Scrapbookpages Blog

March 9, 2013

Jews from the Netherlands were killed in the Sachsenhausen gas chamber… who knew?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:32 am

The Orange County Register online newspaper has an article here, from which I am quoting:

Eighth-grader Kaitlyn Pham thought she knew the history of the Holocaust because of books she studied in school.

But it wasn’t until the 12-year-old heard the firsthand account of Ursula Levy that Pham truly began to understand the strength and courage it took to live through one of the largest atrocities in history.

Pham chronicled in an essay how a young Levy, now 77, and her family were forced from their small Netherlands town and imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The family lived in constant fear of the dreaded gas chambers. In all that time, Levy used music to help her cope, until she was eventually freed.

Jews from the Netherlands were sent to Sachsenhausen?  And they lived in constant fear of the “gas chambers” (plural)? Yet they were allowed to play music?  And Levy was “eventually freed?”  So she was not marched out of Sachsenhausen before the liberators arrived?  You can read about the prisoners being marched out of the Sachsenhausen camp on my website here.

The Sachsenhausen camp was mainly a concentration camp for political prisoners, not a death camp for Jews.  I previously blogged about the Sachsenhausen camp here.

The lone gas chamber at Sachsenhausen was quite small, as shown in the photo of the ruins below.  Note the floor drain in the middle of the gas chamber.  What kept the poison gas from going down the drain and poisoning everyone in the whole camp?

The ruins of the Sachsenhausen gas chamber

The ruins of the Sachsenhausen gas chamber

Old photo of the Sachsenhausen gas chamber shows a window

Old photo of the Sachsenhausen gas chamber shows a window

Note that the Sachsenhausen gas chamber, as shown in the photo above, was disguised as a shower room and had glass windows on two of the walls.

I didn’t know that Jewish families were sent directly from small towns to Sachsenhausen to be gassed, so I checked it out on Wikipedia.

This quote is from Wikipedia:

During the first year of the occupation of the Netherlands, Jews were forced to register with the authorities and were banned from certain occupations. Starting in January 1942, some Dutch Jews were forced to move to Amsterdam; others were directly deported to Westerbork, a concentration camp near the small village of Hooghalen which had been founded in 1939 by the Dutch government to give shelter to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, but would fulfill the function of a transit camp to the Nazi death camps in Middle and Eastern Europe during World War II.

All non-Dutch Jews were also sent to Westerbork. In addition, over 15,000 Jews were sent to labour camps. Deportations of Jews from the Netherlands to Poland and Germany began on 15 June 1942 and ended on 13 September 1944. Ultimately some 101,000 Jews were deported in 98 transports from Westerbork to Auschwitz (57,800; 65 transports), Sobibor (34,313; 19 transports), Bergen-Belsen (3,724; 8 transports) and Theresienstadt (4,466; 6 transports), where most of them were murdered. Another 6,000 Jews were deported from other locations (like Vught) in the Netherlands to concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Austria (like Mauthausen). Only 5,200 survived. The Dutch underground hid an estimated number of Jews of some 25,000–30,000; eventually, an estimated 16,500 Jews managed to survive the war by hiding.

Some 7,000 to 8,000 survived by fleeing to countries like Spain, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, or by being married to non-Jews (which saved them from deportation and possible death). At the same time, there was substantial collaboration from the Dutch population including the Amsterdam city administration, the Dutch municipal police, and Dutch railway workers who all helped to round up and deport Jews.

Is there any proof that there was a gas chamber at Sachsenhausen?  Yes, it was proved at a trial held by the Soviet Union after the war.

The Soviet Union Military Tribunal proceedings against Sachsenhausen Commandant Anton Kaindl and 15 others associated with the Sachsenhausen concentration camp began on October 23, 1947 in the Berlin Pankow city hall. This was the first time that the Soviets had allowed the press and the public to attend one of their Military Tribunal proceedings and this event soon became known in the press as “the Berlin trial.”

On the second day of the proceedings, a film made in 1946 by the Soviets, entitled “Sachsenhausen Death Camp,” was shown in the courtroom. Similar to the film made by the Americans at Dachau, the Sachsenhausen movie showed how poison gas was introduced into the gas chamber through large pipes with control wheels. The Sachsenhausen gas chamber was disguised as a shower room, just like the gas chamber at Dachau, and the pipes resembled water pipes going into a real shower room. Paul Sakowski was shown in the film, as he explained how the gas flowed through the pipes.

Paul Saskowski explains how poison gas came through water pipes

Paul Saskowski explains how poison gas came through water pipes into the Sachsenhausen gas chamber

Sakowski was a prisoner whose job was foreman of the crematorium at Sachsenhausen until 1943, when the gas chamber was built. The defendants were not charged with murdering Jews in the Sachsenhausen gas chamber, but rather with the gassing of Soviet Prisoners of War, since the Jews at Sachsenhausen had been transported to Poland, beginning in February 1942, before the gas chamber was built.

The Sachsenhausen gas chamber was located directly behind the shooting range, shown in the photo below.  Soviet POWs were shot at the shooting range, except for the ones who were killed in the gas chamber that was right next to the shooting range.

The place where Soviet POWs were shot at Sachsenhausen

The place where Soviet POWs were shot at Sachsenhausen