Scrapbookpages Blog

October 10, 2016

The Sonderkommando Jews

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 2:33 pm
The entrance into the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp is through this building

The photo above was used at the top of a news article about the Sonderkommando Jews

The main entrance into the former Auschwitz-Birkenau camp is through the building shown in the photo above.

I took a similar photo on one of my 3 trips to the memorial site at Auschwitz-Birkenau.


You can read about the Sonderkommando Jews in this news article:

The following quote is from the news article:

Sonderkommando stories

Begin quote

In some of the earliest novels in North America to address the Holocaust in the 1950s and 1960s, characters who are former members of the Sonderkommando function as archetypal survivors: psychologically damaged but also morally suspect.

Holocaust survivors in general were often greeted with unease, facing questions of what compromises they had made and at whose expense. The Sonderkommando clearly stood for this moral dilemma more than any other figure.

By the 1980s, a very different set of ways of presenting the Sonderkommando arose. Greater knowledge of the specific details of the Holocaust produced more of a sense that the Holocaust was a uniquely total attempt to exterminate a people, and a concomitant belief that it tested the capacity of art to represent it.

Claude Lanzmann placed one member of the Auschwitz Sonderkommando, Filip Müller, at the centre of Shoah (1985), his nine-and-a-half-hour documentary film about the “final solution”. For Lanzmann, Müller’s story could only be told through testing the boundaries of film making, stretching it out almost beyond the limits of an audience’s endurance. Müller’s speech rhythms were slowed to a glacial pace, the spliced-in silences resonated with the emptiness of the landscapes over which it served as a voice-over.

And Primo Levi devoted part of his essay “The Grey Zone” (1986) to the Sonderkommando. For him too, silence was the only possible response. He urged readers to dwell on rather than pass over the Sonderkommando’s situation, but argued that such meditation could only end in the impossibility of judging them.

End quote

You can read all about the gatehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau on my website at

June 6, 2016

How many Jews died at Auschwitz?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 5:06 pm

One of the regular readers of my blog wrote this in a comment:

“Well, no one ever claimed that 4 million Jews died at Auschwitz. So that decline in numbers [down to 1.1 million] has no bearing on the amount of Jews killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau.”

Excuse me — I think that someone did, in fact, claim that 4 million Jews died at Auschwitz. The famous 4 million number was literally carved in stone at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

This stone was displayed at Auschwitz-Birkenau

This stone was displayed at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The sauna building at Birkenau where clothes were disinfected and prisoners took a shower

My photo of the sauna building at Birkenau where the clothes were disinfected with Zyklon-B and prisoners took a shower

On May 14, 1946, the former Commandant of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, Rudolf Höß, also known as Rudolf Hoess, signed a sworn affidavit in which he stated that two million Jews had been gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1941 and 1943 while he was the Commandant.

My 2005 photo of the Fence around the Birkenau camp

My 2005 photo of the fence around the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

This did not include the period, during which Hoess was not the Commandant, when over 300,000 Hungarian Jews were gassed during a period of 10 weeks in the Summer of 1944, according to the Auschwitz Museum.

The English translation of the German text in the affidavit reads: “I declare herewith under oath that in the years 1941 to 1943 during my tenure in office as commandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp 2 million Jews were put to death by gassing and a 1/2 million by other means. Rudolf Hoess. May 14, 1946.” The confession was signed by Hoess and by Josef Maier of the US Chief of Counsel’s office.

The original affidavit, signed by Rudolf Hoess, was displayed in a glass case in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC when I visited the museum in the year 2000. The photo that was displayed, along with the affidavit, showed Hungarian Jewish women and children walking to one of the four gas chambers in the Auschwitz- Birkenau death camp on May 26, 1944, carrying their hand baggage in sacks.

My photo taken in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

My photo taken in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The caption underneath the photo above reads:

On May 14, 1946, Rudolf Hoess, the former commandant of Auschwitz, signed a declaration stating that during his tenure in office, 2 million Jews had been gassed at Auschwitz and another 500,000 killed in other ways.

End quote

Hoess overestimated the number of Jews gassed by about 1 million, according to today’s statistics.

There have been allegations that this confession was obtained from Rudolf Hoess by means of torture.

Rupert Butler wrote in his book entitled Legions of Death, published by Arrow Books in London in 1983, that before Hoess confessed, he had been beaten for three days by a British team of torturers under the command of Jewish interrogator Bernard Clarke.

In April 1967, an International Monument, dedicated to the victims of Fascism, was unveiled at Auschwitz-Birkenau, between the ruins of Krema II and Krema III, the two crematoria buildings where the two largest gas chambers were located.

The ruins of the Birkenau camp

My 2005 photo of the ruins of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

The monument included a series of granite plaques which informed visitors that 4 million people had been murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau. This number was an estimate given by the Soviet Union on May 8, 1945, based on the maximum capacity of the cremation ovens in the main Auschwitz camp and the ovens in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

Four million was the number of deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau that the Soviet Union had included in their war crimes charges against the Nazis at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal in November 1945.

The Soviet Union also charged that the Nazis had murdered 1.5 million people at the Majdanek death camp. Today, the Museum at Majdanek claims that only 78,000 prisoners, including 59,000 Jews, died at Majdanek.

According to the Auschwitz Museum, after the fall of Communism in 1989, the Soviet Union turned over to the International Committee of the Red Cross 46 volumes of Death Books (Sterbebücher) which they had confiscated from the Auschwitz camp. These records, which had been kept by the political department (Gestapo) at Auschwitz, show that there were around 69,000 registered prisoners who died between July 29, 1941 and December 31, 1943.

The Death books from June 14, 1940 to July 28, 1941 are missing, as are the death books from all of 1944 and January 1945. Based on these records, the International Red Cross has estimated that a total of around 135,000 registered prisoners died in the three Auschwitz camps. These figures are for Jews and non-Jews.

The document in the photo below, which shows records kept in the Nazi concentration camps, is stored at Arolsen, Germany.

Records kept by the Red Cross

Records kept by the Red Cross

In 1990, the plaques at Auschwitz-Birkenau, with the figure of 4 million, were removed. It was not until 1995 that new plaques were placed at the International Monument. There are 20 metal plates inscribed in Yiddish, English and all the major languages of Europe.

The plaques were set on granite slabs on the steps of the International Monument. The number of deaths at Auschwitz, according to each of the 20 metal plates, is 1.5 million. However, the official number of deaths, according to the Jews, is now 1.1 million.

The English inscription reads:



In 1980, Franciszek Piper, the director of the Auschwitz Museum, began a study of all the available documents at Auschwitz; he calculated that 1,077,180 prisoners, of which 90% were Jews, had died at Auschwitz, based on his estimate of the number of arrivals minus the number of liberated prisoners and the number of transferred, escaped and released prisoners. This number includes the Jews, not registered in the camp, who are assumed to have been gassed immediately upon arrival.

In 1946, Rudolf Hoess was put on trial in Poland; he was charged with the murder of “around 300,000 people held at the camp as prisoners and entered into the camp’s records and around 4,000,000 people, mainly Jews, who were brought to the camp in transports from other European countries for immediate extermination and thus not listed in the camp’s records.” During his trial, Höss changed the figure in his confession to a total of 1,130,000 Jews that were gassed but declared “During my tenure at Auschwitz, millions of people died, whose exact number I cannot determine.”

Rudolf Hoess wrote in his autobiography that Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann and his deputy were the only ones who knew the total number of Jews that were gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau because Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had ordered the records to be burned after every special action. The Nazis always used code words when talking about the genocide of the Jews: a mass gassing was called a “special action.”

In the last days of World War II, shortly before Berlin was surrounded by Soviet troops, Eichmann told Hoess that 2.5 million Jews had been murdered at Auschwitz Birkenau. Eichmann was an SS Lt. Col. who was the head of Department IV, B-4, the section of the Reich Central Security Office (RSHA) in Berlin, which was responsible for deporting the Jews. It was Adolf Eichmann who was in charge of deporting the Jews on the trains to the death camps.

According to the Auschwitz Museum, no records of the number of prisoners who died at Auschwitz-Birkenau have ever been found. In an article on the official Auschwitz website, Franciszek Piper wrote the following:

When the Soviet army entered the camp on January 27, 1945, they did not find any German documents there giving the number of victims, or any that could be used as a basis for calculating this number. Such documents (transport lists, notifications of the arrival of transports, reports about the outcome of selection) had been destroyed before liberation. For this reason, the Soviet commission investigating the crimes committed in Auschwitz Concentration Camp had to make estimates.


The absence of the most important of the statistical sources that the Germans kept in Auschwitz made it practically impossible for historians to research the issue of the number of victims. The reluctance to research this issue also resulted from a conviction of the impossibility of drawing up a full list of transports reflecting the total number of deportees, and above all of the people who were consumed by the gas chambers and crematoria with no registration or records.

In his book entitled “IBM and the Holocaust,” Edwin Black wrote that the Nazis tracked the prisoners by using IBM Hollerith machines which sorted punch cards that were coded with information about each prisoner. The numbers on the tattoos that were put on the arms of the Auschwitz prisoners, starting in 1943, were originally the prisoner’s code number on his Hollerith card.

The following is a quote from the book “IBM and the Holocaust” by Edwin Black:

Begin quote

It was not just people who were counted and marshaled for deportation. Box cars, locomotives and intricate train time tables were scheduled across battle-scared borders – all while a war was being fought on two fronts. The technology had enabled Nazi Germany to orchestrate the death of millions without skipping a note.

End quote

According to Edwin Black, the prisoners were not tracked with an IBM punch card until they were registered in a camp, so there are no records of those who arrived at Auschwitz, but were not registered. Of the millions of Hollerith punch cards used by the Nazis, only around 100,000 survived the war, according to Edwin Black.

The generally accepted figure of 1.3 million who were deported to Auschwitz is not based on the train records kept by the Germans, but rather an estimate made by Franciszek Piper who wrote the following in his article on the official Auschwitz web site:

After an overall analysis of the original sources and findings on deportation to Auschwitz, I concluded that a total of at least 1,300,000 people were deported there, and that 1,100,000 of them perished. Approximately 200,000 people were deported from Auschwitz to other camps as part of the redistribution of labor resources and the final liquidation of the camp.

One of the most distinguished Holocaust researchers, Raul Hilberg, published a separate work (Auschwitz and the Final Solution) on the number of Auschwitz victims. His findings reaffirmed both the figure of 1,000,000 Jewish Auschwitz victims that he had arrived at as long ago as 1961, as well as my own conclusions.

The IBM Hollerith punch cards kept by the Germans for the Jews, Russians and Gypsies, who were registered in the camp and later killed in the gas chambers, were coded as F-6 for “special treatment” or as “evacuations” according to Edwin Black, the author of “IBM and the Holocaust.” The code for “execution” was D-4.

In 2002, Edwin Black wrote the following in an article regarding the IBM Hollerith punch card machines in Krakow which were used by the Nazis to keep track of the Auschwitz prisoners:

The machines almost certainly did not maintain extermination totals, which were calculated as “evacuations” by the Hollerith Gruppe in Krakow.

Richard Seaver wrote in the Introduction to Auschwitz, a Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli that “in 1944 German authorities destroyed the transport lists of all Jews who had been sent to Auschwitz up to that point, and in the succeeding months ordered the destruction of all other incriminating documents.”

The complete records, compiled by the office of Richard Glücks for all the Nazi concentration camps in the years 1935 to 1944, are now stored on microfilm and kept in the Russian Central Archives in the Central State Archives No. 187603 on Rolls 281 through 286. These records give statistics on the number of Auschwitz deaths from execution, typhus and other natural causes, but not the statistics on the Jews who were gassed.

According to Wikipedia, Richard Glücks attained the rank of a SS-Gruppenführer and a Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS and was, from 1939 until the end of World War II, the head of Amt D: Konzentrationslagerwesen of the WVHA and the highest-ranking “Inspector of Concentration Camps” in Nazi Germany. Close to Himmler, Glücks was directly responsible for the forced labour of the camp inmates; he was also the supervisor for the medical practices in the camps, ranging from human experimentation to the implementation of the Endlösung, in particular the mass murder of the inmates by gassing with Zyklon-B.

Endlösung is the German term for “The Final Solution,” which means the genocide of the Jews. Himmler and Glücks both escaped justice by committing suicide immediately after they were captured by the Allies in May 1945, before they could be interrogated.

According to the records kept by the office of Richard Glücks, there was a total of 121,453 inmates, including 100,743 Jews who were transferred out of Auschwitz-Birkenau to other camps.

The same records show that there was a total of 334,785 prisoners who entered Auschwitz-Birkenau between May 1940 and December 1944, including 161,785 non-Jews.

The records kept by the office of Richard Glücks show that 103,429 inmates of Auschwitz-Birkenau died from typhus, including 58,240 Jews who died from typhus between 1942 and 1944. An additional 4,140 prisoners died of other natural causes between 1940 and 1944, including 2,064 Jews.

The number of people executed at Auschwitz, according to the records stored on microfilm in the Russian Archives, was 1,646 including 117 Jews, 1,485 Poles, 19 Russians, 5 Czechs and 20 Gypsies.

The German records kept by the office of Richard Glücks show that 173,000 Jews were brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau and that 100,743 were transferred to other camps; 58,240 Jews died of typhus; 2064 Jews died of natural causes and 117 Jews were executed, bringing the total number of Jewish deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau to 60,421. At the end of October 1944, there were 11,836 Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau, plus a few that were admitted to the camp in November and December 1944, according to the records kept by the office of Richard Glücks.

The German records show that 161,785 non-Jews were brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau from May 1940 to December 1944 and that 45,189 of them died from typhus; 1,529 non-Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau were executed; 2,076 non-Jews died of natural causes, other than typhus. This makes a total of 48,794 non-Jewish deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau in addition to the 60,421 Jewish deaths, for a combined total of 109,215. This does not include the deaths in January 1945 before Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945.

According to information presented at the Auschwitz Museum, 405,222 prisoners were registered at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Jews who were immediately sent to the gas chamber were not registered and no records of any kind were kept for them.

Out of the 405,222 prisoners who were registered at Auschwitz and Birkenau, around 340,000 died at Auschwitz and other camps to which they were transferred, according to a Museum guidebook, which I purchased in 2005. This figure includes the prisoners who were registered and then selected later for gassing because they were no longer able to work.

By subtracting the number of prisoners still in the camp the day before it was abandoned, the By subtracting the number of prisoners still in the camp the day before it was abandoned, the number of prisoners sent to other concentration camps, and the number of escapees from the number of prisoners that were registered, the remainder is a number that closely matches the figure of 135,000 deaths that was estimated by the Red Cross. According to Franciszek Piper, the director of the Auschwitz Museum, there were approximately 500 prisoners who escaped from Auschwitz.

The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust puts the total number of Hungarian Jews who died at Auschwitz-Birkenau between May and July 1944 at approximately 550,000, the majority of whom were gassed, but Lucy Dawidowicz wrote in her book entitled “The War Against the Jews,” published in 1975, that 450,000 Hungarian Jews were brought to Auschwitz between May 1944 and October 1944. Raul Hilberg stated in his book entitled The Destruction of the European Jews that the number of Hungarian Jews brought to Auschwitz was 180,000.

According to Franciszek Piper, the majority of the Hungarian Jews, who were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, were gassed immediately.

A booklet purchased from the Auschwitz Museum stated that 434,351 of the Hungarian Jews were gassed upon arrival. If these figures are correct, only 3,051 Hungarian Jews, out of the 437,402 who were sent to Auschwitz, were registered in the camp. However, Franciszek Piper wrote that 28,000 Hungarian Jews were registered at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The records from the office of Richard Glücks show that only 23,117 Hungarian Jews were brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau and 21,527 Hungarian Jews were transferred out of the camp.

On July 12, 1944, there were 92,705 prisoners in the whole camp complex, according to the roll call taken that day. In the main camp, there were 14,386 men. At Birkenau, there were 19,711 men and 31,406 women. There were 26,705 men in Auschwitz III. This total did not include the Hungarian Jews who were not registered, according to Danuta Czech. They were held in section B III of Birkenau, called Mexico, while they waited to be gassed or sent to another camp.

On April 12, 1947, just before his execution, Rudolf Hoess signed the following Final Statement, in which he admitted his shame for committing Crimes Against Humanity and for participating in the genocide perpetrated by the Third Reich:

Begin quote from the confession of Rudolf Hoess:

My conscience is forcing me to make also the following assertion: In the isolation prison I have reached the bitter understanding of the terrible crimes I have committed against humanity. As a Kommandant of the extermination camp at Auschwitz, I have realized my part in the monstrous genocide plans of the Third Reich.

By this means I caused humanity and mankind the greatest harm, and brought unspeakable suffering, particularly to the Polish nation. For my responsibility, I am now paying with my life. Oh, that God would forgive me my deeds! People of Poland, I beg you to forgive me! Just now in the Polish prisons have I recognized what humanity really is. In spite of everything that happened I have been treated humanely, which I had never expected, and this has made me feel deeply ashamed. Would to God…that the fact of disclosing and confirming those monstrous crimes against mankind and humanity may prevent for all future ages even the premises leading to such horrible events.

End of confession

May 16, 2016

Birkenau was built for the sole purpose of murdering Jews

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: — furtherglory @ 10:44 am

The title of my blog post is a quote from a news article which you can read in full at

The following quote is from the news article:

These [Jewish] prisoners did not have a choice and millions did not get the chance to live their lives.

By 1941 the Nazi genocide had stepped up and Auschwitz [the main camp] became too small due to the sheer number of prisoners arriving from across occupied countries.

Two miles away is the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau – a camp with an area covering an area the size of 250 football pitches.

The scale of Birkenau is overwhelming, and harrowingly it was built for the sole purpose of murdering Jews.

End quote

The news article does not explain why such a huge place was needed to kill the Jews. The size of the Birkenau camp is 425 acres. It is a mile long and a mile and a half wide. Allegedly, nothing went on in this huge camp except the murdering of the Jews.

The following quote is also from the news article:

The first camp we visited was Auschwitz [the main camp], one hour from Krakow airport.

Originally the site was used as a [German Army] barracks but when the Nazis invaded Poland the empty buildings became the first concentration camp in that area.

As we made our way under the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign at the gates, the persecution was revealed in greater detail.

The sign translates as ‘work makes you free’ – a sick joke by the Nazis, as nobody was supposed to leave the camp alive. [This slogan was only used on Class I camps where prisoners had a chance to be set free.]

More likely than not you have heard horrifying stories from survivors or other Holocaust educators but the true extent cannot be described without seeing it for yourself.

Many of the cell blocks now contain masses of belongings taken from the prisoners.

End quote


February 28, 2016

German war criminal was stationed on “the path to the gas chamber” at Auschwitz

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:51 am

The following quote is from a news article which you can read in full at

Begin quote:

A 95-year-old former Nazi SS paramedic at the Auschwitz death camp, accused of being an accomplice to the murder of thousands, is to stand trial in Germany on Monday, one in a series of such recent cases.

Hubert Zafke was serving as a medic in the SS at the biggest death camp in occupied Poland where he was deployed in 1943. During the trial, he will be faced with the accounts of at least two witnesses.

Prosecutors in the northern German city of Schwerin say that Zafke, in his function as a medic, supported the slaughter at Auschwitz, where over 1.2 million people, most of them Jews, were killed.

Zafke was responsible for treating SS members in case of sickness, not any of the inmates, but prosecutors say he was stationed directly on the path leading to the gas chambers.

End quote

My early morning shot of the SS hospital and the road that went past it

My early morning photo of the SS hospital at Auschwitz and the road that went past it

If Zafke was treating SS members at Auschwitz for sickness, that means that he was stationed at the hospital for SS men at the Auschwitz main camp, which is shown in my 1998 photo above.

Unfortunately, the road to the gas chamber, in the Auschwitz main camp, went right past the hospital where Zafke worked.  Zafke must have known what was going on, and he could have run out of the hospital and stopped the gassing of the Jews, but he didn’t.  So he is a criminal, for sure, and deserves to spend his last years in prison.

My 1998 photo above shows the path to the gas chamber

My 1998 photo above shows the road to the gas chamber [at the bottom of the photo]

Entrance to gas chamber was near the SS hospital

My 1998 photo shows the entrance to gas chamber which was near the SS hospital

The following quote is at the end of the news article cited above:

Begin quote:

Zafke’s charges focus on a month-long period between August and September 1944, when 14 deportation trains from Poland, Slovenia, Greece, Germany and the Netherlands arrived at the camp.

One carried Anne Frank, the German-born Jewish writer, whose “Diary of a young girl” became one of the most widely known witness accounts of the Holocaust, documenting her life in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

Anne Frank and her sister Margot were eventually transferred westwards to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died shortly before its liberation in April 1945.

Zafke has already been charged abroad for his role at Auschwitz. In 1946, a Polish court sentenced him to four years in prison. Afterwards, Zafke returned to Germany, where he worked as an agricultural salesman.

End quote

Did you catch that? Zafke was working at the hospital in the main Auschwitz camp on the the day that Anne Frank arrived at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, which was several miles down the road.

Zafke should have known that Anne Frank was arriving, and he should have had the common decency to run over to the Birkenau camp and say to Dr. Mengele: “What in the hell are you doing?  That young girl is Anne Frank, who will be famous some day. You have to save her!”


June 12, 2015

Should the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp be rebuilt for tourists?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:48 am
The ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau

The ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau in the winter of 1988

My blog post today was inspired by a comment made by one of the regular readers of my blog:

Your picture of the Birkenau ruins made me think about the possible reconstruction of the wooden barracks and Krema. […]  Although costly I am sure there is plenty of money available and then they can go the whole hog and employ people in costume to give it more authenticity.

When I began my travels, many years ago, the first place that I went, was to Boston. I took several tours to historic places that had been restored. There were people playing the part of colonial residents, who were available to answer questions. They remained in character at all times, using the language of historic times and pretending not to know anything about modern devices and language.

This could be done at Auschwitz, and today’s young students could learn a lot from this.

The train tracks, that go through the “Gate of Death” at Birkenau are still there. I am sure that trains could still go from the main station in the town of Auschwitz and enter the camp through the “Gate of Death.” This could give young students today a real thrill, as the train comes down from a steep ramp and enters the camp. Heinrich Himmler was standing on this ramp when he got the idea of building a camp at Birkenau.

SS men at Auschwitz wore their uniforms at all times

SS men at Auschwitz wore their uniforms at all times

There could be actors, wearing pristine uniforms, playing the part of the SS men, as shown in the photo above, which is from the Auschwitz Album. This would give students an understanding of the German ideal of cleanliness and order.  Hint: the Nazis believed that the Jews were dirty.

Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Nazis took photos of the Jews at Auschwitz, in order to show that they looked completely different from the German people, and for this reason, they didn’t belong in Germany.  But where were they supposed to go. No country would take them in, not even the good ole USA.

I previously blogged about why the Germans hated the Jews on this blog post:

This is allegedly a replica of a guard tower at Auschwitzl

This is allegedly a replica of a guard tower at Auschwitz

The Auschitz-Birkenau camp should be restored to the way that it actually looked when it was a death camp for Jews.  Guard towers, like the one shown in the photo, were not there when the Jews were Holocausted.  In fact, in the 1940ies, the word Holocaust did not mean the killing of 6 million Jews.  How many students today know that?

However, I believe that the ruins of the gas chambers should be left alone.  I blogged about the ruins on this blog post:

A brick stove that heated a barracks building that is gone now

A brick stove heated a barracks building that is gone now

The 425 acre Birkenau camp is now filled with the brick stoves that once heated the wooden barrack buildings.

This photo shows the uniforms that the prisoners wore and the uniforms of the Soviet liberators of the camp

This photo shows the uniforms of the prisoners and the uniforms of the Soviet liberators

Actors wearing the uniforms of the prisoners or the uniforms of the liberators could re-enact the liberation of the camp in January 1945. Little children could re-enact the Jewish children walking out of the Birkenau death camp.  Eva Moses Kor, a child survivor of Birkenau, who is still alive, could be a consultant for this re-enactment.

This photo of the children marching out of Birkenau is on the Wikipedia page about the liberation

This photo of the children marching out of Birkenau is on the Wikipedia page about the liberation

The best view of the Auschwitz-Birkeanu ruins is from the gate tower; I took the photo below in 1998 when my tour guide and myself were the only people there, and it was raining. The barracks in the foreground are reconstructions.

My 1998 photo of Auschwitz-Birkenau taken from the top of the gate tower

My 1998 photo of Auschwitz-Birkenau taken from the top of the gate tower

Today’s young students who are taken on trips to Auschwitz should be made to understand that the world was quite different back then.  I know — I was alive then.

There were many people in American back then who were living in tar paper shacks without central heat and without running water inside the house; there were many Americans who were worse off than the prisoners at Birkenau, including me.

The photo below shows how the Birkenau camp looked in 2005. The wooden barracks buildings are all gone and there is nothing left but the stoves that once heated the barracks.

My 2005 photo of the ruins of Birkeanau

My 2005 photo of the ruins of Birkeanau

Fence around the Birkenau camp is original

Fence around the Birkenau camp is original

In the photo above, note the one building (on the far left side) that is still standing. Imagine if each of the brick chimneys in the photo had a restored wooden barrack building for tourists to visit.

Currently, the 425 acre camp is mostly empty with very few buildings still standing.

My photos below show what it looked like in 2005 when I last visited the memorial site.

Chimneys for the stoves in the barracks which have been torn down

Chimneys for the stoves in the barracks which have been torn down

Original fence around the Birkenau camp

Original fence around the Birkenau camp

Ruins at the former men's camp at Birkenau

Ruins at the former men’s camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I took this view from the Birkenau tower in 1998

I took this view from the Birkenau tower in 2005

In the photo above, you can see tourists entering the restored section of Birkenau where they can see what the original barracks buildings looked like. I took this photo early in the morning before the crowds of tourists arrived.

June 2, 2015

Daughter of Rudolf Hoess has been dragged back into the news, due to the trial of Oskar Groening

Rudolf Hoess after he was tortured by the British and forced to confess

Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess after he was tortured by the British and forced to confess to gassing the Jews

This quote is from a news article in a British newspaper, which you can read in full here:

When [the daughter of Rudolf Hoess] is told about an incident at the [Auschwitz] camp, when her father was spoken to by a pregnant Jewish woman on her way to the gas chamber with her children, she [the daughter of Rudolf Hoess] has had enough. “That’s it, I have heard enough,” she says.

“I heard everything I need to know. He [her father] did what he did.”

Unfortunately, the name of the “pregnant Jewish woman on her way to the gas chamber with her children” is not named in the news article. Who could it have been?

Maybe it was Miriam Rosenthal.  I blogged about her in this previous blog post:

This quote from the news article explains why the daughter of Rudolf Hoess has been dragged into the news again:

Now she [the daughter of Rudolf Hoess] has told all to Stern Magazine from Germany: prompted to embark upon the painful journey of remembrance by the Oskar Groening trial which is currently going on in the country. Groening, 93, is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews in 1944 when he worked there as an S.S. guard – an S.S. guard employed by her father [Rudolf Hoess].

This photo of child survivors of Auschwitz was taken about 4 weeks after the camp was liberated

This photo of child survivors of Auschwitz was taken about 4 weeks after the camp was liberated

This photo was taken on the same day as the previous photo

This photo was taken on the same day as the previous photo

Note how the photo directly above, which is shown with the article, has been photo-shopped to increase the contrast in order to show how terrible it was at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Both of these photos are still photos from a film taken by the Soviet liberators of Auschwitz.

I have complained many times about the inappropriate use of photos to make the Holocaust look worse than it actually was. The photo of Rudolf Hoess, that is shown below, would be a better photo to use in an article about his daughter. This photo shows him before he was tortured by the British.

Rudolf Hoess the Commandant of Auschwitz

Rudolf Hoess the Commandant of Auschwitz

But I am getting ahead of myself. The news article actually starts with this misleading quote:

Born Ingebirgitt Hannah Hoess, she now lives under an assumed name in Washington, US, where her social life has brought her into contact with former US President Bill Clinton and his deputy Al Gore.
It is a long way from the banks of the Sola River in southern Poland, a tributary of the Vistula which, as she sat and played as a child, would turn grey then black before her eyes: the result of the human ash tipped into it from the crematoria ovens at the camp which her father Rudolf oversaw.

The Sola river where ashes from the cremoria were allegedly thrown

The Sola river where ashes from the  Auschwitz cremoria were allegedly thrown

As a child, the children of Rudolf Hoess played at the Sola River which was close to the main Auschwitz camp, and close to the house where Hoess lived with his family.

Besides that, there was a place called Solahütte, which was a little known SS resort some 30 km south of Auschwitz on the Sola River.  I don’t think that the SS men at Auschwitz would have polluted the river that ran through their vacation spot.

I previously blogged about the ashes from the crematoria at Auschwitz on this blog post:

Here is another quote from the news article:

Dad [Rudolf Hoess] was strict when it came to etiquette,” says Ingebrigitt. “At the dining table, the children were allowed to speak only if they were asked.

“But he was never angry. At the table he spoke of family things and what we would do on weekends for excursions. But never something next door, because we never knew anything. Never.”

Next door was the supreme killing plant of the Third Reich where vast gas chambers capable of “processing” 12,000 human beings every 24 hours were in operation night and day.

The house where Rudolf Hoess and his family lived was only a few yards from the gas chamber in the main camp

The house where Rudolf Hoess and his family lived at Auschwitz

In the photo above, the gas chamber (not shown) was to the left, and only a few yards from the house. On the right was the garden where the children of Rudolf Hoess played. The balcony (not shown) was on the back of the house.

The balcony was on what Americans would call the “second floor.”  In German terms, the first floor of a house is called the ground floor and what we call the “second floor” is called the first floor in Germany.

This quote is also from the news article:

She [the daughter of Rudolf Hoess] says she sleepwalked and remembers now seeing the smoke from the crematoria, which consumed the bodies of the dead and turned them into ash to be fed into the [Sola] river, 100 metres away from a balcony on the first floor of the family house. She could see the floodlights and the watchtowers [in the Auschwitz main camp].

August 25, 2013

Did the Nazis actually steam Jews to death in a Sauna?

Filed under: Health, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:16 am
The Central Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Central Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The large brick building at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, which was called “die zentrale Sauna,” is shown in the photo above.   I previously blogged about the Sauna at

For 60 years, the Central Sauna building was not open to tourists. During that time, visitors to Auschwitz could only speculate about what the Auschwitz Sauna looked like.  I imagined that the Auschwitz prisoners had the luxury of taking steam baths.  After all, the prisoners were playing soccer and attending concerts.  Would it have been so unusual for the Nazis to provide steam baths for the soccer players after a game?

The online Free Dictionary gives this definition for the word “sauna”:

A Finnish steam bath in which the steam is produced by pouring water over heated rocks.
A bathhouse or room for taking such a steam bath.

I imagined that the Auschwitz-Birkenau Sauna building had individual steam baths for the prisoners.  In the old days, a health resort typically had a canvas box, in which a person would sit inside, with their head sticking out of a hole in the top.  In the 1940s, in America, a “sauna” looked something like the modern sauna box in the photo below.  I have actually taken a steam bath inside a canvas box, with my head sticking out.  I have also had a “mud bath” but I don’t think the Nazis provided mud baths for the prisoners.

An individual sauna box for a steam bath

An individual sauna box for a steam bath

Yesterday, I read an article, in the online Guardian newspaper, about the Ovitz family of dwarves, who were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.

Members of the Ovitz family of dwarves who were sent to Auschwitz

Members of the Ovitz family of dwarves who were sent to Auschwitz

According to this article, the dwarves had a close call when they mistakenly thought that they had been sent to the gas chamber:

What actually happened was that the Ovitzs and their neighbours were taken to the camp sauna for disinfection, where the water poured over heated stones produced much steam and fumes, as well as temperatures intense enough to cause someone to faint. The sauna had a particularly traumatic effect on both small children and fragile dwarves that might easily have created the impression of being gassed.

So it turns out that the Ovitz family of dwarves, and their neighbors who were falsely claiming to be related to them, were actually sent into a steam room, which they mistakenly thought was a gas chamber.

In October 2005, I had a chance to see the inside of the Sauna building at Auschwitz-Birkenau. There were no steam rooms inside the Sauna building.  The building was called a Sauna because it had iron boxes in which the prisoners’ clothes were steamed to kill the lice that spreads typhus.  These boxes looked something like the individual saunas used at health resorts at a time when rich people would routinely go to a spa town to “take the waters.”

The photo below shows a box for steaming clothes, inside the Central Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

A steam chamber for disinfecting the clothing of prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau

A steam chamber for disinfecting the clothing of prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau

This quote from the Guardian explains the gassing operation at Auschwitz-Birkenau:

Though we had five first-hand eyewitness accounts [of the gas chamber, given by 5 dwarves], we wanted to verify the story. The only way to do so was to study the procedures and manuals of operating a gas chamber. These were designed to kill between 500 and 2,000 people at once, depending on the size of the hall. Cyclone B was effective only at a room temperature of 27C, which was achieved by cramping a mass of people together. Gas chambers were simply not operated for merely 22 people; small groups were shot.

Furthermore, according to the camp’s rigid safety orders, SS personnel had to wear gas masks when operating Cyclone B. Although the victims died within 15 minutes, the SS men routinely waited half an hour before turning on the powerful fans that dispersed the gas from the chamber. Only then were the doors opened. The operators themselves did not enter; instead, Jewish inmates from the Sonderkommando were sent in to drag out the bodies for cremation. Once the extermination process had begun, it could not be halted, because by then it would have been impossible to open the doors.

What actually happened was that the Ovitzs and their neighbours were taken to the camp sauna for disinfection ……

Every Holocaust survivor has to have a story about how they were saved from the gas chamber.  Even the 22 members of the Ovitz family, which included their fake relatives, had to make up a story about why they were not gassed.

Dr. Josef Mengele was over-joyed to have this family available for his research into hereditary conditions; he would never have allowed them to be gassed, but still the dwarves had to make up a lie.

This quote from the Guardian article, and the links provided by the Guardian, explains the Nazi policy:

When the Nazis came to power, the Ovitzs were doubly doomed: under the Aktion T-4 euthanasia programme, the Germans set out to kill people who were physically or mentally disabled, whose lives were considered “unworthy of living”, “a burden on society”; and, as Jews, the Ovitzs were the target of the Final Solution.

On 19 May 1944, they were brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp because they were Jews. But, by a twist of fate, their disability played for them. It was rare that one person from an entire family survived the camp, let alone two, but all 12 members of the Ovitz family – the youngest a baby boy just 18 months old, the oldest his 58-year-old dwarf aunt – emerged alive.

I have to give the Guardian credit for exposing the lies told by Holocaust survivors.  This quote is from the Guardian:

In her autobiography, Auschwitz: True Tales From A Grotesque Land, Sarah Nomberg-Przytyk describes in appalling detail the horrible death of two members of the Ovitz group, one of them an 18-month-old baby boy who died as a result of one of Mengele’s experiments: “Around him, like pillars of stone, stood a large woman, along with the child’s mother, slim and frail; the three midgets sat in miniature chairs.” In the evening, the dead toddler was placed outside the block with the other corpses to be taken to the crematorium. Nomberg-Przytyk also recounts the death of Avram Ovitz, the leader of the group: “The old midget wanted his wife” and tried to slip through the barbed wire; a guard spotted him and, when Avram got close enough, shot him. “He never made it to his wife.”

But the little boy and his uncle Avram were not killed, and lived to see liberation day. What, then, caused Nomberg-Przytyk to make such grave mistakes? Most likely she was compressing a number of events, and attributed to the dwarves two common occurrences in the daily life of the camp: the death of a child in his mother’s arms and the shooting of an inmate who approached the electrified fence.

And there were others, such as Renee Firestone, who described the death of the Ovitz dwarves: “The Germans found a community of midgets, transported them to Auschwitz, shot them en masse and then were forced to let them sit in a pile for three days until the crematoria could take them.”

One plausible explanation for the discrepancy between fact and remembrance is that the survivors, who regarded their own deliverance as miraculous, found the chances slim that someone as helpless as a dwarf could escape death. The fact that the Ovitzs were transferred several times from one side of the camp to the other caused their fellow inmates to lose touch with them, and in Auschwitz, when you stopped seeing someone, it could mean only one thing.

The seven dwarves, as well as their entourage, all survived the war, and emigrated to Israel in May 1949.

The first story about the Treblinka camp, told by the Soviets who came across the remains of the camp, was that the prisoners were steamed to death in steam chambers.  You read about it at

February 9, 2013

Tadeusz Borowski quoted in an article about the UN and Israel

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 12:20 pm

This morning, I read an article here, written by William A. Cook, entitled Neither Justice Nor Morality – Just Impunity From Crimes Against Humanity.  

The article begins with a quote from a book written by Tadeusz Borowski entitled This Way for the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen.  The book is a collection of short stories which were first published in 1948 under the title of one of the short stories.

The quote, which William A. Cook used in his article, is from the short story, which is entitled The January Offensive.  This short story begins on page 164 of the book entitled This Way for the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen.

The short story that begins on page 164 starts with this quote:

I would like to tell you a short and moral story I heard from a certain Polish poet who during the first autumn after the war came to West Germany, accompanied by his wife and mistress…

In 1944, before the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex was liberated by Soviet soldiers, Borowski had been transported to Dachau; he was liberated by American soldiers at the Allach subcamp of Dachau. Borowski had been a concentration camp prisoner between 1943 and 1945, first at Auschwitz and later at Dachau.  Borowski was a political prisoner; he had been arrested because he was a Communist, who opposed the Nazis.

This quote is from Borowski’s  short story entitled The January Offensive:

After the liberation [of Dachau] we were carefully isolated from the surrounding communities and we vegetated throughout the beautiful, sunny month of May inside the dirty, D.D.T. sprayed barracks of Dachau. [….]

After two months of efforts, so macabre but so humorous that one day they deserve to be described separately, all four of us moved into a little room belonging to the Polish Committee in Munich… [….]

Later, thanks to our concentration camp documents, three of us were able —honestly and legally — to get a comfortable four-room apartment vacated by a Nazi who was temporarily  sent to stay with his relatives and who was told to leave some of his furniture and religious pictures for us.

At that time we longed to emigrate, and all four of us dreamed of nothing else but to escape as soon as possible from the ghetto of Europe to another continent where we could study in peace and get rich. […]

The poet, together with his wife and mistress, rested for several days in the mahogany matrimonial bed belonging to our landlord, recovering from the hardships of his journey. [….]   The four of us became involved in a heated discussion with the poet…

It is at this point in the short story, on page 168, that the quote used by William A. Cook begins. The quote, from the short story The January Offensive is printed below:

The world is ruled by neither justice nor morality; crime is not punished nor virtue rewarded, one is forgotten as quickly as the other. The world is ruled by power and power is obtained with money. To work is senseless, because money cannot be obtained through work, but through exploitation of others. And if we cannot exploit as much as we wish, at least let us work as little as we can. Moral duty? We believe neither in the morality of man nor in the morality of systems.”
― Tadeusz BorowskiThis Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

It would appear that William A. Cook got this quote from the website in the link above, which gives many quotes from Borowski’s books.  If you read the above quote, in its original context, in the book of short stories entitled This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, you will see that this paragraph has quote marks around it. I interpreted the quote marks to mean that the words quoted above were the words of “the poet” who was living with Borowski in an apartment taken away from a Nazi after the war.

If you read Borowski’s entire book of short stories, as I did, you will observe that the words that were quoted by William A. Cook, were not the sentiments of Borowski.  No, the remarkable thing about Borowski’s book is that he wrote about the good life that he enjoyed at Auschwitz; he mentioned the concerts every Sunday at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the soccer games near the Krema III gas chamber, the boxing matches in the camp, the wedding that took place at Auschwitz, and the road to the Sauna where the prisoners took showers.

The most famous quote from Borowski’s stories is the quote from his short story entitled The People Who Walked On:

Between two throw-ins in a soccer game, right behind my back, three thousand people had been put to death.

In the above quote, Borowski was referring to a transport of 3,000 Hungarian Jews who had been put to death in the gas chambers at Birkenau in 1944.  “The People who walked on” were Jews who walked past the gas chambers and went on to the Sauna where they took a shower. I previously blogged about this here.

While Jews were being gassed to death, only yards from the soccer field, Borowski was playing soccer with a team of inmates against a team of SS men.  Borowski was a hospital orderly; he had taken a training course for this job at Auschwitz.  Did Borowski really believe that Jews were being gassed while he was playing soccer?

This quote, from the book This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, is from the very start of the book, on page 29, after an introduction by someone else:

All of us walk around naked. The delousing is finally over, and our striped suits are back from the tanks of Cyclone B solution, an efficient killer of lice in clothing and of men in gas chambers.

The very first sentence in the book tells how Zyklon-B gas was used to disinfect the clothing of the prisoners as soon as they arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Borowski apparently knew, from the moment that he arrived at Auschwitz, that the same gas that was used to kill the lice that spreads typhus, was also used to kill people in homicidal gas chambers.   The Nazis went to a great deal of trouble to save the prisoners from dying of typhus, while at the same time gassing prisoners to death.  Does this make any sense?

April 28, 2010

Women prisoners liberated at Dachau

There were a few women at the Dachau concentration camp when it was liberated by American soldiers on April 29, 1945.  A short time before the liberators arrived, these women had been brought from various labor camps in Germany to the main Dachau camp so that they could be surrendered to the Allies.  One of the women, who was liberated from Dachau, was Ann Rosenheck, who told her story to students at Troy University in Dothan, Alabama a week ago. You can read all about it here on the web site of the Dothan Eagle newspaper. (more…)