Scrapbookpages Blog

July 31, 2012

Tour guides re-enacted a “mock gassing” at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:06 am

I was horrified when I read this on NewsOK, an Edmonton, Oklahoma newspaper website:

Tour guides re-enacted the process of locking the prisoners in the [gas] chamber then dropping solid pellets of Zyklon B, the chemical formulation Nazis used to commit mass genocide, into vents in the walls. After the mock gassing, the guides showed how the bodies were cleaned out of the chamber.

Surely NOT!  A mock gassing conducted by tour guides at Auschwitz?  What is the world coming to?

According to the article in NewsOK, written by Heather Warlick, this horror supposedly happened on a trip made by four “World War II veterans, three survivors of concentration camps and 17 students from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo. The tour was part of College of the Ozarks’ Patriotic Education Travel Program, and all travel expenses were paid for by the college.”

Note that the article says that the Zyklon-B pellets were dropped “into vents in the walls.”  This is a possible hint that the “mock gassing” didn’t actually happen because there are no vents in the walls of the reconstructed gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp.  The reconstructed vents are on the roof of the gas chamber.

The last time that I was at Auschwitz, there was a sign which told visitors that it was forbidden to climb up on the roof of the gas chamber. Surely, the tour guides did not climb up onto the roof and pour pellets into the gas chamber to give these young students a macabre thrill.

When I visited Auschwitz in 1998, there were very few tourists there, and I was able to climb up on the roof where I took the photo below.

Holes for pouring gas pellets into Auschwitz gas chamber

You can read about the vent holes on the roof of the Auschwitz gas chamber on my website here.  You can see photos of the holes on the ceiling of the gas chamber on my website here.  There are no photos of vents in the wall of the Auschwitz gas chamber on my website because these vents didn’t exist.

The NewsOK article includes the photo below, which shows two of the World War II veterans on the trip sitting inside the Mauthausen gas chamber.

WWII veterans sitting inside the Mauthausen gas chamber

I have written extensively about the Mauthausen gas chamber on my website here. I would love to see a re-enactment of the gassing procedure in the Mauthausen gas chamber.  You can read the testimony about the gas chamber at Mauthausen on my website here.

July 29, 2012

On his trip to Poland, should Mitt Romney visit Auschwitz?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:42 am

Update, 07/31/12: Mitt Romney visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw today. This is exactly the place that I would have suggested that he visit if he had asked my advice. He also visited the site of the new Holocaust Museum in Warsaw, which will open in 2013.

A post card photo of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is shown below, along with an old photo showing the bomb damage to this place during World War II.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Warsaw

Bomb damage to Tomb of Unknown Soldier

When I visited Poland for the first time in 1998, I stayed in Warsaw for a couple of days and the first place I went was to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  You can read about it on my website here.

Update, 07/30/12:

According to Fox News, Mitt Romney has arrived in Poland and is now in Warsaw.  He was shown on the Fox TV news as he and his wife shook hands with Lech Walesa.  Some footage of the square in old town Warsaw was shown.  I recognized some of the buildings that I photographed in 1998.

Old Town in Warsaw, Poland

Since he is in Warsaw today and only plans to stay in Poland for two days, he will probably not go to Auschwitz.

Old Town Warsaw

I think that Romney’s decision to go to Warsaw, and not Krakow and Auschwitz, was a smart move on his part.  He’s got my vote!

Continue reading my original blog post:

According to Fox News, Mitt Romney is doing very well on his visit to Israel, making some points with Jewish voters.  His next stop will be Poland.  But why is Romney going to Poland?  Why not Germany?  America might need some help from Germany if the country goes any farther into debt. Obama has visited Germany several times, including a visit to the Buchenwald Memorial Site.

Why doesn’t Romney just go to Chicago, where the largest number of Polish-American voters are located?  Oh, wait a minute! Chicago is Obama’s old stamping ground. And it’s not the Polish-American vote that he is after, it is the Jewish vote.

The best city to visit in Poland, in my humble opinion, is Krakow, which has some beautiful historic sites.  Krakow is only 35 miles from Auschwitz, which brings up the big question — will Romney go to Auschwitz?

This quote is from an article on this website:

While Romney’s political intentions in both Britain (the Olympics) and Israel are clear, the reason for his visit to Poland is still somewhat obscure. In fact, the central reason for Romney’s plan to visit Poland has been kept totally under wraps to date.

It now seems likely that Romney’s visit to Poland is simply part B of his plan to challenge President Obama’s record on US support for Israel and the foreign policy of the Middle East.  By visiting Auschwitz, Romney may hope to upstage President Obama and his commitment to peace in the Middle East.  By politicizing the Holocaust, Romney and his mastermind, Sheldon Adelson, would appear to be launching their plan to manufacturing a deep schism within the American Jewish community that could influence the outcome of the November election.


On the other hand, if Romney visits Poland and does not visit Auschwitz – his campaign to divide the US Jewish community will be in tatters.  Therefore, it seems likely that the real reason for Romney’s visit to Poland will be part of the Adelson plan to capture a  higher proportion of the Jewish vote for the Republicans.

However, by playing the Holocaust card so clumsily and so politically, Romney would run the risk of setting off a tidal wave of criticism from the Jewish community – a firestorm that could boomerang and become incandescent in the USA.

On Romney’s trip to London, he made some remarks which offended the British. There is a grave danger that the same thing could happen in Poland.  Romney is probably not an expert on the Holocaust, and he could make a gaffe, like Obama did, by calling Auschwitz a “Polish death camp.”

If Romney does go to Auschwitz, his first stop will be the Auschwitz main camp, where every visiting official leaves flowers at the famous “Black Wall,” aka the Death Wall.  As he lays his wreath of flowers at the wall, Romney must be careful to say something in honor of the Polish political prisoners who lived and died in the main camp.  If he mentions only the Jews, the Polish people will be offended and his trip to Poland could turn into a disaster.

Recently Ziad al-Bandak, advisor for Christian relations to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, laid a bouquet of red and white flowers at the Auschwitz Death Wall. (Red and White are the colors of the Polish flag.) A photo of Ziad al-Bandak at the Death Wall is shown below.

If Romney goes to Poland, his next stop at the Auschwitz main camp will be the famous gas chamber.  I would suggest that he be completely silent as he stands inside the gas chamber.  This is a place where it is easy to make a stupid remark, which could be interpreted as “Holocaust denial.”  This would be the kiss of death for his election campaign.

For example, a person might say something stupid like “How could this be a gas chamber when it is not air tight, and it has a glass window in the door?”

The crematorium, that is right next to the gas chamber in the main camp, would be his next place to lay a bouquet of flowers.  The photo below shows Laura Bush doing this honor at Auschwitz.

Laura Bush puts a bouquet of flowers in the Auschwitz main camp crematorium

The next place for an official visit is the International Monument at the Birkenau camp.  The walk to the Monument is over a mile long, so Romney should be prepared.  Romney should be aware that it is easy to make a stupid remark, which would offend the Jews and end his career forever.

The photo below shows Attorney General Eric Holder putting flowers on the steps of the International Monument. (Click on the photo to enlarge)

Eric Holder at the International Monument at Auschwitz Photo credit: ttp://

Flowers placed at the International Monument

The English language plaque at Birkenau

The plaques at the International Monument say that one and a half million people died at Auschwitz-Birkenau. This estimate was made by Lech Walesa.  The current estimate, given by the Auschwitz Museum is 1.1 million, of which 900,000 were Jews.

If Romney goes to Birkenau, he should be careful not to say something stupid like “What happened to the 4 million who died, according to the testimony given at the Nuremberg IMT?”

What I am trying to say here is that Romney should do some last minute study of Holocaust history on his flight to Poland, so that he doesn’t make any stupid mistakes.  My best advice would be to go to Warsaw, and not to Krakow and Auschwitz.

July 28, 2012

A new edition of a famous novel about Buchenwald is out

A new edition of a Holocaust novel about a young boy who survived the Buchenwald concentration camp has just been released. No, this is not about Elie Wiesel, the most famous Buchenwald survivor, who was not yet 17 years old when the camp was liberated.  This is the story of Stefan Jerzy Zweig.  You can read about Elie Wiesel in Buchenwald here.

I previously blogged about  Stefan Jerzy Zweig here.  With a lot of help from the readers of my blog, I was able to establish that Stefan Jerzy Zweig was not at Buchenwald. That’s why the book, based on his alleged stay at Buchenwald, is a novel.  His story is one of those things that never happened, but are true, as Elie Wiesel famously said.  Elie Wiesel’s book Night was also classified as a novel, until Oprah picked the book for her book club selection, when it became a true story.

The plot of the novel is somewhat like the true story of Josef Schleifstein, who was sneaked into Buchenwald on January 20, 1945 by his father who carried him into the camp inside a large sack which held his tools. In the novel, a little 3-year-old boy is carried by his father into the Buchenwald camp in a suitcase.

This quote is from an article on a German website about the alleged story of Stefan Jerzy Sweig:

It’s August 1944. A group of around 2,000 new prisoners is arriving at the Buchenwald concentration camp and marches through the gate bearing the inscription “To each his own.” Among them is three-year-old Stefan Jerzy Zweig. He walks beside his father, a Jewish lawyer from Krakow. This is unheard of in Buchenwald, a place where people do hard labor and the minimum age for prisoners is 16 years.

Children were thought of by the SS, a special unit of Nazi soldiers, as extra mouths to feed and only worthy of being left to die. Jerzy is separated from his father and taken to the smaller portion of the camp [the Little Camp]. Prisoners care for him and his father is able to come and visit.

But the child wasn’t rescued. A few weeks after arriving, he was scheduled to be sent to Auschwitz, where he would face certain death. But a communist prisoner removed his name from the deportation list, swapping it with another. Instead of a small child, a 16-year-old Roma youth was sent to his death.

In the novel, both parents were sent, along with their two children, from the Plaszow camp in Poland [the camp that is shown in Schindler’s List] to Buchenwald. The Plaszow camp was very close to Auschwitz and in real life, the women and children were sent to Auschwitz [temporarily] while the men were sent to the Gross Rosen camp when the Plaszow camp was closed.

No prisoners were ever sent from Buchenwald to Auschwitz to be killed.  It was the other way around. When the Auschwitz camp was closed, the men and young boys were sent to Buchenwald, and the women and young girls were sent to Bergen-Belsen or some other camp in Germany.

You can watch a video about the liberation of the Buchenwald camp here.  This video proves that there was only one little four-year-old boy at Buchenwald and his name was Josef Schleifstein.

This quote is from the article on the German website:

The true story turned legendary when it was retold in the novel “Naked among Wolves.” Written in the mid-1950s, it tells a story of a child arriving at the concentration camp in his father’s suitcase. Selflessly the camps prisoners hid the three-year-old – a dangerous undertaking at a time when resistance fighters were collecting weapons to liberate the camp.

A scene from the 1963 film "Naked among Wolves"  “Naked among Wolves” made it to the big screen in 1963.

This put the child at risk. So what is more important – the underground work intended to save many or compassion for a helpless three-year-old? In the novel by Bruno Apitz, which would become something of a classic in the GDR, heart and mind win over reason and communist party discipline.

The new 2012 edition has a detailed epilogue as well as additional documents highlighting the origins and historical impact of the novel. Released in 1958 with just 10,000 copies printed, it sold out immediately. Several more editions were printed, with almost two million copies being sold.

The novel was the highest selling book in the GDR. It was covered in the school curriculum and the 1962 film version was a huge success. Translations in 30 languages followed, and global sales are estimated to have reached three million copies.

The best-seller was written by a man who himself had been a prisoners (sic) in the Buchenwald concentration camp. As a communist, Bruno Apitz had been persecuted and imprisoned by the Nazis, but survived due to his artistic abilities. Self-taught, he carved wooden sculptures for the SS, drew cartoons and wrote poems and lyrics for the soldiers’ evening get-togethers, and was an emcee.

You can read the entire plot of the novel Naked Among Wolves on Wikipedia here.

This quote is from Wikipedia; the source for this information is  a book by Bill Niven entitled The Buchenwald Child: Truth, Fiction, and Propaganda. Camden House (2007):

In 1964, the East Berlin-based Berliner Zeitung am Abend located the child upon whose story the novel was based: Stefan Jerzy Zweig, who survived Buchenwald at the age of four with his father Zacharias, with the help of two prisoner functionaries: Robert Siewert and Willi Bleicher. Bleicher, a former member of the Communist Party of Germany (Opposition) and the kapo of the storage building, was the one who convinced the SS to turn a blind eye to the child. When Zweig was to be sent to Auschwitz, prisoners who were tasked with compiling the deportees’ list erased his name and replaced him with Willy Blum, a sixteen-year old Sinto boy. Zweig moved to Israel after liberation, and later studied in France. After he was discovered to be the ‘Buchenwald child’, he settled in East Germany, where he remained until 1972. Zweig received much media and the public attention in the country. Blum’s fate was only disclosed after the German reunification.[62]

The website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum does not agree that Stefan Jerzy Sweig was a prisoner at Buchenwald.  The USHMM maintains that Josef Schleifstein was the only four-year-old child at Buchenwald. The Buchenwald Memorial Site does not acknowledge that Stefan Jerzy Sweig was a prisoner there.

Antonin Kalina, the Communist prisoner at Buchenwald, who saved the orphan boys

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 11:27 am

Child survivors of Buchenwald from Block 66

This morning, I read a very nice article here about the “Boys of Buchenwald” who were saved in Block 66 by Antonin Kalina, a Communist prisoner in the camp. The photo above shows some of the boys, who are wearing clothes made for them out of German uniforms. Could the man in the back row be Antonin Kalina?  The boy in the center of the front row is 4-year-old Janek Szlajfaztajn (Joseph Schleifstein).

This quote is from the end of the article, which was written by Brad Rothchild:

After the war, Kalina returned to his home in Czechoslovakia and lived out the remainder of his life in obscurity. His boys began new lives in Israel, the United States, Australia and Europe; but they always remembered the Czech communist who risked his life in order to save theirs. Over the past few years, the surviving boys, along with the historian Kenneth Waltzer, have initiated a process to have Kalina recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. Providing testimonies and bearing witness for perhaps the final time, these survivors have been working to ensure that their rescuer receives the recognition that he deserves. As the decision drew near, exhaustive efforts were made on Kalina’s behalf in Israel by former Buchenwald boy and current member of the International Buchenwald Committee, Naftali Furst, and his life partner Tova Wagman.

This month, nearly 70 years after the end of the Holocaust and over 20 years since Antonin Kalina’s death, Yad Vashem granted him this honor. While there is no surviving member of the Kalina family to accept the medal that goes along with it, this honor is shared by the surviving boys of block 66, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. May his memory be a blessing for them all.

There are a few details in Rothchild’s article which I believe are incorrect. He writes that Kalina “risked his life” in order to save the boys in Barrack 66.  This implies that the SS men at Buchenwald were trying to get their hands on these young boys, to kill them, but Kalina intervened and managed to save their lives, risking his own life in the process.

Rothchild wrote that “Thanks to Kalina’s efforts, unlike the other prisoners in Buchenwald, the boys of block 66 did not have to leave their barrack for roll call — instead of assembling with the rest of the camp twice a day no matter the conditions outside, the boys stayed inside.”

This contradicts what the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum says here about Janek Sziafaztain, which I am quoting:

Josef (Janek) Szlajfaztajn (later Joseph Schleifstein) is the son of Izrael and Esther Schleifstein. He was born on March 7, 1941 in Sandomierz, Poland during the German occupation. The family remained in Sandomierz through its existence as a ghetto, from June 1942 through January 1943. After the liquidation of the ghetto the family was moved to Czestochowa, where Israel and Esther were presumably put to work in one of the HASAG factory camps. During this period Joseph was placed in hiding in the area. Israel was sent to work for the Letzium Work Camp in the Radom District working for a firm called Ralnik from October 1942 till September 1943. He worked in Makashin, near Sandomierz, from September till December 1943; in a HASAG ammunition factory in Kielc from December 1943 to approximately November 1944; and for a short time in Czestochowa. In January 1945, when the HASAG camps were closed and their operations transferred to Germany, the Schleifsteins were deported to Germany. Esther was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Izrael and Josef were taken to Buchenwald and arrived on January 20, 1945. Izrael successfully passed the selection process by concealing Josef in a large sack in which he carried his leather-working tools. The child could not remain concealed for long in the camp, but his life was spared, in part because the Germans valued Israel’s craftsmanship and in part because they took a liking to the child. The SS guards came to treat Joseph as a camp mascot, and even had him appear at roll calls wearing a child-sized striped uniform.

It could be that little 4-year-old Josef was the only one of the Buchenwald Boys who appeared at roll calls, since the SS guards treated him as the “camp mascot.”  However, this shows that the SS men at Buchenwald were not trying to kill the young boys in Block 66, as was implied in Rothchild’s article.

This quote is from Rothchild’s article:

Kalina, a political prisoner, had risen to a position of influence in the communist underground, which ran the day-to-day operations of the camp on behalf of the Nazi SS at Buchenwald. When the boys arrived at Buchenwald, Kalina knew that something must be done to protect them — as a true believer, Kalina saw in the boys the hope for a brighter future. He and his fellow prisoners decided to place the youths in a special barrack, far away from the main part of the camp, deep in the filthy quarantine area where the SS was loath to go. This barrack, number 66 in the “little camp” at Buchenwald, became known as the “kinderblock,” or children’s block. Antonin Kalina was the block elder. In this capacity, he went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the survival of the boys held there.

In all of the Nazi concentration camps, there was a quarantine section where all new prisoners were kept for a few weeks so as to prevent the spread of disease.  The quarantine camp at Buchenwald was called the “Little Camp.”

Every block (barrack) in all the Nazi concentration camps had a block elder, who lived in a tiny room in the barrack, and supervised the inmates.  The block elder was a Kapo (captain), a prisoner who assisted the Nazis in running the camp. This was the system in all the camps, not just at Buchenwald.

Buchenwald was one of the main camps for political prisoners, who were mainly captured Resistance fighters, aka illegal combatants.  It was not a “death camp” for Jews, although there were Jewish prisoners, especially after Auschwitz was evacuated and the surviving prisoners were brought to Germany.

Rothchild wrote about the “death march” to Buchenwald, but actually the Auschwitz prisoners were only marched as far as the German border, and then put on trains to be taken to camps in Germany. (Elie Wiesel tells about this in his book Night.)

When the Buchenwald camp was originally opened in 1937, the Nazis brought common criminals, from the Sachsenhausen camp near Berlin, to run the camp internally. But after the first Commandant, Karl Otto Koch, was relieved of his duties and sent to Majdanek, the new Commandant, Hermann Pister, allowed the Communists to take over the running of the camp.

The following quote is from Robert Abzug in his book Inside the Vicious Heart:

Meanwhile, in all this upheaval, the new commandant Hermann Pister allowed a German Communist prisoner group, some of them original inmates of the camp, to wrest power from the ‘greens.’ [The greens were common criminals who wore green triangles.] The Communist prisoners reduced the amount of black marketeering and other common corruption, cut down the amount of wanton sadism on the part of prisoner trustees (or Kapos), and made plans for the ultimate takeover of the camp in case of Nazi defeat. But in other ways the Communists merely shifted the ground of corruption to the assignment of work details, food, medical care, and ultimately life. From their takeover until the end of the war, favored treatment was often received on the basis of political loyalties. The Nazis for their part, gained from the Communist regime a more predictable work force and a greater sense of order.

In other words, the Communists at Buchenwald decided who would live and who would die.  It was not a question of which prisoners would be saved from the Nazis by the Communists.  The Nazis were not trying to kill the orphan boys of Buchenwald.

General Patton visited the Buchenwald camp on April 15, 1945, after the camp was liberated by the Communist prisoners, shortly before the arrival of American troops on April 11, 1945.
In the following quote from his autobiography, General Patton explained his understanding of the Nazi system of killing prisoners at Buchenwald, as told to him by the former inmates:

One of the most horrible points about this place was that all these executions were carried out by slaves. There was a further devilish arrangement of making the various groups select those who had to die. Each racial group had a certain number of men who represented it. These men had to select those from their group who would be killed locally, or sent to camps like Ohrdruf, which were termed “elimination camps.”

Ohrdruf was a sub-camp of Buchenwald; it was a forced labor camp, not “an elimination camp” or a death camp. It had underground factories where prisoners were forced to work in the German war industry.

The orphan boys in Block 66 were saved, by the Communists, from being sent to a sub-camp.  There were other young boys at Buchenwald, who were sent to the sub-camps to work.  I previously blogged here about Ben Helfgott, who was not an orphan when he arrived at Buchenwald; he was sent from the Buchenwald main camp to a sub-camp, but he still managed to survive.

July 26, 2012

Why did the Commandant of Auschwitz confess to the gassing of millions of Jews?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:57 am

A British blogger has written an outstanding blog post about how Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau, was tortured and intimidated in order to get him to confess to the gassing of millions of Jews.  The title of the blog post is The British Catholic, Rudolph Hoess, and torturing children; you can read it in full here.

The blog post is quite long, but it is a must read for anyone who is interested in the history of Auschwitz and how the number of deaths was determined by the Allies.  Included are photos of Rudolf Hoess, showing him with a bloody nose after he was beaten, and a photo of British Major Gerald Draper confronting Hoess who has an expression of fear on his face.

What was Draper saying to Hoess at that moment, that induced Hoess to confess that millions of people were gassed at Auschwitz?  Was Major Draper threatening to torture the children of Rudolf Hoess?  I always thought that Hoess confessed because the British threatened to turn his wife and children over to the Russians.

Read what my fellow blogger wrote:

My photo taken in 2000 in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC

On May 14, 1946, the former Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Rudolf Höß, also known as Rudolf Hoess, signed a sworn affidavit (shown in the photo above) in which he stated that two million Jews had been gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1941 and 1943 while he was the Commandant. This did not include the period, during which Hoess was not the Commandant, when over 300,000 Hungarian Jews were gassed during a period of 10 weeks in the Summer of 1944, according to the Auschwitz Museum.

The English translation of the German text in the affidavit reads: “I declare herewith under oath that in the years 1941 to 1943 during my tenure in office as commandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp 2 million Jews were put to death by gassing and a 1/2 million by other means. Rudolf Hoess. May 14, 1946.” The confession was signed by Hoess and by Josef Maier of the US Chief of Counsel’s office.

The photo that is displayed at the USHMM, along with the affidavit, shows Hungarian Jewish women and children walking to one of the four gas chambers in the Birkenau death camp on May 26, 1944, carrying their hand baggage in sacks.  What happened to all those sacks?  Did the Jews march past the barracks, nicknamed Canada, where the clothing taken from the Jews was sorted?

The spot where the clothing warehouse at Birkenau was located

Krema IV was located just north of the clothing warehouses, which were in a section that the prisoners called Canada. Across the road from Canada was the Central Sauna which had a shower room and disinfection chambers where the prisoners’ clothing was deloused. Krema IV had a fake shower room which was actually a gas chamber.

The caption underneath the photo in the USHMM reads:

On May 14, 1946, Rudolf Hoess, the former commandant of Auschwitz, signed a declaration stating that during his tenure in office, 2 million Jews had been gassed at Auschwitz and another 500,000 killed in other ways. Hoess overestimated the number of Jews gassed by about 1 million.

Was this confession obtained from Rudolf Hoess by means of torture? Rupert Butler wrote in his book entitled Legions of Death, published by Arrow Books in London in 1983, that Hoess had been beaten for three days by a British team of torturers under the command of Jewish interrogator Bernard Clarke.

Despite the confessions of Rudolf Hoess, the number of victims killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau is now officially given by the Auschwitz Musuem as 1.1 million, of which 900,000 were Jews.  This does not change the figure of 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.  That number is sacrosanct and the penalty for denying it, in 19 countries, is 5 years or more in prison.

You can read more about the confessions of Rudolf Hoess on my website here.

July 25, 2012

the “death barracks” at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:43 am

This news story in the online Edmonton Journal, which you can read in full here, mentions the “death barracks” at Auschwitz.  I was not familiar with this term, so I had to do some searching to find out exactly where the “death barracks” were located.

The photo below is from the Auschwitz Album, a book of photographs that was found by Lili Jacob in a concentration camp in Germany at the end of the war. The album consists of around 200 photos taken by the SS men at Birkenau when a transport of 3,500 Hungarian Jews arrived in May 1944 from Carpatho-Ruthenia, a region annexed to Hungary from the former country of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Jacob was on this transport; she survived because she was selected to work.

Famous photo of woman and children walking to the “death barracks.”

According to this page on Wikipedia, the caption on the famous photo above claims that it shows a woman and children walking to the “death barracks.”  Many websites about the Holocaust have repeated this information.

When I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2005, I took the photo below which shows the famous photo of the woman and children on a signboard at the entrance to a road that goes from South to North through the center of the Birkenau camp, from the women’s camp to the new “Mexico” section of the camp which was in the process of being built.

Display board at entrance to a road through the Auschwitz-Birkenau  death camp

According to the text on the display board shown in the photo above, this road through the Birkenau camp was a shortcut to Krema IV and Krema V where there were gas chambers, disguised as shower rooms. Note the photo on the display board. This photo was shown as evidence at the Auschwitz Trial in Frankfurt where 22 SS men, who had formerly worked at Auschwitz-Birkenau, were put on trial by the Germans in 1963.

Is this the road to the “death barracks” that Holocaust survivor Ray Pierzchajlo was talking about?  I don’t think so. According to the Edmonton Journal article about him, he was in the main Auschwitz camp, not the Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau. He was a political prisoner, who had been wrongly arrested for helping the Polish Resistance during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

This quote is from the Edmonton Journal article about Ray Pierzchajlo:

On Dec. 5, 1941, the Gestapo came looking for his 14-year-old brother, who had been delivering flyers for the Polish resistance. Pierzchajlo, 20 at the time, pretended to be his brother, figuring the Gestapo would let him go when they realized their mistake, while giving his brother time to go into hiding. “I whispered to my mother, ‘Send him (my brother) away.’ ”

But the Nazis kept Pierzchajlo, and after three months in a Warsaw jail, he was shipped to Auschwitz. Just before he left, he smuggled a note to his father, who was being held in the same jail.

At the camp, prisoners were divided into different lines. Most Jews were sent to the gas chambers. Pierzchajlo, young and strong, joined the lines for forced labour.  […]

With the number 12632 tattooed on his arm, he worked alongside other political prisoners, Jews and Gypsies, barely alive on thin soup and bread full of sawdust.

Through his barracks window, he watched Nazi guards shoot hundreds of Jews, Poles, Russians and Germans as they walked out of a nearby “death barracks.”

Then, in 1942, the trains filled with Jews began arriving. They were systematically killed in the gas chambers in the nearby Birkenau extermination camp, built in 1941.

So it is clear that he is not talking about the “death barracks” at Birkenau, toward which the old woman and the children were walking, according to the Wikipedia caption on a photo taken by an SS man and put into an album called Auschwitz Album.  No, Pierzchajlo is talking about the “death barracks” at the main Auschwitz camp.

I did some more searching and found this quote on this blog post:

Located in Auschwitz I is Cell 18, in the “death barracks” beside the execution wall.  The door way to Cell 18 remains closed with an iron grill, for it is holy ground. Maximillian Kolbe died on the floor of this cell, having made the ultimate sacrifice. A Polish national and a priest, he offered his life in the place of another inmate with children who was randomly selected for execution as punishment for a block mate who did not appear at roll call.

Cell No. 18, where Father Kolbe died, is shown in the photo below.

Cell No. 18 in Block 11 at Auschwitz main camp

So it turns out that both the Auschwitz main camp and the Birkenau camp had “death barracks.”  The “death barracks” at the main camp were in Block 11, the camp prison, which had a  courtroom where political prisoners were put on trial.  If they were convicted, the condemned men were taken out into the courtyard between Block 10 and Block 11 to be shot.  Somehow, Pierzchajlo was able to see the convicted prisoners being shot from his barracks window.

Entrance to the courtyard between Block 10 on the right and Block 11 on the left

In the photo above, Block 10 is shown on the right.  This is where medical experiments were conducted on women.  So where was the barrack building from which Pierzchajlo could observe the shooting of the men and women who had been convicted in the courtroom in Block 11?

Almost every Holocaust survivor says that prisoners  went through a selection upon arrival and those who were selected to die were sent immediately to the gas chamber, not to a “death barracks” to wait for their turn in the gas chamber.  There were other selections when Dr. Mengele would come to the barracks and choose prisoners, who looked unhealthy, to be taken to the gas chamber.   However, I have never heard of a “death barracks” at Birkenau where prisoners were sent to wait for their turn to die.

Numerous stories told by Holocaust survivors mention that a train would arrive at Birkenau and on that same day, 3,000 prisoners would be gassed and burned.  There was a soccer field right next to Krema III, one of the gas chamber buildings, and the prisoners who were playing soccer could watch the prisoners entering the gas chamber.

July 22, 2012

Father Kolbe, the Catholic priest who died in place of another at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:53 am

This quote is from a piece written by Dean Stroud which you can read in full here:

In July 1941 in the Auschwitz concentration camp, a Nazi officer selected a group of prisoners to die a slow death by starvation. Some prisoners had attempted to escape, and the Nazi response was to kill prisoners as a lesson against trying such things.

One of the men selected to die in the “starvation pit” pleaded not to be among those killed because he had a family. At that moment a Catholic priest, Father Maximilian Kolbe, volunteered to take the man’s place. He had no family, he said, and no one awaiting him. He would die in the man’s place.

Uncharacteristically, the Nazi allowed the exchange. In the starvation pit, the priest never despaired or fell into bitterness. He encouraged the other prisoners until he alone was left alive. Finally, tired of waiting for him to die, the Nazis killed him. Years later, when Pope John Paul II beatified Father Kolbe, the Jewish man whose place he had taken, was sitting in the audience with his wife, children and grandchildren.

I feel that this story needs some explanation, especially the term “starvation pit,” so I am putting in my two-cents worth.

The photo below shows the door into prison cell No. 21, one of the “starvation cells” in Block 11, the internal prison in the main Auschwitz camp.

The door into Prison Cell No. 21 in Block 11 at Auschwitz

Cell No. 21, shown in the photo above, has two religious pictures which were scratched into the wall by a Polish political prisoner, using only his fingernails. The wooden door of the cell has  a piece of glass covering the upper half of the door where there are more scratchings made with fingernails.

Cell No. 27 was a “starvation cell” in Block 11

Cell No. 21 and No. 27 were called “starvation cells” because prisoners, who had been condemned to death, were kept there without food and water until they died.

Cell No. 27 is where the first prisoners were gassed with Zyklon-B at Auschwitz, on the orders of the Camp Commander Karl Fritsch, but that is another story.

Block 11 has window wells to let light into the prison cells in the basement

The prison cell that was occupied by Father Kolbe

Father Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest who was arrested by the Gestapo on February 17, 1941 because he had hidden 2,000 Jews, and because he was broadcasting reports over the radio condemning Nazi activities during World War II. On May 25, 1941, he was sent to the main Auschwitz camp as a political prisoner.

The following quote is from Wikipedia:

In July 1941, a man from Kolbe’s barrack had vanished, prompting SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritsch, the Lagerführer (i.e., the camp commander), to pick 10 men from the same barrack to be starved to death in Block 11 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine.) One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

Gajowniczek was a Polish political prisoner who had been arrested because he was aiding the Jewish resistance in Poland, although he was not a Jew himself.

This quote is from Wikipedia:

Franciszek Gajowniczek (November 15, 1901 – March 13, 1995[1]) was a Polish army sergeant whose life was spared by the Nazis when Saint Maximilian Kolbe sacrificed his life for Gajowniczek’s. Gajowniczek had been sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp for aiding the Jewish resistance in Poland.

Father Kolbe was canonized a saint in the Catholic Church on Oct. 10, 1982 in a ceremony held at the Auschwitz I camp.

This quote is from Wikipedia:

Gajowniczek was released from Auschwitz after spending five years, five months and nine days in the camp. Though his wife, Helena, survived the war, his sons were killed in a Soviet bombardment in 1945, before his release.[1]

PopePaul VI beatified Maximilian Kolbe in 1971; for the occasion, Gajowniczek was a guest of the Pope.  […]

His wife, Helena, died in 1977.[1] Gajowniczek was again a guest of the Pope when Maximilian Kolbe was canonized by John Paul II on October 10, 1982.

The wife and children and grandchildren of Gajowniczek may have been with him at the beatification of Father Kolbe, but strangely Wikipedia doesn’t mention it, nor does Wikipedia mention that Gajowniczek was Jewish.

Dean Stroud’s version of the story is better because he tells how a non-Jew sacrificed his life so that a Jew could live.  If only more non-Jews had given their lives so that the Jews could live, there would have been no Holocaust.

July 20, 2012

Undocumented single mother, arrested while selling tamales, faces deportation

Filed under: California, Health — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:53 am

You can read all about the “tamale lady” who was arrested on June 28th, for trespassing, in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store in Sacramento, CA here.

I first learned of this tragic story when I read it in the Sacramento Bee newspaper. The woman has been on her own since she broke up with her “common law” husband four years ago, according the the Bee.

For two years, this undocumented immigrant has been eking out a living by selling her authentic Mexican “chicken, pork and chilli cheese” tamales.  On a “good day,” according to the Sacramento Bee, she was making $15 dollars profit on the sale of 50 tamales.  On this small income, she has been feeding her two children, paying her rent, and maintaining a 1996 vehicle.  Of course, she doesn’t pay taxes, but how in the world does she support herself and her children on $15 per day?

After she was arrested for trespassing, and kept in jail for 12 days because she had no money for bail, it was learned that she was undocumented.  Now she faces deportation as an “illegal alien.” Her two children are American citizens because they were born here.

I predict that this woman will not be deported.  No, she is now on her way to fame and fortune.  Obama himself will very likely step in and save her.

I have eaten a few tamales in my day.  A Mexican-American citizen in my neighborhood used to make them and hand them out as Christmas gifts every year.

First of all, the tamale lady is badly in need of some marketing advice, which I predict will soon be forth coming.  $1.00 for a tamale made by a Mexican from an authentic Mexican recipe?  No way, Jose!  She should be selling her tamales for at least $3.00. I would seriously suggest that she sell them for $5.00 each.

I would not buy a tamale for $1.00 from a make-shift stand in a parking lot, but I would buy a $5.00 tamale from a food van (aka a “roach coach”).  Food vans are popular, even in England, according to an article which you can read here.

America is a country of immigrants.  Everyone here is either an immigrant, or descended from an immigrant.  Many of the immigrants were sent here against their will.  For example, people from Africa were bought here against their will and sold as slaves.  People from Ireland were put on “coffin ships” by the British and brought to America against their will during the so-called “famine” in Ireland.  Men from the German state of Hesse were sold to the British who sent them to America against their will to fight as soldiers in the American Revolution.

There are many Americans who favor open borders in America.  Let anyone come here, at any time, no need for citizenship papers.  If America had had open borders between 1933 and 1945, all the Jews in Europe could have come to America and there would have been no Holocaust.

The tamale lady has been in America for 16 years, according to the Bee.  Yet, she still needed help from her children when the police arrived because she can’t speak English.  Why should she?  There are enough people who speak Spanish in California that there is no need to learn English.

July 19, 2012

Sean Hannity’s interview with George Zimmerman, the man charged with murder in the Trayvon Martin case

Filed under: True Crime — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:23 am

Last night I watched the interview that Sean Hannity conducted with George Zimmerman, who has been charged with second degree murder in the death of 17-year-old black teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida.  I was impressed with Zimmerman’s demeanor; in my opinion, he conducted himself very well during the interview.

I learned a few new details in the case.  For example, Zimmerman said that at first, “I didn’t think I hit him.” He added that he had only later found out that Martin had died.  He said that he has not returned to his home since that night.  He has been holed up in a hotel in another city because of the death threats against him.

The latest news is that the prosecutor in the case will include this interview in its prosecution of the case.  “Anything you say can and will be used against you.”  That is the law.  So why did Zimmerman go on TV and give what amounted to his testimony — before the trial?

Zimmerman has been demonized by the press so much that, in my opinion, he wants to change the minds of the potential jury pool before the trial. The jury pool has been poisoned by all the negative publicity about Zimmerman. Or it could be that Zimmerman does not want to take the witness stand at the trial, and he anticipated that the prosecution would use this interview in the case.  Based on what Zimmerman said in this interview, I believe that he will be acquitted.  And then the riot will start.

There have been rumors that Sean Hannity offered to pay Zimmerman’s expenses in the case, but both Zimmerman and Hannity denied this last night.

Among the details revealed by Zimmerman last night was his claim that Trayvon Martin was walking through the gated community where Zimmerman lives, but not on the sidewalk — he was walking between the houses. Zimmerman was returning from a trip to Target to buy food when he observed Martin strolling leisurely through the gated community in the rain.  Zimmerman said that Martin was not walking on the concrete path that winds through the houses, but was “walking between the houses.”

Then Zimmerman told about a recent incident when a “home invasion” occurred near his home and Zimmerman’s wife saw the home invader running through their back yard.  Throughout the interview, Zimmerman mentioned his wife many times.  It was clear that Zimmerman was thinking about the safety of his wife, as he watched a young man, wearing a gray hoodie, walking between the houses in the rain.

Zimmerman says that he got out of his car, not to follow Martin, but to walk around to the front of the houses so that he could get an address to give to the police.  It was at this point that Martin approached Zimmerman and asked “What is your problem?”  The altercation began with Martin punching Zimmerman in the nose, then straddling him on the ground as he pounded Zimmerman’s head against the concrete path that was level with the grass.

Zimmerman had already called the police and he knew that the police were on their way, but he had not given the police an exact address.  He screamed for “Help” several times, hoping that the police would arrive in time to save his life.  Zimmerman did not speculate that Martin intended to kill him.  No, Zimmerman knew that his life was in danger because Martin told him that he was going to die.

If Zimmerman had not had a gun in a holster that night, it would have been Zimmerman who was killed, and this story would never have made the national news.

At the end of the interview, Zimmerman turned to look directly into the camera as he said:

“I do want to tell everyone, my wife, my family, my parents, my grandmother, the Martins, the city of Sanford and America that I’m sorry that this happened,” he said. “I hate to think that because of this incident, because my actions, it’s polarized and divided American. And I’m truly sorry.”

July 18, 2012

97-year-old chief of Nazi camp has been arrested in Hungary

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:52 am

You can read the full story of the arrest of Laszlo Csatary here.

According to today’s news:

The case of Laszlo Csatary was brought to the attention of Hungarian authorities last year by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization active in hunting down Nazis who have yet to be brought to justice. […]

Prosecutors decided to charge Csatary with the “unlawful torture of human beings,” a war crime that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

This quote is from today’s news:

According to a summary of the case released by prosecutors, Csatary was picked in 1944 as chief of an internment camp at a brick factory, in what was then Hungary, from where 12,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps. Authorities say Csatary was present when the trains were loaded and sent on their way.

An internment camp at a brick factory?  That might be the ghetto in a brick factory in the city of Miskolc, Hungary.

There were 725,000 Jews living in Hungary in 1944, including many who were previously residents of Romania, according to Laurence Rees, who wrote Auschwitz, a New History. After Germany took over Hungary in March 1944, the Jews in the villages and small towns were immediately rounded up and concentrated in ghettos.

If Laszlo Csatary lives long enough to be put on trial, there will be numerous Holocaust survivors, who can testify against him. Most of the Holocaust survivors still alive today are Hungarian Jews, and many of them were first sent to the ghetto which was located in a brick factory in the city of Miskolc, Hungary. There were 14,000 Jews imprisoned in the Miskolc ghetto while they waited to be transported to Auschwitz-Birkeanu.

Magda Brown, who was born in Miskolc on June 11, 1927, said in a speech at a Synagogue in Morgan Hill, CA that her family was marched though the city to the Miskolc ghetto on her 17th birthday in 1944. From there, Magda was transported on a train to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she was immediately separated from her family.

After two months at Auschwitz-Birkeanu, Magda was sent, along with 1,000 Hungarian women, to work in a munitions factory at Allendorf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald. In March 1945, the prisoners at Allendorf were evacuated and marched to the Buchenwald main camp; Magda escaped from the march and hid on a farm until she was rescued by American soldiers.

One of the most famous survivors of the Holocaust is Irene Zisblatt. After Germany invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944, Irene and her family were put into the Miskolc ghetto, which Irene said “consisted of a couple of streets around a brick factory.”

Irene Zisblatt wrote a book, published in 2008, entitled The Fifth Diamond about her time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. The title refers to a necklace with four diamonds, set into a pendant, which Irene wears around her neck when she speaks to American school children who are studying the Holocaust. As a survivor, Irene is the Fifth Diamond.

In 1994, after Steven Spielberg’s movie Schindler’s List came out, Irene decided to tell her story.  She was chosen as one of five Hungarian survivors to be featured in Spielberg’s Academy Award winning documentary entitled The Last Days, which was released in 1998. A book entitled The Last Days was published in 1999.

In The Last Days, Irene said that she “was about 9 years old” when she was expelled from school in 1939. A curfew was established and “Jewish people were forbidden to leave their houses after six in the evening or before eight in the morning.” Irene’s father lost his business when it was given to a Gentile.

Irene tells students that she was 13 years old when she was put on a train from the Miskolc ghetto to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp during the deportation of the Hungarian Jews in May 1944. She was immediately separated from her family and she was the only one of her 40 family members to survive the gas chambers.

According to Irene’s story in the book entitled The Last Days, Irene’s father was born in 1908, so he was 36 years old in 1944, young enough to be selected for work at Birkenau. In the selections upon arrival at Birkenau, everyone older than 45 or younger than 15 was sent immediately to the gas chamber. Irene says that her entire family was gassed in Gas Chamber #2 on the day that they arrived, including her parents who were of working age.

Irene says that the Jews in the Miskolc ghetto were tricked into getting on the train to Birkenau. “The train came in the night and it was announced that everybody who wanted to go to Tokaj to work in the vineyards should get on the train.”

This quote is from the news article about the arrest of Laslo Csatary:

Csatary “regularly” used a dog whip against the Jewish detainees “without any special reasons and irrespective of the assaulted people’s sex, age or health condition,” the prosecutors’ statement says.

As one train departed with some 80 Jews crammed into one railcar, Csatary refused a request by one of the Jews to cut holes in the walls of the wagon to let more air in, the statement says, according to the AP.

In the book The Last Days, Irene Zisblatt tells how her mother gave her advice, before the train left the ghetto: advice that saved her from being immediately selected for the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The following quote is from the book entitled The Last Days:

And she [Irene’s mother] told me to say I was twenty years old – I was only thirteen – because then I would be sent to work in a factory where I would get food and I would survive.

Irene’s mother’s advice is an indication that the Jews in the Miskolc ghetto knew that they would be transferred from Auschwitz-Birkenau to factories in Germany if they were of working age.  In fact, that is what happened, and that is why there are still so many Hungarian Holocaust survivors alive today.

Irene Zisblatt could be a witness on behalf of Laslo if he is put on trial.  She could testify that the Jews in the Miskolc ghetto knew that being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau was not a death sentence because Auschwitz was also a transit camp, from which Jews of working age were sent to work in factories.

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