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March 13, 2011

The mystery of the “standing cells” at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 7:01 pm

Tour guides at the Dachau Memorial Site tell visitors about the “standing cells” which were allegedly located inside the “bunker,” as the camp prison was called.  The bunker is still there, but according to the staff at the Memorial Site, the standing cells were torn down by the Americans who liberated the camp on April 29, 1945.

It would have made sense if the Nazi administrators of the Dachau concentration camp had torn down the standing cells to get rid of the evidence of their crimes, but why would the American liberators of the camp destroy the evidence of one of the worst atrocities at Dachau?  The decision to try the Germans as war criminals had already been made, even before their war crimes had been committed, so why would the Americans destroy the evidence before the men were put on trial?

With all the evidence of the standing cells gone, how do we know that these cells realy existed?

Our knowledge of the standing cells comes from the former prisoners, who testified about them under oath at the American Military Tribunal, which started in November 1945.  Why couldn’t the Americans have waited for a mere six months before destroying the evidence?  They could have at least taken a photo of the standing cells, which could have been shown as proof during the trials conducted by American Military Tribunal at Dachau.

A film, which was made by the Americas on May 3, 1945  showed the Dachau gas chamber. This film was used as proof of the Dachau gas chamber at the Nuremberg IMT.  I know that film was scarce during World War II, but was film so precious that the Americans couldn’t even take one photo of the standing cells?

I took the photo below in the Dachau bunker in May 2001. It shows one of the regular cells and a poster which shows how three regular cells were divided into standing cells. The red color on the walls is paint.

Poster shows how the standing cells were created in the bunker

The walls of the alleged standing cells were made out of wood and each standing cell was 2 ft. 6 inches square. Prisoners who had been condemned to this punishment were put into a standing cell for 72 hours at a time with no light or air.

When I visited Dachau in 1997, the bunker was not open to tourists. It was not until the year 2000 that the bunker was opened to visitors.

According to information in one of the exhibit rooms in the bunker, a Soviet prisoner named Yuri Piskunov, was confined to one of the standing cells for 10 days in October 1944, but there is no mention of what crime he had committed. He had previously been a prisoner in the Mauthausen concentration camp, but was transferred to Dachau in November 1943.

Mauthausen was the only Class III camp in the Nazi system; it was for prisoners who were the worst offenders by Nazi standards. Dachau was a class I prison and was considered much more lenient than Mauthausen.

Piskunov survived and was still alive when the bunker exhibit opened in 2000.  As far as I know, Piskunov did not testify before the American Military Tribunal in 1945; maybe he couldn’t speak German or English, and they didn’t have a Russian translator.

As far as I know, Dr. Neuhäusler, a Catholic Bishop who was a “special prisoner” with a private cell in the Dachau bunker, did not testify in any of the post war trials either.  Dr. Neuhäusler was allowed to leave his cell in the bunker and walk around outside, so he must have known about everything that was going on, inside and outside the camp prison.

Dr. Neuhäusler wrote a book in which he said this, regarding the standing cells:

“the prisoner was compelled to stand for three days and three nights and was given only bread and water; every fourth day he came into a normal cell, ate prisoner’s fare and was allowed to sleep for one night on a plank bed. Then three days’ standing began again. Such were the abominations which the prisoners had to bear from the sadistic Nazis.”

Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, who was an SS judge, did an investigation of the Dachau camp in May 1944 and found everything in order, according to Paul Berben, a prisoner in the camp who wrote the Official History of Dachau. The standing cells must have been built some time after this inspection, as Dr. Morgen would not have tolerated such abuse of the prisoners. Dr. Morgen had arrested 5 of the concentration camp commandants after his previous investigations, and two of the commandants had been executed by the Nazis.

Martin Gottfried Weiss had previously been the Commandant at Dachau and he was the acting Commandant when the Dachau camp was liberated; the new Commandant had left a few days before, with a transport of prisoners, who were taken to a sub-camp in Austria. On November 1, 1943, Weiss had been transferred from the Dachau camp to the Majdanek camp in Poland; he replace Karl Otto Koch, who had been arrested and brought back to Buchenwald to stand trial in a special court conducted by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen.

Dr. Franz Blaha identifies Martin Gottfried Weiss on the right

Dr. Franz Blaha, a former Dachau prisoner who is shown on the left in the photo above, testified at the American Military Tribunal about the standing cells inside the bunker at Dachau. In the photo, he is shown as he identifies Martin Gottfried Weiss in the courtroom.  Note that Weiss is unshaven and looks haggard while Dr. Blaha appears to be in good condition.

Dr. Blaha said that the standing cells were so small that one could not sit down in them, but could only stand up, and possibly just bend the knees a little. Dr. Blaha testified that he himself had never been punished in the standing bunker, but he had brought the dead bodies of Russian and Polish prisoners out of the standing cells several times during 1944 and 1945.  Dr. Blaha also testified at the Nuremberg IMT that he had done autopsies on the bodies of thousands of prisoners who had been gassed at Dachau.

In a pretrial hand-written statement, Emil Mahl, a Dachau Kapo who was on trial himself, corroborated Dr. Blaha’s testimony. According to Mahl’s statement, imprisonment in a standing cell meant eight took place for ten hours during the night, and in some cases, for two to three nights without food or drink.

At the American Military Tribunal, Martin Gottfried Weiss was finally called to the witness stand to defend himself on December 10, 1945, almost a month after the trial began. Under direct examination by American defense attorney Douglas T. Bates, Weiss told about how he had improved conditions at the Dachau camp when he became the Commandant in 1942. He said that he had abolished the cruel punishment where prisoners were hung up by their arms, and also the standing punishment where prisoners had to stand outside for days without food.

In his testimony, Weiss claimed that he was not responsible for the “standing bunker” and that he had heard this term used for the first time at the trial.

According to the Dachau Museum, the Dachau bunker was used to imprison suspected German war criminals between June 1945 and August 1948; as many as five German prisoners were put inside each prison cell in the bunker. Each of these cells was intended to be big enough for only one man, and had only one bed.

The most famous prisoner, among the German war criminals who were held in the bunker after World War II ended, was Erhard Milch, a Field Marshall who was the number 2 man in the German Air Force. He was brought to the Dachau bunker the day after he testified on behalf of his superior, Hermann Göring, at the Nuremberg IMT. Milch was a prisoner at Dachau between 1946 and 1947; his crime was that he had refused to testify against Göring.

Johann Kick, the chief of the political department at Dachau from May 1937 to April 1945, was in charge of registering prisoners, keeping files and death certificates, and notification of relatives. It was also his job to see that executions ordered by the Reich Security Main Office were carried out at Dachau. He was one of the 39 others who were tried by the American Military Tribunal, along with Martin Gottfried Weiss.

Rudolf Wolf, a prominent witness for the prosecution, testified that, after being interrogated by Kick, prisoners were sent to the standing bunker. In answer to a question about the bunker, put to him by American prosecutor Lt. Col. Denson, Kick testified that he “never knew such a thing existed. I found out about it only here.”  Kick also testified that he had been tortured by the American interrogators, but apparently even after being tortured, he would not admit to the existence of the standing cells.

The infamous extermination camp at Auschwitz did have standing cells in the basement of the prison building called Block 11. They were removed after a short time by Arthur Liebehenschel, who was the Auschwitz Commandant from November 10, 1943 to May 19, 1944, but have been reconstructed for the benefit of tourists. The standing cells at Dachau, if they ever existed, have not been reconstructed.

The photo above shows a punishment cell at the Natzweiler-Struthof camp in Alsace. This cell was big enough for a prisoner to sit in, but not big enough for a prisoner to stand up or lie down. Prisoners who broke the rules in the Natzweiler camp were put into these cells for three days with nothing but bread and water. After the Natzweiler camp was closed, some of the political prisoners were brought to Dachau, including the British SOE agent Albert Guerisse, who became the leader of the prisoners group known as the International Committee of Dachau.

After Dachau was liberated, the former concentration camp was turned into War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 and Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen became one of the prisoners. He told historian John Toland that he was tortured by the Americans in an effort to get him to say that Ilse Koch, the wife of the Buchenwald Commandant, had made lampshades out of human skin, but he refused, even after several beatings.

One of the prisoners at Dachau, when the camp was liberated, was a woman named Eleanor Hodys, who had formerly been a prisoner at Auschwitz.  The story of E.H. was told in Chapter 5 of the Official History of Dachau, written by the Americans. (Her identify was protected in the Official History by using only her initials, not her name.) All of the events described by E.H. happened at Auschwitz, not at Dachau, so why was this included in the history of Dachau? Maybe it is because she mentioned the “standing cells” in Block 11 at Auschwitz. Did the Americans learn about the “standing cells” for the first time from E.H. and decide to include them in the list of atrocities at Dachau?

E.H. told the American liberators that she had once been put into a standing cell herself — for NINE WEEKS.  How could anyone survive for nine weeks in a standing cell like the cells that have been reconstructed at Auschwitz?

Eleanor Hodys allegedly had an affair with the Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess, who was removed from his job because of the claims of Eleanor Hodys.  Hoess returned to Auschwitz in May 1944 in time to supervise the gassing of 400,000 Hungarian Jews in only 10 weeks, according to Holocaust history.

The photo below shows a reconstructed standing cell at Auschwitz.  I took this photo in 1998 when I was there with a private guide and there was no one else there, so I could take all the photos that I wanted.

Reconstructed standing cell at Auschwitz

The 1998 photograph above shows the reconstructed entrance to one of the 4 standing cells (Stehzellen) in prison cell #22 in the basement of Block 11. These 4 cells were 31.5 inches square; there was no light coming in at all, and no heating or cooling system.

Prisoners had to crawl into the standing cell through a tiny door, as shown in the photo above. Metal bars at the entrance allowed guards to open the door and look inside the cell. There was no room to lie down nor to sit down in the cell; prisoners had to stand up. The floors of these cells were covered with excrement left by the occupants.

Prisoners who were being punished were allegedly put into these cells at night, and in the morning taken out to perform a full 10-hour day of work. The reconstructed door, which is shown in the picture above, opens into Cell #2; there is another cell to the right of the door, which you can see in the photo. To the left in the picture above, you can see the edge of the door into Cell #1 on the left, which gives you an idea of how small these cells were. Imagine the problem of removing a dead body through the tiny door of one of these cells!

After Arthur Liebehenschel replaced Rudolf Hoess as the camp commandant on December 1, 1943, he ordered the standing cells to be torn down.  Or did he? Were the standing cells at Auschwitz allegedly torn down because they weren’t really there, just like the non-existent standing cells at Dachau were allegedly torn down by the Americans?

I’m suspicious about everything told about the concentration camps.  I’m from Missouri, the Show-Me state.  I want to see the proof!

May 27, 2010

Prisoners at Dachau taunted by signs…

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:01 am

The first thing that visitors to Dachau are told by their tour guides is that the prisoners were taunted by a sign over the gate which said “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which is translated literally as Work makes Free.  Today I read a blog written by Corrine, a visitor who said that her tour guide told her that the “no smoking sign” in the administration building, which is now the Museum, was “put there as a taunt to the prisoners who were not allowed cigarettes.”  You can read Corrine’s blog here.

"Smoking Forbidden" sign in Dachau Museum


May 18, 2010

Who killed Dr. Sigmund Rascher and why?

Dr. Sigmund Rascher was the man who conducted medical experiments for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) at Dachau, starting in May 1942. His wife, Nini Rascher, was a good friend of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, and she had recommended him for this job.

Dr. Rascher was allegedly shot on April 26, 1945 in prison cell #73 in the Dachau bunker by SS-Hauptscharführer Theodor Bongartz, on Himmler’s orders.  His wife was allegedly hanged, around the same time, at the Ravensbrück concentration camp.  But why would Himmler order two of his good friends to be executed at such a late date during World War II?

I won’t keep you in suspense: I don’t think that Himmler ordered the execution of the Raschers.

I believe that Captain Sigismund Payne Best, a British intelligence agent, who was a prisoner at Dachau, was involved in the murder of Dr. Rascher.  Why?  Because Dr. Rascher had allegedly told Captain Payne Best, while both men were allegedly imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp, that he had designed the Dachau gas chamber and that thousands of people were gassed there.

The problem is that Dr. Rascher was never a prisoner at Buchenwald, so he could not possibly have told Captain Payne Best anything at Buchenwald.

With Dr. Rascher dead, Captain Payne Best could testify as a hearsay witness that there was a gas chamber at  Dachau and that it was used.

Actually, Captain Payne Best never got a chance to testify because no one was ever put on trial for the crime of operating a gas chamber at Dachau.

Dr. Sigmund Rascher doing a medical experiment at Dachau

Dr. Leo Alexander, a native of Austria who fled to China and then to America when the Nazis came to power, was an investigator for the prosecution in the War Crimes Commission at Nuremberg from 1946 to 1947, gathering information for the Nuremberg Doctor’s Trial.  If Dr. Rascher had lived, he would have been put on trial at Nuremberg as a war criminal because he had done experiments on Dachau prisoners.

Dr. Alexander’s report, on the Prolonged Exposure to Cold, evaluated the Nazi hypothermia experiments conducted by Dr. Rascher at Dachau (shown in the photo above).  Dr. Alexander found inconsistencies in Dr. Rascher’s lab notes which led him to believe that Dr. Rascher had deceived Himmler about his results. According to Dr. Alexander, Rascher reported to Himmler that it took from 53 minutes to 100 minutes for the prisoners to die in the freezing water. However, Dr. Alexander’s inspection of Dr. Rascher’s personal lab notes revealed that some of the subjects had suffered from 80 minutes to five or six hours before they died.

According to Dr. Alexander, Himmler discovered that Dr. Rascher had lied in his reports and Dr. Rascher’s deception was the reason that Himmler ordered the execution of both Dr. Rascher and his wife in April 1945. Himmler allegedly committed suicide shortly after he was captured by the British so we will never know if Dr. Alexander’s theory is correct.

However, Dr. Rascher was not arrested and imprisoned because he lied to Himmler about his lab results.  According to an affidavit signed by Dr. Friedrich Karl Rascher, the uncle of Dr. Sigmund Rascher, which was entered into the proceedings of the Nuremberg IMT, Dr. Rascher and his wife Nini were arrested in May 1944 because they had registered a child, who was not born to Nini, as their own.

Dr. Rascher with the baby, Peter

During the Nuremberg Doctors Trial, the following testimony was given by Freiherr Von Eberstein, the SS officer and Police President of Munich, who had arrested Dr. Rascher:

VON EBERSTEIN: Yes. In the spring of 1944, in the course of Criminal Police investigations against an SS Hauptsturmführer, Dr. Rascher, a physician, and his wife. The Raschers were accused of Kindesunterschiebung. That is a word which is very difficult to translate. In our law it means the illegal appropriation of other people’s children.

Secondly, Rascher was accused of financial irregularities in connection with the research station at Dachau, where these biological experiments were carried on. This research station was directly subordinate to Himmler, without any intermediate authority.

So Dr. Rascher was accused of “financial irregularities” in his research at Dachau, but not falsifying the results.  If this was enough to anger Himmler to the point of killing his two good friends, why didn’t he order their execution a lot sooner?  And if Himmler did finally order Dr. Rascher’s execution on April 26, 1945, why was this done secretly, without going through the usual procedure.

Door of prison cell in the Dachau bunker

Dr. Sigmund Rascher was allegedly shot inside a prison cell in the Dachau camp prison, called the bunker, on April 26, 1945.

April 26, 1945 was the day that a bunch of VIP prisoners at Dachau were taken to the South Tyrol, allegedly because Himmler wanted to use them as hostages in his negotiations with the Allies.  However, Captain Payne Best wrote in his book The Venlo Incident, that the VIP prisoners, including himself, were taken to the South Tyrol to be killed.  If this was the case, why wasn’t Dr. Rascher taken to the South Tyrol to be killed along with the others?  Why wasn’t he at least taken to the execution spot at Dachau, instead of being shot inside a prison cell?

The execution spot at Dachau with the “blood ditch” in the foreground

According to two different sources, Dr. Sigmund Rascher was, in fact, on the trip to the South Tyrol.

The following quote is from the book entitled The SS, Alibi of a Nation, 1922 – 1945 by Gerald Reitlinger:

Rascher remained at work in Dachau til May 1944, when Freiherr von Eberstein, higher SS and police leader for Munich, came to arrest him — but not for his experiments. It had been discovered that the children whom Frau Rascher had borne after the age of forty-eight had in reality been kidnapped from orphanages. The camp commandant and the chief medical officer at Dachau thereupon discharged a flood of complaints against Rascher, whom they described as a dangerous, incredible person who had been under Himmler’s personal protection for years, performing unspeakable horrors. Himmler naturally refused to have the Raschers tried, but they were confined in the political bunkers of Dachau and Ravensbrueck, the fate under the Third Reich of people who knew too much. Captain Payne-Best met Sigmund Rascher during the southward evacuation of the Dachau political bunker at the beginning of May 1945. He found Rascher garrulous and sympathetic. One of Rascher’s boasts to Captain Payne-Best was that he had invented the gas chamber. Perhaps that was why Sigmund Rascher disappeared soon afterwards, and likewise Frau Rascher who was last seen in Ravensbrueck.

Nerin E. Gun, a journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau, wrote in his book The Day of the Americans, published in 1966, that Dr. Sigmund Rascher was with the other prisoners that had been evacuated from Dachau and taken to the South Tyrol, and that Dr. Rascher was shot in Innsbruck. Upon arrival in Innsbruck, Edgar Stiller (the SS man in charge of the evacuation) had turned the VIP prisoners over to Captain Payne Best, according to Payne Best’s account in his book The Venlo Incident.

According to Nerin E. Gun, Captain Sigismund Payne Best was the most privileged of all the privileged prisoners. The following quote is from his book entitled The Day of the Americans:

Captain Best, who was fifty at the time of his arrest, had all the leisure he wanted in prison and was even allowed a typewriter. He was able to write a book in which he related all the tiresome details of his captivity. But he carefully avoided explaining what he was really doing in Holland at the time, or how much, if at all, he was implicated in the unfortunate affair at the Burgerbrau.


Best himself, in his book, admits that if he had remained free he would have known greater deprivation in wartime England, not to mention the risk of being buried under a German bomb.

According to Nerin E. Gun’s book, Captain Payne Best was allowed to keep his monocle and his personal possessions while in prison and he was given a radio capable of receiving London broadcasts. All the prisoners in the bunker were fed from the SS kitchens, but Captain Payne Best was given “double the normal SS ration of food,” according to Gun.

In his book, Nerin E. Gun wrote that when you read the memoirs of Captain Payne Best, “you feel that he had more affection for his SS guards, whom he considered to be nice everyday people who had somehow been forced to don a uniform, and worried more about what would happen to them than he did about the poor prisoners dying all around him.”

From Nerin E. Gun’s description of Captain Payne Best’s close relationship with the SS guards, it is clear that he might have had the means and the opportunity to get rid of a fellow prisoner in the last chaotic days of the Dachau camp if that prisoner knew any secrets that were best kept hidden.

What was it that Captain Payne Best did not want Dr. Sigmund Rascher to testify about in court?  Maybe about the conversation that Captain Payne Best claims that he had with Dr. Rascher in the Buchenwald Concentration camp.  Dr. Rascher was put into a prison in Munich in May 1944,  and then transferred to Dachau in April 1945; he was never a prisoner at Buchenwald.

In his book entitled The Venlo Incident, Captain Sigismund Payne Best wrote the following regarding a conversation he had with Dr. Rascher while both were allegedly prisoners at Buchenwald:

Next morning when I went to wash, there was a little man with a ginger moustache in the lavatory who introduced himself as Dr. Rascher saying that he was half English and that his mother was related to the Chamberlain family. When I told him my name he was much interested saying that he knew about my case and that he had also met Stevens (R. H. Stevens was another British intelligence agent who had been arrested along with Payne Best.) when he was medical officer in Dachau. … He was a queer fellow; possibly the queerest character which has ever come my way.

Almost at our first meeting he told me that he had belonged to Himmler’s personal staff, and that it was he who had planned and supervised the construction of the gas chambers and was responsible for the use of prisoners as guinea pigs in medical research. Obviously he saw nothing wrong in this and considered it merely a matter of expediency. As regards the gas chambers he said that Himmler, a very kind-hearted man, was most anxious that prisoners should be exterminated in a manner which caused them least anxiety and suffering, and the greatest trouble had been taken to design a gas chamber so camouflaged that its purpose would not be apparent, and to regulate the flow of the lethal gas so that the patients might fall asleep without recognizing that they would never wake. Unfortunately, Rascher said, they had never quite succeeded in solving the problem caused by the varying resistance of different people to the effects of poison gases, and always there had been a few who lived longer than others and recognized where they were and what was happening. Rascher said that the main difficulty was that the numbers to be killed were so great that it was impossible to prevent the gas chambers being overfilled, which greatly impeded any attempts to ensure a regular and simultaneous death-rate.

Did Dr. Rascher really tell Captain Payne Best about prisoners being gassed at Dachau? With Dr. Rascher dead and gone, no one would know if this conversation had actually taken place. Or did Himmler order Rascher’s execution just three days before Dachau was liberated because he didn’t want Dr. Rascher to tell the Allies about the gas chamber at Dachau?

Captain Payne Best also mentioned in his book, The Venlo Incident, that he and Dr. Rascher had discussed the attempt by Georg Elser to assassinate Adolf Hitler on November 8, 1939, and that Dr. Rascher was of the opinion that it was an inside job, staged by the Nazis.

Captain Sigismund Payne Best was arrested and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp because he was allegedly involved in the assassination attempt on November 8, 1939.  Was he trying to prove that the British were not involved in the plot to kill Hitler, as both Himmler and Hitler believed? Is it possible that Captain Payne Best had told Dr. Rascher that British intelligence was behind Georg Elser’s attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler and that’s why Dr. Rascher had to be silenced?

On April 26, 1945, the day that Dr. Sigmund Rascher was allegedly executed in Cell #73 in the bunker at Dachau, there was complete chaos and confusion in the Dachau camp, according to a book entitled The Last Days of Dachau, written jointly by Arthur Haulot, a Belgian prisoner, and Dr. Ali Kuci, an Albanian prisoner. Reischführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had given the order that the Dachau camp was to be immediately evacuated and that “No prisoner should fall into the hands of the enemy alive…” This message was received in the camp in response to a query sent to Berlin by the camp commandant, according to Kuci and Haulot. At 9 a.m. on April 26th, the order was given by the camp Commandant to evacuate the entire camp, but according to Haulot and Kuci, the prisoners acted quickly to sabotage the evacuation plan.

According to the book by Haulot and Kuci, the SS had assembled 6,700 prisoners for evacuation by 8 p.m. on April 26th. At 10 p.m. that day, a total of 6,887 prisoners left the camp on foot, marching south toward the mountains of the South Tyrol. According to testimony given at the Nuremberg IMT, the march to the South Tyrol was part of a plan, devised by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, to kill all the concentration camp prisoners. A transport of 1,735 Jewish prisoners had already left that day on a train bound for the mountains in southern Germany.

With so much going on at Dachau on April 26, 1945, it would have been easy for one of the prisoners to kill Dr. Sigmund Rascher without attracting much attention. It would also have been easy for Dr. Rascher to sneak away that day from the group of VIP prisoners in the bunker, which was near the main gate at Dachau, and join the group of 6,887 prisoners who were being marched out of the camp that same day.  Did Dr. Rascher manage to escape that day and go into hiding in South America, like so many other Nazis?  Anything is possible.

Frau Rascher was rumored to be Heinrich Himmler’s former mistress.  Did Himmler really order the death of his former lover because she was also involved in the medical experiments?  Nini Rascher took photos of the victims during the experiments.

Russian POW appears to be unconscious during Dachau medical experiment for the Luftwaffe

May 17, 2010

Who killed Georg Elser, the man who tried to kill Hitler?

Georg Elser is a German hero who attempted to kill Adolf Hitler on November 8, 1939 with a bomb which he placed at the Bürgerbräukeller, a bar where Hitler was giving his annual speech on the anniversary of his 1923 Putsch. Hitler left early and was not hurt, although 8 people were killed by the blast and 63 others were injured, according to the Museum at the Dachau Memorial Site.

According to an exhibit in the Dachau Museum, Georg Elser was secretly executed by the Gestapo at Dachau on April 9, 1945, and his death was blamed on an Allied bombing raid.

Elser had been in prison, first at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and then at Dachau, for five and a half years.

On the same day that the Dachau Museum says that Georg Elser was killed by a bomb, a group of traitors to the Fatherland, including Rear Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and General Hans Oster were executed at the Flossenbürg concentration camp on the orders of Gestapo Chief Heinrich Müller, but there was no attempted cover-up of these executions. Canaris, who was the head of the Abwehr, Nazi Germany’s military intelligence agency, before he was arrested, was involved in two failed attempts to assassinate Hitler in 1938 and 1939. General Oster had been arrested the day after the failed July 20, 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler. On April 8, 1945, General Wilhelm Canaris and General Hans Oster were put on trial and both were convicted.

So why did the execution of Georg Elser have to be done secretly and blamed on an Allied bomb attack?  “Something wrong!” as Dr. Henry Lee famously said in the O.J. trial.

Exhibit in Dachau Museum about Georg Elser

Georg Elser, a German hero

Along with Elser, Captain Sigismund Payne Best, a British intelligence agent, was also imprisoned at Sachsenhausen, and later at Dachau, while he awaited trial on a charge of conspiracy in the assassination attempt by Georg Elser, which was believed by Hitler to have been instigated by the British government.

The story of Georg Elser’s execution, according to Captain Sigismund Payne Best, is that either Adolf Hitler or Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had ordered the head of the Gestapo, SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, to deliver a letter on April 5, 1945, authorizing the execution of “special prisoner Georg Eller” during the next Allied air raid, to the Commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, Obersturmbannführer Eduard Weiter. Eller was a code name for Elser so that the other prisoners would not know his true identity.

By some strange coincidence, Captain Payne Best had come into possession of this letter in May 1945 shortly before the end of World War II.

Normally, an execution order would have come from RSHA (Reich Security Main Office) in Berlin, addressed to Johann Kick, the head of the Gestapo branch office at Dachau.

Kick would have given the order to Wilhelm Ruppert, who was the SS officer in charge of executions at Dachau. Ruppert would have given the order to either Franz Trenkle or Theodor Bongartz, the two SS men who carried out executions at Dachau. After the execution, RSHA and the Gestapo would have received documentation that the execution had taken place. In the case of Georg Elser, none of this happened.

Heinrich Müller, the chief of the Gestapo, who allegedly ordered the murder of Georg Elser, was last seen leaving Hitler’s bunker on April 29, 1945, the day that Dachau was liberated. No trace of him has ever been found. Hitler killed himself the next day on April 30, 1945 and Himmler allegedly committed suicide after he was captured by the British in May 1945.

Dachau Commandant Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, who allegedly received the order to execute Elser, shot himself at Schloss Itter, a subcamp of Dachau in Austria, on May 6, 1945, according to Johannes Tuchel, the author of Dachau and the Nazi Terror 1933-1945.

Georg Elser had been a prisoner in the Dachau prison, called the bunker, since he was transferred from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in February 1945, according to Nerin E. Gun, a journalist who was also a prisoner at Dachau. Captain Payne Best was transferred from Sachsenhausen to Buchenwald, and from there to Dachau on April 9, 1945, the very day that Georg Elser was allegedly executed.

Prison cells in the Dachau bunker where Georg Elser was held

Here is the back story: In November 1939 when the assassination attempt by Georg Elser took place, Great Britain and France were at war with Germany, both countries having declared war against Germany two days after German troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.

On September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the other side, but the British and the French did not declare war since they had only agreed to defend Poland against an attack by Germany. In November 1939, World War II was a “sitzkrieg” or “phony war” with no fighting going on because, at that point, Hitler was refusing to fight the British and the French.

Following the conquest of Poland at the end of September 1939, Hitler had made an appeal for peace in a speech on October 6, 1939 in the Reichstag, but British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had said in a speech to the Commons six days later that “No reliance can be put on the promises of the present German government.” Was he hinting that the British might do a “regime change” in Germany by assassinating Hitler?

By November 1939, Hitler had had to face the fact that the war would not be a “sitzkrieg” forever and that the British and the French were probably making plans to invade Germany at that very moment.

On November 9, 1939, the day after the assassination attempt, two British intelligence officers, Captain Sigismund Payne Best and Major Richard H. Stevens, were arrested in a sting operation at the Cafe Bacchus near Venlo in the Netherlands, 125 feet from the German border.

According to Nerin E. Gun, the British had been contacted previously by a German anti-Nazi named Dr. Franz who told them that some German officers were planning a revolt and wanted the support of Great Britain.

The following quote is from Nerin E. Gun’s book, The Day of the Americans:

British Intelligence agents were to meet there (at the Cafe) with a group of German conspirators, including a Wehrmacht general, who had tried to overthrow the regime. It had first been planned that Hitler himself, made prisoner by the general, would be turned over, bound hand and foot, to the men who came there from The Hague.

This fantastic plot had been afoot since the first days of September, right after war broke out. Captain (preferring to be called Mister) S. Payne Best, whose functions within the British Intelligence service remain shadowy even today, but about whom we can guess that he was head of its European network, had been contacted by a German anti-Nazi emigre, Dr. Franz. Some German officers, Franz had told him, were planning a revolt and wanted the support of Great Britain. Mr. Best asked the home office to give him competent military advice. They sent him Major R. H. Stevens. Since it was an important affair, at least in the imagination of the British, the head of the Dutch Secret Service, Major General van Oorscholt, had also been brought in on it. The latter respected the obligations of neutrality in his own way, and did not hesitate to plunge into this international intrigue, which had the earmarks of a Hollywood thriller. He delegated Lieutenant Dirk Clopp (Klop), to whom the British were to give the code name of “Captain Coppers, of His Gracious British Majesty’s Guard Regiment,” to represent him, and contact was established with the plotters.

According to Nerin E. Gun’s book, the plot was to capture Hitler, smuggle him across the German border to Venlo and then sneak him onto a submarine anchored outside of Rotterdam.

On the morning of November 9th, the German radio announced the failed attempt on Hitler’s life, but Captain Payne Best assumed that this was a ruse designed to explain the disappearance of Hitler whom he believed was already in the hands of the plotters.

After the arrest of Captain S. Payne Best and Major Richard H. Stevens, Hitler came to the conclusion that the failed assassination had been planned by the British in an attempt to overthrow the government of Germany.

Heinrich Himmler stands behind Hilter, Nürnberg rally 1934

When Elser was captured, he was found to be carrying various incriminating pieces of evidence. The Gestapo interrogated Elser and went to great lengths to get more information out of him, but to no avail. They tried drugs and hypnosis, but he would not reveal the names of the two men who had helped him. He confessed to planting the bomb, but claimed that he did not know the names of his two accomplices.

According to William L. Shirer, in his book entitled The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940, Heinrich Himmler announced on November 21, 1939 that he had found and arrested the culprit, Georg Elser, a 36-year-old carpenter who had formerly resided in Munich but lately in the Dachau concentration camp. According to Shirer, Himmler said that Elser had been aided and abetted by two British secret agents, Captain S. Payne Best and Major R. H. Stevens.

Shirer wrote that Georg Elser was treated very well after he was imprisoned, but he was eventually murdered by order of Heinrich Himmler. The following quote is from Shirer’s book The Nightmare Years: 1930 – 1940:

But Himmler kept his eye on him. It would never do to let the carpenter survive, if the war were lost, to tell his tale. When it (the war) became irretrievably lost, the Gestapo chief (Müller) acted. On April 16, 1945, as the end of the Third Reich neared, it was announced that Elser had been killed in an Allied bombing attack. Actually, Himmler had him murdered by the Gestapo.

Curiously, Himmler had allowed Captain S. Payne Best and Major Richard H. Stevens to live to tell their tale after Elser was allegedly executed.

The next day after the bomb blast, the only newspaper to cover the story was Hitler’s own paper, the Voelkischer Beobachter, according to William L. Shirer, author of the book entitled The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Shirer wrote that the newspaper account blamed the “British Secret Service,” and even Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for the foul deed.

Shirer wrote in his diary on the evening of November 9th: “undoubtedly will buck up public opinion behind Hitler and stir up hatred of England . . . Most of us think it smells of another Reichstag fire.”

The following quote is from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer:

An hour or two after the bomb went off in Munich, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and the Gestapo, telephoned to one of his rising young subordinates, Walter Schellenberg at Duesseldorf and ordered him by command of the Fuehrer, to cross the border into Holland the next day and kidnap two British secret-service agents with whom Schellenberg had been in contact.


Up to this moment, the objectives of the two sides were clear. The British were trying to establish direct contact with the German military putschists in order to encourage and aid them. Himmler was attempting to find out through the British who the German plotters were and what their connection was to the enemy secret service. That Himmler and Hitler were already suspicious of some of the generals as well as men like Oster and Canaris of the Abwehr is clear. But now on the night of November 8, Hitler and Himmler found need of a new objective: Kidnap Best and Stevens and blame these two British secret-service agents for the Buergerbräu bombing!

After their arrest at Venlo, Captain S. Payne Best and Major Richard H. Stevens were both taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where Georg Elser was soon to become a prisoner in Cell No. 13, according to a book entitled The Venlo Incident, written by Captain Payne Best.

Captain Payne Best was later transferred to Buchenwald, and then to Dachau on April 9, 1945. In January 1941, Major Richard H. Stevens was moved to the bunker at Dachau where he remained until the VIP prisoners were evacuated on April 26, 1945.

Room where Richard H. Stevens was a prisoner at Dachau, 1943 to 1945

According to Captain S. Payne Best, Georg Elser had been a prisoner at the Dachau concentration camp prior to the assassination attempt. He had been arrested for being “anti-social” and “workshy,” according to Payne Best.

Captain S. Payne Best was transferred from Buchenwald to Dachau on April 9, 1945, on the very day that Georg Elser was executed, according to the Dachau Museum. Elser’s execution “apparently accounted for our long wait at the entrance to the camp,” according to Captain Payne Best’s account in his book, The Venlo Incident.

In his book, Captain S. Payne Best wrote that immediately upon his (Payne Best’s) arrival at Dachau, Georg Elser “was taken out into the garden by Stiller and shot in the back of the neck.

The man who shot Elser had been brought from one of the condemned cells and had been executed immediately after and both bodies had been taken at once to the crematorium.” The “garden” was the landscaped area north of the crematorium building at Dachau where the execution wall was located.

Sign designates spot, in the “garden”, where prisoners were executed with a shot in the neck

In his book entitled The Venlo Incident, Captain S. Payne Best included a copy of the order for The Englishman Best (Wolf) and other prisoners to be taken to Dachau which was in the same letter as the order for Georg Elser’s execution.

This letter is quoted below from The Venlo Incident:

Please quote date and above reference
your reply
(Rubber stamp)

KLD Dep. VIa-F-Sb. ABw
Received: 9-4-45
Daybook No. 42/45
the 5. April 1945
(in pencil)

State affair!

Express Letter

To the
Commandant of the K.L.
SS-Obersturmbannführer Weiter

On orders of the R(eichs) F(uhrer) SS and after obtaining the decision of the highest authority the prisoners scheduled below are immediately to be admitted to the K.L. Dachau.

The former Colonel-General Halder
General Thomas
Hjalmar Schacht
Schuschnigg with wife and child
The former General v. Falkenhausen
The Englishman Best (Wolf)
Molotov’s Nephew Kokorin
The Colonel, General Staff, v. Bonin

As I know that you only dispose of very limited space in the Cell Building I beg you, after examination to put these prisoners together. Please, however, take steps so that the prisoner Schuschnigg, who bears the pseudonym Oyster under which name kindly have him registered, is allotted a larger living cell. The wife has shared his imprisonment of her own free will and is therefore not a ‘prisoner-in-protective-custody’. I request that she may be allowed the same freedom as she has hitherto enjoyed.

The RF-SS directs that Halder, Thomas, Schacht, Schuschnigg, and v. Falkenhausen are to be well treated.

I beg you on all accounts to ensure that the prisoner Best (pseudonym Wolf) does not make contact with the Englishman Stevens who is already there.

v. Bonin was employed at the Führer’s Head Quarters and is now in a kind of honourable detention. He is still a Colonel on the Active List and will presumably retain this status. I beg you therefore to treat him particularly well.

The question of our prisoner in special protective custody, ‘Eller’, has also again been discussed at highest level. The following directions have been issued:

On the occasion of one of the next ‘Terror’ Attacks on Munich, or, as the case may be, the neighbourhood of Dachau, it shall be pretended that ‘Eller’ suffered fatal injuries.

I request you therefore, when such an occasion arises to liquidate ‘Eller’ as discreetly as possible. Please take steps that only very few people, who must be specially pledged to silence, hear about this. The notification to me regarding the execution of this order should be worded something like this:

On … on the occasion of a Terror Attack on … the prisoner in protective custody ‘Eller’ was fatally wounded.

After noting the contents and carrying out the orders contained in it kindly destroy this letter.

Signature: illegible.

Captain Payne Best explained that Eller was a pseudonym for Elser and that his own code name was Wolf, while Major Richard H. Stevens was known as Fuchs (Fox).

The following quote is from The Venlo Incident:

It is perhaps worth noting that the above letter, although written to the camp commandant, was contained in an envelope addressed to Untersturmführer Stiller with a note that, in the event of the latter’s death, it should be destroyed unopened. Stiller appears to have been a direct representative of the SD at Dachau and thus, although a subordinate, possessed of more real authority than the commandant. This was directly in line with Nazi policy which, as is the case in Soviet Russia, always took care that every man holding a position of any importance was kept under observation. There was another man, a Hauptscharführer, who appeared to spy on Stiller in turn.

Captain Payne Best’s book was published in 1950, but the transcript of Elser’s interrogation by the Gestapo was not released until the 1960ies.

Captain Payne Best wrote in his book that Georg Elser was guarded day and night at Sachsenhausen by three guards who stayed inside the cell with Elser. No one was allowed to get near Elser, but Captain Payne Best claimed that he nevertheless established a relationship with Elser by sending him gifts through the guards. Elser was so grateful that he built a bookshelf for Payne Best and hid a letter inside it. The letter contained Elser’s story of how he was approached by the two men at Dachau who offered him 40,000 Swiss francs and freedom in exchange for planting a bomb at the beer hall.

The Reverend Martin Niemöller, who was a prisoner at Sachenshausen, claimed that Georg Elser also told him his story, according to a footnote in William L. Shirer’s book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Based on what Elser told him, the Reverend Niemöller said later that his personal conviction was that Hitler had sanctioned the bombing to increase his own popularity and to stir up the war fever of the people.

Did the Reverend Niemöller really talk with this heavily-guarded, code-named prisoner, or did he get this opinion from fellow prisoner Captain Payne Best’s book? Did Hitler actually sanction an attempt on his own life in which he stayed inside the beer hall until 8 minutes before the bomb was set to go off?

Captain Payne Best wrote that Elser was stopped at the Swiss border on November 9th or 10th but the press reported that he had been arrested at the border while Hitler was still speaking, before the bomb went off.

Regarding Georg Elser, Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, a prisoner in the bunker at Dachau, wrote the following in his book entitled What was it like in the concentration camp Dachau?:

A thick veil enveloped him (Elser) and his outrage. It was characteristic that this joiner journeyman from Munich, who, it was reputed, had made an attempt on the life of the “Führer” (Hitler) on November 9, 1939 (sic), was not executed at once as the men of July 20, 1944. He was not even brought to trial, but he was carefully secluded from all the world, first in the camp at Sachsenhausen, later Dachau. Nevertheless, he always enjoyed special privileges, for example, he received a larger cell and a workshop, also sheet music for playing the zither, etc. When he was transferred to Dachau from Sachsenhausen because of the approach of the Russians on Berlin, a wall dividing two cells was taken down – men worked all day and night at it – to provide a larger cell for him. However, he was not allowed to come in contact with the other prisoners (except later in the shelter bunker during air raids); a guard had to sit in front of his door continuously.

Apparently, Elser was not taken to the shelter bunker during the air raid on the day that he was allegedly killed and Dr. Neuhäusler did not know what had happened to Elser until weeks later.

The following is a quote from Dr. Neuhäusler’s book:

In April 1945, he (Elser) suddenly disappeared. At that time, it puzzled us, but it was cleared up, however, when we were transferred to South Tyrol at the end of April 1945. Then our fellow-prisoner, Captain S. Paine (sic) Best, one of the two English officers who had been carried off by force after the Bürgerbräu outrage at Venlo, succeeded in taking an “express letter” from a SS-escort watchman, a letter which the chief of the Security Police and of the Security Service had addressed to the commandant of the Dachau camp on April 5, 1945.

Dr. Neuhäusler was wrong about the letter, according to Captain Payne Best’s version of the story. Payne Best had not taken the letter to anyone; he had only come into possession of the letter much later. According to Payne Best, the letter was in an open envelope addressed to SS man Edgar Stiller, who was in charge of the prisoners in the Dachau bunker. The letter itself was not addressed to anyone and the name of the man who signed it was not typewritten.

In a letter in answer to questions asked by the Magistrate of the Landgericht München II Court which was investigating Edgar Stiller as an accessory to the murder of Georg Elser in August 1951, Payne Best wrote:

8. Question: How did you come into possession of the above designated letter (Schnellbrief) dated 5 April 1945, together with the envelope?

Answer: On either 2nd or 3rd May 1945 an SS man belonging to Stiller’s guard troop came up to the Prags Wildbad Hotel and asked to see me. He was a tall man wearing a leather jacket and was, I believe, one of the drivers. He pulled out of his pocket an untidy bunch of papers saying: “Obersturmführer Stiller is burning all the papers he had with him. I put these in my pocket when he wasn’t looking. Perhaps they might interest you. He then went on to say that he was really Wehrmacht and not SS and had been drafted to the SS after his release from hospital; he showed me his Soldbuch in proof of his statement and asked whether I would let him stay with us and rejoin the Wehrmacht troops who had been sent by General von Vietinhof to protect us. We had had several similar cases and I believe Colonel von Bonin arranged with von Alvensleben for the man to be incorporated in the Wehrmacht troops under the latter’s command. When I examined the papers given to me by this man I found that most of them were merely daily routine orders regarding the running of the Sonderbau but amongst them I found the envelope containing the ‘Schnellbrief’ both of which I handed over some months ago to Dr. Josef Müller, Bayrisch Justizminister.

The Sonderbau, referred to by Captain Payne Best in the above quote was the “special building,” called the annex by Americans. It was the former brothel that was turned into a prison for VIP prisoners, including Payne Best, who was transferred from the bunker to the Sonderbau on April 21, 1945.

Dr. Neuhäusler wrote the following regarding the reason that the Nazis allegedly executed Georg Elser:

H. Best solved the further riddle for me why they first treated Elser favorably for six years and then suddenly and secretly “liquidated” him by the explanation:

“Very simple. At first they wanted to save Elser for a great staged trial after the victory, in which the (British) ‘Intelligence Service’ would have been exposed as the instigator of the Bürgerbräu outrage. All the taking of depositions had been practiced with Elser. But as they began to realize that the victory would not now take place, the staged trial fell through, the man who hid the secret of the outrage in his breast had to be silenced. An air-raid would give a good opportunity for the ‘liquidation’.”

On April 9, 1945, the Dachau complex was allegedly hit by an Allied bomb, providing the cover-up story for the secret execution of Georg Elser. Strangely, Elser was the only person in the bunker who was alleged to have been killed by a bomb that hit Dachau.

However, William L. Shirer wrote that the air raid took place on April 15, 1945:

Shortly before the war ended, on April 16, 1945, the Gestapo announced that Georg Elser had been killed in an Allied bombing attack the previous day. We know now that the Gestapo murdered him.

In a book entitled Target Hitler, by James P. Duffy and Vincent L. Ricci, it was stated that Eduard Weiter, the Commandant of Dachau, announced that Georg Elser had been mortally wounded during an Allied bombing raid. No date for the announcement or the air raid was given by Duffy and Ricci.

On April 21, 1945, after more VIP prisoners had been brought to Dachau and housed in the bunker, Captain Payne Best was moved to a barracks building called the annex, also known as “the girl’s school” or brothel, according to Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler. This date is important because this means that Captain Payne Best was still a prisoner in the bunker on April 15th, the day that Georg Elser was killed, according to William L. Shirer’s account of the Gestapo announcement. Captain Payne Best made a point of saying that he had not yet entered the Dachau camp on April 9, 1945, the day that he claimed that Georg Elser was killed.

Theodor Bongartz allegedly shot Georg Elser

The two SS men who were in charge of carrying out executions at Dachau were Franz Trenkle and Theodor Bongartz. According to the Museum at Dachau, Theodor Bongartz was the man who carried out the secret execution of Georg Elser on April 9, 1945, the secret execution of General Charles Delestraint on April 19, 1945, and the secret execution of Dr. Sigmund Rascher in the Dachau bunker on April 26, 1945. No execution orders from the Reich Security Head Office (RSHA) in Berlin were ever found for any of these executions.

The day before the Dachau camp was liberated by American troops, Bongartz fled along with the acting Commandant of the camp, Martin Gottfried Weiss, and most of the guards. Disguised as a Wehrmacht soldier, Bongartz was captured and imprisoned in an American Prisoner of War camp at Heilbronn-Böckingen. He allegedly died of natural causes on May 15, 1945 while in captivity.  Everyone who could possibly testify about the alleged execution of Georg Elser was now dead.

On the 60ieth anniversary of the death of Georg Elser, Barbara Distel, the director of the Dachau Museum at that time, gave a speech in which she claimed that Theodor Bongartz murdered Georg Elser with a shot in the neck and his body was cremated fully clothed in the Dachau crematorium.

In 1954, Theodor Bongartz was determined to have been the murderer of Georg Elser during a German court proceeding in which SS-Unterscharführer Edgar Stiller was on trial as an accessory to murder. As the SS man in charge of the special prisoners in the bunker from 1943 to 1945, Stiller was accused of escorting Elser to the crematorium where he was allegedly shot by Bongartz.

In a previous proceeding before an American Military Tribunal at Dachau, which started in November 1945, Stiller had been convicted of being a war criminal, although there were no specific charges brought against him, according to the Dachau Museum. Stiller was sentenced to 7 years in prison by the American Military Tribunal. Curiously, the death of Georg Elser was not mentioned at the American Military Tribunal proceedings against Stiller and 39 other staff members at Dachau.

Stiller was released from prison in 1950, before finishing his sentence, but was then arrested again and brought before a German court in 1951. The American Military Tribunal only tried cases in which the victims were citizens of the Allied countries. Crimes against German citizens, such as Georg Elser, were tried in German courts, beginning in 1948 when America and Germany became Allies.

Stiller was acquitted by the German court after Captain Payne Best gave him an excellent report in a letter to the judge. Captain Payne Best said that Stiller had saved the lives of the special prisoners in the bunker by turning them over to him after they were evacuated from the camp on April 26, 1945. According to Captain Payne Best, the VIP prisoners at Dachau had been sent to the South Tyrol to be killed, but Stiller had saved their lives.

However, in his letter to the Magistrate, Captain Payne Best answered another question with these words:

As far as I can remember it was (Wilhelm) Visintainer who told me that Elser had been killed by a “Genickschuss” and also that the SS-man who had shot him, a man taken from one of the death cells, had been executed immediately after Elser’s death. I cannot, however, state definitely from whom I had this information.

Captain Payne Best’s description of “the SS-man who shot him, a man taken from one of the death cells” could be a reference to one of the 128 SS men who were imprisoned in one wing of the bunker at Dachau.

If the motive for executing Georg Elser, just before the war ended, was that a staged trial could no longer take place because Germany was losing the war, why weren’t Captain Payne Best and Major Richard Stevens also “liquidated” at the same time, since they were also being held for the same trial which was to take place after the war was over?

The cover-up story was that Elser was killed during an air raid. Why didn’t this raise questions about why Elser had not been taken to the air raid shelter with the other important prisoners? The bunker was never hit by a bomb, so how was Elser supposed to get out of his cell and into a place where he could be killed during an air raid?

Was it just a coincidence that the order to transfer Captain Payne Best to Dachau was given in the same letter in which Hitler allegedly gave the order to secretly kill Elser and blame it on the next Allied air raid? Hitler believed that Captain Payne Best was involved in the plot to kill him, so why didn’t he also order the execution of Payne Best in this same letter?

Captain Payne Best made a point of saying in his book that he was held up at the gate into Dachau on April 9, 1945 because, just as he arrived, the execution of Elser was taking place at the crematorium which was outside the camp. He did not mention that there was an air raid on Munich or the Dachau area on that day.

Maybe in another 35 years or so, the British will open their files and tell the truth about their war time activities, including the true story of who killed Georg Elser and why.

May 1, 2010

Prisoners tortured in bunker at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:20 am

The tour guides, who show visitors around the former Dachau concentration camp, always mention how the prisoners were tortured in the bunker, which was a prison within the Dachau prison camp. Torture is usually a means of getting a person to confess, and according to testimony at the American Military Tribunal proceedings against the staff members of the Dachau camp, torture was, in fact, used to obtain confessions. But it was the SS men who testified that they were the ones who were tortured to force them to confess, not the prisoners who were tortured.

Room in Dachau bunker where prisoners were interrogated

A sign in the interrogation room in the bunker at Dachau tells visitors that this room had double doors and cavity walls to prevent cries from being heard as the prisoners were tortured. There is no mention of exactly how the prisoners were tortured.

This quote is from a blog about a recent tour of the Dachau Memorial site:

This picture is in the bunker, which was where the “worst” of the prisoners were tortured, often until they died or committed suicide.

I took this photo in the Dachau bunker, May 2001

And this quote from another blog:

The bunker was an area were the SS (protective squad) would brutally torture prisoners. The inmates would often be imprisoned in the bunker for up to eight months. They had little food and no interaction with the outside the world. The cells were extremely tiny and without windows. In the bunker, SS guards would brutally beat prisoners into false confessions or drive them to commit suicide.

Actually, the bunker was where the important prisoners were kept in individual cells at Dachau; they could leave their cells and walk around the camp during the day.  All the cells had windows, as you can see in the photo below.

Dachau bunker is on the right, Museum is on the left

AFIK, the tour guides never mention the names of the prisoners who were tortured. The most famous person who claimed that he was tortured at Dachau is Gustav Petrat, an SS guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp who was convicted of being a war criminal by an American Military Tribunal conducted at Dachau. Petrat wrote a last statement before he was executed at Landsberg am Lech; you can read his statement here.

Gustav Petrat claims that he was tortured by American soldiers at Dachau

Ironically, one of the accused at the proceedings against the staff members of the Dachau camp by the American Military Tribunal, who testified that he was tortured by American military officers, was Johann Kick.  As the head of the Gestapo office at Dachau, Kick was charged with the specific crime of torturing prisoners in the Dachau bunker between January 1, 1942 and April 29, 1945, during which time Allied nationals were imprisoned at Dachau.

Kick testified about being tortured by Jewish interrogators at Dachau on November 29, 1945, the same day that a film about the Dachau gas chamber was shown at the Nuremberg IMT.

The following testimony at the American Military Tribunal is from Johann Kick:

Q: … will you describe to the court the treatment that you received prior to your first interrogation anyplace?

(Prosecution objection as to whether beating received on the 6th of May could be relevant to confession signed on the 5th of November).

Q: … Kick, did the treatment you received immediately following your arrest have any influence whatever on the statements that you made on the 5th of November?

A: … The treatment at that time influenced this testimony to that extent, that I did not dare to refuse to sign, in spite of the fact that it did not contain the testimony which I gave.

Q: Now, Kick, for the court, will you describe the treatment which you received immediately following your arrest?

A: I ask to refuse to answer this question here in public.

President: The court desires to have the defendant answer the question.

A: I was here in Dachau from the 6th to the 15th of May, under arrest; during this time I was beaten all during the day and night… kicked… I had to stand to attention for hours; I had to kneel down on sharp objects or square objects; I had to stand under the lamp for hours and look into the light, at which time I was also beaten and kicked; as a result of this treatment my arm was paralyzed for about 8 to 10 weeks; only beginning with my transfer to Augsberg, this treatment stopped.

Q: What were you beaten with?

A: With all kinds of objects.

Q: Describe them, please.

A: With whips, with lashing whips, with rifle butts, pistol butts, and pistol barrels, and with hands and fists.

Q: And that continued daily over a period of what time?

A: From the morning of the 7th of May until the morning of the 15th of May.

Q: Kick, why did you hesitate to give that testimony?

A: If the court hadn’t decided I should talk about it, I wouldn’t have said anything about it today.

Q: Would you describe the people who administered these beatings to you?

A: I can only say that they were persons who were wearing the United States uniform and I can’t describe them any better.

Q: And as a result of those beatings when Lt. Guth called you in, what was your frame of mind?

A: I had to presume that if I were to refuse to sign I would be subjected to a similar treatment.

Dr. Wilhelm Witteler, who was accused by the American Military Tribunal of making leather goods out of human skin at Dachau, also testified that he signed his confession after being tortured.

Another torture that is always mentioned by the tour guides at Dachau is the standing cells.  The standing cells, which were in the bunker, were made of wood and they were torn down by the American military after Dachau was liberated, according to the Dachau Museum. Both Johann Kick and Martin Gottfried Weiss, the Commandant of Dachau, testified  that they had heard about the standing cells for the first time at the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal.

A drawing of the alleged standing cells in the bunker is shown below.

Standing cells in the bunker are shown in drawing

In the Dachau Museum, a whipping block, that was used to punish the prisoners, is displayed. Visitors are told that prisoners were given 25 lashes for such minor offenses as having a button missing from their uniform or putting their hands in their pocket.

One visitor wrote this on his blog:

“In the shower room they had set up a table where they used to whip people if they did anything against the rules. The rules included things such as having a dried spot of water on the bowl you ate out of.”

Former prisoner demonstrates the whipping block

The photo above was taken during the proceedings against the staff members  at Dachau by the American Military Tribunal, which started in November 1945.  Notice that the whipping block is an ordinary table, not the actual whipping block, which by that time was long gone because whipping had been discontinued in 1942.

Whipping block displayed in the Museum at Dachau

What visitors to Dachau are not told is that all punishments at Dachau and all the other concentration camps had to be approved by the WVHA economic office in Oranienburg; Rudolf Hoess was a member of the WVHA staff after he was removed as the Commandant of Auschwitz in December 1943.

At the Nuremberg IMT, on April 15, 1946, Hoess testified that punishment on the whipping block was seldom used and that this punishment was discontinued in 1942 or 1943 because Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had given a new order that the SS men were forbidden to strike the prisoners. Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler mentioned in his book entitled What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau? that this order was given by Himmler in 1942.

Another thing, that the tour guides never mention, is that a section of the bunker at Dachau was reserved for SS men who were imprisoned for committing a crime.  This part of the bunker has been torn down, but you can see where it once stood in the photo below.

The SS section of the bunker at Dachau was formerly located in this spot

The tour guides at Dachau give visitors the impression that the SS men were allowed to abuse the prisoners in any way they wanted to.  There were actually two prisons for the SS men who broke the strict rules in the camps, and one of them was at Dachau.