Scrapbookpages Blog

February 6, 2016

Holocaust survivor who was on Schindler’s List

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

I have a section on my website about Schindler’s List, which you can read at

Oskar Schindler

Oskar Schindler

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

Rena Finder greets Steven Spielberg Photo credit: Reuters

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

The following quote is from the news story cited above:

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

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

[You can read about Hilde Albrecht and Oskar Schindler on Wikipedia at ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

End quote

I have written several blog posts which are under the tag Schindler’s List:

January 3, 2016

Holocaust survivor says that Auschwitz was liberated by the British

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 7:08 am

The Hollywood Reporter [an American newspaper] is commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust with a feature on 11 survivors who went on to careers in American entertainment. You can read the article in full at

This quote is from the news article, cited above:

Branko Lustig, 83, Academy Award-winning producer of films like Schindler’s List and Gladiator

When the British army liberated Auschwitz, where Lustig was a prisoner at age 12, the sound of their bagpipes made him think that he “had died finally, and that was the angels’ music in heaven.”

Years later, he met Spielberg when the director was developing Schindler’s List.

“He kissed my number [from the concentration camp, tattooed on Lustig’s arm] and said, ‘You will be my producer.’ He is the man who gave me the possibility to fulfill my obligation,” Lustig says.

So that is where Spielberg got all of his misinformation about the Holocaust!  From a man who was liberated by the British at Auschwitz.

To be fair, this survivor might have been a prisoner in Bergen-Belsen where he was liberated by British soldiers after he had been marched out of Auschwitz just before Soviet soldiers arrived to liberate the camp.

Obelisk in honor of the non-Jewish prisoners who died at Buchenwald

Obelisk in honor of the non-Jewish prisoners who died at Buchenwald

I have written about the death statistics at Buchenwald on my website at

To get back to the news article this quote tells about another Holocaust survivor:

Begin quote

Bill Harvey, 91, cosmetologist to the likes of Judy Garland, Mary Martin, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Liza Minelli

After being transported from Auschwitz to Buchenwald on a frigid cattle car, Harvey fell unconscious and was left for dead in a pile of corpses stacked by the crematorium. Someone pulled him out days later. He was 21 years old and weighed about 72 pounds.

“My humble explanation for all the tragedies and the bad people who want just to kill is that maybe there have to be some bad things in order to appreciate all the good things that this world gives you,” Harvey says.

End quote

According to a booklet that I obtained in 1999 from the Buchenwald Memorial Site, which was written by Sabine and Harry Stein, “A total of 11,000 Jews lost their lives in Buchenwald. Out of the 13,969 inmates who died in 1945, there were 7,000 Jews.”

The booklet written by Sabine and Harry Stein states that, in addition to the number of recorded deaths at Buchenwald, “More than 8,000 Soviet prisoners of war were shot in the stable. An estimated number of 1,100 people were executed in the crematorium and an estimated number of between 12,000 and 15,000 people were dead upon arrival from the camps in the east or fell victim to the evacuation marches. This gives a total number of approximately 56,000 persons killed.”



May 14, 2011

Spielberg’s documentary “The Last Days”

Filed under: Dachau, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 5:22 pm

Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning documentary entitled “The Last Days” is under attack by the website  You can read here the questions that the webmaster Eric Hunt has raised about the stories told by the Hungarian Holocaust survivors in the film. Four of the Hungarians featured in the film survived Auschwitz and one was a survivor of Dachau.

The film opens with the story of Bill Basch, who survived ONE WHOLE WEEK of imprisonment in the Dachau camp.  When the film was first released in 1999, I purchased the book entitled “The Last Days” which tells the stories of the survivors in the film in great detail.  According to the book, Basch was captured while he was working in connection with Raoul Wallenberg in Hungary.  His work for Wallenberg consisted of printing and delivering the passports that Wallenberg gave to the Jews to save them from being sent to a concentration camp. But Basch was actually working with an organization of young boys who duplicated the passports and secretly handed the forged papers out to others.

After Basch was captured, he was sent on a crowded transport train to the Buchenwald camp. At Buchenwald, he volunteered to work with the “10th German Railroad Brigade,” a fancy title which the Germans gave to a group of young boys who were sent out to repair the railroad tracks just after the tracks had been bombed by Allied planes.

This quote is from Bill Basch’s story in the book “The Last Days”:

Even if we survived the Germans, we were in danger from Americans who flew reconnaissance planes to see whether their mission had been successful.  They came down quite low and could see us fixing the railroads that some fliers had risked their lives to bomb.  I think half of us were killed by the Americans.

So the Americans were killing Jews, as well as Germans, as they bombed and strafed everything in Germany to win the war?

Here is another quote from Bill Basch, which is included in the book:

I did this work (repairing the railroads) from December 1944 to March 1945, by which time there were only about forty of us left and the SS made the decision to execute us all.  But some soldiers made a deal with the SS that they would take over our group and march us into a camp (Dachau); not because they were good, but because, knowing that the war was nearly lost, they wanted us to testify that they had saved our lives.

So German soldiers feared that they would be killed by the Americans after Germany lost the war, and they needed Jews to save them by testifying that the soldiers had saved Jewish lives?

In the documentary, a photo of the “death march” OUT of Dachau, just before the Americans arrived, is claimed to be the march TO the camp by the group that Bill Basch was with.  I recognized the photo and was confused about this part of the story.

When the film was released in 1999, Bill Basch was a successful businessman in Los Angeles, CA. As the film opens, we see Bill looking out the window of a train; the scenery is the pristine landscape of Bavaria.  I have been on similar train trips and I have always marveled at the beautiful houses and farms with not a weed in sight.

Bill begins by saying that, in the last days of the war, the Germans were using scarce resources and trains to send the Hungarians to concentration camps even though Germany was losing the war.  He says that killing the Jews was more important to the Germans than winning the war.

In the documentary, there is a dramatic scene that shows Bill Basch walking with his son into the Dachau Memorial Site, through the Arbeit Macht Frei gate.  However, when this scene was filmed, there was a high wall in front of this gate and it was not possible to enter the camp this way.  Obviously, Bill and his son entered on the other side of the camp, just like the other visitors that day and then walked through the gate, turned around at the wall and walked back through the gate into the camp so that  Spielberg could film his dramatic entrance.  This is a very small point, but it illustrates how the whole film is disingenuous.  Why not show the wall and tell viewers of the film that this wall was built by the Americans who took over the Dachau camp and stayed there for 28 long years.

The documentary shows a lot of footage about the Dachau camp, even though Bill Basch was only there for around one week before the camp was liberated.  Bill is shown looking at the cremation ovens at Dachau, as he says that the burning of the bodies was “the most monstrous thing ever devised.”  There is no explanation for why the Germans devised this “monstrous thing.”  The bodies were burned as part of the effort to prevent a typhus epidemic. During World War I, there were four million people who died of typhus in Poland.  A typhus epidemic got started at Dachau in December 1944 after prisoners were brought from the camps in Poland to Dachau.  By that time, the Germans were running out of coal and could no longer burn the bodies.

Curiously, the gas chamber at Dachau is not shown, nor mentioned, in the film.  It is in the same building as the ovens. At the time that this film was made, there was a sign in the gas chamber which said in five languages that the gas chamber was never used.  Maybe the Museum director would not let Spielberg remove the sign in order to film the gas chamber.

In the film, Bill Basch shows his son the entrance to the area outside the Dachau camp where the building with the ovens is located. Wait a minute! That entrance was not there when the camp was in operation.  It was added later for the benefit of the tourists.  Did Spielberg do any research at all before shooting this film?

Basch tells his son that his job in the Dachau camp was to collect the dead bodies and deliver them to the entrance (which didn’t exist when he was a prisoner there), but he was never allowed to enter the area where the crematorium is located.  He explains that prisoners who entered this area never got out because the Nazis never allowed any witnesses to live.

So the evil Nazis killed anyone who saw the ovens?  Why?  Cremation was not a crime.

It would make sense if the Nazis killed the prisoners who saw the gas chamber, but the Dachau gas chamber is not mentioned in the documentary.  Of course, Bill Basch is totally wrong about the prisoners never being allowed into the area where the ovens are located. The bodies were shoved into the ovens by workers who were prisoners.

I was amazed to hear Bill Basch say in the documentary that  he heard the sound of machine guns on the day the Dachau camp was liberated.  He obviously heard the sound of the machine guns as the American liberators shot German soldiers who had their hands in the air.  In the film, Basch says that the Americans held guns on the guards, but didn’t kill them.  He says that the American liberators turned the guards over to the prisoners instead. A short film clip is shown in which prisoners are pulling the hair of a couple of the guards, as Basch says that the prisoners “tore them limb from limb.” The film clip stops before showing that some of the guards were beaten to death by the prisoners, which is what really happened.

I was just starting to study the Holocaust when I saw this film, and it was very confusing to me.  For example, Irene Zisblatt, one of the Hungarian survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, says that the Nazis wanted to have control over when the prisoners would die. Whenever a prisoner would commit suicide by touching the electrified barbed wire fence, the Nazis would shoot 100 prisoners in reprisal, according to Irene.  She did not explain why the Germans would waste bullets during war time when there were four gas chambers at Birkenau plus two old houses that were also used for gassing.

In the documentary, it is pointed out that the Hungarian Jews who were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau were gassed immediately upon arrival.  Just after this was mentioned, the vastness of the Birkenau camp is shown with an aerial shot of row after row of wooden barracks.  At the time that the Hungarians arrived, the camp was being expanded and more barracks were under construction.  None of the survivors of Auschwitz say anything in the film about what kind of work they did in the camp, nor even if they worked while they were there.  This was what confused me.  Why so many barracks if the prisoners were immediately gassed upon arrival, and why weren’t these survivors killed?

Dr. Josef Mengele is not mentioned in the documentary, but we are introduced to Dr. Hans Münch, a kindly looking old man who was still living when the documentary was filmed.  We are told that Dr. Münch was the head of the Clinical Institute at Auschwitz and that he did sterilization experiments on women.  A picture of Block 10 at the main Auschwitz camp is shown; this is where the experiments on women took place.

Dr. Münch said that the women were sent to the gas chamber when the experiments were completed. He explained that the experimental subjects were “secret-bearers” who could not be allowed to live because they were witnesses.

Dr. Münch says in the documentary that someone came to him and asked him to use his influence to save the subjects of the experiments from the gas chamber.  He claims that he saved some of the women by doing endless experiments on them.  Dr. Münch was put on trial after the war, but he was acquitted because he had saved his subjects from the gas chamber by continuing to experiment on them.

One of the survivors featured in the documentary is Renee Firestone who goes to the office at the Auschwitz main camp where she looks up her sister Klara in the card files.  Kindly Dr. Münch tells Renee that Klara’s file card shows “nothing important,” and “everything was good” as far as what happened to her. Klara had been given a “blood test.”

Renee found nothing in the card files on her mother because the prisoners who were sent immediately to the gas chamber were never registered.  Neither were the prisoners who were transferred to a sub-camp.  Auschwitz functioned as a transit camp, as well as a “death camp.”  Prisoners were never taken directly to a sub-camp.  Prisoners were taken by train to Auschwitz where they had a shower and their heads shaved before being sent on to a camp in Germany or to a sub-camp.  This is why there are no records of who was gassed and who was sent to another camp.

January 14, 2011

“How I escaped from the gas chamber” and other lies told by Irene Zisblatt

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:12 am

Last night, I watched a new documentary entitled The Last Days of the Big Lie which you can see on the Internet here.  The title is a spoof of Steven Spielberg’s Academy award winning documentary entitled The Last Days.

Irene Zisblatt is prominently featured in the new documentary, as she tells the story of how she escaped from a gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Remarkably, Irene tells her story without showing any emotion.  If I had narrowly escaped from a gas chamber, I would not be able to tell the story without crying like John Boehner.   Irene shows no hatred of the people who persecuted her, nor does she even blame them; she exhibits no emotion at all.

For 50 years, Irene kept quiet about her time in Auschwitz-Birkenau, but in 1994, after Steven Spielberg’s movie Schindler’s List came out, she decided to tell her story. In 1995, she was interviewed for 3 hours by Jennifer Resnick while her testimony was videotaped for Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. Part of this interview is shown in the new documentary.

As a result of her Shoah interview, Irene was chosen as one of five Hungarian survivors to be featured in Spielberg’s documentary, The Last Days, which was released in 1998. A book, also entitled The Last Days, was published in 1999.  I saw the movie and also bought the book.

Irene Zisblatt points to the spot where her tattoo was removed by Dr. Mengele

The photo above shows Irene Zisblatt in 2009, as she addresses students from Fairland High School, telling them about what happened to her at Birkenau and other Nazi camps. She is pointing to the spot under her arm where her tattoo was removed in an experiment done by Dr. Josef Mengele.

Other survivors of the Holocaust had numbers tattooed on their left forearm, but not Irene.  She was tattooed under her arm, like the SS men who were tattooed with their blood type.   Dr. Mengele himself did not have an SS blood type tattoo, so why was he concerned with ways to remove a tattoo?

Irene Zisblatt wrote a book, published in 2008, entitled The Fifth Diamond. The title refers to a necklace with four diamonds, set into a pendant, that she wears around her neck when she speaks to American school children about the Holocaust. As a survivor, Irene is the Fifth Diamond.

In the documentary The Last Days, Irene tells about how her mother gave her the diamonds before the family was sent to the Auschwitz death camp. She managed to keep them through all the time that she was in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and on a death march out of another camp, by swallowing them before being searched, excreting them, cleaning them and then swallowing them again. She said in her Shoah interview that she sometimes cleaned her diamonds “in the soup we were going to get.”

In the documentary, we hear Irene tell about why her mother gave her the diamonds.  Her mother told Irene that she might need them to bribe someone for bread so that she would not starve to death.  Apparently Irene never went hungry in the camp and she was able to keep all of her diamonds.  How were the rest of the family members planning to survive if Irene had all the diamonds?  Irene does not explain this.

Irene was from the small resort town of Polena in the Carpathian mountains; when Irene was a child, Polena was in Hungary. There were 62 Jewish families in the town; her father owned a business, but they had no electricity in their house, according to Irene. This was not unusual in those days; many towns in Eastern Europe had no running water and no electricity.  Irene now lives in a nice house in Florida, where her interview for the Shoah Foundation was filmed.

After Germany invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944, Irene and her family were put into the Miskolc ghetto. Irene was 13 years old when she was put on a train from the Miskolc ghetto to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during the deportation of the Hungarian Jews in May 1944. She says that she was immediately separated from her family and she was the only one of her 40 family members to survive the gas chambers.

According to her story in the book entitled The Last Days, Irene’s father was born in 1908, so he was 36 years old in 1944, young enough to be selected for work at Birkenau. In the selections upon arrival at Birkenau, everyone older than 45 or younger than 15, was sent immediately to the gas chamber. Irene says that her entire family was gassed in Gas Chamber #2 on the day that they arrived, including her parents who were of working age.

Remarkably, Irene was not gassed, along with the rest of her family members, even though she was only 13 years old at that time.

Jews getting off a train at Birkenau in 1944

The photo above is from the Auschwitz Album, a series of photographs taken by the Germans in May 1944.  In the background, one can see the chimney of Krema II on the left side.  Krema III is shown on the right side, about one inch from the edge of the photo.  Krema III is also shown in the photo below. Note the ten-foot-high fence around the building and the railroad tracks just outside the fence.  In her Shoah interview, Irene Zisblatt claimed that she was thrown over the fence around Krema III and into an open railroad car.

Crematorium III (Krema III) at Birkeanau, 1944

Fence inside Birkenau divides sections of the camp

The photo above was taken by me in 2005; it shows how the fence posts curve over and barbed wire is strung over the top of the posts.

In her story of her escape from the gas chamber, Irene says that, when she was taken to the gas chamber, the room was full and she got stuck in the door.  An SS man had to fling her out of the doorway in order to shut the door.

Irene hid in the rafters until a young boy came to rescue her.  He wrapped her in a blanket and threw her over the fence around Crematorium III, into an open railroad car that was waiting on the tracks.  The train was bound for the Neuengamme camp where prisoners were being sent to work in a factory.

There are no open railroad cars shown in the photos taken in 1944 at Birkenau, but there were open cars on the “Death Train” at Dachau, which are shown in the photo below.

Open railroad cars on the “Death Train” at Dachau

Irene says that she was around 4 feet tall and weighed 60 lbs. at the time that she was thrown over the 10 ft. fence into a railroad car.  This would have been quite a feat, but not necessarily impossible.

Could Irene’s story of her escape from the gas chamber possibly be true?  I don’t think so, and here’s why:  When prisoners were taken to the gas chamber at Birkenau, they entered through the undressing room, where they took off their clothes.  Irene says that she was naked when she got stuck in the gas chamber door, but she does not mention that she entered through the undressing room.  If there were too many prisoners taken to the gas chamber that day, Irene would have been stuck in the door into the undressing room, not in the gas chamber door.  The photo below shows a model of the gas chambers at Birkenau.

Model of Krema II at Birkenau

In the photo above, the undressing room is on the left and the gas chamber is on the right.  The photo at the bottom of the picture shows the cremation ovens that were on the ground floor. The Sonderkommando prisoners, who carried the bodies out of the gas chamber for burning, lived in the attic space above the ovens.

In her video taped Shoah interview, Zisblatt told about being selected for an inspection by Ilse Koch who was looking for “unblemished skin” in order to make leather lampshades. Ilse Koch was the infamous wife of Karl Otto Koch, the Commandant of Buchenwald. Zisblatt and several other girls were allegedly sent on a train to the Maidanek camp in Lublin where Ilse Koch was expected to arrive, but she never made it.

So what’s wrong with this story?  Ilse Koch wanted tattooed skin for her lampshades, not the unblemished skin of a teenaged girl.  There were plenty of criminals at Buchenwald who had tats, and she didn’t need to go all the way to Poland to find subjects for her lampshades.

Irene pronounced the name Koch like a native German speaker; she also referred to the Majdanek camp as Maidanek, the German name.

You can hear more of Zisblatt’s incredible lies here.