Scrapbookpages Blog

October 9, 2014

Documentary, about a child suvivor of 5 Nazi camps, nominated for an Emmy

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 11:27 am

This news article tells about a Jewish child who survived 5 concentration camps during the course of nearly 3 years while World War II, and the Holocaust, were going on.

This quote is from the news article, cited above:

“Misa’s Fugue,” the documentary based on the true story of Frank “Misa” Grunwald’s almost three years in Nazi concentration camps as a child, has exceeded [Jennifer] Goss’ expectations in pretty much every way.

So when Goss, along with her husband, and Grunwald, the film’s director, Sean Gaston, and other important players in the making of the documentary found themselves at the Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards in Philadelphia on September 20, they knew all the late nights, and trips were worth it.

I know what you are going to say: How could a child survive FIVE concentration camps, during the genocide of the Jews, aka the Holocaust, when everyone knows that children under the age of 15 were immediately gassed.

Note that the article calls Terezin a “death camp.”  Why send children from one death camp to another, and then let them survive? Was it because the Nazis wanted survivors to tell the story in documentaries 70 years later?

According to the article:

[Framk ”Misa”] Grunwald was born in Czechoslovakia in September of 1932. Four months later, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. “Misa’s Fugue” centers around Grunwald’s journey through Terezin [Theresienstadt], Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Melk and Gunskirchen concentration camps.

Nearly 1.5 million children were murdered during the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945. Grunwald, now 82, was one of the less than 300 children who survived the Nazi death-camp at Terezin in the Czech Republic. For the next two years Grunwald found himself in various camps, in various countries, often getting there by death marches.

So Frank Grunwald spent a year, as a little boy, at Theresienstadt (now called Terezin) before he was hauled off to Auschwitz.  According to the article, Terezin was a “death-camp.”

Grunwald was probably taken to the Auschwitz II camp, aka Auschwitz-Birkenau, where children under the age of 15 were immediately gassed.

Yet somehow, Grunwald was not gassed at Auschwitz, but instead, he was transferred to Mauthausen, a Class III camp for convicted criminals and “Return Unwanted” prisoners, where he was again not killed in the gas chamber, but was transferred to the Melk sub-camp and then to the Gunskirchen subcamp of Mauthausen. Records show that Gunskirchen had only 450 prisoners.

Why did the stupid Nazis keep moving Grunwald around like that?  Did they want a child to survive to the age of 82, so that he could tell his “Holocaust survivor” story in a documentary?

I suspect that Frank “Misa” Grunwald was on the “death march” out of Auschwitz when the camp had to be abandoned because the Soviet liberators were on their way.

According to some Holocaust experts, the purpose of a “death march” was to kill the prisoners before the Soviets could save them.  Some of the survivors of these death marches were sent to Mauthausen in Austria because this was as far away as they could get from the liberators who were coming to save the children.

Melk and Gunskirchen were both sub-camps of Mauthausen where prisoners were working in underground factories which were building Messerschmidtt airplanes.

The Gunskirchen camp was not set up until very late in the war, so there is not much information about it on the Internet.

Ebensee is much better known than Gunskirchen, and I have a page about it on my scrapbookpages website.

The photo below is an old photo which was taken at Ebensee. This photo proves that there were very young children taken to Austria near the end of the war.

Young children at the Ebensee camp in Austria

Young children at the Ebensee camp in Austria

Notice that one of the young children has no shoes, although the older boy has a nice pair of boots.

You can see some old photos of Gunskirchen, taken by the American liberators of the camp, on this website: http://www.remember.org/mooney/images/thumbnails/index.html

The photo below shows the Melk sub-camp, which was in the same area of Austria as Gunskirchen.

Melk, a sub-camp of Mauthausen where Jews worked in factories

Melk, a sub-camp of Mauthausen where Jews worked in factories

Survivors of Ebensee sub-camp of Mauthausen greet their liberators

Survivors of Ebensee sub-camp of Mauthausen greet their liberators

Ebensee sub-camp of Mauthausen

Ebensee sub-camp of Mauthausen

The prisoners at Ebensee, shown in the photo above, worked in underground factories which manufactured Messerschmitt airplanes. German engineers and civilians also worked in these factories. The site was chosen because there were natural caves which could be enlarged into tunnels so that the munitions factories could be protected from Allied bombing raids.

Of course, some of the prisoners in these camps died, in spite of the fact that the Nazis tried to keep them alive so that they could work as slave laborers in the factories.

The photo below shows dead bodies at the Gusen sub-camp of Mauthausen.

Dead bodies found in the Gusen sub-camp of Mauthausen

Dead bodies found in the Gusen sub-camp of Mauthausen

After World War II ended, the Allies accused the Nazis of taking prisoners to Mauthausen to kill them in the tunnels of the sub-camps.  I wrote about Ernst Kaltenbrunner’s defense to this charge at the Nuremberg IMT, on this blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-testimony-of-dr-ernst-kaltenbrunner-at-the-nuremberg-imt/

On my website, I wrote about the alleged order given by Ernst Kaltenbrunner to kill all the prisoners at Mauthausen and its sub-camps: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Mauthausen/KZMauthausen/ZiereisDeath.html

 

June 18, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars movie has scenes showing the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 11:04 am

I saw the movie entitled The Fault in Our Stars yesterday.  The movie is fictional, and is based on a 2012 best-selling novel by John Green.

Hazel and Gus, the two main characters in the movie

Hazel and Gus, the two main characters in the movie

The title of the movie comes from a line in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, in which the nobleman Cassius says to Brutus:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,  but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

In my humble opinion, the movie gets off to a slow start, but improves as it goes along. I thought that the first scenes should have been more dramatic, to get our attention.

I perked up when it was announced in the movie that the two main characters were going to take a trip to Amsterdam. The most famous thing to see in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank house, so naturally I was anxious to see if the movie would include a visit to the house, which is now part of a  Museum.

The Anne Frank house in Amsterdam

The Anne Frank house in Amsterdam

The early scenes in Amsterdam show the area close to the Anne Frank house, but not the house. At first, I thought that the movie was not going to show the house, since it has nothing to do with the plot of the movie. There were scenes showing the canal boats which pass the house, and the church that is near the Anne Frank house is also shown in the background of some scenes.

A canal boat passing the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam

A canal boat passing the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam

I was standing in front of the Anne Frank house, when I took the photo above. Passengers can get off the boat and enter the house, which is now a Museum.

Church that is very near the Anne Frank House

Church that is very near the Anne Frank House

Just when I had given up, and had decided that the Anne Frank house would not be shown in the movie, the two main characters in the movie decide to visit the house.

The entrance into the Anne Frank house is from another house that is next door; visitors must stand in a long line before they can get in. The house next door is shown in the photo below.

House that is next door to the Anne Frank house

House that is next door to the Anne Frank house

Entrance into the Anne Frank Museum is through a modern building at 267 Prinsengracht, which is shown in the photo below.

Entrance into the Anne Frank Museum

Entrance into the Anne Frank Museum

The front door into the Anne Frank house is not open

The front door into the Anne Frank house is not open

Just after Hazel and Gus enter the Anne Frank house, Hazel asks an attendant if she can take the elevator. She is told that there is no elevator, which is a bald-faced lie.  I was also told that there was no elevator when I asked.

The steps up to the attic, where Anne Frank hid, are shown in the movie. These steps are so steep that they should really be called a ladder. Hazel has to drag her oxygen tank with her up the steps.

There are no scenes of the rooms where Anne and her family hid.  Would it have killed them to show the rooms?

The reason that the rooms are not shown is because the Anne Frank house is a money machine.  The Museum rakes in billions (maybe trillions) of dollars by charging admission.  No photos are allowed to be taken, because the Museum wants to sell photos of the rooms. No photos of the rooms can be put on the Internet because the Museum folks will demand that they be taken  down. Don’t even try it.

But to get back to the elevator. The exit from the Museum is through a building next door which has a modern elevator.  Important people are taken up to the attic by this elevator and they enter the Museum through what is the exit for the lowly tourists.

I felt that the movie was disingenuous in telling poor Hazel that she had to climb the steep stairs, dragging her oxygen tank behind her.

The Museum personnel should have come clean and said, “Yes, there is an elevator, but it is only for important people, not for you, Honey. We don’t care if you die while climbing the stairs; you are not good enough to use the elevator.”

May 26, 2014

My review of the HBO movie “The Normal Heart”

Filed under: Health, movies — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:49 am

I was frankly disappointed with the movie entitled The Normal Heart, which I saw on TV last night. But my disappointment was due to my own fault.  I wish that I had read up on the plot, before seeing the movie. Then I might have understood it.

I was expecting Jim Parsons, the guy who plays Sheldon Cooper, on the TV show The Big Bang Theory, to be the main star in the movie.  Instead, the main star in the movie is Mark Ruffalo, who plays the part of a gay man named Ned Weeks.  Jim Parsons has a relatively minor part in the movie; he plays the part of a gay man very well, since he is gay in real life.

The Ned Weeks character in the movie is based on the life of Larry Kramer, a gay man who wrote a mostly autobiographical play called The Normal Heart.  The play focused on the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, the gay Jewish-American founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group.

The movie starts out with a color photo of Liberace, dressed in all his finery, and another photo of his young lover. Liberace was one of the first gay men to die of AIDS. Then we see the date 1981, shown on a large expanse of blue water.  A boat appears on the water, and we learn that the boat is going to Fire Island in New York, where Ned Weeks (Larry Kramer) lives. We learn that Fire Island is a gay Mecca. Then we see an extremely handsome man, to whom Ned Weeks is attracted.

As the movie progresses, this handsome man’s looks are destroyed when he gets “gay cancer,” the early name for AIDS, when the disease was thought to be a new kind of cancer. To his credit, Ned Weeks stands by his man, but the movie soundtrack doesn’t play the song “Stand by your man.”  Instead we hear the Gershwin song, “The man I love.”  The implication is that love between two men is perfectly normal.

Very early in the movie, the Dachau concentration camp and the killing of Jews in Poland is mentioned. No one spoke up about the killing of the Jews, the same way that no one spoke up about gay men dying from a new disease.

I was very surprised that the subject of Dachau was brought up. If I had researched the story, before watching the movie, I would have known that Larry Kramer, upon whose life the movie is based, actually made a trip to Dachau after World War II.  In the movie, the implication is that gay men are now dying needlessly in New York, and no one is speaking up about it.

In the first part of the movie, it is mentioned that half of the cases, of this new disease, are in New York, where there are millions of gay men.  In the movie, it is claimed that the US government is INTENTIONALLY ignoring this new disease, which is affecting only gay men, because government officials would like to see gay men wiped out in America.  The first name, that was given to this new disease, was GRID, which stands for Gay Related Immune Deficiency.

At the end of the movie, we learn that 36 million people have died of AIDS. This includes a large number of men and women, who died of the disease in Africa.  The disease spread around the world because Fire Island, where AIDS started, was visited by gay men from all over the world.

One thing, in the movie, that might be of great interest to the followers of my blog, is the mention of Alan Turing, a gay man who “cracked the Enigma code,” which led to the Allies winning World War II.  The implication is that gay men are no different than straight men, and if the US government allows all the gay men in America to die, there will be no more gay geniuses like Alan Turing.

This quote about Alan Turning is from Wikipedia:

Alan Turing was arrested and came to trial on 31 March 1952, after the police learned of his sexual relationship with a young Manchester man. He made no serious denial or defence, instead telling everyone that he saw no wrong with his actions. He was particularly concerned to be open about his sexuality even in the hard and unsympathetic atmosphere of Manchester engineering. Rather than go to prison he accepted, for the period of a year, injections of oestrogen intended to neutralise his libido. […]

A factor in his life unknown to most around him was that he had also continued to work for GCHQ, the post-war successor to Bletchley Park, on the basis of a personal connection with Alexander, now its director. But since 1948, the conditions of the Cold War, and the alliance with the United States, meant that known homosexuals had become ineligible for security clearance. Turing, now therefore excluded, spoke bitterly of this to his onetime wartime colleague, now MI6 engineer Donald Bayley, but to no other personal friends. State security also seems the likely cause of what he described as another intense crisis in March 1953, involving police searching for a visiting Norwegian who had come to see him. Concern over the foreign contacts of one acquainted with state secrets was understandable, and his holiday in Greece in 1953 could not have been calculated to calm the nerves of security officers.

Although unable to tell his friends about questions of official secrecy, in other ways he actively sought much greater intimacy of expression with them and with a Jungian therapist. Eccentric, solitary, gloomy, vivacious, resigned, angry, eager, dissatisfied — these had always been his ever-varying characteristics, and despite the strength that he showed the world in coping with outrageous fortune, no-one could safely have predicted his future course.

He was found by his cleaner when she came in on 8 June 1954. He had died the day before of cyanide poisoning, a half-eaten apple beside his bed. His mother believed he had accidentally ingested cyanide from his fingers after an amateur chemistry experiment, but it is more credible that he had successfully contrived his death to allow her alone to believe this. The coroner’s verdict was suicide.

 

February 19, 2014

My answer to a review of The Monuments Men, made by another blogger

Filed under: Germany, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:36 am

This morning, a comment was made, at 4:20 in the morning, on one of my previous blog posts, by “jenski katie” who did a review of The Monuments Men movie on her own blog at at http://moviesbeep2014.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-monuments-men-movie-by-george-clooney/

Scene from the movie The Monuments Men

Scene from the movie The Monuments Men

This quote is from jenski katie’s review of the movie The Monuments Men:

… As most of these artifacts were for Hitler’s own collection and in some cases they were bestowed to his best officers. The monuments men had to face a lot of difficulties from their forces as well. Whenever they tried to convince the raiding regiment to change their course of attack and hence avoid the unnecessary damage to the artifacts that might come in way they almost always refused to do so. Germans are planning to destroy these relics from history as much as 1000 years old meanwhile the monuments men do not agree with them and they must save the artifacts at all costs. The clock is ticking and the situation is getting worse. Will the monuments men be able to stand their ground?

The Ghent Altarpiece

The Ghent Altarpiece

I did my own review of the movie on Feb. 8th on my blog.  In my review, I said several times that the movie is hard to understand, unless you have read the book, on which the movie is based.  The book is The Monuments Men, Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, And The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel. This quote is from pages 150 and 151 of Edsel’s book:

Hitler knew it was impossible to steal renowned masterpieces on the scale of the Ghent Altarpiece without drawing the condemnation of the world.  While he had the conqueror’s mentality — he believed he was entitled to the spoils of war, and he was determined to have them — Hitler and the Nazis had gone to great lengths to establish new laws and procedures to “legalize” the looting activities that would follow. This included forcing the conquered countries to give him certain works as a term of their surrender. […] In 1940, Hitler […] had commissioned an inventory, later known as the Kümmel Report […]. The inventory listed every work of art in the Western world […] that rightly belonged to Germany. […] …this included every work [of art] taken from Germany since 1500… […] The Ghent Altarpiece was a touchstone and defining emblem of Belgian culture, but to the Nazis it was Germanic enough to belong to them. Even more important, six of the side panels (painted on both sides, representing fourteen scenes) of the Ghent Altarpiece had been owned by the German state prior to 1919.  The Germans had been forced under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, to give the panels to Belgium as war reparations.

The movie The Monuments Men begins with a picture of the Ghent Altarpiece on the screen.  At that point, it would have been very helpful to explain that part of the Ghent Altarpiece had been owned by the German people for centuries, until Germany was forced to give 6 panels of the Altarpiece to Belgium as war reparations after World War I. But it was not only art treasures that the Germans lost through the Treaty of Versailles, which was forced upon Germany after World War I.  The German people also lost more than half of their country, which was given to Poland and other countries.  The Treaty of Versailles, which was forced upon the Germans, was what led to World War II, so it would have been helpful to mention this at the start of the movie. Instead The Monuments Men movie is all about how the Nazis stole all of the art in Europe and were planning to destroy it.  This movie is not a documentary, but a fictional movie for the masses.

This article, which you can read in full here, agrees with my opinion of the movie, and tells the true story of The Monuments men:

According to Karlsgodt, the depiction of Hitler’s Nero Decree is “oversimplified.” The decree was issued on March 19, 1945 as an attempt to prevent Allied forces from using resources against the Reich during the war. In it, Hitler ordered that “all military, transportation, communications, industrial, and food supply facilities” be destroyed, but it didn’t explicitly include art. In the movie, however, when Stokes reads the decree aloud, he lists “archives and art” among the things set to be destroyed. This, Karlsgodt points out, “enables the plot to move forward,” so that our heroes are “racing against the Germans who are set now to destroy the art if Hitler can’t have it.”

In actuality, Hitler’s will specified that his art go to German museums, “strong evidence” that he didn’t want that art destroyed. Karlsgodt also finds it highly improbable that the Monuments Men even knew about the decree during their mission. “The systematic destruction [as seen in the film] being carried out as a result of the Nero Decree never happened,” she says. “Nazis destroyed art that they considered degenerate, like Cubist, Surrealist, Expressionist paintings, and we know that they burned several thousand—at least—paintings that they thought were actually toxic to the German spirit… [But] they didn’t destroy the art they valued.” (This included Germanic art, and the Ghent Altarpiece depicted in the film, which Hitler considered to be an example of “Aryan genius.”)

Note that the article above mentions that “Nazis destroyed art that they considered degenerate.”  I blogged about degenerate art at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/entartete-kunst-degenerate-art/

February 11, 2014

From start to finish, The Monuments Men book centers on the story of Harry Ettlinger

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 1:12 pm

The movie entitled The Monuments Men is based on a book written by Robert M. Edsel, which was published in 2009. After the “Author’s Note” in the front of the book, there are several pages of photographs of “the Monuments Men,” arranged in alphabetical order.  The second photo shows “Private Harry Ettlinger, U.S. Seventh Army.” The text, accompanying the photo reads: “A German Jew, Ettlinger fled Nazi persecution in 1938 with his family.”

You can read a news article about Harry Ettlinger at http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/70-years-original-monuments-men-article-1.1597958  The photo below accompanies the article. Dimitri Leonidas, who plays Harry Ettlinger in the movie, is shown on the far left.

From left, Dimitri Leonidas, John Goodman, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bob Balaban in “The Monuments Men”

From left to right: Dimitri Leonidas, John Goodman, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bob Balaban in “The Monuments Men”

Chapter 1 of Robert M. Edsel’s book is entitled “Out of Germany, Karlsruhe, Germany 1715 to 1938.”  The information in this chapter is about how “a Jewish congregation was established in [the city of ] Karlsruhe” in 1715.

In Chapter 1, we learn that, in 1800 “inhabitants of Germany became legally obligated to take a surname.” A Jew named Seligmann had emigrated to Karlsruhe from Ettlingen, a nearby town where his family had lived since 1600.  Seligmann took the surname Ettlinger; Harry Ettlinger is one of his descendents.

The purpose of Chapter 1, in Edsel’s book, is to establish that the Jews were Germans, who had a right to live in Germany.  The Nazis were wrong to persecute the Jews, who belonged in Germany. The Nazis were wrong to take the possessions of the Jews, especially the art that belonged to the Jews.

On page 10 of Edsel’s book, we learn that Harry Ettlinger’s maternal grandfather, Opa Oppenheimer, had an “art collection [which] contained almost two thousand prints, private ex libris bookplates and works by minor German Impressionists working in the late 1890s and early 1900s. One of the best was a print, made by a local artist, of the self-portrait by Rembrandt that hung in the Karlsruhe museum. […] In 1933, [after Hitler came to power] the museum had barred entry to Jews.”

According to Edsel’s book, the Ettlinger family left Germany in 1938, arriving in New York on October 9, 1938.  Exactly one month later, the event known as the “night of broken glass” [Kristallnacht] occurred.

This quote is from Edsel’s book:

The Jewish men of Karlsruhe were rounded up and put in the nearby Dachau internment camp. […] The magnificent hundred-year-old Konenstrasse Synagogue, where only weeks before Heinz Ludwig Chaim [Harry] Ettlinger had celebrated his bar mitzvah, was burned to the ground.  Harry Ettlinger was the last boy ever to have his bar mitzvah ceremony in the old synagogue of Karlsruhe.

But this story isn’t about the Kronenstrasse Synagogue, the internment camp at Dachau, or even the Holocaust against the Jews. It is about a different act of negation and aggression Hitler perpetrated on the people and nations of Europe: his war on culture. For when Private Harry Ettlinger, U.S. Army, finally returned to Karlsruhe, it wasn’t to search for his lost relatives or the remains of his community; it was to determine the fate of another aspect of his heritage stripped away by the Nazi regime: his grandfather’s beloved art collection. In the process he would discover, buried six hundred feet underground, something he had always known but never expected to see: the Rembrandt of Karlsruhe.

Harry Ettlinger was one of the Mountain Men

Harry Ettlinger looks at the picture that his grandfather owned

This quote is from pages 533 and 534, the last two pages in Edsel’s book:

… Harry learned another story about the mines in Heilbronn and Kochendorf.

In the Kochendorf mine, one or more chambers had been designed as secret manufacturing centers for the mass production of a crucial Nazi invention: the jet engine. […] The physical work at the mine, such as the expansion of the underground chambers, had been performed by fifteen hundred Hungarian Jewish slave laborers sent from Auschwitz to Germany. In September 1944, the British bombed Heilbronn to smithereens… […] As the roar of the planes retreated, a chant rose mysteriously from the black belly of the mine. […] It was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the Hungarian Jews were chanting the prayer of Kol Nidre.  […] In March 1945, less than a month before the arrival of the Americans, the slave laborers were shipped to Dachau.  Most of them froze to death during the five-day journey. The others were sent directly to the gas chamber.

The Monuments Men movie should have stuck to the story in the book by the same name, and featured Harry Ettlinger, because the book was about the Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis and stripped of their possessions, then sent to the gas chamber at Dachau.

As for the statement, in Edsel’s book, that the Hungarian Jews were sent directly to the gas chamber at Dachau, here is what really happened: According to a book published by the US Seventh Army immediately after the war, entitled Dachau Liberated, The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army, there was a total of 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944.

The Official Report says that these Jews were brought to Dachau to be executed and that they were gassed in the gas chamber disguised as a shower room and also in the four smaller gas chambers, which the staff at the Dachau Memorial Site now claims were delousing chambers.

By November 1945, it was known that the 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944 had been transferred to the eleven Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau to work in munitions factories and had not been gassed in the five gas chambers at Dachau, as stated in the Official Army Report that was written within days after the camp was liberated.

Contrary to what is stated in Edsel’s book, the Hungarian Jews who were working in the mines in Germany were not sent to the gas chamber at Dachau.

February 8, 2014

My review of The Monuments Men (George Clooney’s new movie)

Filed under: Germany, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:52 am

Yesterday, I went to the first showing, on the first day that the new movie, entitled The Monuments Men, opened in my city.

The Monuments Men is not a movie for young people, who will have a hard time understanding it.  The movie is fiction, loosely based on the true story of what happened in Europe during World War II.

In my humble opinion, this movie will not be in theaters very long, so if you want to see it, you had better hurry.

The main problem is that the movie is based on a 534 page book, written  by Robert M. Edsel, and published in 2009. Edsel’s book is based on a 444 page book written by Ms. Lynn H. Nicholas, entitled The Rape of Europa, which was first published in 1995.  In this real-life story, there were 400 Monuments Men. It was impossible to compress all this information into a 2-hour movie.  The bits and pieces of the story, that are shown in the movie, are impossible to understand, unless you have read both of the books.

This morning, I was very surprised to hear George Clooney say, in a TV interview, that he had read Edsel’s book before making this movie. In the interview, Clooney said that Hitler had stolen all the art in Europe and that he was intent upon destroying it.

How much of Edsel’s book did George actually read?  On page 17, you can read about how Hitler was planning an art Museum in his home town of Linz, Austria.

The main character in the movie (played by George Clooney) is named Frank Stokes.  This character is based on the real life Professor George L. Stout, a Harvard art historian who headed the MFAA group (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives) that went to Europe in 1944, after the Normandy invasion, to save the art that Hitler was planning to destroy, according  to the movie plot.

The man on the far left is the real-life George Stout

The tall man on the far left is the real-life George L. Stout

The most important piece of art, that the Monuments Men were intent upon saving, was the Ghent Alterpiece.  The movie opens with a picture of the Ghent Alterpiece on the screen, as we hear what sounds like gunshots.  Are the Nazis shooting  at the Ghent Alterpiece for fun?  No, what we hear is the sound of the nails being hammered into the boxes in which the Ghent Alterpiece will be transported to a safe place by the Americans who have stolen it from the Germans.

The Ghent Altarpiece had been stored, by the Germans, in the Altaussee salt mine in Austria, which was in the territory that had been promised to the Soviet Union, as their zone of occupation, after the war.  Russian soldiers are shown in the movie as they watch the Americans gleefully cart off the art treasures found in the Altaussee salt mine.  The movie doesn’t tell you that the Americans are stealing the art treasures from the Russians.

The movie tells you that The Monuments Men saved the Ghent Altarpiece, the most important piece of art, from the Germans who were planning to destroy it.  The real story is that Hitler was planning to create a museum in Linz, Austria where the art of Europe would be displayed, including the Ghent Altarpiece.

Balcony on city hall in Linz Austria

Balcony on the city hall in Linz Austria

The tiny balcony, in front of the Rathaus in Linz, is where Hitler proclaimed the Greater German Reich (Großdeutsches Reich) after the Anschluss with Austria on May 12, 1938. Hitler was planning a great museum in Linz after the war. He was not planning to destroy the Ghent Altarpiece, as implied in the movie, The Monuments Men.

So where had the Ghent Altarpiece been stored by the Nazis?  It was stored in the Altausee salt mine in Austria.  Don’t  worry, the movie will finally get to the Altaussee salt mine near the end.  The movie is so disjointed that it is almost impossible for anyone to understand it.

Workers at the Altausee salt mine where the Ghent Alterpiece was stored

Workers at the Altaussee salt mine where the Ghent Altarpiece was stored

This quote was copied from a recent news article in the British newspaper, the Daily Mail:

A new book published this week in Austria details how the finest art treasures in the world looted by the Nazis – worth an estimated £5billion at today’s prices – were saved from destruction by a team of salt miners.

Although credit for their salvation has gone to the ‘Monuments Men’ of the Allies who took charge of the masterpieces following the collapse of the Third Reich, the real heroes were apparently a group of Austrian workers who refused to obey orders for their destruction.

George Clooney’s movie ‘The Monuments Men’ which opens on new year’s day only gives a sanitised Hollywood version of what took place in the dying days of the Second World War, one in which the Americans claim the glory for rescuing history’s glittering prizes.

The new book ‘Mission Michelangelo’ tells the real story.

Written by Viennese journalist Konrad Kramar, it reveals how the miners were aided in their efforts to save the artworks by one of the most feared men in the whole of Nazi Germany.

He was Ernst Kaltenbrunner, an Austrian by birth who would be hanged by the Allies at Nuremberg for war crimes.

As head of the SD, the security service of the SS, he was second only to Heinrich Himmler in overseeing the Nazi network of terror, repression and murder in all conquered territories.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2528348/Hollywood-rewrites-WW2-AGAIN-Austrian-salt-miners-not-Geoge-Clooneys-Monuments-Men-saved-priceless-works-art-Nazis.html#ixzz2tPEegWgD
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

I wrote about Kaltenbrunner in this previous blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/new-movie-the-monuments-men-opening-feb-7-2014/

This quote is from the book, entitled The Rape of Europa:

By the summer of 1943 an Austrian official, Dr. Herbert Seiberl, had completed an investigation of the labyrinthine network of salt  mines in the Salzkammergut, a chic summer resort area high in the mountains of Salzberg. [..] The most suitable was at Alt Aussee where the main chambers lay more than a mile inside the mountain, reachable only by tiny special trains. Siberl’s belief that the conditions would be ideal was supported by his discovery of a little chapel inside the mine in which oil paintings had been hanging since 1933 without ill effect. [..]

Sieberl was thinking of this place not for the Linz holdings, but for the Austrian collections, now for the first time within range of Allied bombers coming from Italy. […this mine] was immediately claimed for the exclusive use of the Further. […] The arrangement met with Hitler’s approval. […]

In quite another mood, in August 1944 Hitler had ordered  all military installations, utilities, communications, archives, monuments, food stores, and transportation facilities destroyed as the German armies retreated so that only a wasteland would await the Allies. […] Albert Speer, who had proposed a more realistic program, was removed from office for a time, but eventually managed to compromise with the Fuhrer and change the order for destruction to “disabling” all the while working under Hitler’s orders.

In addition to the scorched-earth order, on every front soldiers and Gauleiters were commanded to fight to the last or face execution, Hitler’s theory being, as Wolff had found out in Italy, that if they held out long enough, the Western Allies would join Germany to defeat Bolshevism. In this scenario Germany would remain intact, and the purloined treasures would be used. They must, therefore, be kept from the enemy as long as possible.  Indeed, in his will, written the day before his suicide, Hitler stipulated that his collections should be given to the [German] nation.  […]

Gauleiter [August] Eigruber of Oberdonau had taken Hitler’s scorched earth decrees deeply to heart and was persuaded that the works of art at Alt Aussee should not fall into the hands of the Boshevists or “International Jewry.”   […]

The story of Eigruber’s fanatic desire for destruction, and the efforts to stop him, has become the legend of Alt Aussee.  […]

In the movie, the Merkers mine, where Germany’s gold was stored, is shown.  The Merkers mine was very close to the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald, but this is not mentioned in the movie.  The Merkers mine was also in the occupation zone of the Soviet Union, and the gold in the mine belonged to the Russians as their “spoils of war.”

The photo below, which shows General Eisenhower inside the Merkers mine, is shown very briefly in  the movie.  Don’t blink, or you will miss it.

General Eisenhower inspects the art stored in the Merkers salt mine

General Eisenhower inspects the art stored in the Merkers salt mine

One of the Monuments Men, in the movie, is Harry Ettlinger, who is portrayed by English actor Dimitri Leonidas; his character is named Sam Epstein in the movie.  You can read more about him at http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/70-years-original-monuments-men-article-1.1597958#ixzz2skyMli7G

Harry Ettlinger was one of the Mountain Men

19-year-old Harry Ettlinger, on the right, was one of the Monuments Men

In the movie, there is a scene where a burned Picasso painting is briefly shown, along with a large amount of gold teeth, taken from the Jews during the Holocaust.  The burned Picasso is a reference to the “degenerate art” that Hitler destroyed, although this is not explained in the movie.

One of the scenes in the movie, which has been highly praised in the movie reviews that I have read, shows George Stout (played by George Clooney) interrogating a German Army officer. This scene does not make any sense, and I believe that the scene is pure fiction. The German Army officer tells George Stout that he should thank him for what the Germans did in the concentration camps. He also mentions that he has rights under the Geneva Convention.

In the movie scene, George Stout asks the German Army officer: “Why did you blow up the salt mine?”  He doesn’t say which salt mine, but this scene comes shortly after the Americans have found the Altaussee mine.

There is no explanation for this scene, so we are supposed to believe that the Altaussee mine was blown up by the Nazis, and this low-level German officer was the man who ordered the mine to be blown up.

Here is what actually happened, according to the book The Rape of Europa:

“On May 5 [1945] the [Altaussee] mine entrances were blasted shut.  Inside, the scattered masterpieces rested safely in darkness.”

What actually happened is that the workers at the salt mine saved the contents of the mine.  There was four million dollars worth of Germany’s gold in the Altausee mine, which had been removed before the Americans got there.

On page 316 of the book entitled The Rape of Europa, you can read this quote:

… Hitler had ordered [Altaussee] and other repositories sealed and the works of art  preserved at all costs…

That is why the openings into the Altaussee mine were blasted shut.  It was Hitler who made sure that the artwork was saved.

February 1, 2014

“to the victor belongs the spoils” even if you have to steal gold from an ally that helped to win the war

Filed under: Germany, movies, World War II — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:58 am

In doing some research about The Monuments Men, in preparation for seeing a new movie by the same name, I learned that the art treasures and the gold bullion, stored in the Merkers salt mine in Germany, was supposed to go to the Soviet Union, because it was located in the occupation zone that had been promised to the Russians.

German  gold was hidden in the  Merkers salt mine

German gold and art treasures were hidden in the Merkers salt mine

When General Patton heard about the gold in the Merkers mine, he claimed it for the USA and then notified General (“God, I hate the Germans”) Eisenhower.

The following quote, about the gold, is from this website: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1999/spring/nazi-gold-merkers-mine-treasure.html

Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure

By Greg Bradsher

Late on the evening of March 22, 1945, elements of Lt. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army crossed the Rhine, and soon thereafter his whole army crossed the river and drove into the heart of Germany. Advancing northeast from Frankfurt, elements of the Third Army cut into the future Soviet Zone and advanced on Gotha. Just before noon on April 4, the village of Merkers fell to the Third Battalion of the 358th Infantry Regiment, Ninetieth Infantry Division, Third Army. During that day and the next the Ninetieth Infantry Division, with its command post at Keiselbach, consolidated its holdings in the Merkers area.(1)

During April 4 and 5 [1945], displaced persons in the vicinity interrogated by the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) personnel of the Ninetieth Infantry Division mentioned a recent movement of German Reichsbank gold from Berlin to the Wintershal AG’s Kaiseroda potassium mine at Merkers. In all of these instances they quoted rumors, but none stated their own knowledge that gold was present in the mine. But just before noon on April 5, a member of Military Intelligence Team 404-G, attached to the 358th Infantry Regiment, who was in Bad Salzungen, about six miles from Merkers, interviewed French displaced persons who had worked in the mine at Merkers. They told him they had heard that gold had been stored in the mine. The information was passed on to the G-2 (intelligence section) of the Ninetieth Infantry Division, and orders were issued prohibiting all civilians from circulating in the area of the mine.(2)

You can read about Gotha on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/EasternGermany/Gotha/

Note the date [April 4, 1945] that the Merkers mine was discovered by the Americans, after “displaced persons” told them about the gold.

"displaced persons" who have come back to the Ohrdruf camp

“displaced persons” who came back to the Ohrdruf camp after the Americans arrived

What is a “displaced person”?  This term refers to a former prisoner in a concentration camp, or a Nazi labor camp, who must find his way home because the Nazis have abandoned the camp where he was a prisoner.  The Nazis had abandoned the Ohrdruf  sub-camp of Buchenwald on April 4, 1945, and had marched most the prisoners to the Buchenwald camp, except for a few who were too sick to walk, or a few who had escaped from the march.

How does one justify stealing “the spoils of war” from an ally [the Soviet Union], who has helped to defeat your enemy?  I know — let’s go to visit Ohrdruf, and make a big deal out of the bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus. Let’s “build another page of the necessary evidence as to the brutality of the Germans” as General Patton wrote to General Eisenhower. Let’s take a photo of the dead bodies that were burned at Ohrdruf, and claim that the Germans had burned prisoners alive. Let’s build a museum in Washington, DC  and hang a photo of the burned bodies in front of the museum door.

Eisenhower views burned bodies at Ohrdruf

Eisenhower views burned bodies at Ohrdruf

This quote is also from the article written by Greg Bradsher:

[Col. Bernard D.] Bernstein, that evening, drove to Patton’s headquarters. Patton told Bernstein that he was very glad Eisenhower was taking responsibility for the gold. Bernstein told him that he wanted to move the Merkers treasure to Frankfurt as quickly as possible and that under the Big Three arrangements at Yalta, the Merkers part of Germany would be taken over by the Russians after the war and that they certainly needed to get the treasure out of the area before the Russians got there. Astounded at what Bernstein told him, not knowing about the postwar arrangements, Patton said he would do everything possible to facilitate Bernstein’s mission.(39)

On April 11 Bernstein returned to Merkers, and that morning, after arranging with Mason for setting up a command post at the mine building for the G-5 officers, he and Rave made an inspection of the art treasures. Later that day Lt. George Stout [one of the Monuments Men], USNR, MFAA Officer, G-5, Twelfth Army Group, and the SHAEF MFAA chief, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, reported for duty, with the expectation that they would handle the art matters. After Posey’s earlier visit to Merkers, he had notified Webb of the treasure and recommended Stout, former chief of conservation at Harvard’s Fogg Museum and considered America’s greatest expert on the techniques of packing and transporting, be sent to the mine to provide technical guidance. Webb and Stout arrived at Merkers only to find that they needed Bernstein’s permission to see the art. Bernstein showed them his letter from Gay authorizing him to decide who went into the mine and the need for Eddy’s permission for Allied personnel to inspect the mine. Bernstein agreed to let Stout view the works of art, but he denied Webb access.(40)  [George Stout is played by George Clooney in the movie The Monuments Men.]

[…]
Bernstein and Bartlett arrived at the 357th Infantry Regiment Command Post in Merkers at 5 p.m. on April 10. Accompanied by Mason, they went on a tour of the mine to see the vault containing the gold, currency, and art treasure. That evening Bernstein interviewed Veick and Reimer about the gold, currency, and other valuables, as well as any records relating to the gold. Veick provided detailed information about the transportation of the Reichsbank treasure to Merkers and the currency transactions during March and the first days of April. He said he did not know that much about the gold, but Thoms did; “He knows all,” Veick said. Reimer told Bernstein that “the records of the sale of the gold are with Thoms.”(38)

Bernstein, that evening, drove to Patton’s headquarters. Patton told Bernstein that he was very glad Eisenhower was taking responsibility for the gold. Bernstein told him that he wanted to move the Merkers treasure to Frankfurt as quickly as possible and that under the Big Three arrangements at Yalta, the Merkers part of Germany would be taken over by the Russians after the war and that they certainly needed to get the treasure out of the area before the Russians got there. Astounded at what Bernstein told him, not knowing about the postwar arrangements, Patton said he would do everything possible to facilitate Bernstein’s mission.(39)

January 29, 2014

New movie The Monuments Men opening Feb. 7, 2014

I have been reading the book entitled The Rape of Europa by Ms. Lynn H. Nicholas, in order to prepare for the new movie The Monuments Men which will open in theaters on  Feb. 7, 2014.  You can see a trailer for the movie below.

The trailer for the movie tells us that “the Nazis have been stealing art” and that there are “5 million pieces of stolen art” that the Monuments Men must find and preserve because “Hitler wants to destroy everything.”  Basically, “the Nazis are on the run and they have taken everything with them” according to the movie trailer.  The Monuments Men must find the art and save the culture of the world from the Nazis.  Sounds good to me.

The evil Nazis have stolen all the art in Europe and The Monuments Men have been “tasked” to find it.

What?  The Germans didn’t have any art of their own? They had stolen the art from Warsaw and other places with the intent of destroying it, according to the trailer for the movie.

At one point in the movie, the fictional character, played by George Clooney, explains the importance of the mission of The Monuments  Men:  “If you destroy an entire generation of people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed,” he says. “That’s what Hitler wants and it’s the one thing we can’t allow.”

So the theme of the movie seems to be that a group of American art experts are going to prevent Hitler from destroying an entire generation of culture.  Hitler was an artist himself and he was planning an art museum in his home town of Linz, Austria, after the war.

According to the book entitled The Rape of Europa, the Nazis had stashed the art in a salt mine at Alt Aussee.  You can read what Wikipedia says about Altaussee at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altaussee#Nazi_Stolen_Art_Repository

Note the difference in the spelling of Altaussee.

August Eigruber was put on trial by the American Military Tribunal

August Eigruber was put on trial by the American Military Tribunal

This quote is from page 316 of The Rape of Europa:

The basic legend tells us that [August] Eigruber put bombs in the mines [at Altaussee] with the intention of blowing up everything, and that heroic Austrian Resistance workers removed them and thereby saved the priceless works for humanity. […]

…Hitler had ordered [Alt Aussee] and other repositories sealed and the works of art preserved at all  costs.

[The] next ploy was to try to persuade [August] Eigruber that the bombs would not destroy everything inside unless the mine entrances were sealed.  This would make the bombs inaccessible but the engineers convinced [Eigruber] that [the bombs] could be detonated by a long fuse to the exterior.  […]

Eigruber’s opponents turned to the highest [Nazi] Party authority still available [after Hitler’s suicide] — SS Intelligence Chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who was well known in Alt Aussee, where he kept a mistress.

Kaltenbrunner authorized the immediate removal of the bombs and promised to so inform Eigruber. […] On May 5 [1945]  the mine entrances were blasted shut.  Inside, the scattered masterpieces rested safely in the darkness.

This quote is also from the book entitled The Rape of Europa by  Ms. Lynn H. Nicholas:

By the summer of 1943 an Austrian official, Dr. Herbert Seiberl, had completed an investigation of the labyrinthine network of salt  mines in the Salzkammergut, a chic summer resort area high in the mountains of Salzberg. [..] The most suitable was at Alt Aussee where the main chambers lay more than a mile inside the mountain, reachable only by tiny special trains. Seiberl’s belief that the conditions would be ideal was supported by his discovery of a little chapel inside the mine in which oil paintings had been hanging since 1933 without ill effect. [..]

Seiberl was thinking of this place not for the Linz holdings [of Hitler], but for the Austrian collections, now for the first time within range of Allied bombers coming from Italy. […this mine] was immediately claimed for the exclusive use of the Führer. […] The arrangement met with Hitler’s approval. […]

In quite another mood, in August 1944 Hitler had ordered  all military installations, utilities, communications, archives, monuments, food stores, and transportation facilities destroyed as the German armies retreated so that only a wasteland would await the Allies. […] Albert Speer, who had proposed a more realistic program, was removed from office for a time, but eventually managed to compromise with the Führer and change the order for destruction to “disabling” all the while working under Hitler’s orders.

In addition to the scorched-earth order, on every front soldiers and Gauleiters were commanded to fight to the last or face execution, Hitler’s theory being, as Wolff had found out in Italy, that if they held out long enough, the Western Allies would join Germany to defeat Bolshevism. In this scenario Germany would remain intact, and the purloined treasures would be used. They must, therefore, be kept from the enemy as long as possible.  Indeed, in his will, written the day before his suicide, Hitler stipulated that his collections should be given to the [German] nation.  […]

Gauleiter Eigruber of Oberdonau had taken Hitler’s scorched earth decrees deeply to heart and was persuaded that the works of art at Alt Aussee should not fall into the hands of the Bolshevists [Communists] or “International Jewry.”   […]

The story of Eigruber’s fanatic desire for destruction, and the efforts to stop him, has become the legend of Alt Aussee.  […]

Strangely, Eigruber’s plot to blow up the art in the salt mine was not mentioned in his trial as a war criminal by the American Military Tribunal, which I wrote about on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauTrials/Mauthausen02.html

This quote, about August Eigruber, is from Wikipedia:

Right after Germany’s unconditional surrender in May 1945, Eigruber was arrested in the Salzkammergut by the United States Army, and he was questioned as a witness at the Nuremberg Trials. In the Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials, Eigruber was sentenced in March 1946 by the Dachau International Military Tribunal to death by hanging for his responsibility for crimes at Mauthausen concentration camp. The sentence was carried out in the prison yard at Landsberg Prison, Landsberg am Lech on May 28, 1947.

 

January 25, 2014

After 4 years of blogging and 1107 blog posts, the winner is “the surgeon of Birkenau”

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:37 am

I started my blog on February 5, 2010 with my very first blog post, which was about Tadeusz Borowski, a non-Jewish political prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, who wrote a book about the camp, in which he famously told about the soccer games played by the prisoners, as the Jews were marching to their deaths in the Krema III gas chamber.

Since then, I have written a total of 1107 blog posts, and the post that has gotten the most hits is the one about the “surgeon of Birkenau” which you can read at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/was-the-surgeon-of-birkenau-really-a-surgeon/

Why is this blog post so popular?  It must be because it is about the movie entitled The Debt, which seems to be based on the story of Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi that everyone loves to hate.

Left to right: Dr. Josef Mengele, Rudold Hoess, and Josef Kramer

Left to right: Dr. Josef Mengele, Rudold Hoess, and Josef Kramer

You can read about Dr. Josef Mengele on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/History/Articles/Selection.html

and on this page of my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/History/Articles/Selection2.html

Dr. Mengele made an unforgetable impression on the prisoners at Auchwitz-Birkenau because he was handsome and charming, and he whistled tunes from German opera, as he waved the Jews to the right or to the left, to live or to die.

There are numerous Holocaust survivors, who are still alive today, because Dr. Mengele was too distracted by his whistling to pay attention to the ages of the children that he was waving to the right to live.

October 23, 2013

New Lanzmann film “The Last of the Unjust” will be in theaters November 2013

Claude Lanzmann has a new film, entitled The Last of the Unjust, which was shown at the New York Film Festival in September 2013. You can read a review of the film here.  I previously blogged about Lanzmann’s new film here.

The film is based on interviews, which Lanzmann did, in 1975, with Benjamin Murmelstein, the last Jewish Elder in the Theresienstadt ghetto.  Benjamin Murmelstein died in 1989, but his son Wolf Murmelstein is still vigorously defending his father’s reputation.

When Lanzmann’s new film is shown in theaters in November, I believe that many viewers will have some difficulty in understanding it.  To prepare for seeing this film, anyone who wants to understand it should read an essay, written by Wolf Murmelstein here.

The title of the film comes from a play on words, taken from André Schwarz-Bart’s novel, entitled The Last of the Just.  Benjamin Murmelstein was being sarcastic when he called himself “The Last of the Unjust.” His reputation had been ruined because of the accusations against him after he survived the Theresienstadt ghetto.  Murmelstein was acquitted of the charge of collaborating with the Nazis, but getting his reputation back was more difficult.

This quote is from the article in the New York Times:

But the first on-camera remarks of Murmelstein’s that Lanzmann includes in “The Last of the Unjust” refer to the rabbi’s own state of exile in Rome and the lessons of Rome for modernity. Just as the city of Rome endures long after the end of Roman civilization, so, Murmelstein explains, all of Europe is enduring the absence of another vanished civilization—that of Judaism. “Judaism is missing,” Murmelstein says. “It is lacking from the world that was destroyed.”

In “The Last of the Unjust,” Lanzmann attempts to put back some of the Judaism. He films a cantor chanting Kol Nidre (from the service of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement) and the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, in the last surviving synagogue in Vienna. He films the Old-New Synagogue in Prague—and there finds stelae inscribed with the names of Czech victims of the Holocaust, a litany of names that ring to the eye with a music of their own. There’s a defiant, in-your-face aspect to the filming of the liturgy—the destruction of the Jewry of Europe also meant an attempt to destroy Judaism, but Jewish religious observance has survived.

In the year 2000, I visited the Old-New Synagogue on Siroka street in Josefov in Prague, but I did not see the names of the Czech victims of the Holocaust.

Old-New Synagogue in Prague is still being used

Old-New Synagogue in Prague is still being used

I also visited the Pinkas Synagogue in the old Jewish quarter in Prague. Every inch of the stone walls in the interior of the Pinkas Synagogue was inscribed with the names of the 77,297 Jews from Bohemia and Moravia (now the Czech Republic) who died in the Holocaust.

Tourists line up to enter the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague

Tourists line up to enter the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague

According to information given at the Pinkas Synagogue, most of these Jews were sent first to the ghetto set up by the Nazis in the old military garrison in Theresienstadt, which is now the town of Terezin, and were then transported to the death camp at Auschwitz in Poland where they were murdered in the gas chambers.

For his film, Lanzmann also visited the train station where Jews got off the train for the Theresienstadt camp.  I blogged about the train station here.

The article in the New York Times continues with this quote:

Hanukkah means “dedication,” and the holiday celebrates a miracle by which the Second Temple, defiled by marauders, was rededicated, resanctified. “The Last of the Unjust” is itself a sort of rededication, an attempt by Lanzmann to restore something central to the Jewish world of Europe. And he achieves this through the words and the story of Murmelstein, a rabbi who took on an unbearable burden and came through it a pariah. Murmelstein’s efforts to save Jews are revealed to be inseparable from his work, under Nazi authority, to preserve the sham of Theresienstadt—he thinks of himself as a sort of Scheherazade who rescued Jews, and who rescued himself, by helping the Germans tell a propagandistic story. That astonishingly daring and dangerous moral calculus has a Biblical grandeur, horror, and authority.

The essay by Wolf Murmelstein is quite long, so I am quoting some of the most important text here:

During the Holocaust period, the Ghettos were not Jewish Communities but FORCED COMMUNITIES since the Nazis classified persons as Jewish on racial, not religious, criteria. So in the Ghettos, together with believing Jews, there were those converted to other faiths, and the agnostics, Zionists, Czech, German, and Austrian nationalists, persons having some Jewish ancestors, etc. etc. So persons, who did not share the same Faith and had not always been aware that they would share the same fate, now had to live and work together.

In the “TRIUMVIRATE” set up on the orders of [Adolf] Eichmann, Murmelstein had to work, in the capacity of “Second Deputy Elder,” along side the ”Elder” Eppstein, and the “First Deputy Elder” Edelstein and, by the subdivision of tasks, he had to supervise the “HEALTH AND WELFARE” and “TECHNICAL SERVICES” Departments.

In his tasks, Benjamin Murmelstein had to master the problem of different backgrounds and ideas:

Jacob Edelstein, in 1941, was hoping that Terezin would be a good training camp (HAKSCHARAH) for the Youth in preparation for a future life in Palestine. As a Zionist official, he felt bound to party-loyalty.

Paul Eppstein, a young promising sociologist, in 1933 joined the staff of the REICHSVERTRETUNG (after 1939 REICHSVEREINIGUNG) where he worked in the emigration sector and in 1940 he had to replace Leo Baeck as Chief Executive. Until his Martyrdom, he had difficulty in realizing that in the Reich, which was ruled by a criminal gang – internationally acknowledged as a government, assurances or other statements of a “state official” were only tricky ones.

But I am putting the cart before the horse. Benjamin Murmelstein had been in charge of deporting the Jews from Austria, starting in 1938.  After the war, he became famous as the last Jewish Elder at Theresienstadt.

This quote from Wolf Murmelstein’s essay explains why the Theresienstadt ghetto was set up:

But at a certain moment, the Nazis realized that the tale of “resettlement of Jews for work” could hardly justify deportation of aged or sick persons, war officers holding medals for merit, etc.

Furthermore, as explained by Heinrich Himmler: “Germans all agree on the idea of getting rid of the Jews. But then every German has his own Jews, stating that this is a righteous Jew; send away the others but let him stay here.” What Himmler did not explain was that some Germans could not be ignored at all. Besides, there were among the Jews highly qualified persons well known abroad, who could not simply disappear in the East.

The solution was THERESIENSTADT, a little town in Bohemia surrounded by walls and with many barracks, just on the Reich border, now better known under the Czech name TEREZIN. There Eichmann had the opportunity to set up a Ghetto under his own authority and to show the real meaning of his “great ideas.” Many Germans could then “be at peace with their conscience” having obtained for their “righteous Jew” – a relative, a divorced wife, etc. – a place in the “Model Ghetto.” Qualified Jews, known abroad, could for a while, send postcards.

From October 1941 until September 1942, Benjamin Murmelstein had to watch the deportations. At Yom Kippur 1942, he had a nervous crisis of desperation about things that happened in that year. He was in doubt about being ritually qualified to lead the prayer service for the very few believing Jews still in Vienna.

From the beginning to the end of the deportation waves, almost all Jews had been deported from Vienna. Besides the very few believing Jews – community staff members – there were many persons in mixed marriage and descendants of Jewish parents or grand-parents. In that year Benjamin Murmelstein had to face the Vienna Branch of the CENTRAL OFFICE FOR JEWISH EMIGRATION where the rule was “promises are valid only when served.” Amid harsh orders, he tried to save what was possible.

The number of the few believing Jews for the community staff had been the result of a difficult “bargaining” (requests had to be submitted in a suitable form) with SS Ltd Alois (Anton) Brunner. At end of August 1942, Benjamin Murmelstein, with his family, was about to be sent to Terezin. But Eichmann decided to delay the “re-organization” of Terezin “Jewish Self-Government.”

[…]

The delay of the Murmelstein Family deportation lasted only to the end of Jannuary 1943 because Eichmann wanted to report on JANUARY 30 – the anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power – the deportation of Jewish Leadership of Berlin, Vienna and Prague. So Murmelstein and some other Community Staff member with families had to go to THERESIENSTADT (TEREZIN).

[…]

The first Elder of Terezin, Jacob Edelstein, was suspected for some months of having contacts with the so-called Czech Resistance. Eichmann thought it right to follow a “cautious proceeding.” On January 31, 1943, Paul Eppstein became the new Elder of Terezin; he had just arrived from Berlin. Jacob Edelstein was downgraded to First Deputy Elder and Benjamin Murmelstein was named the Second Deputy Elder. All the three of them had been busy managing, in their communities, the emigration of fellow Jews to safe havens, and had failed to find safe havens for themselves and their families; now they shared the responsibility for the “Model” Ghetto.

Theresienstadt became famous as a “model ghetto” because of the two Red Cross visits.  You can read about how the ghetto was cleaned up, in order to fool the Red Cross about the real conditions in the camp here.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 313 other followers