Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2013 is on Sunday, the 7th of April.
On this website, I read the following quote about Holocaust Remembrance Day:
This Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), take time to remember the victims of the Holocaust.
It is very important to remember this dark time in history, to think about how millions of people were destroyed, because of hatred. The hatred and ignorance continues today, as there are factions of society in America, the Middle East, Europe, and around the globe that are accepting and propagating Holocaust denial.
It’s hard to fathom, but there are people who hate Israel so much, they are bent on “re-writing history” with a concerted effort of Holocaust denial propaganda. They prey on the ignorant and those who already have hate in their hearts for the Jewish people and tell them that the Holocaust never happened, and that it was an elaborate fabrication.
The photo below was included on the website with the above quote.
According to Martin Gilbert, the author of a book entitled Holocaust, Ebensee was an “end destination” for Jewish prisoners who were evacuated from camps farther east as the Soviet Army advanced toward Germany. In the last months of the war, the Ebensee camp was seriously over-crowded with these exhausted prisoners, many of whom had just arrived in the weeks prior to the liberation. Gilbert wrote the following regarding the evacuations and the death marches:
Jews who had already survived the ‘selections’ in Birkenau, and work as slave laborers in factories, had now to survive the death marches. Throughout February and March  columns of men, and crowded cattle trucks, converged on the long-existing concentration camps, now given a new task. These camps had been transformed into holding camps for the remnant of a destroyed people, men and women whose labor was still of some last-minute utility for a dying Reich, or whose emaciated bodies were to be left to languish in agony in one final camp.
According to Gilbert’s book, a train loaded with 2,059 Jews arrived at Ebensee on March 3, 1945. They had survived the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau and had first been sent to the Gross Rosen concentration camp, then on to Ebensee. Forty-nine of the Jewish prisoners died on the train, and on their first day in the camp, 182 died during the disinfection procedure. New arrivals had to be disinfected to kill the body lice which spreads typhus. There was a typhus epidemic in Mauthausen and the sub-camps and, according to Martin Gilbert, 30,000 prisoners died in these camps in the last four months of the war.
Mauthausen and the sub-camp of Ebensee were not camps specifically for Jews. The photograph below was taken on May 6, 1945, after Ebensee had been liberated by soldiers in the 80th Division of the US Third Army on May 4th and 5th. The banner, written in French, reads “The French prisoners Salute the Allies.” It was erected by the anti-Nazi resistance fighters who were imprisoned here after being captured and accused of doing acts of sabotage during the Nazi occupation of France.
The prisoners in the photo, shown on the website about Holocaust Remembrance day, may or may not have been Jewish prisoners who had been evacuated from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Gross Rosen and then to Ebensee.
The photo below shows German prisoners marching out of the camp after it was liberated.
According to Martin Gilbert, the last death marches of the war began on May 1, 1945 as the American Army approached; prisoners from the main camp at Mauthausen and the sub-camps at Gusen and St. Valentin were marched to Gunskirchen and Ebensee. Hundreds of them died from exhaustion, or were shot because they couldn’t keep up, or as they attempted to escape. When American troops in the 80th Infantry Division arrived on May 4, 1945, there were around 60,000 prisoners from 25 different countries at Ebensee.
Evelyn le Chene, the historian of Mauthausen, wrote that, as the American armies approached Ebensee, all thirty thousand prisoners in the camp were ordered into a tunnel packed with explosives. There were similar reports of plans to kill all the prisoners at other camps, such as Nordhausen, and even Dachau, but none of these plans were ever carried out.
Hitler did not want the prisoners to be released to get revenge on German and Austrian civilians. In fact, the Russian liberators at Theresienstadt did release the Jewish prisoners there, and according to Theo Richmond, the author of the book Konin, One Man’s Quest For a Vanished Jewish Community, the former inmates did get “nekomeh” or Revenge. Richmond quotes Louis Lefkowitz, a Jewish survivor of Buchenwald and Theresienstadt, who recounted the following story regarding German civilians who were trying to flee from the Russian soldiers who were also exacting vengeance on the Germans:
I saw nekomeh in Theresienstadt. For two days after the liberation, the Russians let us do whatever we want. I was too weak to join in, but I saw our boys bring in Germans who were running away on horse and wagons. They brought them in – whole families on the wagons. They put gasoline over the people and burned them up. Wagons with whole families were burning day and night for two days.
The following quote, regarding the plan to force all the Ebensee prisoners into a tunnel, is from Evelyn le Chene:
The prisoners, to a man, blankly refused. The SS guards were paralyzed with indecision. The hordes of humans swayed and murmured. For the first time since their arrest, the prisoners who were not already dying saw the possibility that they might just survive the war. Understandably, they neither wished to be blown up in the tunnel, nor mowed down by SS machine guns for refusing. But they knew that in these last days, many of the SS had left and been replaced by Ethnic Germans. […] With the war all but over, they were thinking of the future, and the punishment they would receive for the slaughter of so many human beings was something they still wished – even with their already stained hands – to avoid. And so the prisoners won the day.
So what is the point that I am trying to make in my blog post today? I think that the website, that is asking for money for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, could have used a better photo in their effort to combat Holocaust denial. The prisoners in the photo, taken at Ebensee, do not look Jewish to me.
I like the photo below, which is a still photo from the documentary made by the Soviet liberators of Auschwitz.
The expression on this woman’s face says it all. She is angry because she has been pulled out of her warm bed, wrapped up in a thick comforter, to pose for a documentary. She didn’t leave with the prisoners who marched out of the camp and were taken first to the Gross Rosen concentration camp, and then on to Ebensee. No, she stayed put, because she knew that she would not be killed if she didn’t join the death march out of Auschwitz.