Scrapbookpages Blog

December 2, 2015

A letter from Wolf Murmelstein

I have recently received the following e-mail letter from Wolf Murmelstein:

 

Dear Furtherglory!
 and Commentators!
In some posts and comments on your blog, there is a reference to an alleged order given by Heinrich Himmler – in 1942 – to avoid any physical abuse of the prisoners, or to a statement made by Ernst Kaltenbrunner at Nuremberg about punishment of SS men who were guilty of thefts.
The above seems clearly to have been mockeries in order to fool the International Red Cross Committee, who just at the beginning of 1942, had started action to help civilians, brought to the Concentration Camps, so from the Reich as from the countries under occupation.
The Nazis pretended that, in the Concentration Camps, the treatment had been STRENG ABER GERECHT –severe but just. This was one of the many lies the Nazis had circulated.
When mentioning delousing, or so, we forget that typhus or other diseases had been instrumental in the mass killing of Jews and other prisoners,  who were called, in Nazi Deutsch UNGEZIEFER, – insects – to be extirpated.
The personal safety of the mass of prisoners in a concentration camp had never been a concern of the Nazis; the death marches had been the instrument to murder the most possible prisoners who were still alive. Consider that from Buchenwald and Bergen Belsen, in April 1945, many inmates had been transported away to nowhere, except to death in the overcrowded closed box cars on the trains.
In the USA,  and in the UK and elsewhere, it is still not clear that the THIRD REICH had been run by a group of criminals, who were followers of a racist murder doctrine.  They had taken advantage of the the respect for authority, which was peculiar to the German people, and to many Jews too.
Best.
Wolf Murmelstein.

March 14, 2010

“bodies stacked like cordwood” How many times have you read those words?

If you want to do a google search to find the stories, told by American soldiers, about seeing the Nazi concentration camps in World War II, just search on “bodies stacked like cordwood.”  Without exception, every single soldier who saw Dachau or Buchenwald or Ohrdruf or Mauthausen reported that he saw the horror of “bodies stacked like cordwood.”

Schollmeyer wood pile — Photo by Brucellocius on Flickr

Back in those days, everyone knew what the word cordwood meant.  Cordwood is not a type of wood; it refers to a measurement. A cord of wood is a stack of four-foot logs with a specific height and width.  In the old days, a “cord of wood” was something that you purchased, if you didn’t have trees on your own property that you could cut down.  In my home town, most people had a cord of wood on their back porch, ready to be used in the wood-burning pot-belly stove in their “front room.”

So what does this have to do with anything?  To me, the use of the phrase “stacked like cordwood” is significant because it shows that the typical American soldier in World War II was from a small town or a farm, and was not overly sophisticated.  When the soldiers saw the dead bodies in the concentration camps “stacked like cordwood,” their first thought was  “how can human beings do this to other human beings?”  They just naturally assumed that the prisoners had been starved to death or killed in a gas chamber.

Bodies found in the crematorium at Dachau

Bodies stacked outside the crematorium at Buchenwald

Bodies stacked up at Mauthausen

Bodies found in a shed at Ohrdruf

The photos above show what the American soldiers saw.  After visiting the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald on April 12, 1945,  General Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered that as many American soldiers as possible should be brought from the battlefield in trucks and shown the bodies in the nearest concentration camp.  The bodies were left out for weeks so that thousands of soldiers could have a chance to view them. As more prisoners died after the camps were liberated, their bodies were added to the piles.

What was the purpose of bringing soldiers from the battlefield to see dead bodies?  As General Eisenhower famously said: “The American soldiers didn’t know what they were fighting for, but after seeing the concentration camps, they knew what they were fighting against.”

No explanation of how these prisoners had died was given to the American soldiers.  The soldiers were 18 and 19-year-old boys from small town America.  It never occurred to them that there was a typhus epidemic going on in Germany during the last days of World War II and of course, they were not told that these prisoners had died of typhus.  The American soldiers had been vaccinated, so they didn’t have to worry about typhus.  Typhus had been completely wiped out long ago in America by the use of vaccines.

In World War I, four million people died of typhus — and that was just in Poland. During World War II, the Germans knew of the danger of a typhus epidemic and that’s why they used tons of Zyklon-B to kill the lice that spreads typhus.  But as the war progressed and Germany was losing, there was such chaos that the epidemic of typhus could not be controlled.  The American liberators finally stopped the epidemic with DDT and typhus vaccine, which the Germans didn’t have.

As far as I know, not one American soldier ever asked the liberated prisoners, “What’s  going on here?  How did these people die?”  The soldiers had been shown propaganda films before going overseas, so they knew that the German people were evil.  They had been warned not to be fooled by the friendly, fun-loving Germans in their Lederhosen and dirndls; they had been thoroughly indoctrinated in hatred for the German people.  After the war, the soldiers were ordered not to fraternize with the Germans, and most of them returned to America without ever having the opportunity to learn the truth.

Today, these World War II veterans speak to school children in the classroom, telling their stories of how they liberated Dachau or Buchenwald and saw the “bodies stacked like cordwood.”  Sometimes, they tell the children about how they saw human soap or human lampshades or gas chambers.

February 16, 2010

Jehovah’s Witnesses – mistreated by the Nazis?

Jehovah's Witnesses at the Niederhagen camp near Wewelsburg

The photo above appears on my web site on this page.

Under the photo, I wrote this sentence:

“Note that the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the photo above appear to have been well treated.”

Recently, I got an e-mail from a woman who claimed that I was wrong in saying that the prisoners in this photo look like they were well treated.  She claims that the photo was taken long after the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the photo had been released and had recovered from their torture and mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis.

It is possible that some of the Jehovah’s Witnesses from the Niederhagen camp kept their striped prison shirts and posed years later for a photo.  It is also possible that their prison shirts still fit them when they gained weight after being released.

There is nothing that indicates the date of the photo.  Most of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Niederhagen camp were over 40 years old when they were sent there. They were selected from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp because of their building skills.  The Niederhagen camp was set up to house prisoners who were working on restoring the  Wewelsburg castle.

North tower of Wewelsburg Castle

The following quote is from my own web page about the Jehovah’s Witnesses at Niederhagen concentration camp:

After several escape attempts by the German criminals at Niederhagen, they were replaced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, called “Bible students,” who were considered to be more trustworthy and not likely to escape. The Nazis called the Bible students “volunteer prisoners” because they could have been released at any time if they would only renounce their religion and join the German Army. Note that the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the photo above appear to have been well treated.

According to a book by Hans Hesse, entitled “Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Nazi Regime,” published in 2001, there was a total of 306 Jehovah’s Witnesses sent to the Niederhagen-Wewelsburg camp and 19 of them died. Other sources say that there were 21 Jehovah’s Witnesses who died in the camp.

Hans Hesse attributed the low mortality rate among the Jehovah’s Witnesses to group cohesiveness and their willingness to help and support each other. By way of comparison, there were 903 German prisoners in other categories at Niederhagen-Wewelsburg and at least 357 of them died, according to Hans Hesse’s book.

Hans Hesse wrote that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were selected from prisoners at Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald for their professional skills in building construction. Although younger workers were preferred by the Nazis, 65% of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at Niederhagen-Wewelsburg were over 40 years of age, according to Hesse’s book.

Hermann Pister, the Commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp claimed in his testimony before the American Military Tribunal at Dachau that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned “not for their religious convictions, but for their Communist tendencies.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses who were sent to the Niederhagen camp when they were over 40 years old could not have been imprisoned just because they refused to serve in the Army.  Could they have been arrested because of their “Communist tendencies?”

My e-mail correspondent also claimed that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were separated in the camps and were not allowed to live together.  So how did they support each other with “group cohesiveness” as Hans Hesse wrote?

In the early days at the Dachau concentration camp, visitors were brought to see the “model camp”  including some prison wardens from America.  According to a book written by Paul Berben, a former prisoner who wrote the official history of the camp, the visitors were always shown the barracks of the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they were the neatest and cleanest barracks of all.

Typically, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were given jobs in the homes of the SS officers because they were considered trustworthy.  In the movie “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” there is a scene where a Jewish doctor is peeling potatoes with a knife in the home of the Commandant of a camp that is supposed to be like Auschwitz.  There is no way that the Commandant of Auschwitz would have allowed a Jew to use a knife in his home, at least not while there were trustworthy Jehovah’s Witnesses available.

So what is the truth?  Were the Jehovah’s Witnesses mistreated by the Nazis or not?

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, there were 20,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany and during the Nazi years, around 10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, mostly from Germany, were imprisoned in concentration camps. The USHMM estimates that 2,500 to 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses died in the concentration camps or prisons; more than 200 men were tried by the German War Court and executed for refusing military service.

According to the USHMM:

“After 1939, small numbers of Witnesses from Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland (some of them refugees from Germany) were arrested and deported to Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and other concentration camps.”