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April 17, 2012

Two Catholic priests were crucified upside down at Buchenwald

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 7:27 pm

A couple of days ago, I read an article written by Kathy Schiffer on this website.  This quote is from the article:

It was at Buchenwald that two Austrian priests, Otto Neururer and Mathias Spannlang, were crucified upside down on June 5, 1940.

I had never heard about this before I read the article, so I went to Wikipedia to find out more.  According to Wikipedia, it was that evil Nazi Martin Sommer who perpetrated this atrocity.  This quote from Wikipedia tells the story:

Walter Gerhard Martin Sommer (February 8, 1915 – June 7, 1988) was an SS Hauptscharführer (master sergeant) who served as a guard at the concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald. Sommer, known as the “Hangman of Buchenwald” was considered a depraved sadist who reportedly ordered two Austrian priests, Otto Neururer and Mathias Spannlang, crucified upside-down.

Note that Martin Sommer REPORTEDLY ordered this atrocity.  “Reportedly” is only slightly better than “allegedly.”

Wikipedia also says this about Martin Summer, who was put on trial by the Nazis themselves:

After the SS trial Sommer received a reduction in rank and was sentenced to a penal battalion fighting on the Eastern Front where he was wounded in a tank explosion, losing his left arm and right leg. He was taken captive by the Red Army and was detained as P.O.W. until 1950 when his prisoner status was upgraded to war criminal. He was released from Soviet captivity in 1955 as part of the negotiations conducted on behalf of Soviet held German prisoners by Konrad Adenauer.

Karl Otto Koch, the Commandant of Buchenwald, was also put on trial at the same time and he was sentenced to death for ordering the deaths of two prisoners.  How did Martin Sommer get off with such a light sentence after he had ordered the crucifixion of two priests?

I googled some more and found the website where Kathy Schiffer had apparently gotten her information.  Here is a quote from that website:

Neururer was arrested on the charge of “slander to the detriment of German marriage” and interned first in the concentration camp of Dachau and later in Buchenwald. The sadistic tortures to which he was subjected caused incredible suffering, but even so he shared his scarce food rations with prisoners who were even weaker than himself. In the Buchenwald camp he was approached by a prisoner who asked to be baptized. Perhaps he was an agent provocateur. Neururer suspected that the request could be a trap, but his sense of duty did not allow him to refuse. Two days later he was transferred to the much feared “bunker”, which in concentration camps was the place of extreme punishment. There he was hanged upside down until he died on 30 May 1940.

Being “hanged upside down until death” is not crucifixion.  Note also that Neururer was sent from Dachau to Buchenwald.  That doesn’t make any sense.  The priests were sent to Dachau from other camps so they could all be together. Note that the date is also different from the date given by Kathy Schiffer.

I previously blogged here, way back in 2010,  about the priests who were allegedly crucified at Buchenwald.

After a little more searching, I found this website which has some information about Otto Neuruer:

Otto Neururer was one of hundreds of priests who died under SS Nazi persecution.  “He was injected with Malaria by the “doctors” who conducted human lab experiments in the camps during that brutal time.

I believe that this version of the story is the truth.  This quote is from my own website:

Because of the fact that they were exempt from work, the priests were chosen as subjects for medical experiments, conducted by Dr. Klaus Schilling, on a cure for malaria. As a result of these experiments, many of the priests died.

This information is also from my own website:

In 1940, the German bishops and the Pope had persuaded Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to concentrate all the priests imprisoned in the various concentration camps into one camp, and to house them all together in separate blocks with a chapel where they could say Mass.

In early December 1940, the priests already in Dachau were put into Barracks Block 26 near the end of the camp street. Within two weeks, they were joined by around 800 to 900 priests from Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen, Auschwitz and other camps, who were put into Blocks 28 and 30. Block 30 was later converted into an infirmary barrack.

At first, the priests at Dachau were given special privileges such as a ration of wine, a loaf of bread for four men, and individual bunk beds. The priests were not required to work and they were allowed to celebrate Mass.

In October 1941, these privileges were taken away. Only the German priests were now allowed to say Mass. All non-German clergymen, including Poles, Dutchmen, Luxembourgers and Belgians, were removed from Block 26 and sent to Block 28. A wire fence was placed around Block 28 and a sentry stood guard. The non-German priests were now forced to work, just like the rest of the prisoners. Allegedly, this change happened because the Pope had made a speech on the radio in which he condemned the Nazis, and the German bishops had made a public protest about the treatment of the priests.


The Catholic priests were not sent to Dachau just because they were priests. Catholics and Protestants alike were arrested as “enemies of the state” but only if they preached against the Nazi government. An important policy of the Nazi party in Germany was called Gleichschaltung, a term that was coined in 1933 to mean that all German culture, religious practice, politics, and daily life should conform with Nazi ideology. This policy meant total control of thought, belief, and practice and it was used to systematically eradicate all anti-Nazi elements after Hitler came to power.

There were around 20 million Catholics and 20,000 priests in Nazi Germany. The vast majority of the German clergymen and the German people, including the 40 million Protestants, went along with Hitler’s ideology and were not persecuted by the Nazis.


Father William J. O’Malley, S.J. wrote the following regarding the priests who were arrested and sent to Dachau because they were actively helping the underground Resistance against the German occupation of Europe:

The 156 French, 63 Dutch, and 46 Belgians were primarily interned for their work in the Underground. If that were a crime, such men as Michel Riquet, S.J., surely had little defense; he was in contact with most of the leaders of the French Resistance and was their chaplain, writing forthright editorials for the underground press, sequestering Jews, POW’s, downed Allied airmen, feeding and clothing them, providing them with counterfeit papers and spiriting them into Spain and North Africa.


On December 7, 2009, a monument to the late Cardinal Josef Beran, who died in 1969, was unveiled by Prague Archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vik in Prague, a city in the Czech Republic. Father Josef Beran was one of the priests who was a prisoner at Dachau; he was arrested and sent to Dachau after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, on May 27, 1942. Beran was accused of being a member of the Czech Resistance which killed Reinhard Heydrich.


Nerin E. Gun wrote in his book “The Day of the Americans” that Cardinal Faulhaber in Munich sent food packages to Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler right up to the time that the prisoners in the “Honor Bunker” were sent to the Tyrol for their own protection before the camp was liberated. Gun pointed out in his book that Hitler was Catholic and that “he paid his religious dues to the German Catholic Church until the day he died.” Hitler was never excommunicated by the Pope, according to Gun, and he never apostasized.

Here is another paragraph in the article by Kathy Schiffer which contains two mistakes:

Among the Buchenwald survivors were Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel; child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim; Austrian architect and industrial designer Henry P. Glass; and Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Clergy held inside its formidable walls included Yisrael Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel; and Paul Schneider, German pastor, who died at the camp in 1939.

Photo of Paul Schneider hangs in his former cell in the bunker at Buchenwald

According to Wikipedia, Pastor Schneider was executed in his cell when he was injected with poison.  He was  a prisoner in Buchenwald for two years, during which time, he continued to preach against the Nazis from the window of his cell, which finally irritated the SS to the point where they executed him.

I previously blogged about Dietrich Bonhoeffer here.  He was not a survivor of Buchenwald.  He was moved to another camp and hanged on April 9, 1945, two days before Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945.  Yisrael Meir Lau was a survivor of Buchenwald, but he was only 8 years old in 1945; it was after he survived Buchenwald that he became the Chief Rabbi of Israel.  I blogged about him here.

Liberators of WWII concentration camps will join this year’s March of the Living in Poland

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: — furtherglory @ 12:24 pm

In a news article here, I read that

[David] Cohen is one of 16 concentration camp liberators joining Holocaust survivors and some 10,000 high school students from 35 countries on the 25th March of the Living. It’s the first time U.S. WWII vets will be going on the march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, which takes place on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 19.

This part of the news article got my attention:

In west-central Germany, Cohen mainly found small work camps, where enslaved peoples from the Third Reich’s former conquests labored for whatever war industries the Allies hadn’t bombed to smithereens. […]

Today, Cohen doesn’t seem capable of holding a mean thought in his head. One wonders, though, if he despised the Germans 67 years ago.

“Inwardly you do,” Cohen shrugged. “But you have to realize, everywhere you went there were dead bodies, and since we were in Germany they were mostly German. So a certain hardness comes in, it’s like part of our training.”

Cohen fought with the 69th Infantry Division which is credited by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with liberating a sub-camp of Buchenwald.  This quote is from the USHMM website here:

During the fierce battle for Leipzig, the 69th Infantry Division uncovered Leipzig-Thekla, a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp, on April 19, 1945. The camp had been established in September 1943 to supply labor for the German war effort. At its height, Leipzig-Thekla held approximately 1,400 prisoners.

On April 18, 1945, the SS guards had set fire to the barracks housing some 300 inmates and shot those who attempted to escape the flames. Upon arriving at the camp, the 69th immediately began providing for the 90 to 100 survivors. Days later, U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers arrived at the site to document this atrocity. On April 28, 1945, a U.S. Army Protestant chaplain reported that 325 male prisoners, who were too ill or weak to continue working for the German war effort, had been forced into oil-soaked barracks, which were then set aflame. Prisoners who attempted to escape the conflagration were shot by the guards or electrocuted on the electrified fences. According to the report, the swift advance of the 69th prevented the SS guards from committing a similar atrocity at a nearby camp housing some 250 women.

I can’t believe that this atrocity committed by the Germans in the last three weeks of the war is not more well-known. In the middle of a battle for the city of Leipzig, the Germans stopped to burn to death the prisoners in a labor camp.  But they didn’t manage to kill all the prisoners.  Why not?  The German SS soldiers were shooting the prisoners who tried to escape the flames, but they couldn’t manage to kill them all and there were up to 100 survivors.

I previously blogged about Thekla here.

Strangely, it was a men’s barrack that went up in flames, while the women’s barracks were not touched.  It seems to me that the evil Nazis would have targeted the women’s barracks first when they started burning prisoners alive three weeks before the war ended.  They would have made the men suffer by forcing them to listen to the screams of the women while they were being burned alive.

Cohen mentioned that the “war industries were being bombed to smithereens.”  The German “war industries” were located in the concentrations camps.  For example, the main  Buchenwald camp was bombed and prisoners were killed.  Did the Allies also bomb the Thekla sub-camp of Buchenwald and hit one of the prisoners barracks?

From the news article, I got the impression that Cohen did not remember the name of the sub-camp that his division liberated.  He just mentioned that his division liberated Buchenwald.  The burning of prisoners in a barrack at Thekla was no doubt the worst atrocity committed by the SS in World War II and a Jewish liberator of the camp doesn’t remember the name of it?  Something wrong!

April 16, 2012

Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.” Let’s give her a medal!

Filed under: Germany, Uncategorized — furtherglory @ 12:35 pm

There is a big controversy in America about the fact that the wife of Mitt Romney was a stay-at-home mom. Hilary Rosen, a political consultant who advises the Democratic National Committee, said on CNN Wednesday night that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.”  Ann Romney is the mother of five children.  She responded on her Twitter account, writing:  “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

Hilary Rosen was trying to make the point that Mrs. Romney doesn’t know anything about the economy because she was never in the work place.   I think it is the other way around.  Ann Romney was reading books, watching the news on TV, and listening to her husband talk about the economy, while she was “not working a day in her life.”  She is probably more informed than mothers who work outside the home and have no time for anything else.

In Nazi Germany, the role of a mother was highly respected.  In fact, a German mother was given a medal for raising children.  As the mother of five boys, Anne Romney would have been given a medal for her service to her country.

Medal given to mothers in Nazi Germany

A Holocaust survivor of a Sophie’s Choice type selection..

In the news today is the story of Dr. William Samelson, who was the only one of his extended family, of over 50 people, to survive the Holocaust.  He will be speaking at a Holocaust Remembrance ceremony today.  The first part of the news article is quoted below:

In the movie “Sophie’s Choice,” the title character has to choose at Auschwitz which one of her two children would be in a labor camp and which one would go to a gas chamber.

A similar choice faced William Samelson’s mother as Nazis gave her the option of staying with her two sons or going with her 6-year-old daughter. She went with her daughter, and though they were told they’d be resettled, they were sent to their deaths.

Samelson was 11 years old when he began enduring six years of labor and concentration camps at the hands of the Nazis, but he survived.

The photo below was taken on May 26, 1945 when a transport of Hungarian Jews arrived at Auschwitz.  The newly arrived prisoners had to form two lines, men and boys in one line and women and children in another line.  Strangely, Samelson’s mother was given a choice between joining the men’s line with her two sons, or going to her death with her 6-year-old daughter.

Men and women with children form two lines for selection at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I googled “William Samelson” to find out more about this strange exception which the Nazis made for his family and found that he has written an article which you can read in full here.  The title of the article is World Class Assassins, referring to the Nazis who killed 6 million Jews.

Wannsee house where the Final Solution was planned

This is a quote from Dr. Samelson’s article:

All of that (the genocide of the Jews) was brought about as a result of a planned meeting of the finest criminal Nazi minds in a charming Wannsee chalet on the outskirts of Berlin. They met there to implement their leader’s mandate to come up with a practical “solution to the Jewish Question.” (In view of the plans laid out during that meeting, I am inclined to take the liberty of misspelling the first “n” into an “h”, thus resulting in the name Wahnsee—Lake of Insanity—which more accurately describes the memorable site. Dutifully, the assemblage of thugs quickly submitted to their Fuehrer (Hitler) their full-proof (sic) program; the methodical implementation of the murder of all accessible Jews in occupied territories. And they called it “The Final Solution.” (The Holocaust Chronicle, Publications International, Ltd., Lincolnwood, Ill., 2000, pp. 92, 129, ff.).

You can read more about the Wannsee Conference on my website here.

The fatal flaw in “The Final Solution” was that the Nazis allowed at least one young person in each family to live and give testimony about the genocide of the Jews. Many of these young children, who were spared by the Nazis, are telling the world today about what happened at Auschwitz.

Dr. Samelson was allowed to live, even though he was only 11 years old and hardly qualified to do any kind of work; the rule at the Auschwitz “death camp” was death for anyone under 15 or over 45.  Sometimes, the rule was changed so selections were made by measuring the height of the young boys.  In Dr. Samelson’s case, his mother was allowed to choose which of her children would live.  His mother made the supreme sacrifice and went to her death with her daughter, allowing her two sons to live.

Women and children, including some young boys, walking to the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Men selected for labor are walking down the same road

The two photos above show that, after the selections were made, the men who were selected to work walked down the same road as the women and children, who were selected for the gas chamber.  This road led to the Sauna where the men took a shower. The same road also led to Crematorium IV and Crematoriaum V which were two buildings that had gas chambers disguised as shower rooms. The victims did not know until the last minute whether water or gas would come out of the shower faucets, as was shown in the movie Shindler’s List.

Women who were selected for labor went to the Sauna where they took a shower and had their heads shaved (to prevent lice which spreads typhus).  Women and children, like Samelson’s mother and sister, went to the fake shower rooms where they were gassed.

April 14, 2012

Elie Wiesel was saved from the gas chamber at Buchenwald by soldiers in the 1st Infantry Division who liberated the camp

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

I am indebted to a reader of my blog, who wrote a comment and provided a link to an article, written by Desiree Chen, in which she states that Abner S. Ganet was one of the soldiers with the 1st Infantry Division, which liberated Buchenwald on April 11, 1945.

Dead bodies found by American soldiers at Buchenwald

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum gives the credit for liberating Buchenwald to the 6th Armored Division, but what do they know?

This quote is from the article written by Desiree Chen:

But the man [Abner S. Ganet] known for his outspokenness had always been silent about one thing: his tour as an American soldier in World War II, and the day in 1945 when his 1st Infantry Division liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp. Mr. Ganet’s military service would earn him a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars for bravery.

It wasn’t until 50 years later, in 1995, when Mr. Ganet realized he could no longer remain silent. That year, he met Nobel Peace Prize recipient, acclaimed author and death-camp survivor Elie Wiesel, who had come to Elmhurst College to speak during the College’s annual Holocaust Education Project.

“Wiesel asked if I had been in the war,” Mr. Ganet recalled in a 2004 interview for the College’s magazine, Prospect. “I said, Yes, Buchenwald.’ He said, ‘You liberated me.’”

Wiesel had been slated for the gas chamber on the day Ganet’s unit arrived and the camp’s guards fled.

The USHMM  claims that the 1st Infantry Division liberated Falkenau an der Eger, a sub-camp of Flossenbürg.  In 1995, Ganet was 70 years old.  Did his memory fail him, or is the USHMM wrong about which division liberated Buchenwald?

Elie Wiesel was first sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 1944, but the Nazis were not gassing people on the night that he arrived. (On that night, they were burning prisoners alive in two separate ditches — the babies in one and the adults in another.) Elie was marched out of Birkenau in January 1945 and put on a train to Buchenwald.

In an interview with Time magazine on March 18, 1945, Elie Wiesel said this:

In Buchenwald they sent 10,000 to their deaths every day. I was always in the last hundred near the gate. They stopped. Why?”

What? You don’t believe that there was a gas chamber at Buchenwald?

Sign on the Buchenwald gate “To Each his Own” in English

On the web site of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, there is a reference to a gas chamber at Buchenwald, where prisoners in the Ohrdruf “holding facility” were sent to be gassed:

“On April 4, 1945, elements of the United States Army’s 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division captured the Ohrdruf concentration camp outside the town of Gotha in south central Germany. Although the Americans didn’t know it at the time, Ohrdruf was one of several sub-camps serving the Buchenwald extermination camp, which was close to the city of Weimar several miles north of Gotha. Ohrdruf was a holding facility for over 11,000 prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and crematoria at Buchenwald. “

In fact, Buchenwald was the place where the Nazis first tested Zyklon-B on humans, according to this website:

In January or February, 1940, 250 Gypsy children from Brno in the Buchenwald concentration camp were used as guinea pigs for testing the Zyklon B gas.

At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal in 1946, the French prosecutor submitted an official report which stated:

Everything had been provided for down to the smallest detail. In 1944, at Buchenwald, they had even lengthened a railway line so that the deportees might be led directly to the gas chamber. Certain [of the gas chambers] had a floor that tipped and immediately directed the bodies into the room with the crematory oven.

Sir Hartley Shawcross, the chief British prosecutor at the Nuremberg trial, stated in his closing speech that murder had been conducted “like some mass production industry in the gas chambers and the ovens” in Buchenwald and other Nazi concentration camps.

Jean-Paul Renard, a French priest who was an inmate at Buchenwald, wrote a book about his camp experiences in which he stated:

I saw thousands and thousands of persons going into the showers. Instead of liquid, asphyxiating gases poured out over them.

In a book published in 1947, Georges Henocque, another French priest and the former chaplain of the Saint-Cyr Military Academy, wrote a detailed description of the inside of the gas chamber in Buchenwald, which he claimed that he had visited.

Would a priest lie?  Two priests wrote that there was a gas chamber at Buchenwald, so it must be true.  Thank God the 1st Infantry Division arrived just in time to save Elie Wiesel from an ignominious death in the gas chamber.

You can read an analysis, by Robert E. Reis, of Elie Wiesel’s book Night on another website here.

Elie Wiesel says that he was a prisoner in the “Small Camp” at Buchenwald.  This was the quarantine section for prisoners who had newly arrived.  They had to stay in this section until it was known that they had no diseases that might spread throughout the camp.  The Jews who were brought to Buchenwald, after the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was abandoned, were kept in this camp for months. Elie says that he was eventually taken to the orphan barracks in the Buchenwald camp after his father died.

The “Small Camp” was separated from the main part of the camp by a barbed wire fence and a gate that was made of wood and barbed wire.  A photo of the gate is shown below.

Barbed wire fence and gate that divided the “Small Camp” from the main part of the Buchenwald camp, which is shown in the background

April 13, 2012

Joseph Bellinger dissects the Holocaust survivor book written by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 1:28 pm

I am a great admirer of the writing of Joseph Bellinger. I have just finished reading his article entitled The Amazing Claims of Miklos Nyiszli which you can read in full here As I read through the article, I noticed some quotes from Dr. Nyiszli’s book, Auschwitz A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account, which I do not recall reading.  I have the “First Arcade Paperback Edition” published in 1993. I got out my copy of the book and noticed that some changes had been made in the 1993 edition, which leaves out some of the  original wording in the 1961 edition critiqued by Bellinger.

This quote is from Joseph Bellinger’s article:

…Bettelheim chooses to remain haunted. Thus, the examination of Nyiszli’s claims are deferred to the realm of the mystical and unexplained phenomena within the universe, and the author speaks with due reverence and piety of that which he fails to explain or examine with reason. Clearly, for Bettelheim, unquestioning belief in Nyiszli’s book is an item of faith.

Yet, paradoxically, Bettelheim also writes:

“In its clues to an answer lies the importance of this book. It is an unbelievable story, but we all know it is true. We wish to forget it. It just does not fit into our system of value and thought. And rather than to reshape them, we wish to dismiss the story of the German extermination camps. If we could, we would prefer to think it never happened.”

If we replace the plural “we” with “I” and “our” with “my” we will be faced with the real essence of Bettelheim’s thought process, which he chose to suppress entirely, rather than face the ultimate consequences of what his own reason sought to impose upon his offended intellect.

In the 1993 edition which I have, the FORWARD, written by Bruno Bettelheim, does not include the paragraph which Bellinger quoted.  The FORWARD ends with this paragraph:

This book then is most of all a cautionary tale, as old as mankind. Those who seek to protect the body at all cost die many times over. Those who risk the body to survive as men have a good chance to live on.

The 1993 edition of Dr. Nyiszli’s book has an INTRODUCTION written by Richard Seaver.

This quote is from Richard Seaver’s Introduction:

…in 1944 German authorities destroyed the transport lists of all Jews who had been sent to Auschwitz up to that point, and in the succeeding months ordered the destruction of all other incriminating documents.  Later, as the Russian armies drew near Auschwitz early in 1945, other evidence was either burned or transferred to camps further west.

Why was it necessary for the “German authorities” to destroy the transport lists of all Jews who had been sent to Auschwitz?  Because those clever “German authorities” knew that the Jews, who were gassed immediately after they arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, had not been registered in the camp, so the only way to know how many Jews were gassed would be to look at the transport list.  By subtracting the number of prisoners, who were transported to Auschwitz and were then transferred to another camp, and the number of survivors from the number of Jews transported, the remaining number would be the total number of prisoners who were gassed.  By destroying the transport lists, the “German authorities” made it impossible to know the exact number of Jews who were gassed, and the Russian liberators of the camp could give an estimate as high as 4 million deaths if they were so inclined.

Getting back to Joseph Bellinger’s article, here is another quote from what he wrote:

… it does not take Nysizli long before he offends the intellect of the reader by writing on page 23

I got only as far as page 16 before I became suspicious that Dr. Nysizli had never seen Auschwitz-Birkenau.  This quote is from page 16:

Concrete pylons stretched in even rows to the horizon, with barbed wire strung between them from top to bottom. Signs warned that the wires were electrically charged with high tension current.  Inside the enormous squares bounded by the pylons stood hundreds of barracks covered with green tar-paper  and arranged to form a long, rectangular network of streets as far as the eye could see.

Birkenau is now a vast field of the remains of the brick stoves that were in the barracks which are now gone

Most of the wooden barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau are gone now, but the few that are left are not covered with tar paper.   I lived in a poor neighborhood as a child, and I saw many tar-paper shacks, but never any covered with GREEN tar-paper.  The photos below show the wooden barracks that are still standing.

My 2005 photo of the Quarantine barracks at Birkenau

Barbed wire fence at Birkenau with wooden barrack in the background on the left hand side

The wooden barracks shown in the photos might be reconstructed barrack buildings, but if they are, why were these buildings not reconstructed authentically with the green tar-paper covering?  Did they run out of green tar-paper in Poland?  The barracks in the American internment camps for Japanese Americans were covered with black tar-paper.  They could have stripped some of that tar-paper off and used it instead of reconstructing barracks with no tar-paper.

Joseph Bellinger quoted from the DECLARATION written by Dr. Nyiszli at the beginning of the book. In the 1993 edition of the book, there is an additional paragraph in the Declaration which I will quote here:

In writing this work I am not aiming for any literary success. When I lived through these horrors, which were beyond all imagining, I was not a writer but a doctor.  Today, in telling them, I write not as a reporter, but as a doctor.

Sounds like he’s covering his tracks for any mistakes that he might have made, and in my opinion, he made many mistakes.  I previously wrote a blog post about Dr. Nyiszli which you can read here.

April 11, 2012

The “Liberation” of Buchenwald 67 years ago today

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:30 am

American soldiers arriving at the entrance to Buchenwald camp

I put the word “liberation” in quotes in the title of my blog post today because the Buchenwald concentration camp was not actually liberated.  Four American soldiers in the Sixth Armored Division of the US Third Army arrived at the main Buchenwald camp around 5 p.m. on April 11, 1945 AFTER the Communist prisoners, who ran the camp, had already taken over, killing some of the guards and forcing the rest of the guards to flee into the surrounding forest.  The photo above shows American soldiers arriving at Buchenwald to tour the camp a few days after the camp was taken over by the inmates.

Regarding the liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, Robert Abzug wrote the following in his book Inside the Vicious Heart:

The Americans were met by reasonably healthy looking, armed prisoners ready to help administer distribution of food, clothing, and medical care. These same prisoners, an International Committee with the Communist underground leader Hans Eiden at its head, seemed to have perfect control over their fellow inmates.

Pfc. James Hoyt was driving the M8 armored vehicle which brought Capt. Frederic Keffer, Tech. Sgt. Herbert Gottschalk and Sgt. Harry Ward to the Buchenwald camp that day.

Communist prisoners at Buchenwald had disarmed the guards and stacked the weapons outside the camp before American liberators arrived

The following quote is from a CNN news story on the occasion of the death of James Hoyt on August 14, 2008 at the age of 83:

According to military records, Keffer was the officer in command of the six-wheeled armored vehicle that day. The soldiers were part of the Army’s 6th Armored Division near the camp when about 15 SS troopers were captured. It was mid-afternoon.

“At the same time, a group of Russians just escaped from the concentration camp, burst out of the woods attempting to attack the SS men. The Russians were restrained and interrogated,” Maj. Gen. R.W. Grow, the American commander of the 6th Armored Division, wrote in a 1975 letter about the Buchenwald liberation.

Keffer was ordered to take his three comrades and two of the Russian prisoners “as guides to investigate, report and rejoin as rapidly as possible.”

“I took this side journey of about 3 km away from our main force because we kept encountering SS guards and prison inmates, and the latter told us of the large camp to the south,” Keffer wrote in a letter around the 30th anniversary of the liberation.

“We had been told by our intelligence that we might overrun a large prison camp, but we — or at least I — had no idea of either the gigantic size of the camp or of the full extent of the incredible brutality.”

Keffer and Gottschalk, who spoke German, entered the camp through a hole in an electric barbed wire fence. Hoyt and Ward initially stayed at the vehicle.

“We were tumultuously greeted by what I was told were 21,000 men, and what an incredible greeting that was,” Keffer wrote. “I was picked up by arms and legs, thrown into the air, caught, thrown again, caught, thrown, etc., until I had to stop it. I was getting dizzy.

“How the men found such a surge of strength in their emaciated condition was one of those bodily wonders in which the spirit sometimes overcomes all weaknesses of the flesh. My, but it was a great day!”

Keffer said the prisoners, through an underground system, had already taken control of the camp. The four soldiers notified division command to get medical help and food to the prisoners as soon as possible.

The 6th Armored Division newspaper “Armored Attacker” ran a headline on May 5, 1945: “Four 9th AIB Doughs Find Buchenwald.” The article described the discovery as “the worst concentration camp yet to be uncovered by west wall troops.”

Hoyt, a Bronze Star recipient and veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, was the last of the four original liberators to die.

Note that the headline in the 6th Armored Division newspaper said: Four 9th AIB Doughs (doughboys) FIND Buchenwald.  Credit for finding Buchenwald goes to the 6th Armored Division.  Credit for liberating Buchenwald goes to the Communist prisoners in the camp.

The typical American soldier in World War II was a 19-year-old youth, fresh from the farms and small towns of a country that was less than 200 years old. Most of them had never been outside their home state and the closest they had ever come to the kind of sights they were seeing in Germany was a picture in an encyclopedia. Some of the towns and villages they were marching through had been in existence for 700 years before America had even been seen by a white man. The war-time destruction of this ancient culture, which they were participating in, must have been mind-boggling. Most of these soldiers had no clear idea of why they were fighting the Germans, as General Dwight D. Eisenhower admitted.

After crossing the Rhine river, Germany’s ancient line of defense, on the night of March 22, 1945, the US Third Army, commanded by General George S. Patton, was advancing through the middle of Germany toward a pre-determined line where they would stop and wait for the Russian troops advancing from the east. In their path were four charming old towns laid out like a string of pearls in a straight line through the Horsel Valley on Highway F7: Eisenach, Gotha, Erfurt, and Weimar.

This was the heartland of German culture, the old stamping grounds of such German greats as Goethe, Schiller, Liszt, Herder, Nietzsche, Cranach, Luther, and Bach. Today these four cities draw millions of tourists who want to follow in the footsteps of the famous on “the Classics Road.” The area has long been known for its well preserved medieval villages and its gemütliche German people.

By April 1st, which was Easter Sunday, the American soldiers were approaching the first town, Eisenach, on the northwestern edge of the Thuringian Forest. Eisenach has been at the center of German culture since the Middle Ages; it is where Johann Sebastian Bach was born and the place where Martin Luther holed up in a castle to translate the Bible. A few miles down the road is the town of Erfurt, the place from which St. Boniface set out on his mission to convert the Germans to Christianity.

The Buchenwald concentration camp was located 5 miles from the town of Weimar.  It was at Weimar that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany’s most famous writer, had lived from 1775 until his death in 1832. The area, where the concentration camp now stood, had been his favorite forest retreat, where he had sat under an oak tree. When a spot in the forest on the Ettersberg was cleared for the Buchenwald camp, Goethe’s oak was left standing, and when the tree was killed in an Allied bombing raid on the camp on August 24, 1944, the Nazis cut it down but carefully preserved the stump.

The stump of Goethe's oak tree inside the Buchenwald camp

The 6th Armored Division of General Patton’s US Third Army had approached Weimar from the northwest, when they discovered Buchenwald, which was on a wooded hill called the Ettersberg, 8 kilometers north of the historic town of Weimar. The prisoners had already hoisted a white flag of surrender by the time the Americans arrived. The soldiers in the Sixth Armored Division would not see the ruins of Weimar, the citadel of German culture, until the following day.

Weimar was the last residence of Friedrich von Schiller, a German writer whose patriotism and nationalism had encouraged the unification of Germany in 1871. The famous composers, Franz Liszt and Johann Sebastian Bach, had both lived for a time in Weimar, and the famous philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, had spent his last days there. In April 1945, Germany had long been recognized as the most cultured country in the Western world, as well as the most technically advanced.  But all anyone cares about today is the Buchenwald concentration camp; you never hear about the destruction of the city of Weimar by American bombs.  There were no factories in Weimar and there was no reason to bomb the city, except to destroy German landmarks.

April 10, 2012

Hitler’s birthplace in Braunau am Inn, Austria

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:39 am

The parents of Adolf Hitler are in the news currently because their tombstone has been removed and hauled off. It has probably been smashed to pieces already. I blogged yesterday about the cemetery in Leonding, Austria where the bodies of Hitler’s parents now lie in an unmarked grave.  A reader of my blog commented that Hitler’s birthplace might be next on the list of places to be destroyed.

When I visited Austria a few years ago, I went to the small town of Braunau am Inn where Hitler was born.  As soon as I entered the town, I went to a bookstore and asked  for directions to the house where Hitler was born.  The clerk looked at me as though I were someone from outer space and then said that he could not tell me.  I asked for a map that would show the location, and I was told that there is no such map.

I started walking down the main street until I saw a stone monument in front of a building.  I recognized the golden granite as a stone from the Mauthausen quarry which I had just visited.  This must be the place!

Granite stone in front of Hitler’s birthplace in Braunau am Inn in Austria

The photo above shows Salzburger Vorstadt in the historic town of Braunau am Inn (Braunau on the Inn river). This is the street where Hitler was born on April 20, 1889.  In the background, the building with the tower is the gatehouse into the town.  Hitler’s birthplace is the building on the right.

While I was taking these photos, the locals who were passing by, gave me a big smile of approval.  As far as I could tell, I was the only American tourist in the town that day.

Braunau am Inn has a population of about 17,500 people. This was formerly a walled town; it is located on the south bank of the Inn river which separates Austria and Germany. The street was renamed Adolf-Hitler-Strasse after the Anschluss of Germany and Austria on March 12, 1938.

Building where Adolf Hitler was born is unmarked except for a large granite stone

The photo above shows the yellow three-story building in Braunau am Inn which was the Gasthof zum Pommer or Gasthof des Josef Pommer at the time when Hitler was born there. The original address of the building was Salzburger Vorstadt 219 when Adolf Hitler was born here at 6:30 p.m. on April 20, 1889, Easter Sunday.  A Gasthof is also called a Gasthaus.  A Gasthaus is a small hotel that has a restaurant and a bar on the ground floor.  The local Gasthaus used to be the hangout for the men in the town — the women were at home, having a Kaffeeklatsch.

The house where Hitler was born is unmarked, except for a large stone of Mauthausen granite which was placed on the corner in 1989, the 100th anniversary of Hitler’s birth.

The granite stone in front of Hitler’s birthplace

The English translation of the words on the stone are: “For peace, freedom and democracy, never again Fascism, millions of dead admonish.”   (more…)

April 9, 2012

Tombstone on grave of Hitler’s parents has been removed…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 2:01 pm

Grave stone for Hitler's parents has been removed from cemetery in Austria

I was shocked to read this on the website of Carolyn Yeager:

The tasteful headstone that marked the resting place of Alois and Klara Hitler in the Leonding churchyard since before WWI. It was removed Wednesday by timid German-Austrian Catholics in service to Jewish hatred and Jewish desire to obliterate history they don’t like because it does not serve their interests. This gravestone in the cemetery near Linz, Austria makes Adolf Hitler seem all too human.

My photo of cemetery in Leonding, Austria. Grave of Hitler's parents is on the right

My photo of gravestone of Hitler's parents

I love German cemeteries.  The graves are like tiny flower gardens.  As Beatrix Potter famously wrote: You will not find a faded leaf  Or blighted blossom there.  The grave of Hitler’s parents was quite modest.  Nothing ostentatious.  I can’t believe that anyone would dishonor Alois and Klara Hitler, who never did anything wrong.  It’s not their fault that their son grew up to be Adolf Hitler. They were long dead before little “Adi” became the Chancellor of Germany.

Apparently, this grave site will now be used to bury someone else. Grave sites are leased for 10 years and the lease must be renewed every 10 years. This is commonly done in Germany and Austria where bodies are buried on top of other bodies after a few years.  The grave stone for Hitler’s parents is now gone, but that won’t keep people from visiting the former grave.

Das Haus des Führers - Michaelsbergstrasse 16, Leonding, Austria

The photo above shows Adolf Hitler’s boyhood home, which is located across the street from the cemetery in the town of Leonding, Austria.  Leonding is located 5 kilometers (3 miles) southwest of Linz, Austria. Adolf Hitler moved there with his family in November 1898 when he was 9 years old. He lived with his family in this house at Number 16 Michaelsbergstrasse for seven years.

I took a taxi from Linz, Austria to Leonding and told the driver that I wanted to visit Hitler’s boyhood home.  The driver dropped me off on Michaelsbergstrasse a few yards from the house.  I had seen photos of the house, so I knew which house it was. As I started walking across the street to the house, an elderly couple spoke to me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying because Austrians speak a dialect that is different from the High German that I learned in German class.  They seemed to be angry that I was walking towards this unmarked house; they were probably trying to tell me that I was treading on dangerous ground.  I was the only person there who was looking at the house. (more…)

A Holocaust survivor who beat the odds…

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:54 am

Henry Silberstern was the only one, out of his extended family of 54 relatives, who survived the Holocaust.  He was a prisoner at Theresienstadt, from where he was sent to the Czech Family Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. After being selected to live by Dr. Josef Mengele, he was sent to a sub-camp of Auschwitz where he was forced to work. He was finally liberated from Bergen-Belsen by a Canadian contingent of the British Army. The date was April 15th 1945, which happened to be Henry’s 15th birthday.

Silberstein was saved from certain death when he was selected to live by the famous Dr. Josef Mengele.  He could have just as easily been selected for the gas chamber, since he was under the age of 15 at that time.

This quote is from an online news article which you can read in full here:

Silberstern said there were about 10,000 prisoners in the Birkenau section of the camp that he was in (the Czech Family Camp). One day in June of 1944, he recalled a selection process in which the German officers chose about 2,500 “able-bodied” prisoners to continue to do hard labor, while the rest were to be sent to the gas chambers and killed.

Silberstern was among the group that was chosen to perish.

“At the last minute, an order seemed to come through to Dr. Josef Mengele — whose main job was to send people to the gas chambers — and things turned out differently for me and a group of boys my age.”

Silberstern guessed that Mengele was ordered to select about 100 boys between the ages of 11-15 to send them to a nearby men’s camp instead of killing them. To this day, no one knows why Mengele made that decision.

“There were about 500 boys that fit this age limit,” said Silberstein.

“We were stripped naked and we trod by Mengele. He asked us maybe a question or two and then pointed to the left or to the right.”

Silberstern remembered that he didn’t know what to think. Was going to the left a bad thing? Or was it a death sentence to be told to go to the right?

Mengele selected 89 boys to be spared that day and sent to a nearby men’s camp to be housed in a “punishment block” that Silberstern described as a “prison within a prison.” Of the 89 boys, 45 survived the Holocaust. The group is now known as the “Birkenau Boys.”

The camp where the 89 boys were sent was Fürstengrube, a sub-camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The following information is from this website:

Henry Silberstern was born in the small town of Teplice, western Czechoslovakia, in the year 1930. […]

In 1942 Henry was sent to a camp for the first time. 1100 Jews were rounded up and sent by train to Terezin, a town which had been set up by the Nazis as a transit camp. He and his mother were selected to go; his father was too ill and his teenage brother had a work permit that allowed him to stay. When they arrived some were selected to be sent back, as the Germans only required 1000 Jews for their quota. Henry and his mother were sent back, much to the surprise and relief of the rest of the family.

It was only a temporary reprieve. In November, 1942 Henry and his mother were again transported to Terezin, this time to stay.[…]

In the spring of 1944 Henry and his mother were selected to be transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp area, which was made up of several camps. They arrived outside the Birkenau camp in the dead of night, to guard dogs barking, searchlights flashing all around them, and Germans shouting commands at them constantly. They were lined up and marched to the Czech Family Camp for registration and processing. Henry received the serial number tattoo on his left arm which marked him as an inmate of an Auschwitz camp. He still has this tattoo.

The Family Camp was emptied at the end of June 1944. The able-bodied were removed for work camps. Most of the young who could not do adult work were slated to be killed. At the last minute, 89 boys were selected by camp doctor Josef Mengele to be spared. Henry was one of these few selected from thousands. He went to live in Block 13 of the men’s camp Frustengruber (sic), where he was trained as a bricklayer. While there he did construction work on the Auschwitz area camps.

As the tide of the war started turning against the Nazis, the German Command decided it would be best to eradicate as much of the evidence of their war crimes as possible. Henry was part of a crew that was sent to dismantle the Nordhausen camp, where the German V1 and V2 rockets were assembled, before the Russian line could advance any further.

Henry spent the last weeks of the war in Bergen-Belsen. During the last days the prisoners heard canon fire all around the camp; one night all the S.S. guards disappeared, leaving only the Home Guard (the reserves) in place to manage the camp. At last the Home Guard, too, disappeared, and the next day an Allied convoy came through. They were liberated by a Canadian contingent of the British Army. The date was April 15th 1945, which happened to be Henry’s 15th birthday.

You can read more about the selection process at Auschwitz-Birkenau on my Scrapbookpages website here.  You can read about the liberation of Bergen-Belsen here.

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