Scrapbookpages Blog

November 18, 2015

Why didn’t America bomb the railroad tracks into Auschwitz?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 12:43 pm

As a child, living in a small town in America, my home was located right beside the railroad tracks going through the center of the state of Missouri; I would frequently look out the window and see workers repairing the railroad tracks. The tracks required frequent maintenance, which was quickly accomplished.

Today, I read a news story which seems to suggest that it would have taken a long time to repair the tracks leading to Auschwitz-Birkenau and that the Jews could have been saved if the tracks had been blown up.

The following quote is from the news article:

One less fortunate result is that the Big Questions begat by the Holocaust — How could it have happened; Where was God; Where was Roosevelt? — often result in small answers, answers that do not necessarily do the questions justice. Nonetheless, Jews are a meaning-seeking people. And so we keep trying. Jay Winik’s monumental survey of the last full year of the Second World War, “1944: FDR and the Year that Changed History” (Simon & Schuster), marks the most recent effort to answer the third question: Why didn’t America and the Allies rescue the Jews as the Final Solution unfolded? In particular, why were the tracks to Auschwitz, and Auschwitz itself, not bombed?
Railroad tracks entering the gatehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Railroad tracks going through the gatehouse into the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

The town of Auschwitz was a major railroad hub, with many train tracks coming into it, and a large marshaling yard was located near the Auschwitz station.  Standing on a railroad overpass at Auschwitz in 1941, Heinrich Himmler realized that Birkenau was an ideal location for transporting people by rail from all over Europe, although the plans for exterminating the Jews were not finalized until the Nazis were confident that they would win their war against the Soviet Union. The gate house at Birkeanu is located three kilometers, or about two miles, from the main Auschwitz camp, known as Auschwitz I.

To get to the Birkenau camp from the main Auschwitz camp, turn right after exiting from the parking lot. The road curves to the left and goes over the railroad overpass where Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler stood on March 1, 1941 when he selected the village of Birkenau to be the location of a new addition to the Auschwitz main camp. At that time, the invasion of the Soviet Union and the plan to exterminate all the Jews in Europe was only months away.

The "Gate of Death" at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My photo of the  “Gate of Death” at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp

From the railroad overpass, the road leads directly to the Gate of Death, shown in my photo above.

The railroad spur line that goes through the gate house begins on the left side of the gate, about a quarter of a mile away, and curves around until it forms a straight line in front of the gate.

Trains coming from the west entered the Birkenau camp from tracks on the left side of the gate, as you are facing it, and did not pass the railroad station in the town of Auschwitz. Trains coming from the opposite direction passed the train station in Auschwitz and then entered the camp on the spur line. The train tracks end only a few yards from two of the gas chambers inside the Birkenau camp.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau gate house was not built until 1943, long after the Birkenau camp was first opened.

The first inmates, who were Soviet Prisoners of War, arrived at Birkenau on October 7, 1941. At first, the gate shown in my photo above was for trucks and pedestrians.

Railroad tracks were not laid through the gate until the Spring of 1944, just before the transports of Hungarian Jews began to arrive. According to the Auschwitz Museum, 434,351 of these Hungarian Jews were not registered at Birkenau; instead, they were gassed immediately upon arrival.

At the height of the deportation of the Hungarian Jews, during a 10 week period, up to 12,000 Jews were allegedly gassed and burned each day. If only the Allies had destroyed the railroad tracks into Birkenau, they could have been saved.

 

September 27, 2015

The many gates at Theresienstadt

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:49 am
Main gate into the walled town of Theresienstadt

Main gate into the walled town of Theresienstadt

This morning, I went to Wikipedia to get the facts on Music at  Theresienstadt.  On the Wikipedia page, I saw the photo below, which was purported to be the gate into the Theresienstadt camp.

The gate into the Small Fortress, NOT the gate into the Theresienstadt camp

The gate into the Small Fortress, NOT the gate into the Theresienstadt ghetto (Click on photo to enlarge)

Gate into the Small Fortress at Theresienstadt

Gate into the Small Fortress at Theresienstadt, NOT the gate into the Theresienstadt ghetto

The wall around Theresienstadt fortress

The wall around the Theresienstadt fortress

When Theresienstadt was built as a military fortress in 1780, it consisted of two parts: the Main Fortress, where the Jews were later imprisoned by the Nazis in World War II, and the Small Fortress which was originally built as a prison and was used as such from the time it was completed until a few years after World War II, when the last of the German war criminals, who were incarcerated here by the victorious Allies, were executed.

Old building in Theresienstadt ghetto

Old building in Theresienstadt ghetto (click on photo to enlarge)

Detail of old building at Theresienstadt

Detail of old building at Theresienstadt

The Small Fortress is on the east side of the Ohre river that divides the two parts of the old military fortress, which was named Theresienstadt. The Theresienstadt ghetto is on the west side.

The Main Fortress is now the town of Terezin, which is open to visitors, and even has a hotel where tourists can stay if they don’t mind spending the night in the exact location where Hitler’s SS soldiers once slept.

Gate into the section of the Small Fortress which has the Arbeit Macht Frei sign

Courtyard of the Small Fortress which has the gate with the Arbeit Macht Frei sign

The Small Fortress became a Gestapo prison in June 1940, even before the Main Fortress was turned into a transit camp for the Jews in November 1941.

The following quote is from a pamphlet that I obtained when I toured the Small Fortress:

Begin quote:

People were sent here [to the Small Fortress] for taking part in the democratic and communist resistance movement, for aiding parachutists sent from the west and east to help the Czech resistance, for supporting partisans, escaped prisoners-of-war and Jews, or for individual acts against the Nazi regime. They were intellectuals, workers, farmers, clericals, artists and students, men and women.

The fate of the Jewish prisoners here was particularly tragic. After arrest by the Gestapo for taking part in the resistance movement or breaking the rules established for Jews in Terezin town, they were sent here, given the hardest work and subjected to the worst terrorism by the guards.

It was actually a transit prison as most of the inmates were sent after a certain time before a Nazi court and from there to other prisons and penitentiaries or to concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Austria.

End quote

After visiting the firing range in the Small Fortress at Theresienstadt, tour groups go through the Gate of Death which was the gate through which condemned prisoners had to walk to reach another execution site outside the fortress.

If you don’t want to go through the tunnel to get to the execution site, you can reach the Gate of Death by walking straight ahead when you enter the Small Fortress, instead of turning left into the Administration Court. You will then enter the Fourth Courtyard which is where my tour group emerged when we came through the Gate of Death.

September 19, 2015

An oldie but goody: the Auschwitz II death camp

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:10 am
The

The “gate of death” at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I am putting up a quote from an old blog post that I wrote over two years ago:

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/prize-winning-essay-written-by-an-israeli-visitor-to-auschwitz-auschwitzland-fun-for-the-whole-family/

The following quote is from the blog post, cited above.

Begin quote:

To get back to the essay, I was surprised to read this:

“We had driven by the tall guard towers, and seen the train tracks leading into the camp. These tracks exemplified the Nazis’ manipulation and duplicity. They were designed to look like they continued into the distance, to make sure the passengers on the train weren’t aware that this was their final destination; just one of the ways the prisoners were kept in control.”

End quote

The Nazis just can’t catch a break. Everything they did affronted the Jews — even the fact, that they extended the train tracks from the Auschwitz station into the Birkenau camp in 1944, offends the Jewish tourists now.

Before the tracks were extended inside the Birkenau camp, the Jews got off the trains at the Judenrampe, near the Auschwitz train station. The Judenrampe was about a mile and a half from the camp and the prisoners had to walk to the gas chambers before the tracks were extended into the camp.

The train tracks where the Jews got off the trains before the tracks were extended inside the camp

The train tracks where the Jews got off the trains before the tracks were extended inside the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

Train tracks were extended inside the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

Train tracks that were extended inside the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

The photo above illustrates what the Israeli essayist said about the train tracks, which I am quoting again:

“These tracks exemplified the Nazis’ manipulation and duplicity. They were designed to look like they continued into the distance, to make sure the passengers on the train weren’t aware that this was their final destination; just one of the ways the prisoners were kept in control.”

In other words, anything and everything that ever happened in their world affronted the Jews.

April 10, 2013

Where was Barak Obama on Holocaust Remembrance Day?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:26 am

As far as I can determine, President Obama did not show up in person at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC to pay his respects, inside the Hall of Remembrance, to the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

The following quote is from this website:

President Barack Obama, who visited Yad Vashem on his trip to Israel last month, issued a statement saying the day offered a chance to remember the “beautiful lives lost” and to “pay tribute to all those who resisted the Nazis’ heinous acts and all those who survived.”

Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, thinks that his visit to Yad Vashem last month takes care of his responsibility to “pay tribute” in person at our Holocaust Museum in the nation’s capitol on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I previously blogged about Obama’s statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January 2012 here.

The photo below shows the 14th Street entrance into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; there is another entrance, on the other side of the building on 15th Street.

Entrance to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Entrance to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

On the ground floor of the Museum, there is a lighted glass stripe, which cuts across the floor of the Hall of Witness. The stripe is at a slight angle, as is everything in the Hall of Witness. Nothing is lined up straight with the walls; everything is out of kilter so that you get the subtle suggestion that something is not quite right here. The stairs to the second floor, at one end of the Hall of Witness, look like a ladder in a picture which appears to be smaller at the top.

The Hall of Witness is shown in the photo below.

The Hall of Witness inside the USHMM

The Hall of Witness inside the USHMM

At the top of the stairs in the Hall of Witness is a gentle arch which is an exact duplicate of the arch over the doorway of the brick gatehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The photo below shows the “Gate of Death” at Auschwitz-Birkenau, through which the trains, carrying the Hungarian Jews, rolled into the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.

Gentle arch over the gate into the Birkenau death camp

Gentle arch over the gate into the Birkenau death camp

The Hungarian Jews are important in the Holocaust saga because 400,000 of them were gassed in only 10 weeks time. The railroad line was extended into the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, right up to the gas chambers.  Most of the famous Holocaust survivors today are Hungarian Jews, who managed to escape the gas chambers.  Each survivor has his or her own story of how they beat the system and lived to write a book, documenting the horror.

The USHMM has permanent exhibits, which begin on the fourth floor and continue down to the third floor, then down to the second floor where the exit leads visitors into the Hall of Remembrance. Visitors must take an elevator to the fourth floor, where the first thing they see when the elevator door opens is a giant photo of bodies that were burned on railroad ties.  This photo purportedly proves that the evil Nazis burned Jews alive at Ohrdruf, which was the first camp seen by American soldiers.

The photo below shows the six-sided Hall of Remembrance, where ceremonies are held in honor of the 6 million who died in the Holocaust.

The Hall of Remembrance at the USHMM

The Hall of Remembrance at the USHMM

The 6,000 square-foot Hall of Remembrance, shown in the photo above, is on the second floor of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC at the end of the tour of the permanent exhibit. The room has 6 sides which represent the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, and the 6-pointed Star of David, which is the Jewish emblem.

The 6 walls of the Hall of Remembrance have black marble panels, engraved with the names of the major concentration camps in Poland and Germany. The 6 death camps, where the Jews were gassed, are on a separate panel. The six death camps were Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Trebkinka,  Auschwitz and Majdanek.

The Hall is three stories high and there is a 6-sided skylight at the top. The floor of the Hall of Remembrance is polished marble in a hexagonal pattern.

Six-sided skylight at the top of the Hall of Remembrance

Six-sided skylight at the top of the Hall of Remembrance

As you enter the Hall of Remembrance, the first thing you see is a rectangular block of black marble, topped by an eternal flame, as shown in the photo below. There are no real windows in the room but shafts of light are provided by narrow glass-covered slits at the four exterior corners of the building.

The altar topped by an eternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance

The altar topped by an eternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance

The photograph above shows a closeup of the black marble block, evocative of a coffin, which contains dirt from 38 of the concentration camps in Europe. The dirt was brought to America in urns, like those used by the Nazis for the ashes of the victims who were cremated, and in a touching ceremony, the dirt was deposited inside the block by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

Dirt from a cemetery in Europe, where American soldiers are buried, was also included, in honor of the American liberators of the Dachau, Buchenwald and Mauthausen concentration camps.

The black marble panel on the wall behind the eternal flame has this inscription: “Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children.”

On the other side of the Hall, opposite the eternal flame, are two speaker’s stands, one on each side, resembling two pulpits in a church. It is from one of these stands that the President of the United States would have delivered his speech if he had gone to the Hall on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

As you might have guessed by now, the number 6 is of great importance in the story of the Holocaust. After the Jewish population of Palestine reached the magic number of 600,000, the country of Israel was born in 1948.