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June 15, 2013

The true story of how SS Lt. Col. Kurt Becher saved 1,000 Hungarian Jews…

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 12:02 pm

According to a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, who recently spoke to students in America, as reported in this news article, here is the true story of how 1,000 Hungarian Jews were saved by Kurt Becher, a German SS soldier, during World War II.

According to the news article, cited above, the truth is that there was no exchange camp at Bergen-Belsen, and the Jews who were exchanged for goods, during the Holocaust, had actually been rounded up in Hungary by two Jewish boys pretending to be Nazis. Believe it or not, that is what really happened, according to Hungarian Holocaust survivor Marika Barnett, who spoke to a group of American High School students recently.

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

[The Jews] lived in fear in their house that they would be taken to the Danube and shot. Nazi soldiers came for them on December 27.

“We were terrified. We were only allowed to take a little suitcase… At gunpoint we were running in front of (Nazis).”

However these were not real Nazis. They were two Jewish boys pretending to be Nazi soldiers. They brought them to a special building SS Lt. Colonel Kurt Becher had set aside to house 1000 Jews in the hopes that he would be given leniency at the end of the war.

For money and for signatures that later helped them when they were put on trial, some of the German SS officers saved Jews from the Hungarian Nazis.

Here is what really happened:  Hitler had given his permission in December 1942 to release Jews, from the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp, for ransom. On August 21, 1944, three SS officers (Kurt Becher, Max Grüson and Hermann Krumey) who were representing Reichsfürher-SS Heinrich Himmler, and a representative of the Budapest Jews, Rudolf Kastner, met with Saly Mayer, a leading member of the Jewish Community in Switzerland.

The meeting took place in the middle of a bridge at St. Margarethen, on the border between Germany and Switzerland, because Mayer refused to enter Germany and he also did not want the SS men to enter Switzerland, according to Jewish historian Yehuda Bauer.

Becher asked for farm machinery and 10,000 trucks, and in return, he promised to free 318 Hungarian Jews from Bergen-Belsen. In a show of good faith, the train with the 318 Jews was already waiting at the Swiss border. Mayer offered minerals and industry goods instead of the trucks. According to Yehuda Bauer, Becher later claimed that he had persuaded Himmler not to deport the Budapest Jews, and that was why Himmler issued an order to stop the deportation of Hungarian Jews three days later.

A second group of 1,368 Hungarian Jews left the Bergen-Belsen detention camp on December 4, 1944 and entered Switzerland just after midnight on December 7th, according to Yehuda Bauer. Altogether, there was a total of 2,896 Jews released for ransom, including a transport of 1,210 Jews from the Theresienstadt Ghetto who entered Switzerland on February 7, 1945.

After the departure of the second Hungarian transport to Switzerland in December, more transports from Budapest continued to arrive at Bergen-Belsen and the Hungarian section remained in existence there until April 15, 1945 when the camp was voluntarily turned over to the British by Heinrich Himmler. According to Eberhard Kolb, who wrote a book about Bergen-Belsen, it was a transport of Hungarian Jews in February 1945 that bought in the lice that started a typhus epidemic in the camp. The delousing facilities in the camp had been temporarily out of order at that time.

After the Hungarian Jews had entered Switzerland, there were false reports by the Swiss press that the Jews were being ransomed in exchange for asylum for 200 SS officers who were planning to defect. When Hitler heard this news, from Ernst Kaltenbrunner, he ordered all further releases of Jews for ransom to stop.

Marika Barnett also told this story to the American students, as reported in the news article:

On Oct. 15, after a failed attempt of the governor of Hungary to join the Allies, members of the Hungarian Nazi Party took over the government and since by then Jews only lived in Budapest, the Hungarian Nazis went from house to house diligently, day and night and took the Jews to the shore of the Danube.

After they removed their clothes, they tied three people together and with one bullet they shot one person and the other two drowned alongside of them. “We lost many, many friends that way.” Her own parents escaped on the way to the collection centers four times by bribing their escorts.

I previously blogged about Kurt Becher here.

After Marika Barnett gave her talk at the High School, a Holocaust revisionist spoke to the students for an hour, giving the true story of Kurt Becher and the Jews who were saved by being exchanged for goods.

Just kidding.  God forbid that American students should learn both sides of history.  Holocaust survivors are allowed to speak to vulnerable students, telling any lies that they can think of; their stories are never vetted in advance.

May 30, 2013

Rudolf Kasztner, the man who saved Hungarian Jews, but couldn’t win for losing

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:58 am

You can read about the sad case of Rudolf Kaszter in this article:  The Jewish Chronicle – Tragic ghost of Holocaust continues to haunt

It’s complicated, to say the least.  The story might be easier to understand if you read this blog post.

I wrote about the Hungarian Jews at Bergen-Belsen on my website here.  I previously blogged about Kurt Becher, a German who was involved in saving the Hungarian Jews, on a blog post that you can read here.

There is one part of the article in The Jewish Chronicle that I don’t believe is correct.  It is contained in this quote:

And in early April 1945, Kasztner accompanied Becher to Bergen-Belsen where Becher literally compelled SS Commandant Josef Kramer to hand that camp over to the British rather than simply killing all its remaining inmates.

This quote from the article in the Jewish Chronicle tells the story:

Consider the tragic case of Rezao, or Rudolf, Kasztner, who negotiated with Adolf Eichmann and other senior SS officers in Budapest in 1944 to try to save at lease some Hungarian Jews from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  […]

Kasztner, a Zionist journalist from the Transylvanian city of Cluj, was the most prominent member of what was called the Jewish Aid and Rescue Committee.  It must be emphasized that he did not belong to any official body designated or appointed by the Germans.  As it happened, there were Nazis in Budapest in 1944 who, for reasons of their own, were willing to engage in negotiations to barter some Jews — a minimal amount to be sure — for cash, trucks, and/or other critically needed consumer goods.

To make a long and extremely complex story short, Kasztner bargained for the lives of more than 1,600 Jews at a cost of $1,000 a head.  On June 30, 1944, they left Budapest on a train supposedly bound for freedom.  […]

At trial in Jerusalem District Court, Kasztner was denounced for failing to warn the doomed Jews of Hungary of what he knew to be their fate, thereby not giving them the opportunity to try to save themselves.  Moreover, the charge that he was an accomplice of the Germans was intensified by the revelation that he had given testimony after the war on behalf of some of the SS men such as the aforementioned Becher with whom he had, depending on one’s perspective, either worked or collaborated. Following a lengthy, highly sensational trial, Judge Benyamin Halevy found for the defendant in the civil defamation case, concluding famously that Kasztner had “sold his soul to the devil.”

Kasztner, who had been responsible for saving literally thousands of Jews, now became a virtual pariah in Israeli society.  By the time the Israel Supreme Court reversed Halevy’s verdict in January of 1958, Kasztner had been assassinated in front of his home.

The way I heard it is that Heinrich Himmler was negotiating with the British to take over the Bergen-Belsen camp for weeks before the British soldiers arrived to “liberate” the camp.  That was the story that was being told at the Belsen Memorial Site when I visited it several years ago.  Josef Kramer stayed in the camp and met the liberators at the entrance into the camp, offering to help with the typhus epidemic that was killing thousands of prisoners in the camp.  He would not have stayed in the camp if he had been making plans to kill the remaining inmates.

August 16, 2012

Kurt Becher’s affidavit incriminating Ernst Kaltenbrunner at the Nuremberg IMT

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:16 am

Kurt Becher was an SS officer who was involved in the famous “Jews for Trucks” incident near the end of World War II.  When the war was over, Becher was arrested by the Allies and taken to Nuremberg, but he was not put on trial.  He was a “Righteous Gentile” because he had saved Jews.

SS officer Kurt Becher

Kurt Becher did not testify at Nuremberg, but he did sign an affidavit which was entered into the Nuremberg IMT. In his affidavit, Becher claimed that he had personally caused Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler to issue an order which forbade any liquidation of Jews at Mauthausen.  Himmler was dead, so he was not on trial. The affidavit was read in court because it contained accusations against Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who was on trial as a war criminal.

But before we get to Becher’s affidavit and the accusations against Kaltenbrunner, here is the back story on the “Jews for Trucks” episode:

On August 21, 1944, three SS officers (Kurt Becher, Max Grüson and Hermann Krumey) and Rudolf Kastner (a representative of the Budapest Jews) met with Saly Mayer, a leading member of the Jewish Community in Switzerland.

The meeting took place in the middle of a bridge at St. Margarethen, on the border between Germany and Switzerland. Saly Mayer had refused to enter Germany and he also did not want the SS men to enter Switzerland, according to Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer.

Kurt Becher asked for farm machinery and 10,000 trucks, and in return, he promised to free 318 Hungarian Jews from Bergen-Belsen. In a show of good faith, the train with the 318 Jews was already waiting at the Swiss border. Mayer offered minerals and industry goods instead of the trucks.

A second group of 1368 Hungarian Jews left the Bergen-Belsen camp on December 4, 1944 and entered Switzerland just after midnight on December 7th, according to Yehuda Bauer.

Altogether, there was a total of 2,896 Jews released for ransom, including a transport of 1210 Jews from the Theresienstadt Ghetto who entered Switzerland on February 7, 1945.

According to Yehuda Bauer, Becher later claimed that he had persuaded Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler not to deport the Budapest Jews, and that was why Himmler issued an order to stop the deportation of the Hungarian Jews three days later.

Now, back to the trial of Ernst Kaltenbrunner:

On 12 April 1946, the one hundred and sixth day of the Nuremberg IMT, the prosecutor read the affidavit of Kurt Becher, who was not in the courtroom.

The text of the affidavit is quoted below:

“I, Kurt Becher, formerly a colonel in the S.S., born 12th September, 1900, at Hamburg, declare the following under oath:

Between the middle of September and the middle of October, 1944, I caused the Reichsfuehrer S.S. Himmler to issue the following order, which I received in two originals, one each for S.S. Generals Kaltenbrunner and Pohl, and a copy for myself:

By this order, which becomes immediately operative, I forbid any liquidation of Jews and order that on the contrary, care should be given to weak and sick persons. I hold you (and here Kaltenbrunner and Pohl were meant) personally responsible even if this order should not be strictly adhered to by the subordinate offices.

I personally took Pohl’s copy to him and left the copy for Kaltenbrunner at his office in Berlin. In my opinion Kaltenbrunner and Pohl bear the responsibility after this date for any further killings of Jewish prisoners.

When visiting Mauthausen Concentration Camp on 27th April, 1945, at 9.00 a.m. I was told, in the strictest secrecy by the camp commandant, S.S. Colonel Ziereis, that ‘Kaltenbrunner gave me the order that at least a thousand persons have still to die at Mauthausen each day.’

The facts mentioned above are true. This declaration is made by me voluntarily and without coercion. I have read it through, signed it, and confirmed the statement with my oath.”

The most important part of Becher’s affidavit was his accusation that Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner had ordered 1,000 prisoners per day at the Mauthausen camp to be killed, even after Himmler had ordered that no more prisoners should be killed at Mauthausen.  Becher claimed that Mauthausen Commandant Franz Ziereis had personally told him, while he was on a visit to the camp, that Kaltenbrunner had given the order to continue killing prisoners.

After this affidavit was read in court, Kaltenbrunner was asked:

“Is that true or false, defendant?”

Kaltenbrunner’s answer is given in full in this quote from the testimony at the IMT:

A. In part it is correct and in part it is not. I shall explain it sentence by sentence.

Q. No. Suppose you simply tell us what you claim to be false, because we must get on with this.

A. I quite believe that you want to save time, but this is a question of establishing my guilt or my innocence and to do that I must be given an opportunity to make a statement in detail. Otherwise neither you nor the Tribunal would know the truth, And that is what we want here, isn’t it? I am glad that this witness Becher was found and that this statement is available, because it proves, firstly, that in September or October, 1944, Himmler was forced to issue this order, that same Himmler, about whom it has been established that since 1939 or 1940 he has committed the crime of killing Jews on the largest scale.

And now we must find out why in September or October Himmler had given such an order. Before I had seen this document I stated yesterday and today that this order was issued by Hitler through my intervention, and obviously this order from Himmler is based on another order which he received from Hitler.

Secondly, it is clear to me that Himmler gave such an order to Pohl as the person responsible for the concentration camps in which Jews were kept and that he gave the information to me as the person who had opposed him in this case. Where Becher is concerned, I should like to go into the question a little further.

Through this man Becher, Himmler committed some of the worst possible crimes, crimes which have been exposed here. Through Becher and the Joint Committee in Hungary and Switzerland he released Jews in exchange, first, for war equipment, then, secondly, for raw material and thirdly, for foreign currency. I heard about this through the Intelligence Service and immediately attempted to stop it – not through Himmler, because there I would have failed, but through Hitler; – at the moment any personal credit Himmler might still have had with Hitler was at an end – for this action might have damaged the reputation of the Reich abroad in the most serious manner.

At the same time my efforts in connection with Burckhardt had been going on, and now you understand why the witness Schellenberg stated that Himmler had said to him: “I am alarmed now. Kaltenbrunner has got me under his thumb. This means that Kaltenbrunner has completely exposed the things I was doing in Hungary and has told Hitler about it.”

This order was an attempt to camouflage the matter and to get out of the whole thing by pretending that the responsibility rested on Kaltenbrunner and Pohl. According to this document the responsibility rested on Himmler and Pohl, but, Kaltenbrunner had to be included and be told about it because otherwise he might bring the subject up with Hitler any day. That was the intention of the document.

This witness Becher is now in Nuremberg. Will you allow me to confront him here? I am quite able to prove to the world with the help of this witness that, starting with the transfer of the so-called Weiss AG. in Hungary up to that day, Himmler, Pohl and Becher, and the two committees in Hungary and Switzerland, were running this business. And I can prove how I fought against it.

There is yet another accusation in this document, that on 27th April I am supposed to have given a strictly secret order to Ziereis that a thousand Jews had to be destroyed in Mauthausen every day. I ask you to have the witness Hoettl, who is also held here, called in immediately, so that I may ask him on what day I dictated and sent by courier to Mauthausen the order that the entire camp, with all its inmates, be surrendered to the enemy. The witness will then confirm to you that this order was given several days before 27th April and that I could not have given orders to the contrary on the 27th.

In spite of Kaltenbrunner’s testimony which proved his innocence, he was convicted and hanged as a war criminal.