which you can read here, I learned this startling new information:

We stopped at the point [in Auschwitz-Birkenau] where the men were separated from the women and children, and where the prisoners who were deemed unfit to work were taken straight to the main gas chambers. All that remains of the [gas] chambers is a pile of rubble, as they were demolished when the camp was liberated.

The gas chambers were demolished WHEN the camp was liberated?  According to the official Holocaust history, after the Nazis abandoned Auschwitz on Jan. 18, 1945, they came back to the camp twice to blow up the gas chambers in order to destroy the evidence BEFORE the Soviet liberators arrived.

Did something get lost in translation?  Did a tour guide at Birkenau really tell the British students that the Soviets demolished the gas chambers WHEN THE CAMP WAS LIBERATED?  That’s Holocaust denial — punishable by 5 years in prison in 19 countries!!!

But wait!  There’s more.  This quote from the article tells how the buildings in the main Auschwitz camp were built:

We were met by a guide who walked with us through the main entrance and into some of the buildings constructed by slave labour.

Read any history book about Auschwitz and you will learn that the buildings in the main camp were originally built for migratory farm workers, who stayed there between jobs in the seasonal work on large German estates. This farm labor exchange was built in a district of the town of Auschwitz, called Zazole, in 1916. Auschwitz was then in Galicia, a province in the Austro-Hungarian sector of the former country of Poland, which had been divided between the Russians, Austrians and Prussians (Germans) in 1795.  At the time that the concentration camp was opened in Auschwitz, this area had been incorporated into the Greater German Reich; it was not part of German-occupied Poland.

Barrack building at Auschwitz was built in 1916

Barrack building at Auschwitz was built in 1916

There were 22 buildings in the Auschwitz farm labor camp, which was originally built in 1916.  14 of the buildings were originally only one story high. The Nazis remodeled these buildigs into two story buildings with attic space. In the photo above, you can see a slight difference in the color of the bricks on the upper floors.

Did the Germans use slave labor to build these buildings in 1916?  If they did, it is news to me.

This quote from the article gives more new information about Auschwitz:

First comes a display of hair cuttings from women who had their heads shaved, their hair used on an industrial scale to weave material for guards’ uniforms.

So that’s why the hair was cut from the heads of the women.  It was used to make hair shirts for the Auschwitz guards!

Apparently the tour guides do not tell the students that the heads of the prisoners were shaved in an attempt to get rid of the lice that spreads typhus.

Prosthetic limbs and crutches on display at Auschwitz

A display case in Room 5 of Block 5, pictured above, is filled with the artificial legs and crutches which were brought to the Auschwitz camp by incoming prisoners. My tour guide in 1998 explained that the wounded Polish war veterans from World War I accounted for most of this huge collection.

This quote from the news article has a different explanation for this display:

Then there were prosthetic limbs, crutches and sticks taken from disabled prisoners who had been taken straight to the gas chambers, along with piles of glasses worn by the men and women, suitcases bearing the names of prisoners, and children’s shoes and clothes.

So disabled prisoners were brought to Auschwitz to be gassed?  I thought disabled people were sent to Hartheim Castle in Austria to be gassed.

This quote from the news article is about the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp:

We continued on, deep in thought, to the most sinister of all the buildings, the gas chamber.

It was a little like a factory inside – just a bare room with a hole in the ceiling. You would have no idea what happened in there without knowing the background. Or at least until you see the crematoriums and their large furnaces, built to dispose of the bodies of thousands of people.

You can read about the gas chamber in the main camp on my website here, and you can read about the four holes in the ceiling here.

One of the reconstructed holes in the ceiling of the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp

I don’t think the students should be taken to see the gas chamber. To see the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp is to become a Holocaust denier.

In the gas chamber in the main camp, there is no way to heat the Zyklon-B pellets to release the gas and no way to vent the gas from the room.  There is no container in which to put the pellets, and it would have been a problem to retrieve the pellets from the floor after the gassing.  The gas chamber is right next to the crematory room and there would have been danger of an explosion.

For years, the guides at Auschwitz told tourists that the gas chamber was original.  Now, at least, they admit that it is a reconstruction, done by the Soviets.  It is now time for the tour guides to tell student visitors that the brick buildings in the main camp were built in 1916, but not by using “slave labor.”

April 29, 2012

April 29, 1945 — the day that Dachau was liberated by American soldiers

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — furtherglory @ 9:26 am

Prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp after they were liberated

Prisoners at Dachau celebrating the liberation of the camp

You can read all about the liberation of Dachau on my website here.

The online Ventura County Star newspaper has an article about a soldier who was with the American soldiers who liberated the camp. This quote is from the newspaper:

On Sunday, Congregation Am Hayam in Ventura held its first Jewish Heritage Celebration to commemorate the 64th anniversary of Israeli independence and the 67th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau. Sandy Lebman, an Am Hayam member, was the featured speaker.

In 1945, he had just turned 20 and was serving as an Army radio gunner in the 42nd “Rainbow” Infantry Division. He was part of a seven-man reconnaissance team that came upon a walled-in area he guessed might be a POW camp. Shots rang out, and Lebman jumped back into an armored car and told the driver to rush the gate.

“I began firing from the turret with my machine gun and wiped out all the guards,” he said. “I will never forget what I saw when we broke into that crematorium where these walking skeletons were shoveling dead bodies from a stack and throwing them into the furnaces.”

Lebman looked down and saw an arm moving on a body buried in the pile. “My first thought was: Could any of these bodies or inmates be my relatives?”

When Lebman was 15 and growing up in Ohio, his father was told to stop sending money to his parents and siblings in Poland because, “They were all gone.” The boy vowed that day that as soon as he graduated from high school he would join the Army “and wipe them (the Nazis) all out.”

In Yiddish, Lebman told the Dachau crematorium workers, “Ich bin yuden!” (“I am a Jew!”) He said he will never forget the look in their eyes when they realized he was a U.S. soldier there to liberate them.

You can read about the role of the 42nd Division in the liberation of Dachau on my website here.

April 27, 2012

Where is the “cement wall” in which Jews were buried at Dachau?

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

On April 23, 2012 there was an article in the online StarPhoenix in which I read the following:

[Holocaust survivor] Elly Gotz ran his fingers across a cement wall two years ago when he returned to Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp from which he was liberated in 1945.

“We visited graves, visited the construction site,” Gotz said Sunday before a speech to the Saskatoon Jewish community. “I touched the cement wall in which my friends are buried. We lost people who fell into the cement and drowned.”

Can someone please tell me where this “cement wall” is located? I am assuming that there is a concrete wall somewhere at the former Dachau concentration camp where Jews fell into the concrete before it was set — and the bodies were never pulled out. I am amazed that the Nazis would tolerate such a sloppy construction job, and leave a concrete wall with bodies buried inside it, so that it could be seen by future generations.

I have been to the Dachau Memorial site several times over the years, and I have not seen any bulges in the concrete walls around the camp that would indicate that there is a body “buried” there.  Maybe he means the wall at the execution site, which is now almost entirely covered by vines.

Concrete wall at Dachau where prisoners were executed by shooting

Concrete wall around the Dachau concentration camp on the east side

The street that goes past the Dachau camp (on the right) and the wall around the camp (on the left)

Catholic Convent behind a concrete wall on the north side

There was a concrete DITCH on the west side of the Dachau camp, as shown in the photo below, taken when the camp was liberated.  Is that what he is talking about?  It is more likely that someone would fall into a concrete ditch than a concrete wall.

Concrete ditch on the west side of the Dachau concentration camp, April 1945

Gotz said “We visited graves, visited the construction site.”  Maybe he was talking about Leitenburg, the hill where bodies were buried in mass graves near Dachau.

Wall around the Leitenberg grave site near Dachau

The whole area of the mass graves at Leitenberg is surrounded by a wall, about 3 feet high, which you can see in the photograph above. On this short section of the wall, there are plaques with names of the Jewish victims who are buried in the mass graves.  Is this the wall that Gotz touched?  (Jews were not buried inside the concrete of this wall.)

April 25, 2012

Sign at Dachau Memorial Site tells visitors that the gas chamber there was used

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:49 am

When American soldiers of the US Seventh Army arrived on April 29, 1945 to liberate the concentration camp at Dachau, they found that the inmates in the camp, who were predominantly Communists and other anti-Nazi political prisoners, had organized into an International Committee, headed by a Belgian medical doctor named Albert Guérisse, who was a captured British SOE agent.

Guérisse was using the fake name of Patrick O’Leary and pretending to be Canadian. Patrick O’Leary spoke perfect English and he and his fellow Committee members were very anxious to give a guided tour of the camp to the American liberators and the newspaper reporters who accompanied them. They particularly wanted to show them the five gas chambers outside the prison compound in the new crematorium building, named Baracke X.

Photo of Barracke X taken a few days after Dachau was liberated

The Dachau Memorial Site is still under the control of the International Committe of Dachau.  That is why the sign, shown in the photo below, tells visitors to the Dachau Memorial Site today, that a gas chamber in the Barracke X building was used to gas individual prisoners and small groups. So what are the names of the individuals who were gassed?  Sadly, no one knows.

Sign outside the large crematorium at Dachau

When I visited Dachau in May 2001, the sign shown in the photo below was inside what looked like a shower room in Barracke X.

This sign was inside the Dachau “gas chamber” from May 1965 to May 2003

In May 1965, a portable sign, which said in 5 languages that it was “never used as a gas chamber” or “never put into operation,” was placed in the Dachau gas chamber when a Memorial Site on the grounds of the former concentration camp was first opened to the public. This sign was still there when I visited the Memorial Site in May 2001, but by May 2003, it had been removed.

The English version of the sign read: Gas Chamber disguised as a “shower room” – never used as a gas chamber. This implies that the room may have been used for something other than a gas chamber, like maybe a shower room.

When the American liberators arrived on April 29, 1945, the Baracke X building had been in existence for two years but, according to the sign  that was shown to visitors from May 1965 to May 2003, the room marked “Brausebad” had never been used as a gas chamber.  When the liberators arrived, the undressing room, next to the Brausebad, was furnished with soap and fresh towels, indicating that the “gas chamber” might have been used as a shower room, except that the shower heads, as seen today, are not connected to any pipes, neither water pipes nor gas pipes. If the room marked “Brausebad” was not used for gassing, nor for showers, this means that three rooms (the waiting room, undressing room and shower room) were not used for anything for two years, yet in the midst of all the chaos in the camp in the last days of the war, soap and towels were still kept in the undressing room so that the American liberators would not suspect that the shower room was really a homicidal gas chamber.

Photo taken by American soldier Sidney Blau on April 30, 1945 — the day after Dachau was liberated

The U.S. Seventh Army’s caption on the photo above was this:

Gas chambers, conveniently located to the crematory, are examined by a soldier of the U.S. Seventh Army. These chambers were used by Nazi guards for killing prisoners of the infamous Dachau concentration camp.

Note that the caption on the photo said “Gas chambers” (plural); there were four doors into four small rooms, plus the room that looked like a shower room. The door shown in the photo above has the word “Gaszeit” (Gas Time) written on it. No explanation was given by the American liberators for how the victims were persuaded to go through the four doors with the word Gas Time on them, nor why the largest of the five gas chambers in the Barracke X building had the word “Brausebad” (Shower Bath) written above the door.

We now know that the door shown in the photo above was a door into a disinfection chamber where the clothing of the prisoners was disinfected with Zyklon-B to kill the lice that spreads typhus.

Beginning in February 1942, Jews in Germany and the German-occupied countries were rounded up by the Nazis and deported to the East, according to plans made at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942.

In April 1942, the decision was made to build a new crematorium with four ovens at Dachau; four disinfection chambers and a homicidal gas chamber were to be included in the new building which was to be called Baracke X.

On the blueprints for Baracke X, the homicidal gas chamber was called a shower room, but each of the four disinfection chambers was called a Gaskammer, the German word for gas chamber. An order was issued from Berlin on July 23, 1942 to begin construction of Baracke X at a cost of 150,000 Reichsmark.

By the time that Baracke X was finished in 1943, millions of European Jews had already been killed in the gas chambers at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor after being transported to the East, and millions more were destined to be sent to the death camps at Auschwitz and Majdanek. Dachau was mainly a camp for Communist political prisoners, anti-Fascist resistance fighters, most of whom were Catholic, and Soviet POWs.  When Dachau was liberated, most of the Jews there had only recently arrived, after being evacuated from other camps.

If it is true, as the sign at the Dachau Memorial Site now tells visitors, that prisoners were gassed at Dachau, why were none of the staff members, who were put on trial by the American Military Tribunal, charged with gassing these prisoners?  Simple.  The names of the victims are unknown.  The AMT charged the Germans only with crimes committed against persons who were from the Allied countries.  Since the names are unknown, it cannot be determined whether or not they were citizens of Allied countries.

Nerin E. Gun wrote in his book Day of the Americans that he was given the job of taking down the names of Hungarian Jewish women as they entered the Dachau gas chamber, since he could speak Hungarian.  Hungary was an ally of Germany, so these victims didn’t count, as far as the rules of the AMT were concerned.

There is a famous document called the Lachout document which is very controversial.  You can see a photo of the original document here.  On the famous Nizkor website, you can read here that the Lachout document is a fake.  On the equally famous IHR website, you can read here that the Lachout document is genuine.

The English translation of the Lachout document is reprinted below:

Military Police Service Vienna, Oct. 1, 1948
10th. copy
Circular No 31/48

1. The Allied Investigation Commission has established so far
that no persons were killed by the use of poison gas in the
following concentration camps: Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald,
Dachau, Flossenbürg, Gross-Rosen, Mauthausen and its
extension camps, Natzweiler, Neuengamme, Niederhagen
(Wewelsburg), Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen, Stutthof,

In all these cases it could be proved that the confessions
were the result of torture and the testimonies were false.

This fact has to be taken into account in war crime
investigations and interrogations.

Former concentration camp prisoners testifying that persons,
especially Jews, were killed with poison gas in these
concentration camps, are to be informed of this finding by the
Allied Investigation Commissions. Should they insist in their
testimony, a charge of false testimony is to be filed against

2. Paragraph 1 of circular 15/48 can be canceled.

The commander of the
Military Police Service:
Mueller, Major

After Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, the official report of the US Seventh Army was printed as a book entitled Dachau Liberated: The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army, Released Within Days of the Camp’s Liberation by Elements of the 42nd and 45th Divisions. The Report was based on two days of interviewing 20 political prisoners at Dachau; the prisoners told the Americans that both the shower room and the four disinfection chambers were used as homicidal gas chambers.

The following quote is from The Official Report:

“When the American troops arrived on 29 April 1945, there were approximately 32,500 estimated internees of all nationalities, the Poles predominating. During this period, the camp was notorious for its cruelty, but within the last six or eight months, some ‘token’ improvement was noted in the treatment of the internees. However, the new crematorium was completed in May 1944, and the gas chambers, a total of five, were used for the executions and the disposals of the bodies.”

(The Baracke X building and the five gas chambers were actually completed in May 1943.)

According to The Official Report, there was a total of 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944. The report claimed that these Jews had been brought to Dachau to be executed and that they were gassed in the gas chamber disguised as a shower room and also in the four smaller gas chambers, which the staff at the Dachau Memorial Site now claims are delousing chambers.

By November 1945, it was known that the 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944 had been transferred to the eleven Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau to work in munitions factories and had not been gassed in the five gas chambers at Dachau, as stated in The Official Report that was written within days after the camp was liberated.

The Report of the Atrocities Committed at Dachau Concentration Camp, signed by Col. David Chavez, Jr., JAGD, 7 May 1945 is quoted below:

“The new building had a gas chamber for executions… the gas chamber was labeled “shower room” over the entrance and was a large room with airtight doors and double glassed lights, sealed and gas proof. The ceiling was studded with dummy shower heads. A small observation peephole, double glassed and hermetically sealed was used to observe the conditions of the victims. There were grates in the floor. Hydrogen cyanide was mixed in the room below, and rose into the gas chamber and out the top vents.”

Today, the “grates in the floor” are closed up and no one is allowed to enter the basement of the Barracke X building to determine if the Zyklon-B gas could have been put into the gas chamber through the grates.  The “top vents” were two light fixture boxes, from which the light fixtures had been removed.

Although tour guides at the Dachau Memorial site tell visitors that the gas chamber at Dachau was used, they don’t go into details about how the gas was put into the room.

April 24, 2012

The atrocity at Nammering, Germany in the last days of World War II…

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 1:58 pm

In the photo below, taken on Sunday May 6, 1945, American soldiers are showing some citizens of Nammering a sign that has been erected in their town.  American soldiers discovered the atrocity at Nammering on April 28, 1945, one day before the Dachau concentration camp was liberated.

Sign erected at Nammering, Germany in 1945 Photo Credit: USHMM courtesy of Seymour Schenkman

This quote is from the USHMM website which shows the photograph above:

An American soldier stands next to a sign erected by the U.S. Army to mark the site of the Nammering atrocity. It reads: “In eternal memory. Here lie 800 martyrs who were murdered by Nazi executioners in April 1945. Rest in peace.”

Here is the back story of the Nammering atrocity, as told on the USHMM website:

On April 19, 1945, a freight train with nearly 4,500 prisoners from Buchenwald pulled onto the railroad siding at Nammering. The train had been destined for Dachau, but at Plattling it was diverted towards Nammering because of damage to the railroad caused by Allied bombing.

Once in Nammering, some of the local inhabitants attempted to give the prisoners food and water, but these provisions were stolen by the 150 SS and police officers guarding the train. The commanding officer in charge, Lieutenant Hans Meerbach (sic), ordered during the halt that the bodies of the dead be removed from the train and cremated. This work proceeded too slowly for him, however, and prisoners were forced to carry the bodies of the dead to a nearby mass grave in a ravine roughly 500 yards from the train.

There the prisoners carrying the corpses were shot by the guards and they were also buried in the grave. Altogether 524 prisoners were shot and nearly 800 were interred in the mass grave. The bodies were then covered with lime and the grave was flooded to speed up decomposition.

Those 3,100 prisoners who had remained on the train were sent on to Dachau, where they were liberated…

Bodies of prisoners that were exhumed from a mass grave at Nammering, Germany in April 1945

According to Dachau, A Guide to its Contemporary History by Hans-Günther Richardi, the ill-fated train had left Buchenwald on April 7, 1945 carrying 4,500 French, Italian, Austrian, Polish, Russian and Jewish prisoners from the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald. Five hours after the train departed from Weimar, Hans Erich Merbach, the transport leader, was informed that the Flossenbürg concentration camp, their destination, had already been liberated by the Americans. The prisoners at Flossenbürg had been evacuated and were being death marched to Dachau. The train had to be rerouted to Dachau but it took almost three weeks to get there because of numerous delays caused by American planes bombing the railroad tracks.

Due to the bombing of the railroad tracks, the train from Buchenwald had to take several very long detours through Leipzig, Dresden and finally through the town of Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. In the village of Nammering, the train was delayed for four days while the track was repaired, and the mayor of the town brought bread and potatoes for the prisoners, according to Harold Marcuse in his book Legacies of Dachau.  Marcuse did not mention that the food was stolen from the prisoners by SS men.

Continuing on via Pocking, the train was attacked by American planes because they thought it was a military transport, according to Richardi. Many of the prisoners were riding in open gondola cars with no protection from the hail of bullets.

According to the USHMM website, “an American officer in the Nammering area forced SS men collected from a nearby POW camp to exhume the corpses and lay them out on either side of the ravine above the mass grave. The inhabitants of Nammering were then ordered to walk through the gravesite, and the bodies were buried in the surrounding towns of Eging am See, Aicha vom Wald, Nammering, and Fuerstenstein.”

The photo below shows that civilians in the town of Nammering were forced to dig individual graves for the prisoners.  Note that there are some women and young girls shown in the photo.

Civilians in town of Nammering were ordered to dig graves for the prisoners

The following quote is from this website:

On 14 April Himmler sent a telegram to the commandant at Flossenbürg, ordering a full evacuation and specifying, “No prisoner may fall into enemy hands alive.”

An assault on prisoners quite similar to the one reported in the captions [on the photographs on this website] had taken place just before it, and apparently in the same vicinity. On 7 April 4480 prisoners were dispatched by train from Buchenwald, destined for Dachau, but the train was diverted to the town of Nammering, near Passau, and there, on 19 April, about 800 prisoners were shot or burnt by the SS. The killing was halted only after a protest by local farmers and a priest. On 26 April the remaining prisoners were sent on to Dachau. Shortly thereafter, on orders from the commander of the American forces who had liberated the area, residents of several nearby towns were forced to bury the victims of the massacre. Among the Germans who were forced to participate were people from Nammering. There are close parallels between this train of events and the one described in several captions in the Flossenbürg collection. These captions, too, report the massacre of about 800 prisoners in transit in April 1945. Again the people of Nammering are noted, and in this case they are accused (note photo #46864) of having participated in the killing. The captions portray the victims as inmates from Flossenbürg, rather than Buchenwald, and report that they had been sent out on 20 April, whereas the massacre of the prisoners from Buchenwald appears, as previously noted, to have taken place on the 19th. Perhaps there was in fact only one massacre, with a confusion on dates and the identity of the victims. Possibly there were in fact two separate incidents, coincidentally close in time and in location.

Hans Eric Merbach, the man in charge of the train that stopped for four days in Nammering, was put on trial by the American Military Tribunal.  Merbach’s crime was that he was part of the “common plan” to kill the Buchenwald prisoners because he had prevented the escape of most of the prisoners from the train. Merbach said that he could not release the prisoners because “every time a prisoner escaped the most incredible things were happening among the civilian population.” (more…)

April 23, 2012

How the citizens of Dachau were punished for not helping the Dachau prisoners…

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:28 am

Yesterday I blogged about how the residents of the town of Dachau did nothing to help the prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp.  Or at least, they didn’t do enough.  This makes visitors to the camp today very angry.

Today I am writing about how the citizens of Dachau were punished by the American liberators because they had allegedly ignored the suffering of the Dachau prisoners.

According to Harold Marcuse, in his book Legacies of Dachau, after the liberation “a group of Dachau Nazi elite was forced to tour the Dachau crematorium on 8 May 1945.” There they were made to look at the naked, emaciated bodies of the innocent victims of Nazi barbarity, piled up in the mortuary room right next to the gas chamber.

Dead bodies found in the morgue room next to the gas chamber at Dachau when the camp was liberated

Young boys in the Hitler Youth were brought to the camp and forced to look at the corpses on the Death Train.

Boys in the Hitler Youth were forced to look at the prisoners on the “Death Train” at Dachau

A film, made during a visit of German citizens to a concentration camp, was included in a movie called Todesmühlen (Death Mills). This movie was part of the re-education program for the German people, who were made to feel personally responsible for what happened in all the concentration camps.

According to Sybille Steinbacher, who wrote a book entitled Dachau: The Town and the Concentration Camp, the US Army commandant of the town after the liberation spoke angrily to the 30 Dachauers on the day that they were brought to see the camp. He told them, “As punishment for the brutality that the town tolerated next door to it, it should be sacked and turned into ashes!”

Steinbacher’s book was written and published in German under the title: Dachau, die Stadt und das Konzentrationslager in der NS-Zeit: Die Untersuchung einer Nachbarschaft (Munchner Studien zur neueren und neuesten Geschichte) It is no longer in print.

The Dachau town priest, Father Friedrich Pfanzelt, who was among the visitors, pleaded with the Americans not to destroy the town. In a series of articles in 1981, a Dachau newspaper, The Dachauer Nachrichten, wrote about how the priest saved the town: “On his knees, the prelate pleaded for mercy for Dachau.”

According to Peter Wyden, author of  The Hitler Virus, 90 percent of the residents of Dachau were Catholic. Regarding Father Pfanzelt, Wyden wrote: “Then, from the pulpit of his St. Jacob’s Church three days later, the priest set in motion Dachau’s great trauma, the protestation of innocence, the denial of guilt that would never leave the community.”

Of all people, Father Pfanzelt should have been aware of the atrocities committed inside the Dachau concentration camp. According to Wyden, “For years the SS had extended him the privilege of conducting Sunday services in the KZ. And he had reciprocated with many ingratiating letters (which Steinbacher found) and had taken pride in his cordial relations with most of the camp commandants.”

Father Pfanzelt died in 1958 without ever confirming or denying that he had saved the town from the wrath of the Americans.

From 1942 until the end of the war, the parish of St. Jakob had organized a large-scale project to send food packages to the prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp. Farmers and business owners in Dachau donated food and medicine to the prisoners, which the SS allowed them to send to the camp.  But it wasn’t enough.  The photo below shows French Resistance fighters after they were liberated from the camp.

French Resistance fighters were starving at the Dachau camp

In the last days of the war, the Nazis released many of the clergymen in the camp, a few weeks before the American Seventh Army arrived to liberate the camp. The German and Austrian priests who were released from the camp on March 27, 1945 came to the parish church of St. Jakob’s where they were cared for until they were strong enough to get back to their homes.

Catholic church in the town of Dachau is on the left side of the photo

The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army devoted a lot of space to “The Townspeople of Dachau.” According to the Report, the townspeople would tell the Americans: “Wir sind aberall belogen worden.” (We have all been lied to.)

According to the The Official Report, the townspeople admitted to the Americans that they knew the camp existed, that they saw work-details of inmates passing through the streets under guard on their way to the 12 work sites in the town, that “in some instances” (particularly in the years 34 and 35) the SS behaved brutally – towards the townspeople.

The townspeople would say, “Was können wir tun?” (What could we have done?)

According to The Official Report, “this statement would seem to represent the most popular attitude in the town of Dachau at present.” The townspeople told the Americans that in the last years of the war, large numbers of the concentration camp guards were men who had been drafted into the SS against their will. German prisoners in the Dachau camp were also recruited to fight on the battlefield with the Waffen-SS in the last days of the war.

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

Several inmates also told the story of how, in last October, a whole SS Regiment was recruited – from of all sources, the inmates of Dachau Concentration Camp. These men were all Reichsdeutsche and under 40 years old. They were given no choice.  […]

Although the population as a whole realized the utter bestiality of the SS and the nauseating occurrences beyond the barred gates of the Camp, they were afraid even to say anything – much less do anything – because the shadow of the Camp hung over them as well.  […]

These people admit that the town as a whole did a thriving business as a result of the presence of the Camp and its attendant SS “Bonzen” (Big Shots) – and it is perhaps not without significance that the most outspoken anti-Nazis were people who, so to speak, could afford to be so by reason of the fact that their business did not bring them in daily contact with the SS.

The day before the Dachau camp was liberated, acting Commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss had opened up the well-stocked warehouses in the SS Training Camp, and the food and other supplies were distributed to the starving inmates by the Americans. Dachau residents had to fend for themselves, and were forced to provide food for the released prisoners as well.

After the Dachau camp was liberated, the American army appointed Dachau resident Hans Zauner as acting mayor, according to Harold Marcuse, who wrote that the outraged occupying soldiers required the townspeople to supply clothing and foodstuffs for the liberated inmates, and threatened the acting mayor with dire consequences if he did not fulfill the quotas.

Dachau residents were forced to bring bread to the camp after it was liberated

The mayor was forced to give coupons for free clothing to the ragged survivors, which soon exhausted the stocks of Dachau’s two largest clothing suppliers, according to Marcuse, who also wrote the following about the aftermath of the liberation:

In his memoirs Zauner described how on 1 May two soldiers, without a word of warning or explanation, pulled him out of his office, pushed him down the stairs and set him on the hood of their jeep, whereupon they took the 59-year-old for a “joy ride” around the hilly town. Eventually the GIs brought Zauner back to city hall and let him dismount.

April 22, 2012

Why the citizens of Dachau did nothing to save the Dachau prisoners…

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: — furtherglory @ 12:25 pm

As the 67th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau on April 29, 1945 comes closer, I expect that there will be a lot of blog posts, such as this one, written by people who have visited the Memorial Site, who will ask why the residents of the town of Dachau did not rise up and liberate the death camp that was right in their back yards.  Why didn’t the citizens of Dachau try to stop the gassing, torture, starvation and humiliation of the Jews in the concentration camp?

The citizens of Dachau could drive past the wall around the camp, which faced Alte Römerstrasse, and see the guard towers shown in the photo below.

Guard towers at Dachau could be seen by the Dachau citizens passing by on Alte Römerstrasse. (The towers shown in this 1997 photo are reconstructions)

Houses, built in the 1990ies, which are on Pater-Roth-Strasse, the street that borders the former Dachau concentration camp. The Dachau bunker is on the left.

In today’s world, even the murder of one innocent minority person is cause for a mass protest, as in the Trayvon Martin case.  Why didn’t the citizens of Dachau protest when the first Nazi concentration camp was opened at Dachau in March 1933?

I wanted to know the answer to this question myself, so in 2001, I went to the town of Dachau and stayed there for a whole week.

The town hall in the historic town of Dachau

Before the Dachau camp was opened in its present location, prisoners were rounded up and put into temporary prisons set up in many cities in Germany.  The building shown in the photo below was where political prisoners, who opposed the Nazis, were rounded up in March 1933 and housed in the town of Dachau before the Dachau camp opened.

Political prisoners were put into this building in the town of Dachau before the Dachau concentration camp opened

This was way back in 1933, when there were 12 Jews still living in the town of Dachau.  Why didn’t the Jews in the town lead a protest march?

As the saying goes, you had to be there in order to understand why the citizens of Dachau didn’t protest the round-up of political prisoners in Germany.

On March 20, 1933, just eleven days after becoming Munich’s Chief of Police, Heinrich Himmler called a press conference to announce the establishment of the Dachau concentration camp.  The concept of a concentration camp was invented by the British during the Boer war.  The German people had never heard of such a thing, so why should they protest?

The next day the press announced: “On Wednesday, the first concentration camp, with a capacity of 5000, will be established in the neighborhood of Dachau. Here all Communist party officials, and as far as the security of the State requires, those of the “Reichsbanner” (uniformed wing of the Social Democratic party for purposes of self-protection) and of the Social Democrats will be interned…”

Heinrich Himmler was acting under his authority as the Chief of Police in Munich.  Most people know that Himmler was the Reichsführer-SS.  Chief of the Munich Police was his second job.  This requires some explanation, so bear with me.

House where Nazis took over the town of Dachau on March 9, 1933

The beige building on the left in the photograph above houses various government offices in the town of Dachau. This building’s historical significance relates to the take-over of the town on March 9, 1933 when the Nazis seized control of all the state and local governments in Germany after gaining control of the federal government in Germany’s last Congressional election on May 5, 1933.  All state and local offices in Germany had to be supervised now by a member of the Nazi party.  Heinrich Himmler was given the job of supervising the Munich Police.

On that day, March 9, 1933, SA and SS troops marched into the town of Dachau and hoisted the party flag of the Nazis with its swastika emblem over the beige building, which was the District Administration Building. A Nazi flag was also put on the Old Town Hall, which is shown in the previous photo above.  The people of the town didn’t protest because they thought of Hitler and the Nazis as their saviors from the Communists, whom they thought to be much worse.

The Nazi take-over of Germany was the culmination of a chain of events that began with a fire on the night of February 27, 1933 which burned the Congressional building, called the Reichstag. The day after the fire, a “Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State” was announced by German President Paul von Hindenberg. This document suspended the seven sections of the Weimar Constitution which guaranteed the civil rights of the German people. The decree also ended state’s rights with the statement that “if in any German state, the measures necessary for the restoration of public security and order are not taken, the Reich government may temporarily take over the powers of the supreme authority in such a state in order to restore security.” Although intended to be an emergency measure, the decree was never rescinded.  (Many people believe that the burning of the Reichstag was a “false flag” operation, perpetrated by the Nazis themselves, so that they would have an excuse to take over the country.)

Why didn’t the citizens of Dachau rise up and immediately protest the Nazi take-over of the town on March 9, 1933?  As I said before, you had to be there.  The photo below tells the story.

Grave of the men who defended the town of Dachau from the Communists

The grave shown in the photograph above is the final resting place of four men of the Freikorps Görlitz, a militia group which fought the Red Army of the Communists in 1919. The names on the grave stone shown above are 2nd Lieutenant Bertram, Muskateer Labuke, Private Hauk, and Gunner Hilbig. They were killed near the village of Pellheim, just outside the town of Dachau, on April 30, 1919. They were engaged in a battle against the Communists who had set up a Soviet government in the state of Bavaria, after overthrowing the imperial government, under their Jewish leader Kurt Eisner, on November 7, 1918.

The memorial stone for the men who died while liberating Dachau from the Communists was set in place on April 29, 1934. Ironically, on this same date, eleven years later, the American Seventh Army liberated the political prisoners, who were their Communist allies, from the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau.

Many of the men who later became top Nazi leaders fought with other divisions of the Freikorp, including Heinrich Himmler.  Born in 1900, Himmler was too young to join the German army in World War I, but he did fight with the Freikorps in their defeat of the Bavarian Soviet Republic.

Bavaria was the largest of the German states.  What would Americans have done if Texas had been taken over by Communists, led by a Jew, and turned into a Soviet State?
The first 200 prisoners brought to the Dachau camp on March 22, 1933 were Communists who had been taken into “protective custody” because they were considered to be “enemies of the state.”

But I digress. To get back to the story of Dachau, the first Commandant of Dachau, Hilmar Wäckerle, was charged with murder for the deaths of Louis Schloss on May 16, 1933 and Dr. Alfred Strauss on May 24, 1933. On August 7, 1933, Felix Fechenbach, another Jewish prisoner at Dachau, died in the camp after being punished.  This was the point when the 12 Jews living in the town should have started a formal protest and shut down the Dachau camp.

Wäckerle was never put on trial, but he was dismissed from his position as Commandant and transferred to another camp.

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

April 20, 2012

Holocaust survivor was liberated by the Soviet Army while on the train to the gas chamber on April 23, 1945

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: — furtherglory @ 5:26 pm

I read in a news article here that Marion Blumenthal Lazan, a Holocaust survivor, told a group of middle school students that she was on a train to the gas chamber when the train was liberated by Soviet Soldiers on April 23, 1945.

This quote is from the article in The Tribune, a newspaper in Greeley, CO:

Lazan’s family was liberated by the Soviet Army while on the train to the gas chamber on April 23, 1945. The war between Russia and Germany kept her alive, she said. The 10-hour train trip became two weeks because the train was blocked, and it never arrived at its destination. She spent her last two weeks in captivity crammed into a train with no food, dirty water and no sanitation.

Germany was losing the war in April 1945 and the war was very nearly over.  Yet the Nazis continued their genocial killing of the Jews until the very end.  Regarding the last days of the war and the killing of the Jews, Daniel Goldhagen wrote in his best-selling book Hitler’s Willing Executioners :

Finally, the fidelity of the Germans to their genocidal enterprise was so great as seeming to defy comprehension. Their world was disintegrating around them, yet they persisted in genocidal killing until the end.

The train to the gas chamber was coming from Bergen-Belsen, but where was it going?  I learned at the Bergen-Belsen memorial site that there were three trains headed to the Theresienstadt camp in April 1945.

Bergen-Belsen was an exchange camp, set up for exchanging Jews for Germans being held as prisoners by the Allies.  It became a concentration camp only in the last months of the war.

According to a book written by Eberhard Kolb, which I purchased at the Bergen-Belsen memorial site, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler had opened a special section at the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp on July 8, 1944, where 1,683 Hungarian Jews from Budapest were brought.

The Jews in the Hungarian section were treated better than all the others at Bergen-Belsen. They received better food and medical care and were not required to work. They wore their own clothes, although they were required to wear a yellow Star of David patch.

The Bergen-Belsen camp had different categories of prisoners, and the Hungarian Jews were in the category of Preferential Jews (Vorzugsjuden) because they were considered desirable for exchange purposes.

Marion Blumenthal was probably in the Vorzugsjuden section of Bergen-Belsen described above by Eberhard Kolb.

I learned the following information on my trip to the Bergen-Belsen memorial site:

Altogether, there was a total of 2,896 Jews released for ransom, including a transport of 1,210 Jews from the Theresienstadt Ghetto who entered Switzerland on February 7, 1945.

After the departure of the second Hungarian transport to Switzerland in December, more transports from Budapest continued to arrive at Bergen-Belsen and the Hungarian section remained in existence there until April 1945.

After the Hungarian Jews had entered Switzerland, there were false reports by the Swiss press that the Jews were being ransomed in exchange for asylum for 200 SS officers who were planning to defect. When Hitler heard this, from Ernst Kaltenbrunner who was no friend of Himmler, he ordered all further releases of Jews for ransom to stop. Nevertheless, Himmler continued to release Jews from the concentration camps, as he continued to negotiate with the Allies.

Between April 6 and April 11, the Hungarian Jews were evacuated from Bergen-Belsen on the orders of Himmler who was planning to use them as bargaining chips in his negotiations with the Allies. The Jews in the Star Camp and also in the Neutrals Camp were also evacuated, along with the Hungarians, in three trains which held altogether about 7,000 Jews who were considered “exchange Jews.”

One of these trains arrived with 1,712 people on April 21, 1945 and entered the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Two weeks later the Theresienstadt Ghetto was turned over to the Red Cross, just before Russian troops arrived. The other two trains never made it to Theresienstadt because they had to keep making detours due to frequent Allied air attacks, according to Eberhard Kolb’s book Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945.

One of the trains 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.

Marion Blumenthal was on the train that stopped at the village of Tröbitz.  She was 10 years old and she had been a prisoner of the Nazis for 6 and 1/2 years.

Holocaust survivor who was born in Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:06 am

A regular reader of my blog alerted me to an online news story about a Holocaust survivor, Leila Jabarin, who “was born inside Auschwitz, the most notorious symbol of Nazi Germany’s wartime campaign against Europe’s Jews.”

Unmöglich, you say!  No. It is quite possible that she was born in Auschwitz and lived to tell about it 70 years later.  First of all, I have deduced that she was born in the Auschwitz main camp, not the Birkenau death camp.  This quote from the news story explains it:

Her mother, who was from Hungary, and her father, who was of Russian descent, were living in Yugoslavia when they were sent to the Auschwitz with their two young sons in 1941.

When they took them to Auschwitz, she was pregnant with me, and when she gave birth, the Christian doctor at Auschwitz hid me in bath towels,” she says, explaining how the doctor hid the family for three years under the floor of his house inside the camp.

Her mother worked as a maid at the doctor’s home, while her father was the gardener.

“They used to come back at night and sleep under the floor and my mother used to tell us how the Nazis were killing children, but that this doctor saved us,” she says, recalling how her mother used to feed them on dry bread soaked in hot water with salt.

“I still remember the black and white striped pyjamas and remember terrible beatings in the camp. If I was healthy enough, I would have gone back to see it but I have already had four heart attacks.

The uniforms worn by the prisoners at Auschwitz were blue and light grey stripes.  The women wore skirts and blouses, sometimes of a solid color material.  There were no black and white striped uniforms, as far as I know.

The first systematic selection for the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau was made when a transport of Jews arrived on July 4, 1942.   Dr. Josef Mengele, the famous SS man who made the selections at Birkenau, did not arrive at Auschwitz-Birkenau until May 1943.

Years ago, I read the story of Ruth Elias, a survivor of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, who wrote a book entitled Triumph of Hope. Ruth Elias was one of several women who gave birth to a child at Auschwitz.

Although the men and women were housed in separate barracks at Theresienstadt, Ruth Elias and her husband had conceived a child while she was a prisoner in the Theresienstadt camp, and when she arrived at Birkenau on a transport of Czech prisoners in December 1943, she was three months pregnant. Ruth passed several selections for the gas chamber even though she was obviously pregnant; she and her husband were assigned to the Czech “family camp.” On July 11, 1944, after a selection made by Dr. Mengele, 3,000 prisoners in the Czech family camp, who were not considered fit to work, were sent to the gas chamber, but Ruth passed the selection even though she was in her eighth month of pregnancy. On July 14, 1944, Ruth was sent to Hamburg, Germany to work in clearing rubble from Allied bombing raids.

The thing that most impressed me about Ruth’s story is that, after only four days of working in Hamburg, Ruth Elias was escorted by an SS man, in a private compartment on a passenger train, to the infirmary at Ravensbrück, the women’s concentration camp near Berlin. From there, Ruth and Berta Reich, another prisoner who was nine months pregnant, were soon sent back to Auschwitz on another passenger train. Ruth gave birth to a baby girl at Auschwitz, but Dr. Mengele cruelly ordered her to bind her breasts and not to nurse her child because he wanted to see how long it would take for a baby to die without its mother’s milk.

Mercifully, a woman dentist named Maca Steinberg, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz, obtained some morphine and gave it to Ruth so that she could inject her baby and end its life, after Ruth told her that Dr. Mengele was due to arrive the next morning to take Ruth and her child to the gas chamber.

Berta Reich gave birth a few days later and immediately injected her baby with morphine, then told Dr. Mengele that her child had been stillborn. After saving themselves from certain death in the gas chamber at Auschwitz, both Ruth and Berta were sent to Taucha, a labor camp near Leipzig, which was a sub-camp of Buchenwald.

Gerda Schrage was 24 years old when she was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. She had been in hiding in Berlin during the war, until someone betrayed her to the Gestapo and she was arrested. According to Gerda’s story, as told in the documentary film “Gerda’s Silence,” when she arrived at Auschwitz, she was pregnant by a married man with whom she had had an affair while she was in hiding. Her baby died in her arms at Birkenau because Dr. Mengele was conducting yet another cruel experiment and would not allow her to nurse the baby.

Leila Jabarin was very lucky that she was in the Auschwitz main camp where her mother had no contact with Dr. Mengele.  As for hiding under the floor of the doctor’s house, I interpret this to mean that Leila’s parents were living in the servant’s quarters in the basement of the house.  Why did they have to hide?  Obviously, to escape the notorious Dr. Mengele and the famous Gisella Perl.

To find out more about what happened to babies born in Auschwitz-Birkenau, do a search on Gisella Perl, a Jewish prisoner at Birkenau, who was a gynecologist.  She was from the same place in Romania as Elie Wiesel; she was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 and put to work helping Dr. Mengele.

According to Wikipedia, Gisella Perl “is most famous, however, for saving the lives of hundreds of mothers by aborting their pregnancies, as pregnant mothers were often beaten and killed or used by Dr. Josef Mengele for vivisections.”

April 19, 2012

The liberation of the Dora-Mittelbau (Nordhausen) labor camp by American troops

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

A reader of my blog provided a link to this news report from 2008 about two American veterans who took part in the liberation of Dora-Mittelbau, aka Nordhausen, the famous labor camp where the Germans were building rockets, using the labor of political prisoners. Mittelbau-Dora began as a sub-camp of Buchenwald, but by the end of the war, it was a separate camp with sub-camps of its own.

The article, which was written by Lia Russell, starts off with this quote:

It was a scene beyond their minds’ capacity to process – even now, 63 year later – as Portsmouth natives Jack Lorber and Robert Elliott prepare to observe another Veterans Day.

Lorber, Elliott and the other men of the 786th Tank Battalion and 243rd Engineer Combat Battalion were already seasoned combat veterans by the time they came upon Buchenwald – a notorious Nazi concentration camp near Weimar, Germany. Yet, they described the horrors they witnessed there as worse than seeing their own comrades blown to pieces by land mines and left strewn in frozen fields.

Every one of their senses was assaulted by their initial confrontation with Buchenwald on April 11, 1945 – the terrible smells of human waste and burnt flesh that caught in their throats, the 27,000 surviving inmates who grabbed and hugged and begged them for food, the sounds of moaning, wailing, crying, rejoicing at freedom.

As soon as I read this, I knew these veterans were not talking about the Buchenwald concentration camp.  There were 21,000 survivors of Buchenwald and there was no smell of burnt flesh when the liberators arrived.  The survivors of the Buchenwald main camp were not starving, except maybe the prisoners that the Communists, who ruled the camp, didn’t like.  You can read about the liberation of Buchenwald on my website here.

The 786th Tank Battalion was attached to the 3rd Armored Division which is credited with liberating the Dora-Mittelbau labor camp on April 11, 1945, the same day that the Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated by the 6th Armored Division.  The Dora-Mittelbau camp, located near the town of Nordhausen, had been abandoned by the SS and most of the prisoners had been marched to Bergen-Belsen because the Dora-Mittelbau camp was in a war zone.  Only a handful of prisoners, who were too sick to walk, had been left behind.

Here is a quote from this page of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

On April 11, 1945, the 3rd (Armored Division) discovered the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp. The division first arrived on the scene, reporting back to headquarters that it had uncovered a large concentration camp near the town of Nordhausen. Requesting help from the 104th Infantry Division, the 3rd immediately began transporting some 250 ill and starving prisoners to nearby hospital facilities.

So there were 250 prisoners still in the camp, not 27,000. Note that the USHMM calls Dora-Mittelbau a concentration camp, not a sub-camp of Buchenwald, which is correct.

American soldiers found bodies of prisoners at Dora-Mittelbau that had been killed by American bombs

The famous photo, shown above, which was published in Life magazine in 1945, shows the bodies of prisoners, killed at Dora-Mittelbau, by bombs dropped from American planes.

This website has a video which shows American soldiers carrying the sick prisoners out of the Dora-Mittelbau camp on stretchers.  They were the lucky ones, who had been too sick to march to Bergen-Belsen where they would have most likely died in the typhus epidemic that was in progress.

This video about Dora-Mittelbau shows what the labor camp was like.  At 1.51 minutes in the video, you can see a memorial sign for the “death march” of the prisoners out of the camp before it was liberated.  At 3:45 minutes, you can see the dead bodies laid out in rows.  These prisoners were not killed by the Germans; Germany was trying to win a war so it would have been stupid to kill the workers who were building rockets.  World War II was bad enough without telling lies about it.

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