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July 17, 2012

What prompted the Luftwaffe to transfer Allied airmen out of Buchenwald and into a POW camp?

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:53 am

Update July 18, 2012:

A reader of my blog supplied a link to the death records at the Buchenwald camp.  According to the death records, L.C. Beck died in the Buchenwald camp on October 31, 1944.  The date that the first Allied Airmen were taken out of Buchenwald and sent to a POW camp was October 19, 1944.  So L.C. Beck died after the first airmen were taken out of Buchenwald, which means that the story told by Edwin Ritter is wrong. A big Thank You to all the readers who contributed to this correction of the facts.

Continue reading my original post:

I am writing again today, about the captured Allied airmen who were sent to Buchenwald, to answer a comment on a previous blog post about the airmen which you can read here.  In my previous post, I questioned whether Phillip Lamason was the person responsible for contacting the Luftwaffe and getting the airmen out of Buchenwald.

Here is the comment made by a reader of my blog:

Records show that Lieutenant L.C. Beck died in Buchenwald from purulent pleurisy on the evening of 29 November 1944. That’s over 5 weeks AFTER the main group of allied airmen (156 of them) were transferred by the Luftwaffe to a POW camp. So if Beck died in Ritter’s arms, as stated above, he must have been part of the small group of airmen who were not transferred with the main group on 19 Ocotber 1944. Therefore, it would have been impossible for Luftwaffe Doctor to arrange the transfer of the main group of airmen, as you elude to above. Thus, the main group of airmen must have been released / transferred because of Lamason’s efforts, as is well documented by many reliable and reputable sources.

Phillip Lamason was the senior officer, and the greatest hero, in the group of 168 pilots who were sent to Buchenwald.  He has his own page on Wikipedia which you can read in full here.  This quote is from Wikipedia:

For several weeks Lamason negotiated with the camp authorities to have the airmen transferred to a POW camp, but his requests were denied. At great risk, Lamason secretly got word to the Luftwaffe of the Allied airmen’s captivity and, seven days before their scheduled execution, 156 of the 168 prisoners were transferred to Stalag Luft III. Most of the airmen credit their survival at Buchenwald to the leadership and determination of Lamason.

The Wikipedia entry for Lamason does not give any of the details of how Lamason secretly got word to the Luftwaffe.  I have searched and searched on the Internet to find more information on how Lamason contacted the Luftwaffe. I didn’t find out anything about how Lamason secretly contacted the Luftwaffe when he was at  Buchenwald, but I did find some interesting information on the website of the National Museum of the Air Force, which I am quoting:

ARMY AIR FORCES VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST

Buchenwald, An Example
Germans built Buchenwald in 1937 as a work camp for the “undesirables” of Nazi society, mostly Jews and political prisoners. It later became one of a number of German “death camps.” At war’s end, as many as 60,000 people had died there. Even more died at such larger camps as Dachau and Auschwitz, which were run with greater “efficiency.”

In later summer and autumn of 1944, 82 AAF and 86 British Commonwealth aviators were captives at Buchenwald. Most had been shot down over France and had made connections with the French Resistance in their effort to return to their units, as they were expected to do. They had received French identification papers and were dressed as civilians to avoid capture. A traitor within the French Underground betrayed them to the Germans, and they were captured. As Allied forces prepared to enter Paris, they were evacuated with a large number of political prisoners to Buchenwald in Weimar, Germany. They arrived after a harrowing five-day train ride jammed in boxcars with little food or water. There they were shaved bare and spent the next three weeks without shoes or shelter, sleeping on paving stones. A Canadian aviator described the daily ration as “a little bowl of soup made from grass or cabbage leaves, and an inch of bread and three little potatoes.” One pilot lost more than 65 pounds during his six weeks there.

Eventually, the POWs and other prisoners were placed in a barracks, 600 men to a building designed for 250. They slept on wooden shelves, five to a bunk, so crowded that no one could turn over until all did at the same time. P-47 pilot Lt. L.C. Beck Jr. and Royal Air Force Flying Officer P.D. Hemmens died before the airmen were transferred to a POW camp in October-November 1944. There they still faced the hardships of imprisonment, but at least they were free from the horrors of a death camp.

Notice that the article on the website of the National Museum of the Air Force mentions that Lt. L.C. Beck died before the airmen were transferred to a POW camp.  This contradicts what was written in the comment on my blog and proves that I was right when I wrote on my blog, that “Jack Beck” died before the airmen were transferred to a POW camp.

I previously wrote that the reason that the Luftwaffe found out about the airmen at Buchenwald was because a Luftwaffe doctor came to the camp to sign a death certificate for “Jack Beck.”  It may have been Phillip Lamason who contacted the Luftwaffe and got the Luftwaffe doctor to come to the camp on the pretext of signing a death certificate.

The strange thing about the whole story of the American Airmen being sent to Buchenwald is that it was kept secret for years.  Why keep it a secret when the Allied Airmen were not doing anything wrong? In spite of the fact that the Allied Airmen were completely innocent, they were unjustly sent to Buchenwald which was one of the two main camps for illegal combatants who were helping the French Resistance, the other one being Natzweiler.

After World War II was over, an American Military Tribunal conducted a series of trials of the German war criminals who had served in the Nazi concentration camps in Germany.

At the opening of the trial of the Buchenwald war criminals on April 11, 1947, the court president, Brig. Gen. Emil Charles Kiel, asked their American defense counsel, “How do the accused plead?”

To this, Captain Emmanuel Lewis, the attorney for the defense, replied:

“As chief defense counsel, I enter a plea of not guilty for all of the accused. Before we begin, if it please the court, there is a matter of great concern. The accused are charged with victimizing captured and unarmed citizens of the United States, and they seek to defend themselves against this charge. But despite our repeated requests, the prosecution has failed to furnish us with the name or whereabouts of even one single American victim.”

Lt. Col. William D. Denson, the chief prosecutor, replied:

“We are unfortunately unable to comply. The victims were last seen being carted into the crematories. From there they went up the chimney in smoke, and all the power of the United States and all the documents in Augsburg cannot tell us which way they went. We are sorry that we cannot furnish their whereabouts, but we fail to see that it is material whether one American or fifty thousand were incarcerated in Buchenwald. The crimes of these accused would be just as heinous.”

Why would the American prosecutor of the German war criminals of Buchenwald say that American airmen “went up the chimney in smoke,” when he must have known that the airmen had been saved by the Luftwaffe?  Was it because he didn’t want to say anything good about the Luftwaffe, or because he didn’t want to imply that the American airmen had been helping the French Resistance and that’s why they were sent to one of the main camps for illegal combatants who were fighting with the French Resistance?

Edwin Ritter, the man who held “Jack Beck” in his arms when he died, admitted that he (Ritter) was helping the French Resistance, as I previously wrote in a blog post here.

November 28, 2011

Edwin Ritter — the Lost Airman of Buchenwald who admitted that he was helping the French Resistance

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:50 am

Previously, I blogged about Edwin Ritter, one of the Allied airmen who was imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp for two months before being rescued by a German officer in the Luftwaffe (German air force). Ritter gave a statement on June 18, 1993 which his daughter recorded.  As far as I know, his statement has never been published.  Ritter’s daughter gave me permission to put it on my website. I was reluctant to do that because I found his story hard to believe. Now that a new documentary entitled Lost Airmen of Buchenwald has just been released, there is renewed interest in this subject, and I think that Edwin Ritter’s account of his experience in World War II needs to be told.  (Scroll down to near the bottom if you want to read about how Ritter was saved from certain death by a Luftwaffe officer.)

Ritter said in his statement that he parachuted out of his plane after it was hit by ground fire as he was flying over occupied France.  He discarded his parachute and found shelter for the night.  Early the next morning he heard a girl whistling Yankee Doodle.  He answered back by whistling the last half of the song.  Ritter said that he had been in a plane that was flying low enough to drop packages of food, weapons and supplies to “the Free French,” which was one of the French Resistance groups. Apparently the girl who rescued him was waiting for the drop and there was a prearranged signal for the Free French resistance group to make contact with any downed flyer.  (more…)

July 13, 2010

Bergen-Belsen bombed by the Luftwaffe?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:08 am

From Wikipedia, I learned today that the Luftwaffe bombed a hospital at the Displaced Persons camp at Bergen Belsen on April 28, 1945, about a week before World War II was over.  The Luftwaffe was the German Airforce, and they were bombing GERMANY a week before the war was over?

Here is the quote from Wikipedia:

In spite of massive efforts to help the survivors, about another 9,000 died in April, and by the end of June 1945 another 4,000 had died (after liberation a total of 13,994 people died). On the 13th day after liberation, the Luftwaffe bombed one of the hospitals in the DP camp, injuring and killing several patient and Red Cross workers. The total number of deaths at Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to June 1945 was about 50,000.[6]

Footnote [6]: Godeke, Monika (ed) (2007). Bergen-Belsen Memorial 2007: Guide to the Exhibition. Scherrer. ISBN 978-3-9811617-3-1.

(more…)

March 31, 2010

American World War II Air Force pilots were prisoners at Buchenwald until rescued by the Luftwaffe

On the last train out of Paris, just before the Allies liberated the city, were 168 American fighter pilots who had been shot down over France.  They were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, not as POWs, but as “terrorfliegers” (terror flyers) because they had allegedly been aiding French Resistance fighters, whom the Nazis called “terrorists.”

Nazi poster called French Resistance an “Army of Crime”

According to the Geneva Convention of 1929, the French Resistance fighters were non-combatants who did not have the rights of Prisoners of War if they were captured. The same rules applied to Americans who were believed to be aiding the French Resistance. That’s why the 168 flyers wound up at the Buchenwald concentration camp instead of a POW camp.

This blog post gives information about a new book that will be coming out soon; the book tells the story of Joseph F. Moser, one of the American flyers who was imprisoned at Buchenwald. According to the book, Joe Moser very narrowly survived bailing out of his P-38 with an engine on fire. He and 167 other Allied pilots were  sent to Buchenwald on orders from Berlin to be executed as “terrorfliegers.” Four days before their scheduled “extermination,” they were rescued by Luftwaffe (German Air Force) officers and shipped instead to the most famous POW camp in Germany: Stalag Luft III.

World War II started when France and Great Britain declared war on Germany after Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. By September 28, 1939 Poland had been conquered, with the help of the Soviet Union, which invaded Poland on September 17, 1939. However, Poland never surrendered and there was no peace treaty. The Poles continued to fight throughout World War II, not on the battlefield, but as  “illegal combatants” according to the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929. Captured Polish Resistance fighters were sent to the Dachau concentration camp, instead of being sent to a POW camp.

Germany finally invaded France on May 10, 1940, and on June 17, 1940, Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, the new prime minister of France, asked the Germans for surrender terms; an Armistice was signed on June 22, 1940. The French agreed to an immediate “cessation of fighting.”

The French Resistance movement was in direct violation of the Armistice signed by the French, which stipulated the following:

“The French Government will forbid French citizens to fight against Germany in the service of States with which the German Reich is still at war. French citizens who violate this provision are to be treated by German troops as insurgents.”

The Buchenwald concentration camp held many French Resistance fighters as prisoners. The photo below shows a monument at Buchenwald in honor of the Resistance fighters.

Buchenwald monument in honor of Resistance fighters

The excerpts from the book about Joe Moser, which were posted on the blog, caught my attention because it was mentioned that the American flyers at Buchenwald complained about the Germans not treating them in accordance with Geneva Convention of 1929.

For example, this quote is from the new book which will soon be published:

After our first meal, we gathered back together in the open area where we had slept. It was about this time that Colonel Phillip Lamason stepped forward. Col. Lamason was the senior officer among the 168 of us, a tall, good looking Squadron Leader from the New Zealand Air Force. I consider it one of the greatest blessings of this challenging time to have Col. Lamason as our commander. His quiet, strong but aggressive leadership was a critical factor not only in holding us together but also in facilitating our eventual release.

“Attention!” he said unexpectedly in his clipped New Zealand accent. We instinctively quickly got up, tried to get ourselves in some semblance of order, and stood stiffly waiting.
“Gentlemen, we have ourselves in a very fine fix indeed,” he went on. “The goons have completely violated the Geneva Convention and are treating us as common thieves and criminals. However, we are soldiers! From this time on, we will also conduct ourselves as our training has taught us and as our countries would expect from us. We will march as a unit to roll call and we will follow all reasonable commands as a single unit.”

The “goons,” to whom Col. Lamason was referring, were the Germans who were fighting on the battlefield while the French, who had signed an Armistice after only 5 weeks, were fighting as what Americans today call “terrorists.”  Great Britain and America were aiding the “terrorists” in France, which meant that these flyers, who were captured while allegedly aiding the French Resistance, were fighting in violation of the Geneva Convention.

The American flyers were scheduled to be executed on October 24, 1944, but a  Luftwaffe officer came to Buchenwald just in time to rescue them.

Here is another quote from the blog about the forthcoming book:

“One thing is certain, Col. Lamason never let an opportunity pass by where he didn’t make it clear that we strenuously objected to our treatment and that our tormentors were violating the Geneva Convention.”

The attitude of the British and the Americans in World War II was that the Geneva Convention applied only to the Germans.  No British or American soldiers were ever put on trial for violating the Geneva Convention with regard to German POWs.

At Dachau, American soldiers executed the Waffen-SS soldiers who had been sent from the battlefield to surrender the camp.  At Bergen-Belsen, the British executed some of the Hungarian soldiers who had been sent to the camp to help with the voluntary transfer of the camp to the Allies.  After World War II ended, the British held the first trial of the Germans; staff members of the Bergen-Belsen camp were put on trial as war criminals.

Staff members of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps were prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal for violating the Geneva Convention with regard to Soviet POWs although the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and the Soviets were not treating German soldiers according to its rules.

The British SOE was formed in order to aid the French Resistance, which was a violation of the Geneva Convention since the French had signed an Armistice and promised to stop fighting.  After the war, Germans were put on trial for allegedly executing British SOE agents, although there was no proof whatsoever that the agents were even dead.

The Allies made sure that there were no German Resistance fighters after Germany surrendered in World War II; they kept millions of German soldiers in captivity for years after the war.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower designated German POWs as Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF) so that America would not have to follow the Geneva Convention with regard to German POWs.  The Soviet Union kept German POWs in camps for ten years after World War II ended.

Out of the 168 flyers that were sent to Buchenwald, 166 survived their two months imprisonment at Buchenwald.  Instead of being grateful that Luftwaffe officers took them out of Buchenwald and put them into a POW camp, the survivors of this fiasco are still whining about the Germans not following the Geneva Convention with regard to what we now call “terrorists.”  These Allied flyers should have been advised, before they were sent on their mission, that they would not be entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention in the event that they were captured.