Scrapbookpages Blog

November 16, 2015

The whipping of prisoners in the concentration camps

My photo of a whipping block on display at the Dachau memorial sire

My photo of a whipping block on display at Dachau memorial site

A new reader of my blog recently made a comment about the prisoners in the concentration camps being whipped.

In the Dachau Museum, a whipping block, that was used to punish the prisoners, was on display when I visited the Dachau Memorial Site in 2007.  It is shown in my photo above.

Visitors to the Museum are told that prisoners were given 25 lashes for such minor offenses as having a button missing from their uniform or putting their hands in their pockets.

One visitor to the Dachau Museum wrote this on his blog:

In the shower room they had set up a table where they used to whip people if they did anything against the rules. The rules included things such as having a dried spot of water on the bowl you ate out of.

What visitors to the Dachau Museum are not told is that all punishments had to be authorized by WVHA, the Central Office for Economic Administration in Oranienburg, after a report was filed; punishments for women had to be personally approved by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Imagine someone at the central office in charge of the camps reading a request for punishment of a prisoner who had a “dried spot of water” on his bowl.

Visitors to the Dachau Museum are not told that the whipping block was no longer used after 1942 when Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler gave an order that the SS men in the concentration camps were forbidden to “lay violent hands on the prisoners.”

American generals watch a demonstration of the whipping block at Ohrdruf camp

American generals watch a demonstration of the whipping block at Ohrdruf camp

A whipping block was constructed for a demonstration at Ohrdruf. Notice that it is not a real whipping block, like the one in the photo at the top of this page.

Rudolf Wolf, a former prisoner at Dachau, demonstrates the whipping block at the Dachau trial of Franz Trenkle

Rudolf Wolf, a former prisoner at Dachau, demonstrates the whipping block at the Dachau trial of Franz Trenkle

In the photo above, Rudolf Wolf, a former prisoner at Dachau, demonstrates the whipping block. Notice that this appears to be an ordinary table, not a whipping block like the one on display in the Dachau Museum.

Wolf testified that Franz Trenkle was in charge of punishments in the camp. In the photograph above, Wolf shows how he had to bend over the whipping block when he was punished at Dachau. Franz Trenkle was convicted and hanged on May 28, 1946.

Fake photo of the hanging punishment at Dachau

Fake photo of the hanging punishment in the Dachau Museum

The hanging punishment, shown in the photo above, was originated by Martin Sommer, an SS officer at Buchenwald. This punishment was abolished at Dachau by Commandant Martin Weiss in 1942.

Sommer was dismissed from his job at Buchenwald and sent to the Eastern front after being put on trial in 1943 in SS judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen’s court for abuse of the prisoners.

The photograph above, taken inside the old Dachau Museum in May 2001, shows a scene at Buchenwald that was created in 1958 for an East German DEFA film. (Source: H. Obenaus, “Das Foto vom Baumhängen: Ein Bild geht um die Welt,” in Stiftung Topographie des Terrors Berlin (ed.), Gedenkstätten-Rundbrief no. 68, Berlin, October 1995, pp. 3-8)

This fake photo was not included in the new Dachau Museum which opened in 2003, but all the tour guides at Dachau were still dwelling at length on the hanging punishment during my visits to the Memorial Site.

I previously blogged about Martin Sommer on this blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/two-catholic-priests-were-crucified-upside-down-at-buchenwald/