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November 16, 2015

The whipping of prisoners in the concentration camps

My photo of a whipping block on display at the Dachau memorial sire

My photo of a whipping block on display at Dachau memorial site

A new reader of my blog recently made a comment about the prisoners in the concentration camps being whipped.

In the Dachau Museum, a whipping block, that was used to punish the prisoners, was on display when I visited the Dachau Memorial Site in 2007.  It is shown in my photo above.

Visitors to the Museum 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 pockets.

One visitor to the Dachau Museum 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.

What visitors to the Dachau Museum are not told is that all punishments had to be authorized by WVHA, the Central Office for Economic Administration in Oranienburg, after a report was filed; punishments for women had to be personally approved by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Imagine someone at the central office in charge of the camps reading a request for punishment of a prisoner who had a “dried spot of water” on his bowl.

Visitors to the Dachau Museum are not told that the whipping block was no longer used after 1942 when Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler gave an order that the SS men in the concentration camps were forbidden to “lay violent hands on the prisoners.”

American generals watch a demonstration of the whipping block at Ohrdruf camp

American generals watch a demonstration of the whipping block at Ohrdruf camp

A whipping block was constructed for a demonstration at Ohrdruf. Notice that it is not a real whipping block, like the one in the photo at the top of this page.

Rudolf Wolf, a former prisoner at Dachau, demonstrates the whipping block at the Dachau trial of Franz Trenkle

Rudolf Wolf, a former prisoner at Dachau, demonstrates the whipping block at the Dachau trial of Franz Trenkle

In the photo above, Rudolf Wolf, a former prisoner at Dachau, demonstrates the whipping block. Notice that this appears to be an ordinary table, not a whipping block like the one on display in the Dachau Museum.

Wolf testified that Franz Trenkle was in charge of punishments in the camp. In the photograph above, Wolf shows how he had to bend over the whipping block when he was punished at Dachau. Franz Trenkle was convicted and hanged on May 28, 1946.

Fake photo of the hanging punishment at Dachau

Fake photo of the hanging punishment in the Dachau Museum

The hanging punishment, shown in the photo above, was originated by Martin Sommer, an SS officer at Buchenwald. This punishment was abolished at Dachau by Commandant Martin Weiss in 1942.

Sommer was dismissed from his job at Buchenwald and sent to the Eastern front after being put on trial in 1943 in SS judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen’s court for abuse of the prisoners.

The photograph above, taken inside the old Dachau Museum in May 2001, shows a scene at Buchenwald that was created in 1958 for an East German DEFA film. (Source: H. Obenaus, “Das Foto vom Baumhängen: Ein Bild geht um die Welt,” in Stiftung Topographie des Terrors Berlin (ed.), Gedenkstätten-Rundbrief no. 68, Berlin, October 1995, pp. 3-8)

This fake photo was not included in the new Dachau Museum which opened in 2003, but all the tour guides at Dachau were still dwelling at length on the hanging punishment during my visits to the Memorial Site.

I previously blogged about Martin Sommer on this blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/two-catholic-priests-were-crucified-upside-down-at-buchenwald/

May 20, 2013

Tour guide tells students about a “man-made hill” that was put into place at Dachau

On May 19, I blogged about tour guides at Dachau who tell lies about the history of the camp.

Now it has come to my attention that another tour guide at Dachau is telling some very dubious stories about the camp.  You can read about what a Dachau tour guide told a 20 year old British tourist here:

This quote is from this student’s blog post about her trip to Dachau:

We stopped at a map for a quick briefing before the tour, but I was pretty eager to get moving. Here he explained that Dachau was home to the first concentration camp. That being said, it’s a little different to visit. During the time of the camp, the town turned a blind eye to what was going on right under their nose – and this happened everywhere. This is how the Nazis got away with so much. So naturally, after the camp was liberated, the people were embarrassed. As a result, they tried to hide the camp. Most of the barracks were destroyed, a man made hill was put into place, and trees were planted to enclose what was the most shameful part of the small city. In later years, though, the city decided to embrace its culture rather than turning their backs on history. Thus, the memorial was built and it became a place for people to visit and to learn and understand. […]

First of all, the people in the town of Dachau did not try to hide the camp.  The people in the town were cowering in fear of the former Jewish prisoners who were brought to the town and allowed to live in the homes of the residents, who were forced out with nothing but a fine-toothed comb.

The barracks in the Dachau concentration camp were not destroyed.  The camp was turned into a camp for alleged German war criminals.  You can read about “War Crimes Enclosure No. 1” on my website here.

From 1965 to 2003, the Dachau Memorial Site had nothing about the 30,000 “German war criminals” who were held in the Dachau concentration camp barracks from June 1945 to August 1948. In May 2003, I visited the new museum, that had just opened at Dachau. There was one small display board about the prison camp for Germans at Dachau and also one small display board about the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau.

German prisoners line up outside the gate into War Crimes Enclosure No. I in the Dachau camp

German prisoners line up outside  “War Crimes Enclosure No. I” in the former Dachau concentration camp

What about the “man made hill” at Dachau?  Why was a hill constructed outside the camp?

The photo below shows what looks like two “man-made” hills on either side of the entrance to the Dachau Memorial Site.

Grass covered mounds on both sides of the entrance to Dachau Memorial Site

Grass covered mounds on both sides of the entrance to Dachau Memorial Site

On the left side of the photo above, you can see clearly that there is a small grass-covered hill.  On the right side of the photo, there is another grass-covered mound in the shadows of the trees.  Are these the trees that the tour guide said were planted to “enclose the most shameful part of the small city” of Dachau?

My photo below shows the line of trees that hide the Memorial Site today.

Door into Dachau gate house

Door into Dachau gate house with a line of trees on the left side of the photo

The fence that is shown in my 2005 photo above was not there when Dachau was a concentration camp.  The fence was added when the entrance to the Dachau Memorial Site was changed so that tourists can now enter the Memorial Site the same way that the prisoners did — through the Arbeit Macht Frei gate.

The trees in the photo above are not the original trees that were there when Dachau was a concentration camp.  The old photo below shows that a line of poplar trees originally hid the camp from view.  The reason that these trees were planted was to hide the concentration camp from the SS garrison which was right next to the camp.

Old photo  of the Dachau gatehouse shows a line old poplar trees on the left

Old photo of the Dachau gatehouse shows a line of poplar trees on the left

Note the Würm river canal and the barbed wire fence around the concentration camp in the photo above.  The tower in the background is Tower B, which was torn down, but has been reconstructed.

Let’s get back to the “man made hill” that the guide pointed out to the tourists; the two mounds on either side of the gatehouse are covering the ruins of the factories that were located just outside the camp. The factory, shown on the right side of the photo below, was torn down when the camp was turned into a refugee camp.  Ethnic Germans, who had been expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II, lived in the former Dachau barracks for 17 years.

A factory that was just outside the Dachau gatehouse

A factory that was just outside the Dachau gatehouse

In the photo above, the Dachau concentration camp is shown on the left side.  Note the lone poplar tree that is all that is left of the former line of poplar trees that hid the  Dachau concentration camp from the SS garrison, which is behind the camera.

The old photo below shows the Würm river canal and the line of poplar trees that separated the camp from the SS garrison.

Dachau concentration camp with moat and poplar trees

Dachau concentration camp with moat and poplar trees

Getting back to what the tour guide told the tourists, this quote is from the blog of the 20-year-old British student:

The tour was the hardest towards the end when we went to the gas chamber. Dachau’s gas chamber is still standing. We learned that people who were killed in the gas chambers commonly came from other camps. They simply thought they were being shaved and showered just like any other camp. I had never considered this before, but I suppose it makes it seem less depressing than them knowing that they were going to die. The chambers were used a lot more towards the end of the camp because of disease and over-population. Thousands of people were killed in the chambers. The original ovens used to cremate the bodies were still there as well as the upgraded ones they used later on. I was standing outside the building, listening to our guide explain, and I saw the picture posted right there.

Bodies piled up outside the Dachau crematorium

Bodies piled up outside the Dachau crematorium

The photo above shows dead bodies piled up outside Baracke X.  Near the end of the war, the Dachau camp had run out of coal to burn the bodies.  After the camp was liberated, these bodies were taken by the Dachau residents to Leitenberg, a hill where bodies were buried in mass graves.  But first, the bodies were left there for weeks, so that American soldiers could be brought to the camp and told that Dachau prisoners had been gassed in the building that is shown behind the bodies.

“The [gas] chambers were used a lot more towards the end of the camp because of disease and over-population”? (quote from the student’s blog)

Did the tour guide really say that?  It is true that there was a typhus epidemic in the camp, and the camp was over-populated because prisoners had been brought to the main camp from the sub-camps, so that they could be turned over to the Allies.  But did the Nazis try to stop disease and over-crowding by gassing the prisoners?

The blogger did not give the name of the tour guide, but this quote describes him:

The tour met outside the train station in Munich, where we caught a train and then a bus to the concentration camp. Dachau Concentration Camp was the first concentration camp. We were in for a big taste of history. Our tour guide was a self-made tour guide who started his work with Dachau and (from what I understand) studied art in college and was now a teacher of some sort. He was a born and bred Irish Catholic turned Atheist who, at times, seemed incredibly biased in his descriptions. (I found this amusing because he was hell bent on pushing the acknowledgement of equality of those affected by the camps.) He was entertaining, though. Since he was sort of cynical and dark-humored, it made the tour more lighthearted.

Note that the blogger wrote that the tour guide “seemed incredibly biased” and she “found this amusing.”

I interpret the statement “he was hell bent on pushing the acknowledgement of equality of those affected by the camps” to mean that he wanted to include the homosexual prisoners, the Gypsies, and the Catholic priests in the suffering at Dachau, and not just talk about the Jews.  In the future, maybe he could include the German “war criminals” who were imprisoned at Dachau, and the ethnic Germans who lived there for 17 years.  For example, he might mention that the ethnic German refugees were kicked out of the barracks at Dachau in 1965 so a Memorial Site could be built to replace their only home.

The photo below shows a restaurant, in a former disinfection hut, where the German refugees could gather and socialize, before it was torn down in 1965 to make room for a Memorial Site.  The location of the restaurant is where the Jewish Memorial now stands.

Former "disinfection hut" at Dachau was turned into a restaurant for ethnic German refugees

Former “disinfection hut” at Dachau was turned into a restaurant for ethnic German refugees

December 5, 2010

German war crimes in WWII: shooting Soviet POWs for target practice

One of the stories told by the tour guides at the Dachau Memorial Site is that Soviet Prisoners of War were used for target practice at a rifle range located outside the camp. The Dachau Museum gives visitors the information that 6,000 Soviet POWs were shot at the Herbertshausen rifle range.

Soviet POWs were imprisoned in many different camps in the concentration camp system, but Dachau was apparently the only camp where they were used by SS soldiers for target practice.  I previously blogged about the unique method of executing Soviet POWs at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen here.

(more…)

June 15, 2010

How the story of Dachau, as told to tourists, has changed over the years…

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

This morning, I came across some excellent photos of Dachau, taken by a visitor who was there on May 27, 2010.  Included among the photos, which you can see here, were two photos of signs that have been put up at the camp since I last visited.

One of the new signs has these words:

The particular hate of the SS men was vented [on the Jewish prisoners], they were beaten, hounded by dogs, starved, forced to heavy, trying work, and above all hit with rifle butts and batons until they died under the beating. If someone needed too long to die, a SS man with boots jumped on his chest, the breastbone broke with dry crackle, blood flowed out of the victim’s mouth, and then slowly the body went rigid.

“Listy spod morwy” (Leaves under the Mulberry Tree) prisoner account of Gustaw Morcinek (1940 – 1945 in the Dachau conentration camp), 1957 (excerpt)

Right away, I deduced that Gustaw Morcinek was not Jewish because he was a prisoner in the camp from 1940 to 1945, and he was not stomped to death by an SS man.

I had never heard of Gustaw Morcinek, nor his book Leaves under the Mulberry Tree, so I had to google him.  I learned from Wikipedia that Morcinek was arrested in Poland by the Gestapo on September 6, 1939, less than a week after Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  According to Wikipedia, the supposed reason given for his arrest was his “anti-German activity” before World War II.  Was Morcinek one of the Poles who were killing ethnic Germans in Poland or forcing them off their land?

Soon after the Germans crossed the border on September 1, 1939, they talked to tearful ethnic German women in Poland who told them all about the atrocities committed by the Poles; the Germans filmed this scene and you can still see it in some documentaries.

I think that the quote from Gustaw Morcinek needs an explanation, so that visitors can evaluate his degree of bias.  It should be mentioned on the sign that Morcinek was one of the first people arrested in Poland for his “anti-German activities” before the war.  An explanation of just what those activities were would be helpful.  One of the stories that I read was that the Poles were killing ethnic Germans, then cutting open the corpse and stuffing a dead rabbit inside.  I would really like to know what that was all about.

As for Morcinek’s description of how the prisoners were treated, the SS men had a different version of the story.  Rudolf Hoess, the infamous Commandant of Auschwitz, was a member of the Dachau staff from 1934 to 1938. With regard to Dachau and the other Nazi camps, Hoess testified as follows at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on April 15, 1946:

DR. KAUFFMANN: I ask you, therefore, first of all, whether you have any knowledge regarding the treatment of internees, whether certain methods became known to you according to which they were tortured and cruelly treated? Please formulate your statement according to periods, up to 1939 and after 1939.

HOESS: Until the outbreak of war in 1939, the situation in the camps regarding feeding, accommodations, and treatment of internees, was the same as in any other prison or penitentiary in the Reich. The internees were treated severely, but methodical beatings or ill-treatments were out of the question. The Reichsführer gave frequent orders that every SS man who laid violent hands on an internee would be punished; and several times SS men who did ill-treat internees were punished.

Another sign at the Dachau Memorial Site has these words:

Death from Starvation

In Dachau death only seldom had a heroic character. Death was something normal, it occurred everywhere: at roll call, at work, on the block road, at the toilets.  In normal life the death of a cat that has died on the street draws attention and arouses pity.  The emaciated, wretched prisoner lying in death attracted no great attention.

That was Dachau by Stanislav Zamecnik (1941 – 1945 in the Dachau Concentration Camp), 2002 (excerpt)

The Dachau Memorial site now sells the book written by Stanislav Zamecnik as the official history of Dachau. Previously, the official history of Dachau was a book written by a prisoner named Paul Berben.

According to Paul Berben’s book, the following items were for sale in the canteen at Dachau:

Beetroot jam, oatmeal, sauerkraut, dried vegetables, tinned mussels and fish, cucumbers, condiments, etc. were on sale The canteen also stocked articles such as needles and thread, and particularly lotions, creams and perfume: the close-cropped prisoner was invited to buy something to put on his hair!

Berben maintains that, in the early days before the war, the prisoners received adequate food, and even after the war started, the prisoners who worked received extra food.

The following quote is from Paul Berben’s book:

When manpower needs became pressing during the war supplementary food was sanctioned to increase output. Certain categories of workers were given a much appreciated “second breakfast,” called Brotzeit, consisting of an eighth or tenth part of a loaf and 2 ounces of sausage.

When prisoners went to the town of Dachau to work, the people in the town sometimes tried to give them food, but this was forbidden by the Nazis. They did, however, allow the clergy in Dachau to collect and send food packages to the camp for the prisoners.

Berben wrote:

From the end of 1942, however, large consignments of food and other useful things did reach the camp.

The following quote is from Paul Berben’s book:

Food parcels could be sent to the clergy and the food situation improved noticeably. Germans and Poles particularly received them in considerable quantities from their families, their parishioners and members of religious communities. In Block 26 one hundred sometimes arrived on the same day. This period of relative plenty lasted till the end of 1944 when the disruption of communications stopped the dispatch of parcels. Nevertheless the German clergy continued to receive food through the Dean of Dachau, Herr Pfanzelt, to whom the correspondents sent food tickets: the priests bought bread and sausage with these and sent the parcels by the local post.

Red Cross packages also reached the camp, according to Paul Berben, who mentioned that the Red Cross sent thousands of parcels to Dachau.

Nerin E. Gun, a journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau, wrote in his book The Day of the Americans, that there was a thriving black market operating in the shower room in the administration building at Dachau; cigarettes were used as currency and the items that were sold or traded were from the Red Cross packages or from packages that all of the inmates, except for the Nacht und Nebel prisoners, were allowed to receive from friends and relatives.

On pages 121 and 122 of his book The Day of the Americans, Nerin E. Gun wrote:

Then there was the matter of the Red Cross food parcels. A large number of them were issued to the prisoners during the last days of our captivity. The Germans no loner knew what to do with them. Because of the Allied advance, the only road open to the supply trains of the International Red Cross from Switzerland was the road to Dachau. So all the food packages intended for all the other prison camps had been funneled to Dachau. The camp commander, probably thinking he was making points for himself in the final days, decided to distribute them among the internees. It was manna from heaven, for food had become extremely scarce in the camp and the statistics of those dying of starvation had soared.

But the Geneva International Red Cross had a very “Swiss franc” concept of human solidarity. It had laid down the rule that the packages could be given only to nationals of those countries which contributed hard-currency dollars to the organization. Therefore the food could legally be given only to Frenchmen, Belgians, Dutchmen, to some Poles, to Scandinavians and other citizens of Allied countries. Russians, Germans, Italians and Jews were entitled to nothing.

[…]

These windfalls turned out to be the cause of serious trouble, arguments, sometimes bloody fights. Each parcel call meant that the following night there might be up to a hundred dead. The Russians, true to their Bolshevik catechism, used force to seize the packages belonging to others. The Poles, even though they got their own packages, wanted more, and organized regular armed expeditions to get them. The German Kapos demanded their rake-off.

Visitors to the Dachau Memorial Site don’t want to hear about the camp canteen nor about the Red Cross packages, and certainly not about the “second breakfast” given to the prisoners.  They don’t want to hear about how the SS men were punished for “laying violent hands on the prisoners.”  They only want to know about how the Dachau prisoners were starved to death, or beaten to death.  Only then can they return to Munich, having gotten their money’s worth on their tour of Dachau, and visit the Hofbräuhaus, the next stop on their tour of Germany.