Scrapbookpages Blog

August 22, 2013

French resistance fighter, who was a prisoner at Dachau, defends Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is being heavily criticized in the press because she combined a trip to the Dachau Memorial Site with a trip to the town of Dachau in connection with her re-election campaign.  Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that.  If she had gone to the town, and NOT visited the former camp, she would have been criticized even more.

In one news story, which you can read in full here, a former Dachau prisoner defends Chancellor Merkel:

Jean Samuel, a French resistance fighter held at Dachau from July 1944 until the camp’s liberation in April 1945, said that regardless of Merkel’s campaign schedule the gesture was important.

“We are fighting for the duty to remember so I hope that is also why she came,” he told AFP at the ceremony.

As a “French resistance fighter,” Jean Samuel was an illegal combatant, who could have been executed because he was in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1929.  You can read about the history of the French resistance on my website here.  Jean Samuel was most likely a prisoner at the Natzweiler camp, which was the main camp for French resistance fighters, before he was transferred to Dachau.

The photo below shows some of the French Resistance fighters, who were prisoners at Dachau.

French resistance fighters at Dachau

French resistance fighters at Dachau

Notice that one of the French Resistance fighters at Dachau was given a jacket that is two sizes too small.  This is just one of the many ways that prisoners at Dachau were tortured.  At least, he has a cigarette in his hand. The photo below shows another photo of the resistance fighters at Dachau, including one man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.  Could this be the same man?

"Political prisoners" at Dachau after the camp was liberated

“Political prisoners” at Dachau after the camp was liberated

The photo above shows some of the members of the International Committee of Dachau, an organization that was in charge of the Dachau camp when it was liberated. The second man from the left, who is wearing a cardigan sweater and a coat, appears to be Albert Guérisse, a British SOE agent from Belgium, who was hiding his identity by using the name Patrick O’Leary.

Guérisse was one of five British SOE agents who had survived the Nazi concentration camps at Mauthausen in Austria and Natzweiler in Alsace before being transferred to Dachau. On the day that the Dachau camp was liberated, Guérisse greeted Lt. William P. Walsh and 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead of the 45th Infantry Division and took them on a tour of the camp, showing them the gas chambers and the ovens in the crematorium.

After Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, the official report of the US Seventh Army was printed as a book entitled Dachau Liberated: The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army, Released Within Days of the Camp’s Liberation by Elements of the 42nd and 45th Divisions. The Report was based on two days of interviewing 20 political prisoners at Dachau; the prisoners told the Americans that both the shower room and the four disinfection chambers were used as homicidal gas chambers.

The following quote is from The Official Report:

“When the American troops arrived on 29 April 1945, there were approximately 32,500 estimated internees of all nationalities, the Poles predominating. During this period, the camp was notorious for its cruelty, but within the last six or eight months, some ‘token’ improvement was noted in the treatment of the internees. However, the new crematorium was completed in May 1944, and the gas chambers, a total of five, were used for the executions and the disposals of the bodies.”

I applaud Jean Samuel for defending Chancellor Merkel.  It’s the least he could do to thank the Germans for not executing him, as they could have legally done, since he had been fighting in World War II as an illegal combatant.

In order to understand the story of the French Resistance, with regard to Dachau, you can read about the long and complicated case of General Charles Delestraint on my web site at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/GeneralDelestraint.html

August 21, 2013

German Chancellor Angela Merkel can’t win for losing (visit to former Dachau concentration camp)

Angela Merkel lays a wreath at the International Monument at Dachau

Angela Merkel lays a wreath at the International Monument at Dachau

The news today is filled with stories of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the grounds of the first Nazi concentration camp near the town of Dachau. Then it was on to a beer fest in the town. Chancellor Merkel is being heavily criticized for combining a trip to the Memorial Site at the former camp with a trip to the town of Dachau to drink beer.

Angela Merkel was accompanied by Max Mannheimer, a survivor of Dachau

Angela Merkel was accompanied by Max Mannheimer, a survivor of Dachau

In the photo above, Chancellor Merkel looks as though she has the weight of the world on her shoulders as she walks beside Max Mannheimer, a survivor of two Dachau sub-camps at Allach and Mühldorf.  I don’t begrudge Chancellor Merkel a glass of beer after going through this ordeal.

Not mentioned in any of the news stories is that beer drinking does not have the same connotation in Germany, as it does in America.  Literally everyone in Germany drinks beer; it is considered to be good for one’s health.

There is nothing wrong with going to a beer fest, after visiting a Memorial Site.  If Hilary Clinton were president of the United States, and she visited an internment camp, where German-Americans were imprisoned during World War II and for two years afterwards, she might go to a beer joint afterwards and some people might legitimately complain.  Beer drinking has a low-class connotation in America, but not in Germany.

None of the stories, that I have read, about Chancellor Merkel’s visit, mentioned that Max Mannheimer is a controversial figure because of his “später Tagebuch,” which means a diary written later.

This quote from Wikipedia is about Mannheimer writing his Tagebuch or diary of his time in Nazi concentration camps at a later time.

Seine Erinnerungen wurden zum ersten Mal 1985 in den Dachauer Heften abgedruckt.[13] und erschienen 2000 vollständig unter dem Titel Spätes Tagebuch.

In other words, Max Mannheimer miracaculously remembered his time in Nazi concentrations camps, and wrote his memoir many years later.  Because Mannheimer never said a word about his time in the camps until many years later, some people are suspicious of his “später Tagebuch.” In any case, he was not a prisoner in the main Dachau camp, which Chancellor Merkel visited.

This quote about Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Dachau is from a news article which you can read in full here:

Ms Merkel’s tour of Dachau, which was the first Nazi concentration camp, included a meeting with Max Mannheimer, one of its few remaining survivors. More than 200,000 people including Jews, homosexuals, Roma and political prisoners were imprisoned, forced to work and used for medical experiments at Dachau which opened in 1933. It was liberated by US troops in April 1945

The Chancellor was shown the camp baths and a room where prisoners were stripped of their clothing and identity and henceforth referred to only by numbers. Ms Merkel said her visit was accompanied by feelings of “shame and dismay”.

She visited the camp baths (plural)?

What camp baths?  One of the exhibits at Dachau is located in a former shower room, as shown in the photo below.

Former shower room at Dachau is now used for Museum displays

Former shower room at Dachau is now used for Museum displays

The photo above shows a room in the Museum at Dachau which was formerly a shower room.  The shower fixtures, which were formerly on the left side of the room, have been removed. The photo below shows what the room looked like when Dachau was a Nazi concentration camp.

Shower room at Dachau had shower heads hanging down from the ceiling

Shower room at Dachau had shower heads hanging down from the ceiling

The only other shower room at Dachau was converted into a gas chamber when the American liberators lowered the ceiling and stuck shower heads into the ceiling.  The so-called Dachau gas chamber, as it looks today, is shown in the photo below.

Dachau shower room in BarackeX was converted into a gas chamber in 1945

Dachau shower room in BarackeX was converted into a gas chamber in 1945

Surely, Chancellor Merkel was not shown the shower room in the BarrackX building and told that this was a “camp bath,” not a gas chamber.

What about the room where Dachau prisoners were “stripped of their clothing?”  That could only be the undressing room in BarackeX.  The two photos below show the undressing room.

The wall of the undressing room at Dachau

The wall of the empty undressing room at Dachau

Door into shower room which was converted into a gas chamber at Dachau

Door into shower room which was converted into a gas chamber at Dachau by the American liberators

Did Max Mannheimer tell Chancellor Merkel that the room shown in the photo above was the undressing room where incoming prisoners undressed before going into the shower?  Mannheimer would have taken a shower in BarackeX before being sent to a sub-camp of Dachau.

Surely, the German people are not saying that the gas chamber at Dachau was a shower room!  That is against the law and will get you 5 years in prison.

Another criticism that I have, of the news stories about Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Dachau, is the claim that Dachau had “prisoners of war” in the camp.  This quote is from Fox News:

More than 200,000 Jews, gays, Roma, political opponents, the disabled and prisoners of war were imprisoned in Dachau during World War II.

Yes, it is true that there were “prisoners of war” incarcerated at Dachau during World War II, but they were NOT prisoners of war at the time that they were sent to the camp.  They only became “prisoners of war” after the Allies created ex-post-facto laws AFTER the war.

The so-called “prisoners of war” at Dachau were illegal combatants under the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929.  They were resistance fighters who were fighting after their country had surrendered and promised to lay down their arms and stop fighting.  The main camps where illegal combatants were sent were Buchenwald and Natzweiler, but there were some prisoners at Natzweiler who were transferred to Dachau in the last days of the war.  These prisoners were designated at “prisoners of war” after the German camps were taken over by the Allies.

German prisoners of war, who were actual soldiers, not illegal combatants, were designated by General Eisenhower as Disarmed Enemy Forces and held in camps where they were not treated according to the rules of the Geneva Convention.

The only real POWs at Dachau were German POWs who were imprisoned, after World War II, in War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 at Dachau.  Surely, Chancellor Merkel did not honor these men on her visit.