Scrapbookpages Blog

September 15, 2014

Who collected the luggage at Auschwitz — the SS men or the Kapos?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 4:36 pm
Hungarian Jews who have just arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Hungarian Jews who have just arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Click on the photo above to see it in a much larger size.

According to a recent news article, the Germans have located another old man [aged 93] to put on trial as a war criminal, charged with “aiding in the murder of 300,000 people” at Auschwitz-Birkenau. His crime was that he collected the luggage that the Hungarian Jews had brought with them on the transport trains.

This quote is from a news article about the case:

The man, who wasn’t identified, disposed of the luggage new prisoners left on train tracks at the concentration camp, Sabine Stuenkel, spokeswoman for Hanover prosecutors, said in an e-mailed statement today.

The goal was to “hide traces of the mass murder for subsequent inmates,” Stuenkel said. “Above all, his task was to count banknotes taken from the luggage and transfer them to the SS’s economy and administration agency in Berlin.”

Look closely at the photo at the top of this page.  Can you see any Waffen-SS soldiers collecting the luggage?  The men who are wearing striped uniforms, that look like pajamas, were Kapos, or prisoners who helped the Germans when the transport trains arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  I’m pretty sure that it was the Kapos who collected and disposed of the luggage.  Some of the Kapos, who survived, have written about how they stole things from the luggage.

My 1998 photo of the luggage collected from the Jews who were sent to Auschwitz

My 1998 photo of the luggage collected from the Jews who were sent to Auschwitz

Tadeusz Borowski, a prisoner at Auschwitz, wrote a book in which he said that three thousand Jews would arrive on a train transport and a privileged group of Kapos would be there to take their luggage and reassure them.  He wrote about how the Kapos stole items from the luggage.  I blogged about him at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/tadeusz-borowski-auschwitz-survivor/

How could Tadeusz have been so wrong?  We now know that it was those German criminals in the Waffen-SS who took the luggage from the trains.  They will finally be put on trial for their crimes of murdering Jews by disposing of their luggage.

Filip Müller, a Sonderkommando Jew, who wrote a book entitled Eye Witness Auschwitz, Three years in the Gas Chambers, wrote  that the Jews entered the gas chamber in the main camp, with all their clothes on, and even carried their luggage with them into the Krema I gas chamber in the main camp.

This quote is from the news article:

Frankfurt prosecutors first investigated the unidentified man about three decades ago, but closed the case in 1985 due to a lack of evidence, Stuenkel said. Hanover prosecutors closed three similar cases because the suspects died or were found unfit to stand trial, she said.

A court in Lueneburg must rule whether the case can proceed to trial. Sixteen survivors or relatives of the victims have asked to be added as co-plaintiffs.

The Nazis killed an estimated 6 million Jews in death camps throughout Europe during the war. Auschwitz, in a part of Poland annexed by Germany, was the largest of the camps and became a symbol of the tragedy of the holocaust.

The Demjanjuk verdict triggered a new wave of investigations after the judges veered from previous cases that required proof of individual acts. In Demjanjuk’s case, the court said it was enough to show he worked at the camp where everyone was involved in the mass killings.

If this new victim is brought into court on a stretcher, he will surely be convicted because there is no defense against the “Demjanjuk principle,” formerly known at the “common plan” theory of guilt.  This man should not be subjected to this torture.  Just kill him now, with a lethal injection.

 

Changes at the Mauthausen Memorial Site since my last visit

Old photo of the famous gate into the Mautahausen camp

Old photo of the famous gate into the Mauthausen camp

My 2003 photo of the 1941 sign over the gate into Mauthausen

My 2003 photo of the 1941 sign over the gate into Mauthausen

My 2003 photo above shows the beautiful granite that was taken out of the quarry at Mauthausen.  Tourists today no longer care about this.  It is only the horror of Mauthausen that attracts visitors today.

This morning, I read an article in The Express Tribune, which was entitled Muslim Jewish Conference: The ghosts of Mauthausen.

This quote is from the article:

On the morning of August 12, 2014, participants of the Muslim Jewish Conference travelled two hours by road from Vienna to Mauthausen, one of the largest labour/death camps built by the Nazis. It is estimated that during the seven years of the camp’s operation, nearly 90,000 people were killed at Mauthausen, of which 40,000 were Jews. The vast majority of those killed were Poles and Russians, with Germans, Austrians, Italians, Spaniards and Yugoslavians accounting for the rest. Mauthausen was a Stufe III (grade three) camp, which meant that it was intended to be one of the hardest camps for the political enemies of the Reich. Hitler’s major paramilitary organisation, The Schutzstaffel (SS), referred to it as Knochenmühle — the bone-grinder.

I traveled to the small town of Mauthausen in Austria in 2003, and stayed there for a week in a hotel in the town.  I was struck by the beauty of the town, the beauty of the camp, and the friendliness of all the Austrian people that I met.  (If you think that the German people are friendly, try visiting Austria.)

My 2003 photo of the Jewish monument at Mauthausen

My 2003 photo of the Jewish monument at Mauthausen

New monument at Mauthausen

New monument at Mauthausen

The photo immediately above, which is included in the news article about the trip to Mauthausen, was not there when I visited the Mauthausen camp in 2003. This new monument is apparently a monument to all the prisoners at Mauthausen, which was mainly a camp for convicted criminals, not a camp for Jews.

You can read about the first prisoners at Mauthausen, who were “career criminals,” on this page of my website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Mauthausen/KZMauthausen/History/FirstPrisoners.html

The photo below shows the view of the countryside from the wall around the Mauthausen camp.  These recent visitors to the camp were struck by the closeness of the camp to the Austrian people who did nothing to save the unfortunate prisoners in the camp.

Wall around the Mauthausen camp with the Austrian countryside in the background

My 2003 photo of the wall around the Mauthausen camp with the Austrian countryside in the background

The news article has the following quote about the view above:

Our tour guide, Wolfgang, took us to the outer perimetre of the camp, where you could see houses, barns and other structures of the surrounding town. Prisoners were tasked with building the camp on August 7, 1938, and the location was selected because of a nearby granite quarry. Initially a prison for criminals, it was converted to a labour camp on May 8, 1939. Mauthausen and nearby Gusen formed the basis of the Mauthausen-Gusen camp system, which resulted in 101 camps spread out across Austria by the end of the war.

According to the news article, it seems that the Jews and the Muslims on this trip had a far different experience from what I experienced in 2003. For one thing, I noted the beauty of the camp, as shown in my photos below.

A door at the Mauthusen camp

Note the door handle on a door at the Mauthusen camp

Prisoners entered Mauthausen through this door

Prisoners entered Mauthausen through this door

This quote is from the news article:

Dazed and overwhelmed, our group was led by Wolfgang back outside, to the other side of the prison which overlooked the granite quarry. Ailing and underperforming prisoners were forced to repeatedly march up the 186 steps with a large stone on their backs. Those who survived were made to stand in rows of two at the edge of the quarry and given the option of being shot in the back of the head or to push the prisoner in front of them into the quarry below. Murder was institutionalised in every shape and form at Mauthausen and everyone was a voluntary or involuntary participant. One survivor recounted 62 separate ways of murdering people at the camp that included everything from being beaten to death, icy showers that induced hypothermia, mass-shootings, starvation, drowning in barrels of water, electrocution at the perimeter fence and medical experiments by Aribert Heim, dubbed the ‘Butcher of Mauthusen’.

I rushed to Wikipedia to look up Dr. Heim, as I knew of him only vaguely.  This quote is from Wikipedia:

According to a former camp inmate, an 18-year-old Jewish man came to the clinic with a foot inflammation. He was asked by Heim why he was so fit-looking. He replied that he had been a football player and swimmer. Instead of treating the prisoner’s foot, Heim placed him under anaesthesia, cut him open, took apart one kidney, removed the second and castrated him. The man was decapitated and Heim boiled the flesh off the skull for use as a paperweight and display.[9][10][11][12]

The following quote is from the news article about Mauthausen:

Inside, on the main walkway, Wolfgang traced the steps of freshly arriving prisoners at the camp. Taken in through the main gates, they were first documented, then stripped and shaved from head to toe. Next, they were marched, naked, into the adjacent shower, where they were mass bathed in ice-cold water. A single Hebrew word was painted on one of the pillars inside the shower room. Adina Lieblich, a Jewish attendee from Australia, winced and turned away when she saw it.

“What happened? What does it say?” I asked.

“‘Revenge’,” she said. “It says ‘revenge’.”

Even in a place like this, it was a stark reminder of the mindless hatred that bubbles beneath the surface.

I interpreted the above quote as saying that the word “Revenge” was written by the Nazis who had “mindless hatred” for the Jews.  However, I believe that the word Revenge was written recently at Mauthausen by a Jewish visitor.  It is the Jews who have three laws, regarding the German people: “Revenge, Revenge, Revenge.”

The news article seems to be implying that no one knows how many Jews died there because no records were ever found.

Actually, the exact number of deaths at Mauthausen is known, since the Nazis DID keep records there.

At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, which started proceedings against 22 Nazi war criminals in November 1945, a set of seven death books with the title “Totenbuch – Mauthausen” on the cover of each one, was introduced by an American prosecutor as Document Number 493-PS, Exhibit Number USA-251. These death books had been confiscated from the Mauthausen main camp by the American liberators.

The death books covered the period from January of 1939 to April of 1945, according to the American prosecutor who said, “They give the name, the place of birth, the assigned cause of death, and time of death of each individual recorded. In addition each corpse is assigned a serial number, and adding up the total serial numbers for the 5-year period (sic) one arrives at the figure of 35,318.” The death books did not include the deaths in the sub-camps.

The Mauthausen death books did not include statistics from the period between August 8, 1938, when the camp opened, and December 31, 1938.

According to Hans Marsalek, a former inmate in the camp, there were 36 deaths in 1938. In May 1945, during the final days before the American liberators arrived on May 5th, there were around 300 prisoners dying of disease, malnutrition and exhaustion each day in the main camp. These deaths were not recorded in the death books because the camp had been turned over to the Austrian police and most of the staff members had escaped.

In addition, there were 3,000 deaths at Mauthausen after the Americans liberated the camp, according to Martin Gilbert, author of a book entitled “Holocaust.” Those who died after the liberation succumbed to disease or were killed by their fellow inmates after the prisoners were released. Many also died from eating too much of the rich food given to them by the Americans, according to Gilbert.

Here is one last quote from the news article about Mauthausen:

An interrogation room connected us to the final section of this area — the gas chamber. At least 3,455 people were killed here by pumping poisonous gas into an otherwise airtight, small room. The only thing an SS officer had to do was push the button to release the gas. Every other step was carried out by prisoners, who were forced to strip fellow inmates, pile them into the gas chamber, remove the bodies and cremate the remains. Prisoners, thus, were made a part of the chain of murder at Mauthausen, forced to participate in all kinds of prisoner executions, torture and maltreatment.

Note the number 3,455, which is “at least” the number of people killed in the Mauthausen gas chamber.  Where did this number come from?

Pierre-Serge Choumoff, a “Nacht und Nebel” prisoner at the Gusen sub-camp of Mauthausen, wrote in one of his books that the gas chamber at Mauthausen was put into operation in either March or May of 1942 and that 3,455 prisoners were gassed in it.

Choumoff, who was not a prisoner at Mauthausen, but an inmate at the Gusen sub-camp, somehow knew the exact number of “prisoners” who were gassed, implying that non-Jews were also gassed.

The gas was allegedly put into the shower room at Mauthausen by pushing a button to release the gas.

After I visited Mauthausen in 2003, I wrote about the gas chamber on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Mauthausen/Gas%20Chamber/GasChamberEntrance.html

Stupid me!  I didn’t see the button for inputting the gas when I visited Mauthausen.  Was there one button for releasing water into the gas chamber and another button for the gas?

There are several survivors of Auschwitz, who claim that either gas or water could come out of the shower faucets, which didn’t exist, at Auschwitz.  I blogged about this at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/poison-gas-sometimes-came-through-the-showerheads-at-auschwitz-but-other-times-it-was-just-water/

and again at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/holocaust-survivor-who-got-the-water-not-the-gas/

I wrote about the “gassing apparatus” room at Mauthausen on this page of my website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Mauthausen/Gas%20Chamber/ApparatusRoom.html

When I visited Mauthausen in 2003, I didn’t see the button in the Apparatus Room, which was used to release the gas.  Maybe it has been added since I was there.

Door into Mauthausen gas chamber with Gassing Apparatus room on the right

Door into Mauthausen gas chamber with Gassing Apparatus room on the right