Scrapbookpages Blog

July 20, 2014

Philip Riteman is still educating students about the Holocaust

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:33 am

This morning, I read in a CBS news story that Holocaust survivor Philip Riteman is still out on the lecture circuit, educating young students in Canada about the horrors of the Holocaust.

This quote is from the news article:

One of the last living Holocaust survivors in Atlantic Canada continues to tell his story, and says he worries the horrors he experienced could happen again.

It took four decades for Auschwitz survivor Philip Riteman to begin speaking about what he went through after he was captured by the Nazis when he was 14 years old.

Philip Riteman, Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau

Philip Riteman, Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau

The news article is very short, but it does give a hint that Philip’s story is worth some in-depth study.  I recognized his name, when I read the news article, and I remembered that I wrote about him extensively on my website scrapbookpages.com many years ago: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/PhilipRiteman.html

One of the interesting things about Philip’s story is that he was liberated on May 2, 1945 by American troops. This date identifies him as one of the prisoners who were marched out of the Dachau main camp toward the mountains of Austria in April 1945, just before the main Dachau camp was liberated..

The following information is from my scrapbookpages website:

Acting upon Hitler’s orders, the Commandant of Dachau, Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, made an attempt to evacuate the Dachau main camp before the American liberators arrived. On April 26th, 1945, Weiter left the Dachau main camp with a transport of prisoners bound for Schloss Itter, a subcamp of Dachu in Austria. Weiter allegedly committed suicide when the prisoners on the march were liberated by the Allies, but the truth is that he was probably shot by the Americans.

This quote is from my website page on Philip Riteman:

On November 10, 2005, Riteman gave a talk to College students in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Keith Adolph took the following notes which he posted on his blog:

-Reitman went to school as a normal child in 1938
-Early on in the war it was seen as a fight against evil
-In 1939 Poland was invaded
-His father had ties to the Russian Gov’t and so they traveled to live under Russia and still it was not a good country to live in
-The Germans’ journey to Minsk took them through Reitman’s small town. For months they drove tanks through town
-They killed those in their way or caught watching them

-The Nazis approached the mayor and demanded 10 kilos of gold and 20 kilos of silver or they would level the town. They took the money and left after a time.
-They returned and surrounded the town before asking for more. This time the town could not pay.
-Days later, at 3 AM, the Nazis came to the houses and took people from their homes. They separated children from parents and marched the 3000 residents 60 km. Others (about 5000) were driven.
-During the march they killed roughly 200 residents.
-Before releasing the residents the Nazis took 14 people aside, striped them and shot them dead, letting their bodies drop into 7 graves already dug.
-The residents were then freed and reunited with the others.

-They were left in a small town that was entirely vacant.
-The village had been purged and the people were culled into a mass grave 50 x 100 and 7 feet deep
-En route they came upon a town and they were collected into a ghetto of 40,000.
-After Reitman’s group joined the ghetto, any person approaching the ghetto was shot.
The ghetto had no food.

-Nine months later the ghetto was liquidated
-The residents were told they were being taken to a farm.
-They were all collected into 120 freight cars with all they could carry.
-The trains traveled for hours – all day
-A baby starved to death on the journey
-A man dropped dead and was pushed to the wall
-The train kept going
-The train traveled for 6 nights and 7 days.
-No food, No water
-People were soiling themselves where they stood
-One man was using a spoon to catch snow drops falling outside for water
-Reitman and the others were taken to Auschwitz

-The doors were opened and everyone jumped out
-Reitman grabbed his little sister. Also in the car were his two brothers, his big sister and his parents
-The Nazis beat and pushed them onto a platform
-A woman chasing her baby was stabbed to death with a bayonet
-Reitman was told to pretend that he was 18 when the Nazis were dividing the Jews by age and gender.
-If you were 18-45 you had a chance of surviving
-Parents with their young children were taken straight to the gas chambers.

-The Nazis began to divide the men by occupation
-Reitman pretended to be a locksmith
-The intellectuals were collected (about 300 of them) and machine gunned to death. The Nazis only needed workers.
-They were ordered to strip naked and shot if they moved too slowly.
-The Jews were shaved from head to toe.
-Body searches were conducted. Those caught hiding anything, even their gold teeth were executed.

-If you spoke German in the camps, the Nazis would bring out ‘interpreters’ who beat you with sticks so that you would never speak German again.

-Hundreds of men were put into cold showers and then given striped clothes.
-They were given a bowl, no utensils.
-They were then tattooed.
-Over 2 million died at Auschwitz.
-They were made to march. If you refused, your legs were broken.
-The Jews marched better than the Nazis.
-The Nazis would lock them into their barracks each night.
-They fit 7 into each bunk.
-There were 125,000 men at Auschwitz [main camp] at this time.
-Only 20,000 were Jewish. The others were Russians, Gypsies, Blacks and so on.

-Reitman spent 2 years at Auschwitz [main camp] and then 2 years at Dachau [subcamps]. In between he spent 6 months in Birkenau [AuschwitzII] where there were 2000 men to a barrack
-Smaller camps would kill their population and then call on larger camps to replenish their numbers. This is why Reitman moved around so much.

-Reitman says he had to close his mind to survive. He was like a zombie.
-He learned to never be first or last in line. Always be in the middle.
-He lost five brothers, his parents, his grandparents. He lost nine uncles and nine aunts and many cousins.
-He was the only survivor in his whole European family.
-He could not talk about the camps or his family for forty years.

“What kept you going?”
-If there is a God somewhere he will help me.
-He would have liked to have eaten one big meal and then died
-They ate one bowl of soup a day.
-If they had lost their bowl they were accused of sabotaging the Nazi Gov’t and beaten to death with sticks
-They wouldn’t waste the bullet.
-By comparison, the homeless today live in heaven. The Nazis burned them.
-If you limped, you were shot.
-Those who escaped got only 100-1000 feet and they starved to death.
-When they returned they were shot and burned by their fellow prisoners at the start of their day (5 AM)

-After 6 months in the camp Reitman found an old class mate who was in the camps because he was a Baptist.
-The boy recognized Reitman and called out to him.
-The Nazis had wanted his family’s cattle but the boy’s father would not give it to them. He was shot.
-His mother attacked the Nazis and she was hung in the town center.
-His sisters were cut and raped and shot in the heart.
-His little brother was chased into the woods and shot.
-The boy joined Reitman’s work group on a farm and was instantly hated by the Nazis.
-One day he was stripped and put into a water trough. The Nazis took steel wool and tried to take his freckles off.
-The boy died in the trough which was full of his own blood.
-Reitman and the others had to take the boy back to camp to be burned.
-He was Reitman’s best friend.

-Reitman was sent to another camp. When he arrived the barrack was full of all the dead.
-He and the others were forced to bury the bodies, but they were forbidden to pray.
-At another camp he spent a month in an airplane hanger.
-At Dachau the barracks were filled with bodies piled 7 ft high.
-When they tried to remove them the bodies came apart in their hands.
-These barracks were sunken into the ground 

[the barracks at the Kaufering IV camp were sunk into the ground – http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/KauferingIVLiberation.html ]

Barracks at Kaufering IV sub-camp of Dachau were partly underground

Barracks at Kaufering IV sub-camp of Dachau were partly underground

-They were marched for 2-3 weeks in the winter with only the snow to eat.
-Reitman estimates that 50,000 were killed for their weakness.
-They marched with tanks so that American planes would not bomb the convoys. The Jews wished they would though, just to kill the Germans.
-One night the camp was empty, not a German in sight. In the distance he could see the Americans coming, calling “You’re free!”
-This was May 2, 1945. Reitman was 18 years old and 75 lbs.

-The Americans brought food and medicine.
-Reitman had never seen bananas before, or a coloured person.
-A coloured soldier taught him to peel bananas.
-He would drink 3-4 cans of milk a day

-Reitman says he will never go back to the camps, but urges young people to visit them.
-He says he sees the camp every time he closes his eyes, even when he lived in Newfoundland.
-It would take Reitman 5 years to tell the story of his 5 years in the camps.

-He cannot forgive or forget what happened. Only God can forgive.
-Reitman says he does not hate the Germans he met after the war. He only hates the Nazis

-“I am speaking for millions who cannot speak”

-When he saw Americans he applied to go to the USA.
-The Red Cross took care of him in Europe and asked him about his history which they compared to his records held by the Nazis
-A month later he received a letter from Newfoundland from his mother’s sister.
-Then he got another letter from Newfoundland with 20 US $ in it.
-And then another from Montreal with 10 US $
-Then New York from his father’s sister and an uncle who had left Europe in 1890 and another in 1905.
-They were all relatives that he had never known to exist.
-In 1946 he was to come to Canada but the Canadian Gov’t would not allow Jews into the country.
-Newfoundland was not part of Canada at the time and they brought him right over.
-He traveled from Munich to Paris to New York to Newfoundland.
-He had never been on a boat before and he was very sea sick.
-The Newfoundland Gov’t said he was a free man. He was a Newfoundlander.

Most people would give the prize for the best Holocaust lies to Irene Zisblatt, but I think that Philip Riteman is a contender for this prize.  He at least deserves an honorable mention in the list of  Holocaust liars who have told the most egregious Holocaust lies.

From the details of his story, it is clear that Riteman was a political prisoner who was first sent to the Auschwitz main camp.   He was not among the Jews who were rounded up in order to be “exterminated” at the Auchwitz-Birkeanau camp. Riteman was marched out of the Auschwitz camp, and taken to Dachau, where he was then sent to one of the sub-camps to work.  He was brought back to the main camp, and then marched out of Dachau, on a march led by the Commandant of the camp, indicating that he was one of the prominent prisoners that the Nazis wanted to save.

Prisoners marching out of Dachau pass through a German village

Prisoners marching out of the Dachau main camp in April 1945 pass through a German village

 

July 25, 2010

Remarkable stories about the Holocaust

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, TV shows — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 6:19 am

This morning, I came across two remarkable stories about the Holocaust.  The first one is about a 13 year old Jewish boy who was sent to the Auschwitz death camp in 1944. The Jews under 15 years of age at Auschwitz were sent to the gas chamber, but for some reason, this boy stayed in Auschwitz  for 5 months, and then he was sent to the Kaufering IV camp, a sub-camp of Dachau near Landsberg am Lech.

Kaufering IV was a “sick camp” where prisoners from the other 10 Kaufering camps were sent to die when they were too sick to work. Most of the sick prisoners at Kaufering IV had typhus, but remarkably one of them recovered; his story is told here.

This is a quote about the boy who was sent to Kaufering IV:

In October 1944, at the age of 13, after five months in Auschwitz, I was transferred to Dachau, where I was assigned to Camp #4, located near the Bavarian town of Lomitsberg. For some reason, perhaps because I was the only young boy in the entire camp, I found favor with the SS officer in charge of food supplies and services for both prisoners and guards in Camp #4, and so I was assigned to the kitchen. My job was to stand at the kitchen gate all day and to shout “Achtung!” when this SS officer entered for his periodic inspection of the kitchen.

[…]

Being on the kitchen staff meant that I had access to food. This was a lifesaving privilege not only for me but for others. I was constantly besieged by prisoners begging for any scraps of food I could get for them. I took what I could and was able to help keep many, many people alive. Many of these people survived only because of this kitchen job that I was lucky to get, and some still live in Williamsburg today.

American soldiers view the bodies at Kaufering IV on May 1, 1945

Civilians from the town of Hurlach were forced at gunpoint to bury the bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus at Kaufering IV

The photo above shows a real-life scene which was re-created in the TV series “Band of Brothers.”  You can read all about Kaufering IV  here. I previously blogged about the remarkable story of seven Jewish women who were sent to Kaufering IV because they were pregnant; their babies were born there and the mothers with their babies were evacuated to the main camp so that they could be surrendered to the Allies. You can read about the mothers and their babies who survived Kaufering IV here.

The second remarkable story about the Holocaust is told here.  This is the story of Jews who were hidden during the Holocaust and didn’t know that they were Jews until long after World War II.

This is a quote from the story:

After the Iron Curtain was lifted in Europe twenty years ago, a surprising thing occurred – thousands of people who had been raised as gentiles came to the startling realization that they were actually Jews. Poland is home to thousands of such stories. During the Holocaust and under Communist rule, many Jews there hid their identities and continued to conceal them even after the fall of Communism. On their deathbeds, some of them have revealed their true identities to their children or grandchildren. Other people found out from old family records or through other means.

March 1, 2010

Band of Brothers TV series

Real life photo of the liberation of Kaufering IV camp

Last night I watched an episode of Band of Brothers for the umpteenth time.  I never tire of this TV series. This particular episode was about the 101st Airborne Division (the real life Band of Brothers) when they were in southern Germany near the end of World War II.

The photo above shows the real life scene at the Kaufering IV sub-camp of Dachau, which was near Landsberg am Lech.  This scene is very accurately re-created in the Band of Brothers.

Kaufering IV was first liberated by the 12th Armored Division of the US Seventh Army on April 27, 1945.  Soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division didn’t arrive until April 28, 1945, but in the Band of Brothers, they are shown as being there first.  The prisoners greet them and act as though they have never seen an American soldier before.

Kaufering IV was one of 11 camps, all named Kaufering and numbered I through XI; Kaufering IV had been designated as a “sick camp” where prisoners who could no longer work in the Kaufering factories were sent. But in the TV series Band of Brothers, this is not mentioned.

Dead bodies laid out at Kaufering IV, May 1, 1945

There was a typhus epidemic in Germany in 1945 and all Kaufering prisoners with typhus were sent to the Kaufering IV camp. The dead bodies in the photo above were prisoners who had died of typhus and other diseases.

Real life photo of the barracks at Kaufering IV

In Band of Brothers, the barracks at Kaufering IV have been accurately re-created, but it is not explained that the barracks were built partially underground in order to hide the camp from American planes that were bombing everything in sight. The photo above shows the real life camouflaged huts where the Kaufering IV prisoners lived.

The eleven Kaufering sub-camps had been set up specifically to build three huge underground factories for a project called Ringeltaube. In these subterranean factories, the German jet fighter plane Messerschmitt Me 262 was to be built. Allied bombing raids had made it necessary for the Nazis to build their factories underground.

In the last days of the World War II, all the Kaufering camps were evacuated except for the sick prisoners in the Kaufering IV camp. Some of the Kaufering prisoners arrived at the Dachau main camp on April 27, 1945, only two days before Dachau was liberated by American troops.

Civilians from the town of Hurlach forced to bury the bodies

In the Band of Brothers TV series, civilians from the town of Hurlach are shown burying the bodies, but what is not mentioned is that they were forced at gun-point to handle bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus.  The Germans had not been vaccinated and some of them undoubtedly got typhus and died as a result. (At Bergen-Belsen, out of 80 unvaccinated German guards who were forced to handle the bodies of typhus victims, 20 died of typhus.)

In Band of Brothers, German civilians are shown, as they arrive at Kaufering IV wearing nice clothes.  This is true to life; they had been ordered to wear their Sunday best for the burial of the  bodies.  This was the case at all the concentration camps where civilians were ordered to bury the bodies.

Then there is a scene in Band of Brothers where one of the 101st Airborne soldiers is screaming at a German shop keeper who is objecting because all of his goods are being taken by the Americans to feed the Kaufering IV prisoners.  The shop keeper keeps repeating “Ich bin kein Nazi.”  But the soldier is angry because the shopkeeper didn’t do anything about the Kaufering IV camp, although he must have smelled the burning bodies.  Of course, the German civilians would not have been told anything about the top secret underground factories in the Kaufering camps, but this American with a Harvard background couldn’t understand that.

One of the next scenes shows 600,000 German soldiers marching in perfect formation down the center of the Autobahn after they had surrendered. The Americans knew of the legendary discipline of the German Army, so the German soldiers are completely unguarded as they march.

Meanwhile, undisciplined American soldiers are shown killing two German soldiers, who have just surrendered in good faith, and then stealing their prized Luger pistols.  The 101st soldiers just shrug this off, while Harvard guy screams at the Germans soldiers who are marching by. He is angry because Germany started the war and his Harvard education had been interrupted as a result.  The Germans completely ignore this verbal abuse and keep marching in step.

Band of Brothers is a true story, based on real soldiers in the 101st Airborne.  It is highly accurate except for how the liberation of the Kaufering IV camp is shown. Why do movies and TV shows always have to misrepresent the concentration camps?