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February 1, 2014

“to the victor belongs the spoils” even if you have to steal gold from an ally that helped to win the war

Filed under: Germany, movies, World War II — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:58 am

In doing some research about The Monuments Men, in preparation for seeing a new movie by the same name, I learned that the art treasures and the gold bullion, stored in the Merkers salt mine in Germany, was supposed to go to the Soviet Union, because it was located in the occupation zone that had been promised to the Russians.

German  gold was hidden in the  Merkers salt mine

German gold and art treasures were hidden in the Merkers salt mine

When General Patton heard about the gold in the Merkers mine, he claimed it for the USA and then notified General (“God, I hate the Germans”) Eisenhower.

The following quote, about the gold, is from this website: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1999/spring/nazi-gold-merkers-mine-treasure.html

Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure

By Greg Bradsher

Late on the evening of March 22, 1945, elements of Lt. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army crossed the Rhine, and soon thereafter his whole army crossed the river and drove into the heart of Germany. Advancing northeast from Frankfurt, elements of the Third Army cut into the future Soviet Zone and advanced on Gotha. Just before noon on April 4, the village of Merkers fell to the Third Battalion of the 358th Infantry Regiment, Ninetieth Infantry Division, Third Army. During that day and the next the Ninetieth Infantry Division, with its command post at Keiselbach, consolidated its holdings in the Merkers area.(1)

During April 4 and 5 [1945], displaced persons in the vicinity interrogated by the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) personnel of the Ninetieth Infantry Division mentioned a recent movement of German Reichsbank gold from Berlin to the Wintershal AG’s Kaiseroda potassium mine at Merkers. In all of these instances they quoted rumors, but none stated their own knowledge that gold was present in the mine. But just before noon on April 5, a member of Military Intelligence Team 404-G, attached to the 358th Infantry Regiment, who was in Bad Salzungen, about six miles from Merkers, interviewed French displaced persons who had worked in the mine at Merkers. They told him they had heard that gold had been stored in the mine. The information was passed on to the G-2 (intelligence section) of the Ninetieth Infantry Division, and orders were issued prohibiting all civilians from circulating in the area of the mine.(2)

You can read about Gotha on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/EasternGermany/Gotha/

Note the date [April 4, 1945] that the Merkers mine was discovered by the Americans, after “displaced persons” told them about the gold.

"displaced persons" who have come back to the Ohrdruf camp

“displaced persons” who came back to the Ohrdruf camp after the Americans arrived

What is a “displaced person”?  This term refers to a former prisoner in a concentration camp, or a Nazi labor camp, who must find his way home because the Nazis have abandoned the camp where he was a prisoner.  The Nazis had abandoned the Ohrdruf  sub-camp of Buchenwald on April 4, 1945, and had marched most the prisoners to the Buchenwald camp, except for a few who were too sick to walk, or a few who had escaped from the march.

How does one justify stealing “the spoils of war” from an ally [the Soviet Union], who has helped to defeat your enemy?  I know — let’s go to visit Ohrdruf, and make a big deal out of the bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus. Let’s “build another page of the necessary evidence as to the brutality of the Germans” as General Patton wrote to General Eisenhower. Let’s take a photo of the dead bodies that were burned at Ohrdruf, and claim that the Germans had burned prisoners alive. Let’s build a museum in Washington, DC  and hang a photo of the burned bodies in front of the museum door.

Eisenhower views burned bodies at Ohrdruf

Eisenhower views burned bodies at Ohrdruf

This quote is also from the article written by Greg Bradsher:

[Col. Bernard D.] Bernstein, that evening, drove to Patton’s headquarters. Patton told Bernstein that he was very glad Eisenhower was taking responsibility for the gold. Bernstein told him that he wanted to move the Merkers treasure to Frankfurt as quickly as possible and that under the Big Three arrangements at Yalta, the Merkers part of Germany would be taken over by the Russians after the war and that they certainly needed to get the treasure out of the area before the Russians got there. Astounded at what Bernstein told him, not knowing about the postwar arrangements, Patton said he would do everything possible to facilitate Bernstein’s mission.(39)

On April 11 Bernstein returned to Merkers, and that morning, after arranging with Mason for setting up a command post at the mine building for the G-5 officers, he and Rave made an inspection of the art treasures. Later that day Lt. George Stout [one of the Monuments Men], USNR, MFAA Officer, G-5, Twelfth Army Group, and the SHAEF MFAA chief, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, reported for duty, with the expectation that they would handle the art matters. After Posey’s earlier visit to Merkers, he had notified Webb of the treasure and recommended Stout, former chief of conservation at Harvard’s Fogg Museum and considered America’s greatest expert on the techniques of packing and transporting, be sent to the mine to provide technical guidance. Webb and Stout arrived at Merkers only to find that they needed Bernstein’s permission to see the art. Bernstein showed them his letter from Gay authorizing him to decide who went into the mine and the need for Eddy’s permission for Allied personnel to inspect the mine. Bernstein agreed to let Stout view the works of art, but he denied Webb access.(40)  [George Stout is played by George Clooney in the movie The Monuments Men.]

[…]
Bernstein and Bartlett arrived at the 357th Infantry Regiment Command Post in Merkers at 5 p.m. on April 10. Accompanied by Mason, they went on a tour of the mine to see the vault containing the gold, currency, and art treasure. That evening Bernstein interviewed Veick and Reimer about the gold, currency, and other valuables, as well as any records relating to the gold. Veick provided detailed information about the transportation of the Reichsbank treasure to Merkers and the currency transactions during March and the first days of April. He said he did not know that much about the gold, but Thoms did; “He knows all,” Veick said. Reimer told Bernstein that “the records of the sale of the gold are with Thoms.”(38)

Bernstein, that evening, drove to Patton’s headquarters. Patton told Bernstein that he was very glad Eisenhower was taking responsibility for the gold. Bernstein told him that he wanted to move the Merkers treasure to Frankfurt as quickly as possible and that under the Big Three arrangements at Yalta, the Merkers part of Germany would be taken over by the Russians after the war and that they certainly needed to get the treasure out of the area before the Russians got there. Astounded at what Bernstein told him, not knowing about the postwar arrangements, Patton said he would do everything possible to facilitate Bernstein’s mission.(39)

January 10, 2014

At last, the truth about war criminal August Eigruber comes out

In preparation for a new movie, coming out in February 2014, I am reading the book by Robert M. Edsel, entitled The Monuments Men.  The movie, also entitled The Monuments Men, is based on the book.

I ordered the book from Amazon.com and started reading it two days ago.  The book is 540 pages long, so of course I didn’t start reading it on page one.  No, I went straight to the index and started looking up words that would lead me to the important parts of the book.

The first word that I looked up in the index was Ohrdruf.  I have written extensively about Ohrdruf on my website and on my blog.  I found the name August Eigruber while I was looking up something else.

August Eigruber on the witness stand, Lt. Col. Denson on the right

August Eigruber on the witness stand, Lt. Col. Denson on the right

August Eigruber was put on trial by American prosecutors in an American Military Tribunal proceeding against the war criminals associated with the Mauhausen Concentration camp. In the photo above, Lt. Col. William Denson, the American prosecutor, seems to be amused by Eigruber’s testimony.

Several years ago, I wrote about Eigruber on my website.

The following quote is from my website:

The “big fish” among the accused in the Mauthausen case was August Eigruber, the former Gauleiter of Upper Austria. He was charged with participating in the common design to violate the Laws and Usages of War because, along with other alleged crimes, he had been involved in helping Heinrich Himmler to acquire the property where the Mauthausen camp was built. Hartheim Castle, near Linz, was also under Eigruber’s jurisdiction and he had leased it to the Reich. Prisoners from Mauthausen had been taken to the castle to be gassed, according to confessions obtained by the American military interrogators from several of the accused men.

Eigruber was an associate of such top Nazis as Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Adolf Eichmann and Adolf Hitler, all of whom were from Austria. He was also a friend of Martin Bormann, who was Hitler’s deputy. When he refused to talk after he was captured, Eigruber was sent to Washington, DC for questioning. Eigruber’s importance was such that he was originally slated to be among the men who were tried at the Nuremberg IMT.

According to Joshua Greene’s book Justice at Dachau, the chief prosecutor at Dachau, Lt. Col. William Denson, put in a call to Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg IMT and told him, “Send me Eigruber. I’ll hang him high as Haman.” Haman was the villain in the biblical story on which the Jewish holiday of Purim is based. Denson made good on his boast: Eigruber was hanged on May 28, 1947.

On February 18, 1946, August Eigruber was brought from Nuremberg to Dachau and turned over to Lt. Paul Guth for interrogation. Lt. Guth testified on the witness stand that he had not coerced or threatened Eigruber in any way. Although he had previously refused to talk, Eigruber voluntarily signed a statement for Lt. Guth the next day, in which he admitted that he was responsible for leasing Hartheim Castle to the Reich in 1939 for the killing of mental patients who were incurably ill or unable to work. He also admitted to inspecting the Mauthausen gas chamber once and to participating in the execution of ten prisoners of unknown nationality during the night in March or April 1945. Eigruber’s statement ended with the following words:

“This statement was made by me on three pages on the 19th of February 1946, in Dachau, Germany, of my own free will and without compulsion. To save time, a clerk wrote it down on a typewriter. I have read through it, and I have made corrections that appeared necessary to me. The above declaration contains my statements, and I swear before God that it is the entire truth. Signed, August Eigruber.”

[…]

Lt. Col. William Denson became famous for his 100% conviction rate in the first four proceedings conducted by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau. He died in 1998 at the age of 85 and in his obituary, he was quoted as saying that August Eigruber was “one of the most arrogant defendants I have ever encountered.” Eigruber was allegedly tortured to force him to confess, and there is even a rumor that he was “mutilated and castrated” after he was captured, but apparently even that didn’t humble him.

On page 505 of The Monuments Men, I read this about August Eigruber:

[Eigruber] was found guilty of war crimes committed at the Mauthausen concentration camp, including the execution of prisoners of war.

Much of the evidence used to convict [Eigruber] was from archives found in the salt mine at Altausee, probably another reason [Eigruber] was so keen to destroy the mine.

Altaussee salt mine where German art was stored

Altaussee salt mine where German art was stored

The photo above is from Wikipedia which has this caption on the photo:
Altaussee, May 1945 after the removal of the Nazi-bombs at the Nazi stolen art repository (Altaussee salt mine)

So maybe Eigruber actually did try to blow up the salt mine where German art treasures were stored.  This brings up the question:  Was he brought to America to be tortured into confessing that he had planted a bomb to destroy evidence against himself?

I wrote about the Prisoners of War, who were killed at Mauthausen, on my website here.  The Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention of 1929, and they were killing German POWs, so the Germans did not think that they were obligated to observe the Geneva Convention with regard to the Soviet Union.

August Eigruber did not personally commit any war crimes at Mauthausen. He didn’t personally execute POWs. He was charged with crimes at Mauthausen under the “common plan” concept that was invented by the Allies AFTER the war.  Under this concept, anyone who had anything whatsoever to do with a concentration camp was a war criminal.

Apparently Eigruber’s real crime was that he wanted to blow up the Altaussee salt mine to destroy the “spoils of war” to which the Americans felt that they were entitled.

On page 371 of The Monuments Men, I read this:

… [Bernard] Bernstein (one of the Monuments Men) was proceeding under the assumption that everything in the [Merkers] mine, including the [German] artwork, was captured enemy loot.  It would be months before he was disavowed of that notion.

On page 374, I had read that the Merkers mine (near Ohrdruf) was in the part of Germany that had been promised to the Soviet Union.  So Bernard Bernstein was proceeding under the assumption that Americans would not only steal all the German art treasures from the Germans, but they would also steal everything from the Soviets, who were entitled to the loot from their future zone of occupation of Germany.

So it turns out that Eigruber’s crime was that he wanted to destroy art that belonged to Germany, rather than see it go to the enemy as the “spoils of war.”  Strangely, that was not mentioned in the book about the trials of the German war criminals.

On page 371, just after the quote about Bernard Bernstein, we find this information about the Ohrdruf labor camp:

A[n Allied] guard showed us how the blood had congealed in coarse black scabs where the starving prisoners had torn out the entrails of the dead for food.

In all my research about Ohrdruf, I never learned about the starving prisoners eating the entrails of the dead for food.  I had to look up the word entrails to make sure of the meaning of the word.  Entrails are the intestines or guts of an animal or human being.  The food in the intestines has been digested and is on its way to being shit.  I can’t think of anything more likely to kill a person than eating entrails.

American officer Hayden Sears talks to Ohrdruf survivors

American officer Hayden Sears talks to Ohrdruf survivors

The photo above shows well dressed and well fed survivors of Ohrdruf talking to an American Army officer.  Apparently, eating entrails had not affected them.

The story of eating entrails at Ohrdruf was told by “an Allied guard.”  Why did the Germans have an “Allied guard” at a labor camp?  Could this have been a Kapo, that was an illegal combatant imprisoned at Ohrdruf, who helped the German guards?

The photo below shows a Kapo, standing on the left, who acted as a guide for General Eisenhower and other American military officers at Ohrdruf.  The next day, this man was killed by the other prisoners.

The man on the far left is a Kapo who worked as a helper at the Ohrdruf camp

The man on the far left is a Kapo who worked as a helper at the Ohrdruf camp

Finally, I started reading the book, starting with Chapter 1, which is about Harry Ettlinger, a Jew from Karlsruhe, Germany who escaped Nazi Germany in 1938, and came to America, where he settled in Newark, New Jersey.  The book tells about how Ettlinger had a hard time getting out of Germany because no country wanted to take the Jews who were fleeing the Nazis. As a German Jew, Ettlinger was the perfect candidate for the group, known as The Monuments Men.

General Eisenhower inspects the gold in the Merker mine near Ohrdruf

General Eisenhower inspects the gold in the Merkers mine near Ohrdruf

In the photo above, the soldier on the far left is Benjamin B. Ferencz.  Strangely, he is not included in the index of the book The Monuments Men. In 1945, Ferencz was transferred from General Patton’s army to the newly created War Crimes Branch of the U.S. Army, where his job was to gather evidence for future trials of German war criminals. A Jew from Transylvania, Ferencz had moved with his family to America at the age of 10 months.

July 3, 2010

General Dwight D. Eisenhower: “The things I saw beggar description…”

On the outside of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC there are four plaques with quotes from four presidents, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The Eisenhower quote is in the most prominent spot and it is, by far, the most famous:

“The things I saw beggar description…The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering…I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations to propaganda.”

This quote was condensed from a paragraph in a letter that General Eisenhower wrote to General George C. Marshall on April 15, 1945.  The letter starts out with Eisenhower outlining his plans for how he will conduct the war in the next few weeks.

You can see a photograph of the second page of the letter here.

On the second page of the letter, in the second paragraph, General Eisenhower wrote the following:

On a recent tour of the forward areas in First and Third Armies, I stopped momentarily at the salt mines to take a look at the German treasure.  There is a lot of it.  But the most interesting — although horrible — sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description.  While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape.  I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick.  In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter.  He said he would get sick if he did so.  I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops the tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”

General Eisenhower stopped “momentarily” at the Merkers mine to see the “German treasure.”

Col. Hayden Sears talks to prisoners, April 8, 1945

The photo above shows prisoners from Ohrdruf who escaped, but then returned to the camp after the American soldiers arrived on April 4, 1945.  Notice that they seem to be in good health.

Eisenhower “deliberately” made a visit to this shed

The photo above shows the bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus at Ohrdruf.  Eisenhower deliberately went into this shed so that he could give “first-hand evidence” if ever in the future anyone would charge these allegations to “propaganda.”

Although he didn’t mention the name Ohrdruf in his book entitled Crusade in Europe, Eisenhower wrote the following about April 12, 1945, the day he visited the Merkers salt mines that held the Nazi treasures:

The same day, I saw my first horror camp. It was near the town of Gotha. I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency. Up to that time I had known about it only generally or through secondary sources. I am certain, however that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.

I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that “the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda.” Some members of the visiting party were unable to go through with the ordeal. I not only did so but as soon as I returned to Patton’s headquarters that evening I sent communications to both Washington and London, urging the two governments to send instantly to Germany a random group of newspaper editors and representative groups from the national legislatures. I felt that the evidence should be immediately placed before the American and British publics in a fashion that would leave no room for cynical doubt.

So without going to see Buchenwald or any other camp, Eisenhower immediately started a propaganda campaign about the horror of the German camps.  Was the word typhus ever mentioned in all of this propaganda.  NO!

The first news reel film about the alleged German war-time atrocities, that was shown in American movie theaters, referred to the Ohrdruf labor camp as a “murder mill.” Burned corpses were shown as the narrator of the film asked rhetorically “How many were burned alive?”

The narrator described “the murder shed” at Ohrdruf where prisoners were “slain in cold blood.” Lest anyone should be inclined to assume that this news reel was sheer propaganda, the narrator prophetically intoned:

“For the first time, America can believe what they thought was impossible propaganda. This is documentary evidence of sheer mass murder – murder that will blacken the name of Germany for the rest of recorded history.”

German civilians were forced to view the bodies at all of the concentration camps

On the same day that the American Generals visited Ohrdruf, a group of citizens from the town of Ohrdruf and a captured German Army officer were being forced to take the tour.

Colonel Charles Codman, an aide to General Patton, wrote to his wife about an incident that happened that day. A young soldier had accidentally bumped into the captured German officer and had laughed nervously. “General Eisenhower fixed him with a cold eye,” Codman wrote “and when he spoke, each word was like the drop off an icicle. ‘Still having trouble hating them?’ he said.”

General Eisenhower had no trouble hating the Germans.  He wrote to his wife, Mamie: “God, I hate the Germans!”

The photograph below was sent to me a few years ago by Mary Liethen Meier, the niece of Captain Alois Liethen, who was General Eisenhower’s interpreter that day.  The man standing next to General Eisenhower, and pointing to the prisoner demonstrating how the inmates were punished at Ohrdruf, is Alois Liethen, her uncle. Left to right, the men in the front row are Lt. General George S. Patton, Third U.S. Army Commander; General Omar N. Bradley, Twelfth Army group commander; and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander. This photo was published in an American newspaper above a headline which read: U.S. GENERALS SEE A “TORTURE” DEMONSTRATION

Former prisoners at Ohrdruf demonstrate the whipping block

Captain Alois Liethen wrote the following in a letter to his family, dated 13 April 1945, the day after he served as the interpreter on the tour of Ohrdruf:

The treatment of the prisoners was something that even amazed me. If anyone dared to even as much as smile in ranks he received 25 lashes with a heavy oak staff while he was bent over nearly double over a whipping post, anyone who tried to escape was hanged — not by a rope but by a wire from a gibbet — all of the inmates had to witness these hangings even tho they were sick or feeble. When they were out on a work detail — which they were every day from daylight to darkness they were beaten if they didn’t produce as fast as they should, and then in many cases when the whims of the guards arose to the occasion they would shoot at them just for the pure fun of it — those that ducked were surely doomed for then they were a sure target for the second shot. Then to come to the matter of food. Each man received 300 grams of bread (black sour hard stuff) and 1 liter of soup, of course there were those who performed those special duties such as the one that I spoke to mostly — he was on the burning and burying detail — he got 500 grams of bread and 2 liters of soup perday (sic). They were kept very busy for there were estimated that there were 200 to 250 buried or burned every week.

Captain Liethen was German-American and he spoke German like a native; he had learned German at home from his parents.  Yet, he believed every word that these former prisoners told him.

Notice that the “whipping block,” which is shown in the photo above, is an ordinary table that had been hastily put together for this demonstration because no whipping block was found at Ohrdruf.  Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had given an order in 1942 that whipping the prisoners was forbidden. Ohrdruf was not opened until 1944, so this was an obvious lie told by the former prisoners.

Captain Alois Liethen had been investigating this small, obscure forced labor camp long before he arrived in Germany, but why? Why did all the US Army generals visit this small camp and no other? Could it be because there was something else of great interest in the Ohrdruf area besides the Führer bunker and the salt mine where Nazi treasures were stored?

The Buchenwald camp had been liberated on April 11, 1945, the day before the visit to the Ohrdruf camp. At Buchenwald, there were shrunken heads, human skin lampshades and ashtrays made from human bones. At Ohrdruf, there was nothing to see except a shed filled with 20 to 30 bodies. So why did Captain Alois Liethen take the generals to Ohrdruf instead of Buchenwald?

What was Captain Liethen referring to when he wrote these words in a letter to his family?

“After looking the place over for nearly a whole day I came back and made an oral report to my commanding general — rather I was ordered to do so by my boss, the Col. in my section. Then after I had told him all about the place he got in touch with the High Command and told them about it and the following tale bears out what they did about it.”

There has been some speculation that the Germans might have tested an atomic bomb near Ohrdruf. In his book entitled The SS Brotherhood of the Bell, author James P. Farrell wrote about “the alleged German test of a small critical mass, high yield atom bomb at or near the Ohrdruf troop parade ground on March 4, 1945.” The “troop parade ground” was at the German Army Base right next to the Ohrdruf labor camp.

Why did General Eisenhower immediately order a propaganda campaign about Nazi atrocities after his visit to Ohrdruf? Was it to distract the media from discovering a far more important story that Eisenhower wanted to keep secret?

Eisenhower views the bodies that were burned at Ohrdruf

In the photo above, the man on the far right, wearing a dark jacket, is a Dutch survivor of the camp who served as a guide for the American generals on their visit. The second man from the right is Captain Alois Liethen, who is interpreting for General Bradley to his left and General Eisenhower in the center of the photo. The man to the left of General Eisenhower is Benjamin B. Ferencz, who is taking notes. On the far left is one of the survivors of Ohrdruf.

General Eisenhower views the gallows at Ohrdruf

In the photo above, the man on the far left, wearing a jacket and a scarf, is one of the survivors who served as a guide for General Eisenhower and his entourage. General Patton wrote in his memoirs that the next day the guide was “killed by some of the inmates,” because the guide “was not a prisoner at all, but one of the executioners.”

In a letter dated April 15, 1945, addressed to Ike (General Dwight D. Eisenhower), Patton wrote the following regarding this man who had served as their guide at Ohrdruf:

“It may interest you to know that the very talkative, alleged former member of the murder camp was recognized by a Russian prisoner as a former guard. The prisoner beat his brains out with a rock.”

This prisoner was probably one of the Kapos in the camp whose job had been to assist the German guards; it is doubtful that an SS soldier would have remained behind when the camp was evacuated, knowing that the prisoners would exact revenge as soon as the Americans arrived.

If any SS men had remained in the camp, they would have been promptly killed or taken into custody on April 4, 1945 when the camp was first discovered by American troops. It has been alleged that some of the SS men at the concentration camps tried to disguise themselves by putting on civilian clothes or prison garb when the American troops approached, but the prisoners beat them to death after the camps were liberated.

American soldier posed with bodies at Ohrdruf in May 1945

The Ohrdruf camp had been abandoned on April 2, 1945 and the survivors had been marched to the main camp at Buchenwald. American soldiers discovered the abandoned camp on April 4, 1945; the bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus were left out for a month, so that American soldiers could be brought to the camp to see them.