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July 14, 2012

The death of Gitta Sereny (author of a book about Franz Stangl, the Commandant of Treblinka)

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 11:41 am

I have just learned of the death of Gitta Sereny, at the age of 91, in June 2012. She is the famous author who wrote about evil people and their crimes, including Franz Stangl, who was involved in the euthanasia program in Germany before he became the Commandant of the Sobibor death camp for six months and then the Commandant of the Treblinka death camp.  Her book about Stangl, entitled Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder was published in 1974, and is still in print.

You can read one of her obituaries here.

Franz Stangl

Franz Stangl was imprisoned by the Allies after the war, but was released two years later, without ever having been put on trial. Following his release, he went to Italy, where he was helped by the Vatican to escape to Syria. He lived with his family in Syria for three years. In 1951, he moved to Brazil, and lived openly, using his real name.

Stangl was a native of Austria, but for years the Austrian authorities declined to bring him to justice for the murder of thousands of Jews at Treblinka. Finally in 1961, a warrant for his arrest was issued, but it was not until six years later that he was captured in Brazil by the famous Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal; he had been working at a Volkswagen factory in Sao Paulo, still using his own name.

In 1969, Dr. Wolfgang Scheffler submitted an expert opinion, based on more recent research, that the total number of persons killed at Treblinka was 900,000. (The number of Jews killed at Auschwitz has recently been reduced to 900,000.)

Franz Stangl was finally put on trial in the Second Treblinka Trial by the court of Assizes at Düsseldorf on October 22, 1970, charged with the deaths of 900,000 people at Treblinka. Stangl confessed to the murders, but in his defense, he said, “My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty …”

After his six-month trial in the German court, Stangl was found guilty on December 22, 1970 and sentenced to life in prison in January 1971; he died in prison at Düsseldorf on June 28, 1971, shortly after he was interviewed by Gitta Sereny.

Franz Stangl got his start when he was appointed by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler in 1940 to be the superintendent of the T-4 Euthanasia Program at Schloss Hartheim. He was transferred to the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland in March 1942 where he was the Commandant until September 1942 when he was transferred to the extermination camp at Treblinka.

A poster at Hartheim shows a photo of Franz Stangl

Stangl is pictured on the poster above, which is in the Museum at Hartheim. His photo is on the far right in the left-hand column.

The exhibit at Hartheim makes it clear that Euthanasia started in America before it was done in Germany. One room in the exhibit area at Hartheim has posters from America, as shown in the two photographs below.

Exhibit at Hartheim shows Euthanasia posters in America

Exhibit at Hartheim shows a poster in America

These posters from America promote the idea that heredity is to blame for the mentally and physically handicapped. In Hitler’s Germany, deformed and mentally retarded persons, who had been institutionalized by their families, were sent to Hartheim Castle or the five other euthanasia centers, where they were killed.

The Nazis kept track of how much money the German government had saved by putting these people to death. After the war, these documents were found by General Patton’s army. The total amount saved by killing over 70,000 handicapped people was 885,000,000 Reichsmark or over 3 billion dollars in today’s money.

Gitta Sereny talked about her interview with Franz Stangl in a YouTube video.

This quote about Franz Stangl and his work at Treblinka is from Wikipedia:

Stangl assumed command of Treblinka on September 1, 1942. “He proved to be a highly efficient and dedicated organizer of mass murder, even receiving an official commendation as the ‘best camp commander in Poland’. Always impeccably dressed (he attended the unloading of transports at Treblinka dressed in white riding clothes), soft-voiced, polite and friendly, Stangl was no sadist, but took pride and pleasure in his ‘work’, running the death camp like clockwork.”[5] Stangl wanted his camp to look attractive, so he ordered the paths paved and flowers planted along the sides of Seidel Street, near camp headquarters and SS living quarters. Despite being directly responsible for the camp’s operations, Stangl limited his contact with Jewish prisoners as much as possible. Stangl rarely interfered with unusually cruel acts (other than gassing) perpetrated by his subordinate officers at the camp. Stangl usually wore a white uniform and carried a whip, which caused prisoners to nickname him “The White Death”.[1] He claimed that his dedication had nothing to do with ideology or hatred of Jews.[5] He viewed the prisoners as objects of his work rather than as people, and he regarded his job the same as he would any job: […]

In September 1942, Stangl supervised the building of new, larger gas chambers to augment the previously existing gas chambers. The new gas chambers became operational in early autumn 1942. It is believed that these death chambers were capable of killing 3,000 people in two hours, and 12,000 to 15,000 victims easily every day,[1] with a maximum capacity of 22,000 deaths in 24 hours.[13] According to Jankiel Wiernik [a survivor of Treblinka]: “When the new gas chambers were completed, the Hauptsturmführer [Stangl] came and remarked to the SS men who were with him: ‘Finally the Jewish city is ready’ (German: Endlich ist die Judenstadt fertig).”[11]  […]

At the end of the war, Stangl concealed his identity and fled. He was detained by the American Army in 1945 and was briefly imprisoned pending investigation in Linz, Austria in 1947. Stangl was suspected of complicity in the T-4 euthanasia programme. But on May 30, 1948, Stangl escaped to Italy with his colleague from Sobibor, SS officer Gustav Wagner. The Roman Catholic Bishop Alois Hudal, a Nazi sympathizer forced in 1952 to resign by the Vatican, helped him to escape through a “ratline” and to reach Syria using a Red Cross passport.[14] Stangl was joined by his wife and family and lived in Syria for three years before they moved to Brazil in 1951. After years of other jobs, Stangl found work at the Volkswagen plant in São Bernardo do Campo with the help of friends, still using his own name.  […]

The court Schwurgericht Düsseldorf found Stangl guilty on October 22, 1970, and sentenced him to maximum penalty, life imprisonment.[9] While in prison, Stangl was interviewed extensively by Gitta Sereny, for a study of him published as Into that Darkness….

I find it very strange that Franz Stangl was not put on trial by the Allies.  As the Commandant of both Sobibor and Treblinka, he could have been included among the defendants at the Nuremberg IMT where testimony about Treblinka was given by the survivors of the death camp.

The American Military Tribunal had no jurisdiction over Stangl since his crimes did not include Allied victims. The British had no jurisdiction over him since he had not served at Bergen-Belsen which was in their zone of occupation.

Stangl was able to live in Brazil, under his own name, and it was left up to the Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal to track him down, so that he could finally be put on trial by the Germans. By that time, Germany had a law against Holocaust denial, so Stangl did not claim that Treblinka and Sobibor were transit camps, from where Jews were “transported to the East.”  If he had used that as his defense, Stangl would have been imprisoned for Holocaust denial.

March 18, 2012

Demjanjuk “died guilty” says Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:19 am

According to an article in a German newspaper which you can read in full here, Efraim Zuroff said this about the death of John Demjanjuk: “Demjanjuk died guilty of his service in the Sobibor death camp….”

Demjanjuk was found guilty, by a German court, of serving as a guard at Sobibor, but at the time of his death, he was awaiting trial for the appeal of his conviction because Demjanjuk maintained until his dying day that he did not serve as a guard at Sobibor.

The article in the German newspaper begins with this quote:

Former Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk died guilty of helping to mass murder innocent Jews, the Israel director of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre said on Sunday.

In a statement issued a day after the police announced Demjanjuk’s death, the centre said it believed there was “never any doubt” that the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk helped implemented the Nazis’ “Final Solution.”

“Demjanjuk died guilty of his service in the Sobibor death camp and that is how he should be remembered,” the centre’s Israel director Efraim Zuroff said.

“Not as a person falsely accused, but as an individual who volunteered to serve in the SS, and who at the height of his physical powers spent months helping to mass murder innocent Jews deported to that death camp.”

Demjanjuk was sentenced by a Munich court in May to five years in prison after being found guilty of more than 27,000 counts of accessory to murder from the six-month period when he was a guard in Poland at the Sobibor camp in 1943.

A judge ordered him released pending an appeal, saying Demjanjuk was no longer a threat and was unlikely to abscond, being stateless, after the United States revoked his citizenship.

I googled Efraim Zuroff and found this information here:

Efraim Zuroff’s great-uncle was kidnapped in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 13, 1941, by a gang of Lithuanians “roaming the streets of the city looking for Jews with beards to arrest.”

“He was taken to Lukiskis Prison — to this day the main jail in the city — and was murdered shortly thereafter,” says Zuroff. So were his wife and two boys.

Born seven years later in Brooklyn, New York, Zuroff was named for his great-uncle and grew up questioning his American-born parents about the Holocaust.

So Zuroff’s great-uncle was killed by Lithuanians who hated Jews.  Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian who was captured by the Germans in World War II and was given the option to defect to the German side.  Zuroff should be concentrating on why everyone in Europe hated the Jews and wanted them out. He should be questioning why so many Soviet soldiers defected, after they were captured, and then fought for the Germans. Instead, Zuroff is consumed by hatred of the goyim and is voicing his hatred of a dead man who was persecuted for half his life.

It is important to note that Demjanjuk was not convicted of murdering anyone, nor of being an accessory to murder.  He was convicted of being a guard in a camp that may or may not have been a “death camp.”  It was assumed by the German court, without any proof being offered, that Sobibor was a “death camp” where an unknown number of Jews were allegedly killed.  Demjanjuk was found guilty by association because he was allegedly a  guard at Sobibor.

This news story written on Nov. 23, 2009, about the Demjanjuk trial tells about how the trial was based on testimony from the dead:

Munich prosecutors who built the case against former death camp guard Mr Demjanjuk, 89, put 23 witnesses on their list, some of them from Russia and Ukraine.

But all members of the list are dead. It means that Demjanjuk, charged with assisting in 27,900 murders during his time as an SS guard at the extermination camp of Sobibor in occupied Poland, will be judged on records such as his identity card and on the statements of the dead.

His lawyer Guenther Maull said the defence (sic) would contest the witness statements may have been made under pressure from Soviet KGB interrogators. “The men were questioned 30 years ago at least in part in the Soviet Union and possibly under pressure,” he said. “Whether their statements have any value as evidence is questionable.”

January 14, 2012

The unbelievable testimony of the Holocaust survivors: Are the Jews overplaying their hand?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:21 am

Out of all the dramatic stories told by the Holocaust survivors, who are currently out on the lecture circuit and/or publishing their memoirs, which one takes the prize for the most unbelievable? 

The first story that comes to mind is the one told by Irene Zisblatt, about how she was saved because the gas chamber was too full on the day that she was scheduled to be gassed.  She was rescued by a young Jewish Sonderkommando who tossed her over a 10-foot high fence into an open railroad car, so that she could be transported out of Auschwitz. That one tops the story of Anna Levin-Ware who was pulled out of the Auschwitz gas chamber because she was “Hungarian by marriage.”

My personal favorite Holocaust story is the one told by Esther Terner Raab, who was a survivor of Sobibor, one of the three Operation Reinhard camps. In a TV documentary, which I saw many years ago, Esther told about a party in the Sobibor camp that the SS men had before the famous “escape from Sobibor.”  At the party, Esther was told by the SS men that they were celebrating the fact that one million Jews had been killed at Sobibor.

Unlike the other Nazi death camps, the SS barracks at Sobibor were located inside the camp. According to another Sobibor survivor, Toivi Blatt, the Jewish workers in the camp sometimes socialized with the SS guards.

Esther’s story was corroborated by another Sobibor survivor, Moshe Bahir, who testified in 1965 at the trial of several of the Sobibor perpetrators in Hagen, Germany. Moshe Bahir testified, under oath in a court of law, that he was a witness to a celebration by the Germans in February 1943 after one million Jews had been killed at Sobibor.

So it wasn’t just young attractive girls who were invited to the SS celebration of one million Jewish deaths; there were also young men like Moshe Bahir who were invited.  The SS men were so happy that they had killed one million Jews, they wanted to share their jubilation with two of the Jews who were still alive and waiting for their turn to be killed.

Sobibor memorial site Photo Credit: Alan Collins

The photo above shows the spot in Camp III at Sobibor where a brick building with gas chambers once stood. A large block of stone, erected in 1965, represents the gas chambers in two buildings at Sobibor, which were torn down long ago.

The Nazis claimed that the Aktion Reinhard camps were set up as transit camps for the “evacuation of the Jews to the East,” a euphemism for the genocide of the Jews. Unlike the concentration camps, such as Auschwitz and Majdanek, the three Aktion Reinhard camps did not have ovens to cremate the bodies. The Jews were not registered upon arrival and no death records were kept at the Aktion Reinhard camps.

During World War II, and for years afterward, the Sobibor death camp was virtually unknown. William Shirer did not even mention it in his monumental 1147-page book entitled The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

It was not until the release of a 1987 TV movie, Escape from Sobibor, based on a book with the same name, that the public knew of this remote spot where thousands of Jews lost their lives. The movie tells the story of the revolt during which around 300 prisoners escaped; no more than 50 of them survived to the end of the war.

Survivors of Sobibor do not agree on the number or size of the gas chambers in the camp. The victims were killed with carbon monoxide from the exhaust of engines taken from captured Soviet tanks, which were stored in Camp IV. There is also disagreement on whether these were diesel engines or gasoline engines.

The three Aktion Reinhard camps were all in remote locations, but “each site was on a railroad line linking it with hundreds of towns and villages whose Jewish communities were now trapped and starving” in the spring of 1942, according to Martin Gilbert’s book entitled The Holocaust. Sobibor was linked by rail with many large Jewish communities, including Lublin, Wlodawa and Chelm. Jews were also brought from the Theresienstadt ghetto, located in what is now the Czech Republic, and from the Netherlands, to be gassed at Sobibor.

The Sobibor camp was on the eastern edge of German-occupied Poland, five kilometers west of the Bug river. The Bug river was as far as trains from western Europe could go without changing the wheels to fit the train tracks in the Soviet Union, which were a different gauge. On the other side of the Bug river from Sobibor was the Ukraine, which had belonged to the Soviet Union until it was taken by the Germans shortly after their invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

The unsuspecting victims, who arrived at Sobibor, were told that they would be sent to work camps in the Ukraine after they had taken a shower, but instead, the Jews were immediately killed in gas chambers disguised as shower rooms.

Deportations to the Sobibor killing center began in mid April 1942 with transports from the town of Zamosc in Poland, according to Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert. The Jews from the Lublin ghetto were also sent to Sobibor to be gassed, although there were several gas chambers at Majdanek just outside the city of Lublin. During the first phase of the extermination of the Jews at Sobibor, which lasted until July 1942, around 100,000 Jews were gassed to death.

Their bodies were buried in mass graves, then later dug up and burned on pyres. During the next phase, the bodies were burned immediately, according to Toivi Blatt, one of the few survivors of Sobibor. At the age of 15, Blatt had been selected to work in sorting the clothing in the camp.

Map of the Sobibor death camp

The Sobibor killing center was initially divided into three camps (Lager 1, Lager II and Lager III) but a fourth camp was added later to store munitions captured from the Soviet Army. Lager I was where the Jewish workers in the camp lived. A moat on one side of this camp prevented their escape. Lager II was where the victims undressed; Jewish workers sorted the clothing in this camp. The barracks for the German SS administrators of the camp were located in the Vorlager.

From Lager II, an SS man escorted the victims through a path lined with tree branches to the gas chambers in Lager III. Only the Ukrainian SS guards and the German SS officers were allowed in Lager III.

The Sobibor death camp was 400 meters wide and 600 meters long; the entire area was enclosed by a barbed wire fence that was three meters high. On three sides of the camp was a mine field, intended to keep anyone from approaching the camp. The watch towers were manned by Ukrainian SS guards who had been conscripted from captured soldiers in the Soviet Army to assist the 30 German SS men who were the administrators of the camp. In 1965, a German court put 11 of the German SS guards on trial; 6 of them were sentenced to prison, and one committed suicide during the trial; the others were acquitted.

The victims arrived on trains which stopped at the ramp across from the Sobibor station, or in trucks from nearby Polish villages. Most of the Jews were transported in cattle cars, but the 34,000 Dutch Jews who were sent to Sobibor arrived in passenger trains, according to Toivi Blatt. The luggage of the Dutch Jews was transported in separate cars and the victims were given tags which they were told would be used to reclaim their bags. All of the belongings of the Jews were confiscated upon arrival.

At the entrance to the camp, the victims were instructed to deposit their hand baggage and purses before proceeding along the path, called the “Himmelfahrtstrasse” (Street to heaven), which led to the spot where the hair was cut from the heads of the women, and then on to the gas chambers disguised as showers. According to Toivi Blatt, all documents, photos and personal items were removed from the confiscated baggage and anything that could not be recycled to send to Germany was burned in open fires that lit up the night sky.

May 19, 2011

Finally, Dutch Jews get justice, long delayed

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:51 am

According to the latest news about John Demjanjuk, which you can read here, “Families of Jews who were slaughtered in Sorbibor death camp said Saturday they were pleased with the conviction of John Demjanjuk, who was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for his role in the killing of 27,900 Jews as a guard at the Nazi camp.”

Jews from many countries were sent to Sobibor to be “slaughtered.”  When will their relatives get justice?  Why were only Dutch Jews included as co-plaintiffs in the prosecution of Demjanjuk?    (more…)

May 12, 2011

Demjanjuk convicted under the “common design” theory of guilt

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 7:12 am

I read the news of John Demjanjuk’s conviction in the New York Times here.  The most important thing about his conviction is summed up in this statement:

In the absence of specific evidence against him, the case against Mr. Demjanjuk rested on the prosecution’s charge that anyone working at the camp at the time he was there shared responsibility for its function of systematic murder.

In other words, the legal basis for charging Demjanjuk with a crime was the ex-post-facto law that was dreamed up by Lt. Col. Murray C. Bernays specifically for the Nuremberg IMT, although it was also used by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau.  This is the first time that this legal basis has been used in German courts, thus setting a precedent that can be used in future trials.

Bernays was a Lithuanian Jew who had emigrated with his family to America in 1900 when he was six years old.  Robert E. Conot wrote, in his book “Justice at Nuremberg,” that Henry Morgenthau, Jr., a Jew who was the Secretary of the Treasury and one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s top advisors, had proposed that the German war criminals should be charged and then executed without a trial. But Bernays said, “Not to try these beasts would be to miss the educational and therapeutic opportunity of our generation. They must be tried not alone for their specific aims, but for the bestiality from which these crimes sprang.”

Now 66 years after the end of World War II, Demjanjuk has been tried and convicted on the theory that he is guilty because he was allegedly THERE.  It doesn’t matter if he actually did anything wrong, he is guilty by association.   (more…)

April 14, 2011

Dutch Jew wants Demjanjuk to be sentenced to 15 years in prison

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:49 am

John Demjanjuk, a 90-year-old American citizen, has been on trial in Germany since November 2009 on a charge of 27,900 counts of being an accessory to murder, based on the accusation that he was a guard at the Sobibor death camp. A verdict in the trial is expected next month and in the closing arguments given by the co-plaintiffs, Manuel Bloch, an attorney from the Netherlands who lost family members in the Holocaust, urged the court to convict Demjanjuk and sentence him to the maximum 15-year prison term.

The verdict will depend upon whether or not the prosecution has proved that Demjanjuk was a guard at Sobibor.  At least 27,900 Jews were allegedly gassed during the 5 months that Demjanjuk allegedly served as a guard.  The prosecution did not have to prove that anyone was gassed at Sobibor — only that John Demjanjuk was one of the guards that herded the Jews along the path to the gas chamber that was disguised as a shower room.

Sobibor was one of the 6 death camps used in the genocide of 6 million Jews during World War II; it was built by the Nazis in March 1942, for the sole purpose of killing Jews. An estimated 250,000 Jews were murdered at Sobibor during a period of only 18 months, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

According to this news article, Manuel Blocht told the court that “the evidence against Demjanjuk is abundant” and “fits together like the pieces of a puzzle.”

This news source quotes prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz in his closing arguments:

“Armed with a weapon, he (Demjanjuk) transported the victims from the wagons, undressed them and led them into the gas chambers,” said prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz, as he began summing up in the trial, expected to be one of the last of its kind.

“He participated willingly in the murder of 27,900 Jews,” Lutz said.

Wait a minute!  The guards at Sobibor undressed the victims?  I don’t think so.  The Nazis were prudes.  They would never have allowed a young soldier like Demjanjuk to undress people.  Besides that, why couldn’t these people undress themselves?

Sobibor was one of the three “Aktion Reinhard” camps that were set up following the Wannsee Conference which was held on January 20, 1942.  The Nazis claimed that the Aktion Reinhard camps were set up as transit camps for the “evacuation of the Jews to the East,” a euphemism for the genocide of the Jews. Unlike the concentration camps, such as Auschwitz and Majdanek, the three Aktion Reinhard camps did not have ovens to cremate the bodies. The Jews were not registered upon arrival and no death records were kept at the Aktion Reinhard camps.

The three Aktion Reinhard camps were all in remote locations, but “each site was on a railroad line linking it with hundreds of towns and villages whose Jewish communities were now trapped and starving” in the spring of 1942, according to Martin Gilbert’s book entitled The Holocaust. Sobibor was linked by rail with many large Jewish communities, including Lublin, Wlodawa and Chelm. Jews were also brought from the Theresienstadt ghetto, located in what is now the Czech Republic, and from the Netherlands, to be gassed at Sobibor.

The Nazis claimed that the Aktion Reinhard camps were “transit camps,”  but there was a transit camp in the Netherlands at Westerbork.  So why were the Dutch Jews  transported all the way to the border between German-occupied Poland and the Ukraine to be gassed.  Why not just set up gas chambers at Westerbork?

There were no disinfection chambers for delousing the clothing at Sobibor. The clothing that was taken from the Jews, when they arrived at Sobibor, was sent to the Majdanek camp in the city of Lublin to be disinfected with Zyklon-B in a building that was right next to an identical building where Jews were gassed with the same Zyklon-B.  Lublin was only a few miles from Sobibor, so why not just send the Jews to Majdanek to be gassed, instead of setting up a death camp at Sobibor?  The clothing taken from the Jews could have just been sent a few feet to the disinfection chambers that were right next door to the gas chambers at Majdanek.

Toivi Blatt, one of the survivors of Sobibor, was 15 years old when he was sent to the death camp, but he was selected as one of the workers who helped the guards in sorting the clothing and possessions taken from the Jews. In a book by Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert, Toivi Blatt was quoted as saying that most of the Jews were transported to Sobibor in cattle cars, but the 34,000 Dutch Jews arrived in passenger trains. The luggage of the Dutch Jews was transported in separate cars and the victims were given tags which they were told would be used to reclaim their bags.

Passenger trains were extremely scarce in Germany during World War II.  German civilians were traveling in box cars, according to books that I’ve read.  So why were the Dutch Jews sent to Sobibor in passenger trains?

Right up to the time that the Dutch Jews entered the gas chamber disguised as a shower room, they were completely fooled by the Nazis into thinking that they were going to the “transported to the East.”  It seems to me that the Dutch Jews should show some compassion for John Demjanjuk, the same way that the Nazis showed compassion for them in allowing them an easy death.

The crimes at Sobibor took place in 1942 and 1943, sixty-eight years ago.  I think it is time for the Dutch Jews to give up their desire for revenge and allow an old man to die at home with his family.

BTW, the Nazis made a stupid mistake in selecting 15-year-old boys as helpers.  Toivi Blatt is still alive and living in Santa Barbara, CA.  They should have selected older men who would have soon died of natural causes and would not be alive today to testify in court.  The Nazis should have realized that the helpers at Sobibor might somehow survive, and 68 years later, a former Ukrainian guard might be put on trial as an accessory to murder.

Five relatives of the 250,000 Jews who were gassed at Sobibor were among the 40 co-plaintiffs in the trial of John Demjanjuk.  These 5 people are all in their 70s now; they were children when their parents and siblings were sent to Sobibor to be killed.

Sobibor and the other two Aktion Reinhard camps were set up to carry out the genocide of the Jews, so why were the children under the age of 15 left behind?  Good question.  The answer is that the Nazis tried to fool the victims into believing that they were being sent to the East in order to work.  If children under the age of 15 had been taken along, the Jews would have known that they were being sent to Sobibor to be killed.  In order to keep everyone calm and avoid panic, the children had to be spared.

Here is a quote from this website:

Another of five co-plaintiffs to deliver harrowing witness statements to the court said he did not discover what had happened to his mother, sister and brother until 10 years ago. “Part of me didn’t want to know,” said Martin Haas, 73.

Now a professor of biology and oncology in San Diego, Haas was sent to live with a foster family in the Dutch countryside when his family was rounded up. After the war when nobody came to pick him up he was sent to families around the country who were looking to adopt.

Rudolf Salomon Cortissoss, now 70 years old, was one of the five relatives of the 250,000 murdered Jews who delivered a witness statement in the trial. His mother threw a letter from the train, as she was being taken to Sobibor. The letter was dated 17 May 1943. In the letter, his mother wrote that she was being sent to the East to work.  According to the website cited above, “Four days later, according to Red Cross records, she was dead, aged 31, gassed by lorry exhaust fumes at Sobibor in Nazi-occupied eastern Poland.”

I doubt that the Nazis left records behind that showed that Jews were gassed at Sobibor.

David van Huiden, now 78, lost his stepfather, his mother and his sister at Sobibor after they were rounded up by the Gestapo. His family was murdered on 2 July, 1943. “It also happens to be my birthday,” he told the court. Many were in tears.

Mary Richheimer-Leyden van Amstel, 70, was the only survivor of her family. She was just two when strangers agreed to hide her before her parents were herded to Sobibor. “I have no memories of anyone in my family,” she told the court. “After the war nobody came to pick me up, and I just instinctively understood that my parents would not be coming back.”

Kurt Gutmann, 82, who lost his mother and brother in Sobibor, was angry at the way that Demjanjuk had turned his illness into a courtroom drama.

Only 90-year-old Jules Schelvis had any sympathy for Demjanjuk.  “Out of my respect for my humanist parents,” he said at the trial, “I ask the court to enter a finding of guilty against this aged man, who has already spent nine years in jail, but not to punish him.”

The prosecution is asking for a sentence of 6 years in prison for Demjanjuk, while some of the co-plaintiffs want Demjanjuk to spend another 15 years in prison. If the co-plaintiffs get their way, Demjanjuk will spend a total of 24 years in prison, provided that he lives to the age of 105.

In my humble opinion, the co-plaintiffs should be grateful that the Nazis allowed them to live in order to protect their story that Jews were sent to Sobibor because they were being transported to the East to work.  If children had been gassed at Sobibor, everyone would have instantly known the truth, that the purpose of Sobibor was the genocide of the Jews.


March 17, 2011

Demjanjuk is back in court — testimony from the dead will be heard

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:33 am

Good news!  John Demjanjuk is back in court, after two days in a hospital, and a request by his attorney to hear testimony given by Dov Frieberg has been granted.  Freiberg is now dead, but a written statement that he gave in 1976 will be read in court.  In his statement, Freiberg said that he was assigned to clean the Sobibor barracks where the Ukrainian guards were housed, but he does not remember Demjanjuk being there.

I previously wrote this about Freiberg in another blog post:

In his book entitled “The Holocaust,” Martin Gilbert wrote about another survivor of Sobibor, Dov Freiberg, who was a 15-year-old boy on a transport of 2,750 Jews from the town of Torobin in Poland on May 12, 1942. The Jews were assembled in the town square and told that they were going to be “resettled in the Ukraine,” according to Freiberg. They were then taken to the nearest railroad station at Krasnowka, where they were joined by Jews from other nearby towns and villages. When their train arrived at the camp, the story of resettlement seemed to be coming true: a sign at the entrance to the camp said “SS Sonderkommando Umsiedlungslager.” which means “SS special unit resettlement camp” in English.

According to Freiberg, there was a band playing at the entrance. The women and children “went straight to the gas chambers,” but since the gas chamber “didn’t really operate in the night,” the men “stayed there on the spot during the night.” Freiberg was one of 150 Jews from this transport who “were sent to work” in the camp itself, sorting the belongings of the victims.

It turns out that it was a big mistake for the Germans to select young Jewish boys to work in Sobibor, which was one of the 6 Nazi death camps.  Even if the Nazis expected to win the war and they thought that they would never be charged with Crimes against Humanity for the genocide of the Jews, the Nazis should have anticipated that the German people would eventually turn against them and some of the young boys would have survived to testify against them. They should have selected older men, who would soon be dead, to be the helpers in the Sobibor death camp.

The Nazis should have anticipated a possible revolt by the Jewish helpers and that some of them would survive to testify against them.  Yesterday I blogged about Philip Bialowitz who survived the revolt at Sobibor and is still alive; he is touring the USA now, telling his story of how 250,000 Jews were gassed at Sobibor. (Bialowitz was 17 when he was sent to Sobibor.)

The Germans called Sobibor a “transit camp;” their cover story was that the Jews were being “evacuated to the East.”  Treblinka and Belzec were also called transit camps by the Germans.  But why did they need transit camps in German-occupied Poland?  Why not just put the Dutch Jews on a train in Amsterdam and take them all the way into the Ukraine, instead of stopping at Sobibor for a shower?

The Bug river was very shallow and not very wide

The reason that the trains to the East had to stop at Sobibor and Belzec is because there were no train bridges across the Bug river; the train tracks were a different size in Eastern Europe.

There were more Jews killed in the three Operation Reinhard camps (Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec) than in Auschwitz.  Why weren’t all the Jews sent to Auschwitz to be gassed?  Auschwitz was the main railroad hub in Europe.  Trains could start from almost any place in Western Europe and go all the way to Auschwitz.  Even Majdanek would have been a better choice for gassing the Jews. The Majdanek camp, with its 4 Zyklon-B gas chambers, was a few miles west of Sobibor, so why send Jews to Sobibor to be gassed with carbon monoxide from diesel engines?  That doesn’t make any sense at all.  The Majdanek camp also had ovens to burn the bodies, which Sobibor didn’t have.

The map above shows the General Government (German-occupied Poland) in dark brown and the former Soviet occupied zone in jade green.  The black line which divides these two zones is the Bug river. Note that Sobibor is very close to the Bug river, but also very close to Majdanek. Note that Auschwitz (shown in the tan section of the map) is not in the General Government, but in the Greater German Reich. Chelmno is another death camp that was also located in the Greater German Reich.

At the time that the three Operation Reinhard camps were set up in 1942, the Germans had taken the area that is shown in jade green on the map.  Why would they have killed the Jews right on the banks of the Bug river when they could have just sent them into the Ukraine and on into Russia?

I have been watching an ad on TV that asks for a donation of $25 to be sent to the starving elderly Holocaust survivors in Russia.    How did all these Holocaust survivors wind up in Russia?

March 16, 2011

Will war criminal John Demjanjuk live long enough to get his “just deserts”?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 2:25 pm

Today I checked up on the progress of the trial of John Demjanjuk which has been ongoing since November 2009 and I learned that the trial has been delayed until May 2011 because Demjanjuk has been hospitialized.  Demjanjuk is being tried in a German court on charges of being an accessory to the murder of around 27,900 Jews, based on the testimony of two survivors that it was the Ukrainian guards who herded Jews into the gas chambers at the Sobibór death camp in German-occupied Poland.  Demjanjuk is Ukrainian but he denies that he ever worked at Sobibór.

Demjanjuk is now 90 years old and very ill; will he survive long enough to be convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his alleged crime? The survivors and the children of the survivors certainly hope so.  They want Demjanjuk to live long enough to be convicted so that he can die alone in prison without the love and support of his family.

(more…)

February 24, 2011

Will 90-year-old John Demjanjuk live long enough for a third trial?

John Demjanjuk, now 90-years-old, is currently on trial in Germany, charged with being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Dutch Jews at the Sobibor death camp in 1943. Demjanjuk was previously tried and convicted over 20 years ago in an Israeli court after he was identified by eye witnesses as a Ukrainian guard nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” at Treblinka. He spent 7 years in prison in Israel before he won the case on appeal.

John Demjanjuk as a young man and in a courtroom today

A verdict in the current case is expected in late March this year, but if 90-year-old Demjanjuk is still alive, he could be brought in on a stretcher to another courtroom in Spain for a third trial.

In January 2011, a Spanish judge indicted Demjanjuk on charges of being an accessory to genocide and Crimes against Humanity, based on the accusation that he was a guard at the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Germany. The Spanish are expected to have Demjanjuk extradited to Spain when the German trial ends.

“Crimes against Humanity” is a new crime that was made up specifically for the Germans in the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal after World War II ended. Genocide is also a concept that did not exist before the Holocaust. As far as I know, no one claims that there was a gas chamber at the Flossenbürg camp in Germany.  On the other hand, it is officially accepted that Sobibor was a “death camp,” built by the Nazis in March 1942, for the sole purpose of killing European Jews in gas chambers.

The exact number of Jews who were murdered at Sobibor is unknown; allegedly, the bodies were first buried, then dug up and burned on pyres. All the train records are missing so the number of Jews who were transported to Sobibor is unknown. Estimates range from 170,000 to 250,000 deaths in the short time that Sobibor operated as a death camp.  The US Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 250,000 Jews were murdered at Sobibor during a period of only 18 months.

Sobibor was one of the three Aktion Reinhard camps; the other two were Belzec and Treblinka.  Demjanjuk was first charged with being Ivan the Terrible, a guard at Treblinka.  Shouldn’t his third trial be for being a guard at Belzec, not Flossenbürg?

The three Aktion Reinhard camps were all in remote locations, but “each site was on a railroad line linking it with hundreds of towns and villages whose Jewish communities were now trapped and starving” in the spring of 1942, according to Martin Gilbert’s book entitled The Holocaust. Sobibor was linked by rail with many large Jewish communities, including Lublin, Wlodawa and Chelm.

Gilbert also wrote a book called Atlas of the Holocaust which is mainly a book of maps pertaining to the Holocaust.  On page 108 of this book, there is a large map that shows that Sobibor was in the “General Government” which was the name given to German-occupied Poland.  Sobibor was right on the border between the General Government and the Ukraine.

On January 20, 1942, a conference was held in Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, where plans were made for the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” According to the figures given by the Nazis at the Wannsee Conference, there were approximately 5 million Jews in the Soviet Union in January 1942, including 2,994,684 in the Ukraine and 446,484 in Belorussia. There were another 2,284,000 Jews in the area of German-occupied Poland known as the General Government. At the Conference, the Nazis claimed that they were planning to resettle some of the Jews who were living in the General Government into the Ukraine, an area of the Soviet Union which they then controlled.

The three camps, called the Aktion Reinhard Camps, were planned at the Wannsee conference. All three of the Aktion Reinhard camps were located on the western side of the Bug river. On the eastern side of the Bug river was the Ukraine, according to the maps drawn by Martin Gilbert.

Railroad bridge over the Bug river near Treblinka

The photo above shows a one-way bridge over the Bug river that is designed for trains, cars and pedestrians.  When I visited Treblinka in 1998, my private tour guide took me over this bridge.

There must be another way to get to the Treblinka Memorial Site because this bridge would collapse if a tour bus tried to cross it.  I’m not sure if the trains to the camp went over this bridge; the bridge is a reconstruction, according to Martin Gilbert.

So why is this bridge so important?  Being a train buff, I knew that the train tracks in the Soviet Union are a different gauge than the tracks in Poland.  Trains did not cross the Bug river during World War II because the trains would not have been able to run on the tracks across the river.  There is a bend in the river near Treblinka, which required a bridge over the river in order to get to the Treblinka camp, although the camp is located on the western side of the border between the former General Government and the Ukraine.  There were no railroad bridges for trains to cross the Bug river into the Ukraine during World War II, so all train transports to the East had to stop at the Bug river.

After the joint conquest of Poland by the Germans and the Russians in September 1939, the river Bug (pronounced Boog) became the border between the German-occupied General Government of Poland and the Russian zone of occupation. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Germans quickly conquered the territory that was being occupied by the Russians.

Hardly more than a creek, the Bug is shallow enough in some places so that one can wade across it, and according to historian Martin Gilbert, some refugees, from both sides, did wade across. The movie Europa, Europa has a scene in which Jewish refugees are shown walking toward the Russian sector, trying to escape the Nazis in September 1939 by crossing the Bug river on rafts.  The river is shallow enough that trucks could drive across it, and in winter, people could walk across on the ice.

If the Nazis were really planning to “evacuate the Jews to the East” as was claimed in the minutes of the Wannsee Conference, it would make sense to establish three transit camps near the Bug river, which was on the border between two areas that had different size railroad tracks.  If the Nazis were planning to kill the Jews, the gas chambers did not need to be right on the border between German-occupied Poland and Russian-occupied territory.

Martin Gilbert wrote that Jews were brought from the Theresienstadt ghetto, located in what is now the Czech Republic, and from the Netherlands, to be gassed at Sobibor.  Wait a minute!  The Netherlands?  Why would Dutch Jews be transported all the way to Sobibor in what is now Poland to be gassed?  Why not gas the Dutch Jews in the Westerbork camp in the Netherlands and use these valuable trains for transporting goods and soldiers during World War II? Or why not gas them in Germany at the Sachsenhausen camp which was not far away?

According to Dutch historian Johannes Houwink ten Cate, the transportation list of the Jews sent on 19 trains to Sobibor from the transit camp at Westerbork in the Netherlands contains the names and place of birth of  34,000 Dutch Jews, but the names of the Jews sent from other countries to Sobibor are unknown.

This Dutch Historian claims that 33,000 Dutch Jews were killed in the gas chambers at Sobibor and 1,000 were chosen as workers at Sobibor, or to be sent to a nearby labor camp. There were 19 Dutch Jews who survived. So the Germans left 1,000 potential witnesses alive so that they could testify against them?  How stupid was that?

In his book entitled The Holocaust, Martin Gilbert wrote about a survivor of Sobibor, Dov Freiberg, who was a 15-year-old boy on a transport of 2,750 Jews from the town of Torobin in Poland on May 12, 1942. The Jews were assembled in the town square and told that they were going to be “resettled in the Ukraine,” according to Freiberg. They were then taken to the nearest railroad station at Krasnowka, where they were joined by Jews from other nearby towns and villages. When their train arrived at the camp, the story of resettlement seemed to be coming true: a sign at the entrance to the camp said “SS Sonderkommando Umsiedlungslager.” which means “SS special unit resettlement camp” in English.

According to Freiberg, there was a band playing at the entrance. The women and children “went straight to the gas chambers,” but since the gas chamber “didn’t really operate in the night,” the men “stayed there on the spot during the night.” Freiberg was one of 150 Jews from this transport who “were sent to work” in the camp itself, sorting the belongings of the victims.  Another case of the Nazis stupidly leaving witnesses behind.  Were they trying to get caught?

Martin Gilbert wrote that in the month of May 1942, there was a total of 36,000 Jews, from 19 communities between the Vistula river and the Bug river, who were transported to Sobibor and immediately killed in the gas chamber. This was the largest number of Jews gassed that month in any one camp, surpassing Auschwitz, Belzec and Chelmno. The Treblinka camp was not yet open at that time.

Gilbert also told the story of Yaakov Biskowitz, who was sent, at the age of 15, on a transport of 3,400 Jews to Sobibor from the town of Hrubieszow in Poland on June 1, 1942. According to his testimony at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel, Yaakov and his father were among 12 Jews who were selected to work in the Sobibor camp.

As told by Martin Gilbert in his book entitled The Holocaust, Biskowitz recalled how those who were too sick or too old to walk the length of the path to the gas chamber were taken to the so-called Lazarett (hospital) on a small rail spur used to carry coal. Men who could not run fast enough, and small children, would be thrown into the coal wagons and sent to the hospital where they would be shot by the Ukrainian guards.

According to Yaakov Biskowitz, as reported by Martin Gilbert, there were 8 Jews who were forced to work in Camp 3, burning the bodies of the victims who had been gassed. These 8 Jews also sorted the belongings and burned all damaged clothing, personal documents and photographs.

Biskowitz testified at the Eichmann trial that his father was shot at the Lazarett (hospital) because he came down with typhoid. (The German word for typhoid is “spotted fever,” the same as the word for typhus; it is more likely that Biskowitz had typhus, which was a problem in the camps in Poland.)

During World War II, and for years afterward, the Sobibor death camp was virtually unknown. William Shirer did not even mention it in his monumental 1147-page book entitled The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It was not until the release of a 1987 TV movie, Escape from Sobibor, based on a book with the same name, that the public knew of this remote spot where thousands of Jews lost their lives. The movie tells the story of the revolt during which around 300 prisoners escaped; no more than 50 of them survived to the end of the war.

One of the survivors of the escape from Sobibor was Esther Terner Raab, who made her home in New Jersey after the war. In a TV documentary, Esther told about a party that the SS had before her escape. The SS men told Esther that they were celebrating the fact that one million Jews had been killed at Sobibor.

Unlike the other Nazi death camps, the SS barracks were located inside the Sobibor camp. According to Toivi Blatt, the Jewish workers in the camp socialized with each other and sometimes with the SS guards.
Another Sobibor survivor, Moshe Bahir, testified in 1965, at the trial of several of the Sobibor perpetrators in Hagen, Germany, that he was a witness to a celebration by the Germans in February 1943 after one million Jews had been killed at Sobibor. However, Raul Hilberg wrote in his book entitled The Destruction of the European Jews that the number of Jews killed at Sobibor was estimated to be 200,000.

So the SS guards at Sobibor had a party to celebrate killing one million Jews and they invited at least two of the Jewish workers at the camp?  This was the height of stupidity!  And why did they exaggerate the number of Jews that had been killed?  This doesn’t make any sense at all.

Deportations to the Sobibor death camp began in mid April 1942 with transports from the nearby town of Zamosc in Poland, according to Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert. He wrote that Jews from the Lublin ghetto were sent to Sobibor to be gassed, although there were several gas chambers at the Majdanek death camp just outside the city of Lublin.

During the first phase of the extermination of the Jews at Sobibor, which lasted until July 1942, around 100,000 Jews were gassed, according to Martin Gilbert. Their bodies were buried in mass graves, then later dug up and burned on pyres. During the next phase, the bodies were burned immediately, according to Toivi Blatt, one of the survivors of Sobibor. At the age of 15, Blatt had been selected to work in sorting the clothing taken from the Jews, which was then sent to Majdanek to be disinfected.

The survivors of Sobibor do not agree on the number or size of the gas chambers. The victims were allegedly killed with carbon monoxide from the exhaust of engines taken from captured Soviet tanks, which had been stored at Sobibor. There is also disagreement among the survivors on whether these were diesel engines or gasoline engines.

The Sobibor camp was initially divided into three camps (Lager 1, Lager II and Lager III) but a fourth camp was added later to store munitions captured from the Soviet Army. Lager I was where the Jewish workers in the camp lived. A moat on one side of this camp prevented their escape. Lager II was where the victims undressed; Jewish workers sorted the clothing in this camp.

From Lager II, an SS man escorted the victims through a path lined with tree branches to the gas chambers in Lager III. Only the Ukrainian SS guards and the German SS officers were allowed in Lager III, so the survivors could not have known what happened in Lager III.

The Sobibor camp was 400 meters wide by 600 meters long; the entire area was enclosed by a barbed wire fence that was three meters high. On three sides of the camp was a mine field. The watch towers were manned by Ukrainian SS guards who had been conscripted from captured soldiers in the Soviet Army to assist the 30 German SS men who were the administrators of the camp. In 1965, a German court put 11 of the German SS guards on trial; 6 of them were sentenced to prison, and one committed suicide during the trial; the others were acquitted.

The victims arrived on trains which stopped at the ramp across from the Sobibor train station, or in trucks from nearby Polish villages. Most of the Jews were transported in cattle cars, but the 34,000 Dutch Jews who were sent to Sobibor arrived in passenger trains, according to Toivi Blatt. The luggage of the Dutch Jews was transported in separate cars and the victims were given tags which they were told would be used to reclaim their bags. All of the belongings of the Jews were confiscated upon arrival.  According to Toivi Blatt, all documents, photos and personal items were removed from the confiscated baggage and anything that could not be recycled to send to Germany was burned in open fires that lit up the night sky.

The Jews were then forced to walk along the path, called the “Himmelfahrtstrasse” (Street to heaven), which led to the spot where the hair was cut from the heads of the women, and then on to the gas chambers disguised as showers.  Demjanjuk is accused of being one of the Ukrainian guards who herded the Jews into the gas chambers disguised as showers.

Demjanjuk’s trial is being conducted in Germany where judges takes judicial notice that Jews were killed in gas chambers by the Nazis, so no proof is required.  If his attorney were to ask for proof that there were gas chambers at Sobibor, he would promptly be arrested for being a Holocaust denier.  He would have no defense because the Holocaust is considered to be “manifestly obvious” by the German courts and does not have to be proved.

September 27, 2010

German courts now using the “common plan” or co-responsibility charge against John Demjanjuk

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 7:11 am

The trial of John Demjanjuk in a German court is on again, after a summer break.  Ninety-year-old Demjanjuk is accused of being a guard at the Sobibor death camp in German-occupied Poland during World War II. Although there are no specific charges against him, he is accused of being an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews who were gassed at Sobibor. Demjanjuk denies that he worked as a guard at Sobibor.   (more…)

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