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June 23, 2012

The Ravensbrück gas chamber …. and the Lachout document

Ravensbrück is one of the few Nazi concentration camps that I have never visited.  I am writing about it today because the subject came up in the comments on my last post, which was about Joe the Plumber, who thinks that the Holocaust was allowed to happen because Hitler instituted gun control in 1939.

One of the regular readers of my blog, The Black Rabbit of Inlé, who has just returned from a trip to Germany, wrote a comment which included a link to his photos of the Ravensbrück crematorium and the memorial stone that marks the spot where the gas chamber was located before it was destroyed by the Nazis on April 23, 1945.

Wait a minute!  The Ravensbrück gas chamber was destroyed a week before the camp was liberated by the Russians on April 30, 1945?  This sounds just like the story of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the Russians arrived on January 27, 1945 and found that the Germans had destroyed the gas chamber on January 20, 1945. Very suspicious!

Another coincidence is that all the records from both the Auschwitz camp and the Ravensbrück camp were confiscated by the Russians.  The Ravensbrück records have never been released.

Years ago, I contemplated a visit to the Ravensbrück Memorial Site, and to prepare for the trip, I read the book Ravensbrück, Everyday Life in a Women’s Concentration Camp 1939-45 by Jack G. Morrison.  The section about the Ravensbrück gas chamber begins with this sentence:

The existence and operation of a gas chamber are not in doubt.

Seriously?  The gas chamber at Ravensbrück is not in doubt?  Everything about the Holocaust is in doubt.  Ever hear of “Holocaust deniers”?  Ever hear of the Lachout Document?  You can read the text of the Lachout Document on my website here.  Ravensbrück is one of the camps that is included in the document.

Note that, on my website, I have a link to The Nizkor Project which claims that the Lachout Document is a forgery.

I consider the deathcamps.org website to be the best of the True Believer Holocaust websites.  You can read their page about the Ravensbrück gas chamber here.

This quote is from the deathcamps.org website:

The last gassings happened when the Swedish Red Cross was in the camp to compile transports with weakened prisoners to carry them to neutral Sweden (via the still occupied Denmark).

Strangely, the same thing happened at the Mauthausen concentration camp where the Nazis were gassing prisoners while the Red Cross was taking prisoners out of the camp.

This quote is from this page of my own website:

As further evidence that prisoners at Mauthausen were gassed in the final days of war, Christian Bernadac quotes [in his book] the testimony of Maurice-Georges Savourey on May 4, 1945 at La Plaine, near Geneva, immediately after he was taken out of the camp by the Red Cross convoy. Savourey’s testimony, obtained from Choumoff’s book, is quoted below from Bernadac’s book:

“…The day on which the first Red Cross convoy left, Saturday, April 21, 1945, out of two thousand men…one hundred, exhausted by the short route to be covered, were led to the gas chamber and executed…One (sic) Sunday, the 22nd, one hundred fifty men went to the gas chamber; on Monday, the 23rd, eighty men met the same fate…; on Tuesday, the 24th, one hundred eighty, in two groups, all Slavs, were gassed. One of them broke away, ran through the “free camp” in his nightshirt, stumbling, not knowing which way to turn, made his way back to camp 3. There he was retaken by the S.S. and the inner camp police, and returned for execution in the gas chamber. In addition, some forty French were said to have been gassed.”

In his account of the liberation of Mauthausen, the Red Cross representative, Louis Haefliger, confirms that the “annihilation” of the prisoners in the gas chamber continued until Commandant Ziereis fled the camp on the night of May 2-3, 1945. Apparently the Nazis were gassing as many of the prisoners as they could, while at the same time, the Red Cross was allowed to take selected prisoners out of the camp.

The section about the gas chamber in the book by Jack G. Morrison continues with this quote:

However, there are some uncertainties surrounding this issue, caused in part by the SS’s destruction of the gas chamber in the closing days of the war, and by their virtual annihilation of those prisoners who worked in the crematorium and gas chamber.  The SS did a quite thorough job of destroying evidence that might be used against them.  Following the war, the Russians did not help matters by keeping researchers out of the camp and making sweeping changes, turning it into a military post.

In April 1945, the Ravensbrück prisoners, who were still able to walk, had been marched out of the camp toward one of the sub-camps. Eventually the marchers reached the Allied lines and were liberated in early May, 1945.

To his credit, author Jack G. Morrison includes the story of the liberation of Ravensbrück in his book on page 303.

That night (30 April) the Russian arrived.  Rather than being liberators, they put the French women [prisoners] through a more hellish ordeal than what they had experienced in the camp.  The women were raped repeatedly by the Russian troops, to the point where some of them were too weakened to continue their journey  [the march out of the camp].  When Soviet forces liberated the subcamp at Neustadt-Glewe, they raped all the women and girls: Jewish, Hungarian, German — it didn’t matter.

One of the prisoners at Ravensbrück was Odette Sansom, a British SOE agent, who was allegedly having an affair with the camp Commandant, Fritz Suhren.   When the march out of the camp started, Odette rode with Fritz Suhren in his car to the American lines where he surrendered on May 3, 1945. He was expecting Odette to put in a good word for him to save himself from being charged as a war criminal, but she refused.

After the war, there were rumors that Odette had survived Ravensbrück because she had been the mistress of Suhren, who was a handsome man. But Odette claimed that her toenails had been pulled out while she was a prisoner at Ravensbrück.  Strangely, Odette was the only one who was tortured this way even though she had told her captors that she was married to a relative of Winston Churchill.  Did Fritz pull out all of Odette’s toenails to convince her to sleep with him?  Is that why she refused to testify on his behalf?

Odette was one of the three SOE agents who survived Ravensbrück; the other two were Yvonne Baseden and Eileen Nearne.

Four of the 8 female SOE agents, who were sent to Ravensbrück, were executed there, according to eye-witness testimony. Their names are Denise Bloch, Lilian Rolfe, Violette Szabo and Cecily Lefort.   According to the testimony of Sylvia Salvensen, a former prisoner in the camp, Cecily Lefort was one of the women who died in the gas chamber on May 1, 1945.  This was after the march out of the camp began and the marchers were overtaken by Russian troops.

The SS man who was the second in command at Ravensbrück, Johann Schwarzhuber, gave detailed testimony in the British Military Court at Hamburg, where 16 staff members of Ravensbrück were on trial from December 5, 1946 to February 3, 1947. Schwarzhuber testified that SOE agents Violette Szabo, Lilian Rolfe and Denise Bloch were executed by a shot in the neck shortly after Schwarzhuber was transferred to the camp on January 12, 1945.

Until Vera Atkins interrogated Schwarzhuber on March 13, 1946 and got him to confess to witnessing the murder of the SOE agents, nothing was known about the fate of these three women who had been at Ravensbrück since August 22, 1944. Schwarzhuber filled in all the details that Atkins wanted to hear, about how the women had died bravely and how the SS men had been impressed with their bearing.

I previously blogged about Vera Atkins here.

Schwarzhuber, who was on trial himself, said in the deposition taken from him by Vera Atkins and repeated in the courtroom, that Commandant Fritz Suhren had been annoyed that the Gestapo had not carried out these executions themselves. Suhren was not on trial since he had escaped from custody. Schwarzhuber also testified that Suhren had ordered him to organize a mass gassing of the women prisoners at the end of February 1945 at a time when sixty to seventy prisoners were dying each day during a typhus epidemic.

Prior to being sent to Ravensbrück, Schwarzhuber had worked at Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Auschwitz II, better known as Birkenau. Schwarzhuber was convicted and executed on May 3, 1947.

Schwarzhuber was the most important witness at the Ravensbrück proceedings; he had first told his story when he gave a deposition after being interrogated by Vera Atkins. How was Vera Atkins able to get Schwarzhuber to confess to crimes for which he knew that he would surely be executed? Did she threaten to turn his family over to the Russians, a threat that was usually effective?

If any of the camp records were ever found, they were not released. All of the information about the women who were executed at Ravensbrück came from the testimony of Johann Schwarzhuber and from some of their fellow prisoners.

April 25, 2012

Sign at Dachau Memorial Site tells visitors that the gas chamber there was used

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:49 am

When American soldiers of the US Seventh Army arrived on April 29, 1945 to liberate the concentration camp at Dachau, they found that the inmates in the camp, who were predominantly Communists and other anti-Nazi political prisoners, had organized into an International Committee, headed by a Belgian medical doctor named Albert Guérisse, who was a captured British SOE agent.

Guérisse was using the fake name of Patrick O’Leary and pretending to be Canadian. Patrick O’Leary spoke perfect English and he and his fellow Committee members were very anxious to give a guided tour of the camp to the American liberators and the newspaper reporters who accompanied them. They particularly wanted to show them the five gas chambers outside the prison compound in the new crematorium building, named Baracke X.

Photo of Barracke X taken a few days after Dachau was liberated

The Dachau Memorial Site is still under the control of the International Committe of Dachau.  That is why the sign, shown in the photo below, tells visitors to the Dachau Memorial Site today, that a gas chamber in the Barracke X building was used to gas individual prisoners and small groups. So what are the names of the individuals who were gassed?  Sadly, no one knows.

Sign outside the large crematorium at Dachau

When I visited Dachau in May 2001, the sign shown in the photo below was inside what looked like a shower room in Barracke X.

This sign was inside the Dachau “gas chamber” from May 1965 to May 2003

In May 1965, a portable sign, which said in 5 languages that it was “never used as a gas chamber” or “never put into operation,” was placed in the Dachau gas chamber when a Memorial Site on the grounds of the former concentration camp was first opened to the public. This sign was still there when I visited the Memorial Site in May 2001, but by May 2003, it had been removed.

The English version of the sign read: Gas Chamber disguised as a “shower room” – never used as a gas chamber. This implies that the room may have been used for something other than a gas chamber, like maybe a shower room.

When the American liberators arrived on April 29, 1945, the Baracke X building had been in existence for two years but, according to the sign  that was shown to visitors from May 1965 to May 2003, the room marked “Brausebad” had never been used as a gas chamber.  When the liberators arrived, the undressing room, next to the Brausebad, was furnished with soap and fresh towels, indicating that the “gas chamber” might have been used as a shower room, except that the shower heads, as seen today, are not connected to any pipes, neither water pipes nor gas pipes. If the room marked “Brausebad” was not used for gassing, nor for showers, this means that three rooms (the waiting room, undressing room and shower room) were not used for anything for two years, yet in the midst of all the chaos in the camp in the last days of the war, soap and towels were still kept in the undressing room so that the American liberators would not suspect that the shower room was really a homicidal gas chamber.

Photo taken by American soldier Sidney Blau on April 30, 1945 — the day after Dachau was liberated

The U.S. Seventh Army’s caption on the photo above was this:

Gas chambers, conveniently located to the crematory, are examined by a soldier of the U.S. Seventh Army. These chambers were used by Nazi guards for killing prisoners of the infamous Dachau concentration camp.

Note that the caption on the photo said “Gas chambers” (plural); there were four doors into four small rooms, plus the room that looked like a shower room. The door shown in the photo above has the word “Gaszeit” (Gas Time) written on it. No explanation was given by the American liberators for how the victims were persuaded to go through the four doors with the word Gas Time on them, nor why the largest of the five gas chambers in the Barracke X building had the word “Brausebad” (Shower Bath) written above the door.

We now know that the door shown in the photo above was a door into a disinfection chamber where the clothing of the prisoners was disinfected with Zyklon-B to kill the lice that spreads typhus.

Beginning in February 1942, Jews in Germany and the German-occupied countries were rounded up by the Nazis and deported to the East, according to plans made at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942.

In April 1942, the decision was made to build a new crematorium with four ovens at Dachau; four disinfection chambers and a homicidal gas chamber were to be included in the new building which was to be called Baracke X.

On the blueprints for Baracke X, the homicidal gas chamber was called a shower room, but each of the four disinfection chambers was called a Gaskammer, the German word for gas chamber. An order was issued from Berlin on July 23, 1942 to begin construction of Baracke X at a cost of 150,000 Reichsmark.

By the time that Baracke X was finished in 1943, millions of European Jews had already been killed in the gas chambers at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor after being transported to the East, and millions more were destined to be sent to the death camps at Auschwitz and Majdanek. Dachau was mainly a camp for Communist political prisoners, anti-Fascist resistance fighters, most of whom were Catholic, and Soviet POWs.  When Dachau was liberated, most of the Jews there had only recently arrived, after being evacuated from other camps.

If it is true, as the sign at the Dachau Memorial Site now tells visitors, that prisoners were gassed at Dachau, why were none of the staff members, who were put on trial by the American Military Tribunal, charged with gassing these prisoners?  Simple.  The names of the victims are unknown.  The AMT charged the Germans only with crimes committed against persons who were from the Allied countries.  Since the names are unknown, it cannot be determined whether or not they were citizens of Allied countries.

Nerin E. Gun wrote in his book Day of the Americans that he was given the job of taking down the names of Hungarian Jewish women as they entered the Dachau gas chamber, since he could speak Hungarian.  Hungary was an ally of Germany, so these victims didn’t count, as far as the rules of the AMT were concerned.

There is a famous document called the Lachout document which is very controversial.  You can see a photo of the original document here.  On the famous Nizkor website, you can read here that the Lachout document is a fake.  On the equally famous IHR website, you can read here that the Lachout document is genuine.

The English translation of the Lachout document is reprinted below:

Military Police Service Vienna, Oct. 1, 1948
10th. copy
Circular No 31/48

1. The Allied Investigation Commission has established so far
that no persons were killed by the use of poison gas in the
following concentration camps: Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald,
Dachau, Flossenbürg, Gross-Rosen, Mauthausen and its
extension camps, Natzweiler, Neuengamme, Niederhagen
(Wewelsburg), Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen, Stutthof,
Theresienstadt.

In all these cases it could be proved that the confessions
were the result of torture and the testimonies were false.

This fact has to be taken into account in war crime
investigations and interrogations.

Former concentration camp prisoners testifying that persons,
especially Jews, were killed with poison gas in these
concentration camps, are to be informed of this finding by the
Allied Investigation Commissions. Should they insist in their
testimony, a charge of false testimony is to be filed against
them.

2. Paragraph 1 of circular 15/48 can be canceled.

The commander of the
Military Police Service:
Mueller, Major

After Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, the official report of the US Seventh Army was printed as a book entitled Dachau Liberated: The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army, Released Within Days of the Camp’s Liberation by Elements of the 42nd and 45th Divisions. The Report was based on two days of interviewing 20 political prisoners at Dachau; the prisoners told the Americans that both the shower room and the four disinfection chambers were used as homicidal gas chambers.

The following quote is from The Official Report:

“When the American troops arrived on 29 April 1945, there were approximately 32,500 estimated internees of all nationalities, the Poles predominating. During this period, the camp was notorious for its cruelty, but within the last six or eight months, some ‘token’ improvement was noted in the treatment of the internees. However, the new crematorium was completed in May 1944, and the gas chambers, a total of five, were used for the executions and the disposals of the bodies.”

(The Baracke X building and the five gas chambers were actually completed in May 1943.)

According to The Official Report, there was a total of 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944. The report claimed that these Jews had been brought to Dachau to be executed and that they were gassed in the gas chamber disguised as a shower room and also in the four smaller gas chambers, which the staff at the Dachau Memorial Site now claims are delousing chambers.

By November 1945, it was known that the 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944 had been transferred to the eleven Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau to work in munitions factories and had not been gassed in the five gas chambers at Dachau, as stated in The Official Report that was written within days after the camp was liberated.

The Report of the Atrocities Committed at Dachau Concentration Camp, signed by Col. David Chavez, Jr., JAGD, 7 May 1945 is quoted below:

“The new building had a gas chamber for executions… the gas chamber was labeled “shower room” over the entrance and was a large room with airtight doors and double glassed lights, sealed and gas proof. The ceiling was studded with dummy shower heads. A small observation peephole, double glassed and hermetically sealed was used to observe the conditions of the victims. There were grates in the floor. Hydrogen cyanide was mixed in the room below, and rose into the gas chamber and out the top vents.”

Today, the “grates in the floor” are closed up and no one is allowed to enter the basement of the Barracke X building to determine if the Zyklon-B gas could have been put into the gas chamber through the grates.  The “top vents” were two light fixture boxes, from which the light fixtures had been removed.

Although tour guides at the Dachau Memorial site tell visitors that the gas chamber at Dachau was used, they don’t go into details about how the gas was put into the room.