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June 16, 2017

The story of the Bergen-Belsen camp

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, Uncategorized — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 3:21 pm

Dead prisoners at the Bergen-Belsen camp

The prison camp that first became known as Bergen-Belsen in 1943 was located about a mile from the tiny village of Belsen and a few more miles from the village of Bergen, a town with a population of 13,000. Today, there is no such place as Bergen-Belsen. The former camp is now a Memorial Site, but if you ask one of the locals how to get to Bergen-Belsen, they will ask you, “Which one? Bergen or Belsen?”

The scenery in this area is very beautiful; it looks much like England with mostly brick houses and charming old brick barns with green-painted doors.

The Bergen-Belsen camp was in an area adjacent to an Army training camp for the Wehrmacht, as the regular German Army was called. Between the end of the war and 1950, this Army base was turned into the largest Displaced Persons camp for the Jews who did not want to return to their native countries.

Bergen-Belsen later became a British Army base, and visitors to the Memorial Site on the grounds of the former camp could get an idea of what it must have been like in April 1945, with a war going on right outside the camp, as they listen to the sounds of gunfire coming from the Army training grounds next door to the former camp.

Because of the Army base which was located there, the area near the village of Belsen was first used for a Prisoner of War camp for 600 French and Belgian soldiers, who were housed in the existing Army barracks, beginning in 1940. In May 1941, the POW camp became known as Stalag 311. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, 20,000 captured Russian POWs were brought to Stalag 311 in July 1941; at first they were held in barbed-wire enclosures in the open air. Most of them died because the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and, because of this, the Germans were not required by international law to treat them humanely.

According to the Memorial Site, “Huts to accommodate the prisoners of war were only provided over a period of time, and in most cases the prisoners themselves had to construct them.”

In contrast, the Germans treated their American POWs very well and 99% of them survived. America and Germany had both signed the Geneva Convention and both countries followed the rules for POWs, but the Soviet Union did not.

According to the Memorial Site, 18,000 of the Russian POWs had died by February 1942. There were only 2097 survivors of Stalag 311. Some of the prisoners died of dysentery, but most of them perished in an epidemic of spotted fever (typhus) which broke out in mid November 1941.

Before the German invasion of the Soviet Union on July 22, 1941, Hitler had given the order that Communist Commissars within the ranks of the Soviet Army should be taken to the nearest concentration camp and executed. Consequently, Communist party officials were selected from the prisoners of war at Stalag 311 and taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where they were executed at a special shooting range in the Autumn of 1941.

The first Commandant in Bergen-Belsen was SS Captain Adolf Haas. Previously he had been in charge of the concentration camp called Niederhagen near the Wewelsburg Castle.

When it was decided to make Bergen-Belsen into a concentration camp in December 1944, Haas was replaced by SS Captain Josef Kramer. Kramer was born November 10, 1906 in Munich; he joined the NSDAP (Nazi party) in 1931 and became a member of the SS in 1932.

After the Nazis took over all important administrative positions in the state of Bavaria on March 9, 1933, in accordance with a new law passed by the Nazi-controlled Congress, Kramer was appointed to a clerical position in Augsberg. In 1934 he became an SS guard at Dachau and received instruction at the SS Training Camp at Dachau under Commandant Theodor Eicke, who is called “the father of the concentration camp system.”

Kramer served in many of the large concentration camps during his 11 years of service in the system. In 1940, he was an adjutant to Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss for several months before he was transferred to Natzweiler to become the Commandant there.

After the war, Kramer testified at the British Military Tribunal that he had murdered 80 prisoners, who were brought from Auschwitz, in a gas chamber in Natzweiler, so that their bodies could be used for research by Dr. August Hirtz at the University of Strasbourg.

In May 1944, Kramer was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he took over as the leader of the Birkenau camp just at the time that thousands of Jews from Hungary were being brought there to be gassed.

In December 1944, when the Auschwitz Camp had to be evacuated because the Russian troops were advancing, Kramer was ordered to go to Bergen-Belsen. Many of the women on his staff at Auschwitz were transferred along with him, including the notorious Irma Grese (pronounced GRAY-suh).

On December 2, 1944, Kramer became the Commandant of Bergen-Belsen which was now officially designated a concentration camp (Koncentrationslager). On that date, there were 15,257 prisoners in the camp, of which 6,000 were exchange prisoners who were being held for possible trade for Germans detained by the Allies. Kramer’s first step in making Bergen-Belsen into a real concentration camp was to deny the exchange prisoners the special privileges that they had been accustomed to.

Prior to Kramer taking over as Commandant, the Star Camp had been self-administered with Jews being in charge of the day to day supervision of the camp. This was abolished and Kapos from the Prison Camp were put in charge of the work details in the camp. The Kapos were inmates who assisted the guards; they reported to Chief Senior Prisoner Walter Hanke.

Fortunately, America has never witnessed a tragedy on the scale of the disaster at Bergen-Belsen. The closest would be the infamous Prisoner of War camp at Andersonville, Georgia where 12,912 Union soldiers succumbed to dysentery and malnutrition in only 14 months time during the American Civil war. The reason was that 32,000 prisoners were crowded into a camp that was meant for only 10,000. It was the worldwide outrage at this disaster that finally led to the Geneva Convention where rules for the treatment of POWs were made a part of international law.

At Bergen-Belsen, 60,000 civilian prisoners were eventually confined in a camp that was in no way designed to handle this number of people. Around 35,000 of the prisoners at Bergen-Belsen died from hunger and disease in just the three months prior to the camp being voluntarily turned over to the British on April 15, 1945.

The booklet published by the Memorial site calls the conditions at Bergen-Belsen “Hell.” Here is a quote from the booklet:

Begin quote

The more evacuation transports arrived in Bergen-Belsen the more catastrophic the situation became there. The over-crowded huts, often without any heating lacked all equipment or furnishings and people had to lie on the bare floors. The camp authorities deliberately refrained from easing the situation and made no attempt to draw on the reserves of food, clothing and medical supplies which were stored at the nearby military training grounds.

The lack of water was so severe that prisoners in Bergen-Belsen died of thirst. Others went mad with hunger and thirst and turned to cannibalism in their despair.

End quote

According to the Memorial Site at Bergen-Belsen, the camp population on December 1, 1944 was 15,257. By February 1, 1945, there were 22,000 prisoners in the camp, and by March 1, 1945, the number of inmates had swelled to 41,520.

On April 15, 1945, there were an estimated 60,000 prisoners in the camp. A total of 50,000 prisoners died during the two years the camp was in operation, including 13,000 who died of weakness and disease after the camp was liberated. By far the biggest killer in the camp was typhus, a deadly disease that is transmitted by body lice.

The story of Bergen-Belsen can be summed up by a chart that hangs on the wall of the Museum there. It shows that there were 350 deaths in the camp in December 1944 before the typhus epidemic started. In January 1945, after a typhoid epidemic started, there were between 800 and 1000 deaths; in February 1945, after the typhus epidemic broke out, there were 6,000 to 7,000 deaths.

In March 1945, the number of deaths had escalated to an incredible 18,168 in only one month. In April 1945, the deaths were 18,355 in only one month, with half of these deaths occurring after the British took over. Unlike the death camps in Poland, the Bergen-Belsen camp was not equipped to handle this kind of death rate; there was only one crematory oven in the camp.

When the British arrived on April 15, 1945, there were 10,000 bodies that were still unburied, and more were dying every day because the Germans could not control the epidemics. By the end of April, in only two weeks time, 9000 more had died. Another 4,000 died before the end of May.

To fight typhus epidemics during World War II, the Germans used an insecticide, called Zyklon B, to kill the lice which were common in the overcrowded Nazi concentration camps. Zyklon B was also allegedly used as a poison gas to kill the Jews in the gas chambers, although most historians say that there was no gas chamber at Bergen-Belsen. Initially, the Jews at Bergen-Belsen were well-treated because the Nazis were hoping to use them for exchange for German prisoners.

Normally, all new arrivals in the concentration camps were given a hot shower, all their body hair was shaved, and their clothes were then disinfected with Zyklon B. As a further precaution in the larger camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, newcomers were sometimes put into Quarantine barracks for a period of several weeks before being allowed into the main camp. Other prisoners arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau were allegedly “selected” to be gassed in fake shower rooms with Zyklon B.

In February 1945, a transport of Hungarian Jews arrived at Bergen-Belsen at a time when the disinfection chambers were temporarily not in use, and as a result, lice got into the camp, causing a typhus epidemic to break out. Heinrich Himmler, who was in charge of all the concentration camps, ordered that “all medical means necessary to combat the epidemic should be employed” but in spite of this, the epidemic quickly spread beyond control.

There were also epidemics of typhoid and dysentery at Bergen-Belsen, as well as a shortage of food and water after the camp became part of the war zone in Germany in the final days of World War II.

Anita Lasker-Walfisch, a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, explained how important personal hygiene was for preventing disease during a British radio broadcast on August 9, 1999:

Begin quote

“Washing in Belsen was a big problem. Because the washing possibilities were outside. You can imagine what it was like in the winter. You were already hungry. You were half-dead. But we knew that, the moment you didn’t wash every day, it was the beginning of the end. So we used to wash each other and bully each other: “Come on”. We saw so many dead people that we didn’t even notice them, especially in Belsen. Heaps and heaps of corpses stacked up. There was no way of burying them, getting rid of them. People died so fast and in such enormous quantities, we didn’t even notice it. I think a way of survival is also just to let the shutters down and not see things. I mean, lots of people went mad, you know. How can you possibly survive this? You must be terribly tough or insensitive to actually survive.”

End quote

In December 1944, Bergen-Belsen had been designated a concentration camp (Koncentrationslager) and the Commandant of Auschwitz, SS Captain Josef Kramer, was transferred there as the new commandant.

By March 1, 1945 conditions in the Bergen-Belsen camp had reached the point of a major catastrophe and Camp Commandant Josef Kramer appealed for help in a letter to Gruppenführer Richard Glücks, who was the head of the SS camp administration.

Excerpts from Kramer’s letter are quoted below:

If I had sufficient sleeping accommodation at my disposal, then the accommodation of the detainees who have already arrived and of those still to come would appear more possible. In addition to this question a spotted fever and typhus epidemic has now begun, which increases in extent every day. The daily mortality rate, which was still in the region of 60-70 at the beginning of February, has in the meantime attained a daily average of 250-300 and will increase still further in view of the conditions which at present prevail.

Supply. When I took over the camp, winter supplies for 1500 internees had been indented for; some had been received, but the greater part had not been delivered. This failure was due not only to difficulties of transport, but also to the fact that practically nothing is available in this area and all must be brought from outside the area […]

For the last four days there has been no delivery [of food] from Hannover owing to interrupted communications, and I shall be compelled, if this state of affairs prevails till the end of the week, to fetch bread also by means of truck from Hannover. The trucks allotted to the local unit are in no way adequate for this work, and I am compelled to ask for at least three to four trucks and five to six trailers. When I once have here a means of towing then I can send out the trailers into the surrounding area […] The supply question must, without fail, be cleared up in the next few days. I ask you, Gruppenführer, for an allocation of transport […]

State of Health. The incidence of disease is very high here in proportion to the number of detainees. When you interviewed me on Dec. 1, 1944, at Oranienburg, you told me that Bergen-Belsen was to serve as a sick camp for all concentration camps in northern Germany. The number of sick has greatly increased, particularly on account of the transports of detainees that have arrived from the East in recent times — these transports have sometimes spent eight or fourteen days in open trucks […]

The fight against spotted fever is made extremely difficult by the lack of means of disinfection. Due to constant use, the hot-air delousing machine is now in bad working order and sometimes fails for several days […]

A catastrophe is taking place for which no one wishes to assume responsibility […] Gruppenführer, I can assure you that from this end everything will be done to overcome the present crisis […]

I am now asking you for your assistance as it lies in your power. In addition to the above-mentioned points, I need here, before everything, accommodation facilities, beds, blankets, eating utensils — all for about 20,000 internees […] I implore your help in overcoming this situation.

End quote

Kramer also appealed to the German Army officers at the nearby Army base for additional food after a trainload of food and the camp water pump were destroyed by Allied planes. Colonel Hans Schmidt arranged for the local volunteer fire department to provide water and for food supplies to be brought to the camp from abandoned railroad cars. Schmidt testified later that Kramer “did not at all impress one as a criminal type. He acted like an upright and rather honorable man. Neither did he strike me as someone with a guilty conscience. He worked with great dedication to improve conditions in the camp. For example, he rounded up horse drawn vehicles to bring food to the camp from rail cars that had been shot up.”

Joseph P. Farrell, who wrote a book entitled “The SS Brotherhood of the Bell,” has a different explanation for how the water pump at Bergen-Belsen was destroyed. Farrell claims that a small number of SS guards remained at the camp after the others had fled and as a final act of defiance, the retreating SS guards sabotaged the water supply to the barracks, making it hard for the British troops to treat the sick prisoners. There is another claim that “On the 13th day after liberation, the Luftwaffe bombed one of the hospitals in the DP camp, injuring and killing several patients and Red Cross workers.” The DP camp was the former SS training camp, next door to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which the SS had turned over to the British liberators.

Since Bergen-Belsen was in western Germany, it became the destination for thousands of prisoners who were evacuated from the concentration camps in the east, as the Russian Army advanced. In spite of the typhus epidemic in the camp, Bergen-Belsen had been kept open to receive prisoners evacuated from other camps, such as Buchenwald in eastern Germany, right up to the time it was turned over to the British on April 15, 1945.

Commandant Kramer described the situation at Bergen-Belsen after the evacuated prisoners were brought there from Auschwitz:

Begin quote

The camp was not really inefficient before you (the Allies) crossed the Rhine. There was running water, regular meals of a kind — I had to accept what food I was given for the camp and distribute it the best way I could. But then they suddenly began to send me trainloads of new prisoners from all over Germany. It was impossible to cope with them. I appealed for more staff, more food. I was told that this was impossible. I had to carry on with what I had.

Then as a last straw the Allies bombed the electric plant that pumped our water. Loads of food were unable to reach the camp because of the Allied fighters. Then things really got out of hand. During the last six weeks I have been helpless. I did not even have sufficient staff to bury the dead, let alone segregate the sick [… ]

I tried to get medicines and food for the prisoners and I failed. I was swamped. I may have been hated, but I was doing my duty.

End quote

One of the survivors of Bergen-Belsen was 24-year-old Freddie Knoller, a Jew who was a member of the French resistance. Originally from Vienna, he had been deported from Austria in 1938 and had gone to Paris. In an interview with the BBC News Online in July 2004, he said that he was captured by the Nazis after an angry girl friend denounced him to the Gestapo. He was eventually sent to Auschwitz where he was tattooed with the number 157103 on his arm. He was among the 60,000 survivors of Auschwitz who were death marched out of the camp just before Russian troops arrived on January 27, 1945. Out of 1,000 Jews on his train transport to Bergen-Belsen, he was one of only 13 survivors.

July 1, 2015

“Bergen Belsen, for example” was a film made by the British

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 11:53 am
Dead prisoners at Bergen-Belsen

Dead prisoners at Bergen-Belsen camp

Josef Kramer, the commandant of the Bergen-Belsen camp

Josef Kramer, commandant of Bergen-Belsen camp, who stayed to help the British

In the year 2002, I took a tour of the Bergen-Belsen memorial site, and as far as I know, I was the only American there that day.

I arrived, by bus, at the memorial site at 1:30 p.m. and by 2:30 p.m. I had finished my tour of what is left of the former camp. I then went to the Document Center to see the English version of a British-made documentary movie that was supposed to start at 3 p.m.

There was a large theater where the movie was being shown in German; the movie had just ended, when I arrived, and the audience of young German students was having a discussion period when I peeked into the theater.

Since I was the only person that wanted to see the movie in English, the film was shown to me in a small room on a TV set with a relatively small screen. Apparently, there were very few English-speaking visitors in the year 2002.

The title of the film was “Bergen-Belsen for Example.” This is obviously a translation of the German title “Bergen-Belsen zum Beispiel.” Zum Beispiel is a German expression which means “for example” but it is used more often and in more different ways than our English expression.

The film opened with scenes of the prisoners greeting the British soldiers as they entered the concentration camp on April 15, 1945.

Not all of the inmates at Bergen-Belsen were starving

Not all of the inmates at Bergen-Belsen were starving

The prisoners looked remarkably healthy, considering the ordeal that they had just been through; everyone was happy and smiling, as shown in the photo above.

Then a British soldier, who said his name was Arthur Bushnell, explained that when the British soldiers first arrived, they got a “false impression” because at first, they didn’t see any dead bodies or emaciated prisoners. All the inmates who rushed up to greet them appeared to be healthy and well-fed.

Bushnell said that there had been 400 German guards in the camp, but only half of them were there when the British arrived. For some strange reason, he didn’t explain why all of guards had not run away to avoid being captured and put on trial as war criminals.

What had actually happened was that the Bergen-Belsen camp had been voluntarily turned over to the British with the agreement that the guards would stay on in the camp to maintain order and help with the work of cleaning up the camp.

Nothing was said about what would happen to the guards, but it was implied in the negotiations that the German guards would be treated with respect and not arrested as war criminals. The movie did not mention that the camp was formally surrendered to the British after both sides had negotiated an agreement.

Instead, the movie led viewers to believe that the British had captured the camp and surprised half of the guards who hadn’t managed to escape like the other half.

According to Eberhard Kolb of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site Committee, there were only 80 guards who remained in the camp, 50 men and 30 women. The photographs taken by the British after the liberation show that this number is probably correct.

Bushnell went on to say that there was no food at all in the camp when the British arrived. What had happened to all the food?

Eberhard Kolb wrote that the 30,000 prisoners who had arrived in the camp on April 8, one week before the liberation, had raided the food supplies of the camp. Would it have killed the British to have mentioned this in their film that was made for German children who were not yet born?

The water pump, which pumped drinking water out of cisterns at Bergen-Belsen, had been destroyed by allied bombs and there was no water in the camp. Some water was being brought to the camp by the Germany Army, but not enough for the 60,000 prisoners who were in the camp by the time that the British arrived.

It was not mentioned in the film that the British proceeded to pump water out of a nearby creek, which caused the deaths of more Bergen-Belsen prisoners.

Was the bombing of the water pump mentioned in the film?  No, of course not.

At one time, Bergen-Belsen was an EXCHANGE CAMP. Were any prisoners ever exchanged? The film doesn’t tell us. [Read on]

German citizens and a few German-Americans had been rounded up and put into a prison on Ellis Island two days before Germany declared war on America.

For the German-American citizens, this was a violation of their civil rights under the Constitution of the United States because no charges were brought against them and they were never put on trial. They were held for as long as a year after the war ended.

For the most part, very few prisoners were ever exchanged, but a few lucky inmates were sent to Palestine in exchange for German citizens imprisoned in Great Britain who were released and sent back to Germany.

A few American Jews, who were stranded in Europe when the war started, were held in the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp, but this was not mentioned in the film. America did not offer to exchange any prisoners.

The narrator in the film, that was shown at the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site, said that the “Germany Army” had refused to bury the dead in the camp. Bergen-Belsen was right in the middle of a war zone and the Germany Army was engaged in fighting in a last-ditch effort to save their country from Communism. Were they supposed to stop fighting in the war, and bury dead Jews who had died of typhus?

Some of the dead bodies at Bergen Belsen were buried near the German Army base, shown in the background

Some of the dead bodies at Bergen Belsen were buried near the German Army base, shown in the background

After the Bergen-Belsen camp was voluntarily turned over to the British, Hungarian soldiers in the German Army were assigned to maintain order at Bergen-Belsen for six days during the transfer of the camp to the British, according to the negotiated agreement. After six days, they had been promised that they would have safe passage back to the German lines.

When they were ordered by the British officers to handle the diseased bodies with their bare hands, the Hungarian soldiers refused because this was not part of the negotiated agreement; their job was to maintain order.

The narrator of the film did not mention that some of the Hungarian soldiers were shot, in violation of the agreement, because they had refused to help with the burial of the bodies.

The next person, who was featured in the film shown at Bergen Belsen, was Mike Lewis, who said he was a Jewish soldier in the British army. He said that it was purely an “accident” that he was sent to Bergen-Belsen as one of the liberators.

British soldier driving a bull dozer to shove the bodies of prisoners into a grave

British soldier driving a bulldozer to shove the bodies of prisoners into a grave

Mike Lewis said that he took photos and movie film at the liberation but he could never bear to look at the photographs afterwards.

The film that Lewis took was shown at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal; this was the famous footage of British bulldozers shoving the bodies into the mass graves. Remarkably, Lewis says that he took a turn driving the bulldozer himself while someone else filmed him.

Next, a short film clip is shown of a woman naked from the waist up, washing herself with water in a wash basin. The narrator explains that the prisoners were so demoralized that they thought nothing of doing their “body functions” out in the open.

In the film, Lewis asks “Why Germany?” Then he explains that “any race is capable of this.” So why the Germans?

Lewis says in the film that “some disease made them [the Germans] prone” to do this.

The implication was that the Germans had deliberately starved or killed the prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp, and that they did this because of some strange disease  from which only the German “race” suffers.

It was not explained in the film that the emaciated corpses in the camp were those of people who had died of typhus in an epidemic that was out of control. Keep in mind that most of the visitors who were watching this film, when I was there, were 14-year-old German students.

The film shows the British feeding the prisoners only a clear broth, but says that many of them died, in spite of this, after the liberation. It was not mentioned how many died. (There were 13,000 who died in the six weeks AFTER the liberation.) The film doesn’t say what was the cause of these deaths.

Martin Gilbert, one of the foremost Jewish Holocaust writers, says that many of the prisoners at Bergen-Belsen died from being given too much rich food too soon by the British, and that the rest died from disease before the epidemics could be brought under control.

Next the narrator tells us that the prisoners who were from Eastern Europe didn’t want to return to their homes. The film doesn’t say why.

What the film didn’t tell us is that, the reason that some of the prisoners didn’t want to return to their homes, was that some of the prisoners had been selected for the exchange camp because they were Zionists who wanted to go to Palestine.

The prisoners who didn’t want to leave Bergen-Belsen stayed on, for TEN YEARS, in the German army barracks nearby where they were quartered in brick or stone buildings. This became the largest of all the DP camps, as the prisoners waited for years to get into Canada, Australia and Israel, according to the film. They had a long wait because Israel did not exist until 1948 and before that, the British were restricting Jewish immigration into Palestine.

The narrator then says that, 10 days after the British arrived, which would have been on April 25th, the local German people were brought to the camp to see the bodies which had not yet been buried. Since the burial had begun on April 18th, the bodies that were still to be buried were probably those of the typhus victims who had died after the camp was liberated.

A British soldier speaks to these elderly German civilians in German telling them, “Your sons and daughters are responsible for these crimes.” Then we see scenes of the German SS guards who had risked their lives to stay behind and help, as they take the bodies off the trucks and put them into the mass graves.

There is an audience of former prisoners, mostly healthy-looking women, who are screaming at the top of their lungs, in German, at the guards: “Who is responsible?”

The German civilians were forced to watch this horrible scene in silence while the Jewish soldier filmed it for posterity. The narrator didn’t mention that some of these German civilians were now homeless because they had been forced to move out so that Jewish survivors of Bergen-Belsen could live in their homes.

Former German guard at Bergen-Belsen after she was forced to carry bodies to graves at Bergen-Belsen

Former German guard at Bergen-Belsen after she was forced to carry bodies to graves at Bergen-Belsen

After seeing the film, I went to the Bergen-Belsen museum where I saw photos of the former prisoners. The photo below was shown in the Museum.

Photo of a Bergen-Belsen prisoner who survived

Photo of a Bergen-Belsen prisoner who survived

June 29, 2015

Which Allied soldier arrested Josef Kramer, the Commandant at Bergen-Belsen?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:14 am

You can read about the trial of Josef Kramer in this previous blog post that I wrote: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/before-the-nuremberg-imt-there-was-the-belsen-trial/

Prisoners in the typhus barracks at Bergen-Belsen

Prisoners in the typhus barracks at Bergen-Belsen

I have always thought that it was a well-known fact that the Bergen-Belsen camp was voluntarily turned over to the British, and that  Commandant Josef Kramer was arrested by some unknown British officer.

Joseph Kramer was immeditely arrested after he met the British at the gate and offered is help

Joseph Kramer was arrested after he met the British at the gate and offered his help

A few days ago, an American woman sent me an e-mail, in which she wrote this:

My Father Raymond Arthur Swanson was sent in when our troops got to this camp [Bergen Belsen] by his commander to arrest this man [Josef Kramer]. At my Fathers funeral all of this came out and was told and recorded by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] is a well known institution in America. If the VFW says that Kramer was arrested by an American, it must be true.

It is well known that the British were fighting in the area around Bergen-Belsen during World War II. I had always thought that American troops were not fighting in this part of Germany, but what do I know?

I did a google search and found an excellent article, written by Joseph Bellinger on the Inconvenient History website.  I know that some people [you know who you are] have made fun of Joseph Bellinger and questioned his research, but in my humble opinion, he is one of the best revisionist writers and the  Inconvenient History website is possibly THE BEST revisionist website. In other words, I trust the writing of Joseph Bellinger and the Inconvenient History website.

This quote is from the article written by Joseph Bellinger:

Three Jewish men were among the first British soldiers who entered the liberated [Bergen-Belsen] camp on April 15, 1944.

Among these liberators was Captain Derek Sington, a young man working for British Intelligence at the time these events occurred. Sington appears to have been one of the designated senior officials to first enter Belsen. His written account of the camp’s liberation indicates that he acted with authority and decisiveness when initially confronting the camp commander, Josef Kramer, who was waiting just outside of the main camp to greet and escort the British troops upon arrival.
According to Sington’s account, the Germans had made overtures to his commanding officer seeking to surrender the camp intact. An agreement was reached whereby a small contingent of guards, mainly comprised of Hungarians employed in the service of the Wehrmacht, would remain at the camp site to maintain order, along with a smaller contingent of about fifty SS staff-members and employees, retained for purely administrative purposes. It was implicitly understood that, once the surrender and transfer of the camp were completed, these units were to be allowed to pass on to the German lines without further molestation. Unfortunately for Kramer and his staff, events and emotions were soon to render that agreement null and void.

It is very clear to me, after reading the above quote, that the Bergen-Belsen camp was turned over to the British, and there were no American soldiers there. The Americans were fighting in the area south of Bergen-Belsen.

Dead bodies found by the British at Bergen-Belsen

Emaciated bodies found by the British at Bergen-Belsen

Bellinger’s article continues with this quote:

Sington was met by Commandant Kramer, who jumped onto the running board of his vehicle and saluted. Dispensing with formalities, Sington asked him how many prisoners were currently being held in the camp. Kramer gave a figure of 40,000, plus an additional 15,000 in Camp number 2, which was further up the road. When asked what types of prisoners were being held in confinement there, Kramer replied, “Habitual criminals, felons, and homosexuals.”

[..]

As Sington fought to hold back tears, he strode back to his vehicle and, still accompanied by Kramer, plunged deeper into the foul underbelly of the camp. By this time, the masses of inmates were fully aroused and began surging past the barbed wire enclosures into the main thoroughfare of the camp. At this point, Kramer suddenly leaned toward Sington and remarked, “Now the tumult is beginning.”

The following quote from Bellinger’s article tells how Kramer was treated with contempt by the British. Kramer gets no credit for saving some of the lives of the Bergen-Belsen prisoners.

On the morning of April 18th, after having spent five days and nights in a vile underground cellar enveloped in total darkness, Josef Kramer was taken out of his cell and prepared for transfer out of the camp. The former commandant was manhandled and shackled, both hands and legs. The shackles were much too small for his enormous wrists and cut gaping gashes into his flesh. Kramer was then prodded into a jeep, his shirt ripped from his back, and paraded throughout the camp half-naked, to the accompaniment of jeers, hooting, catcalls, and a resonant howling which sounded to one witness as a “terrifying blend of joy and hate.” Insults and accusations were not the only items thrown at Kramer. Whatever object the inmates could lay their hands on was thrown at Kramer as he crouched as low as he could in the vehicle, trying to avoid any potentially damaging missiles. Two British soldiers were poised directly behind Kramer, constantly prodding him in the spine with their sten guns, which was a cause for great jubilation among the gleeful inmates, and provoked them to howling with “joy and hate.” After he had been duly exposed to the contempt and wrath of the inmates, Kramer was driven out of the compound, amidst a hail of garbage and debris, never to return.

The photo below shows the healthy women and children who greeted the British liberators at the Beren-Belsen gate.

Not all of the inmates at Bergen-Belsen were starving

Not all of the inmates at Bergen-Belsen were starving

The Bergen-Belsen

The Bergen-Belsen “potato peelers” were mentioned in Bellinger’s article

June 27, 2015

The British version of what happened at Bergen Belsen

I am blogging today about a news article, which I read this morning on the Internet: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/queen-elizabeth-II/11701738/The-survivor-and-the-liberator-Two-tales-of-the-horror-at-Bergen-Belsen.html

The news article begins with this quote:

The survivor and the liberator: Two tales of the horror at Bergen-Belsen
As The Queen visits 70 years on, the notorious Nazi concentration camp is still in the minds of Captain Eric Brown and Rudi Oppenheimer

Captain Eric Brown was a British soldier, who was apparently in charge of the Belsen camp, after the camp was VOLUNTARILY turned over to the British because there was a typhus epidemic in the camp.

This quote is from the news article:

Begin quote

For Captain Eric Brown, it is the stench of Bergen-Belsen that remains with him 70 years on.

Capt Brown, 96, was already a legendary Royal Navy test pilot in 1945, and was at an airfield near Hanover assessing captured German aircraft the day before Belsen was liberated by [being voluntarily turned over to] the British.

Fluent in German, he [Captain Brown] was asked if he could spare just one day to help interrogate the commandant of the camp, SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Josef Kramer, and his assistant Irma Grese, both of whom were later hanged for war crimes.

He [Captain Brown] said: “When we arrived the camp guards were all lined up and they were handed over to us and in we went. While the brigadier went to find Kramer and Grese, I had a wander round. [Kramer and Grese had met the British at the gate into the camp and had volunteered their help. They had been immediately arrested and thrown into the camp prison.]

End quote

Joseph Kramer was immeditely arrested after he met the British at the gate and offered is help

Joseph Kramer was immediately arrested after he met the British at the gate and offered his help

Sign at the gate into Bergen Belsen warned that there was a typhus epidemic

Sign at the gate into Bergen Belsen warned that there was a typhus epidemic

The quote from the article continues with this statement by Eric Brown:

Begin quote

Then I went to the interrogation. Kramer was a stocky chap, he looked like a bully boy. He had come from Auschwitz, where his job had been to separate new arrivals into the ones that were to be worked to death and the ones that went straight to the gas chambers. [and you thought that it was Dr. Josef Mengele who decided who would be worked to death and who would die in the chamber.]

“I asked him [Kramer] if he would do it again if he had his time over again, and to my astonishment he said yes. [Did Kramer mean that he would serve his country, if he had to do it over again, or did he mean that he would send Jews to the gas chamber at Bergen-Belsen if he had it to do over again.]

“Irma Grese was probably the worst human being I have ever encountered. She also worked at Auschwitz and I asked her the same question I had asked Kramer. She refused to answer, but I kept asking it, and after I’d asked her four or five times she suddenly leapt to her feet, cried “Heil Hitler!” sat down and refused to answer any more questions.” [Bad Irma! She refused to incriminate herself.]

End quote

Josef Kramer looked like a

Josef Kramer looked like a “bully boy” but was probably not a bully

Irma Grese after she was capured by the British when she volunteered to help

Irma Grese after she was captured by the British when she volunteered to help

Few people would challenge a man who looked like Josef Kramer. I strongly suspect that he was not a “bully boy.”

On my scrapbookpages website, I wrote extensively about Bergen-Belsen.  On this page, I wrote about the camp being turned over to the British: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/BergenBelsen/BergenBelsen05.html

January 1, 2015

New documentary film, entitled “Night Will Fall,” revolves around a British propaganda film

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:57 am

Update Jan. 26, 2015:

HBO will show the documentary film, entitled “Night Will Fall” on January 26, 2015 at 9 p.m. EST. This is a film about the making of a film. Note that this film will be shown at 6 p.m. in California.

You can read about the film at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/arts/television/night-will-fall-examines-the-making-of-a-1945-holocaust-documentary.html?_r=0

Alfred Hitchcock typing with one finger, back in the day when he worked on propaganda films

Alfred Hitchcock typing with one finger, back in the day when he worked on propaganda films

This quote is from the news article, cited above:

Begin quote:

The HBO documentary “Night Will Fall” is a movie about the Holocaust, a movie about remembering the Holocaust and primarily, at least in formal terms, a movie about a movie. It may not do full justice to all these subjects in its tight 78 minutes, but it’s not a film you’re likely to forget.

The most wrenching sequences in “Night Will Fall” are the scenes it incorporates from “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey,” a movie begun under the auspices of the British government in 1945. Using film shot by Allied cameramen at camps including Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, and assembled by a team that included Alfred Hitchcock as a supervising director, “Factual Survey” was meant to be a historical document and a teaching tool; among the stated goals of the filmmakers was that it be shown to Germans to prove to them that the horrors of the camps were real.

 End quote

Continue reading my original post:

Before some of my readers get upset and accuse me of calling a British World War II film “propaganda,” let me assure you that I am not the one who used the term “propaganda” to describe a British documentary film.

America also had “propaganda” teams, staffed by Jews who had been trained at Camp Ritchie in America, who came into the liberated camps and told “propaganda” stories that were total lies.

I blogged about this at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/alfred-de-grazia-commanding-officer-of-the-psychological-warfare-propaganda-team-attached-to-headquarters-of-the-us-7th-army/

This quote is from a news article, which you can read in full here:

[The film] Night Will Fall revolves around the making of Sidney Bernstein and Alfred Hitchcock’s propaganda film, German Concentration Camps, commissioned in 1945 to show German audiences the atrocities committed in the name of Nazism, but never screened at the time. […]

Bernstein, who would go on to found UK TV station Granada, had experienced the camps first-hand, having visited them within days of their liberation as part of Britain’s propaganda unit.

Did the British really have something called a “propaganda unit”?  I had to look up the word “propaganda” to really understand the purpose of the “Britain’s propaganda unit.”

This definition of propaganda is from this website:

Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors that are deliberately, and widely, spread to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, or other similar entity.

The word propaganda is usually used when describing official, government versions of events, where the implication is that the stories and information being given are distorted in such a manner as to conceal actual events, and to make you think in the way that the government wants you to think.

Propaganda is at its best when there is a war going on. Since WWI to the present time, propaganda has been used by the media to cheer their country on, sometimes through false hopes and lies. Often, during these periods, the government will leak out certain information of its choosing, and the media will report it, but not always in the way that it was given. In other words, propaganda is often used to misguide the public.

Photo of the children in Bergen-Belsen who came out to meet the British "liberators" of the camp

Photo of the children in Bergen-Belsen who came out to meet the British “liberators” of the camp

Notice the overweight woman in the back row in the photo above.  She was one of the healthy women at Bergen-Belsen, who did not have typhus.

Sign put up by the British warned visitors that there was a typhus epidemic in the camp

Sign put up by the British, after the camp was turned over to them, warned visitors that there was a typhus epidemic in the Bergen-Belsen camp

Irma Grese and Josef Kramer stayed behind to help the British, but they were arrested

Irma Grese and Josef Kramer stayed behind to help the British, but they were arrested (click to enlarge photo)

This quote is from the news article about the making of the film:

London-based film-maker André Singer spent the best part of two years studying gruesome images shot by allied troops as they liberated German concentration camps in 1945 for his documentary, Night Will Fall.

“It was the most appalling footage I’ve ever had to deal with in a pretty long career in film. You start off believing that you’ll get anaesthetised to it, but you don’t,” he says.

Night Will Fall revolves around the making of Sidney Bernstein and Alfred Hitchcock’s propaganda film, German Concentration Camps, commissioned in 1945 to show German audiences the atrocities committed in the name of Nazism, but never screened at the time.

“It was meant to show the German people the error of their ways, but events moved on and the project was shelved,” explains Singer. “In the period from the liberation of the camps in April 1945 through to the Nuremberg trials, the world was in chaos. It was an extraordinary time.”

So the British are now admitting that they made propaganda films about the concentration camps, including the Belsen camp that was voluntarily TURNED OVER TO THEM?

Bergen-Belsen was actually a very large camp which had 8 different sections.  You can read about the camp on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/BergenBelsen/BergenBelsen00.html

This quote, from my website, is about section 6 where Anne Frank died:

6. Tent Camp (Zeltlager)

This camp was constructed at the beginning of August 1944. At first it was used as a transit camp for women’s transports arriving from Poland. In late October and early November 1944, around 3,000 women who had been evacuated from Auschwitz-Birkenau were housed in the tents because pre-fabricated barrack buildings which had been removed from the Plaszow camp near Cracow and transported to the Star Camp were not yet ready for them. According to Eberhard Kolb (Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945) the Dutch Red Cross was told that the prisoners in this transport were “ill but potentially curable women” and because of this, they were the first to be evacuated from Auschwitz-Birkenau. These sick women, who had just completed a journey of several days in overcrowded railroad cattle cars now had to camp out in tents with no heat, no toilets, no lighting, no beds and only a thin layer of straw covering the bare ground.

Anne Frank and her sister Margot were transferred to Bergen-Belsen from Auschwitz in October 1944 and most likely were housed temporarily in the tent camp. Due to their condition of ill health, the prisoners in the tent camp were not forced to work.

Josef Kramer, the Camp Commandant, who had been in charge of the Belsen camp for only 6 months, was arrested on the day that the British arrived.  He had met the British at the gate into the camp and offered his help.  What a fool!  He should have escaped and gone to Argentina.

The photo below shows Josef Kramer after he was arrested.

Josef Kramer was arrested after he offered to help the British

Josef Kramer was arrested after he offered to help the British

 

 

December 31, 2014

“unsuspecting British troops” found Bergen-Belsen in the Spring of 1945

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 2:12 pm

After visiting the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site several years ago, I wrote about the camp on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/BergenBelsen/ConcentrationCamp.html

Apparently, I was completely wrong in what I wrote on my website.  The YouTube video tells the truth about what really happened.

The video above starts off by saying that “unsuspecting British troops” found the Belsen camp on a “spring morning.”  It seems that the Germans had not made an agreement with the British to turn the camp over to them, as I reported on my website.

The early part of the video shows a photo of a fence, obviously taken at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which we are led to believe was taken at Belsen.  Then we see one of the fake guard towers that were put up by the Allies at Birkenau after the camp was no longer in operation.

At 1:23 minutes into the video, the true story the lies begin:  According to the video, the truth is that there were no negotiations between the Germans and the British to turn the camp over to the British.  No, what really happened is that a lone German soldier came out of the camp, and met the “unsuspecting” British troops, who knew nothing about the Belsen camp up to this point.

Photo of the children in Bergen-Belsen who came out to meet the British "liberators" of the camp

Children in Bergen-Belsen camp who came out to meet the British “liberators.”  (click on photo to enlarge)

This quote is from my website page about the Belsen camp, which was voluntarily turned over to the British:

The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was voluntarily turned over to the Allied 21st Army Group, a combined British-Canadian unit, on April 15, 1945 by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the man who was in charge of all the concentration camps. Bergen-Belsen was in the middle of the war zone where British and German troops were fighting in the last days of World War II and there was a danger that the typhus epidemic in the camp would spread to the troops on both sides.

[…]

Hungarian soldiers in the Germany Army, who had been sent to keep order while the camp was transferred to the British, were in fact shot by the British, according to British soldiers who participated in the liberation.

Negotiations for the transfer of the Bergen-Belsen camp to the British took several days. Then on the night of April 12, 1945, a cease-fire agreement was signed between the local German Military Commander and the British Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Taylor-Balfour, according to Eberhard Kolb in his book, “Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945.”

An area of 48 square kilometers around Bergen-Belsen was declared a neutral zone. The neutral zone was 8 kilometers long and 6 kilometers wide. Until British troops could take over, the agreement specified that the camp would be guarded by a unit of Hungarian soldiers and soldiers from the German Wehrmacht (the regular army as opposed to the SS). They were assured that they would be allowed free return passage to the German lines within six days after the British arrived. The SS soldiers who made up the staff of the camp were to remain at their posts and carry on their duties until the British arrived to take over. There was no specific stipulation in the agreement about what their fate would be, according to Eberhard Kolb.

On the afternoon of Sunday, April 15th, British soldiers arrived at the German Army training garrison, next door to the concentration camp, and the transfer of the neutral territory of the Bergen-Belsen camp was made. A short time later, a group of British officers entered the concentration camp, which was right next to the garrison, although the distance by road was about 1.5 kilometers.

Hungarian soldiers in the Germany Army, who had been sent to keep order while the camp was transferred to the British, were in fact shot by the British, according to British soldiers who participated in the liberation.

Negotiations for the transfer of the Bergen-Belsen camp to the British took several days. Then on the night of April 12, 1945, a cease-fire agreement was signed between the local German Military Commander and the British Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Taylor-Balfour, according to Eberhard Kolb in his book, “Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945.”

An area of 48 square kilometers around Bergen-Belsen was declared a neutral zone. The neutral zone was 8 kilometers long and 6 kilometers wide. Until British troops could take over, the agreement specified that the camp would be guarded by a unit of Hungarian soldiers and soldiers from the German Wehrmacht (the regular army as opposed to the SS). They were assured that they would be allowed free return passage to the German lines within six days after the British arrived. The SS soldiers who made up the staff of the camp were to remain at their posts and carry on their duties until the British arrived to take over. There was no specific stipulation in the agreement about what their fate would be, according to Eberhard Kolb.

On the afternoon of Sunday, April 15th, British soldiers arrived at the German Army training garrison, next door to the concentration camp, and the transfer of the neutral territory of the Bergen-Belsen camp was made. A short time later, a group of British officers entered the concentration camp, which was right next to the garrison, although the distance by road was about 1.5 kilometers.

According to Michael Berenbaum in his book “The World Must Know,” Commandant Josef Kramer greeted British officer Derrick Sington at the entrance to the camp, wearing a fresh uniform. Berenbaum wrote that Kramer expressed his desire for an orderly transition and his hopes of collaborating with British. He dealt with them as equals, one officer to another, even offering advice as to how to deal with the “unpleasant situation.” That same day, Commandant Kramer was arrested by the British; five months later he was brought before a British Military Tribunal as a war criminal.

On April 8, 1945, around 25,000 to 30,000 prisoners had arrived at Bergen-Belsen from other concentration camps in the Neuengamme area. On that date, there were over 60,000 prisoners in the camp and some had to be housed in the barracks of the adjacent Army Training Center. The Geneva Convention specified that civilian prisoners were to be evacuated from a war zone, and up until this time, the Nazi concentration camps had been either evacuated or abandoned as the war progressed. But because of the typhus epidemic, it was impossible to evacuate all the prisoners from Bergen-Belsen. The camp could not be abandoned for fear that the epidemic would spread to the soldiers of both sides.

At 2:13 minutes into the video, a British officer named Bob  Daniels tells what really happened when the British first arrived at Belsen.  Daniels saw “a desperate looking man [Commandant Joseph Kramer] “getting rid of reams of paper.”  According to Bob Daniels, there was “total fear among every single German there.  “They realized that we had arrived.”

The story about Joseph Kramer “getting rid of reams of paper” could be a reference to the number of deaths in the Belsen camp and the small number of death certificates.  I previously blogged about this at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/50000-deaths-at-bergen-belsen-but-only-6851-death-certificates-issued/

Later on, in the video, we learn that even while the camp was being liberated by the British, the Germans went on killing.  At 4:27 minutes into the video we learn that “even while the camp was being liberated, the Germans kept on killing the prisoners.”  At 4:40 minutes into the video, we learn that “the SS youth” [Hitlerjungend] were killing the prisoners, “shooting them in the balls, and the women in the crotch.”

Moving right along, we learn at 5:38 minutes, what kind of people were sent to Bergen-Belsen.  Belsen was NOT an  exchange camp for Jews.  No-Oh.  It was a camp for “Communists, trade unionists, homosexuals, priests and Jews”; it was “one of the earliest work camps set up in 1933.”  In other words, this video describes the Dachau camp, not Belsen.

The narrator goes on the say that Belsen had the words “Arbeit macht Frei” over the gate.  Belsen did not have this sign on the gate because it was NOT a “work camp,” but an EXCHANGE CAMP.  The words “exchange camp” are never spoken in  this video.

A couple of the photos in the video look like photos taken at the liberation of the Wöbbelin camp but are purported to be prisoners at Belsen.

 

January 7, 2014

A letter to Irma Grese, from Batsheva Dagan, not her real name

Batsheva Dagan (real name Isabella Rubinstein) is an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, who is out on the lecture circuit, telling the story of her victory over the Nazis. She says that she was a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau for two years.  (Scroll way down to read her life story, as published in the The Jerusalem Post.)

In a recent lecture to school children in Ireland, which you can read about in The Jerusalem Post online news here, she said that she is amazed to re-read the “fire and brimstone” letter that she wrote to Nazi war criminal Irma Grese; her letter was published in The Palestine Post in October 1945.

Irma Grese, a notorious guard at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen

Irma Grese, a notorious guard at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen

The letter, which she did not mail, was written to a 21-year-old German girl who had worked as a guard at Auschwitz-Birkenau and later, for one month, at Bergen-Belsen.  Irma Grese became famous when she was put on trial by the British in 1945, after the Bergen-Belsen camp was voluntarily turned over to them in April 1945.

Irma Grese, who was not very sophisticated, nor highly educated, had stayed behind at Bergen-Belsen, to help the British with the typhus epidemic, that had caused an unmitigated disaster in the former Bergen-Belsen Exchange camp, which had become a concentration camp in the last months of the war.

Sign put up by the British at Bergen-Belsen after the camp was turned over to them

Sign put up by the British at Bergen-Belsen after the camp was turned over to them

When the British arrived at the Belsen camp, Irma Grese was standing at the gate into the camp, along with the Belsen Commandant Josef Kramer, offering her help.

Commandant Josef Kramer was arrested and put in leg irons.

Commandant Josef Kramer was arrested and put in leg irons after he offered to help the British

Most of the Belsen guards had run away before the British arrived, but not the brave German girl, Irma Grese, who took her life in her hands to help the British during a typhus epidemic. To her surprise, Irma was immediately arrested by the British, and a few months later, she was put on trial as a war criminal. Josef Kramer was also arrested and put into a dark prison cell.

Irma Grese and Josef Kramer after they were arrested by the British

Irma Grese and Josef Kramer after they were arrested by the British at Bergen Belsen

In recent years, Irma Grese has become a cult figure among neo-Nazis. She is considered by them to be a heroine because of her stoicism at her trial and the fact that she showed great courage in going bravely to her death. She is regarded by the neo-Nazis as a martyr, who died for her country, since the neo-Nazis don’t believe that she was the sadistic, sexually-depraved killer that she was portrayed to be by Holocaust survivors at her trial.

In the world of Holocaust trivia, Irma Grese ranks alongside Amon Goeth and Dr. Mengele, as the famous Nazis that the Jews most love to hate.

As quoted from The Jerusalem Post, here is the letter that Batsheva Dagan wrote in 1945, but did not send, to Irma Grese:

“We, your victims, do not want you to die,” read the letter addressed to Grese, which the newspaper ran in full on October 29, 1945. “We would much rather that you live, as we had to, with billows of filthy black smoke from the chimneys of the crematoria [at Auschwitz] constantly before your eyes.

“We want to see you dragging heavy stones, barefoot and in rags. We want to see you beaten, cruelly and mercilessly as you, cruel and without mercy, beat us [with a cellophane whip].

“We want you to go so hungry that you cannot sleep at night, as we could not. We want to see your blonde hair shaved off, as you made us shave our heads [to get rid of any lice].”

I have written extensively, about the trial of Irma Grese and the other guards, who were put on trial by the British in 1945.  The Belsen Trial was the very first trial of Nazi war criminals, long before the Nuremberg IMT and the AMT trials conducted by Americans at Dachau.

The trial, which was conducted by the British, was eagerly followed by the press and the defendant, who attracted the most attention, was the notorious 21-year-old Irma Grese, who was accused of participating in selections for the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Auschwitz II death camp.

Despite her young age, Irma had achieved the rank of Oberaufseherin, or Senior SS Overseer, by the fall of 1943. In this role, she was in charge of supervising around 30,000 women prisoners, mostly Polish and Hungarian Jews, at Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was transferred to Bergen-Belsen in March 1945, only a month before the camp was turned over to the British, and she was also charged with beating prisoners in that camp.

Some of the inmates at Bergen-Belsen had been transferred to Belsen from Auschwitz-Birkenau, so they were able to testify against the defendants with regard to both camps. Grese was the highest ranking woman among the defendants at The Belsen Trial, but she was also the youngest. She was, by far, the most hated by the former prisoners who submitted affidavits against her at her trial.

Quoted below is Irma Grese’s testimony at her trial, under direct examination, about her background:

I was born on 7th October, 1923. In 1938 I left the elementary school and worked for six months on agricultural jobs at a farm, after which I worked in a shop in Luchen for six months. When I was 15 I went to a hospital in Hohenluchen, where I stayed for two years. I tried to become a nurse but the Labour Exchange would not allow that and sent me to work in a dairy in Fürstenburg. In July, 1942, I tried again to become a nurse, but the Labour Exchange sent me to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, although I protested against it. I stayed there until March, 1943, when I went to Birkenau Camp in Auschwitz. I remained in Auschwitz until January, 1945.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors testified that Grese habitually wore jack boots, and carried a plaited cellophane whip and a pistol. Survivors testified, in affidavits, that she was always accompanied by a vicious dog. The survivors claimed that Irma was sadistic and that she derived sexual pleasure from beating the women prisoners with her cellophane riding crop.

Survivors claimed that she had beaten women prisoners to death at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and that Irma had shot other prisoners in cold blood. These accusations of murder were made in affidavits, and none of accusations were corroborated.

The most serious charge against Irma Grese was that she had been present when inmates at Birkenau were selected for the gas chamber and that she had participated by forcing the women to line up for inspection by Dr. Mengele.

Irma denied having a dog, beating prisoners to death or shooting anyone, although she did admit to hitting prisoners with her cellophane whip even though it was forbidden for the Overseers to beat the prisoners. She stated that she continued to use her whip even after being ordered not to by Commandant Kramer.

Irma also admitted to being aware that prisoners were gassed at Birkenau; she stated that this was common knowledge in the camp and that she had been told by the prisoners about the gassing. She admitted that she was present when selections were made and that she had helped to line up the prisoners, but she denied making the selections herself.

Quoted below is her testimony, regarding the gas chamber selections, under direct examination, by her defense lawyer, Major Cranfield (page. 249 in the trial transcript):

Cranfield: Where did the order come from for what we call “selection parades”?
Grese: That came by telephone from a RapportFührerin or from Oberaufseherin Dreschel.
Cranfield: When the order came were you told what the parade was for?
Grese: No.
Cranfield: What were the prisoners supposed to do when the whistle went?
Grese: Fall in fives, and it was my duty to see that they did so. Dr. Mengele then came and made the selection. As I was responsible for the camp my duties were to know how many people were leaving and I had to count them, and I kept the figures in a strength book. After the selection took place they were sent into “B” Camp, and Dreschel telephoned and told me that they had gone to another camp in Germany for working purposes or for special treatment, which I thought was the gas chamber. I then put in my strength book either so many for transfer to Germany to another camp, or so many for S.B. (Sonder Behandlung). It was well known to the whole camp that S. B. meant the gas chamber.
Cranfield: Were you told anything about the gas chamber by your senior officers?
Grese: No, the prisoners told me about it.
Cranfield: You have been accused of choosing prisoners on these parades and sending them to the gas chamber. Have you done that?
Grese: No; I knew that prisoners were gassed.
Cranfield: Was it not quite simple to know whether or not the selection was for the gas chamber, because only Jews had to attend such selections?

Grese: I myself had only Jews in Camp “C.”
Cranfield: Then they would all have to attend the selection for the gas chamber, would they not?
Grese: Yes.
Cranfield: As you were told to wait for the doctors you would know perfectly well what it was for?
Grese: No.
Cranfield: When these people were parading they were very often paraded naked and inspected like cattle to see whether they were fit to work or fit to die, were they not?
Grese: Not like cattle.
Cranfield: You were there keeping order, were you not, and if one ran away you brought her back and gave her a beating?
Grese: Yes.

To get back to Batsheva Dagen, here is her Holocaust story, as printed in The Jerusalem Post:

Dagan was born in 1925 in Lodz, the eighth of nine children. When the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939, her large family scattered. One brother went to Palestine, another joined the Polish Brigade, others sought refuge in the Soviet Union. Dagan moved with her parents and younger siblings to the relative safety of the central Polish city of Radom.

“My father heard they were setting up a ghetto in Lodz and he didn’t like the sound of it,” she said, “so we moved to Radom and were spared being put in one for a little over a year.”

But in 1940, a ghetto was set up in Radom and life suddenly became mean.

“You would not believe the deprivation, the lows that humans can sink to,” she said.
Dagan joined the ghetto’s resistance movement and on one occasion traveled under the guise of a gentile to Warsaw – where she personally delivered a dispatch to Mordechai Anielewicz, the heroic leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – and then back again. When, in 1942, the Radom ghetto was about to be liquidated, she escaped using fake documents. She took on the identity of a non-Jewish maid and went to work for a family in Germany.

“I worked for a fervently Nazi family where I took care of two teenagers,” she recalled. “Many years after the war I met them in Hamburg. The daughter was very cold to me, but the son was warm. They could not believe I survived.”

Her ruse did not last long. Her real identity was discovered by the Gestapo and she was sent to Auschwitz in April 1943. There, she survived the worst horrors imaginable. She was given tasks like collecting prickly nettles, which were used to make tea, barehanded, and removing precious items from the bodies of those killed in the gas chambers. She survived by relying on the camaraderie of a group of eight women and a strict regimen of self-discipline.

Note that Dagen (not her real name) claims that she removed items from the bodies in the gas chambers.  She also claims that she was a Resistance fighter (illegal combatant) in the Warsaw ghetto.

October 1, 2013

New book tells about Nazi women who joined the men “on shooting parties in the snow, hunting and killing Jews for sport”

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:01 am
Irme Grese and Kramer are guarded by a British soldier at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

Irma Grese and Josef Kramer are guarded by a British soldier at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

A regular reader of my blog provided a link to a news article which you can read in full here. The photo shown above was included in the article.  It shows a British soldier guarding Irma Grese, one of the female guards at the Bergen-Belsen camp; standing next to her is Josef Kramer, the last Commandant of Bergen-Belsen.

New book about female perpetrators in the Holocaust

New book about female perpetrators in the Holocaust

The article, in the British newspaper Mail Online, is about a new book entitled Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, written by Professor Wendy Lower, who currently lives and teaches in Munich, Germany

This quote is from the news article cited above:

Even more caught up in the criminal madness were administrators such as Liselotte Meier, who worked so closely with her strutting boss, an SS officer, that they were almost indistinguishable. She joined him on shooting parties in the snow, hunting and killing Jews for sport. […]

In support of the men, women even manned refreshment tables during executions so the killers could take a break. […]

Another SS wife, Lisel Willhaus, wife of a camp commandant, used to sit on the balcony of their house and take pot shots at Jewish prisoners with her rifle.

Also in Poland was Vera Wohlauf, whose husband Julius commanded a police battalion ordered in 1942 to round up 11,000 Jewish inhabitants of a small town for transportation to Treblinka for liquidation.

She sat by her husband in the front seat of the lorry that led a convoy of killers to the town, and stood in the market square brandishing a whip as nearly a thousand who resisted the round-up or collapsed in the summer heat were beaten to death or shot.

She was pregnant at the time, a further incongruity.

In the Ukraine, 22-year-old secretary Johanna Altvater played an even more prominent role in a massacre while working for regional commissar Wilhelm Westerheide.

During the liquidation of a Jewish ghetto, Fräulein Hanna, as she was known, was seen in her riding breeches prodding men, women and children into a truck ‘like a cattle herder’.

The news article includes two versions of the same photo of Irma Grese, which is shown at the top of my blog post.  However, the book does not include the story of Irma Grese. It is about 11 young women who served as secretaries, nurses, or in other functions on the Eastern Front.

The brief mention of Irma Grese, in the news article, is quoted here:

The few women ever called to account were notorious concentration camp guards — the likes of Irma Grese and Ilse Koch — whose evil was so extreme they could be explained away as freaks and beasts, not really ‘women’ at all.

The caption on the photo, shown at the top of my blog post, is this:

Guilty: Irma Grese, nicknamed ‘The Beautiful Beast’ pictured with Joseph Kramer who was commandant of Auschwitz and later Belsen concentration camps. She was hanged aged 22 in 1945 and him in 1946

What heinous crimes had Irma Grese and Josef Kramer committed?

The news article doesn’t tell us, so I will have to tell you: The two of them were guilty of gross stupidity.

When the Bergen-Belsen camp was VOLUNTARILY turned over to the British, these two were standing at the gate into the camp, offering their help in taking care of the prisoners; there was a typhus epidemic in the camp that was out of control.

Sign on the gate at Bergen-Belsen warns that there is a typhus epidemic

Sign on the gate at Bergen-Belsen warns that there is a typhus epidemic

To add to the misery of the prisoners, the Belsen camp had been bombed by the British and the water pump had been hit, so there was no fresh water available.

Yet, instead of escaping from the camp, these two vicious war criminals, Josef Kramer and Irma Grese, were standing at the gate, ready to greet the British and offer their help.

STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!  They should have escaped to South America, as did Dr. Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann.  What were they thinking?

According to Michael Berenbaum, in his book The World Must Know, Commandant Josef Kramer greeted British officer Derrick Sington at the entrance to the Belsen camp, wearing a fresh uniform.

Berenbaum wrote that Kramer expressed his desire for an orderly transition and his hopes of collaborating with the British. According to Berenbaum, Kramer dealt with them as equals, one officer to another, even offering advice as to how to deal with the “unpleasant situation.”

That same day, Commandant Kramer was arrested by the British; five months later he and Irma Grese were  brought before a British Military Tribunal and both were convicted as war criminals.

Josef Krama was arrested by the British on the same day that he offered to help with the typhus epidemic in the camp

Josef Kramer was arrested by the British on the same day that he offered to help with the typhus epidemic that was out of control in the Belsen camp

At the British Military Tribunal after World War II, the Germans, who had been associated with the Belsen camp, were put on trial. Survivors of  the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp testified that Grese had habitually worn jack boots, and that she carried a plaited cellophane whip and a pistol.

Grese was also accused of being always accompanied by a vicious dog. The prisoners claimed that Irma was sadistic and that she derived sexual pleasure from beating the women prisoners with her cellophane riding crop. Witnesses claimed that Irma Grese had beaten women prisoners to death at Auschwitz and had shot others in cold blood.

The accusations of murder, against Irma Grese, were made in affidavits, and none of the accusations were corroborated. Survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau even claimed that there were lamp shades, made out of the skins of three women prisoners, found in Grese’s room at Birkenau. Of course, no evidence of this was introduced at her trial. The most serious charge against Irma Grese, by the British Military Tribunal, was that she had been present when inmates at Birkenau were selected for the gas chamber and that she had participated, in the selections, by forcing the women to line up for inspection by Dr. Mengele.

At her trial, Grese denied having a dog, beating prisoners to death or shooting anyone, although she did admit to hitting prisoners with her cellophane whip even though it was forbidden for the Overseers to beat the prisoners. She stated that she continued to use her whip even after being ordered not to by Commandant Kramer.

At her trial before the British Military Tribunal at Lüneburg, Germany in 1945, the following testimony was given by Ilona Stein in a Deposition:

“Whilst at Birkenau I have seen Grese making selections with Dr. Mengele of people to be sent to the gas chamber. On these parades Grese herself chose the people to be killed in this way. In one selection about August, 1944, there were between 2000 and 3000 selected. At this selection, Grese and Mengele were responsible for selecting those for the gas chamber. People chosen would sometimes sneak away from the line and hide themselves under their beds. Grese would go and find them, beat them until they collapsed and then drag them back into line again. I have seen everything I describe. It was general knowledge in this camp that persons selected in this way went to the gas chamber.”

The testimony against Irma Grese, which is quoted above was given in a Deposition.  (A deposition is a legal document, which is given by a witness who does not take the witness stand in court.)  At her trial, Irma Grese admitted to being aware that prisoners were gassed at Birkenau; she stated that this was common knowledge in the camp and that she had been told by the prisoners about the gassing. She admitted that she was present when selections were made and that she had helped to line up the prisoners, but she denied making the selections herself. Irma Grese was hanged for her crime of helping with the selection of prisoners for the gas chamber and for her crime of using a cellophane whip, although she had been ordered not to use a whip by Josef Kramer.

February 1, 2012

The horror of Bergen-Belsen, as told by a British officer who witnessed the liberation of the camp

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 6:30 am

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a man who sent me a copy of a letter, written by a British army officer, which gives an eye-witness account of the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp by British soldiers in April 1945. I thought I knew the story of Bergen-Belsen, but I was wrong!  It was much worse than I ever imagined.  You can read what I wrote about Belsen on my website, starting here.

This quote from the letter describes how the Belsen prisoners were deliberately starved to death:

The conditions at Belsen camp were ghastly.  Obviously it was used as a place where the prisoners could be exterminated slowly, and with least  trouble to the Reich.  This extermination took place in the form of slow starvation; the rations were a bowl of swede or turnip soup per person every day, and a loaf of rye bread between twelve persons every week. Thus the bare minimum was given; a minimum which would not allow anyone to die quickly of starvation, but which would make him or her gradually waste away into a living skeleton.  When this had happened, death either followed by typhus or mere collapse.  It was reckoned that at least four hundred persons died every day.

This particular part of the letter, written by the British officer, resonated with me:

Twenty of the SS guards who helped to run the camp were caught when the camp was overrun. Three have since committed suicide (and one has been shot).  The other sixteen are working as they have never worked before.  They have a heavy German lorry in which they carry away the bodies which they are made to collect.  But they are not allowed to run the engine.  Instead they all push behind, aided in their efforts by some very willing British Tommies who use all the means of persuasion to work that they can think of, from sticks to bayonets.

British soldiers force German guards to load bodies at gunpoint

In the photo above, notice the Belsen survivors, on the left side, watching the German guards being forced to load the bodies onto trucks.

The letter from the British officer started off with this description of the Belsen camp:

Belsen is a small village 11 miles from CELLE, which is in the province HANNOVER.  About a mile south of BELSEN, there is a concentraton camp, in which the Germans herded political prisoners of all nations.  They were put in this camp for crimes which ranged from listening to the British radio to treason against the Reich. Altogether, when the camp was overrun, there were about sixty thousand men and women in it, the majority being women.

What the British officer, who wrote this letter, probably didn’t know is that Bergen-Belsen did not become a concentration camp until December 1944.  Before that, it had been an exchange camp for Jews who wanted to go to Palestine. The Jews were held in the Belsen camp so that they could be exchanged for German prisoners being held in America and Great Britain. I have just recently learned that there were 900 German civilians in an American internment camp that were exchanged for Jews at Belsen.

When Belsen was “overrun” by the British, there were 60,000 prisoners in the camp, but 30,000 of them had just arrived a few days before.  (more…)

August 4, 2011

The “so-called lethal gas chamber” at Natzweiler

I previously blogged here about the Nazi gas chambers which are still in existence.  I neglected to mention the “so-called lethal gas chamber” at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, which was located on top of a mountain in the Vosges range in Alsace which is now in France. When the camp was built, Alsace was in the Greater German Reich. The camp was set up near a quarry as a labor camp for convicted German criminals and captured Anti-Fascist resistance fighters who had been fighting as illegal combatants.  Natzweiler was the main camp for French Resistance fighters.

The photo below shows a building, which is located about a mile from the camp.  Josef Kramer, the former Commandant of Natzweiler confessed to the British, after he was arrested at Bergen-Belsen, that he had personally gassed Jews in this building near the Natzweiler camp, but this is NOT the “so-called lethal gas chamber” in the title of my blog post.

Gas chamber building at Natzweiler-Struthof

The Natzweiler camp was abandoned by the Nazis in September 1944 and all the prisoners were transferred by train to Dachau. The Natzweiler camp was discovered by both French and American troops, but only after it had been abandoned.

On December 9, 1944, Col. Paul Kirk and Lt. Col. Edward J. Gully of the US 6th Army made an inspection of the Natzweiler camp. According to Robert H. Abzug, the author of Inside the Vicious Heart, the two men “qualified just about every observation that had to do with instruments of death and torture” in their report.  They did not mention the building shown in the photo at the top of my post; apparently they never found this building which is set back from the road up to the camp and not at all conspicuous.

The following is a quote from Inside the Vicious Heart:

[Kirk and Gully] found, among other things, “what appeared to be a disinfestation unit” and “a large pile of hair appearing and reputed to be human female.” They were shown a building with a space “allegedly used as a lethal gas chamber. ” In this building was “a cellar room with a special type elevator,” and “an incinerator room with equipment obviously intended for the burning of human bodies…a cell room and an autopsy room.” Kirk and Gully then described in detail the “so-called lethal gas chamber,” noting every pipe and outlet and its two steel doors. In the cellar they found four coffins and a sheet metal elevator “of a size which would take a human body” with “stains which appeared to be caused by blood.”

Outside wall of the “so-called lethal gas chamber”

When I visited the former Natzweiler camp in 2004, I peeked thought the small barred window, shown in the photo above.  The room looked to me like an ordinary shower room.  Part of the cremation oven can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the photo.

The report about the “so-called lethal gas chamber” at Natzweiler, written by Kirk and Gully, was sent to the US War Crimes Division. Based on their report, there were no charges pertaining to a gas chamber at Natzweiler brought against the Nazis on trial before the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg.

Josef Kramer was put on trial by the British in 1945, but he was not charged with gassing prisoners at Natzweiler, even though he had confessed to this crime.

Building where the “so-called lethal gas chamber” was located at Natzweiler

The building described in the quote from Abzug’s book is shown in the photo above. This building is the crematorium which has an elevator, an incinerator room, a cell room, an autopsy room and what looks like a shower room, but was described as the “so-called lethal gas chamber” in the inspection Report written by Kirk and Gully.

The photo above shows the crematory oven described by the American Army officers who investigated the Natzweiler camp in an attempt to find evidence of war crimes. The “so-called lethal gas chamber” is behind the oven and to the right. The Natzweiler camp had only one crematory oven since it was not intended to be a death factory for mass murder.

Apparently Kirk and Gully were not told by their French tour guides that the actual gas chamber was located on a side road, about one mile distant from the camp. Since they never saw the real gas chamber, shown in the photo at the top of my blog post, they didn’t include it in their report, and consequently no charges were brought at the Nuremberg IMT with regard to the gassing of Jews at Natzweiler-Struthof.

I visited the Natzweiler camp in 2004, but I was not able to see inside the gas chamber building shown in the first photo above because it was locked and could only be seen by special permission.

In the small museum at Natzweiler-Struthof, I read Kramer’s confession which was on display. In his confession to the British, Kramer described how he personally mixed “salts” with water to produce a lethal gas. The gas was dumped through a hole which had been chiseled through the tiled wall of a room previously used for the refrigeration of perishable food; the building had previously been a restaurant. Then Kramer watched through a peephole as the Jews died from the fumes of the poison gas.

In a British Military Tribunal held in 1945, Josef Kramer was convicted and hanged for the crimes which he had allegedly committed at Auschwitz II and Bergen-Belsen. The charges against Kramer at the proceedings of the British Military Tribunal did not include the crime of gassing Jews at Natzweiler-Struthof. He was only charged with crimes committed at Bergen-Belsen and with gassing Jews at Auschwitz, where he was the Commandant of the Auschwitz II camp before being transferred to Bergen-Belsen in December 1944.

The fact that Kramer was not tried by the British for the crime of gassing prisoners at Natzweiler does not mean that the gassing did not take place. It could be that the British did not have jurisdiction for crimes committed at Natzweiler because the camp was located in the French zone of occupation.

In 1989, a plaque was placed at Natzweiler-Struthof, in memory of the “87 Jews who were gassed” there. This was accomplished through the joint efforts of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a New Jersey lawyer, Stephen Draisin. The number 87 includes the 86 Jews who were brought from Auschwitz to be gassed and one Jewish inmate at Natzweiler who died during the same time period.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “the gas chamber was also used in pseudoscientific medical experiments involving poison gas. The victims of these experiments were primarily Roma (Gypsies) who had been transferred from Auschwitz. Prisoners were also subjected to experiments involving treatment for typhus and yellow fever.”

A book which I purchased from the Natzweiler Memorial Site has this quote about the gas chamber:

4. The affair of the Israelite corpses

(August) Hirt, professor of anatomy in Strasbourg, received corpses from the camp of Russian war prisoners at Mutzig, but as he thought they were too lean, he asked for people in a good physical condition for studies on heredity.

87 Israelites (30 of whom were women) were sent from the camp at Auschwitz. They were shut up in block 13 at the Struthof where they were measured, and they had to undergo experiments on sterilization. On August 11, 13, 17, 19, 1943, under the direction of doctors from Strasburg, the S.S. gassed the 87 Israelites in the gas chamber at Struthof with cyanide. Death occurred after 30 to 60 seconds. The corpses were transported to the Institut d’Anatomie in Strasburg. 17 entire corpses (3 of which being women’s) were found at the liberation as well as many dissected pieces.

According to Dr. Hans-Joachim Lang, there were 16 of the 86 bodies (3 women and 13 men) that were found intact in November 1944, not 17, and an autopsy was performed on the bodies.

“The liberation” referred to in the above quote probably means the liberation of France in August 1944. The Natzweiler-Struthof camp was abandoned in September 1944 so it was not actually “liberated.”

Dr. Hans-Joachim Lang was able to identify the 86 Jews who were gassed at Natzweiler after locating their tattoo numbers in the Auschwitz archives. The 29 women and 57 men who were gassed had been deported to Auschwitz from Norway, Poland, Greece, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The bodies of the 86 victims were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Strasbourg and a grave stone with the 86 names was placed there in December 2005.

Dr. Lang has published a book with the names of the 86 Jews who were gassed at Natzweiler. You can read the 86 names here.

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