Scrapbookpages Blog

June 25, 2012

Holocaust survivor tells about the 100 mile death march out of Buchenwald

During World War II, every school child in America knew all about the infamous “Bataan Death March” which was a 100 mile forced march of American POWs in the Phillipines. But the 100 mile march out of Buchenwald, we didn’t know.

Besides the Bataan Death March, the only other mention of a 100 mile march, that I could find by searching the Internet, was the death march on November 8, 1944, when the Nazis forced 25,000 Jews to walk over 100 miles in rain and snow from Budapest to the Austrian border, followed by a second forced march of 50,000 persons, ending at the Mauthausen concentration camp.

Now this little-known death march out of Buchenwald is in the news because Jack Aizenberg “has made an emotional pilgrimage back to his home town of Staszow in Poland as part of ITV’s new Strictly Kosher series, which tracks the lives of Manchester’s Jewish community.”

This quote is from Jack’s story in the online British newspaper Mirror News:

But as the Allied advance continued he [Jack Aizenberg] was put on a two-week death march to Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

“It took two weeks,” he says. “There were 600 of us when we started, but only 60 survived.

“If you couldn’t walk you were shot, if you fell down you were shot. You either dropped dead or were shot.”  […]

“They gave us water but no food.”

Towards the end of World War II, there were Red Cross representatives present in all the Nazi concentration camps in Germany, as preparations were made to turn the camps over to the Allies.  The Theresienstadt camp was turned over to the Red Cross in the last week of the war, when the SS guards left the camp.  There were three trains on which prisoners at Bergen-Belsen were sent towards Theresienstadt, but only one of the trains made it because the Allies were bombing the railroad tracks.  I previously blogged about the trains to Theresienstadt here and here.

It makes sense that Jews in the Buchenwald camp would have been sent on foot to Theresienstadt because trains could not get through.  So why is this 100 mile death march to Theresienstadt so little known?  As far as I know, Jack Aizenberg is the only Holocaust survivor who has talked about it.

Another thing that Jack Aizenberg mentioned in his story is the soap made from Jews at Buchenwald.  Yes, the Nazis made soap out of the Jews at Buchenwald.  Don’t try to deny it, especially if you live in Germany, because you could end up in prison for five years.

This quote is from Jack’s story in the online Mirror News:

The Russian advance into Poland did not lead to freedom.

Jack and his fellow prisoners were loaded on to railway cattle trucks and taken to the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp.

“One day they gave us all a little piece of soap with initials on it like you get in hotels. It stood for ‘pure Jewish fat’.

“That was what that soap was made of [….]”

At the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945, the Soviet Union charged that the Nazis had made soap from human fat.  The photo below shows the soap that was displayed in the court room.

Soap made from Jewish fat was displayed in the courtroom at the Nuremberg IMT

When I visited the Buchenwald Memorial Site in 1999, I was told that the Nazis had made soap in the basement of the building shown in the photo below.

Soap was made in the basement of this building at Buchenwald

The story in the Mirror News ends with this quote:

The Red Cross took over the running of the camp and pressure was put on the British Government to provide homes for some of the orphaned children.

Permission was finally given for 1,000 children under 16 to enter the country.

And Jack was among the first 300 orphans, flown to Windermere in Cumbria as it was thought they would recuperate faster in the country.

“I had to lie about my age to get on the plane. I was 19 but we had no papers.

“I was the last to get on the plane because I was ticking off the list. When I got on the fear and the hunger was gone.

Jack Aizenberg’s story was also published on this website which reports that “As the Allies drew nearer, Jack was forced to undertake a brutal march of more than 100 miles to Theresienstadt.”

Here is another version of the last days at Buchenwald, quoted from this website:

The Commandant Hermann Pister received orders from Berlin to get rid of the prison population before the allies could discover the camp. But Pister hesitated. Historian Robert Abzug attributes this hesitation to Pister’s practicality. Pister knew that Americans were coming and he wanted to present himself well, so he slowed attempt to evacuate and kill the prisoners. Between April 3rd and 10th over 20,000 inmates were transported out of the camp to Dachau, Flossenburg, and Theresienstadt. Most died on the journey. Through the communist resistance groups within the prisoners’ ranks, many SS orders were outright defied or stalled. Chaos began to reign within the camp. Pister did not threaten the inmates with the usual force and by April 10th he fled with most of the SS guard leaving only a skeleton crew to control the camp.

So what is going on here?  Note that the prisoners were “transported,” not marched out of Buchenwald.  Why is there no website that supports Jack Aizenberg’s story of the 100 mile march?

The British are making a big effort to teach young people today about the Holocaust.  But are they going too far?  I am getting the impression that the British are trying to bring down the whole Holocaust story, by telling outrageous lies — and they are succeeding, in my humble opinion.