Scrapbookpages Blog

April 8, 2013

Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day to remember the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The historical fight between the Nazis and the Jews, known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, began on April 19, 1943 and ended on May 16, 1943. A total of 56,065 Jews were taken as prisoners by the Germans during the uprising, and around 6,000 Jews were killed during the destruction of the buildings in the ghetto.

The date of Holocaust Remembrance Day changes each year, but the date of the Uprising remains the same: April 19th, the first day of Passover in 1943.

Monument on the site of Mila 18, the last bunker to surrender during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Monument on the site of Mila 18, the last bunker to surrender during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Pictured above is the memorial stone to the Jewish heroes of the Z.O.B. (Jewish Fighting Organization) who died in an underground bunker beneath the house at ul. Mila 18 during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The stone sits on top of a mound of rubble, where the house at this address once stood; it is turned slightly toward Mila street which is to the left. The street is still named Mila, but #18 is no longer an address there.

A building that was destroyed during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

A building that was destroyed during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The reason, for the Jewish Resistance in April and May 1943, was that the Jews in the Ghetto had learned that the daily trains to Treblinka were not transporting the Jews to resettlement camps in the East, but were taking them to a death camp to be killed in gas chambers. It was because the ghetto residents began refusing to get on the trains that the Nazis decided to liquidate the ghetto. Ukrainian and Latvian SS soldiers marched into the ghetto on April 19, 1943, entering at the northern border of the Ghetto on Zamenhofa street. It was not until May 16th that the SS was able to defeat the Jewish resistance fighters, who lasted longer than the whole Polish army when the Germans and the Russians jointly invaded Poland in September 1939.

The iconic photo below was included in the photos in the Stroop Report, which was the report written by the Commander of the SS forces that fought the Jews.

Jews who were forced out of a Hotel in the Warsaw Ghetto

Jews who were forced out of a Hotel in the Warsaw Ghetto

The soldier, who is holding a gun on the little boy in the photo, was Josef Blösche; he was put on trial in East Germany after the war and was executed after being convicted of participating in the action to put down the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. There are 50 photos included in The Stroop Report, which documents the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto.

In June 1942, the Nazis had begun transporting the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp on the Bug river, near the eastern border of German-occupied Poland. Eventually, reports of mass murder got back to the Warsaw Ghetto and a resistance organization called the Z.O.B. (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa) was formed to prevent any more deportations from the ghetto. The leader of the Z.O.B. was Mordecai Anielewicz.

Jews coming out of their hiding places to surrender

Jews coming out of their hiding places to surrender

The interior of one of the underground bunkers where the Jews hid in the Warsaw Ghetto

The interior of one of the underground bunkers where the Jews hid in the Warsaw Ghetto

In January 1943, the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto decided to resist the next round-up for deportation to Treblinka; the young Z.O.B fighters fired on German troops as they tried to get the Jews into railroad cars to be transported to the death camp. The Germans retreated after four days of fighting and the Jews began to prepare to hold out against future attempts to liquidate the ghetto.

The following quote is from the opening statement by Robert Jackson at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal in which he spoke about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  One of the crimes, charged against the Germans at the IMT, was the crime of killing Jews during the Uprising.

It is the original report of the SS Brigadier General Stroop in charge of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and its title page carries the inscription “The Jewish ghetto in Warsaw no longer exists.” It is characteristic that one of the captions explains that the photograph (the photo which shows a little boy with his hands up) concerned shows the driving out of Jewish “bandits”; those whom the photograph shows being driven out are almost entirely women and little children. It contains a day-by-day account of the killings mainly carried out by the SS organization, too long to relate, but let me quote General Stroop’s summary:

“The resistance put up by the Jews and bandits could only be suppressed by energetic actions of our troops day and night. The Reichsfuehrer SS [Heinrich Himmler] ordered, therefore, on 4/23/1943, the cleaning out of the ghetto with utter ruthlessness and merciless tenacity. I, therefore, decided to destroy and burn down the entire ghetto without regard to the armament factories. These factories were systematically dismantled and then burned. Jews usually left their hideouts, but frequently remained in the burning buildings and jumped out of the windows only when the heat became unbearable. They then tried to crawl with broken bones across the street into buildings which were not afire. Sometimes they changed their hideouts during the night into the ruins of burned buildings. Life in the sewers was not pleasant after the first week. Many times we could hear loud voices in the sewers. SS men or policemen climbed bravely through the manholes to capture these Jews. Sometimes they stumbled over Jewish corpses: sometimes they were shot at. Tear gas bombs were thrown into the manholes and the Jews driven out of the sewers and captured. Countless numbers of Jews were liquidated in sewers and bunkers through blasting. The longer the resistance continued the tougher became the members of the Waffen SS, Police and Wehrmacht who always discharged their duties in an exemplary manner. Frequently Jews who tied to replenish their food supplies during the night or to communicate with neighboring groups were exterminated.”

“This action eliminated,” says the SS commander, “a proved total of 56,065 [sent to Treblinka]. To that, we have to add the number killed through blasting, fire, etc., which cannot be counted.” (1061- PS)

Although the Jews lost the fight, the point is that they RESISTED the Nazis and that is cause for celebration.  The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were eventually taken to Treblinka and killed in gas chambers, but at least they tried.

I previously blogged about Treblinka here and here and here.

Alfred de Grazia, Commanding Officer of the Psychological Warfare Propaganda Team attached to headquarters of the US 7th Army

Captain Alfred de Grazia stands in front of Dachau crematorium, May 1, 1945

Captain Alfred de Grazia stands in front of Dachau crematorium, May 1, 1945

Update August 8. 2015:  The Wikipedia page about Alfred de Grazia has been updated since I wrote this blog post.  The photo above is no longer on the page about Alfred de Grazia.  Wikipedia now has this page about the photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capt.Alfred_de_Grazia_at_Dachau_concentration_camp,_ca_May_1st_1945.jpg

Continue reading my original blog post:

The photo above, borrowed from Wikipedia, shows Captain Alfred de Grazia, who was the Commanding Officer of the Psychological Warfare Propaganda team attached to the U.S. Seventh Army during World War II.  He is standing in front of a pile of bodies outside the Baracke X building at Dachau on May 1, 1945.

Did America really have an Army team, during World War II, that carried out PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE and PROPAGANDA?  To our everlasting shame — YES!!!

The men in America’s Psychological Warfare and Propaganda military unit were mostly Jewish immigrants from Germany, who had been trained at Camp Ritchie in Maryland; they were known as “The Ritchie Boys.”

This quote is from Wikipedia’s entry for Alfred de Grazia:

In World War II, Alfred de Grazia served in the ranks from private to captain, in artillery, intelligence, and psychological warfare.[11] He received training in this then new field at in Washington D.C. and the newly established Camp Ritchie, Maryland.[12][citation needed] He served with the 3rd, 5th and 7th US Armies and as a liaison officer with the British 8th Army.[citation needed] He took part in six campaigns, from North Africa to Italy (Battle of Monte Cassino) to France and Germany, receiving several decorations.

He co-authored a report on psychological warfare for the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force.[14] By the end of the war, he was Commanding Officer of the Psychological Warfare Propaganda Team attached to the headquarters of the 7th Army.

May 1, 1945, the day that Alfred de Grazia arrived at Dachau, was the same day that a group of American Congressmen arrived.  The Congressmen had to wait until May 3rd before they could be photographed in the newly built gas chamber, which is shown in the photo below.

The delegation of US Congressmen had flown to Paris on April 22, 1945, at Eisenhower’s request, and had first visited Buchenwald on April 24, 1945, two weeks after the camp was liberated on April 11th. The Congressmen arrived in Dachau on May 1, 1945, the same day that newsreels were first released in American theaters, showing the Nazi atrocities at Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen. Dachau had been liberated on April 29, 1945, just two days before the Congressmen arrived.

U.S. Congressmen examine the gas chamber at Dachau on May 3, 1945

U.S. Congressmen in gas chamber at Dachau on May 3, 1945

Same view of Dachau gas chamber, May 2001

Same view of Dachau gas chamber, May 2001

What did the “gas chamber” at Dachau look like before the Psychological Warfare and Propaganda team arrived at Dachau? Before the shower room in Barrack X was converted into a gas chamber, it looked something like the shower room in the administration building, which is now the Dachau Museum.  The pipes and shower heads were removed before the building was turned into a Museum.

April 1945 photo of the shower room in the administration building at Dachau

April 1945 photo of the shower room in the administration building at Dachau

In 2004, I saw a documentary film about the Ritchie Boys. Alfred de Grazia was not included among the Ritchie Boys who were featured in the film.

I wrote a review of the film on my website.  This quote is from my review, which you can read in full here:

The movie does not fully explain why one of the Ritchie boys was sent to Nordhausen. It was not to interrogate the Jewish survivors, nor to gather evidence of war crimes, but to arrange for getting everything out of the V-2 rocket factory and on its way to America before the camp had to be turned over to the Russians in July 1945 because Nordhausen had been promised to the Soviet Union, since it was in their zone of occupation according to the terms of the Yalta agreement. The British had also been promised a share of the loot, but the Americans made sure that they got there first.

The significance of Nordhausen is lost in the film because of Parloff’s story about a Jew standing on a pile of ashes. There is no mention of the rocket technology that America stole from our Russian allies after they made such a great sacrifice to win the war, or the fact that this was a violation of President Roosevelt’s agreement with Uncle Joe at Yalta. The documentary implies that Nordhausen was a “death camp” where Jews were murdered and then cremated.

During the war crimes trial of the Nordhausen staff, held at Dachau after the war, the defense pointed out that it took one to three months to train a worker for the V-2 rocket factory, and the Germans did their best to keep these prisoners alive, although it was a losing battle due to the severe conditions in the tunnels and the typhus epidemics that were out of control in all of the camps at the end of the war. The prisoners who worked in the tunnels were political prisoners from Buchenwald; they worked side by side with German civilians in the rocket factory. They were even paid a small amount of money which they could use to buy cigarettes and food in the camp canteen, or to visit one of the prostitutes in the camp brothel.

However, there was also a “recuperation camp” near the town of Nordhausen where the factory workers were sent to recover when they were too sick to work in the underground factory. In the last months of the war, Jewish prisoners who had been evacuated from Auschwitz were brought to this sub-camp of Nordhausen, which was called Boelke Kaserne by the Germans. A few days before the recuperation camp was liberated, it was bombed by American planes and around 1500 prisoners were killed. There were other prisoners who had died of tuberculosis or typhus and when the liberators arrived, there were around 3,000 unburied bodies and around 700 sick and dying prisoners who had been left behind when the camp was evacuated.

During the Boelke Kaserne segment in the documentary, a shot of the crematorium at Dachau is shown with bodies piled up against the wooden structure in front of the outside wall. Then another shot of some sick prisoners in wagons, which was taken at Dachau, is shown. This footage is from the film entitled “Nazi Concentration Camps,” which was made by Lt. Col. George C. Stevens a day or two after Dachau was liberated; it was shown during the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Christian Bauer obtained the film clips for his documentary from the US Archives.

Bauer now lives in Munich, 18 kilometers from Dachau. Surely, he must have recognized that this footage was taken at Dachau and not at the Nordhausen sick camp. Perhaps he used the scenes from Dachau instead of Nordhausen because so many of the bodies found at the Nordhausen “recuperation camp” had been blown to pieces by American bombs.