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November 30, 2012

How much did each Holocaust survivor weigh at the time of liberation?

Filed under: Dachau, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:04 am

Every Holocaust survivor seems to know exactly how much he or she weighed when they were liberated.  I got to thinking about this today when I read about yet another Auschwitz survivor who mentioned how much he weighed when he was liberated.  (Average weight for the survivors was around 60 pounds.)

Did the liberators bring scales with them, so that each person could weigh himself?  No, but they did bring cameras with them and the liberation photos show that many of the prisoners were in good health; for example, the women in the photo below, taken at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  (Why wasn’t the old woman sent to the gas chamber immediately upon arrival?)  Notice the nice clothes worn by the young girl in the photo.

Survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Photos taken on the day of liberation, at all the camps, show that not all prisoners in the concentration camps were skin and bones, even after many years in the camp.

The photo below was taken on the day that one of the sub-camps of Dachau was liberated by soldiers in the 45th Division of the American Army.

Russian POWs in a Dachau sub-camp

Russian POWs in a Dachau sub-camp

Notice that the American Army officer on the left looks slimmer than the Russian POWs.

There are many photos of skinny Russian POWs who were allegedly starved at Mauthausen, as shown in the photo below.

Russian POWs at Mauthausen

Russian POWs at Mauthausen

When I visited the Mauthausen Memorial Site, I saw a scale model of the quarry there, which is shown in the photo below.

Scale model of Mauthausen quarry

Scale model of Mauthausen quarry

On the right, at the top of the photo above, you can see the barracks for the sick inmates at Mauthausen, also known as the “Russian camp” because this section of the camp was first used to house  Soviet POWs. This area is now a graveyard for the sick prisoners who died after the camp was liberated.

Were the men, in the old black and white photo, actually prisoners in the Mauthusen “sick camp”? Were they skin and bones because they were ill?  Or were they “Russian POWs” who had been deliberately starved?

It would be natural to assume that the Russian POWs were treated the worst in the Nazi camps because the Russians were treating German POWs very badly.  But the old photo taken in a Dachau sub-camp shows that at least some of the Russian POWs were treated very well.

September 12, 2010

Russian Orthodox Chapel at Dachau

At the Dachau Memorial Site, there is a small Russian Orthodox Chapel, called “Resurrection of our Lord,” located just to the left of the tourist entrance into the crematoria area.  The chapel was built by members of the Russian armed forces after the fall of Communism and the Soviet Union. It was dedicated on April 29, 1995, the 50ieth anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp by American troops.

Russian Orthodox Chapel at Dachau Memorial Site

As shown in the photo above, the chapel is set upon a mound of earth that includes some dirt that was brought from Russia.

The photo below was taken inside the Russian Orthodox chapel. It shows a painting of the resurrected Jesus Christ, leading the Russian prisoners out of their barracks on liberation day, and through a gate that is being held open by angels on either side of Christ. Two guard towers and the barracks in the concentration camp at Dachau can be seen in the background.

The interior of the Russian Orthodox Chapel

There are two memorials inside the chapel which show Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and Pilate presenting him to the people with the words “Ecce homo.”

The chapel is too small to have seats for visitors, but in spite of this, the chapel is used both for private prayer and regularly scheduled religious services.

The Chapel was built in honor of an estimated 6,000 Russian Prisoners of War who allegedly died in the Dachau camp or were executed at the SS firing range at Herbertshausen.  The alleged execution of 6,000 Russian POWs was not proved at the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal, held at Dachau after the war.

Ninety Russian POWs, who were believed to be Communist Commissars, were hanged at Dachau, on an order from Adolf Hitler who issued this directive on the eve of the German invasion of Russia on July 22, 1941.  Staff members at the Dachau concentration camp were convicted by an American Military Tribunal of a war crime, under the rules of the 1929 Geneva convention, for the execution of the 90 Russian officers, even though the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and were not following it with regard to German POWs.

In all the Nazi concentration camps, the Russian POWs were treated much worse than the other prisoners, in retaliation for the atrocities committed by the Russians against German soldiers.  After the liberation of Dachau, the remaining Russian POWs were turned over to the Soviet Union in accordance with the Allied agreement at Yalta in 1943. The Soviet Union treated these returning prisoners as traitors and immediately sent them to the gulags, as the Communist concentration camps were called.

There were 3,900 Russian prisoners at Dachau when the camp was liberated, the second largest ethnic group in the camp. The majority of the prisoners at Dachau were Polish Catholics.

A Catholic church was built at Dachau in 1960 even before the camp was turned into a memorial site.  There is also a Protestant Church and a Jewish Memorial at Dachau.

Jewish Memorial at Dachau Memorial Site with a Catholic Carmelite convent in the background

Protestant Church at Dachau Memorial Site

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

Catholic Church at Dachau Memorial Site

In deference to the Jews, who cannot pray within site of a Christian cross, there is a crown of thorns on top of the Catholic Church, instead of a cross.