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August 8, 2014

Taking photos at Auschwitz is now forbidden in certain places

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:36 am
"Selfie" taken at Auschwitz main camp

“Selfie” taken at Auschwitz was put on Twitter

I have been reading about the young American girl who took a “selfie” at the Auschwitz main camp and then put the photo on Twitter. She has been widely criticized for this, but I see nothing wrong with the photo. It shows a pretty girl with some beautiful brick buildings in the background.  What’s wrong with that?

You can read about the outrage caused by the “selfie” here.

One of the news stories, which you can read in full here, says that photos are now forbidden in the exhibit room, at Auschwitz, where hair, cut from the heads of the Jew, is shown. On my first trip to Auschwitz in 1998, I could not get close enough to take a photo of the hair that is displayed in a large glass case, because of the large crowd of tourists, but I did take a photo of the hair in a small glass case, which is shown below.  I also took a photo of the shoes that are on display.

Human hair was made into cloth at Auschwitz

Human hair was made into cloth at Auschwitz

Shoes worn by the prisoners at Auschwitz are on display

Shoes worn by the prisoners at Auschwitz are on display

Photos in the basement of Block 11 and in the gas chamber are also forbidden now, according to the news article.

I am very glad now that I got to see Auschwitz in 1998 and again in 2005; I was allowed to take photos of everything.  You can see all of my 2005 photos on my website here.

I think that the reason that photos of some things at Auschwitz are forbidden is because there are millions of tourists now visiting the camp, and the crowds must move along quickly; taking photos would hold up the long lines of people creeping along at a snail’s pace.

But there could be other reasons why certain things cannot be photographed at Auschwitz. For example, the reconstructed “standing cells” in the basement of Block 11 look very suspicious to me. These cells were reconstructed by the Soviets, long after they had been torn down, on the orders of the Auschwitz camp commandant.

Standing celll that was reconstructed at Auschwitz

Standing cell has been reconstructed at Auschwitz

My 1998 photograph above shows the reconstructed entrance to one of the 4 standing cells (Stehzellen) in prison cell #22 in the basement of Block 11. These 4 cells were 31.5 inches square; there was no light coming in at all, and no heating or cooling system.

Prisoners had to crawl into the cell through a tiny door, as shown in the photo above. Metal bars at the entrance allowed guards to open the door and look inside the cell. There was no room to lie down, nor to sit down in the cell; prisoners had to stand up. The floors of these cells were covered with excrement left by the occupants.

Prisoners who were being punished were put into these cells at night, and in the morning taken out to perform a full 10-hour day of work. This punishment was usually given to prisoners who had tried to sabotage the work done in the factories at Auschwitz.

The reconstructed door, which is shown in my photo above, opens into Cell #2; there is another cell to the right of the door, which you can see in the photo. To the left in the picture above, you can see the edge of the door into Cell #1 on the left, which gives you an idea of how small these cells were. Imagine the problem of removing a dead body from one of these cells!

After Arthur Liebehenschel replaced Rudolf Hoess as the camp commandant on December 1, 1943, he ordered the standing cells to be torn down. The standing cells have been partially reconstructed.

I previously blogged here about a prisoner named Eleanor Hodys, who claimed to have been kept in a standing cell at Auschwitz for nine weeks.

Door into Cell #27 in basement of Block 11

Door into Cell #27 in basement of Block 11

If photos are not allowed now, in the basement of Block 11, that means that photos of Cell #27 cannot be taken anymore.

In October 1998, I took a tour of the Auschwitz I camp and saw the basement inside  Block 11.

According to my tour guide, on Sept. 3, 1941, the Nazis conducted the first mass killing of people using Zyklon-B in prison cell number 27 in Block 11. Adolf Eichmann was visiting the Auschwitz camp on that day, although Commandant Rudolf Höss was away on business, according to the Auschwitz Museum guidebook. Since 1939, Adolf Eichmann had been the head of Department IV, B4 in the Reich Central Security Office (RSHA); Eichmann’s department was in charge of getting rid of the Jews in Europe.

Karl Fritzsch, the camp commander and the deputy of Rudolf Höss, took it upon himself to carry out this first gassing, while his superior officer, Rudolf Höss, was away.

The wooden door of the cell where the gassing took place is shown in the photo above; notice the glass peephole in the door. In 1998, tourists were not permitted to see the interior of the cell.

According to the news article, tourists are no longer allowed to take photos inside the gas chamber in the main camp. This new rule could have been made because it would hold up the lines of people walking through the gas chamber, or it could be because the so-called gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp is too stupid for words.

If you need a photo of the gas chamber in the Auschwitz main camp, check out my photos here.

January 31, 2014

The fate of Eleanor Hodys, according to Nizkor and Wikipedia

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:26 am

This morning, I had to do some research on Dr. Konrad Morgen, the SS judge, who was mentioned in a comment on my blog. The person, who commented, found it strange that an SS judge would be given the task of investigating murder in the concentration camps, when the sole purpose of the camps was to murder the prisoners.

In my research, I read Wikipedia’s page on Dr. Morgan, where I found this quote:

Though [Dr. Morgen] discovered early on that the Final Solution of the Jewish problem through physical extermination was beyond his jurisdiction, and discovered no legal objections to large-scale, centrally-authorized anti-Jewish operations like Harvest Festival [the execution of Jews at Majdanek], Morgen went on to prosecute so many Nazi officers for individual violations that by April 1944, Himmler personally ordered him to restrain his cases.[4]

Nonetheless, [Dr. Morgen] went on to investigate Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Höss on charges of having “unlawful relations” with a beautiful Jewish woman prisoner, Eleanor Hodys; Höss was, for a time, removed from his command and these proceedings gained Hodys a brief stay of execution; sent to Berlin by Morgen, then transferred to Buchenwald, she was shot by the SS shortly before the end of the war.[5]

The source [5] for this information is this website: http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/camps/auschwitz/alphabet/judge.html

After Eleanor Hodys was “shot by the SS before the end of the war,” her ghost turned up at the Dachau camp, where she told her sad story to the American liberators of the camp.  Her testimony was included in the book, written by the liberators, entitled Dachau Liberated: The Official Report.

I blogged about the testimony of Eleanor Hodys, as given to the Americans at Dachau, on this blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/more-stories-from-dachau-liberated-the-official-report/

I believe that the American liberators got the story of the standing cells from Eleanor Hodys, and that the claim that there were standing cells at Dachau is based on her story.  The alleged standing cells at Dachau are no longer in existence.

I also blogged about the sad story, told by Eleanor Hodys, at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/did-rudolf-hoess-the-commandant-of-auschwitz-rape-any-of-the-female-prisoners/

March 13, 2011

The mystery of the “standing cells” at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 7:01 pm

Tour guides at the Dachau Memorial Site tell visitors about the “standing cells” which were allegedly located inside the “bunker,” as the camp prison was called.  The bunker is still there, but according to the staff at the Memorial Site, the standing cells were torn down by the Americans who liberated the camp on April 29, 1945.

It would have made sense if the Nazi administrators of the Dachau concentration camp had torn down the standing cells to get rid of the evidence of their crimes, but why would the American liberators of the camp destroy the evidence of one of the worst atrocities at Dachau?  The decision to try the Germans as war criminals had already been made, even before their war crimes had been committed, so why would the Americans destroy the evidence before the men were put on trial?

With all the evidence of the standing cells gone, how do we know that these cells realy existed?

Our knowledge of the standing cells comes from the former prisoners, who testified about them under oath at the American Military Tribunal, which started in November 1945.  Why couldn’t the Americans have waited for a mere six months before destroying the evidence?  They could have at least taken a photo of the standing cells, which could have been shown as proof during the trials conducted by American Military Tribunal at Dachau.

A film, which was made by the Americas on May 3, 1945  showed the Dachau gas chamber. This film was used as proof of the Dachau gas chamber at the Nuremberg IMT.  I know that film was scarce during World War II, but was film so precious that the Americans couldn’t even take one photo of the standing cells?

I took the photo below in the Dachau bunker in May 2001. It shows one of the regular cells and a poster which shows how three regular cells were divided into standing cells. The red color on the walls is paint.

Poster shows how the standing cells were created in the bunker

The walls of the alleged standing cells were made out of wood and each standing cell was 2 ft. 6 inches square. Prisoners who had been condemned to this punishment were put into a standing cell for 72 hours at a time with no light or air.

When I visited Dachau in 1997, the bunker was not open to tourists. It was not until the year 2000 that the bunker was opened to visitors.

According to information in one of the exhibit rooms in the bunker, a Soviet prisoner named Yuri Piskunov, was confined to one of the standing cells for 10 days in October 1944, but there is no mention of what crime he had committed. He had previously been a prisoner in the Mauthausen concentration camp, but was transferred to Dachau in November 1943.

Mauthausen was the only Class III camp in the Nazi system; it was for prisoners who were the worst offenders by Nazi standards. Dachau was a class I prison and was considered much more lenient than Mauthausen.

Piskunov survived and was still alive when the bunker exhibit opened in 2000.  As far as I know, Piskunov did not testify before the American Military Tribunal in 1945; maybe he couldn’t speak German or English, and they didn’t have a Russian translator.

As far as I know, Dr. Neuhäusler, a Catholic Bishop who was a “special prisoner” with a private cell in the Dachau bunker, did not testify in any of the post war trials either.  Dr. Neuhäusler was allowed to leave his cell in the bunker and walk around outside, so he must have known about everything that was going on, inside and outside the camp prison.

Dr. Neuhäusler wrote a book in which he said this, regarding the standing cells:

“the prisoner was compelled to stand for three days and three nights and was given only bread and water; every fourth day he came into a normal cell, ate prisoner’s fare and was allowed to sleep for one night on a plank bed. Then three days’ standing began again. Such were the abominations which the prisoners had to bear from the sadistic Nazis.”

Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, who was an SS judge, did an investigation of the Dachau camp in May 1944 and found everything in order, according to Paul Berben, a prisoner in the camp who wrote the Official History of Dachau. The standing cells must have been built some time after this inspection, as Dr. Morgen would not have tolerated such abuse of the prisoners. Dr. Morgen had arrested 5 of the concentration camp commandants after his previous investigations, and two of the commandants had been executed by the Nazis.

Martin Gottfried Weiss had previously been the Commandant at Dachau and he was the acting Commandant when the Dachau camp was liberated; the new Commandant had left a few days before, with a transport of prisoners, who were taken to a sub-camp in Austria. On November 1, 1943, Weiss had been transferred from the Dachau camp to the Majdanek camp in Poland; he replace Karl Otto Koch, who had been arrested and brought back to Buchenwald to stand trial in a special court conducted by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen.

Dr. Franz Blaha identifies Martin Gottfried Weiss on the right

Dr. Franz Blaha, a former Dachau prisoner who is shown on the left in the photo above, testified at the American Military Tribunal about the standing cells inside the bunker at Dachau. In the photo, he is shown as he identifies Martin Gottfried Weiss in the courtroom.  Note that Weiss is unshaven and looks haggard while Dr. Blaha appears to be in good condition.

Dr. Blaha said that the standing cells were so small that one could not sit down in them, but could only stand up, and possibly just bend the knees a little. Dr. Blaha testified that he himself had never been punished in the standing bunker, but he had brought the dead bodies of Russian and Polish prisoners out of the standing cells several times during 1944 and 1945.  Dr. Blaha also testified at the Nuremberg IMT that he had done autopsies on the bodies of thousands of prisoners who had been gassed at Dachau.

In a pretrial hand-written statement, Emil Mahl, a Dachau Kapo who was on trial himself, corroborated Dr. Blaha’s testimony. According to Mahl’s statement, imprisonment in a standing cell meant eight took place for ten hours during the night, and in some cases, for two to three nights without food or drink.

At the American Military Tribunal, Martin Gottfried Weiss was finally called to the witness stand to defend himself on December 10, 1945, almost a month after the trial began. Under direct examination by American defense attorney Douglas T. Bates, Weiss told about how he had improved conditions at the Dachau camp when he became the Commandant in 1942. He said that he had abolished the cruel punishment where prisoners were hung up by their arms, and also the standing punishment where prisoners had to stand outside for days without food.

In his testimony, Weiss claimed that he was not responsible for the “standing bunker” and that he had heard this term used for the first time at the trial.

According to the Dachau Museum, the Dachau bunker was used to imprison suspected German war criminals between June 1945 and August 1948; as many as five German prisoners were put inside each prison cell in the bunker. Each of these cells was intended to be big enough for only one man, and had only one bed.

The most famous prisoner, among the German war criminals who were held in the bunker after World War II ended, was Erhard Milch, a Field Marshall who was the number 2 man in the German Air Force. He was brought to the Dachau bunker the day after he testified on behalf of his superior, Hermann Göring, at the Nuremberg IMT. Milch was a prisoner at Dachau between 1946 and 1947; his crime was that he had refused to testify against Göring.

Johann Kick, the chief of the political department at Dachau from May 1937 to April 1945, was in charge of registering prisoners, keeping files and death certificates, and notification of relatives. It was also his job to see that executions ordered by the Reich Security Main Office were carried out at Dachau. He was one of the 39 others who were tried by the American Military Tribunal, along with Martin Gottfried Weiss.

Rudolf Wolf, a prominent witness for the prosecution, testified that, after being interrogated by Kick, prisoners were sent to the standing bunker. In answer to a question about the bunker, put to him by American prosecutor Lt. Col. Denson, Kick testified that he “never knew such a thing existed. I found out about it only here.”  Kick also testified that he had been tortured by the American interrogators, but apparently even after being tortured, he would not admit to the existence of the standing cells.

The infamous extermination camp at Auschwitz did have standing cells in the basement of the prison building called Block 11. They were removed after a short time by Arthur Liebehenschel, who was the Auschwitz Commandant from November 10, 1943 to May 19, 1944, but have been reconstructed for the benefit of tourists. The standing cells at Dachau, if they ever existed, have not been reconstructed.

The photo above shows a punishment cell at the Natzweiler-Struthof camp in Alsace. This cell was big enough for a prisoner to sit in, but not big enough for a prisoner to stand up or lie down. Prisoners who broke the rules in the Natzweiler camp were put into these cells for three days with nothing but bread and water. After the Natzweiler camp was closed, some of the political prisoners were brought to Dachau, including the British SOE agent Albert Guerisse, who became the leader of the prisoners group known as the International Committee of Dachau.

After Dachau was liberated, the former concentration camp was turned into War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 and Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen became one of the prisoners. He told historian John Toland that he was tortured by the Americans in an effort to get him to say that Ilse Koch, the wife of the Buchenwald Commandant, had made lampshades out of human skin, but he refused, even after several beatings.

One of the prisoners at Dachau, when the camp was liberated, was a woman named Eleanor Hodys, who had formerly been a prisoner at Auschwitz.  The story of E.H. was told in Chapter 5 of the Official History of Dachau, written by the Americans. (Her identify was protected in the Official History by using only her initials, not her name.) All of the events described by E.H. happened at Auschwitz, not at Dachau, so why was this included in the history of Dachau? Maybe it is because she mentioned the “standing cells” in Block 11 at Auschwitz. Did the Americans learn about the “standing cells” for the first time from E.H. and decide to include them in the list of atrocities at Dachau?

E.H. told the American liberators that she had once been put into a standing cell herself — for NINE WEEKS.  How could anyone survive for nine weeks in a standing cell like the cells that have been reconstructed at Auschwitz?

Eleanor Hodys allegedly had an affair with the Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess, who was removed from his job because of the claims of Eleanor Hodys.  Hoess returned to Auschwitz in May 1944 in time to supervise the gassing of 400,000 Hungarian Jews in only 10 weeks, according to Holocaust history.

The photo below shows a reconstructed standing cell at Auschwitz.  I took this photo in 1998 when I was there with a private guide and there was no one else there, so I could take all the photos that I wanted.

Reconstructed standing cell at Auschwitz

The 1998 photograph above shows the reconstructed entrance to one of the 4 standing cells (Stehzellen) in prison cell #22 in the basement of Block 11. These 4 cells were 31.5 inches square; there was no light coming in at all, and no heating or cooling system.

Prisoners had to crawl into the standing cell through a tiny door, as shown in the photo above. Metal bars at the entrance allowed guards to open the door and look inside the cell. There was no room to lie down nor to sit down in the cell; prisoners had to stand up. The floors of these cells were covered with excrement left by the occupants.

Prisoners who were being punished were allegedly put into these cells at night, and in the morning taken out to perform a full 10-hour day of work. The reconstructed door, which is shown in the picture above, opens into Cell #2; there is another cell to the right of the door, which you can see in the photo. To the left in the picture above, you can see the edge of the door into Cell #1 on the left, which gives you an idea of how small these cells were. Imagine the problem of removing a dead body through the tiny door of one of these cells!

After Arthur Liebehenschel replaced Rudolf Hoess as the camp commandant on December 1, 1943, he ordered the standing cells to be torn down.  Or did he? Were the standing cells at Auschwitz allegedly torn down because they weren’t really there, just like the non-existent standing cells at Dachau were allegedly torn down by the Americans?

I’m suspicious about everything told about the concentration camps.  I’m from Missouri, the Show-Me state.  I want to see the proof!

December 27, 2010

More stories from Dachau Liberated: The Official Report

Filed under: Dachau, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 1:22 pm

Dachau Liberated: The Official Report, a book written by the American liberators of Dachau, was published in 2000.  Chapter 5 of the report was entitled “Rudolf Hoess’ Mistress.”

Rudolf Hoess was the infamous Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  His so-called mistress, a woman named Eleanor Hodys, was a prisoner in Block 11 at the main Auschwitz camp for nine months, but after she became pregnant, allegedly by Hoess, and had an abortion, she was released and transferred to Munich. She was then sent to Dachau, ten miles from Munich, where she was liberated on April 29, 1945.  To protect her identity, The Official Report only gave her initials: E.H.

Eleanor Hodys told the American liberators that she had been a prisoner in Block 11, waiting to be executed at the Black Wall. She said that Commandant Hoess entered her cell on the night of December 16, 1942.

Block 11 at Auschwitz; black wall on the left

The Official Report mentioned that E.H. had been working in the Commandant’s house in May 1942 when she was first approached by Hoess, who kissed her.  She was frightened and locked herself in the toilet.  She reported herself sick and did not go back to his house anymore.

Then one day, an SS officer came to tell E.H. that she should bathe, have her hair dressed, put on her best clothes, and call on the Commandant’s wife on Sundays.  After awhile, the Commandant’s wife told her that she need not come to call on Sundays any more because the Commandant was sick and she was staying with him in another town. Two or three days later, E.H. was told that she “had committed some infraction in the Commandant’s house.”

The house where Rudolf Hoess lived at Auschwitz

E.H. claimed that she wrote letters to the Commandant and his wife and the cook at the Commandant’s house in which she “explained the facts and asked them to take no account of rumors and to do something for me.”

E.H. said that she received no answer, but the next day after her letters had been received, she was sent to Block 11, where prisoners were customarily held to await execution.  This was on October 16, 1942, the day that she was scheduled to begin work in a camp hospital and it had been hinted that she might be released to work in a hospital on the Eastern Front.

So what really happened?  Did Commandant Hoess really try to seduce E.H. or did she do something wrong while she was visiting at the Commandant’s house?  Why did she write a letter to the cook who worked in the Hoess house?

Heinrich Himmler had urged his SS officers to have at least four children and to take a mistress if necessary.  Himmler himself took a young mistress when his wife became too old have any more children.

From the account given to the Americans by Eleanor Hodys, it seems that the Commandant’s wife was O.K. with her husband trying to woo a prisoner by inviting her to visit his house on Sundays.  But then something happened and his wife told E.H. not to come on Sundays any more.

Was rejection of the advances of the Commandant enough reason to condemn a woman to be executed?

In her account given to the Americans, E.H. said that she was “taken to execution.”  She described how an SS man named Gehring had come to her cell (Cell #26) and had instructed her to get ready because she was going to be shot.  But suddenly, two SS men named Maximilian Grabner and Hans Aumeier came into the courtyard to “meet the prisoners” who were walking to the Black Wall to be shot that day.  E.H. said that these two SS men were shocked to see her among the prisoners to be executed and “made everyone go back” to their cells in Block 11.  Grabner called her an hour later and told her that “the whole thing was a joke.”

He “called” her?  Did she have a phone in her cell in Block 11?   The Nazis were some real pranksters, but did they really execute prisoners as a joke?

E.H. was in Cell #26 right next to Cell #27

Maximilian Grabner, head of the Gestapo department at Auschwitz

E.H.’s description of the way that Hoess allegedly seduced her in her cell in Block 11 borders on rape.  Hoess was a nice looking man before he was tortured by the British.  He could have had any woman he wanted, and apparently his wife would have approved, so why did he relentlessly harass E.H. until she finally consented to have sex with him?

Commandant Rudolf Hoess is the man in the center

E.H. said that she was moved to Cell #6 “that one could open and shut from the inside.”  This was apparently for the convenience of the Commandant, so that she could let him in and out of her cell.  What kind of a prison has cells that the prisoners can go in and out of whenever they please?

This quote, from the words of E.H., is in Chapter 5 in Dachau Liberated: The Official Report:

Some days later, he (the Commandant) came again during the night.  He asked then if he should go away.  I said “no.”  He asked me what I had to say. I told him he knew what I had to say.  Then he came to me in the bed, and we had sexual intercourse.  […] All in all we had four or five nights of sexual intercourse.

Photos of Hoess show that he was a well-groomed, fastidious man.  He doesn’t look like a man who would practically rape a woman in a dirty prison cell.

E.H. said that she asked the Commandant what would happen to her if it were discovered that she was having sex with him.  He told her that she should deny it.  Then he advised her to say that she was having sex with a prisoner named Fichinger.  Nothing would happen to her if she were having an affair with a fellow prisoner.  Then E.H. claims that the Commandant “took a sheet of paper out of his notebook” and ordered her to write out  a “declaration” that she “had an acquaintance” with Fichtinger.  Did the Commandant of Auschwitz really carry a notebook with him when he went, in the middle of the night, into a prison cell to have sex with a prisoner?

Later on, in her account, E.H. referred to Fichtinger as her finance, and she mentioned that he advised her under all circumstances not to mention the Commandant’s name. Was E.H. really having an affair with the Commandant, or did she get pregnant by Fichinger and then blame it all on the Commandant?

Was E.H. crazy?  Just in case someone might say that she was crazy, E.H. took care of that little detail in her account.  She said, “I was careful enough to put myself under psychiatric care.”  A Polish camp doctor had treated her in Auschwitz and a “certificate” from him was in the possession of Fichtinger, according to her account.

The important thing about Chapter 5 is that all of the events described by E.H. happened at Auschwitz, not at Dachau.  She mentioned the “standing cells” in Block 11 at Auschwitz and claimed that she had once been put into a standing cell herself — for NINE WEEKS.  How could anyone survive for nine weeks in a standing cell like the ones that have been reconstructed at Auschwitz?

Reconstructed standing cell at Auschwitz

E.H. claimed that she was not told why she was put into a standing cell.  This punishment was usually given to prisoners who had committed a serious crime, such as sabotage.

The Dachau Museum claims that there were “standing cells” at Dachau, although the Commandant and other staff members at Dachau denied this.  The standing cells at Dachau were allegedly torn down by the Americans.  Or did the Americans learn about standing cells from E.H. and decide to include them in the Dachau atrocities?  It seems strange to me that the Americans would destroy evidence at Dachau.

Hans Aumeier, the SS man mentioned by E.H. in her story of almost being executed as a joke, was originally one of the prisoners that was scheduled to be prosecuted, at Dachau, by the American Military Tribunal, but he was cut from the list and sent to Poland instead for trial.  Was he originally included in the AMT proceedings because E.H. had named him?

E.H. also mentioned the infamous hanging punishment in her account.  She said that a prisoner named Bruno Graf died “after he had been hung by the arms for five hours in the sun.”  One of the atrocities that allegedly happened at Dachau was that prisoners were hung by their arms in the shower room.  Did the American liberators learn about the hanging punishment from E.H. or did this really happen at Dachau?

The whole story of E.H., as told in Chapter 5 of the Dachau report, seems suspicious to me.  Why did the Americans seek her out as one of the 20 prisoners that they questioned?  Her imprisonment had been mainly at Auschwitz, not at Dachau.

May 1, 2010

Prisoners tortured in bunker at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:20 am

The tour guides, who show visitors around the former Dachau concentration camp, always mention how the prisoners were tortured in the bunker, which was a prison within the Dachau prison camp. Torture is usually a means of getting a person to confess, and according to testimony at the American Military Tribunal proceedings against the staff members of the Dachau camp, torture was, in fact, used to obtain confessions. But it was the SS men who testified that they were the ones who were tortured to force them to confess, not the prisoners who were tortured.

Room in Dachau bunker where prisoners were interrogated

A sign in the interrogation room in the bunker at Dachau tells visitors that this room had double doors and cavity walls to prevent cries from being heard as the prisoners were tortured. There is no mention of exactly how the prisoners were tortured.

This quote is from a blog about a recent tour of the Dachau Memorial site:

This picture is in the bunker, which was where the “worst” of the prisoners were tortured, often until they died or committed suicide.

I took this photo in the Dachau bunker, May 2001

And this quote from another blog:

The bunker was an area were the SS (protective squad) would brutally torture prisoners. The inmates would often be imprisoned in the bunker for up to eight months. They had little food and no interaction with the outside the world. The cells were extremely tiny and without windows. In the bunker, SS guards would brutally beat prisoners into false confessions or drive them to commit suicide.

Actually, the bunker was where the important prisoners were kept in individual cells at Dachau; they could leave their cells and walk around the camp during the day.  All the cells had windows, as you can see in the photo below.

Dachau bunker is on the right, Museum is on the left

AFIK, the tour guides never mention the names of the prisoners who were tortured. The most famous person who claimed that he was tortured at Dachau is Gustav Petrat, an SS guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp who was convicted of being a war criminal by an American Military Tribunal conducted at Dachau. Petrat wrote a last statement before he was executed at Landsberg am Lech; you can read his statement here.

Gustav Petrat claims that he was tortured by American soldiers at Dachau

Ironically, one of the accused at the proceedings against the staff members of the Dachau camp by the American Military Tribunal, who testified that he was tortured by American military officers, was Johann Kick.  As the head of the Gestapo office at Dachau, Kick was charged with the specific crime of torturing prisoners in the Dachau bunker between January 1, 1942 and April 29, 1945, during which time Allied nationals were imprisoned at Dachau.

Kick testified about being tortured by Jewish interrogators at Dachau on November 29, 1945, the same day that a film about the Dachau gas chamber was shown at the Nuremberg IMT.

The following testimony at the American Military Tribunal is from Johann Kick:

Q: … will you describe to the court the treatment that you received prior to your first interrogation anyplace?

(Prosecution objection as to whether beating received on the 6th of May could be relevant to confession signed on the 5th of November).

Q: … Kick, did the treatment you received immediately following your arrest have any influence whatever on the statements that you made on the 5th of November?

A: … The treatment at that time influenced this testimony to that extent, that I did not dare to refuse to sign, in spite of the fact that it did not contain the testimony which I gave.

Q: Now, Kick, for the court, will you describe the treatment which you received immediately following your arrest?

A: I ask to refuse to answer this question here in public.

President: The court desires to have the defendant answer the question.

A: I was here in Dachau from the 6th to the 15th of May, under arrest; during this time I was beaten all during the day and night… kicked… I had to stand to attention for hours; I had to kneel down on sharp objects or square objects; I had to stand under the lamp for hours and look into the light, at which time I was also beaten and kicked; as a result of this treatment my arm was paralyzed for about 8 to 10 weeks; only beginning with my transfer to Augsberg, this treatment stopped.

Q: What were you beaten with?

A: With all kinds of objects.

Q: Describe them, please.

A: With whips, with lashing whips, with rifle butts, pistol butts, and pistol barrels, and with hands and fists.

Q: And that continued daily over a period of what time?

A: From the morning of the 7th of May until the morning of the 15th of May.

Q: Kick, why did you hesitate to give that testimony?

A: If the court hadn’t decided I should talk about it, I wouldn’t have said anything about it today.

Q: Would you describe the people who administered these beatings to you?

A: I can only say that they were persons who were wearing the United States uniform and I can’t describe them any better.

Q: And as a result of those beatings when Lt. Guth called you in, what was your frame of mind?

A: I had to presume that if I were to refuse to sign I would be subjected to a similar treatment.

Dr. Wilhelm Witteler, who was accused by the American Military Tribunal of making leather goods out of human skin at Dachau, also testified that he signed his confession after being tortured.

Another torture that is always mentioned by the tour guides at Dachau is the standing cells.  The standing cells, which were in the bunker, were made of wood and they were torn down by the American military after Dachau was liberated, according to the Dachau Museum. Both Johann Kick and Martin Gottfried Weiss, the Commandant of Dachau, testified  that they had heard about the standing cells for the first time at the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal.

A drawing of the alleged standing cells in the bunker is shown below.

Standing cells in the bunker are shown in drawing

In the Dachau Museum, a whipping block, that was used to punish the prisoners, is displayed. Visitors are told that prisoners were given 25 lashes for such minor offenses as having a button missing from their uniform or putting their hands in their pocket.

One visitor wrote this on his blog:

“In the shower room they had set up a table where they used to whip people if they did anything against the rules. The rules included things such as having a dried spot of water on the bowl you ate out of.”

Former prisoner demonstrates the whipping block

The photo above was taken during the proceedings against the staff members  at Dachau by the American Military Tribunal, which started in November 1945.  Notice that the whipping block is an ordinary table, not the actual whipping block, which by that time was long gone because whipping had been discontinued in 1942.

Whipping block displayed in the Museum at Dachau

What visitors to Dachau are not told is that all punishments at Dachau and all the other concentration camps had to be approved by the WVHA economic office in Oranienburg; Rudolf Hoess was a member of the WVHA staff after he was removed as the Commandant of Auschwitz in December 1943.

At the Nuremberg IMT, on April 15, 1946, Hoess testified that punishment on the whipping block was seldom used and that this punishment was discontinued in 1942 or 1943 because Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had given a new order that the SS men were forbidden to strike the prisoners. Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler mentioned in his book entitled What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau? that this order was given by Himmler in 1942.

Another thing, that the tour guides never mention, is that a section of the bunker at Dachau was reserved for SS men who were imprisoned for committing a crime.  This part of the bunker has been torn down, but you can see where it once stood in the photo below.

The SS section of the bunker at Dachau was formerly located in this spot

The tour guides at Dachau give visitors the impression that the SS men were allowed to abuse the prisoners in any way they wanted to.  There were actually two prisons for the SS men who broke the strict rules in the camps, and one of them was at Dachau.