In preparation for a new movie, coming out in February 2014, I am reading the book by Robert M. Edsel, entitled The Monuments Men. The movie, also entitled The Monuments Men, is based on the book.
I ordered the book from Amazon.com and started reading it two days ago. The book is 540 pages long, so of course I didn’t start reading it on page one. No, I went straight to the index and started looking up words that would lead me to the important parts of the book.
The first word that I looked up in the index was Ohrdruf. I have written extensively about Ohrdruf on my website and on my blog. I found the name August Eigruber while I was looking up something else.
August Eigruber was put on trial by American prosecutors in an American Military Tribunal proceeding against the war criminals associated with the Mauhausen Concentration camp. In the photo above, Lt. Col. William Denson, the American prosecutor, seems to be amused by Eigruber’s testimony.
Several years ago, I wrote about Eigruber on my website.
The following quote is from my website:
The “big fish” among the accused in the Mauthausen case was August Eigruber, the former Gauleiter of Upper Austria. He was charged with participating in the common design to violate the Laws and Usages of War because, along with other alleged crimes, he had been involved in helping Heinrich Himmler to acquire the property where the Mauthausen camp was built. Hartheim Castle, near Linz, was also under Eigruber’s jurisdiction and he had leased it to the Reich. Prisoners from Mauthausen had been taken to the castle to be gassed, according to confessions obtained by the American military interrogators from several of the accused men.
Eigruber was an associate of such top Nazis as Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Adolf Eichmann and Adolf Hitler, all of whom were from Austria. He was also a friend of Martin Bormann, who was Hitler’s deputy. When he refused to talk after he was captured, Eigruber was sent to Washington, DC for questioning. Eigruber’s importance was such that he was originally slated to be among the men who were tried at the Nuremberg IMT.
According to Joshua Greene’s book Justice at Dachau, the chief prosecutor at Dachau, Lt. Col. William Denson, put in a call to Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg IMT and told him, “Send me Eigruber. I’ll hang him high as Haman.” Haman was the villain in the biblical story on which the Jewish holiday of Purim is based. Denson made good on his boast: Eigruber was hanged on May 28, 1947.
On February 18, 1946, August Eigruber was brought from Nuremberg to Dachau and turned over to Lt. Paul Guth for interrogation. Lt. Guth testified on the witness stand that he had not coerced or threatened Eigruber in any way. Although he had previously refused to talk, Eigruber voluntarily signed a statement for Lt. Guth the next day, in which he admitted that he was responsible for leasing Hartheim Castle to the Reich in 1939 for the killing of mental patients who were incurably ill or unable to work. He also admitted to inspecting the Mauthausen gas chamber once and to participating in the execution of ten prisoners of unknown nationality during the night in March or April 1945. Eigruber’s statement ended with the following words:
“This statement was made by me on three pages on the 19th of February 1946, in Dachau, Germany, of my own free will and without compulsion. To save time, a clerk wrote it down on a typewriter. I have read through it, and I have made corrections that appeared necessary to me. The above declaration contains my statements, and I swear before God that it is the entire truth. Signed, August Eigruber.”
Lt. Col. William Denson became famous for his 100% conviction rate in the first four proceedings conducted by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau. He died in 1998 at the age of 85 and in his obituary, he was quoted as saying that August Eigruber was “one of the most arrogant defendants I have ever encountered.” Eigruber was allegedly tortured to force him to confess, and there is even a rumor that he was “mutilated and castrated” after he was captured, but apparently even that didn’t humble him.
On page 505 of The Monuments Men, I read this about August Eigruber:
[Eigruber] was found guilty of war crimes committed at the Mauthausen concentration camp, including the execution of prisoners of war.
Much of the evidence used to convict [Eigruber] was from archives found in the salt mine at Altausee, probably another reason [Eigruber] was so keen to destroy the mine.
The photo above is from Wikipedia which has this caption on the photo:
Altaussee, May 1945 after the removal of the Nazi-bombs at the Nazi stolen art repository (Altaussee salt mine)
So maybe Eigruber actually did try to blow up the salt mine where German art treasures were stored. This brings up the question: Was he brought to America to be tortured into confessing that he had planted a bomb to destroy evidence against himself?
I wrote about the Prisoners of War, who were killed at Mauthausen, on my website here. The Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention of 1929, and they were killing German POWs, so the Germans did not think that they were obligated to observe the Geneva Convention with regard to the Soviet Union.
August Eigruber did not personally commit any war crimes at Mauthausen. He didn’t personally execute POWs. He was charged with crimes at Mauthausen under the “common plan” concept that was invented by the Allies AFTER the war. Under this concept, anyone who had anything whatsoever to do with a concentration camp was a war criminal.
Apparently Eigruber’s real crime was that he wanted to blow up the Altaussee salt mine to destroy the “spoils of war” to which the Americans felt that they were entitled.
On page 371 of The Monuments Men, I read this:
… [Bernard] Bernstein (one of the Monuments Men) was proceeding under the assumption that everything in the [Merkers] mine, including the [German] artwork, was captured enemy loot. It would be months before he was disavowed of that notion.
On page 374, I had read that the Merkers mine (near Ohrdruf) was in the part of Germany that had been promised to the Soviet Union. So Bernard Bernstein was proceeding under the assumption that Americans would not only steal all the German art treasures from the Germans, but they would also steal everything from the Soviets, who were entitled to the loot from their future zone of occupation of Germany.
So it turns out that Eigruber’s crime was that he wanted to destroy art that belonged to Germany, rather than see it go to the enemy as the “spoils of war.” Strangely, that was not mentioned in the book about the trials of the German war criminals.
On page 371, just after the quote about Bernard Bernstein, we find this information about the Ohrdruf labor camp:
A[n Allied] guard showed us how the blood had congealed in coarse black scabs where the starving prisoners had torn out the entrails of the dead for food.
In all my research about Ohrdruf, I never learned about the starving prisoners eating the entrails of the dead for food. I had to look up the word entrails to make sure of the meaning of the word. Entrails are the intestines or guts of an animal or human being. The food in the intestines has been digested and is on its way to being shit. I can’t think of anything more likely to kill a person than eating entrails.
The photo above shows well dressed and well fed survivors of Ohrdruf talking to an American Army officer. Apparently, eating entrails had not affected them.
The story of eating entrails at Ohrdruf was told by “an Allied guard.” Why did the Germans have an “Allied guard” at a labor camp? Could this have been a Kapo, that was an illegal combatant imprisoned at Ohrdruf, who helped the German guards?
The photo below shows a Kapo, standing on the left, who acted as a guide for General Eisenhower and other American military officers at Ohrdruf. The next day, this man was killed by the other prisoners.
Finally, I started reading the book, starting with Chapter 1, which is about Harry Ettlinger, a Jew from Karlsruhe, Germany who escaped Nazi Germany in 1938, and came to America, where he settled in Newark, New Jersey. The book tells about how Ettlinger had a hard time getting out of Germany because no country wanted to take the Jews who were fleeing the Nazis. As a German Jew, Ettlinger was the perfect candidate for the group, known as The Monuments Men.
In the photo above, the soldier on the far left is Benjamin B. Ferencz. Strangely, he is not included in the index of the book The Monuments Men. In 1945, Ferencz was transferred from General Patton’s army to the newly created War Crimes Branch of the U.S. Army, where his job was to gather evidence for future trials of German war criminals. A Jew from Transylvania, Ferencz had moved with his family to America at the age of 10 months.