Scrapbookpages Blog

July 31, 2015

Dennis Avey, the man who allegedly broke into Auschwitz, has died

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:00 am
This photo of Dennis Avey accompanies the news article about his death

This photo of Dennis Avey accompanies the news article about his death

A news article, which you can read in full here, tells the story of Dennis Avey sneaking in the Monowitz camp, which was the Auschwitz III camp. At the time that he allegedly sneaked into the Nazi camp, Avey was a prisoner in a nearby POW camp, which you can read about on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/History/Articles/MonowitzPOWs.html

Another news story, which you can read in full here, casts some doubt on Avey’s story.

I have written several blog posts about his claim that he broke into the Monowitz camp, which you can read at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/tag/denis-avey/

April 5, 2013

Bobrek sub-camp of Auschwitz III camp, where prisoners worked as slave laborers

Filed under: Buchenwald, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:31 am

This morning, I read an article about Gilbert Michlin, a French Jewish prisoner, who survived the Holocaust because he was selected to be a slave laborer at the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz (Auschwitz III).

Main gate into the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz

Main gate into the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz

Prisoners working in the Bobrek factory

Prisoners working in the Bobrek factory

The photo above was taken in 1944 at the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz. It shows prisoners working in an airplane factory called Siemens Schuckert Werke. In the background, the man wearing a civilian suit is Herr Jungdorf, a German engineer for the Siemens company.

This quote is from the article about Gilbert Michlin, which you can read in full here:

In his memoir, Gilbert [Michlin] recalled French complicity in the deportation of Jews. He lovingly portrayed his father’s yearning to immigrate to America and his rejection at Ellis Island in 1923 [America had a quota on Jewish immigrants starting in 1921]; Gilbert’s own childhood dream to be an actor; and the shock of Nazi occupation and his arrest with his mother by French police at 2 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1944, two days before his 18th birthday.

A week later, Gilbert saw his mother for the last time as she was driven away from the Auschwitz platform in a truck.

It was at the [Auschwitz] death camp that a Siemens representative recruited Gilbert and about 100 others to a work unit. His father’s insistence that Gilbert learn a mechanical trade saved his life. Gilbert was selected for armaments production. Siemens kept its Bobrek factory prisoners together, even after the SS evacuated them in the death march from Auschwitz in January 1945. They were transferred together from Buchenwald to Berlin. A few months later, the war was over.

Note that, at the Auschwitz “death camp,” 18-year-old Gilbert Michlin was recruited by a Siemens representative for a work unit in the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz. This is the first time that I have ever heard of a Siemens rep recruiting workers at Auschwitz.  I thought that everyone who was transported to Auschwitz was at the mercy of  Dr. Josef Mengele who was always at the ramp when the trains arrived.  Was there a Siemen’s representative standing there as well, doing some recruiting for the Siemens company?

Prisoners arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau had to undergo selection

Prisoners arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau had to undergo selection, for work or the gas chamber

Monowitz was originally a sub-camp of the Auschwitz II (Birkenau) camp, and it was known as Bunalager (Buna Camp) until November 1943 when it became the Auschwitz III camp with its own administrative headquarters. Auschwitz III consisted of 28 sub-camps which were built between 1942 and 1944. This area of Upper Silesia was known as the “Black Triangle” because of its coal deposits. The Buna plant attracted the attention of the Allies, and there were several bombing raids on the factories.

Auschwitz III was established at the site of the chemical factories of IG Farbenindustrie near the small village of Monowitz, which was located four kilometers from the town of Auschwitz. The IG Farben company had independently selected this location around the same time that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler decided, in April 1940, to locate a new concentration camp in the town of Auschwitz. The most important factory at Auschwitz III, aka Monowitz, was the Buna Werke, which was owned by the IG Farben company.

Of the three Nazi concentration camps located near the town of Auschwitz, the Auschwitz III camp was the most important to the Nazis because of its factories which were essential to the German war effort. The Monowitz industrial complex was built by Auschwitz inmates, beginning in April 1941. Initially, the workers walked from the Auschwitz main camp to the building site, a distance of seven kilometers.

The decision to build chemical factories at Auschwitz transformed the village of Monowitz. On February 2, 1941, Herman Göring ordered the Jews in the village to be relocated to a ghetto, and German civilians moved into their former homes.

When the factories at Monowitz were opened, the town of Auschwitz quickly went from a primitive town of 12,000 inhabitants to a modern German town of 40,000 people which included an influx of German engineers and their families. Both the main Auschwitz camp and the Birkenau camp were expanded in order to provide workers for the factories. Before Monowitz became a separate camp with barracks buildings, the prisoners had to walk from the other camps to the factories.

According to Wikipedia, the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz was built by Siemens predecessor Siemens-Schuckert near the Polish village of Bobrek. The prisoners who worked there were producing electrical parts for German aircraft and U-boats.  On January 18, 1945, the prisoners from the Bobrek sub-camp were evacuated on a “death march” to the concentration camp in Gleiwitz, Poland, where they were put on a train to Buchenwald, from where they were transferred to a factory in a suburb of Berlin.  The Commandant of the Bobrek camp was SS-Scharführer Hermann Buch.

Heinrich Himmler on a visit to the Monowitz camp, with German engineers

Heinrich Himmler and Max Faust inspect the Monowitz camp

The photo above shows Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, a five-star general, (2nd from the left) who was the head of the SS and the man who was responsible for all the Nazi concentration camps. The man on the far left is Max Faust. This photo was taken when Himmler came to inspect the Monowitz factories on July 17th and 18th, 1942. Himmler is the man wearing a uniform. The two men on the right are German engineers.

The German engineers lived in the town of Auschwitz, after it was cleaned up to meet German standards of living. Slave labor was used to make improvements to the town, after Himmler volunteered the services of the concentration camp inmates.

The Jews who were sent to Auschwitz, and then assigned to work at Monowitz, had a much better chance of survival because the factory workers were considered too valuable to send to the gas chambers, at least while they were still able to work.
The figures below are from the Nazi records which were turned over to the Red Cross by the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism. They were published in a book written by Danuta Czech.

Male prisoners in Auschwitz III Monowitz (Buna-Werke) 10,223
Golleschau 1,008
Jawischowitz (Jawiszowice) 1,988
Eintrachthutte (Swietochlowice) 1,297
Neu-Dachs (Jaworzno) 3,664
Blechhammer (Blachownia) 3,958
Furstengrube (Wesola) 1,283
Gute Hoffnung (Janinagrube, Libiaz) 853
Guntergrube (Ledziny) 586
Brunn (Brno) 36
Gleiwitz I 1,336
Gleiwitz II 740
Gleiwitz III 609
Gleiwitz IV 444
Laurahutte (Siemianowice) 937
Sosnowitz 863
Bobrek 213
Trzebinia 641
Althammer (Stara Kuznia) 486
Tschechowitz-Dzieditz 561
Charlottengrube (Rydultowy) 833
Hindenburg (Zabrze) 70
Bismarckhutte (Hajduki) 192
Hubertushutte (Lagiewniki) 202
Subtotal 33,023

Female prisoners in Auschwitz III

Subtotal 2,095

Total for Auschwitz III: 35,118

Note that there were 213 survivors of the Bobrek sub-camp.

January 24, 2012

the alleged “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at Auschwitz III, aka Monowitz

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

The question of the alleged Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the Monowitz (Auschwitz III) camp came up in a recent comment on my blog.  As proof that this sign taunted the prisoners in the Monowitz camp, as well as in other Nazi camps, we have the eye-witness account written by Primo Levi, who was a prisoner at Monowitz.  I previously blogged about Primo Levi here, but I didn’t include the information that Levi mentioned the sign on page 22 of the book Survival in Auschwitz, the Nazi Assault on Humanity.

On page 19, Levi wrote this about his arrival at Auschwitz on a transport train:  “A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors.”  This is a reference to the Judenrampe, which was a large train platform, near the Birkenau camp, which was used from 1942 to May 1944. The Judenrampe was torn down when the train tracks were extended inside the Birkenau death camp, so that the prisoners could be brought to a spot within a few feet of the gas chambers in Krema II and Krema III.  (God forbid that the Jews should have to walk to the gas chambers.)

Levi’s description of his arrival at Monowitz begins on page 22:

The journey [to Monowitz from the Judenrampe] did not last more than twenty minutes.  Then the lorry [truck] stopped and we saw a large door, and above it a sign, brightly illuminated (its memory still strikes me in my dreams): Arbeit Macht Frei, work gives freedom.

We climb down, they make us enter an enormous empty room that is poorly heated.

So the sign was on a DOOR, not a gate.  It was the door to an enormous empty ROOM, not the door into a camp.  Note that he not only saw the sign on the door, he also saw it in his dreams.

Denis Avey also mentioned an Arbeit Macht Frei sign at Monowitz in his book The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz. On page 140, Avey describes the scene when he entered the Monowitz prison camp:

It was still light when we passed through the gate and I saw the sign bearing the cruel promise ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ — work sets you free.

I didn’t know that the irony of those words would scream across the decades. This was Auschwitz III–Monowitz.

Note that the sign that Denis Avey saw was on a GATE, not a door.

Rob Broomby co-wrote Denis Avey’s book.  On page 235, we learn that Rob questioned whether this sign was actually on the Monowitz gate.

This quote, written by Denis Avey, is from page 235 of the American edition of his book:

As Rob’s research continued it threw up some interesting questions about the nature of memory. He kept asking me if I was certain I had seen that Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the gates to Auschwitz III–Monowitz.  I was, but he said some experts had questioned it and nothing survives at the site today to testify one way or the other. The sign everyone knows these days is at the gates of the main camp, Auschwitz I. After more than sixty years it is that one which is emblazoned on the collective memory although many camps had them. Rob said the most influential account of life in the camp — that of survivor and writer Primo Levi — mentioned the sign at Auschwitz III more than once but the head of Research at Auschwitz wasn’t convinced.

So was there an Arbeit macht Frei sign at Monowitz or not?  I would say NOT.  Primo Levi saw the sign in his dreams, and Denis Avey read about it in Primo Levi’s book.  The Arbeit Macht Frei sign was used on the gates of the Nazi camps that were classified as Class I camps. Auschwitz I was a Class I camp and it had the sign.  Monowitz was a labor camp which probably did not have the sign.  I explained all this on a previous post which you can read here.

May 16, 2010

Gas chamber at Auschwitz III, aka Monowitz

In his famous book, entitled Night, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel never once mentioned the gas chambers at Auschwitz.  How could he not have known about the Auschwitz gas chambers?  That’s easy: he was sent to the Auschwitz III labor camp, known as Monowitz, a few weeks after his arrival.  But wait a minute! There was also a gas chamber at Monowitz, according to testimony at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.

At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, which began in November 1945, the SS was indicted as a criminal organization. The star witness for the defense, on the charges against the SS, was Sturmbannführer Georg Konrad Morgen, a judge who was authorized by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to investigate the Nazi concentration camps for corruption and unauthorized murder. Dr. Morgen’s testimony is included in IMT vol. XX, p. 550 – 551.

Dr. Morgen found plenty of corruption at Auschwitz-Birkenau: the SS men were engaged in stealing from the warehouses where the possessions, that had been confiscated from the prisoners, were stored. In the course of his investigation in which he spoke to many of the prisoners, Dr. Morgen also claimed to have learned about the gassing of the Jews, not at the main Auschwitz camp, nor at Birkenau, but at Monowitz, a labor camp where the IG Farben company used Jewish prisoners as workers in  their factories.

In his testimony at Nuremberg, Dr. Morgen claimed that, although gas chambers existed at Monowitz, the SS was not involved in this crime. Dr. Morgen testified that the gas chambers at Monowitz were not under the jurisdiction of the SS and that the order to build these gas chambers had come directly from Adolf Hitler, who had given this order to Christian Wirth of the Kripo (Criminal Police), who was not a member of the SS, according to Dr. Morgen. Wirth had previously been in charge of the T-4 program in which severely disabled and retarded people had been gassed. Wirth later became the first commandant at the Belzec death camp, one of the three Aktion Reinhard camps under the jurisdiction of Odilo Globocnik.

On August 8, 1946, Dr. Morgen testified, as follows, at the Nuremberg IMT regarding the “extermination camp” at Monowitz:

Then the trucks left. They did not go to the Auschwitz concentration camp, but in another direction, to the Monowitz extermination camp, which was some kilometers distant. This extermination camp consisted of a series of crematoria not recognizable as such from the outside. They could be mistaken for large bath installations. Even the detainees knew it. These crematoria were surrounded by barbed wire and were tended on the inside by the Jewish working groups already mentioned.

(….)

The Monowitz extermination camp was set apart from the concentration camp. It was situated in a vast industrial zone and was not recognizable as such. Chimneys smoked all across the horizon. The camp itself was guarded on the outside by a detachment of Balts, Estonians, Lithuanians, and by Ukrainians. The entire procedure was almost entirely in the hands of the detainees themselves, who were supervised only from time to time by a subordinate officer (Unterführer ). The execution itself was carried out by another Unterführer who released the gas into that place.

In a deposition, given to the British shortly after he was captured, Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess confessed that there was a gas chamber at the Buna Works at Monowitz.

The following excerpt is from the deposition originally given to the British by Hoess:

In 1941 the first intakes of Jews came from Slovakia and Upper Silesia. People unfit to work were gassed in a room of the crematorium in accordance with an order which Himmler gave me personally.

I was ordered to see Himmler in Berlin in June 1941 and he told me, approximately, the following:

The Führer ordered the solution of the Jewish question in Europe. A few so called Vernichtungslager are existing in the General Goverment:

Belzec near Rawa Ruska Ost Polen

Treblinka near Malkinia on the River Bug

Wolzek near Lublin (He was probably referring to the Majdenek death camp)

The Buna Works

The Buna Works, which Commandant Rudolf Hoess mentioned, was another name for Auschwitz III, also known as Monowitz.  So, two top SS officials knew about the gas chamber at Monowitz, but what about the prisoners?  Did they also know about the Monowitz gas chamber.  Yes!

Sgt. Charles Coward was a British POW who had been captured in May 1940; he was sent to a POW camp near Monowitz in December 1943. Sgt. Coward testified at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal regarding the gas chamber at Monowitz.

The following excerpt is from Sgt. Coward’s testimony and affidavit as reported on this web site:

Affidavit Copy of Document NI-11696, Prosecution Exhibit 1462

COWARD: I made it a point to get one of the guards to take me to town under the pretense of buying new razor blades and stuff for our boys. For a few cigarettes he pointed out to me the various places where they had the gas chambers and the places where they took them down to be cremated. Everyone to whom I spoke gave the same story – the people in the city of Auschwitz, the SS men, concentration camp inmates, foreign workers – everyone said that thousands of people were being gassed and cremated at Auschwitz, and that the inmates who worked with us and who were unable to continue working because of their physical condition and were suddenly missing, had been sent to the gas chambers. The inmates who were selected to be gassed went through the procedure of preparing for a bath, they stripped their clothes off, and walked into the bathing room. Instead of showers, there was gas. All the camp knew it. All the civilian population knew it. I mixed with the civilian population at Auschwitz. I was at Auschwitz nearly every day…Nobody could live in Auschwitz and work in the plant, or even come down to the plant without knowing what was common knowledge to everybody.

Even while still at Auschwitz we got radio broadcasts from the outside speaking about the gassings and burnings at Auschwitz. I recall one of these broadcasts was by Anthony Eden himself. Also, there were pamphlets dropped in Auschwitz and the surrounding territory, one of which I personally read, which related what was going on in the camp at Auschwitz. These leaflets were scattered all over the countryside and must have been dropped from planes. They were in Polish and German. Under those circumstances, nobody could be at or near Auschwitz without knowing what was going on.

So, it appears that everyone who was at, or anywhere near Auschwitz, knew about the gas chambers.  Everyone except Elie Wiesel, that is.  There is a lot of speculation now that Elie Wiesel is a fraud, and that he wasn’t really a prisoner at Auschwitz.  If he was, in fact, a prisoner there, how come he never knew about the gas chambers?

As I see it, there are two possible conclusions:  Either there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, or Elie Wiesel was not a prisoner there?  So, which is it?