Scrapbookpages Blog

November 20, 2016

Defending my blog posts about Schindler’s list

Filed under: Holocaust, movies, TV shows, Uncategorized — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:18 am
Amon Goeth stand on the balcony in the rear of his house

Amon Goeth standing on the patio in the rear of his house

Over the years, I have written several blog posts about the movie entitled Schindler’s List.  Before that, I wrote about Schindler’s List on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Poland/Kazimierz/Kazimierz01C.html

Now the subject of Schindler’s List has come up in a recent comment on my blog, written by a newb who knows nothing.

To understand the movie Schinder’s List, start by reading this blog post which I wrote five years ago in 2011: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/schindlers-list-the-movie-is-fiction-fiction-fiction-part-2/

Then move on to a blog post, which I wrote in 2010: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/did-oskar-schindler-save-1200-jews-from-certain-death/

I am now 83 years old, and literally on my death bed. I don’t want to spend the last years of my life arguing about whether, or not, Amon Goeth shot Jews from his second-floor balcony or from a spot on the ground in the rear of his house.

In 1998, I made a trip to Poland, accompanied by a tour guide, who took me to see the house where Amon Goeth was living when he allegedly shot prisoners from his balcony. The balcony, and the patio, are both at the rear of the house. Did Amon Goeth have a special rifle that could shoot over the house and hit prisoners who were working in the camp, a mile away?  I don’t think so.

February 6, 2016

Holocaust survivor who was on Schindler’s List

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 7:38 am

I have a section on my scrapbookpages.com website about Schindler’s List, which you can read at  http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Poland/Kazimierz/Kazimierz01C.html

Oskar Schindler

Oskar Schindler

This morning, I read a news story about Rena Finder, a woman who survived the Holocaust because she was saved by Oskar Schindler; she had the good fortune to have been put on the famous Schindler’s List.

Rena Finder greets Steven Spielberg Photo credit: Reuters

Rena Finder greets Steven Spielberg [Photo credit: Lucas Jackson – Reuters]

The following quote is from the news story cited above:

Begin quote
[Rena] Finder was among 300 women at Auschwitz in imminent danger of being sent to gas chambers. Schindler received word of them, and he convinced Nazi commanders that he needed workers for his factory in Brünnlitz, in Czechoslovakia. But his usual bribes (mainly alcohol) did not work.

So, Finder said, he sent his secretary, Hilde Albrecht, with everything from food and diamonds to black-market goods to allow Finder and the 299 other women to leave Auschwitz [Birkenau] in 1944.

[You can read about Hilde Albrecht and Oskar Schindler on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oskar_Schindler ]

Finder said she was there for 3½ weeks, but “3½ weeks in Auschwitz was a very long time.” Her father was killed there, but she and her mother escaped, with Schindler’s help.

Schindler — whom she described as an outgoing, friendly and handsome man with a great smile — a few weeks earlier had help save 700 men from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, where they had spent a week.

“He had papers that these workers were to come to Czechoslovakia,” Finder said of Schindler.

“We left the way we came, on a train. This time they didn’t pack us as much. This time I remember we were able to sit on the floor.”

Movie director Steven Spielberg made Schindler’s compassion known internationally in the 1993 film “Schindler’s List,” based on the 1982 book “Schindler’s Ark” by Thomas Keneally.

“Schinder’s List” received 12 Academy Award nominations and won seven, including Best Picture and Best Director for Spielberg.

End quote

I have written several blog posts which are under the tag Schindler’s List: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/tag/schindlers-list/

December 28, 2015

My blog posts about the movie Schindler’s List

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:03 am
Photo of the real Oskar Schindler

Photo of the real Oskar Schindler

I check the stats for my blog every morning to see what people have been reading. This morning, I noticed that my blog posts about the movie Schindler’s List have been getting a lot of hits.

A scene from the movie entitled Schindler's List

A scene from the movie entitled Schindler’s List

I have written many blog posts about this movie which I have grouped under the tag Schindler’s List:

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/tag/schindlers-list/

I have also written about Schindler’s List on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Poland/Kazimierz/Kazimierz01C.html

My photo of the place where scenes in Schindler's List were filmed

My photo of the place where scenes in Schindler’s List were filmed

November 24, 2015

10 year old girl on Schindler’s List was told that she was being marched into a gas chamber

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 12:42 pm
Scene from the movie Schindler's List

Scene from the movie Schindler’s List

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

Rena Finder, the youngest and last Holocaust survivor from Schindler’s list, shared these sentiments with me during an interview last year. Rena, at 10 years old, became an enemy of the state because she was Jewish. Alongside her mother, naked, bleeding and filled with terror, Rena was marched into what they were told was the gas chamber. The door was locked and the lights went out as the women screamed in horror waiting for the gas. She would die for the crime of being Jewish.

Unfortunately, the news article does not tell us how Rena was saved.  Was she actually in a shower room, as was shown in the movie Shindler’s List?

Rena was 10 years old. Children under the age of 15 were gassed at Auschwitz.  Why wasn’t she gassed?  Why was she bleeding? Sadly, the news article doesn’t tell us.

I wrote about the movie Schindler’s List on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Poland/Kazimierz/Kazimierz01C.html

 

July 13, 2015

20th anniversary of Schindler’s List

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — furtherglory @ 9:12 am

I have seen the movie Schindler’s List several times, both in a movie theater and on TV, and I have also read the book several times. This morning, I read this news article about the anniversary of Schinder’s List.

oskar-schindler-on-arrival-at-lydda-airport-israel The following caption is on the photo above:

Photo : Keystone/Getty Images) Hundreds of Jews and their families turned out at Lydda Airport, Israel to welcome Oscar Schindler (1908 – 1974), a Sudeten-born German, of Frankfurt, who is said to have been responsible for saving 11,100 Jews from the Nazi persecutions during World War II. He employed the Jews in a factory he operated at Zabiceczech, near Cracow, and although often questioned by the occupation forces, always averted danger by exploiting personal contacts. He was brought to Israel as a guest of the government to take part in the ceremony of planting the first saplings in the 8th Avenue of Righteous Gentiles to commemorate non-Jews who helped Jews against the Nazis during the war.

Note that the article says that Schindler saved 11,100 Jews. I will have to correct my previous blog posts, where I wrote that Schlindler saved 1,200 Jews.

I have written several blog posts about Schinder’s List:

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/schindlers-list-the-movie-is-fiction-fiction-fiction/
https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/schindlers-list-the-movie-is-fiction-fiction-fiction-part-2/
https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/did-oskar-schindler-save-1200-jews-from-certain-death/

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/new-book-by-leon-leyson-the-youngest-survivor-on-schindlers-list/

The news article mentions Amon Goeth’s half black granddaughter. I wrote about her in this blog post:

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/granddaughter-of-amon-goeth-the-schindlers-list-balcony-sniper-publishes-her-memoir/

October 21, 2013

My review of a review of Schindler’s List in the New Republic

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:49 am
Scene from the movie Schindler's List

Scene from the movie Schindler’s List

The photo above shows a scene from the movie Schindler’s List in which Oskar Schindler is dictating, from memory, the names of his factory workers whom he wants to take with him to his new factory in Brünnlitz, near his home town in Moravia, which is now in the Czech Republic. His factory manager, Itzhak Stern, a prisoner who works for Schindler, is typing the names.

Amon Goeth shooting prisoners from the balcony of his house

Scene form Schindler’s List in which Amon Goeth is shooting prisoners from the balcony of his house

My previous posts about the movie Schindler’s List have been getting lots of hits lately, and I set out to find out why.  I learned from a google search of the news that Schindler’s List is getting lots of ink in the press because this is the 20th anniversary of the release of the Oscar-winning film.

So what have we learned about the story of Oskar Shindler in the last 20 years?  Nothing at all, it seems to me.

In particular, I believe that the last scene in the movie has been totally misunderstood.  For example, this quote from a review by Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic:

Near the end, when Schindler assembles his 1,100 Jewish workers on his plant floor to tell them that the war is over and they are free, the German army guards, fully armed, assemble on a sort of balcony above. Schindler addresses the guards: says he knows that they have orders to liquidate his workers; and asks them whether they want to go home as men or as murderers. After a moment’s pause, one of the soldiers leaves—and is soon followed by the others.

How does Schindler know that the soldiers have orders to kill all the prisoners and that, as soon as he leaves, the guards will kill the prisoners, whom he has somehow been protecting in his factory?

And why does Schindler need to hurry off, leaving behind prisoners who are sure to be killed by the German guards, as soon as he is gone?

It is implied in the movie that Schindler must leave his prisoners to their fate because he will be killed by the Nazis, who are coming to kill everyone in the all the camps, before the Allies arrive to liberate them.

Spielberg doesn’t tell us this in his movie, but as every student of the Holocaust now knows: Ernst Kaltenbrunner, one of Hitler’s top henchmen, had already given orders that all the prisoners in all the camps should be killed before the Allied liberators can save them from Hitler’s genocidal plan.

I previously blogged about Ernst Kaltenbrunner here and here.  I blogged here about the alleged order to kill the Dachau prisoners before the Americans arrived to liberate the camp.  Strangely, Wikipedia does not mention the order to kill all the prisoners.

But what is the real reason that Schlindler must hurry off and leave his prisoners to their fate?

It is because he is the Commandant of a sub-camp of the Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp.  He knows that he will be put on trial by the Allies, as a war criminal, because as the Commandant, he is responsible for all the deaths of the Jews, who died of sickness, or other causes, in his camp. At the end of the war, prisoners were dying because of the typhus epidemics in all the camps.

Why did the German soldiers leave Schindler’s factory at the end of the movie?  It was because they knew that they would also be put on trial, as war criminals, because every soldier in Germany would be a “war criminal” if he were captured by the Allies.

The Allied war crimes trials had already been planned long before the crimes had been committed.

According to Robert E. Conot, author of the book Justice at Nuremberg, the idea of bringing the German war criminals to justice was first voiced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on October 7, 1942, when he declared: “It is our intention that just and sure punishment shall be meted out to the ringleaders responsible for the organized murder of thousands of innocent persons in the commission of atrocities which have violated every tenet of the Christian faith.” Roosevelt was referring to atrocities committed in the concentration camps, beginning in 1933; most of the war crimes that were prosecuted by the Allies, after the war, had not yet been committed.

The Declaration of St. James on January 13, 1942 announced British plans for war crimes trials, even before the British BBC first broadcast the news of the gassing of the Jews in June 1942. On December 17, 1942, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told the House of Commons: “The German authorities are now carrying into effect Hitler’s oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people of Europe.”

On October 26, 1943, the United Nations War Crimes Commission, composed of 15 Allied nations, met in London to discuss the trials of the German war criminals which were already being planned. That same year, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin issued a joint statement, called the Moscow Declaration, in which they agreed to bring the German war criminals to justice.

So every soldier in the German army knew that he would be put on trial as a war criminal, that is, if he manged to survive Eisenhower’s death camps.

September 29, 2013

Granddaughter of Amon Goeth, the Schindler’s List balcony sniper, publishes her memoir

Nigerian-German author Jennifer Teege poses for a photo with her book "Amon, My grandfather would have shot me" about concentration camp commander Amon Goeth on September 26, 2013, Hamburg

Nigerian-German author Jennifer Teege poses for a photo with her book “Amon, My grandfather would have shot me” about concentration camp commander Amon Goeth on September 26, 2013

The photo above was copied from a news article which you can read in full here.

Another news article starts off with this quote:

A steel-eyed Nazi killer picks off Jewish prisoners with a rifle from a balcony in a concentration camp in 1944.

More than six decades later, a Nigerian-German woman who has studied in Israel thumbs through a book about the sniper and is shocked to learn the man is her own grandfather.

In a memoir published this month with the chilling title “Amon: My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me”, Jennifer Teege recounts her dark family secret and the extraordinary story of how her own life became enmeshed with one of history’s grimmest chapters.

Teege is the child of a Nigerian student and [Monika Goeth] the German daughter of Amon Goeth, the commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp outside Krakow in today’s Poland who featured in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List”.

Scene from the movie Shindler's List show Amon Goeth shooting prisoners from a balcony

Scene from Shindler’s List shows Amon Goeth shooting prisoners from a balcony

The photo above is a still shot from the movie Schindler’s List. It shows Amon Goeth shooting prisoners in a fictional scene from the movie. This fictional scene was concocted by Steven Spielberg after he saw a photo of Amon Goeth standing on the patio of his home which did NOT overlook the Plaszow camp.

Amon Goeth standing on the patio of his house, holding a rifle

Amon Goeth standing on the patio of his house, holding a rifle

When the granddaughter of Amon Goeth learned who her grandfather was, dollar signs must have flashed before her eyes.  This was her chance to gain fame and fortune.  She could write a memoir and make some money off the Holocaust Industry.  Is there any Nazi more famous than Amon Goeth, the commandant who shot prisoners from his balcony?

The movie Schindler’s List is based on a novel entitled Schindler’s Ark.  If the fictional book had not been made into a fictional movie by Steven Spielberg, the name Amon Goeth would be unknown today.  Amon Goeth was a minor criminal, whose crime was that he stole goods from the Plaszow camp. After the war, he was put on trial in a Polish court and convicted of being a member of the Nazi party and a member of the Waffen-SS, both crimes that were made up by the Allies.  He was also convicted of being responsible, under the “common plan” law made up by the Allies, for all the deaths that occurred at the Plaszow camp.  He was not charged with shooting prisoners from his balcony.

In 1943, SS Judge Georg Konrad Morgen of the Haupt Amt Gericht (SS-HAG) was given an assignment to investigate and prosecute corruption and unauthorized murder at the Buchenwald concentration camp. He stayed at the Buchenwald camp for 8 months, investigating the Commandant, Karl Koch, before charging him with murder. Koch was executed for killing a couple of prisoners in the Buchenwald camp.

Dr. Morgen’s next assignment was to investigate the Plaszow camp. As a result of his investigation, which involved interviewing several of the prisoners, Amon Goeth was arrested by the Central Office of the SS Judiciary and imprisoned. Goeth was charged with stealing from the warehouses and factories at Plaszow, but not with shooting prisoners from the balcony of his home.  Oskar Schindler was also arrested, at the same time, for the crime of helping Goeth to store the stolen goods, but Schindler was released before being put on trial.  Goeth was not put on trial by the Germans because he was sick with diabetes; he was sent to a hospital instead.

Strangely, none of the Plaszow prisoners told Dr. Morgen about Amon Goeth shooting prisoners from his balcony.  It was Steven Spielberg who made up this crime when he saw a photo of Goeth standing on his patio.  In Spielberg’s defense, the photo did look like someone standing on a balcony, not a patio.

Amon Goeth standing on the patio of his home, near the Plaszow camp

Amon Goeth standing on the patio of his home, near the Plaszow camp; this photo inspired the balcony sniper story

Ruth Irene Kalder, the mother of Monkia Goeth, standing on the balcony of Amon Goeth's home

Ruth Irene Kalder, the mother of Monkia Goeth, standing on the patio of Amon Goeth’s home

The photo above shows that Jennifer Teege has some resemblance to her grandmother, Ruth Irene Kalder, who was the mistress of Amon Goeth.

Did Ruth Irene Kalder also shoot prisoners from the patio of Goeth’s home?  Not that I know of, but she might have set her dog on the prisoners, who were way off in a concentration camp, that was behind a hill, and not visible from Goeth’s home.

Ruth always spoke highly of Amon Goeth, but what did she know?  She only lived with the man.  While she was out walking her dog, Amon might have been out  on the patio, shooting prisoners with a special rifle that could shoot over a hill.

Memorial Stone at the site of the former Plaszow camp

Memorial Stone at the site of the former Plaszow camp

One of the news articles about Jennifer Teege shows the Memorial Stone at the Plaszow camp.  I took the photo of the Memorial Stone above, when I visited the site of the former camp in 1998.

My Polish tour guide translated the words inscribed on the stone, which were written in Polish. She told me that the words say something to the effect that we don’t know their names, so we call them by one name: Jews. We can’t describe how terrible and barbaric the Nazis were, so we call them by one name: Hitlerists.

There was one word that the guide didn’t know how to translate into English; it was the one word in the Polish language that I knew, the word pogrom. (Po-GROM means “like thunder.”  This word was used to describe the act of non-Jews chasing Jews out by the use of violence.)

My tour guide pointed out that the term Hitlerites or Hitlerists or Nazis should always be used when referring to the enemy in World War II, rather than Germans. There were many countries that supported or collaborated with the Nazis, and many soldiers from Allied or neutral countries that fought in the Waffen-SS, the volunteer army of Nazi Germany. The photograph above shows the front of the memorial stone with the inscription in Polish, which uses the name Hitlerists for the perpetrators.

September 22, 2013

How the film Schlindler’s List introduced Americans to the Holocaust…

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:46 am

This morning, I read an excellent essay, written by Sally Friedman, for The Philadelphia Inquirer, which was published about a week ago.

It is hard to believe that it was 20 years ago, that Schindler’s List was first shown in theaters.  Even people, who knew about the Holocaust, twenty years ago, actually knew virtually nothing about the Holocaust. It was the movie, Schindler’s List, that introduced the world to the Holocaust.

Scene from Schindler's List show Schindler typing the list

Scene from Schindler’s List

This quote is from the beginning of Ms. Friedman’s essay:

Twenty years ago, sitting in a suburban movie theater watching Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List, I had an awakening. The kind that ignites nerve endings.

I knew that Jews, my people by birth and heritage, had been systematically killed by the Nazis simply because they were Jewish.

So the Nazis killed the Jews simply because they were Jewish?  What was it about the Jews that caused to Nazis to want to get rid of them?

Let’s go back to the beginning of the Nazi party, back to 1920, when Hitler published his “25 points” which was the basic principles, upon which the Nazi party was founded.

Remember that, in 1920, it had been only two years since Germany had lost World War One. Hitler believed that it was the actions of the Jews that had caused Germany to lose the war.

Point number 24. is the most important point in the 25 Points:

24. We demand freedom for all religious faiths in the state, insofar as they do not endanger its existence or offend the moral and ethical sense of the Germanic race.
The party as such represents the point of view of a positive Christianity without binding itself to any one particular confession. It fights against the Jewish materialist spirit within and without, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our folk can only come about from within on the principle:

COMMON GOOD BEFORE INDIVIDUAL GOOD

Hitler believed that the Jews were not working for the “common good” of the German people, but for the individual good of the Jews.

There were also a few other points in the 25 Points, which applied to the Jews:

11. That all unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work, be abolished.

12. Since every war imposes on the people fearful sacrifices in blood and treasure, all personal profit arising from the war must be regarded as treason to the people. We therefore demand the total confiscation of all war profits.

[…]

16. We demand the creation and maintenance of a sound middle-class, the immediate communalization of large stores which will be rented cheaply to small tradespeople, and the strongest consideration must be given to ensure that small traders shall deliver the supplies needed by the State, the provinces and municipalities.

17. We demand an agrarian reform in accordance with our national requirements, and the enactment of a law to expropriate the owners without compensation of any land needed for the common purpose. The abolition of ground rents, and the prohibition of all speculation in land.

18. We demand that ruthless war be waged against those who work to the injury of the common welfare. Traitors, usurers, profiteers, etc., are to be punished with death, regardless of creed or race.

Look at point number 16.  The Jews had invented the idea of a “department store,” where each section of the store was owned by a different person.  Meanwhile, the German craftsmen were selling their wares from their own residence.  The Germans lost business because customers wanted to go to a big store where there was goods of every kind, being sold by the Jews, and they could do their shopping under one roof.

Let’s read Point 24 again:

The [Nazi] party as such represents the point of view of a positive Christianity without binding itself to any one particular confession. It fights against the Jewish materialist spirit within and without, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our folk can only come about from within on the principle:

COMMON GOOD BEFORE INDIVIDUAL GOOD

Did you catch this part?:  “[the Nazi party] fights against the Jewish materialistic spirit…

The term positive Christianity is explained on this website: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/positive_christianity.htm

This quote is from the website, cited above:

[Alfred] Rosenberg saw Positive Christianity as Norse paganism being at one with Christianity. Rather than have the cross as the symbol of Positive Christianity, Rosenberg wanted the sun in the form of a sun cross.

The photo below, taken at the Wewelsburg castle shows the “sun cross.”

The "sun cross" aka the Sun Wheel

The “sun cross” aka the Sun Wheel

To get back to Schindler’s List, this movie boiled everything down to Good vs. Evil.  Jews were Good, and anyone who saved Jews was Good.  Nazis were Evil, and anyone who wanted to get rid of Jews was Evil.

Oskar Schindler represented Good in the movie, and Amon Goeth, the commandant of the Plaszow camp, represented Evil.

This part of the article by Ms. Friedman really offended me:

Schindler’s List Benefit Film Screening

A benefit film screening for the USC Shoah Foundation-The Institute for Visual History and Education, with guest appearance by Liam Neeson, is at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St. Preceded at 5:30 by a VIP reception and supper with Neeson. Tickets: $100 to $1,000. Information: 215-665-7208 or http://www.benefitscreening.org.

Remember Point 24, which mentioned the “Jewish materialistic spirit”?  $1,000 for a movie ticket and a chance to meet Liam Neeson is an example of “materialistic spirit” in my humble opinion.

How many billions of dollars have the Jews made off the Holocaust?  If Hitler had a grave, he would be turning over in it, and saying “That’s what I’m talking about.”

July 12, 2013

Poison gas sometimes came through the showerheads at Auschwitz, but other times, it was just water

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:42 am

Remember the scene in Schindler’s List, when a group of women are in the shower at Auschwitz, thinking that they are going to be gassed, but then a miracle happens and waters comes out of the shower faucets?

When I first saw Schindler’s List, years ago, I couldn’t understand this scene.  I knew about the gas chambers, disguised as showers, but I didn’t know that water could sometimes come out of the shower heads inside a gas chamber.

In the scene in Shindler’s List, as the women exit the shower room, they look across the road and see prisoners descending the steps into the undressing room of one of the two large gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau. [This is a small mistake in the film.  The gas chamber that was across the road from the Sauna was Krema IV, which had no underground rooms.]

These women were Schindler’s Jews, so they had been sent into a shower room, not a gas chamber.  Or were the Holocaust gas chambers multi-purpose rooms, and sometimes water would come out, instead of gas?

The showerheads in the scene in Shindler’s List look like the ones in the photo below, which I took inside the gas chamber at Mauthausen.  Note the sign on the wall, which leaves no doubt that this room is a gas chamber. You can’t have a Nazi camp without a gas chamber, as everyone knows. But was this room also used for showers? These pipes were real water pipes, connected to a water source.

Showerheads hanging from the ceiling of the Mauthausen Gaskammer

Showerheads hanging from the ceiling of the Mauthausen Gaskammer

Note the peephole in the door of the gas chamber in the photo above.  A door with a peep hole, similar to this one, was shown in the shower scene in Schindler’s List.

Sorry to keep you in suspense, but I am finally going to get to the subject of my blog post today.

Holocaust survivor Gena Turgel had an experience just like the women in Schindler’s List.  She was inside a gas chamber at Auschwitz, but she lived to tell about it.  You can read her story in an article, published in January 2005, entitled Amazing escape from Auschwitz gas chamber on this website.

This quote tells her story:

Gena Turgel entered the gas chamber at Auschwitz and lived to tell the tale.

In the winter of 1944, the 21-year-old [Gena Turgel] was made to strip naked with her mother inside the [Auschwitz] concentration camp’s extermination block [building] and wait, but miraculously the deadly poison was never released.

“We were trembling. I didn’t know where we were. Inside, it looked terrible. A woman came in that I recognised (sic) from a previous camp. She was very shocked I was there and went out again.

“We waited a while and then water came through the walls. It was wonderful. For many weeks we had had no water on our backs. We were all drinking it.

“As we came outside, the women there said how wonderful it was to see us. They screamed with happiness. I didn’t understand what they meant. I said ‘What are you shouting about?’

“They said ‘Don’t you know? You were in the gas chamber.’ I lost my voice. I couldn’t produce any saliva.”

Gena puts her survival down to a “power over a power” and believes that God was watching over her.

“The woman who came in. I never saw her again. Perhaps she did something.”

More than 60 years on, the great-grandmother still cannot believe how lucky she was to escape death.

“Many times, I have to touch myself to check I’m really alive. One appreciates life so much.”

Could Gena Turgel have actually been inside a real shower room, not a gas chamber?

The showers at Auschwitz-Birkenau [the extermination camp] were in a building called “the Central Sauna,” which is shown in my 2005 photo below.

The Central Sauna building at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Central Sauna building at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The shower room in the Central Sauna is shown my 2005 photo below.  The showerheads have since been removed, but I don’t think the shower heads were on the wall, as Gena described.

The women's shower room in the Central Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The women’s shower room in the Central Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Showerhead hanging from the ceiling in Mauthausen gas chamber

Showerhead hanging from the ceiling in Mauthausen gas chamber

I have never seen any photos of a gas chamber, nor a shower room, which had shower heads on the wall, instead of the ceiling, as described by Gena Turgel.

But I wasn’t there.  Maybe Gena was sent to the gas chamber, but by some miracle, water came out of showerheads on the wall, not the ceiling.

March 6, 2013

What is the meaning of the girl in the Red Coat in Schindler’s List?

The girl in the red coat in the movie Schindler's List

The girl in the red coat in the movie Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List is now out on Blu-Ray and there is renewed interest in this fictional movie.  The photo above shows one of the scenes from the movie, which is loosely based on history.

In March 1941, the Jews in the area of Krakow, Poland had been put into a walled ghetto in Podgorze, a district of Krakow. This ghetto is depicted in the movie, Schindler’s List, but the actual scenes were filmed nearby in the old Jewish quarter called Kazimierz because there are modern buildings in Podgorze now, while Kazimierz was still in its original state in 1993.

Jews are being forced to move into the Podgorze ghetto

Jews are being forced to move into the Podgorze ghetto

On March 13, 1943, a Saturday, the Podgorze ghetto in Krakow, Poland was officially closed and around 6,000 Jews who were able to work were sent to the Plaszow forced labor camp, while around 2,000 children and old people were sent to other camps, including Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, which was both a labor camp and a death camp.

The next stage of the Final Solution for the Krakow Jews was the liquidation of the Podgorze ghetto and the transportation of the remaining Jews to the forced labor camp at Plaszow on March 13 and 14, 1943. Before the liquidation of the ghetto, there were 2,000 prisoners at the Plaszow camp, all of them Jews. Afterwards, the camp population rose to 8,000. At this point, Plaszow was still not a concentration camp, but a penal labor camp under the jurisdiction of local SS men in the General Government, as the central section of occupied Poland was called by the Nazis. According to the novel Schindler’s Ark, it was because Plaszow was a labor camp, under local authority, that the random killing of prisoners by Amon Goeth did not command much attention among the top brass. The novel Schindler’s Ark explains that executions and floggings at all of the concentration camps had to be approved by the central administrative office in Berlin, but not at the labor camps.

Until the middle of 1943, all the prisoners at the Plaszow forced labor camp were Jews. In July 1943, a separate section was fenced off for Polish prisoners who were sent to the camp for breaking the laws of the German occupational government. Polish prisoners served their sentences and were then released from the prison. The Jews remained in the camp indefinitely. Many Jews were sent on to the Auschwitz concentration camp, only 60 kilometers southwest of Krakow.

The Schindler Jews at first lived in the Plaszow camp and walked 2.5 kilometers to and from Schindler’s enamelware factory each day. The factory was in an ordinary-looking, modern, but dreary building in Krakow. Then Schindler bribed Plaszow Commandant Amon Goeth to let his workers move into barracks which he built in the courtyard of the factory. Schindler himself lived in a nondescript gray apartment building close to his factory. When I visited Krakow in 1998, Schindler’s factory building was being used by an electronics factory called Toplar. It is now a Museum for tourists.

There were many small sub-camps, such as the Schindler factory, in the Nazi labor camp system, but none where the prisoners were so well treated. The Nazis provided food for the Schindler Jews, but Schindler spent the equivalent of $360,000 to provide extra food, which he bought on the black market, for his prisoners.

One day, Oskar Schindler was out riding his horse, along a bridal path on a hill overlooking the Podgorze ghetto, when he saw the girl in the red coat among the Jews being marched out of the ghetto, walking on their way to the Plaszow camp.

View of the ghetto from the hill where Oskar Schindler saw the girl in the red coat

View of the ghetto from the hill where Oskar Schindler saw the girl in the red coat

In the photo above, you can see a red car, driving on Krakusa Street, where Oskar Schindler saw the girl in the red coat.

The photo below shows the bridal path along the edge of the hill overlooking Krakusa Street. This is where Schindler looked down from his horse and saw 7,000 Jews being marched out of the Podgorze ghetto, according to the novel, Schindler’s Ark. The bridal path was overgrown with trees when I took this photo in 1998.

The bridal path where Oskar Schindler was riding when he saw the girl in the red coat

The bridal path where Oskar Schindler was riding when he saw the girl in the red coat

The only non-Jewish inhabitant of the Podgorze ghetto was a master pharmacist named Tadeusz Pankiewicz. His Eagle Pharmacy was located at #18 on the cobble-stoned Plac Zgody which was the main square where selections took place and from where transports of Jews were sent to the Belzec death camp. I previously blogged here about how Amon Goeth took bribes from the Jews in exchange for not sending them to Belzec.

In 1993, the same year that the movie Schindler’s List was filmed, the Eagle Pharmacy building was turned into a National Memorial Museum. I visited the museum in 1998 and saw  displays which showed pictures of the roundup and deportation of the Jews of Krakow. There was also a photo of Amon Goeth on display.

In 1947, Tadeusz Pankiewicz published his memoirs called The Pharmacy in the Krakow Ghetto. It is an account of how his pharmacy became a meeting place for the Jews in the ghetto where they could get information from the underground press. Letters were sent from and received at the pharmacy. It was also a hiding place for Jews whom the Nazis were trying to arrest for violations of their laws. According to the novel Schindler’s Ark, the pharmacy was where messages were passed between the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB) and the partisans of the Polish People’s Army, the two main groups which fought the Nazis in guerrilla warfare during World War II. In the movie, Schindler’s List, there is no mention of how Jewish partisans resisted the Nazis and helped to defeat the Germans in World War II.

So what does all this have to do with the girl in the red coat?  In the novel, Schindler’s Ark, Oskar Schindler sees the body of the little girl in the red coat and at that point, he realizes that he should do something to save the Jews.  Prior to this, Schindler had only been concerned with making lots of money by using the labor of Jews from the Podgorze ghetto. Using the labor of non-Jewish workers in his factory would have been at a much higher cost.

Did all this really happen?  No, the girl in the red coat is symbolic, although she is based on a real girl in the ghetto, who was not killed.

The following quote is from an article in the Huffington Post about the movie Schindler’s List, which you can read in full here:

The name Oliwia Dabrowska holds little meaning to film buffs, but the 23-year-old’s first movie role was quite significant. Dabrowska played “Red Genia” or the “girl in the red coat” in Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.” […]

Dabrowska’s “red coat girl” has been the subject of much discussion and interpretation since “Schindler’s List” was released in 1993. The character bore surface similarities to Holocaust survivor Roma Ligocka, who was known for her red coat in the Krakow Ghetto, and wrote a memoir about her experiences. (Unlike Ligocka, Dabrowska’s “red coat girl” died in “Schindler’s List.”) Spielberg himself has said the significance of the red coat, the only splash of color in the black-and-white film, has more to do with reminding viewers of the way citizens of the world allowed the Holocaust to happen:

[ Spielberg said this] “America and Russia and England all knew about the Holocaust when it was happening, and yet we did nothing about it. We didn’t assign any of our forces to stopping the march toward death, the inexorable march toward death. It was a large bloodstain, primary red color on everyone’s radar, but no one did anything about it. And that’s why I wanted to bring the color red in.”

This quote from Wikipedia also gives the same words spoken by Steven Spielberg:

While the film is shot primarily in black-and-white, red is used to distinguish a little girl in a coat (portrayed by Oliwia Dabrowska). Later in the film, the girl appears to be one of the dead Jewish people, recognizable only by the red coat she is still wearing. Although it was unintentional, this character is coincidentally very similar to Roma Ligocka, who was known in the Kraków Ghetto for her red coat. Ligocka, unlike her fictional counterpart, survived the Holocaust. After the film was released, she wrote and published her own story, The Girl in the Red Coat: A Memoir (2002, in translation).[18] The scene, however, was constructed on the memories of Zelig Burkhut, survivor of Plaszow (and other work camps). When interviewed by Spielberg before the film was made, Burkhut told of a young girl wearing a pink coat, no older than four, who was shot by a Nazi officer right before his eyes. When being interviewed by The Courier-Mail, he said “it is something that stays with you forever.”

According to Andy Patrizio of IGN, the girl in the red coat is used to indicate that Schindler has changed: “Spielberg put a twist on her [Ligocka’s] story, turning her into one more pile on the cart of corpses to be incinerated. The look on Schindler’s face is unmistakable. Minutes earlier, he saw the ash and soot of burning corpses piling up on his car as just an annoyance.”[19] Andre Caron wondered whether it was done “to symbolize innocence, hope or the red blood of the Jewish people being sacrificed in the horror of the Holocaust?”[20] Spielberg himself has explained that he only followed the novel, and his interpretation was that

“America and Russia and England all knew about the Holocaust when it was happening, and yet we did nothing about it. We didn’t assign any of our forces to stopping the march toward death, the inexorable march toward death. It was a large bloodstain, primary red color on everyone’s radar, but no one did anything about it. And that’s why I wanted to bring the color red in.”[21]

This quote, about the girl in the red coat, is also from Wikipedia:

Schindler prepares to leave Kraków with his fortune. He finds himself unable to do so, however, and prevails upon Goeth to allow him to keep his workers so he can move them to a factory in his old home of Zwittau-Brinnlitz, away from the Final Solution. Goeth charges a massive bribe for each worker. Schindler and Stern assemble a list of workers to be kept off the trains to Auschwitz.

[…]   The train carrying the women is accidentally redirected to Auschwitz. Schindler bribes the camp commander, Rudolf Höß, with a cache of diamonds in exchange for releasing the women to Brinnlitz.

Contrary to what Wikipedia says, Schindler did NOT “prevail upon Goeth to allow him to keep his workers.”  By that point in the movie, Goeth had been arrested by the Nazis and he was awaiting trial in Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen’s court.  Goeth had disappeared from the movie and nothing more was said about him.

Schindler and Stern did NOT assemble a list of workers to be kept off the trains to Auschwitz.  Schindler’s famous list was a list of workers to be sent to the Gross Rosen concentration camp because Schindler was setting up a sub-camp of Gross Rosen near his old home town.

Rudolf Höß was NOT the “camp commander” at the time that Schindler bribed someone to release the women to Brinnlitz.

Rudolf Hoess is shown on the right

Rudolf Hoess is shown on the right in this photo from the Auschwitz Album

Dr. Josef Mengele, the man who selected Jews for the gas chamber at the Birkenau death camp, is shown in the center of the photo above. On his left is Richard Baer, the last commandant of the Auschwitz main camp and on his right is Rudolf Höß (aka Rudolf Hoess), who had been the first Commandant of the whole Auschwitz complex; he was given this assignment on May 1, 1940. Höß was relieved of his duties as the Commandant of the Auschwitz complex at the end of November 1943 and promoted to a position in the Economic Administration Head Office (WHVA) in Oranienburg.

On May 8, 1944, Höß was brought back to Auschwitz to be the Commander of the SS men at Auschwitz and to supervise the gassing of the Hungarian Jews. (According to Laurence Rees, in his book Auschwitz, a New History, Hoess was also given authority over the Commandants of the Auschwitz II and Auschwitz III camps when he came back in May 1944.)  Auschwitz II was Auschwitz-Birkenau, the death camp.

I believe that Spielberg is completely wrong in his claim that “America and Russia and England all knew about the Holocaust when it was happening, and yet we did nothing about it.”  What is today known as “the Holocaust” was mostly unknown until many years after World War II.

What was the real reason that Oskar Schindler made up a list of Jews to be saved from certain death.

Oskar Schindler’s real motive, in making a list of 1200 Jews to be saved, was to save his own skin, NOT to save these 1200 Jews.

Schindler knew that he would be put on trial as a war criminal, after the war, because he was the commander of a sub-camp of the Plaszow camp. He knew that the Allies had made up ex-post-facto war crimes, under which the Germans would be prosecuted as war criminals after the war.

Schindler knew that the Allies had already made up new laws, such as the “common plan” principle, under which the war criminals would be prosecuted.  Under the “common plan” concept, anyone who had any connection to a concentration camp, in any capacity whatsoever, would be automatically guilty of a war crime.

By saving 1200 Jews in a new sub-camp of the Gross Rosen concentration camp, he would have a defense to the “common plan” principle. He would have 1200 Jews to put in a good word for him and save him.

That is exactly what happened: Schindler was not put on trial after the war, and the Jews that he had saved took care of him for the rest of his life.

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