Scrapbookpages Blog

January 30, 2013

A poem about the liberation of Buchenwald ends with the “oath of Buchenwald”

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:51 am
Monument where the Buchenwald survivors swore the "oath of Buchenwald"

Monument stands where the Buchenwald survivors swore the “oath of Buchenwald”

This morning, I received an e-mail with a copy of a poem written by one of the French survivors of the Buchenwald concentration camp.  The poem, which was sent to me by Susan Perry Ferguson, can be read in full here. Susan is the daughter of Major Julian S. Perry, the American soldier who found the poem, written by an unknown prisoner after the liberation of Buchenwald. The poem was originally written in French; you can read the full text here.

The poem is quite long, so I am only quoting the last few lines, which are the most important:

Buchenwald is finished.
In the SS barracks, the liberated set themselves up
In a little bit of comfort.

The anxiety is over,
But we think, non-stop, about the two last processions,
Struck down by death.

There is but one survivor, hiding among the cadavers,
Who lived through the slaughter that was extermination.
The previous processions fell upon no peaceful haven.
No less than 42,000 human beings died.

So we will return to France, to our family homes.
Feelings of emptiness, which are many, spoil our return.
But there is an oath we need to assert:
We must avenge our dead,
Surround and stage an attack, in turn,
Against the race of murderers and sadists.
Men, women, and children they have killed,
Mercilessly, without pity.
Out of fanatic hatred.

Liberated Buchenwald prisoners outside the SS barracks

Liberated Buchenwald prisoners outside the SS barracks

The poet wrote “The previous processions fell upon no peaceful haven. No less than 42,000 human beings died.”  The word “processions” is a reference to the thousands of prisoners who were marched out of the Buchenwald camp, before the camp was liberated, in an attempt to prevent them from being released by the American soldiers who were on their way.

The prisoners in the “processions” were marched five miles to the train station in Weimar, the closest city to the camp.  The prisoners were put on a train and taken to the Dachau concentration camp, where most of them were dead upon arrival. You can read about it here.  The total number of deaths at Buchenwald is unknown; you can read about the death statistics at Buchenwald here.

The unknown author of the above poem was a French Resistance fighter, who was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, after he was captured.  The French Resistance fighters were civilians who had continued to fight during World War II  after France had surrendered.

Buchenwald was primarily a camp for political prisoners, who were opponents of Hitler’s Third Reich. The prisoners included prominent Communists and Social Democrats, as well as French, Polish and Dutch resistance fighters, and also pastors of the Confessional Church and Catholic priests who preached against the Nazis. A Monument to the Resistance Fighters stands on the highest point of the hill called the Ettersberg, about one kilometer from the former camp. A photo of the monument is shown below.

Monument to the French Resistance fighters at Buchenwald

Monument to the French Resistance fighters at Buchenwald

On April 11, 1945, the day that American troops arrived to liberate the Buchenwald camp, the Communist resistance fighters had already taken control of the camp and forced the SS guards to flee for their lives. When the American liberators arrived, they observed that some of the resistance fighters had left the camp and were hunting down the SS men in the surrounding forest. The SS soldiers were brought back to the camp and shot, hanged or beaten to death by the inmates while the American soldiers looked on and sometimes joined in.

Regarding the liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, Robert Abzug wrote the following in his book Inside the Vicious Heart:

The Americans were met by reasonably healthy looking, armed prisoners ready to help administer distribution of food, clothing, and medical care. These same prisoners, an International Committee with the Communist underground leader Hans Eiden at its head, seemed to have perfect control over their fellow inmates.

After World War II ended, the Germans were prosecuted as “war criminals”  because the Resistance fighters had been put into concentration camps, rather than POW camps. The resistance fighters from German-occupied countries who had continued to fight as partisans, killing German soldiers and blowing up trains, were called innocent victims by the American prosecutors in the American Military Tribunal trials at Dachau because they had been imprisoned in concentration camps after they were captured. Although the Geneva Convention of 1929 did not give the same rights to insurgents as to Prisoners of War, it was the prosecution’s opinion that the partisans and resistance fighters in German-occupied countries were the equivalent of POWs and entitled to the same Geneva Convention protection.

The monument shown in the photo at the top of my blog post is the memorial that was erected by the Communist prisoners at Buchenwald on 19 April 1945 in honor of the political prisoners in the camp. The Jewish survivors were not allowed to attend the ceremonies when the monument was dedicated.

The stone monument was moved in 1961 to a spot called Frederic-Manhes-Platz, which is the place where the road to the camp branches off from the main road up the hill called the Ettersberg. The place where it now stands was named after a French Resistance fighter named Col. Henri Frederic Manhes.

Buchenwald was just one of the camps to which captured partisans in the French Resistance were deported. The main camp for French Resistance fighters was Natzweiler-Struthof, which now has a Memorial Site with a Museum devoted to the French Resistance.

According to Wikipedia, “the Buchenwald oath” was as follows:

The core of the Buchenwald Oath is: We will take up the fight until the last culprit stands before the judges of the people. Our watchword is the destruction of Nazism from its roots. Our goal is to build a new world of peace and freedom. This is our responsibility to our murdered friends and their relatives.

After the Buchwald Oath was read aloud, the prisoners raised their hands and said, “We swear”.[12]

In keeping with their promise to build a new world of peace and freedom, the Buchenwald camp was turned into a camp for German prisoners after World War II.  You can read about it here. In 1997, a Museum was opened at the Buchenwald Memorial Site which tells about the German prisoners at Buchenwald after World War II.

As the poet wished, the dead were avenged.  The oath that the poet said needed to be asserted was that every last culprit should stand before the judges of the people.  This actually happened when 31 people were put on trial by the American liberators.  You can read about the trial here.

December 13, 2012

Holocaust survivor has identified himself in a famous photo taken by Margaret Bourke-White

Filed under: Buchenwald, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 12:30 pm
Famous Buchenwald photo taken by Margaret Bourke-White

Famous Buchenwald photo taken by Margaret Bourke-White

A big THANK YOU to Tal Forkos who has identified her grandfather, Herman Forkos, in the famous photo above, which was taken by Margaret Bourke-White on April 15, 1945, the day that she arrived at the Buchenwald camp, along with General Patton. Herman Forkos is the 19-year-old man on the left, wearing a short jacket, with his hand on the barbed wire fence.

Margaret Bourke-White’s famous Buchenwald photo, captioned “Survivors at the Wire,” was published in Life magazine on December 26, 1960 in a special double-issue entitled “25 Years of LIFE.”

Tal Forkos has her own blog at http://www.tofes630.com/blog/?p=1013.

On her blog, which I translated, using Google Translate, Tal mentioned that her grandfather did not know the names of the other prisoners in the photo.

I believe that the man in the center of the photo is Simon Toncman. Three men from the Netherlands are in the famous photo: Simon Toncman, Helman Leefsma, and Max Hamburger.  All three had been sent to Buchenwald after they had been captured while fighting with the French resistance. Simon Toncman is the man in the center, who has his hand on the barbed wire.

Monument honors French Resistance fighters who were prisoners at Buchenwald

Monument honors French Resistance fighters who were prisoners at Buchenwald

The photo above was taken by Tech/5 Dan Curtain, a soldier in General George S. Patton’s Third Army, who visited the Buchenwald camp several days after it was liberated on April 11, 1945.

The monument shown in the photo is a Memorial stone that was erected by the Communist prisoners at Buchenwald on 19 April 1945 in honor of the political prisoners in the camp. The Jewish Holocaust survivors at Buchenwald were not allowed to attend the ceremonies on the day that this monument was dedicated.

The Memorial stone, shown in the photo above, was moved in 1961 to a spot called Frederic-Manhes-Platz, which is the place where the road to the camp branches off from the main road up the hill called the Ettersberg. The place where it now stands was named after a French Resistance fighter named Col. Henri Frederic Manhes. Buchenwald was one of the main camps to which captured partisans in the French Resistance were deported.

Simon Toncman is also in another famous photo taken at Buchenwald, which is shown below.

Famous photo taken in Block 56 at Buchenwald

Famous photo taken in Block 56 at Buchenwald

The famous photo above was taken at the Buchenwald concentration camp, inside  Block #56, by Private H. Miller of the Civil Affairs Branch of the U. S. Army Signal Corps on April 16, 1945, five days after the camp was liberated by the Sixth Armored Division of the US Third Army on April 11, 1945. The photo was published by the New York Times on May 6, 1945 with the caption “Crowded Bunks in the Prison Camp at Buchenwald.”
Strangely, Simon Toncman never talked about being in the most famous Holocaust photo of all time?  Was he ashamed that he had posed naked with nothing but a striped shirt hiding the lower half of his body? Notice that Toncman and several men in the photo have nicely trimmed beards, but the other prisoners are clean shaven.

Now look at the man in the center of the photo at the top of my blog post.  Is this Simon Toncman posing with a group of prisoners at Buchenwald?  Compare the two photos below.

Closeup of man in photo of Barracks No. 56

Closeup of man in photo of Barracks No. 56

Closeup of man in the center of the photo at the Buchenwald fence

Closeup of man in the center of the photo at the Buchenwald fence

Simon Toncman was not Jewish.  He was a captured Resistance fighter, who was sent to Buchenwald because it was one of the main camps for Resistance fighters.  So what is he doing in two photos of Jewish Holocaust survivors?

Notice that both Simon Toncman and Herman Forkos are wearing French berets, which were worn by the Communists who ran the camp, according to General Patton.

When the Buchenwald camp was originally opened, the Nazis brought convicted criminals from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp to run the camp internally. But after the first Commandant, Karl Otto Koch, was relieved of his duties and sent to Majdanek, the new Commandant, Hermann Pister, allowed the Communist prisoners to take over the internal administration of the camp.

The following quote is from Robert Abzug in his book Inside the Vicious Heart:

Meanwhile, in all this upheaval, the new commandant Hermann Pister allowed a German Communist prisoner group, some of them original inmates of the camp, to wrest power from the ‘greens.’ (The greens were common criminals who wore green triangles.) The Communist prisoners reduced the amount of black marketeering and other common corruption, cut down the amount of wanton sadism on the part of prisoner trustees (or Kapos), and made plans for the ultimate takeover of the camp in case of Nazi defeat. But in other ways the Communists merely shifted the ground of corruption to the assignment of work details, food, medical care, and ultimately life. From their takeover until the end of the war, favored treatment was often received on the basis of political loyalties. The Nazis for their part, gained from the Communist regime a more predictable work force and a greater sense of order.

The Communists, who ran the Buchenwald camp, wore French berets to identify themselves to the other prisoners.  So why is a Jewish Holocaust survivor wearing a French beret in a famous photo taken at Buchenwald?

The Small Camp at Buchenwald

The Small Camp at Buchenwald

The Jewish prisoners were isolated at Buchenwald in a special section called the “Small Camp,” which was located at the bottom of a slope, far away from the gatehouse at the entrance to the camp. The “Small Camp” was separated from the rest of the Buchenwald camp by a barbed wire fence, which is shown in the photo above. The “Small Camp” was built where the soccer field had previously been located. It was used as a Quarantine camp for Jewish prisoners who had been evacuated from Auschwitz and other camps and brought to Buchenwald in the last months of the war.

The Communist political prisoners, who lived in the nice barracks near the gatehouse, discriminated against the Jewish prisoners and would not allow them into their nicer section unless they received a bribe. After the camp was liberated, the Jews were not even allowed to attend the celebration ceremony which was conducted by the Communist prisoners near the gatehouse.

Conditions inside the “Small Camp” were far worse than in the main part of the Buchenwald camp. The Jews were forced to live in crowded barracks and disease was rampant.

Buchenwald was primarily a camp for political prisoners. The Jewish prisoners had only arrived there after the death camps, located in what is now Poland, were closed because of the advance of the army of the Soviet Union. The Jews were immediately isolated at Buchenwald because they had to be quarantined in order to ensure that they were not carrying any diseases. In spite of this, a typhus epidemic broke out in the camp; half of all the prisoners who died at Buchenwald died during the epidemic.

November 29, 2011

Edwin Ritter, a Lost Airman of Buchenwald, tells about his transfer to Stalag III as a POW

Edwin Ritter was one of the Lost Airmen of Buchenwald, a group of 168 Allied airmen who were accused of being Terrorfliegers (terror fliers) and sent to a concentration camp after their planes were shot down. Most of these airmen were falsely accused of being illegal combatants who were aiding the French Resistance; they were actually legal combatants on bombing missions.

After the Allied invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944, France was being heavily bombed by Allied planes in an effort to win the war by destroying bridges, railroads, power plants and supply depots. The Allied airmen were falsely accused of dropping supplies to the French Resistance and sent to Buchenwald which was one of the two concentration camps where illegal combatants in the French Resistance were sent.  Edwin Ritter and a few others were not falsely accused; their planes had been shot down while dropping supplies to the French Resistance.

After the Luftwaffe (German air force) found out that there were Allied airmen in a concentration camp, the airmen were taken to Stalag III, which was a POW camp.  When the airmen arrived at the POW camp, there were 10 men who were separated from the group, including Edwin Ritter.

In 1993, Edwin Ritter gave a statement, which his daughter recorded and then transcribed.  This quote is from his statement:

We reached there (Stalag III) and it was the day of Thansgiving, November 24th (1944), I believe it was. We were put into camp and examined by the German commandant and he says, “You know, none of you are righteously permitted to come in here for the simple reason we have no records, no nothin’.” And he said he’s gonna to get the American colonel to come up, which was Goodrich at that time. Goodrich seemed to have everything well in hand.  Him and Colonel Clark.  Goodrich said that he could not let us mingle among the other Americans until we got cleared.  [...] Then Col. Goodrich came up with the post commandant, the German commandant, and he says, “We have all of you cleared so we’ll assign you to barracks.”  He said that “although there are ten of you that have to be separated from the rest of the group.”

And my name wasn’t called.  Martini wasn’t called and several others weren’t called.  Bob Johnson wasn’t called.  And, of course, Col. McNichols wasn’t called and we were just wondering why.  Well, of course, being directly involved with the OSS and the Free French Underground, we were liable for continuous prison because we had been found guilty of being saboteurs.  But they were going to clear us and get us mixed up in and amongst our own people, you know?  And they were gonna coach us exactly what we’d have to say, if anything slips up.

Ritter said in his statement that he never got any letters from his wife while he was in Stalag III, the POW camp.  He said that the American military “would not acknowledge that I was there at the camp.”  He said that he “Never got any information from them as to my acknowledgment in the Eighth Air Force or not. But the colonel vouched for me personally because he knew of my training with Westside T. Larson at 90 Church Street in New York in Columbia University. So he vouched for me specially.”  So according to Edwin Ritter, he was sent on missions to aid insurgents in France, and when he was captured, the American military would not acknowledge that he was in the American Air Force.

When the war was over, Ritter was sent first to Belgium, then to France, and finally put on a ship to America.  This quote is from his statement:

And finally we reached our shores thinking that we’d see the Statue of Liberty and into New York Harbor, where the rest were all goin’, but to our surprise and amazement, we were diverted from the convoy and sent to Boston.  Because of the nature of the incident, they deemed it necessary to separate us from the rest of the welcoming committee, and Fred Martini and myself were sent to Boston Hospital to remove the micro film from the bottoms of our feet. [...]  That following morning, we were wheelchaired into …. he was wheeled to a Trenton, New Jersey train and I was wheeled to a train head (sic) straight for Chicago (his home town).  And got home thinking, oh, what a welcome and everything else.  I did (get a welcome) from the family, yes: a dead man had returned.  My wife, your mother, was already given my medals and everything else post-humously, as a dead man.  It still didn’t catch up with our government that I was alive.  I was still AWOL until I got into Fort Sheridan and they straightened it out.  They changed the AWOL to MIA due to Col. McNichols and Col. Clark at that time — now Generals, of course.  And they got the government to clear us and give us passes for home.

From the rest of his statement, it is clear that the Army did not acknowledge his service in the war as an illegal combatant who was aiding the French Resistance.  When he became ill, he was not allowed to go to the VA hospital for treatment.  Ritter said that he submitted to several tests in which he was given sodium pentothal  and “they couldn’t believe what they heard from me.”

In this last quote at the end of his recorded statement, Ritter says that the United States would not acknowledge that he was a prisoner in a concentration camp:

And they can’t understand…and today, they can’t understand why the United States government…not the government, but he said, the services, the combined services, will not acknowledge that we were prisoners of war in a concentration camp.

One would think that the US government would have charged the Germans at Nuremberg with illegally putting captured Americans into a concentration camp instead of a POW camp, which was a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.  Or was it?  In the case of Edwin Ritter, who admitted that he was on a mission to drop supplies to the French Resistance, it was not a war crime to send him to a concentration camp.

Another documentary with the title Bomber Boys is also being shown currently on British TV.  You can read about it here.  One of the survivors who speaks in this documentary said, regarding his stay in Buchenwald: “Instead of being treated as prisoners of war many were sent to concentration camps and faced the threats of starvation, disease, beatings and the gas chamber.”

There was at least one American in the Dachau concentration camp, but you don’t hear much about that. The story of the Allied airmen at Buchenwald is much better known than the story of an American at Dachau.

This quote is from my own website, scrapbookpages.com:

On the day that Dachau was liberated, there was at least one American, Lt. Rene J. Guiraud, a member of the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) who had been arrested as a spy. There were also 5 other American civilians who were prisoners in the camp, according to Marcus J. Smith in his book, The Harrowing of Hell.

Nerin E. Gun wrote that there were 11 Americans imprisoned at Dachau at various times in its history.

According to a newspaper article by Mark Muckenfuss in The Press-Enterprise, Cecil Davis was a B17 pilot who was shot down during a bombing raid, and subsequently sent to a POW camp. He was with a group of American Prisoners of War who got lost while marching through the German countryside in late April 1945; the lost POWs were picked up by a patrol and dropped off at the Dachau “death camp” for three or four days. Davis was assigned to work in the crematorium where he saw the bodies of children that were being burned in “gas ovens.”

On January 26, 2009, Ron Simon, a staff memeber of the Telegraph-Forum, wrote an article about an American soldier, Porter Stevens, who was one of 8 American POWs at Dachau when the camp was liberated. Stevens had spent the last month of his 11 months as a POW at Dachau.

Another American at Dachau on the day the camp was liberated was Keith Fiscus, who was a Captain in American intelligence, operating behind enemy lines. According to a news article by Mike Pound, published in the Joplin Globe on April 29, 2009, Ficus was captured on April 29, 1944 in Austria and held at Dachau for 9 months after first being interrogated by the Gestapo.

The most famous American at Dachau was Rene Guiraud. After being given intensive specialized training, Lt. Guiraud was parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, along with a radio operator. His mission was to collect intelligence, harass German military units and occupation forces, sabotage critical war material facilities, and carry on other resistance activities. Guiraud organized 1500 guerrilla fighters and developed intelligence networks. During all this, Guiraud posed as a French citizen, wearing civilian clothing. He was captured and interrogated for two months by the Gestapo, but revealed nothing about his mission. After that, he was sent to Dachau where he participated in the camp resistance movement along with the captured British spies. Two weeks after the liberation of the camp, he “escaped” from the quarantined camp and went to Paris where he arrived in time to celebrate V-E day.

November 26, 2011

My review of Lost Airmen of Buchenwald, a new documentary about captured Allied airmen

Filed under: Germany, movies, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:51 am

Mike Dorsey, the producer and director of the new documentary Lost Airmen of Buchenwald has made several comments on a previous post on my blog.  In one comment, he wrote: “I was concerned I might get pulled into the denier rabbit hole, and here I am. So I’ll leave the thread with this: I hope you (meaning me) watch the film with an open mind, and not with the preconceived notion that it’s just veteran-worship propaganda.”

I ordered the DVD from the film’s website here.  My order was shipped immediately and I received it in a couple of days.  I tried to put aside my “preconceived notions” and keep an “open mind” while I watched the DVD.

On the back cover of the DVD box, there is this statement:

Falsely accused of being “terrorists and saboteurs,” the airmen faced a terrifying fight for survival.”

The term “falsely” implies that the Gestapo deliberately made up a false story about these innocent airmen of “the Greatest Generation” who were fighting bravely in “the Good War.”  Meanwhile, there were around 375,000 German POWs in America, who were being treated fairly, according to the Geneva Convention.  Strangely, the Gestapo had no fear that America would retaliate by killing some of these German prisoners.

The text on the back cover of the DVD also states this:

…”Lost Airmen of Buchenwald” tells their harrowing tale, from hiding with the French resistance, to the darkest days of the Holocaust…”

This implies that the airmen were working WITH the French Resistance, not that they were innocent airmen who were RESCUED by the French Resistance after they were shot down over France.  The Germans used the English word “terrorist” to describe members of the French Resistance who were fighting illegally in violation of the Geneva Convention.  These airmen had been flying bombing missions over German-occupied France when their planes were shot down; they were legal combatants.

The film starts out by describing the planes used by the captured airmen.  The airmen were flying over occupied France in the summer of 1944. However, the film does not reveal what they were planning to bomb in France.  After only 5 weeks of fighting in legal combat against the Germans, the French had surrendered and signed an Armistice, in which they promised to stop fighting.  The French continued to fight, but not on the battlefield.  The Germans referred to the men, who continued to fight after surrendering, as “terrorists.”

This film is about the Allied airmen who were falsely accused of aiding the “terrorists.”  Unfortunately, none of the seven men, who talk in the film about the horror of their capture, tell anything about why they were flying over German-occupied France.  Maybe I missed it, but they did not explain that Allied airmen were bombing railroads and supply places to aid in the invasion.  The film showed the fields where they landed.  They were falsely accused of dropping supplies to the French Resistance.

Overall, the quality of the film is excellent.  There is some great photography in the film and the authentic film footage of the war is spectacular.  I did not observe any photos that were incorrectly identified.  There was also a lot of footage of scenes in the Buchenwald concentration camp which I had never seen before.

I learned a lot from this film that I had not known before.  For example, I learned that captured SOE agents were executed in the basement of the Buchenwald crematorium by being hung with wire on hooks that were put on the wall of the crematorium for the purpose of executions. (I previously blogged about the hanging of prisoners in the Buchenwald crematorium here.) The second batch of SOE agents, who were scheduled to be executed, requested a more humane death and they were shot by a firing squad.   Score one for the Germans!  When the German war criminals requested a soldier’s execution by firing squad, the Allies denied their requests.

Now we go down “the denier rabbit hole”:  One of the pilots in the film says that Buchenwald was a labor camp, not an extermination camp like Bergen-Belsen.  The narrator of the film should have interrupted at this point and explained that Bergen-Belsen was an exchange camp that was set up to exchange prisoners. (You can read about Bergen-Belsen here.) This blooper in the film is quickly followed by another pilot who mentions that the captured pilots were not tattooed which was an indication that they were not going to be kept in the camp very long because the other Buchenwald prisoners had identification numbers tattooed on their forearms.  Again, the narrator should have explained that the Allied airmen were in the “Small Camp” section of Buchenwald where most of the prisoners were Jews who had been recently transferred from Auschwitz where they had been tattooed.  Auschwitz was the only camp where prisoners were tattooed.

Now for the worst part of the film, which I think should be cut out: the testimony of Lt. Jack Taylor who was an American imprisoned at Mauthausen.  In this part of the film, Lt. Taylor holds up a dog tag as he says that the soldier who wore this dog tag was gassed in the gas chamber at Mauthausen; he does not give the name on the dog tag.  Why was this included in a film about innocent flyers in the Buchenwald camp?    Lt. Taylor is not part of the Buchenwald story. This is just asking for deniers to lambast the Lost Airmen of Buchenwald documentary.  At the very least, it should be explained by the narrator why Lt. Taylor was included in a story about American airmen at Buchenwald.  Is it because his imprisonment at Mauthausen was for the same reason as the airmen, or was he imprisoned for a different reason?  Lt. Taylor was captured behind enemy lines on a commando mission; he was not entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention because he was an illegal combatant.  After the war, the Allies changed the rules of the Geneva Convention so that the SS men at Mauthausen were war criminals because Lt. Taylor was a prisoner there when he should have been sent to a POW camp under the ex post facto law.

You can read all about the testimony of Lt. Jack H. Taylor on my website here.  You can read about the controversy over the rules of the Geneva Convention and the treatment of POWs on my website here.

September 23, 2011

In the news today: dragging a man to death…Where have we heard this before?

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:43 am

I read in the news here that white supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed on Wednesday evening, Sept. 21st, for the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr., a black man from East Texas.  According to the news story, “Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and pulled whip-like to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.”

There were three white supremacists involved in the crime; Brewer is the first of them to be executed.  When I read about this, I wondered where these three men had gotten the idea of dragging someone to their death behind a truck.  I think that the fact that they were white supremacists gives us a clue.  As white supremacists, they were undoubtedly familiar with crimes committed against the Germans during World War II.  There is a famous story of a German SS soldier being dragged behind a truck by members of the French Resistance during World War II.

Otto Weidinger, the last commander of SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 4, Das Reich Division, wrote about the dragging incident in a small 62-page booklet entitled “Tulle and Oradour, a Franco-German Tragedy,” which he published in German in 1985.  I read the booklet when I did some research about Oradour sur Glane. In the booklet, Weidinger claims that Das Reich Division SS soldiers were victimized by local French Resistance fighters who committed unbelievable atrocities against them in the town of Tulle. He justifies the reprisal done by SS soldiers at Oradour-sur-Glane by claiming that the massacre was a legal reprisal against the villagers for violations of the Hague Convention by the French Resistance. He compares the killing of SS soldiers at Tulle to the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre.    (more…)

July 7, 2011

Was Christian Bernadac a prisoner at Mauthausen?

Filed under: World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:05 am

Christian Bernadac is the author of The 186 Steps, a book about the Mauthausen concentration camp, which was published in 1974.  According to a French Wikipedia page about Bernadac, he was born in August 1937 and died in 2003.  He was only 7 years old in the last year that Mauthausen was open, which means that he was probably not a prisoner at Mauthausen, which was mainly a camp for adult men. So how did he gain first-hand knowledge about the camp?  Is this book a fake, like so many other books about the Holocaust?

Before I visited the Mauthausen memorial site several years ago, I bought Bernadac’s book The 186 Steps and read it very thoroughly.  I had to buy a used copy through Amazon.com and pay a high price for it because the book was no longer in print at that time.  Based on what I read in his book, and my personal observations at the memorial site, I did a section on my web site about Mauthausen, which you can read here.  I mentioned several times that Bernadac had been a prisoner at Mauthausen.

After reading the translation of the French Wikipedia article, I got out Bernadac’s book, The 186 Steps, and read this on page 21:

“In 1944-1945, I was thirty years old. My only involvement was as an infantry lieutenant (in the Resistance, of course) where I executed orders and acted as military instructor of the Maquis forces located in Dordogne, and as liason with a radio operator sending messages to London and Algiers.  I was an obscure, low-ranking officer, carrying out missions which were entrusted to me to the best of my ability.  I never belonged to the clandestine General staff, either in the Resistance, or in Mauthausen, or next in the Melk kommando.  In this way, I was just a typical deportee…”

Did you catch that?  He was thirty years old and just a “typical deportee” meaning a person who was deported to Mauthausen and then to the Melk sub-camp because he was fighting as an illegal combatant in the French Resistance. Specifically, he was fighting with the Maquis.  At the time that I first read his book, I did not yet know anything about the Maquis.

I learned about the Maquis when I went to Oradour-sur-Glane, a French village where the Germans did a reprisal action against the villagers because of atrocities committed by the Maquis.

After the Allied invasion at Normandy on June 6, 1944, the Maquis became particularly active. In preparation for the invasion, the British had dropped a large number of weapons and millions of francs by parachute into rural areas. The weapons were stored in farm houses and villages, ready for the resistance fighters who would play an important part in the liberation of Europe. As a result, the Maquis was very effective in preventing German troops from reaching the Normandy area to fight the invaders.

The Maquis was independent from the other French resistance groups; they operated as guerilla fighters in rural areas and especially in mountainous regions. The name Maquis comes from a word that means bushes that grow along country roads. The Maquis literally hid in the bushes, darting out to kidnap German Army officers and execute them in a barbarous fashion.

One of the well-known victims of the Maquis was Major Helmut Kämpfe, the commander of Der Führer Battalion 3, who was kidnapped on 9 June 1944 and killed the next day. There were rumors that he was burned alive. Innocent French civilians in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane were killed the next day when the village was destroyed in a reprisal action by Waffen-SS soldiers who claimed that they had found weapons stored in the village.

The fighters in the Maquis were politically diverse: Some of them, like the “Red Spaniards” who were former soldiers in the Spanish Civil War, were Communists, but in general, the Communists had their own resistance organizations, such as the FTP. The Mauthausen camp was the main camp where the “Red Spaniards” were sent.

Henri Rosencher was a Jewish medical student and a Communist member of the Maquis. He survived the war and wrote a book entitled Le Sel, la cendre, la flamme (Salt, Ash, Fire) in which he described his work as an explosives expert with the French resistance. He was captured and sent to Natzweiler-Struthof, then later to Dachau, where he was liberated by American troops on April 29, 1945.

The following is a quote from Rosencher’s book, which describes a typical Maquis resistance action which resulted in the death by suffocation of 500 German Wehrmacht soldiers (feldgraus):

On the morning of the 17th of June, I arrived in the area of Lus-la-Croix-Haute, the “maquis” [zone of resistance] under the command of Commander Terrasson. They were waiting for me and took me off by car. The job at hand was mining a tunnel through which the Germans were expected to pass by train. The Rail resistance network had provided all the details. My only role was as advisor on explosives. TNT (Trinitrotoluene – a very powerful explosive) and plastic charges were going to collapse the mountain, sealing off the tunnel at both ends and its air shaft. When I got there, all the ground work was done. I only had to specify how much of the explosive was necessary, and where to put it. I checked the bickfords, primers, detonators, and crayons de mise à feu. We stationed our three teams and made sure that they could communicate with each other. I settled into the bushes with the team for the tunnel’s entrance. And we waited. Toward three p.m., we could hear the train coming. At the front came a platform car, with nothing on it, to be sacrificed to any mines that might be on the tracks, then a car with tools for repairs, and then an armored fortress car. Then came the cars over-stuffed with men in verdi-gris uniforms, and another armored car. The train entered the tunnel and after it had fully disappeared into it, we waited another minute before setting off the charge. Boulders collapsed and cascaded in a thunderous burst; a huge mass completely covered the entrance. Right after that, we heard one, then two huge explosions. The train has been taken prisoner. The 500 “feldgraus” inside weren’t about to leave, and the railway was blocked for a long, long time.

Natzweiler-Struthof was one of the main camps for French Resistance fighters; Buchenwald was also a camp that was filled with French Resistance fighters.  As illegal combatants, these prisoners could have been legally executed by the Germans, but they were allowed to live and write books about the atrocities committed by the Germans.

I am not disputing Wikipedia’s information that Bernadac was born in August 1937.  He could have been working with the French Resistance at the age of 7.  He could have been a 7-year-old hero of the French Resistance, blowing up troop trains and throwing hand grenades at German soldiers in restaurants and movie theaters.  Photos taken at the liberation of Mauthausen show that there were child prisoners there — and they don’t look Jewish.  He could have been a prisoner at the age of 7, even though he wrote in his book that he was 30 years old when he was at Mauthausen.

When I did research on Mauthausen and then went to see the former camp, I observed two things that were different about this camp:  there were more lies told about this camp than about any other camp and there was more honor given to the survivors of this camp than to the survivors of any other camp.  The site of the former Mauthausen camp is filled with memorials to the survivors.

The general attitude of the prisoners who survived Mauthausen and wrote books or gave interviews is that they were wrongly imprisoned and that they were treated very badly.  Curiously,  SS Judge Georg Konrad Morgen did not do an investigation at Mauthausen, as he did at other camps.  Allegedly, Morgen wanted to investigate the Mauthausen camp, but the Commandant of the camp would not allow him to do it.  I think that the truth is that there were no complaints that needed to be investigated.

December 19, 2010

Update on the Irish prisoner at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:09 am

I previously blogged here about an Irishman who was allegedly a prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp.  It turns out that I was wrong in assuming that the Irish prisoner was a British SOE agent who was using the code name Patrick O’Leary.  A reader who commented on that blog post yesterday wrote that there was another Irishman who was at Dachau, but so far I have not been able to find out his name.

The reader mentioned in his comment that there were a lot of prisoners brought to Dachau in the last months before the camp was liberated.  In fact, there were 7,000 prisoners who arrived in the last days who were not registered.   (more…)

June 1, 2010

German reprisals against French civilians in World War II

Yesterday I wrote a blog post about the village of Maillé in France which was destroyed by German troops in a reprisal during World War II.  I referred to the Maillé incident as a “legal reprisal” and a regular reader of this blog made a comment, asking “Legal to whom?” He also questioned what DeGaulle would have thought about the Maillé reprisal.

The Geneva Convention of 1929 was a set of laws, written to protect Prisoners of War.  Under the rules of the Convention of 1929, POWs were protected from reprisals.  However, it was not until the Geneva Convention of 1949 that civilians were protected against reprisals. The Geneva Convention of 1949 states that the principle of the prohibition of reprisals against persons has now become part of international law in respect to all persons, whether they are members of the armed forces or civilians.

According to international law during World War II, under the Geneva Convention of 1929, it was legal to violate the laws of war by responding with a reprisal against civilians in order to stop guerrilla actions that were against international law. So to answer the question “Legal to whom?” the Germans considered reprisals to be legal during World War II.

At this point, let me give you the back story on Maillé:

Germany invaded France on May 10, 1940, going around the Maginot Line, which the French had built to protect them from enemy invasion. On June 17, 1940, Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, the new prime minister of France, asked the Germans for surrender terms and an Armistice was signed on June 22, 1940. The French agreed to an immediate “cessation of fighting.”

Charles de Gaulle, a tank corps officer in the French Army, refused to take part in the surrender; he fled to England where, on the eve of the French capitulation, he broadcast a message to the French people over the BBC on June 18, 1940. This historic speech rallied the French people and helped to start the resistance movement.

The French resistance fighters blew up bridges, derailed trains, directed the British in the bombing of German troop trains, kidnapped and killed German army officers, and ambushed German troops. They took no prisoners, but rather killed any German soldiers who surrendered to them, sometimes mutilating their bodies for good measure. The Nazis referred to them as “terrorists.”

The photo below shows a Nazi poster which depicts the heroes of the French resistance as members of an Army of Crime.

German poster calls French Resistance fighters “terrorists”

According to the terms of the Armistice signed on June 22, 1940, the 1.5 million captured French soldiers, who were prisoners of war, were to be held in captivity until the end of the war. The French agreed to this because they thought that the British would surrender in a few weeks; instead, the British rejected all peace offers by the Germans and the French POWs remained in prison for five long years. Many of them escaped and joined the Maquis, one of the most notorious resistance groups, which distinguished itself by committing atrocities against German soldiers.

The Maquis was independent from the other resistance groups; they operated as guerrilla fighters in rural areas and especially in mountainous regions. The name Maquis comes from a word that means bushes that grow along country roads. The Maquis literally hid in the bushes, darting out to kidnap German Army officers and execute them in a barbarous fashion.

Major Helmut Kämpfe was killed by the French Resistance

The man in the photo above is Major Helmut Kämpfe, the commander of Der Führer Battalion 3, who was kidnapped by members of the FTP, the French Communist resistance, on 9 June 1944. The reason that the SS soldiers went to Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10, 1944 was to look for Kämpfe.  Allegedly, the French resistance fighters in Oradour-sur-Glane were going to execute Kämpfe by ceremoniously burning him alive that day. Kämpfe was the highest ranking officer ever to be captured by the resistance, and his execution was to be a big event. No one knows for sure how Major Kämpfe died, but there has been speculation that he was burned alive.

The Maquisards, as the fighters in the Maquis were called, were politically diverse. Some of them, like the “Red Spaniards” who were former soldiers in the Spanish Civil War, were Communists, but in general, the Communists had their own resistance organizations, such as the FTP. This was a resistance group, formed by the Communist party, called the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans. The Communist party also formed the Front National which fought in the resistance.

After the Allied invasion at Normandy on June 6, 1944, the Maquis became particularly active. In preparation for the invasion, the British had dropped a large number of weapons and millions of francs by parachute into rural areas. The weapons were stored in farm houses and villages, ready for the resistance fighters who would play an important part in the liberation of Europe. As a result, the Maquis was very effective in preventing German troops from reaching the Normandy area to fight the invaders.

The reprisals against the Maquis by German troops became more and more vicious. Innocent French civilians suffered, as for example in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, which was destroyed by Waffen-SS soldiers, in a reprisal, on June 10, 1944.

Here is a quote from Article 1. and Article 10. of the Armistice that the French signed after they surrendered to the Germans:

“1) The French government shall call a halt to all fighting against the German Reich in France, in French possessions, colonies, protectorates and mandates as well as at sea. It shall order an immediate laying down of arms by French units already enclosed by German troops.

10) The French government binds itself not to undertake any hostile actions against the German Reich with any part of the armed forces that are left to it or in any other manner.  [....]  French nationals that contravene these regulations shall be treated by the German forces as guerrillas.”

The designation as “guerrillas” was important to the Germans because guerrilla fighters were not recognized as “belligerents” under the Laws and Customs of War on Land, dated 18 October 1907, known as the Hague Convention.

The German Supreme Command never regarded the Maquisards (French resistance fighters) as “belligerents” but instead, according to the armistice agreement, they were treated as “guerrillas.”  The Germans believed that they were acting legally, according to international law, when they did reprisals against French civilians as a means of stopping the “guerrillas.”

On 8 June 1944, after the Normandy invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower informed the Germans that the French resistance groups were “part of the internal French forces” and were to be regarded as combatants under the Geneva Convention. The Germans did not accept Eisenhower’s decree because his declaration was unilateral and was never recognized by Germany.

According to the Hague Convention of 1907 which was in effect during World War II,  Article 1. states the following:

Article 1. The laws, the rights and the responsibilities of war apply not only to the army but also to the militia and volunteer corps if the following conditions are fulfilled:

1) if they are led by a person who is responsible for those under him,

2) if they bear a certain mark of distinction that is distinguishable from a distance,

3) they bear their weapons openly,

4) if they observe the laws and customs of warfare in what they do.

The Germans did not recognize the Maquisards as belligerents, nor as legal combatants, under this definition because the Marquisards never bore a certain mark of distinction, nor did they observe the laws and customs of warfare in what they did. Instead, the French Resistance committed horrendous atrocities against German soldiers who fell into their hands; the Resistance fighters did not treat German soldiers who surrendered to them according to the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929.

The following is a quote from a book entitled Le Sel, la cendre, la flamme (Salt, Ash, Fire) written by Henri Rosencher, a Jewish medical student and a Communist member of the Maquis:

On the morning of the 17th of June, I arrived in the area of Lus-la-Croix-Haute, the “maquis” [zone of resistance] under the command of Commander Terrasson. They were waiting for me and took me off by car. The job at hand was mining a tunnel through which the Germans were expected to pass by train. The Rail resistance network had provided all the details. My only role was as advisor on explosives. TNT (Trinitrotoluene – a very powerful explosive) and plastic charges were going to collapse the mountain, sealing off the tunnel at both ends and its air shaft. When I got there, all the ground work was done. I only had to specify how much of the explosive was necessary, and where to put it. I checked the bickfords, primers, detonators, and crayons de mise à feu. We stationed our three teams and made sure that they could communicate with each other. I settled into the bushes with the team for the tunnel’s entrance. And we waited. Toward three p.m., we could hear the train coming. At the front came a platform car, with nothing on it, to be sacrificed to any mines that might be on the tracks, then a car with tools for repairs, and then an armored fortress car. Then came the cars over-stuffed with men in verdi-gris uniforms, and another armored car. The train entered the tunnel and after it had fully disappeared into it, we waited another minute before setting off the charge. Boulders collapsed and cascaded in a thunderous burst; a huge mass completely covered the entrance. Right after that, we heard one, then two huge explosions. The train has been taken prisoner. The 500 “feldgraus” inside weren’t about to leave, and the railway was blocked for a long, long time.

As an illegal combatant, Henri Rosencher could have been summarily shot when he was captured, but he was sent to the Natzweiler concentration camp and allowed to live.  When Natzweiler was closed, he was transferred to Dachau where he was liberated by American soldiers on April 29, 1945.

If you want to know more about the French Resistance, check the children’s section at your local library.  You’re laughing, but I’m serious.  American school children study the French Resistance as part of their instruction in hatred of the German people. The French Resistance fighters are regarded as heroes for killing 500 German soldiers by blowing up a tunnel.

The village of Maillé was on a railroad line.  Who knows? Maybe a German troop train was blown up by the French Resistance near Maillé.  The survivors of Maillé claim that they were completely innocent, just as the Oradour-sur-Glane survivors claimed to be completely innocent.

May 31, 2010

World War II Massacre in the French village of Maillé

Today I came across an old news article, dated July 2008, which told about a German prosecutor, Ulrich Maass, who had reopened the case against German soldiers, who destroyed the French village of Maillé and killed 124 civilians, in a reprisal action during World War II on August 25, 1944, the same day that German troops surrendered to the Allies in Paris. You can read the full news article here.

(more…)

April 6, 2010

Noor Inayat Khan executed at Dachau — fact or fiction?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 1:21 pm

I would like to believe the story of Noor Inayat Khan, the brave “Spy Princess” from India who became a British SOE agent during World War II and was captured by the Gestapo in Paris.  I truly want to believe the story that Noor was tortured all night and beaten into a “bloody mess” by a high ranking SS officer at the Dachau concentration camp before he personally shot her in the head the next morning.  I want to believe it as much as the next person.  The problem is that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this story. It is pure fiction.

Noor Inayat Khan wearing British WAAF uniform

This quote about the death of Noor Inayat Khan is from Wikipedia:

On 11 September 1944 Noor Inayat Khan and three other SOE agents from Karlsruhe prison, Yolande Beekman, Eliane Plewman and Madeleine Damerment, were moved to the Dachau Concentration Camp. In the early hours of the morning, 13 September 1944, the four women were executed by a shot to the head. Their bodies were immediately burned in the crematorium. An anonymous Dutch prisoner emerging in 1958 contended that Noor Inayat Khan was cruelly beaten by a high-ranking SS officer named Wilhelm Ruppert before being shot down from behind.[9] Her last word was “Liberté”. She was 30 years old.[10][11]

9.  Basu, Shrabani. Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan”, Sutton Publishing, 2006, pg xx-xxi.
10.  a b Hamilton, Alan “Exotic British spy who defied Gestapo brutality to the end” in The Times, 13 May 2006, page 26

The Archives at the Dachau Memorial Site has no documentation whatsoever about the alleged execution of Noor Inayat Khan and three other British SOE women at Dachau.  Nor is there any record of these women even arriving at Dachau in September 1944. Everyone who entered the Dachau concentration camp had to stop at the gate and check in, but there is no record of any Gestapo men bringing these women into the Dachau camp in the middle of the night.

In spite of the complete lack of proof that any women were executed at Dachau, there is a plaque on the wall in the Dachau crematorium, where the bodies of the Noor Inayat Khan, Yolanda Beekman, Elaine Plewman, and Madeleine Damerment were allegedly burned.

Plaque on wall of crematorium at Dachau

The words on the plaque are:

Here in Dachau on the 12th of September,
1944, four young woman officers of the
British forces attached to Special Operations
Branch were brutally murdered and their bodies
cremated. They died as gallantly as they had
served the Resistance in France during the
common struggle for freedom from tyranny.

Notice the date, September 12, 1944.  Other sources, including the British Public Records Office, say that the date of execution was September 13, 1944.  The exact date is unknown because there are no records of the execution of these four women at Dachau or anywhere else.

Note the words “brutally murdered.”  If the four women were, in fact, executed at Dachau, it was perfectly legal under the Geneva Convention of 1929, which allowed the execution of illegal combatants.

The British SOE was a secret organization that was set up to aid and finance the French Resistance movement.  The French had signed an Armistice and promised to stop fighting.  They did stop fighting on the battlefield, but continued to fight throughout the war as illegal combatants.  That means that the British SOE, which was set up to help illegal combatants, was an illegal operation according to the rules of warfare. That’s why all the records of the SOE were kept secret for over 50 years.

The French resistance guerrilla fighters blew up bridges, derailed trains, directed the British in the bombing of German troop trains, kidnapped and killed German army officers, and ambushed German troops. They took no prisoners, but rather killed any German soldiers who surrendered to them, sometimes mutilating their bodies for good measure. The Nazis referred to them as “terrorists.” American school children are taught that the French resistance fighters, who fought illegally, were heroes.

Altogether, there were 470 agents in the French section of the British SOE, and 39 of them were women or 8% of the total. One third of the women died while in captivity or were executed. The male agents made up 92% of the total; 81 male agents, or 18% of the men, died while in prison or were executed. So why were the Nazis so mean to the women?  Why did they treat the women much worse than they treated the men?  Because that’s just the way Nazis are; they’re bad people, for no reason at all.

Twelve of the women SOE agents were allegedly executed secretly, but there were no records of these executions found after the war. All of the information about their deaths is based on hearsay testimony, or the biased testimony of male SOE agents who wanted these women to go down in history as heroines, and/or the confessions of SS men whose depositions, taken by British SOE officer Vera Atkins, were repeated in the courtroom. There is no documentation for these 12 executions whatsoever.

Altogether, there were 39 female British SOE agents who were sent to France and 13 of them never returned. Of the 13 female SOE agents who never returned, there were allegedly 4 that were executed at Natzweiler, 4 at Dachau and 4 at Ravensbrück, the women’s camp. The 13th was Muriel Byck, a Jewish agent, who died of meningitis on 23 May 1944, six weeks after she arrived in France.

The 12 SOE women who were allegedly executed had first been held in the Gestapo prison on Avenue Foch in Paris. Then all except Sonia Olschanezky and Noor Inayat Khan were sent to Fresnes, another Gestapo prison. Noor was sent to Pforzheim prison on November 27, 1943 after she attempted to escape for the second time.

Eight of the women SOE agents were gathered together at Avenue Foch and sent on May 13, 1944 to the civilian prison at Karlsruhe, including Odette Sansom who was later transferred on July 18, 1944 to Ravensbrück, where she survived; she was one of the eight SOE agents who were sent to Ravensbrück.

Four of the 8 female SOE agents, who were sent to Ravensbrück, were allegedly executed there, according to eye-witness testimony. Their names are Denise Bloch, Lilian Rolfe, Violette Szabo and Cecily Lefort.  Three of the women were allegedly shot, but Lefort was allegedly killed in the gas chamber at Ravensbrück, according to the court testimony of one of the prisoners.

Cover of book entitled “Spy Princess”

Before it became known that Noor Inayat Khan was allegedly executed at Dachau, the staff members of the Natzweiler concentration camp were put on trial by the British and charged with her murder.  When it was learned that Noor was allegedly executed at Dachau, the court transcript was changed so that one of the four women who were allegedly executed at Natzweiler was listed as “unknown.”  It was not publicly revealed that the transcript had been changed until many years later.

In January 1947, nine months after the file on Noor had been closed, British SOE officer Vera Atkins was given a letter written by Yolande Lagrave, a former French political prisoner at Pforzheim. Lagrave had been sent to Pforzheim prison in early 1944, two months after Noor had arrived; she claimed that she was the only woman prisoner to survive Pforzheim. According to Lagrave’s story, all the other women were taken out, raped and then shot; their bodies were buried on the prison grounds in a mass grave. For some unknown reason, Lagrave was kept alive and she was released when the Allies liberated the prison on May 1, 1945.

Lagrave began writing letters to Noor’s brother and others, in which she revealed that Noor Inayat Khan had left Pforzheim some time in September 1944, although the exact date was unknown.

Noor had been kept in solitary confinement at Pforzheim, far apart from the other prisoners, but they had managed to communicate with her by scratching messages on the bottom of their mess tins with knitting needles, according to Yolande Lagrave’s story. Each day, the women would look on the bottom of their mess tin at meal time to see if Noor had scratched a message when she had previously used the same mess tin.

In September 1944, Noor had scratched a message, with no date, which said that she was leaving. With this new information provided by Yolande Lagrave, it was then assumed by British SOE officer Vera Atkins that Noor had been taken from Pforzheim to Karlsruhe on September 11, where she joined three other women who were released on that date and sent to an unnamed concentration camp.   Note that the Karlsruhe records do not show where the women were sent.  They were most likely sent to the women’s camp at Ravensbrück.

On May 19, 2006 a documentary entitled The Princess Spy was shown on the BBC2 Timewatch program. In this documentary, about the life of Noor Inayat Khan, alias Nora Baker, records in the Pforzheim archives were shown with the name Nora Baker, her address in London, her birthplace in London, and the date of her transfer — September 11, 1944. Noor was actually born in Moscow, of an Indian father and an American mother. Were these alleged records faked by the British for their documentary? The mistakes on the records seem to indicate that they were fake.

The records shown in the documentary contradict the statement of Marcel Schubert, a prisoner at Pforzheim who worked as an interpreter. Schubert claimed that “the British woman’s name was never written in the prison register.” This makes sense since Noor had been classified as a Nacht und Nebel prisoner after she attempted to escape twice. The families of Nacht und Nebel prisoners were not told of their whereabouts; the purpose of this was to discourage resistance fighting.

Noor had revealed her name, and also two of her addresses, only to the other women prisoners by scratching this information on the bottom of a mess tin, according to Yolande Lagrave, who said that she had written down the addresses and sewn the paper inside the hem of her skirt. After the war, Yolande had attempted to contact Noor, but her letters were returned.

According to Sarah Helm’s book A Life in Secrets, Hans Kieffer, the man who had ordered Noor to be sent to Pforzheim prison, told Vera Atkins that he had no knowledge of her execution.  He broke down and cried when he was told that Noor had been executed at Dachau.

Here is a quote from the book entitled Spy Princess by Shrabani Basu:

The Pforzheim prison register shows that Noor was discharged from the prison at 6:15 p.m. on 11 September and driven 20 miles to Karlsruhe.  Orders had come directly from Berlin to move Noor.  She was now summoned to the office of Josef Gmeiner, head of the Karlsruhe Gestapo.

Just after 2 a.m. in Gmeiner’s office Noor met three other SOE agents, Eliane Plewman, Madeleine Damerment and Yolande Beekman.  She had known Yolande from her training days at Wanborough Manor.  All four agents were given their orders to leave for Dachau.  They were escorted by Gestapo officer Christian Ott and driven to the station in Gmeiner’s car.  At Bruchsal Junction they were joined by their second German escort Max Wassmer, and together they caught the express train for Stuttgart.  At Stuttgart they had to wait on the platform for about an hour for the train to Munich.

Josef Gmeiner said later that the orders to move Noor and her colleagues had come by teleprinter from Berlin.  One was addressed to his office at Karlsruhe and the other to the Commandant of the concentration camp.  Gmeiner’s instructions were to transfer the prisoners to the camp at Dachau.  The instruction to the Camp Commandant of Dachau ordered the execution itself.

It was midnight when they reached Dachau and they walked up to the concentration camp, where they were locked in separate cells.

The end came in the early hours of the morning.  Madeleine, Eliane and Yolande were dragged out of their cells, marched past the barracks and shot near the crematorium.

For Noor it would be a long, tortuous night.  According to two letters received by Jean Overton Fuller’s publishers after her book appeared in 1952, Noor was stripped, abused and kicked all night by her German captors. One of the letter writers was a Lieutenant Colonel Wickey, who worked for Canadian intelligence during the war and was Military Governor in Wuppertal in the British zone after the war.  Here he met a German officer who had spent time in Dachau.  This officer had been told by some camp officials that four women had been brought to Dachau from Karlsruhe.  He described the women as French but added that one had a darker complexion and “looked much like a Creole.”  The officers told the German officer that she (Noor) was considered to be a very “dangerous person” and to be given the “full treatment.”  Wickey then traced the German camp officer who had given the account and was told by him that Noor was tortured and abused in her cell by the Germans. She was stripped, kicked and finally left lying on the floor battered.

Captain A. Nicholson of the War Crimes Group of North West Europe was given the task of obtaining photocopies of the Pforzheim prison register.  He reported to Major N.G. Mott at the War Office.  From the sworn statement of the prison director, they learnt that Noor was removed from Pforzheim to Dachau in September. Major Mott then reported to Vera Atkins that Noor, along with three other specially employed women were removed to Dachau where they were executed the following morning, 13 September.

Note the date, September 13th.  The plaque on the wall of the crematorium at Dachau gives the date of execution as September 12th. It is hard to keep the dates straight when the story is based on hearsay from unnamed informants.

Noor Inayat Khan most likely died at Pforzheim prison. The other three SOE women were most likely sent to Ravensbrück, the women’s camp.  Ravensbrück was liberated by the Soviet Union and all the records from the camp were confiscated and never released to the public.  There was a typhus epidemic in Germany in the last days of the war, and the SOE women most likely died of typhus.

So why do the British keep promoting this fictional account of Noor Inayat Khan?  Well, it makes a great story.  Noor Inayat Khan was an exotic beauty with an exotic name.  The name  Noor  means “light of womanhood.” Noor’s father was Hazrat Inayat Khan, a leader of the Sufi movement, and her mother was an American.

Noor was a descendent of Tippu Sultan, a prince who had been an enemy of British rule in India. She has been described as “gentle, shy, musical, dreamy, and poetic,” and she “was noted for her kindness to animals.”  Noor attended the Sorbonne and wrote children’s books, including Twenty Jataka Tales, which is still in print.

Noor Inayat Khan

The story is that this beautiful, gentle Indian “Princess” was brutally beaten by a SS officer, who represents the stereotype of SS men as the epitome of cruelty. This is the age old story of good and evil.   The Allies fought the “good war” and defeated the evil Nazis. Noor Inayat Khan was fighting as an illegal combatant, and could have been legally executed, but she is the heroine who was “murdered”  by the evil Nazis.

You can read more about the story of Noor Inayat Khan here.

There was an announcement a couple of years ago that a film was being made, based on the book Spy Princess by Shrabani Basu.  The film was to be directed by Shyam Benegal.  I don’t know if the film has ever been released.

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