Scrapbookpages Blog

January 6, 2016

Prisoners were marched out of Dachau near the end of WWII

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 6:11 am

I became interested in blogging around 5 years ago, when someone who was planning to write a book about the Dachau concentration camp prisoners, who were taken to the South Tyrol near the end of World War II, asked for my help in researching this subject. He was planning to write a book, but first he was planning to do a blog about his research on the subject.

At that time, I had just started a blog of my own, and had written my first blog post about a 3-legged dog named Tripod at the University of Missouri.

As it turned out, I don’t think that this fellow ever wrote the book that he was planning. So I decided to put the research that I had done, on this subject, on my website.

One of the regular readers of my blog recently wrote this in a comment:

“Due to Nazi fanaticism of almost all SS men, until the very last days of  the war, prisoners had been murdered or taken to a hidden place in the Tyrol mountains as hostages, where after the German surrender, an armed fight occurred between Wehrmacht and SS soldiers, who refused to let the hostages free.”

I am answering his comment with the information that I put on my website years ago about the march to the South Tyrol.

Begin quote from my website:

Due to Nazi fanaticism of almost all SS men until the very last days of the war, prisoners had been murdered, or taken to a hidden place in the Tyrol mountains as hostages, where after the German surrender, an armed fight between Wehrmacht soldiers and SS men, who refused to let the hostages free, had occurred.

Dachau prisoners marching to Tyrol

Dachau prisoners marching  from Dachau to the  South Tyrol in 1945

The days and weeks just before the liberation of Dachau were a frightening time for the prisoners. There were rumors that the SS had orders to kill them all, rather than let them be released by the Allies.

The prisoners knew that it would be difficult to evacuate the whole camp: convoys of trucks and trains were constantly being attacked by American fighter planes which were also strafing the outskirts of the camp; the Dachau sub-camp at Allach had been bombed just before the American liberators arrived and the Dachau main camp had been bombed on April 9, 1945.

In the last days of the Dachau camp, the Nazis had run out of coal to burn the bodies and corpses were piling up faster than they could be hauled out of the camp and buried. Realizing that the situation was totally out of control, the camp Commandant immediately proposed to surrender the Dachau camp to the Allies, but the concentration camp headquarters in Oranienburg refused to allow it because Hitler insisted that the inmates not be turned over to the Allies. One of his reasons was that all the camps in Germany, including Dachau, had prisoners who were career criminals that had been sent to a concentration camp after they had served their prison term for their second offense.

At the time of the American liberation of Dachau, there were 759 of these career criminals at Dachau, according to former prisoner Paul Berben’s book entitled “Dachau 1933 – 1945: The Official History.”

German citizens were already so terrorized that many of them were committing suicide by drowning or shooting themselves just before the Russians and the Americans arrived to take over their towns.

There was also the fear that typhus would spread throughout Germany if the prisoners were released after the camps were surrendered to the Allies.

Dachau was in the western part of Germany and it became an end destination for the prisoners from other camps in the east that were being evacuated from the war zone. The prisoners from the Kaufering sub-camps at Landsberg am Lech and the Mühldorf sub-camps were also brought to the Dachau main camp shortly before it was liberated.

Paul Berben, the official historian of Dachau and a member of the International Committee which controlled the main camp at the end, wrote the following in his book entitled “Dachau 1933 – 1945: The Official History”:

Begin quote

When the evacuation began of camps situated in areas threatened by the victorious advance of the Allies, the horror surpassed anything that had been seen till then. [….]

From the start of the evacuation tens of thousands of prisoners arrived at Dachau in a state of terrible exhaustion, and a vast number died before the liberation and in the weeks that followed. These massive arrivals caused unparalleled difficulties and a large number of deaths among the camp population, particularly as a typhus epidemic spread.

End quote

Half of the deaths in Dachau occurred in the last 6 months that the camp was in operation, including 2,226 prisoners who died in the month of May, after the liberation. According to Paul Berben, there were 18,296 deaths in the main camp and all the sub-camps of Dachau between November 1944 and the end of May 1945. Most of these deaths were due to the typhus epidemic in the camp, according to Berben.

On April 26, 1945, three days before the American liberators arrived at Dachau, a transport of 1,735 Jewish prisoners left on a train bound for the mountains in southern Germany.

Then another 6,887 prisoners, half of them Jews and half of them Russian POWs, were marched south toward the mountains of the South Tyrol. According to testimony given at the Nuremberg IMT, the march to the Tyrol was part of a plan, devised by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, to kill all these prisoners.

At the Nuremberg IMT, on January 2, 1946, Lt. Commander Whitney R. Harris submitted Document 3462-PS, the sworn interrogation of Bertus Gerdes, the former Gaustabsamtsleiter under the Gauleiter of Munich. This interrogation was taken in the course of an official military investigation by the U.S. Army. During the interrogation, Gerdes was ordered to state all he knew about Kaltenbrunner.

Lt. Commander Harris read part of Document 3462-PSI, beginning with the third paragraph of Page 2, as quoted below from the transcript of the Nuremberg IMT on January 2, 1946:

Begin quote

“Giesler told me that Kaltenbrunner was in constant touch with him because he was greatly worried about the attitude of the foreign workers and especially inmates of Concentration Camps Dachau, Mühldorf, and Landsberg, which were in the path of the approaching Allied armies. On a Tuesday in the middle of April 1945 I received a telephone call from Gauleiter Giesler asking me to be available for a conversation that night. In the course of our personal conversation that night, I was told by Giesler that he had received a directive from Obergruppenfuehrer Kaltenbrunner, by order of the Fuehrer, to work out a plan without delay for the liquidation of the concentration camp at Dachau and the two Jewish labor camps in Landsberg and Mühldorf. The directive proposed to liquidate the two Jewish labor camps at Landsberg and Mühldorf by use of the German Luftwaffe, since the construction area of these camps had previously been the targets of repeated enemy air attacks. This action received the code name of ‘Wolke A-1.'”

“I was certain that I would never let this directive be carried out. As the action Wolke A-1 should have become operational already for some time, I was literally swamped by couriers from Kaltenbrunner and moreover I was supposed to have discussed the details of the Mühldorf and Landsberg actions in detail with the two Kreisleiter concerned. The couriers, who were in most cases SS officers, usually SS Untersturmfuehrer, gave me terse and strict orders to read and initial. The orders threatened me with the most terrible punishment, including execution, if I did not comply with them. However, I could always excuse my failure to execute the plan because of bad flying weather and lack of gasoline and bombs. Therefore, Kaltenbrunner ordered that the Jews in Landsberg be marched to Dachau in order to include them in the Dachau extermination operations, and that the Mühldorf action was to be carried out by the Gestapo.

“Kaltenbrunner also ordered an operation Wolkenbrand for the Concentration Camp Dachau, which provided that the inmates of the concentration camp at Dachau were to be liquidated by poison with the exception of Aryan nationals of the Western Powers.

“Gauleiter Giesler received this order direct from Kaltenbrunner and discussed in my presence the procurement of the required amounts of poison with Dr. Harrfeld, the Gau health chief. Dr. Harrfeld promised to procure these quantities when ordered and was advised to await my further directions. As I was determined to prevent the execution of this plan in any event, I gave no further instructions to Dr. Harrfeld.

“The inmates of Landsberg had hardly been delivered at Dachau when Kaltenbrunner sent a courier declaring the Action Wolkenbrand was operational.

“I prevented the execution of the Wolfe A-1’ and ‘Wolkenbrand’ by giving Giesler the reason that the front was too close and asked him to transmit this on to Kaltenbrunner.

“Kaltenbrunner therefore issued directives in writing to Dachau to transport all Western European prisoners by truck to Switzerland and to march the remaining inmates into Tyrol, where the final liquidation of these prisoners was to take place without fail.”

End quote

Rudolf Hoess, the former Commandant of Auschwitz, testified at Nuremberg, as a defense witness for Ernst Kaltenbrunner, that he had no knowledge of a plan to destroy the Dachau camp with a bomb or with poison.

The following quote is from the Nuremberg IMT trial transcript:

Begin quote

DR. KAUFFMANN: It has been maintained here–and this is my last question–that the Defendant Kaltenbrunner gave the order that Dachau and two auxiliary camps were to be destroyed by bombing or with poison. I ask you, did you hear anything about this; if not, would you consider such an order possible?
HOESS: I have never heard anything about this, and I do not know anything either about an order to evacuate any camps in southern Germany, as I have already mentioned. Apart from that, I consider it quite impossible that a camp could be destroyed by this method.

End quote

The death march to the South Tyrol is shown in the photograph at the top of my blog post. These prisoners were finally overtaken by American troops and liberated on May 2, 1945.

One of the Jewish prisoners who survived the march was Hirschel Grodzienski, who came to the USA in December 1946 and changed his name to Harold Gordon. Another survivor of the death march was Jack Adler, who was liberated by American troops on May 1, 1945.

The American Army believed that Hitler was planning to hole up in the mountains near the town of Berchtesgaden in a last-ditch effort to escape capture; some Holocaust historians believe that these prisoners were being sent to build a redoubt.

The 137 prominent VIP prisoners in Dachau were evacuated on April 26, 1945; they were moved southward for their own safety. Some of the Catholic priests in the camp were taken to the town of Dachau on April 24th and then released.

Dachau Commandant Wilhelm Eduard Weiter accompanied a transport of prisoners to Schloss Itter, a subcamp of Dachau in Austria. On May 6, 1945, Weiter shot himself, according to Johannes Tuchel, the author of “Dachau and the Nazi Terror 1933-1945.” However, the German Wikipedia gives May 2, 1945 as the date that Weiter shot himself.

Stanislav Zamecnik wrote in his book entitled “That was Dachau,” published in 2005, that Weiter committed suicide. Zvonimir Cuckovic stated that Weiter was buried in the forest near Schloss Itter.

However, in the book entitled “World without Civilization: Mass Murder and the Holocaust,” published in 2004, Robert M. Spector wrote the following:

Feig indicates that a Wilhelm Weiter, as Commandant, was “probably shot by a zealot SS officer.”

Nerin E. Gun, a journalist who was a former prisoner at Dachau, wrote the following in his book “The Day of the Americans,” published in 1966:

Begin quote

The SS commandant of the camp, Weiter, for having disobeyed Hitler’s orders, was executed by a fanatic SS sergeant, Ruppert, in the countryside while trying to escape. Weiter died with a bullet in the neck, clutching a picture of Hitler.

End quote

Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert was the SS officer in charge of executions at Dachau; he was put on trial by an American Military Tribunal in November 1945, but he was not charged with the murder of Weiter, nor with the murder of four British SOE women, another crime that he was accused of by a former prisoner.

May 6, 1945, the day that Weiter either committed suicide, or was shot by someone else, was the same day that the 137 Dachau VIP prisoners were liberated by American soldiers. According to Gun, an SS man named Fritz threw a grenade at the liberators.

Regarding the American retaliation for the grenade attack, Gun wrote the following in “The Day of the Americans”:

Begin quote

The Americans were furious and shot down all the guards posted around the village. The Resistance, during this time, had not sat on its hands. The six Gestapo functionaries, the professional killers who had joined the convoy at Innsbruck, were hanging from the trees in the village square.

End quote

Nerin E. Gun also wrote that Dr. Sigmund Rascher was shot in Innsbruck, although the Museum at Dachau says that Dr. Rascher was executed on the orders of Heinrich Himmler in the bunker on April 26, 1945, the day that the VIP prisoners at Dachau were evacuated from the camp.

An account of the period just before the liberation of the camp, called “The Last Days of Dachau,” was written jointly by Arthur Haulot, a Belgian prisoner, and Dr. Ali Kuci, an Albanian prisoner. Nerin E. Gun mentioned in his book that he was Kuci’s assistant.

The book written by Haulot and Kuci mentions the orders given by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler after Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the Security SD forces, ordered that the prisoners should be “liquidated” in the event that it was impossible to evacuate the camp. Himmler’s order stated that the 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.

Information from “The Last Days of Dachau,” given by Marcus J. Smith in his book, “The Harrowing of Hell,” is as follows:

Begin quote

The day before (on April 8, 1945), the commandant and his staff had worried about the possibility of concealed knives and firearms in the prison compound; they feared an insurrection. Knowing that the prisoners were getting out of hand, they made plans to massacre them. At the designated time, the barracks were surrounded by SS troopers, their machine guns ready.

But the SS camp surgeon protested strongly. He believed that there should be no more killings. The commandant decided to search for weapons; if they were found, he could justify the executions. Nothing was found.

End quote

Kuci and Haulot wrote that the members of the Communist underground resistance group began to initiate action designed to create confusion within the camp in order to prevent the evacuation of the prisoners. At midnight on April 23rd, a group of 400 Jewish women arrived, having walked all the way from a sub-camp in Landsberg am Lech, near Munich. Many of them must have died soon afterwards because an official American Army report claims that there were only 225 Jewish women alive in the camp when it was liberated.

On April 24th, a group of Jewish inmates at Dachau were forced into boxcars parked outside the camp, but no engine was available for the train, so they had to remain there for three more days. According to Kuci, it was rumored that the Jews were being kept in the outer area in the hope that they would be bombed by the American planes.

On April 26th, according to Kuci, the prisoners ransacked the trains, canteen, kitchen and warehouses for food and civilian clothes. At 9 a.m. that day, the order was given to evacuate the entire camp, but the underground committee moved quickly to sabotage the SS plans.

According to Kuci’s book, the SS had assembled 6,700 prisoners for evacuation by 8 p.m. on April 26th. Then, just as the inmates were ready to leave the camp, a group of 120 barefoot women entered the camp; they were all that remained of 480 women who had walked all the way from the Auschwitz concentration camp, according to Kuci, as told by Marcus J. Smith in his book “The Harrowing of Hell.” In spite of this distraction, 6,887 prisoners left the camp at 10 p.m. that night.

Death march out of the Sachsenhausen camp

Death march out of Sachsenhausen camp

The Sachsenhausen concentration camp, near Berlin, had already been evacuated on April 21, 1945 and the prisoners were on a death march, trying to evade the approaching Red Army of the Soviet Union.

According to Kuci, the “death train” from Buchenwald had arrived at noon on April 27th. However, witnesses at the trial of the transport leader, Hans Merbach, said that the train had arrived on the 26th.

Kuci wrote that there were 1,600 survivors out of 2,400 who had left Buchenwald. Marcus J. Smith wrote that these figures were later changed to 2,000 to 2,500 out of 6,000 who started the trip three weeks before.

Two hundred of the survivors died that afternoon and another 400 had to be hospitalized immediately, according to Kuci. Two of the survivors said that there were only 1300 prisoners alive upon arrival, out of 5,000 who had originally been on the death train.

Victor Maurer, a representative of the Red Cross, said that he was told that, out of 5,000 prisoners who started the trip, 2,700 were dead on arrival, which would mean that there were 2,300 survivors who entered the camp.

The book “The Last Days of Dachau” ends with the following story, as told by Marcus J. Smith in his book:

Begin quote

The next day, April 28, the battle front was only ten or twelve kilometers away. The nearer it came, the fewer the number of Nazi soldiers in the camp. About one hundred remained; most of the officers were gone.

Members of the prisoners’ committee moved into the open, distributing a bulletin saying they were taking command. All prisoners were to remain in their quarters, to refrain from contact with the guards. (Some guards had been helpful in the last few months. They, too, were aware of the progress of the Allies.)

At 6 p.m., three of the committee leaders, Arthur Haulot, Captain Willem Boellaard, and Father Phily, a French priest, were summoned to the office of the commandant. Four others, Patrick O’Leary, Leon Malczewski, Ali Kuci and Edmond Michelet, waited nervously in the hospital. About two hours later the three reappeared, smiling.

The commandant had conceded, they said. He had introduced them to an official of the International Red Cross, who had just arrived with five truckloads of supplies.

“We had a long conversation with him concerning the distribution,” said Captain Boellaard.

End quote

According to Marcus J. Smith, the Red Cross representative, Victor Maurer, arrived at Dachau on April 27, 1945. Other sources say that the date of his arrival was April 28th. The following is an excerpt from Maurer’s official report, as quoted in Smith’s book, “The Harrowing of Hell”:

Begin quote

At the camp, I told a sentry that I wished to speak to the camp commandant. A little later I was received by the adjutant, Lt. Otto, in the commandant’s office. I asked for permission to circulate freely through the area where the prisoners were kept. The commandant said that it was not possible to issue such an authorization, that only General (Ernst) Kaltenbrunner could grant such permission, and that he was in the vicinity of Linz (Austria). The telephone and telegraph being out of order, the affair had become considerably complicated.

The Germans were very happy to know about the arrival of the (five truck loads of) food parcels. The commandant acquainted me with his desire for the immediate repatriation of 17,500 prisoners in a good state of health. These were mostly French and Polish; German, Jewish and Bulgarian inmates could not be released. I replied that I had to contact my district commander as soon as possible, but I could not do this until the next day. Lastly, the commandant asked me to quickly transport a cargo of food parcels to a depot in the Tyrols.

The request for food to be sent to the Tyrols might have been intended for the 6,887 prisoners who had left the camp at 10 p.m. on April 26th, headed in that direction. However, Smith also wrote that some of the prisoners who had escaped from the march reported that all the prisoners on this march had been murdered by the SS and that the only survivors were the 60 prisoners who had escaped.

End quote

The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army, which was based on interviews with 20 political prisoners at Dachau, included the story of the prisoners being massacred by the SS guards, leaving only 60 survivors.

One of the survivors of the march, Hirshel Grodzienski, wrote in his memoirs that the column of prisoners had been strafed by American planes, and in the confusion, he had escaped along with some of the other prisoners.

The official report of Victor Maurer continued as follows, as quoted in Smith’s book:

We said good-bye. I was permitted to personally distribute parcels to the prisoners. Lt. Otto accompanied me to the prison courtyard while a column of prisoners were led into the courtyard. Naturally, a very great joy prevailed among the prisoners because this was the first time a delegate of the ICRC has had access to the camp. Because some SS officers were always around, it was with great difficulty that I learned that, since January 1, 1945, 15,000 prisoners had died of typhus, and that in a transport of 5,000 prisoners from Buchenwald, about 2,700 were dead on arrival at Dachau.

End quote

The number of dead bodies on the train varies considerably, according to who is telling the story. Later, in the same report, Maurer said that there were 500 bodies on the train, and that some had been killed, while others had died of starvation.

Maurer’s report continues, as quoted by Marcus J. Smith in his book:

Begin quote

I further learned that M. Blum, Schuschnigg, and others were taken away a few days ago, at the same time as 6,000 others. In my opinion this happened because the combat front had drawn nearer. Some of the prisoners (trustees) emptied the trucks and signed the accompanying receipts. I spent the night in Barrack 203, Room 3. This was not in the prison camp.

End quote

On the night of April 28, 1945, Martin Gottfried Weiss left the camp dressed in civilian clothes and carrying false identification. The next day, two divisions of the US Seventh Army arrived to liberate the Dachau camp, but a few prisoners had already escaped from a work party sent to the town of Dachau in the last days just before the liberation.

Along with a few residents of the town, the prisoners fought a pitched battle with SS men in the town, but were defeated. The prisoners who survived the battle escaped. Two former prisoners of Dachau, Walter Neff and Georg Scherer, who had continued to work in the concentration camp after they were released, were the organizers of the confrontation with the SS in the town of Dachau.

On April 29, 1945, the same day that the camp was liberated, Weiss and his adjutant, Rudolf Heinrich Suttrop, were captured by 19-year-old Corporal Henry Senger in Munich after two escaped prisoners from Dachau told him where they were hiding. Senger did not identify the two prisoners, nor explain why they were in Munich on the day that Dachau was liberated. They may have been among the prisoners who had escaped with the help of Dachau citizens in the last days of the camp.

An account of the capture of Martin Gottfried Weiss was written by Senger, who now lives in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and it was put on the web by Harold Marcuse, a history professor at the University of Santa Barbara who is an expert on Dachau. You can read an article by Henry Senger on the web site of Harold Marcuse.

January 29, 2014

New movie The Monuments Men opening Feb. 7, 2014

I have been reading the book entitled The Rape of Europa by Ms. Lynn H. Nicholas, in order to prepare for the new movie The Monuments Men which will open in theaters on  Feb. 7, 2014.  You can see a trailer for the movie below.

The trailer for the movie tells us that “the Nazis have been stealing art” and that there are “5 million pieces of stolen art” that the Monuments Men must find and preserve because “Hitler wants to destroy everything.”  Basically, “the Nazis are on the run and they have taken everything with them” according to the movie trailer.  The Monuments Men must find the art and save the culture of the world from the Nazis.  Sounds good to me.

The evil Nazis have stolen all the art in Europe and The Monuments Men have been “tasked” to find it.

What?  The Germans didn’t have any art of their own? They had stolen the art from Warsaw and other places with the intent of destroying it, according to the trailer for the movie.

At one point in the movie, the fictional character, played by George Clooney, explains the importance of the mission of The Monuments  Men:  “If you destroy an entire generation of people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed,” he says. “That’s what Hitler wants and it’s the one thing we can’t allow.”

So the theme of the movie seems to be that a group of American art experts are going to prevent Hitler from destroying an entire generation of culture.  Hitler was an artist himself and he was planning an art museum in his home town of Linz, Austria, after the war.

According to the book entitled The Rape of Europa, the Nazis had stashed the art in a salt mine at Alt Aussee.  You can read what Wikipedia says about Altaussee at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altaussee#Nazi_Stolen_Art_Repository

Note the difference in the spelling of Altaussee.

August Eigruber was put on trial by the American Military Tribunal

August Eigruber was put on trial by the American Military Tribunal

This quote is from page 316 of The Rape of Europa:

The basic legend tells us that [August] Eigruber put bombs in the mines [at Altaussee] with the intention of blowing up everything, and that heroic Austrian Resistance workers removed them and thereby saved the priceless works for humanity. […]

…Hitler had ordered [Alt Aussee] and other repositories sealed and the works of art preserved at all  costs.

[The] next ploy was to try to persuade [August] Eigruber that the bombs would not destroy everything inside unless the mine entrances were sealed.  This would make the bombs inaccessible but the engineers convinced [Eigruber] that [the bombs] could be detonated by a long fuse to the exterior.  […]

Eigruber’s opponents turned to the highest [Nazi] Party authority still available [after Hitler’s suicide] — SS Intelligence Chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who was well known in Alt Aussee, where he kept a mistress.

Kaltenbrunner authorized the immediate removal of the bombs and promised to so inform Eigruber. […] On May 5 [1945]  the mine entrances were blasted shut.  Inside, the scattered masterpieces rested safely in the darkness.

This quote is also from the book entitled The Rape of Europa by  Ms. Lynn H. Nicholas:

By the summer of 1943 an Austrian official, Dr. Herbert Seiberl, had completed an investigation of the labyrinthine network of salt  mines in the Salzkammergut, a chic summer resort area high in the mountains of Salzberg. [..] The most suitable was at Alt Aussee where the main chambers lay more than a mile inside the mountain, reachable only by tiny special trains. Seiberl’s belief that the conditions would be ideal was supported by his discovery of a little chapel inside the mine in which oil paintings had been hanging since 1933 without ill effect. [..]

Seiberl was thinking of this place not for the Linz holdings [of Hitler], but for the Austrian collections, now for the first time within range of Allied bombers coming from Italy. […this mine] was immediately claimed for the exclusive use of the Führer. […] The arrangement met with Hitler’s approval. […]

In quite another mood, in August 1944 Hitler had ordered  all military installations, utilities, communications, archives, monuments, food stores, and transportation facilities destroyed as the German armies retreated so that only a wasteland would await the Allies. […] Albert Speer, who had proposed a more realistic program, was removed from office for a time, but eventually managed to compromise with the Führer and change the order for destruction to “disabling” all the while working under Hitler’s orders.

In addition to the scorched-earth order, on every front soldiers and Gauleiters were commanded to fight to the last or face execution, Hitler’s theory being, as Wolff had found out in Italy, that if they held out long enough, the Western Allies would join Germany to defeat Bolshevism. In this scenario Germany would remain intact, and the purloined treasures would be used. They must, therefore, be kept from the enemy as long as possible.  Indeed, in his will, written the day before his suicide, Hitler stipulated that his collections should be given to the [German] nation.  […]

Gauleiter Eigruber of Oberdonau had taken Hitler’s scorched earth decrees deeply to heart and was persuaded that the works of art at Alt Aussee should not fall into the hands of the Bolshevists [Communists] or “International Jewry.”   […]

The story of Eigruber’s fanatic desire for destruction, and the efforts to stop him, has become the legend of Alt Aussee.  […]

Strangely, Eigruber’s plot to blow up the art in the salt mine was not mentioned in his trial as a war criminal by the American Military Tribunal, which I wrote about on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauTrials/Mauthausen02.html

This quote, about August Eigruber, is from Wikipedia:

Right after Germany’s unconditional surrender in May 1945, Eigruber was arrested in the Salzkammergut by the United States Army, and he was questioned as a witness at the Nuremberg Trials. In the Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials, Eigruber was sentenced in March 1946 by the Dachau International Military Tribunal to death by hanging for his responsibility for crimes at Mauthausen concentration camp. The sentence was carried out in the prison yard at Landsberg Prison, Landsberg am Lech on May 28, 1947.

 

August 16, 2012

Kurt Becher’s affidavit incriminating Ernst Kaltenbrunner at the Nuremberg IMT

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:16 am

Kurt Becher was an SS officer who was involved in the famous “Jews for Trucks” incident near the end of World War II.  When the war was over, Becher was arrested by the Allies and taken to Nuremberg, but he was not put on trial.  He was a “Righteous Gentile” because he had saved Jews.

SS officer Kurt Becher

Kurt Becher did not testify at Nuremberg, but he did sign an affidavit which was entered into the Nuremberg IMT. In his affidavit, Becher claimed that he had personally caused Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler to issue an order which forbade any liquidation of Jews at Mauthausen.  Himmler was dead, so he was not on trial. The affidavit was read in court because it contained accusations against Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who was on trial as a war criminal.

But before we get to Becher’s affidavit and the accusations against Kaltenbrunner, here is the back story on the “Jews for Trucks” episode:

On August 21, 1944, three SS officers (Kurt Becher, Max Grüson and Hermann Krumey) and Rudolf Kastner (a representative of the Budapest Jews) met with Saly Mayer, a leading member of the Jewish Community in Switzerland.

The meeting took place in the middle of a bridge at St. Margarethen, on the border between Germany and Switzerland. Saly Mayer had refused to enter Germany and he also did not want the SS men to enter Switzerland, according to Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer.

Kurt Becher asked for farm machinery and 10,000 trucks, and in return, he promised to free 318 Hungarian Jews from Bergen-Belsen. In a show of good faith, the train with the 318 Jews was already waiting at the Swiss border. Mayer offered minerals and industry goods instead of the trucks.

A second group of 1368 Hungarian Jews left the Bergen-Belsen camp on December 4, 1944 and entered Switzerland just after midnight on December 7th, according to Yehuda Bauer.

Altogether, there was a total of 2,896 Jews released for ransom, including a transport of 1210 Jews from the Theresienstadt Ghetto who entered Switzerland on February 7, 1945.

According to Yehuda Bauer, Becher later claimed that he had persuaded Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler not to deport the Budapest Jews, and that was why Himmler issued an order to stop the deportation of the Hungarian Jews three days later.

Now, back to the trial of Ernst Kaltenbrunner:

On 12 April 1946, the one hundred and sixth day of the Nuremberg IMT, the prosecutor read the affidavit of Kurt Becher, who was not in the courtroom.

The text of the affidavit is quoted below:

“I, Kurt Becher, formerly a colonel in the S.S., born 12th September, 1900, at Hamburg, declare the following under oath:

Between the middle of September and the middle of October, 1944, I caused the Reichsfuehrer S.S. Himmler to issue the following order, which I received in two originals, one each for S.S. Generals Kaltenbrunner and Pohl, and a copy for myself:

By this order, which becomes immediately operative, I forbid any liquidation of Jews and order that on the contrary, care should be given to weak and sick persons. I hold you (and here Kaltenbrunner and Pohl were meant) personally responsible even if this order should not be strictly adhered to by the subordinate offices.

I personally took Pohl’s copy to him and left the copy for Kaltenbrunner at his office in Berlin. In my opinion Kaltenbrunner and Pohl bear the responsibility after this date for any further killings of Jewish prisoners.

When visiting Mauthausen Concentration Camp on 27th April, 1945, at 9.00 a.m. I was told, in the strictest secrecy by the camp commandant, S.S. Colonel Ziereis, that ‘Kaltenbrunner gave me the order that at least a thousand persons have still to die at Mauthausen each day.’

The facts mentioned above are true. This declaration is made by me voluntarily and without coercion. I have read it through, signed it, and confirmed the statement with my oath.”

The most important part of Becher’s affidavit was his accusation that Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner had ordered 1,000 prisoners per day at the Mauthausen camp to be killed, even after Himmler had ordered that no more prisoners should be killed at Mauthausen.  Becher claimed that Mauthausen Commandant Franz Ziereis had personally told him, while he was on a visit to the camp, that Kaltenbrunner had given the order to continue killing prisoners.

After this affidavit was read in court, Kaltenbrunner was asked:

“Is that true or false, defendant?”

Kaltenbrunner’s answer is given in full in this quote from the testimony at the IMT:

A. In part it is correct and in part it is not. I shall explain it sentence by sentence.

Q. No. Suppose you simply tell us what you claim to be false, because we must get on with this.

A. I quite believe that you want to save time, but this is a question of establishing my guilt or my innocence and to do that I must be given an opportunity to make a statement in detail. Otherwise neither you nor the Tribunal would know the truth, And that is what we want here, isn’t it? I am glad that this witness Becher was found and that this statement is available, because it proves, firstly, that in September or October, 1944, Himmler was forced to issue this order, that same Himmler, about whom it has been established that since 1939 or 1940 he has committed the crime of killing Jews on the largest scale.

And now we must find out why in September or October Himmler had given such an order. Before I had seen this document I stated yesterday and today that this order was issued by Hitler through my intervention, and obviously this order from Himmler is based on another order which he received from Hitler.

Secondly, it is clear to me that Himmler gave such an order to Pohl as the person responsible for the concentration camps in which Jews were kept and that he gave the information to me as the person who had opposed him in this case. Where Becher is concerned, I should like to go into the question a little further.

Through this man Becher, Himmler committed some of the worst possible crimes, crimes which have been exposed here. Through Becher and the Joint Committee in Hungary and Switzerland he released Jews in exchange, first, for war equipment, then, secondly, for raw material and thirdly, for foreign currency. I heard about this through the Intelligence Service and immediately attempted to stop it – not through Himmler, because there I would have failed, but through Hitler; – at the moment any personal credit Himmler might still have had with Hitler was at an end – for this action might have damaged the reputation of the Reich abroad in the most serious manner.

At the same time my efforts in connection with Burckhardt had been going on, and now you understand why the witness Schellenberg stated that Himmler had said to him: “I am alarmed now. Kaltenbrunner has got me under his thumb. This means that Kaltenbrunner has completely exposed the things I was doing in Hungary and has told Hitler about it.”

This order was an attempt to camouflage the matter and to get out of the whole thing by pretending that the responsibility rested on Kaltenbrunner and Pohl. According to this document the responsibility rested on Himmler and Pohl, but, Kaltenbrunner had to be included and be told about it because otherwise he might bring the subject up with Hitler any day. That was the intention of the document.

This witness Becher is now in Nuremberg. Will you allow me to confront him here? I am quite able to prove to the world with the help of this witness that, starting with the transfer of the so-called Weiss AG. in Hungary up to that day, Himmler, Pohl and Becher, and the two committees in Hungary and Switzerland, were running this business. And I can prove how I fought against it.

There is yet another accusation in this document, that on 27th April I am supposed to have given a strictly secret order to Ziereis that a thousand Jews had to be destroyed in Mauthausen every day. I ask you to have the witness Hoettl, who is also held here, called in immediately, so that I may ask him on what day I dictated and sent by courier to Mauthausen the order that the entire camp, with all its inmates, be surrendered to the enemy. The witness will then confirm to you that this order was given several days before 27th April and that I could not have given orders to the contrary on the 27th.

In spite of Kaltenbrunner’s testimony which proved his innocence, he was convicted and hanged as a war criminal.

October 1, 2010

Were concentration camp prisoners killed, near the end of WWII, in order to eliminate witnesses?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:41 am

Shortly after I began blogging, back in February 2010, I learned from some of the comments on my posts, that many people believe that, in the last days of World War II, the Nazis increased the killing of prisoners in the concentration camps because they did not want to leave witnesses behind to testify about the atrocities in the camps.  It is a fact that the number of deaths increased dramatically in the last six months of the war.

At the Nuremberg IMT, Ernst Kaltenbrunner was accused of giving an order to kill all the prisoners before American soldiers arrived to liberate the remaining camps.  Kaltenbrunner was the Chief of RSHA (Reich Security Head Office) which was a very high position in the Nazi hierarchy. An order allegedly arrived at Dachau, just days before the camp was liberated, in which the killing of all the prisoners was commanded.

This morning I read the following quote about Dachau here:

Displays at the camp show those piles of bodies toward the end of the war as the Nazi world collapsed and it became more important to kill prisoners to eliminate witnesses.

A lot of new display signs have been put up at Dachau since my last visit.   The signs apparently tell tourists that prisoners were killed in the last days of the war “to eliminate witnesses.”

A display sign at Dachau identifies this room as the place where bodies were found on liberation day

What about the 2,226 prisoners who died in the month of May after Dachau was liberated?  Did the Nazis sneak into the camp and kill them to eliminate witnesses?

What about the 30,000 prisoners who were still alive at Dachau when the American liberators arrived?  Did the Nazis run out of time and they were not able to kill all the prisoners?

There is also a common belief that the prisoners were marched out of the camps, or put on trains and sent to another camp, so that they could be killed.  Even the VIP prisoners at Dachau were allegedly sent to the South Tyrol in order to be killed.

Russian POWs and Jewish prisoners were marched out of Dachau before the American liberators arrived

A recent comment on my blog by history professor Harold Marcuse included these quotes:

When some responsible German officials realized beyond doubt that the war was lost, they drew the “logical” conclusion and burned the marching prisoners alive, as happened at Ohrdruf, Gardelegen and numerous other places. For them apparently, dead evidence was better than alive evidence.

In any case the death marches in 1945 were a largely futile attempt to keep human evidence of and witnesses to atrocities from falling into Allied hands.

It seems that the belief, that prisoners were killed to keep them from testifying about Nazi “atrocities,” is now a part of the official history of the Holocaust, at least at the Dachau Memorial Site, and in college history classes in America.

I got into trouble with the Thought Police a couple of months ago when I wrote on my blog that prisoners were brought from the sub-camps to the main Dachau camp in order to consolidate the prisoners so that they could be liberated by the Americans.  The Holocaust True Believers say that the prisoners were brought to the main camp to be killed in accordance with the alleged order to kill all the prisoners to keep them from being witnesses.

The plan to kill all the prisoners was obviously not carried out, and there were an additional 15,000 prisoners at the main camp when the liberators arrived.  The tour guides at Dachau make a big point of telling visitors how crowded it was in the camp, but always neglect to mention that half of the prisoners who were in the camp on the day of liberation had only been there a few weeks and some had arrived on the day before.  Seven mothers with babies arrived at Dachau the day AFTER the camp was liberated, much too late to be killed under the alleged order to kill all the prisoners.