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July 3, 2010

General Dwight D. Eisenhower: “The things I saw beggar description…”

On the outside of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC there are four plaques with quotes from four presidents, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The Eisenhower quote is in the most prominent spot and it is, by far, the most famous:

“The things I saw beggar description…The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering…I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations to propaganda.”

This quote was condensed from a paragraph in a letter that General Eisenhower wrote to General George C. Marshall on April 15, 1945.  The letter starts out with Eisenhower outlining his plans for how he will conduct the war in the next few weeks.

You can see a photograph of the second page of the letter here.

On the second page of the letter, in the second paragraph, General Eisenhower wrote the following:

On a recent tour of the forward areas in First and Third Armies, I stopped momentarily at the salt mines to take a look at the German treasure.  There is a lot of it.  But the most interesting — although horrible — sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description.  While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape.  I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick.  In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter.  He said he would get sick if he did so.  I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops the tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”

General Eisenhower stopped “momentarily” at the Merkers mine to see the “German treasure.”

Col. Hayden Sears talks to prisoners, April 8, 1945

The photo above shows prisoners from Ohrdruf who escaped, but then returned to the camp after the American soldiers arrived on April 4, 1945.  Notice that they seem to be in good health.

Eisenhower “deliberately” made a visit to this shed

The photo above shows the bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus at Ohrdruf.  Eisenhower deliberately went into this shed so that he could give “first-hand evidence” if ever in the future anyone would charge these allegations to “propaganda.”

Although he didn’t mention the name Ohrdruf in his book entitled Crusade in Europe, Eisenhower wrote the following about April 12, 1945, the day he visited the Merkers salt mines that held the Nazi treasures:

The same day, I saw my first horror camp. It was near the town of Gotha. I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency. Up to that time I had known about it only generally or through secondary sources. I am certain, however that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.

I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that “the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda.” Some members of the visiting party were unable to go through with the ordeal. I not only did so but as soon as I returned to Patton’s headquarters that evening I sent communications to both Washington and London, urging the two governments to send instantly to Germany a random group of newspaper editors and representative groups from the national legislatures. I felt that the evidence should be immediately placed before the American and British publics in a fashion that would leave no room for cynical doubt.

So without going to see Buchenwald or any other camp, Eisenhower immediately started a propaganda campaign about the horror of the German camps.  Was the word typhus ever mentioned in all of this propaganda.  NO!

The first news reel film about the alleged German war-time atrocities, that was shown in American movie theaters, referred to the Ohrdruf labor camp as a “murder mill.” Burned corpses were shown as the narrator of the film asked rhetorically “How many were burned alive?”

The narrator described “the murder shed” at Ohrdruf where prisoners were “slain in cold blood.” Lest anyone should be inclined to assume that this news reel was sheer propaganda, the narrator prophetically intoned:

“For the first time, America can believe what they thought was impossible propaganda. This is documentary evidence of sheer mass murder – murder that will blacken the name of Germany for the rest of recorded history.”

German civilians were forced to view the bodies at all of the concentration camps

On the same day that the American Generals visited Ohrdruf, a group of citizens from the town of Ohrdruf and a captured German Army officer were being forced to take the tour.

Colonel Charles Codman, an aide to General Patton, wrote to his wife about an incident that happened that day. A young soldier had accidentally bumped into the captured German officer and had laughed nervously. “General Eisenhower fixed him with a cold eye,” Codman wrote “and when he spoke, each word was like the drop off an icicle. ‘Still having trouble hating them?’ he said.”

General Eisenhower had no trouble hating the Germans.  He wrote to his wife, Mamie: “God, I hate the Germans!”

The photograph below was sent to me a few years ago by Mary Liethen Meier, the niece of Captain Alois Liethen, who was General Eisenhower’s interpreter that day.  The man standing next to General Eisenhower, and pointing to the prisoner demonstrating how the inmates were punished at Ohrdruf, is Alois Liethen, her uncle. Left to right, the men in the front row are Lt. General George S. Patton, Third U.S. Army Commander; General Omar N. Bradley, Twelfth Army group commander; and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander. This photo was published in an American newspaper above a headline which read: U.S. GENERALS SEE A “TORTURE” DEMONSTRATION

Former prisoners at Ohrdruf demonstrate the whipping block

Captain Alois Liethen wrote the following in a letter to his family, dated 13 April 1945, the day after he served as the interpreter on the tour of Ohrdruf:

The treatment of the prisoners was something that even amazed me. If anyone dared to even as much as smile in ranks he received 25 lashes with a heavy oak staff while he was bent over nearly double over a whipping post, anyone who tried to escape was hanged — not by a rope but by a wire from a gibbet — all of the inmates had to witness these hangings even tho they were sick or feeble. When they were out on a work detail — which they were every day from daylight to darkness they were beaten if they didn’t produce as fast as they should, and then in many cases when the whims of the guards arose to the occasion they would shoot at them just for the pure fun of it — those that ducked were surely doomed for then they were a sure target for the second shot. Then to come to the matter of food. Each man received 300 grams of bread (black sour hard stuff) and 1 liter of soup, of course there were those who performed those special duties such as the one that I spoke to mostly — he was on the burning and burying detail — he got 500 grams of bread and 2 liters of soup perday (sic). They were kept very busy for there were estimated that there were 200 to 250 buried or burned every week.

Captain Liethen was German-American and he spoke German like a native; he had learned German at home from his parents.  Yet, he believed every word that these former prisoners told him.

Notice that the “whipping block,” which is shown in the photo above, is an ordinary table that had been hastily put together for this demonstration because no whipping block was found at Ohrdruf.  Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had given an order in 1942 that whipping the prisoners was forbidden. Ohrdruf was not opened until 1944, so this was an obvious lie told by the former prisoners.

Captain Alois Liethen had been investigating this small, obscure forced labor camp long before he arrived in Germany, but why? Why did all the US Army generals visit this small camp and no other? Could it be because there was something else of great interest in the Ohrdruf area besides the Führer bunker and the salt mine where Nazi treasures were stored?

The Buchenwald camp had been liberated on April 11, 1945, the day before the visit to the Ohrdruf camp. At Buchenwald, there were shrunken heads, human skin lampshades and ashtrays made from human bones. At Ohrdruf, there was nothing to see except a shed filled with 20 to 30 bodies. So why did Captain Alois Liethen take the generals to Ohrdruf instead of Buchenwald?

What was Captain Liethen referring to when he wrote these words in a letter to his family?

“After looking the place over for nearly a whole day I came back and made an oral report to my commanding general — rather I was ordered to do so by my boss, the Col. in my section. Then after I had told him all about the place he got in touch with the High Command and told them about it and the following tale bears out what they did about it.”

There has been some speculation that the Germans might have tested an atomic bomb near Ohrdruf. In his book entitled The SS Brotherhood of the Bell, author James P. Farrell wrote about “the alleged German test of a small critical mass, high yield atom bomb at or near the Ohrdruf troop parade ground on March 4, 1945.” The “troop parade ground” was at the German Army Base right next to the Ohrdruf labor camp.

Why did General Eisenhower immediately order a propaganda campaign about Nazi atrocities after his visit to Ohrdruf? Was it to distract the media from discovering a far more important story that Eisenhower wanted to keep secret?

Eisenhower views the bodies that were burned at Ohrdruf

In the photo above, the man on the far right, wearing a dark jacket, is a Dutch survivor of the camp who served as a guide for the American generals on their visit. The second man from the right is Captain Alois Liethen, who is interpreting for General Bradley to his left and General Eisenhower in the center of the photo. The man to the left of General Eisenhower is Benjamin B. Ferencz, who is taking notes. On the far left is one of the survivors of Ohrdruf.

General Eisenhower views the gallows at Ohrdruf

In the photo above, the man on the far left, wearing a jacket and a scarf, is one of the survivors who served as a guide for General Eisenhower and his entourage. General Patton wrote in his memoirs that the next day the guide was “killed by some of the inmates,” because the guide “was not a prisoner at all, but one of the executioners.”

In a letter dated April 15, 1945, addressed to Ike (General Dwight D. Eisenhower), Patton wrote the following regarding this man who had served as their guide at Ohrdruf:

“It may interest you to know that the very talkative, alleged former member of the murder camp was recognized by a Russian prisoner as a former guard. The prisoner beat his brains out with a rock.”

This prisoner was probably one of the Kapos in the camp whose job had been to assist the German guards; it is doubtful that an SS soldier would have remained behind when the camp was evacuated, knowing that the prisoners would exact revenge as soon as the Americans arrived.

If any SS men had remained in the camp, they would have been promptly killed or taken into custody on April 4, 1945 when the camp was first discovered by American troops. It has been alleged that some of the SS men at the concentration camps tried to disguise themselves by putting on civilian clothes or prison garb when the American troops approached, but the prisoners beat them to death after the camps were liberated.

American soldier posed with bodies at Ohrdruf in May 1945

The Ohrdruf camp had been abandoned on April 2, 1945 and the survivors had been marched to the main camp at Buchenwald. American soldiers discovered the abandoned camp on April 4, 1945; the bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus were left out for a month, so that American soldiers could be brought to the camp to see them.

April 8, 2010

Short critique of “Joe Moser — Buchenwald Flyboy”

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 6:00 pm

There is a new book about Joe Moser, soon to be published, which was written in the first person by a “ghostwriter.” Joe Moser was an American fighter pilot who was shot down over France in World War II; he was captured and taken, along with 167 other Allied pilots, to the Buchenwald concentration camp, not to a POW camp.  After two months, the 168 pilots were rescued by a Luftwaffe general and taken to a POW camp.

American liberators at Buchenwald gate house

When I read a few chapters in the book, which are on this blog, I was put off by the attitude of Joe Moser.  Joe was fighting in a war, and by his own admission, he was killing people, destroying the property of civilians, and doing as much damage as he could.  Yet, when he was captured, he expected to be treated like royalty.

Here is a quote from the book:

The Germans fought hard and brought up all the reinforcements they could. It was our job to disrupt this as much as possible. Anything that moved on the roads or rail lines was a target. The locals were keeping their heads down now as war raged around them and the trucks, trains, cars, motorcycles were almost certain to be enemy forces.


“If it moves, smash it,” said Major Glass. The days of trying to determine first if the vehicles on the road were German or French countrymen were coming to an end. Now we had orders that anything that moved was German.

Joe Moser was fighting to free France from German occupation.  France had surrendered four years before and was no longer fighting in World War II, except for a few people who were fighting as illegal combatants (the French Resistance).  That means that Joe was fighting to help illegal combatants.  When Joe was shot down, he was taken first to a Gestapo prison and then to Buchenwald, a camp for Resistance fighters and political enemies of Germany.

This quote from the book shows Joe Moser’s attitude regarding his capture:

We, of course, thought we were going to Prisoner of War camp, that our life would be quiet and simple, with respectful wardens, and continual whispering plots of how we would escape and rejoin the fight. And we would be fed three decent meals a day, which right now was one of my greatest concerns.

Sign on gate into Buchenwald: Jedem das Seine

The sign on the gate into Buchenwald reads “Jedem das Seine,” which is translated into English as “Everyone gets what he deserves.” Buchenwald was a Class II camp for hard-core Communists and Resistance fighters who had been captured while fighting as illegal combatants.

Joe Moser should have been told, before going overseas, what he could expect  if he were captured. He thought he was going to live like the American POWs in Hogan’s Heroes, an old TV series, but the reality was quite different.

This quote from the book contains several errors:

We knew nothing of concentration camps or death camps and certainly had no reason to believe any such thing would be our destiny. The world knew little to nothing of such atrocities on August 20, 1944 when we arrived. It would not know of such places and the Nazi plan to exterminate the world’s Jews and all others it hated until almost eight months after I arrived, on April 11, 1945. That’s when the first of these camps was liberated—Buchenwald. Because it was the first to be liberated, the first three weeks after the liberation saw the camp visited by reporters, photographers, officers, U.S. Congressional delegations, British Parliamentary delegations and many others. This was because General Eisenhower, after touring the camp on April 13, just two days after its liberation, determined that it was necessary that the world see the unbelievable atrocities of Hitler’s regime. He and others who first visited the camp were concerned that no one would believe them if they simply described what they saw. More eyes had to be there, more noses to smell it if the world was to take it seriously.

General Eisenhower watches a demonstration at Ohrdruf

General Eisenhower toured Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, on April 12, 1945 but he never went to the Buchenwald main camp, nor to any other camp.  After seeing Ohrdruf, where there were about 40 dead bodies in a shed, Eisenhower ordered that as many soldiers as possible should be brought from the battlefield to Ohrdruf and the Buchenwald main camp so that these soldiers could spread propaganda lies for the next 65 years.

Shrunken heads, human lampshades, and tattoos at Buchenwald

A display table was set up at Buchenwald to show American soldiers the shrunken heads and human lampshades allegedly made there.

Another quote from the book with more mistakes:

Buchenwald was not a death camp like Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, and others. The death camps were much smaller than concentration or labor camps because they never were intended to house people for labor. They had a single purpose: kill and dispose of as many people—mostly Jews—as the technology of the time permitted. Buchenwald, like Dachau and Bergen-Belsen, was a camp originally intended to house political prisoners. It contained large industrial factories as part of or adjacent to the camp to take advantage of the “free” labor offered by the prisoners. Dachau was the first of these created by the Nazi party in March, 1933. Buchenwald was created in 1937 with German communists, the hated political opponents of Nazism, its primary intended victims. While created as a political prison and a work camp, Buchenwald largely crossed the line between a work prison and extermination camp. An estimated 56,000 prisoners died in the camp among the approximately 250,000 who were imprisoned. And a special method for efficient killing of Russian prisoners of war was devised. Most prisoners died, however, due to the horribly unsanitary conditions and brutal work without much in the way of food or medical care. In other words, they were worked and starved to death.

The Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau, was a “death camp,” which was 425 acres in size, so it was not “much smaller,” as the ghostwriter wrote. Birkenau could house at least 140,000 prisoners and was in the process of being expanded to hold 50,000 more prisoners when the camp was abandoned.

Bergen-Belsen was not “originally intended to house political prisoners.”  Bergen-Belsen was originally set up as an exchange camp for Jews who wanted to go to Palestine; they were made available to the Allies in exchange for German prisoners interned by the British and Americans. It was only in December 1944 that Bergen-Belsen became a concentration camp.

Buchenwald was created in 1937 as a camp where prisoners would work to produce building materials for Hitler’s projects, such as his planned construction in Berlin and Linz, Austria.  The first prisoners were criminals who had been arrested twice and had served two prison sentences.  A new law was made in 1937 which said that these criminals would have to spend some time in a concentration camp in order to be rehabilitated. It was only later that the Buchenwald prisoners were primarily Communists and Resistance fighters.

The figure of 56,000 deaths was an estimate, made by the Communist prisoners. According to a U.S. Army report dated May 25, 1945, there was a total of 238,980 prisoners sent to Buchenwald during its 8-year history from July 1937 to April 11, 1945, and 34,375 of them died in the camp. This report was based on records confiscated from the camp by the US military, after the camp was liberated.

Buchenwald was in Communist East Germany after the war, so the Communist estimate became the figure that was used.

It is NOT true that “Buchenwald largely crossed the line between a work prison and extermination camp.”  The term “extermination” is an English translation of the German word Ausrottung, which means the act of getting rid of something or someone. No one was “exterminated” at Buchenwald; there was no gas chamber there.

The “special method for efficient killing of Russian prisoners of war” is controversial.  It was certainly not “efficient.” In fact, it was the exact opposite of efficient. The alleged execution device, which is shown in the photo below, was reconstructed at Buchenwald, but there is no proof that such a device was ever used.

Reconstruction of Buchenwald Measuring stick used in the execution of Soviet POWs

Russian POWs were allegedly brought into a room, one at a time, told to stand against the wall, then slide along until they were in front of a measuring device that had a slit in it.  The executioner, who was standing in a booth behind the measuring device, would shoot through the opening in the device and execute the POW.

The truth is that only Russian POWs, who were Communist Commissars were executed, and this was on the orders of Adolf Hitler.

Why would the Germans go to such lengths to fool the Russian POWs so that they would not know that they were going to be shot?  After each execution, they would have had to clean the blood off the floor for the next execution. Why go to all that extra work, just to spare the feelings of the Russians?

Strangely, this execution device was only allegedly used at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen which were in the Soviet zone of occupation in Germany.  There was no such device at Dachau, in the American zone of occupation, although Russian Communist Commissars were also executed there.  This suggests that this was a story made up by the Soviets.

The Buchenwald prisoners were not “worked and starved to death.”  If they were, it was the fault of the Communist prisoners who ran the camp. The Buchenwald Report, which was written by the Buchenwald prisoners, tells about how the Communist prisoners were allowed to take over the camp; the Communists decided who would work and who would eat.

Buchenwald survivors, April 14, 1945

The photo above shows a barrack filled with the survivors at Buchenwald,  Funny, they don’t look starved.

This quote from the book shows that the ghostwriter has not done enough research:

We were marched to an open area at the northeast corner of Little Camp. Little Camp was a section of the barracks where the prisoners received the least food and harshest treatment.

The Small Camp at Buchenwald was a quarantine camp

The Little Camp was a quarantine camp for prisoners who had recently arrived from the East after the camps, in what is now Poland, were closed.  These were mostly Jewish prisoners who had been brought from Auschwitz, where there had been two typhus epidemics.

The Jews who were kept in Little Camp were sick and could not be put in with the rest of the prisoners for fear of spreading disease throughout the camp.  As new prisoners, the American pilots were first put into quarantine in the Little Camp.

Camp kitchen at Buchenwald concentration camp

The following quote from the book is what really made me angry:

The soup was usually cabbage soup made from dehydrated cabbage. Once in awhile it would be made from turnips or kohlrabi, but usually cabbage. The first time I looked at it I wondered what kind of soup it was. It looked like there was meat in it, small chunks of white meat that looked a little like worms. They were moving, just like worms. Oh no, they are worms. The top of the soup was covered in worms. But I was starving. I hadn’t eaten hardly anything in almost a week. I was shaky all over from hunger and I felt I had to get anything I could find into my stomach to try and survive. So I tried to push the worms away from my finger so I could get at the thin gruel underneath. I closed my eyes and let a little of it into my mouth. It was warm but sour and tasteless—more like dishwater than anything I might describe as recognizable food. Then I felt a one of those worms squirming in my mouth and I instinctively spewed it all out. I felt a wave of nausea. But I had to eat. Somehow I had to get this down or I would get weaker and weaker and then, well, I knew what that meant. If I ever forgot, the constant stench reminded me. So I tried again and again I began to wretch as I tried to force it down. In disgust I tossed the soup onto the ground. But that was the only time I turned down the German idea of a slave worker’s meal. After that first attempt, I learned to force it down, worms and all, and strangely enough, after awhile it began to taste good.

The black bread served by the kapos was hardly bread. In fact, it was about thirty to forty percent sawdust. So it was almost more wood than bread. It was almost as inedible as the soup. But we knew that the part that wasn’t wood was badly needed to keep us alive. It was unbelievably difficult, especially at first, to choke it down, but after awhile we learned better how to deal with it. After we got into our barracks, we discovered the best way to get the nutritional value out of the bread and force it down was to slice it into very thin slices, stick it against the wood stoves used to heat the barracks until the sawdust burned off like charcoal. It was a little like eating a barbeque briquette but we knew it was giving us precious strength. We needed every calorie we could get.

I think that Joe Moser exaggerated about the food at the Buchenwald camp.  I’m not buying it.

First of all, why would the Germans “dehydrate cabbage?”  Cabbage was preserved in Germany by salting it to make sauerkraut.

Can worms live in hot soup?  I don’t think so.  In any case, why would there be worms in dehydrated cabbage?

There were “root cellars” at Buchenwald where potatoes, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi, celery root, and other root vegetables were stored.

Door into root cellar at Buchenwald where vegetables were stored

I defy anyone to make bread that is 30 to 40 percent sawdust.  Bread in Germany is mostly made with rye flour which requires the addition of a little bit of wheat flour.  If you try to make rye bread with sawdust, you will be very disappointed. It can’t be done.

You can do a search on “Eisenhower’s death camps” to learn how 1.7 million German POWs died while in captivity after World War II.  For example, this website tells all about it. There were more German soldiers who died in American POW camps, after World War II ended, than in the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and more than in all the concentration camps in Germany put together.

One of Eisenhower’s death camps for German POWs

Joe Moser should get down on his knees every day for the rest of his life and Thank God that he was not a prisoner in an American POW camp, such as the camp near Gotha, which is shown in the photo above. The POWs are shown digging holes for shelter. When it rained, their shelters collapsed, resulting in an ignominious death for the prisoners.

The German POWs would have been happy to get cabbage with worms in it.  They got no food at all and their families were not allowed to bring food to them. The Red Cross packages that were sent to them were returned because Eisenhower had ordered that these POWs should not get any food except what little food the German Army had left.

One former POW, who managed to escape from Eisenhower’s death camp, told me that he was given only a handful of dried peas to eat with a cup of water to wash them down.

The German POWs were designated as Disarmed Enemy Forces, not POWs, so that America would not have to treat them according to the Geneva Convention of 1929, which America had signed.

The German people have identified with the victors in World War II and instead of honoring the 1.7 million German soldiers who were murdered by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, they are honoring American POWs who suffered for two whole months at Buchenwald.