Scrapbookpages Blog

December 31, 2015

“the Ungraspable Horrors of Auschwitz”

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 1:53 pm

“Son of Saul” and the Ungraspable Horrors of Auschwitz

The words above are in the headline of a news article which you can read at http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/son-of-saul-and-the-ungraspable-horrors-of-auschwitz

Is ungraspable even a word?

I wrote about the Sonderkommando revolt in this previous blog post:  https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/sonderkommando-revolt-holocaust-revenge-video-game/

Brody-Son-of-Saul-1200

Quote from the news article about the film:

In the realm of Holocaust dramas, László Nemes’s first feature, “Son of Saul,” is ambitious and provocative but nearly superfluous. Credit Photograph by Sony Pictures Classics / Courtesy Everett

The title of my blog post comes from the news article which has this quote:

While emptying the gas chamber of bodies, Saul sees a boy who is still breathing; the boy dies moments thereafter, but his body is taken by a camp doctor for autopsy—and Saul, visiting the doctor (who turns out also to be a prisoner), tells him that the boy is his son and that he wants to spend a few minutes with the body. What Saul actually wants is something more drastic and seemingly impossible: he wants to take the body and give it a proper burial. Moreover, for that burial he needs a rabbi, and, making use of his position as a Sonderkommando (which allows him to move not quite freely but at least widely throughout the concentration camp), Saul obsessively searches among Jewish deportees to find one.

But, early in his quest, he happens upon other Sonderkommando members who are organizing an armed uprising to destroy the gas chambers, and they recruit him to that cause. Though Saul never makes his reasoning clear (once, he explains, “I have to eat”), he seems to join the uprising neither from commitment nor to save himself but to win his colleagues’ aid in his efforts to bury his son, and to gain the measure of mobility, as a part of their plot, that will help him to do so.

I wrote about the Sonderkommando revolt on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/Tour/Birkenau/RuinsIV.html

The revolt was the occasion when the Sonderkommando Jews blew up the Krema IV gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The ruins of Krema IV are a reconstruction

The ruins of Krema IV are a reconstruction

According to Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum, in their book entitled The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? the Krema IV and Krema V buildings were 220 feet long by 42 feet wide.

The Krema IV building was completely demolished, blown up with dynamite which several women prisoners stole from the factory where they were working. All the bricks were removed by Polish civilians after the war, and the ruins that visitors see today are a reconstruction, according to the Auschwitz Museum.

According to Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a prisoner who did autopsies at Birkenau, each Sonderkommando group was killed after a few months and replaced by a new crew. Knowing that they were soon going to be killed, the members of the next-to-last Sonderkommando revolted and blew up the Krema IV building.

A sign at the site of Krema IV says that there were 450 prisoners who were killed by the SS during the revolt or afterwards in retaliation.

For some unknown reason, the Jews in the last Sonderkommando group were not exterminated.

Around 100 of them were marched out of the camp when it was abandoned by the Nazis on January 18, 1945. Several members of this Sonderkommando group survived and three of them gave eye-witness testimony at the 1947 trial of Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess, about how the prisoners were gassed at Birkenau.

This is my last blog post of 2015.  Happy New Year, everyone.

The gas chamber that tourists see at Auschwitz

Filed under: California, Holocaust — Tags: — furtherglory @ 9:01 am
 Gate into the main Auschwitz camp


Old photo of the gate into Auschwitz I camp

Today’s tourists, who take a guided tour of Auschwitz, are first taken to the main camp, where they see the famous “Arbeit macht Frei” sign that is shown in the old photo above; then they move on to the gas chamber in the Auschwitz I camp that was reconstructed by the Soviets, who liberated the camp.

You can see photos of the gas chamber, which I took in 1998 and again in 2005, on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/Tour/Auschwitz1/Auschwitz08.html

Obviously, I did not take these photos on a guided tour. The two photos below show what tourists see in the dark gas chamber room on a guided tour today.

Tourists are shown a darkened room in the Auschwitz main camp

Tourists are shown a darkened room at Auschwitz

Tourists today are not allowed to walk around in the gas chamber

Tourists today are not allowed to walk around in the gas chamber

Prisoners allegedly entered the gas chamber through the oven room on the left in the photo

Prisoners allegedly entered the gas chamber through the oven room shown in my 2005 photo

As shown in the photos above, the view of the gas chamber that tourists see today does not reveal much about the alleged gassing procedure.

My 1998 photo of the alleged entrance into the Auschwitz gas chamber

My 1998 photo of the alleged entrance into the gas chamber

On my first visit to Auschwitz in 1998, I was told the the door in the photo above was the door into the gas chamber.  Now tourists are told that the victims were herded into the gas chamber through the oven room where the bodies of the victims were being burned.

Allegedly, the victims took off their clothing outside the building, as they were told that they would be going into a room to take a shower. When they got in the room, they saw that there were no shower heads on the ceiling, and they knew that they were doomed to endure an ignominious death.

December 29, 2015

British teenagers will go on trial for stealing artifacts from Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Canada warehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau was allegedly burned by the Nazis as they abandoned the camp

The Canada clothing warehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau was allegedly burned by the Nazis just before they abandoned the camp

Two British teenagers were arrested recently for the crime of stealing artifacts from the location where the Canada warehouse burned.

The following quote is from a news article which you can read in full at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3377939/Two-British-teenagers-accused-stealing-artefacts-Auschwitz-school-trip-face-trial-Poland-retracting-admission-guilt.html

Marcus Dell and Ben Thompson were arrested in June during [a] school trip
They were accused of stealing items from [the ruins of] Auschwitz [Birkenau] concentration camp
[They were] Originally released with suspended sentences after admitting taking items
But they have now changed their minds and will face a trial, prosecutors in Poland have revealed

Items stolen from Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site

Items removed from the location of the Canada warehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site

 

Location of Canada warehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My 2005 photo of the location of the Canada warehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp

My photo above shows that the location of the Canada warehouse was completely bare ten years ago. Did these boys dig up the ground to find these artifacts?  Shame on them for desecrating sacred ground where the clothing of the Jews was once stored.

This quote is from the news article:

Begin quote

[The two boys] were apprehended on the site of warehouse number five – known as Canada – where Nazi guards had stored items confiscated from prisoners.

The teenagers faced up to ten years in jail for carrying out activities related to the misappropriation of objects that represent special cultural interest, to the detriment of the museum.

They had been held in cells at Malopolska police station and interrogated through an interpreter.

But they were released with suspended sentences plus fines of 1,000 zloty each – about £170 – after admitting taking the items.

Polish prosecutors said today the pair had changed their minds and would now face a trial.

The boys have withdrawn their admission of guilt, explaining that they were not aware that the items had special cultural significance.

Krakow Regional Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Boguslawa Marcinkowska told BBC News the indictment had been sent on Tuesday to the Regional Court in Krakow.

It is illegal to take items of historical significance from Auschwitz, where at least 900,000 Jewish people were killed during the Second World War.

The Germans torched the warehouse in 1945 and many of its possessions still lie buried in the soil. Canada was classified as a cemetery and the site left untouched.

End quote

Noobs who might be reading my blog can read all about Auschwitz on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/History/Articles/Birkenau01.html

Update 12/30/2015: A noob, who read my blog post, has questioned my spelling of the word noob, claiming that the word should be spelled newb. I had to go to the Urban Dictionary to confirm that, in this case, noob is the correct spelling:  http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Noobs+vs.+Newbs

 

December 28, 2015

My blog posts about the movie Schindler’s List

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:03 am
Photo of the real Oskar Schindler

Photo of the real Oskar Schindler

I check the stats for my blog every morning to see what people have been reading. This morning, I noticed that my blog posts about the movie Schindler’s List have been getting a lot of hits.

A scene from the movie entitled Schindler's List

A scene from the movie entitled Schindler’s List

I have written many blog posts about this movie which I have grouped under the tag Schindler’s List:

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/tag/schindlers-list/

I have also written about Schindler’s List on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Poland/Kazimierz/Kazimierz01C.html

My photo of the place where scenes in Schindler's List were filmed

My photo of the place where scenes in Schindler’s List were filmed

December 27, 2015

photos taken by Sonderkommando Jews at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:55 am

I have just read a review of the movie Son of Saul which tells about photos, taken at Auschwitz-Birkenau, by the Sonderkommando Jews; the photos show the gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

These photos are shown in the background in the movie as the main characters in the movie are shown in the foreground.

You can read about the movie at

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/film-reviews/holocaust-drama-son-of-saul-a-story-of-remarkable-resilience/article27922380/

The following quote is from the article in the link above:

The film is based on actual accounts of the Sonderkommando’s gruesome role, its members forced to collaborate with the killing machine or be killed, and marked for extermination themselves every three months as “bearers of secrets” who could not be allowed to survive. The photographer was an actual person, identified only as Alex from Greece, who took four images that were smuggled out to the Polish underground.

You can see these photos on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Sonderkommando_photographs

Photo taken by Sonderkommando Jews shows prisoners being herded toward a gas chamber

Photo taken by a Sonderkommando Jew shows prisoners being herded toward a gas chamber

Photo taken from the doorway of a gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Photo taken from the doorway of a gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau shows the burning of bodies

The photos shown above were allegedly taken with a 35 millimeter Leica camera by Sonderkommando Jews.

Four of the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau were underground, but there were two gas chambers that were above ground: Krema IV and Krema V.

Krema IV at Auschwitz-Birkenau had a gas chamber that was above ground

Krema IV at Auschwitz-Birkenau had a gas chamber that was above ground

This quote is also from the news article:

Begin quote

In Laszlo Nemes’s remarkable Holocaust drama, Son of Saul, there’s a minor character who risks his life secretly taking photographs of the corpses.

[…]

Watching it [the movie] is a harrowing experience, and the first 20 minutes or so are particularly difficult. The film is shot from the narrow perspective – and the narrowness is the only thing that makes it bearable – of Saul Auslander, a Hungarian Jew who works in the Sonderkommando that herds new prisoners into the “showers,” collects the victims’ clothing, moves the bodies to the crematorium and scrubs out the gas chamber before the next transport arrives. We see the reality of this gruesome job slightly out of focus, as though in Saul’s peripheral vision, as the camera always stays tight on Saul’s face. Often the sounds around him, and our own foreknowledge of the place, are what make the half-glimpsed scenes particularly wrenching.

End quote from news article

Note that those mean ole Nazis forced the Jews to “scrub out the gas chamber” after each gassing.  I don’t think that scrubbing the gas chamber was necessary, but this just shows you how depraved the Nazis were.

The following quote is from my scrapbookpages.com website:

Krema IV was located just north of the clothing warehouses, which were in a section that the prisoners called Canada. Across the road from Canada was the Central Sauna which had a shower room and disinfection chambers where the prisoners’ clothing was deloused. Krema IV had a fake shower room which was actually a gas chamber.

According to Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum, in their book entitled “The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It?” the Krema IV and Krema V buildings were 220 feet long by 42 feet wide.

The Krema IV building was completely demolished, blown up with dynamite which several women prisoners stole from the factory where they were working. All the bricks were removed by Polish civilians after the war, and the ruins that visitors see today are a reconstruction, according to the Auschwitz Museum.

The prisoners who worked in the crematory buildings, removing the bodies of the victims who had been gassed, were members of a special group called the Sonderkommando. According to Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a prisoner who did autopsies at Birkenau, each Sonderkommando group was killed after a few months and replaced by a new crew.

Knowing that they were soon going to be killed, the members of the next-to-last Sonderkommando revolted and blew up the Krema IV building. A sign at Krema IV says that there were 450 prisoners who were killed by the SS during the revolt or afterwards in retaliation.

The men in the last Sonderkommando were not exterminated. Around 100 of them were marched out of the camp when it was abandoned by the Nazis on January 18, 1945. Several members of the Sonderkommando survived and three of them gave eye-witness testimony at the 1947 trial of Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess, about how the prisoners were gassed at Birkenau.

 

December 21, 2015

The role of Franz Hössler in the gassing at Auschwitz

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:13 am
My photo of the gatehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My photo of the gatehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau

One of the regular readers of my blog has questioned my claim that the H.E.A.R.T website is the best of the True Believer websites.

I reviewed the H.E.A.R.T website again, and I think that I might have been wrong to recommend this site because there are some obvious errors.

The following quote is from the H.E.A.R.T website:

Begin quote

Initially the process of killing and ventilation of the gas chamber lasted several hours. Later, after the installation of ventilators, this period was shortened to about an hour.

[A photo of a Shower Entrance]

After this time had elapsed, the prisoners of the crematorium squad proceeded to burn the corpses. All of this took place in the deepest secrecy, with participation limited to the minimum number of SS men from the camp command and the Political Department.

Among those who took part in these actions were Maximilian Grabner, Franz Hossler, and the disinfection expert Adolf Theuer.

End quote

I don’t think that Franz Hössler had anything to do with the gassing of prisoners at Auschwitz.

I wrote this about Franz Hössler  on my website:

Begin quote

According to Danuta Czech, who wrote “The History of KL Auschwitz,” published in 1967, the administration of the three camps that comprised the vast Auschwitz complex was divided among three different Commandants on November 22, 1943.

The original Auschwitz I camp was put under the command of Liebehenschel while Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was placed under the command of SS Major Fritz Hartjenstein, who was later transferred to Natzweiler and then to Ravensbrück.

SS 2nd Lt. Hans Schwarzhuber was put in charge of the men’s camp at Birkenau and SS 2nd Lt. Franz Hössler was put in charge of the woman’s camp.

Hans Schwarzhuber, who was transferred to Ravensbrück on January 12, 1945, was put on trial in a British military court at Hamburg after the war. Schwarzhuber confessed that prisoners were gassed at Ravensbrück and at Birkenau. He was convicted of war crimes and executed on May 3, 1947.

Franz Hössler (sometimes spelled Hoessler) was later transferred to Bergen-Belsen where he stayed behind to assist the British when the camp was voluntarily turned over to them on April 15, 1945. Hössler was put on trial by the British in the Belsen trial in 1945. He was convicted of war crimes committed at Birkenau and was hanged on December 13, 1945.

End quote

I wrote this about Franz Hössler on a previous blog post:

During the time that the Auschwitz camp was in operation, Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, an SS judge, investigated the men in the Auschwitz political department, including [Wilhem] Boger, but he only arrested Maximilian Grabner, the head of the department. Grabner was accused by Dr. Morgen of killing 2,000 prisoners “beyond the general guidelines.” Grabner was tried by an SS court in Weimar but was not convicted; after the war he was convicted by the Supreme War Tribunal in Krakow in 1947 and sentenced to death.

December 20, 2015

The disinfection sign at Auschwitz

Filed under: Uncategorized — furtherglory @ 9:52 am

With a new Holocaust movie in theaters now, there will be a lot of interest in the gas chambers where the Jews were allegedly killed, so I decided to do a google search to find out what a google search would turn up.

The first website to come up in my search was this one:  http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/auschwitzgaschambers.html

I consider the website, that is cited above, to be an excellent source for studying the Holocaust.  That is why it comes up first in a search. Young people will be going to this website first.

My Auschwitz gas chamber web pages are way down on the results page, where few people will bother to read them.

My photo of the building that was called the Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My photo of the building that was called the Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The photo below is shown on the H.E.A.R.T  website page about the gas chambers, but in a smaller size.

Sign that was allegedly over the entrance to a gas chamber at Auschwitz

Sign that was allegedly over the entrance to a gas chamber at Auschwitz

On my website, I have a photo of this same sign, which I took at Auschwitz-Birkenau in the SHOWER ROOM that is in the building called the Sauna, which is shown in my photo above.

My photo of the shower room at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My photo of the shower room in the Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My photo of the sign over the entrance to the shower room at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My photo of the sign over the entrance to the shower room at Auschwitz-Birkenau

This quote, which is about the first gas chamber building at Auschwitz-Birkenau, is from the H.E.A.R.T  website cited above:

Begin quote

A farmhouse belonging to one of the evacuated inhabitants of [Auschwitz] Birkenau, which Adolf Eichmann had identified during his first visit to Auschwitz, had its windows walled up, its doors strengthened and sealed by screwing them in place, and shafts drilled in the walls. The entrance door bore the inscription “To the Baths”, and on the inside of the exit door , which opened out into the open countryside, the inscription “To Disinfection” was emblazoned.

End quote

My two photos above show the original signs on the wall which can still be seen in the Sauna building. The first sign says “Desinfizierte Wäsche.” Before their shower, the prisoners had to first be submerged into a tub of disinfectant to kill any germs or lice on their bodies.

The second sign says “Brausen” which means Showers in English. The yellow and black stripes alert visitors that the doorway is very low because people were shorter back in those days.

The H.E.A.R.T  website page which shows the disinfection sign begins with this quote:

Begin quote
Initially the process of killing and ventilation of the gas chamber lasted several hours. Later, after the installation of ventilators, this period was shortened to about an hour.

After this time had elapsed, the prisoners of the crematorium squad proceeded to burn the corpses. All of this took place in the deepest secrecy, with participation limited to the minimum number of SS men from the camp command and the Political Department.

Among those who took part in these actions were Maximilian Grabner, Franz Hossler, and the disinfection expert Adolf Theuer.

The modest capacity of the crematorium, which could cope with 340 corpses in the space of 24 hours and the difficulty of keeping the whole action a secret, resulted in the operation being transferred to [Auschwitz] Birkenau.

End quote

What I am trying to say here is that young people who are studying the Holocaust should go to more than one website for information.  In a google search, the True Believer websites come up first.

 

December 19, 2015

A blast from the past –the movie Valkrie

One of the readers of my blog made a comment in which an old movie entitled Valkrie was mentioned. This movie came out on Christmas day in 2008.

Tom Cruise in the movie Valkrie

Tom Cruise in the movie Valkrie

Unfortunately, this movie did not last long in the theaters. I think that it is because the younger generation does not care about the past.  Tom Cruise did an outstanding job of acting in this movie, so it is a shame that it didn’t last long.

I saw the movie Valkrie on opening day in 2008, and then promptly wrote about it on this page of my website:  http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Valkyrie.html

The following quote is the web page, cited above:

On Christmas Day 2008, two new movies with stories related to World War II opened in America. One of these movies was Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise, which is about the attempt to kill Hitler by Claus Schenk, Graf von Stauffenberg on July 20, 1944. The other was a movie entitled The Reader, based on an autobiographical novel by German writer Bernard Schlink.

The movie Valkyrie was a big disappointment to me. It is an action movie with no human interest at all, but if you like James Bond movies, you will love Valkyrie.

The movie gets its title from Operation Valkyrie which was the code name for a plan, hatched by German Army officers, to kill Hitler and take over the German government. The word Valkyrie (Walküre) was taken from Hitler’s code name for his contingency plan to use the Replacement (Ersatzheer) soldiers stationed at Army Headquarters on Bendlerstrasse in Berlin in case of civil unrest or an attempted coup. The Army officers who were plotting to kill Hitler intended to use the Replacement Army, commanded by Colonel-General Friedrich Fromm, to take over the government after Hitler was dead.

Tom Cruise plays Claus Schenk, Graf von Stauffenberg, who volunteers for the assignment to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944 at his field headquarters in East Prussia. Cruise bears a remarkable physical resemblance to the real Stauffenberg, except that Stauffenberg was much taller. This is not a problem because, in the movie, Cruise is frequently photographed from a low camera angle, which makes him appear to be taller.

I thought that Tom Cruise did a great job of acting the part of Stauffenberg, although there was no occasion for him to show his famous smile. Tom accurately portrays the contempt that Stauffenberg had for the Nazis and Hitler. In the scenes with Stauffenberg’s wife, Baroness Nina von Lerchenfeld, who outranks her husband, Tom acts like an aristocrat in an arranged marriage, which is accurate. Unfortunately, Stauffenberg appears to be the same height as his wife, which is not accurate.

Most of the professional movie critics have complained about Cruise speaking English like an American instead of affecting a British or a German accent. Have they been to Germany lately? After more than 60 years of American occupation, that’s the way the Germans speak English now. In fact, I was once told by a German in the British zone of occupation that my English is easy to understand because I speak like an American, not with a British accent.

An important point that is not mentioned in the movie is that the men involved in the plot to kill Hitler and take over the government were almost all aristocrats with a von in their names, including Otto von Bismarck and Gottfried von Bismarck, the grandsons of the “Iron Chancellor.” Von means from and it is always followed by the name of the ancestral castle or estate. Stauffenberg was a count (Graf) and his ancestral home was named Stauffenberg. His wife Nina was a Baroness from an ethnic German aristocratic family in Lithuania.

The characters in the movie mispronounce Stauffenberg’s name which is inexcusable. The German er is pronounced like the English word air and the German au is pronounced like the ou in ouch.

The purpose of the assassination of Hitler was to put an end to World War II before the Soviet Army could invade Germany. At this point in time, Germany had no chance of winning the war: the Normandy invasion had recently taken place on June 6, 1944 and American troops were fighting their way across France, while the German army in the East was in retreat. The Army of the Soviet Union had just crossed the Polish border and was advancing toward Berlin.

Stauffenberg and his fellow plotters wanted to negotiate a separate peace with the Western allies to save Germany from complete destruction. Hitler had already made several attempts to negotiate peace, allegedly even sending his deputy Rudolf Hess on a peace mission to meet with the British on May 10, 1941, but Winston Churchill had instructed his Foreign Office on January 20, 1941 to ignore any peace offers from Germany. Hitler’s government was not acceptable to Churchill and Roosevelt, who were both upper class aristocrats, living in a completely different world than Hitler, the “people’s Chancellor.”

In January 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had announced at a conference in Casablanca that only unconditional surrender by the Germans would be acceptable to the Allies. Stauffenberg thought that Roosevelt and Churchill would be willing to negotiate with his band of aristocrats after Hitler was eliminated. However, none of this is explained in the movie.

The plotters were mainly officers in the regular German army, called the Wehrmacht. Germany also had another army, called the SS, which was commanded by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The Waffen-SS, an elite volunteer army that was loyal to Hitler, was the equivalent of the Roman Praetorian guard. Another unit of the SS served as concentration camp guards.

The plot to kill Hitler was known as “the Conspiracy” by the thousands of people who were involved. When the plot failed, there were 5,000 people arrested. There were many other low-level clerks involved in the conspiracy, who were never identified.

Hitler was the first common man to become the leader of Germany. For thousands of years, the Germans had been ruled by royalty until November 9, 1918 when the Kaiser was overthrown by a small band of Social Democrats in a “bloodless revolution.” The German aristocrats had a hard time accepting Hitler, who was an Austrian high school dropout of low class ancestry. The previous Chancellor of Germany in 1932 was Franz von Papen, a member of the nobility, and the German president was Paul von Hindenburg, an aristocrat who was a German general in World War I. German generals were traditionally aristocrats, but Hitler had allowed common men to become high ranking army officers for the first time.

In Hitler’s Germany, class distinctions were eliminated. Workers marched in parades carrying a shovel over their shoulder, right behind the soldiers who were carrying rifles. Everyone had to work, including the aristocrats. Hitler called the German people the “Herrenvolk.” Herren means aristocratic when used as an adjective, and volk means both folk and nation.

By April 1944, Heinrich Himmler, the number two man in Nazi Germany, was also trying to negotiate with the Allies. In June 1944, Himmler had made an unsuccessful attempt to contact the British with an offer of peace; some people suspected that Himmler knew about the assassination plot, and that he let it happen because he wanted to take Hitler’s place as the leader of Germany. None of these facts are pointed out in the movie.

Hitler’s Wehrmacht generals had been plotting against him since 1938. Hitler temporarily won them over by giving them money and property. After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles limited the German military to 100,000 men. When Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the German Army was secretly expanded and the soldiers secretly trained in the Soviet Union. So, from the very beginning, there was secret plotting going on, sometimes with Hitler’s knowledge and sometimes not.

The plot to kill Hitler and set up a new regime had been in the works since 1941, long before Stauffenberg, a Colonel in the Wehrmacht, joined the traitors in 1943 after becoming disillusioned while fighting on the Eastern front.

The movie opens with a scene in North Africa in which Stauffenberg is writing in his journal; he deplores the way the war is being fought by the Waffen-SS soldiers on the Eastern front in the Soviet Union. Stauffenberg is a Bavarian Catholic whose family history dates back to 1250. He thinks that the Germans should fight like gentlemen in the East. Instead, the German Waffen-SS soldiers are killing Russian partisans who are fighting illegally, while the men in the Einsatzgruppen, who followed the soldiers into the Soviet Union, are shooting the Communist Commissars and members of the NKVD, which is the equivalent of the German Gestapo, as well as Jewish women and children. This is total war, with neither side following the Geneva Convention, although, according to the Germans, the crimes of the Soviet soldiers were far worse. Of course, none of this is mentioned in the movie.

Audiences are led to believe that Stauffenberg and his band of traitors must kill Hitler in order to stop “the greatest evil ever known,” which most people will assume is a reference to the Holocaust. However, the first concentration camp (Majdanek) was not liberated until July 22, 1944, three days after the attempted assassination, so there was as yet no proof that millions of Jews were being gassed, although the BBC had been broadcasting news of the gas chambers since June 1942.

One of the big problems with the movie is that it is hard to identify the participants in the plot. Throughout the movie, the date and location of the scenes are shown on the screen, but some of the minor characters are not identified. Unless there is some reason for their names to be mentioned by one of the characters in the movie, we don’t know who is who. Some of the players, such as Josef Goebbels, can be identified by the actor’s resemblance to the actual person, but this is not always the case, and the audience cannot be expected to know the names of the conspirators and Hitler’s henchmen.

For example, the man who comes to arrest Joseph Goebbels in his Berlin office is Otto Ernst Remer, the Commanding Officer of the Guard Battalion which is part of Hitler’s Walküre contingency plan. Goebbels has just spoken to Hitler and knows he is alive. When Remer learns that Hitler is alive, he acts to stop the plot to take over the German government. Students of the Holocaust will be familiar with Remer because he became a prominent Holocaust denier after the war and persuaded Germar Rudolf to do a forensic report on the Auschwitz gas chamber, which eventually led to Rudolf’s imprisonment. When I saw Valkyrie on Christmas Day, 99% of the audience consisted of high school and college students, who might have been interested in knowing that it was Remer who was sent to arrest Goebbels.

It would have helped if there had been a few scenes showing what was going on in the world while the plotters were making their several attempts to kill Hitler. In the scenes of Berlin, there is no bomb damage shown even though there had been vast destruction of the city by that time. Only one of the Generals is ever shown on the battlefield and there is hardly any indication that there is a war going on in Europe. We have no idea of what the middle class German civilians are doing while all the bombs are dropping on their cities, or if they have turned against Hitler. We never see any of the 5,000 low level conspirators, who are mostly aristocrats, as they try to maintain the lifestyle of the nobility in the midst of war. Just one scene showing Count Gottfried von Bismarck in his Potsdam mansion having tea with some of the aristocrats who were in on the plot would have helped immensely to explain the assassination attempt. On the other hand, the scenes involving German airplanes are spectacular; the planes look authentic.

Stauffenberg’s family lives in Wannsee, an expensive suburb of Berlin. Every time his family is shown, we see a shot of his house, taken at night, but we are not told where the house is located and what the significance of this is. Students of the Holocaust will know that Wannsee was the location of the villa where the details of the Final Solution were planned.

The movie doesn’t mention that the Hungarian Jews are being transported to the gas chambers at Auschwitz during the time that the plans to kill Hitler are being made, nor that Himmler is trying to trade Hungarian Jews for trucks (blood for goods) so that the German army can continue its hopeless attempt to defeat the Russians on the Eastern front. We don’t know that the German army is desperately trying to hold on until the American army gets to the German border, because many Germans believe that the Americans will eventually join them in fighting the Communist Soviet Union. In short, the movie provides no context at all and most of the scenes are about the actual assassination attempts. This is not history, but rather an action movie, which some people might find thrilling, but others will be bitterly disappointed.

There is virtually nothing in Valkyrie, the movie, which shows what ordinary life was like in Germany in July 1944. There are no extras playing the part of a German Fräulein wearing a dirndl; no Germans drinking beer and singing in a beer garden. There is nothing to indicate that the action is taking place in Germany. Another movie, Revolutionary Road, which was released around the same time, is authentic 1950s America, down to the smallest detail.

The only scene in Valkyrie that comes close to showing Germany as it was in 1943 is when Stauffenberg goes to Hitler’s home called the Berghof to get his signature on a document. We see the famous picture window that looks out on the Bavarian Alps. Hitler’s henchmen are gathered around him at the Berghof and Albert Speer can be identified: there is a bit player who bears a resemblance to him.

Hitler is accurately shown as a broken man, petting his dog, an Alsatian Sheppard. One bit of information that I didn’t know until I saw this movie is that Stauffenberg put in his glass eye whenever he was in the presence of Hitler. He obviously wanted Hitler to have a good opinion of him, and in the scene at the Berghof, Hitler tells him that he wishes that all his Army officers were like Stauffenberg.

In the trailers that were shown for weeks before the movie opened, there is a brief scene where someone kills a mosquito with the lit end of a cigarette. Undoubtedly, there were many people who thought that this was a cruel act committed by Hitler. As it turns out, it was a German guard at Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair headquarters in East Prussia who killed a mosquito on his arm. The Wolf’s Lair was located on swampy ground and that’s why there were mosquitoes. This scene may have been included by the film makers before they learned that Hitler didn’t smoke. In any case, the scene is totally out of context and has no relevance to the movie plot.

The web page, that is quoted above, was created on May 19, 2009

December 18, 2015

New Holocaust movie “Son of Saul” is in theaters today

CoverPhoto

Update January 18, 2016:  This news article calls the movie Son of Saul “Jewish Propaganda.”  http://www.jewishpress.com/news/hungarians-denounce-oscar-nominated-son-of-saul-as-jewish-propaganda/2016/01/18/

I greatly admire the photo above which is shown at the top of this news article about the film entitled Son of Saul, which was directed by Laslo Nemes:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/15/movies/in-son-of-saul-laszlo-nemes-expands-the-language-of-holocaust-films.html?_r=0

In preparation for seeing the film, I read about it on the news article cited above.

Photo from the film Son of Saul

Photo from the film Son of Saul

The following quote is from the news article about the film:

In “Son of Saul” Laszlo Nemes Expands the Language of Holocaust Films

“Son of Saul” is filmed in long, restless takes, with no soundtrack besides the grim cacophony of a death camp — the slamming of doors, the sifting through possessions — and is set over the course of a day and a half in October 1944. It follows Saul Auslander, a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, the Jews forced to dispose of the human remains from the gas chambers, as he tries to rescue a dead boy’s body from meeting the fate of the ovens.

[…]

The film plays out on the face of Saul, a debut film performance by Geza Rohrig, a Hungarian poet whom Mr. Nemes met while studying at New York University’s film school. During the 28-day shoot, he had Mr. Rohrig rehearse for hours before filming takes, three to four minutes each, with a 35-millimeter camera placed about 20 inches from his face.

“I had to be superfocused, because every little bit of change” mattered, Mr. Rohrig said. “Like on the surface of water — even if you blow the water, you can immediately see, it shows everything.”

Mr. Rohrig, 48, who took a leave from his job teaching Jewish studies at a Brooklyn private school to promote the film, volunteers for a Jewish burial society. He spent months visiting Auschwitz as a student in Poland in the 1980s and wrote a book of poems about it. He said he regarded the Sonderkommando as victims, not perpetrators, adding that they were the only Jews in the camp to understand that they faced certain death and that his acting had to reflect that knowledge.

End quote

December 16, 2015

Only two days before the movie “Son of Saul” is ready to view

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 3:49 pm

You can read a review of the new movie “Son of Saul” at http://www.newsweek.com/review-film-son-saul-takes-unflinching-look-holocaust-405290

This quote is from the article cited above:

Saul is a Sonderkommando, a Jewish inmate compelled to work as slave labor in a death camp. Although the camp in “Son of Saul” has been identified as Auschwitz, it might as well be Treblinka or Belzec or Sobibór or a number of other places. If this is indeed Auschwitz, we are late in World War II, probably the summer or fall of 1944, when the tide of war had turned decisively against Germany and Hitler’s administrators devoted considerable resources to exterminating as many Jews as possible during the time left to them. Of course the Nazi regime had already committed unforgivable war crimes by that time, but one measure of its insanity lies here: Faced with imminent defeat, the Germans did not make the logical decision to abandon the Final Solution and pour all available money and manpower into military counterattack. It would appear they decided that killing Jews was more important than winning the war.

[…]

Is it obscene to consider the gas chambers of Auschwitz as a factory, not inherently unlike one where trousers are sewn or automobiles banged together? (Or where cattle are slaughtered, to take the obvious parallel.) Of course it is, but that was precisely the displacement mechanism that allowed the officers, guards and inmates to move from one day to the next in a semblance of normal behavior. The industrial process in which Saul works is mass murder, to be sure, and its principal output is dead bodies by the thousands, which create an increasingly difficult disposal problem. (The men, women and children to be dragged from the gas chambers are always described as “pieces” by the guards.) As in any industrial process, there are important byproducts as well. One of Saul’s jobs is to pull down and sort all the clothing that new arrivals have hung on hooks before being sent to the “showers,” looking for hidden gold, jewelry and other valuables.

End quote

The clothing of the Jews was hung on hooks before they were gassed?  I set out to find some proof of that.  I found it on my own website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/History/Articles/Selection3.html

Begin quote from my website scrapbookpages.com

Dr. Susan Cernyak-Spatz was 18 years old when she was sent from Czechoslovakia to the Birkenau camp in 1943 and tattooed with the number 34042 on her left arm. In a newspaper article in the Salisbury Post, Scott Jenkins reported on a talk that Cernyak-Spatz gave to sixth-graders at Corriher-Lipe Middle School in May 2000. She stressed to the Corriher-Lipe students that the Holocaust was not a single event, but an efficiently conceived and executed process that began “the minute Adolf Hitler came to power” as Germany’s dictator in 1933.

The following quote is from the newspaper article by Scott Jenkins in the Salisbury Post:

So fierce was Hitler’s hatred, trains carrying Jews to the death camps were given priority even over troop trains carrying soldiers to battle, Cernyak-Spatz said. When she stepped off the train and onto the platform at Birkenau, the results assaulted her senses.

“The first thing you noticed was an absolutely incredible stink,” she said. The noxious, sickly sweet odor hung in the air with a dusky vapor billowing from smokestacks and staining the distant sky, she said.

Then, the selection began. The Nazis separated families, those who could work to one side, those who couldn’t to another. The second group loaded onto trucks.

The women on the trucks asked where they were going. Don’t worry the drivers told them, you will be reunited with your families.

After a nice hot shower.

“Then they took them directly in the direction of that smoke,” Cernyak-Spatz said. Soon, those who survived learned what burned in those buildings.

Guards led prisoners into the large buildings, told them to take off their clothes, hang them on hooks. And remember, tie your shoe laces together, they said, so you don’t lose a shoe.

The Nazis had told Jews to dress in their warmest clothes for the journey to the “work” camps, Cernyak-Spatz said. After the gas chambers, they gathered those clothes for their own use.

For the years during the war, “that is how the whole German nation was clothed … in the clothing and property of dead Jews,” she said.

End quote

Hungarian women were given uniforms to wear after putting their clothes on hooks

Hungarian women were given uniforms to wear after putting their own clothes on hooks

 

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