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March 23, 2014

What was it really like at Buchenwald?

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:29 am

In my blog post today, I am responding to a comment made by a reader of my blog, who wrote:

“What reason would have had Buchenwald inmates to lie about that Concentration Camp conditions? Do you know the work of Eugen Kogon, an austrian right wing catholic nationalist-?”

Yes, I know all about Eugen Kogon. You can read the story of Eugen Kogon on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugen_Kogon#Works_as_co-editor

Eugen Kogon testified for the prosecution at the Buchenwald trial in 1947

Eugen Kogon testified for the prosecution at the Buchenwald trial on April 16, 1947

One thing that Wikipedia does not mention is that Eugen Kogon’s famous book was based on The Buchenwald Report written by the Americans who liberated the camp on April 11, 1945.

Dr. Eugen Kogon was an Austrian Social Democrat and political activist, who was a prisoner at Buchenwald from September 1939 to April 1945. You can read more about Eugen Kogon at this revisionist website:

http://www.whale.to/b/eugen_kogon.html

Kogon was the main contributor to The Buchenwald Report, a 400-page book about the Buchenwald camp which was put together in only four weeks by the US Army, after conducting interviews with over 100 former prisoners at the camp.

Kogon later wrote a book called The Theory and Practice of Hell, which was a rewrite of The Buchenwald Report and one of the first books about the Nazi atrocities in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Kogon testified during the Dachau proceedings, at the American Military Tribunal, about the harsh treatment suffered by the prisoners at Buchenwald, although he himself was one of the privileged political prisoners, who actually ran the camp.

During the AMT proceedings, Kogon’s testimony was contradicted by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, who was the main witness for the defense in the Buchenwald case.

Dr. Morgen had also testified at the Nuremberg IMT in August 1946, before the Buchenwald case came to trial at the American Military Tribunal at Dachau.

At Nuremberg, Morgen testified on 7 August 1946 regarding the conditions at Buchenwald. In response to a question from the prosecutor at Nuremberg, Morgen had answered as follows:

Q. Did you gain the impression, and at what time, that the concentration camps were places for the extermination of human beings?

A. I did not gain this impression. A concentration camp is not a place for the extermination of human beings. I must say that my first visit to a concentration camp, namely Weimar-Buchenwald, was a great surprise to me. The camp was on wooded heights, with a wonderful view. The installations were clean and freshly painted. There were grass and flowers. The prisoners were healthy, normally fed, sun-tanned, working…

THE PRESIDENT of the Tribunal: When are you speaking of? When are you speaking of?

A. I am speaking of the beginning of my investigations in July, 1943.

Q. What crimes – you may continue – please, be more brief.

A. The installations of the camp were in good order, especially the hospital. The camp authorities, under the Commandant Pister, aimed at providing the prisoners with an existence worthy of human beings. They had regular mail service. They had a large camp library, even with foreign books. They had variety shows, motion pictures, sporting events. They even had a brothel. Nearly all the other concentration camps were similar to Buchenwald.

THE PRESIDENT: What was it they even had?

A. A brothel.

To get back to the question of why the inmates of the Buchenwald camp would lie about the conditions in the camp:

The first camp, that was ever seen by the American military, was Ohrdruf, which was a sub-camp of Buchenwald. On April 12, 1945, General George Patton visited the Ohrdruf camp, along with General Omar Bradley and General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

General Patton was the only one of the 3 generals, who then visited the main Buchenwald camp. On April 15, 1945, the day that General George S. Patton visited Buchenwald, he wrote the following in a letter to General Dwight D. Eisenhower:

“I told the press to go up there and see it, and then write as much about it as they could. I also called General Bradley last night and suggested that you send selected individuals from the upper strata of the press to look at it, so that you can build another page of the necessary evidence as to the brutality of the Germans.”

So to answer the reader’s question: the American military wanted to “build another page of the necessary evidence as to the brutality of the Germans.”

In other words, General Patton wanted to start a propaganda campaign to demonize the German people for time and all eternity.

Patton later changed his mind about the Germans and turned against the Jews, which some people think was the reason for his untimely death.

Truck loads of Americans soldiers were brought to the Buchenwald camp after it was liberated

Truck loads of Americans soldiers were brought to the Buchenwald camp several days after it was liberated on April 11, 1945

After the Buchenwald camp was liberated, truck loads of American  soldiers were brought to the camp, as shown in the photo above.

These American soldiers were astounded when the Communist prisoners in the Buchenwald camp took them to see a display table, which showed pieces of tattooed human skin, two shrunken heads, preserved human body parts, an ash tray made from a human bone, and a table lamp with a lampshade allegedly made from human skin. The shrunken heads resembled those made by primitive tribes in South America.

Display table put up at Buchenwald for the benefit of American soldiers who were brought to see the camp

Display table put up at Buchenwald for the benefit of American soldiers who were brought to see the camp several days after the camp was liberated

A movie about the Buchenwald camp, directed by famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder, was made by a film crew of the Signal Corps of the US Army, shortly after the liberation of the camp; it included some footage of the display table, shown in the photo above.

In 1947, the American Military Tribunal held proceedings against 31 people associated with the Buchenwald camp. The so-called “Buchenwald trial” began with the showing of the film that had been made by Billy Wilder. The defense objected to the showing of this film, pointing out that the film had been made three or four days after the camp came under the control of the American Army, and that it did not show anything that had occurred prior to that time.

The objection was overruled and the film was shown. The defense also objected to the display of the two shrunken heads, but this objection was also overruled.

Dr. Kurte Sitte shows a shrunken head during the Buchenwald proceedings of the AMT

Dr. Kurte Sitte shows a shrunken head during the Buchenwald proceedings of the AMT

At the Buchenwald trial, Dr. Kurte Sitte, a 36-year-old doctor of Physics at Manchester University, who had been a political prisoner at Buchenwald since September 1939, testified that a shrunken head, which he identified in the courtroom, was the head of a Polish prisoner who had been decapitated on the order of SS Doctor Mueller at Buchenwald. Although the prisoners in all the Nazi camps had their heads shaved, this Polish prisoner had long black hair at the time he was decapitated.

American defense attorney Capt. Emmanuel Lewis objected to the admission of the shrunken head into evidence because Dr. Mueller was not on trial, but his objection was overruled. Under the rules of the American Military Tribunal, any and all evidence was admissible, whether or not it pertained to the case, because the charges against all of the accused was participating in a “common plan” to commit war crimes. There was no defense to the “common plan” charge.

In all of the Nazi concentration camps, all punishments and executions had to be cleared with the main office in Oranienburg.  An SS officer, named Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, was in charge of investigating cruelty and black market activities in all of the camps. Col. Karl Otto Koch, the Commandant of Buchenwald, had been engaging in both of these crimes, and he was eventually arrested in August 1943 for inciting the murder of two prisoners and for embezzlement.

According to The Buchenwald Report, the murder charge against Col. Koch was based on the accusation that he had ordered the execution of hospital orderly Walter Krämer and his assistant, both of whom had treated Koch for syphilis; Koch wanted them killed so that they could not reveal his secret. According to the charges against him, Koch had falsely claimed that these two men were executed for political reasons.

Ilse Koch, the wife of the Commandant, and Dr. Waldemar Hoven were also arrested by Morgen in August 1943 for mistreatment and murder of the prisoners.

After a six-month investigation, Karl Otto Koch was condemned to death on both counts of murder and embezzlement, but his wife, Ilse Koch, was acquitted of these charges. The charge of making lampshades from human skin was withdrawn by Morgen for lack of evidence.

According to The Buchenwald Report, one week before the American liberators arrived, Col. Koch was executed by the Nazis at the German Armament Works near the camp, thus saving the Americans the trouble of putting him on trial. However, in a footnote in the book, Death Dealer, editor Steven Paskuly wrote that Koch “was shot in Buchenwald in September 1944.”

Ilse Koch’s lover, SS officer Hermann Florstedt, was later transferred to the Majdanek camp, where he became the Commandant. Florstedt was also executed by the Nazis after he was convicted in an SS Court by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen.

After the war, Dr. Morgen was imprisoned in War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 at the former Dachau concentration camp to await his own trial as a war criminal. As a member of the SS, Dr. Morgen was automatically a war criminal because the SS had been declared a criminal organization by the Allies after the war.

Dr. Morgen was asked to sign an affidavit that his investigation had determined that Ilse Koch ordered lamp shades made from human skin, but he refused even after several beatings by the American interrogators, according to historian John Toland in his book entitled Adolf Hitler.

The Nazi concentration camps had been declared to be a criminal enterprise by the Allies. Under the ex-post-facto law of co-responsibility which was used in all the World War II war crimes trials, anyone who had worked in one of the camps in any capacity was a war criminal. The 31 accused persons in the Buchenwald trial included at least one person who represented each job title in the camp.

The relatively low number of Buchenwald war criminals might have been due to the fact that 76 of the SS staff members had been hunted down and killed by the inmates with the help of the American liberators.

It was not a war crime for American soldiers to kill German POWs because General Dwight D. Eisenhower had had the foresight in March 1945 to designate all future German POWs as Disarmed Enemy Forces in order to get around the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929, which America had signed.

The charges against the 31 accused war criminals in the Buchenwald trial was that they had participated in a “common design” or a “common plan” to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1929. These two conventions stated the rules of warfare pertaining to Enemy Prisoners of War.

Buchenwald was not a prisoner of war camp, but in the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau, the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps were designated as detainees, who were entitled to the same treatment as POWs under the Geneva Convention of 1929. It was not until 1949, after all the Military Tribunals, conducted by the Allies, had been concluded, that a new Geneva Convention gave all detainees the same rights as POWs.

January 31, 2014

The fate of Eleanor Hodys, according to Nizkor and Wikipedia

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:26 am

This morning, I had to do some research on Dr. Konrad Morgen, the SS judge, who was mentioned in a comment on my blog. The person, who commented, found it strange that an SS judge would be given the task of investigating murder in the concentration camps, when the sole purpose of the camps was to murder the prisoners.

In my research, I read Wikipedia’s page on Dr. Morgan, where I found this quote:

Though [Dr. Morgen] discovered early on that the Final Solution of the Jewish problem through physical extermination was beyond his jurisdiction, and discovered no legal objections to large-scale, centrally-authorized anti-Jewish operations like Harvest Festival [the execution of Jews at Majdanek], Morgen went on to prosecute so many Nazi officers for individual violations that by April 1944, Himmler personally ordered him to restrain his cases.[4]

Nonetheless, [Dr. Morgen] went on to investigate Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Höss on charges of having “unlawful relations” with a beautiful Jewish woman prisoner, Eleanor Hodys; Höss was, for a time, removed from his command and these proceedings gained Hodys a brief stay of execution; sent to Berlin by Morgen, then transferred to Buchenwald, she was shot by the SS shortly before the end of the war.[5]

The source [5] for this information is this website: http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/camps/auschwitz/alphabet/judge.html

After Eleanor Hodys was “shot by the SS before the end of the war,” her ghost turned up at the Dachau camp, where she told her sad story to the American liberators of the camp.  Her testimony was included in the book, written by the liberators, entitled Dachau Liberated: The Official Report.

I blogged about the testimony of Eleanor Hodys, as given to the Americans at Dachau, on this blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/more-stories-from-dachau-liberated-the-official-report/

I believe that the American liberators got the story of the standing cells from Eleanor Hodys, and that the claim that there were standing cells at Dachau is based on her story.  The alleged standing cells at Dachau are no longer in existence.

I also blogged about the sad story, told by Eleanor Hodys, at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/did-rudolf-hoess-the-commandant-of-auschwitz-rape-any-of-the-female-prisoners/

June 14, 2013

Egon Zill, the worst Commandant of Dachau, wasn’t even a Commandant

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:09 am
Photo of a German soldier who may or may not be Egon Zill

Photo of a German soldier who may or may not be Egon Zill

Egon Zill has gone down in history as the worst Commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, although he was never the Commandant of the camp. Perhaps if he HAD been the Commandant, he would have been investigated by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, who had two camp commandants executed after doing an investigation on them.

The following camp commandants were investigated by Dr. Konrad Morgen, who was an SS judge:

Karl-Otto Koch – Commandant of Buchenwald and Majdanek – executed for the murder of two hospital orderlies who had treated him for syphilis

Hermann Florstedt – Commandant of Majdanek – executed for murder

Hans Loritz – Commandant of Oranienburg (Sachsenhausen) – proceedings initiated on suspicion of arbitrary killing

Adam Grünewald – Commandant of Herzogenbusch concentration camp – found guilty of maltreatment of prisoners and posted to a penal unit

Karl Kuenstler – Commandant of Flossenbürg concentration camp – dismissed for drunkenness and debauchery

Alex Piorkowski – Commandant of the Dachau concentration camp – accused of murder but not sentenced

Amon Göth – Commandant of Plaszow camp — charged with stealing from the Plaszow warehouses, but never put on trial

Rudolf Höss — Commanant of Auschwitz-Birkenau — investigated  on charges of having “unlawful relations” with a Jewish woman prisoner, Eleanor Hodys.   Höss was removed from his command, but was later brought back to Auschwitz as the Commandant of the Birkenau camp, but not the Auschwitz main camp.

When Egon Zill was at Dachau, he had the title of Lagerführer, not Kommandant. Later, he was assigned to the job of Commandant of the Natzweiler camp; then he became the Commandant of Flossenbürg concentration camp.

Egon Zill was put on trial, as a “war criminal” by a German court in 1950 and sentenced to 15 years in prison; he returned to the town of Dachau to live after he completed his prison term and died there in 1974.

David L. Israel, author of the book The Day the Thunderbird Cried, published by emek press in 2005, wrote that Egon Zill was one of the Commandants of the Dachau camp and that he was exceptionally cruel to the defenseless prisoners.  According to David L. Israel, when Zill was the Commandant of Dachau, he was allowed to commit the most heinous crimes without interference from any higher authority.

The following quote is from The Day the Thunderbird Cried:

Egon Zill, by now a member of the Death’s Head formation, was the Commandant of Dachau Concentration Camp in 1941. Having received his Death’s Head unit training in Dachau, he was familiar with all the terrors the camp had to offer its inmates. Egon Zill became one of the most sadistic commandants in the history of concentration camps. Not only did he devise new and organized methods of torture for the unfortunate prisoners, he took joy in taking part in the punishment personally, or else watching from the sidelines as the prisoners died at the hands of equally sadistic guards. Zill thrived on watching men beaten, drowned, hung, and broken until their bodies were unrecognizable masses of bone and skin. A tag attached to their toes listed an identification number so they could be properly recorded in the record books as having died from a heart attack or some other medical ailment.

The Commandant of Dachau in 1941 was Alex Bernhard Piorkowski, as every law student in America knows.  I previously blogged about the strange case of Pirkowski here.

David L. Israel was a soldier in the U.S. Army in 1945, assigned to an intelligence group which investigated the Dachau camp for war crimes after it was liberated. As part of his duties, Israel interviewed the survivors of Dachau. About half of the survivors of Dachau had only been in the camp for two weeks or less. They had been brought to the main Dachau camp from the sub-camps and before that, they had been in other Nazi concentration camps; many of the prisoners at Dachau when it was liberated had previously been evacuated from Auschwitz when it was abandoned in January 1945. They were eager to tell the American liberators about the years of abuse that they had endured.

The following quote is from the book The Day the Thunderbird Cried:

Egon Zill had his dogs trained to react to the raising of his arm. On special amusement days, Zill would have a table of food placed in front of the starving prisoners who stood at attention. Should a person relax his body, the dogs would react automatically. As time went by and Zill became impatient, he raised his arm signaling the dogs into action. They attacked the genital areas of the prisoners until they were dead. At this point the bored commandant would leave the scene. […]

Having the prisoners sing anti-Semitic songs as they dug pits to be filled with stones, only to have the stones dug up and used to fill other pits, was a common pastime for the guards. At other times, they would bind the prisoners’ hands and feet and have them crawl on the ground grunting like pigs. As the prisoners approached the pigsty, food was put out for their meal to be eaten by the pigs. The SS men stood watching as the bound prisoners fought with the pigs for the food. This type of torture was used with Jews, priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Poles.

The following description of the torture inflicted by Egon Zill, according to Israel’s book, is completely and totally wrong:

There was one bunker at Dachau reserved for the most severe tortures. Prisoners were kept in solitary confinement.  The tortures inflicted on the prisoners were so cruel, they were kept secret from the regular SS guards.

Contrary to what David L. Israel wrote in his book, it was the German SS men who were tortured by Americans at Dachau.  I wrote about the torture in the one and only bunker at Dachau on this blog post.  You can read more about the Commandants at Dachau on this page of my website.

March 31, 2011

the strange case of Martin Sommer, the “Hangman of Buchenwald”

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:29 am

I am currently reading a new book entitled The Beasts of Buchenwald written by Flint Whitlock, which has just been published.  You can read about the book here.  A lot of research has gone into this book and it has lots of good information and rare photos. The author reveals the real name of Ilse Koch’s son, who was conceived while she was a prisoner at Dachau, awaiting trial by the American Military Tribunal. He also reveals the name of the alleged father of her son.  I’m not going to tell you the names.  Get your own copy and read it yourself.

One thing that caught my attention in the book was this sentence on page 263:

Martin Sommer: The sadistic warden of the Bunker at KL Buchenwald volunteered for combat duty.

Martin Sommer, the hangman of Buchenwald

Martin Sommer was put on trial by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, an SS judge, in 1943.  I always thought that Sommer was sent to the Eastern front as punishment for his crimes at Buchenwald.  It seems really strange that Martin Sommer was not punished for his horrific crimes.

I previously blogged about Martin Sommer here.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia about Martin Sommer:

In 1943 Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler appointed SS judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen to investigate charges of cruelty and corruption at the Buchenwald camp. Due to his excessive brutality and sadism, Sommer was indicted and tried before Morgen. Commandant Karl Koch and his wife Ilse Koch were also put on trial.

According to Morgen, Sommer had a secret compartment underneath the floor under his desk. He kept his private instruments of torture concealed within this compartment such as the needles he used to kill his victims after he was done torturing them, he would inject them with carbolic acid, or inject air into their veins causing their death by embolism. On occasions, after private late night torture sessions Sommer would hide his victim’s bodies under his bed until he could dispose of them in the morning.

Among his acts of depravity were beating a German pastor, hanging him naked outside in the winter then throwing buckets of water on him and letting him freeze to death. On another occasion Sommer beat a Catholic priest to death for performing the Sacrament of Penance for a fellow inmate.

With all this evidence against Martin Sommer, as told by Dr. Morgen himself, why wasn’t Sommer executed like Karl Otto Koch?  Whether he was sent to the Eastern front or volunteered, it doesn’t matter.  The question is Why did he get off so lightly after killing prisoners so cruelly?

Dr. Morgen put 5 of the concentration camp Commandants on trial in his court and sentenced 2 of them to be executed.  Yet he let Martin Sommer off with no punishment at all.

Harry Stein wrote a book entitled Gedenkstätte Buchenwald which was sold at the Buchenwald Memorial Site when I visited in 1999.  Stein wrote that Martin Sommer was arrested in connection with the proceedings against Karl Otto Koch, but that Sommer “was not sentenced.”  If he was “not sentenced” but went to the Eastern front in 1943, this indicates that he volunteered and was not forced to go.

But why was Martin Sommer not sentenced in Dr. Morgen’s court?  His crimes were far more horrible than the crimes of Koch and he had killed more people than Koch, who was only charged with ordering the deaths of two people. Koch did not personally kill anyone, but Martin Sommer had allegedly killed hundreds of prisoners with his own hands.  Heinrich Himmler, the man who authorized the trial of Koch, had given an order that the SS men were forbidden “to lay violent hands” on the prisoners.  Among Sommer’s alleged crimes was the charge that he had personally crucified two Catholic priests upside down.  How did he get by with this, without being sentenced?

The only reason that I can think of is that Karl Otto Koch enriched himself by stealing from the prisoners.  That money belonged to the Reich.  Martin Sommer didn’t get rich off of killing prisoners in the bunker, so his crimes were not so serious in the eyes of Himmler.  Frau Koch had her own bank account, which was suspicious, but that was not enough evidence for Dr. Morgen to convict her. Ilse Koch was acquitted in Dr. Morgen’s court.

Martin Sommer was finally convicted in a German court in 1958.  You can read about it in a New York Times article here.

After the war, Dr. Morgen was put into the Bunker at Dachau because he was a “war criminal” as far as the Americans were concerned.  He had a chance to hobnob with some of the SS men that he had prosecuted in his court and to learn what it feels like to be a prisoner in a Bunker in a concentration camp.

Dr. Morgen was a member of the SS, which had been designated as a criminal organization by the Allies, so that automatically made him a “war criminal.”  Besides that, anyone who had any connection whatsoever to a concentration camp came under the new Allied concept of co-responsibility, which was known as the “common design” or “common plan” to commit war crimes.  Dr. Morgen was an SS judge who investigated the camps for criminal activity, so he had a connection to the concentration camps and was thus a war criminal.

Dr. Morgen told historian John Toland that he was beaten several times in an attempt to get him to say that Ilse Koch had personally selected the victims whose tattooed skin was made into lampshades for her home, but he refused.

Flint Whitlock’s new book includes lots of quotes, from the testimony given in 1947 at the American Military Tribunal by Buchenwald survivors, that Ilse Koch did, in fact, have prisoners killed for their tattoos.