It’s the beauty that killed the beast:The bravery of Franceska Mann.

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Franceska Mann   (February 4, 1917 – October 23, 1943)

Franciszka Mann was a young dancer residing in Warsaw before the Second World War. She studied dance in the dance school of Irena Prusicka. Her friends at that time included Wiera Gran and Stefania Grodzieńska. In 1939 she placed 4th during the international dance competition in Brussels among 125 other young ballet dancers.She was considered one of the most beautiful and promising dancers of her generation in Poland both in classical and modern repertoire.

 

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At the beginning of the Second World War she was a performer at the Melody Palace nightclub in Warsaw. She was a prisoner of Warsaw Ghetto.

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After  Nazi Germany had invaded and occupied Poland she escaped the ghetto and went into hiding on the “Aryan” site of Warsaw.
In spring 1943 the Germans declaired that all Polish Jews, who possessed visas of the neutral South American counties would be sent there.
Ms. Mann obtained (or forged) one of those visas and then sought refuge in “Hotel Polski”, transformed by the Nazis into the transit camp.

However, the allegedly neutral South American states that admitted numerous Nazi War criminals after 1945 did not lift a finger to rescue their victims, who were deported from “Hotel Polski” first to Bergen-Belsen and then (on October 23, 1943) to Auschwitz.
After the train arrived at the death camp the Jews were told that they were to be “disinfected” before crossing the Swiss border. While some began to comply with the SS orders to undress and enter the gas chamber, others hesitated, unwilling to take off clothes which contained their precious travel documents. As they delayed, the SS assumed more menacing stances, threatening the Jews with guns and finally beating them mercilessly with sticks.
Franceska Mann was a girl of striking beauty and had not lost it completely despite all suffering.

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Thus she attracted the attention of the SS man Schillinger, who ogled her as she undressed.
Suddenly she threw an article of clothing at Schillinger, hitting him in the head. As he opened his holster, Franceska Mann grabbed his pistol and shot twice mortally wounding him; the third shot wounded a second SS man, Emmerich, who later recovered, but was disabled.
Inspired by her courage the fellow prisoners attacked the SS guards and severely injured two of them, but could not do anything against the machine guns and were within minutes shot or driven into the gas chamber.

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Personal belongings- The silent but powerful story of Auschwitz.

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Thousands of personal items snatched from those murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz have at last been returned to the memorial after an exhaustive search.

Items including thermometers, empty bottles of medicines, jewellery, cutlery, watches, brushes, tobacco pipes, lighters and keys are among a huge number of items finally tracked down by researchers from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.

 

In most cases, they were the last belongings of Jewish people taken from them before they were lead to their deaths in the gas chambers at the death camp in German-occupied Poland

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When the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, in January of 1945, they found evidence of atrocities which survived the Nazis’ efforts to demolish the camp.

Among other things, baled (and unbaled) human hair—cut from the heads of murdered females—was found in an Auschwitz warehouse.

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When religious Jews arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, their prayer shawls (referred to as tallesim, tallitot) were confiscated.

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After killing people in the gas chamber, and burning their bodies in one of five crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Nazis (or their Sonderkommando helpers) tossed no-longer-needed clothing into heaps at the death camp.

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After people arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, some were selected for death in the gas chamber.  Those individuals were brought to showers which had numbered hooks for clothes.

People about to shower, after a long journey in a crowded cattle car, were told to remember their clothes-hook number … so they could retrieve their personal items after the shower.

Instead, their personal items were rounded up, after what really happened in the Auschwitz showers, and discarded … just like these heaps of shoes.

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Prisoners of Kanadakommando sorting through the belongings confiscated from Jewish victims at Auschwitz-Birkenau

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Eyeglasses taken from the Auschwitz prisoners before they were taken to the gas chamber. Found after the liberation.

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Karl Bischoff-Architect of Death

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In October 1941 Auschwitz construction chief Karl Bischoff and SS architect Fritz Ertl
were developing plans for a camp to be built about a mile and a half away from Auschwitz, on a site the Germans called Birkenau.

The original occupancy figure of 550 was crossed out and replaced with 744.

The new camp was to hold 100,000 prisoners. The architects built suffering into the plans. Birkenau had no provision for adequate water or waste disposal, and putting so many people together meant that the barracks were breeding grounds for disease. Newly available documents reveal that at the last minute, Bischoff decided to force even more prisoners into each barrack. A handwritten change on the plans shows the occupancy figure of 550 crossed out and replaced with 744.

Surprisingly, the Birkenau camp wasn’t initially designed to take Jews, but Russian prisoners of war.

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in October 1941 Bischoff arrived in Auschwitz, where he became chief of the Central Construction Office of the Waffen-SS and the Police Auschwitz in Upper Silesia (for i. Zentralbauleitung der Waffen SS und Polizei, Auschwitz O/S) that had to implement the planned enlargement of the concentration camp by the creation of a POW camp, which itself later became part of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp.

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He showed his ambition shortly after his arrival by claiming the enormous budget of 20 million Reichsmarks. Unlike his predecessor, Bischoff was an extremely competent and dynamic bureaucrat. Despite all of the difficulties caused by the war, the building activities deemed necessary during the next years were all carried out by Bischoff and his staff. The giant Birkenau camp, the four big crematoria, the technically complicated central sauna, the new reception building in the Stammlager and hundreds of other buildings, were planned and realized.

 

 

For instance, Bischoff laid out the construction plans for the building of Auschwitz II-Birkenau with an original tally of 550 prisoners in each barrack (this meant that each prisoner had one-third the amount of space that he or she was allotted in other Nazi German concentration camps). He changed this tally to 744 prisoners per barrack. The SS designed the barracks not so much to house people as to destroy them.

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In 1943 the chief builder of the crematoria was able to inform his superiors in Berlin about the success of the operation: when the old crematorium in the Stammlagerwas included, 4,756 persons could be burned within 24 hours in five crematoria.

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In 1944, Bischoff was awarded the War Merit Cross, 1st class, but shortly afterward he was informed that further plans for Auschwitz had to be reduced to those facilities considered absolutely necessary. The faltering German position at the eastern front did not favour further development in the area.

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In April 1944 he left Auschwitz and became chief of the building bureau of the Waffen-SS in Silesia and Bohemia at Katowice. He remained there until the end of the war. Although almost all of the archives of the Auschwitz building office fell into the hands of the Soviets after the camp was liberated by the Red Army in January 1945, Bischoff remained in the shadows after the war ended. His involvement at Auschwitz went unrecognized until his death in Bremen in 1950.

 

Nazi camp administration-Documenting the Holocaust.

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The one thing that always puzzled me is why did the Nazi’s insist in having such a thorough administration?

If you are planning to eradicate millions, why document it? I just don’t understand the psyche of it. Of course the Nazi’s didn’t see “the final solution” as a crime but only a method of getting rid of “undesirables” in their society.

Traditionally Germans are known to do everything right and proper,it is still one of their characteristics nowadays. However unfortunately this attitude,(regardless how honourable it is), combined with the ideology of a leader with a warped mind it will result in pure devastation.

This “efficiency” ultimately became valuable evidence.

Below are some of the examples of the admin in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Courtesy of http://www.auschwitz.org

 

Personal prisoner cards

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Report on removal of gold teeth
The reports contain: date, prisoner’s camp number, sometimes the name, number of removed teeth divided to made of gold and other precious metals and a total number of removed teeth. Some reports had two copies.

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Telegram considering transit of Slovak Jews

A telegraom from Slovak railways from October 19, 1942 considering transit of Jews deported to KL Auschwitz through the border station in Zwardoń.

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First page of the camp commandant order from October 4, 1944, enlisting names of Auschwitz SS officers awarded for good service

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Below is the death certificate issued by the Politische Abteilung (camp Gestapo) for Auschwitz Concentration Camp prisoner Janusz Pogonowski. Prisoner no. 253, Pogonowski (who went by the name “Skrzetuski” in the camp) arrived on the first transport of political prisoners from the prison in Tarnów on June 14, 1940.

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He was an active member of the underground camp resistance. He was hanged during a public execution, along with eleven other prisoners from the surveyors labor detail, on July 19, 1943. This was a reprisal for the escape of four prisoners from this labor detail and for contacts with civilians outside the camp.

His heroic behavior at the time of his execution remained etched in the memory of the prisoners. Without waiting for camp commandant Rudolf Höss to finish reading out the sentence, Janusz Pogonowski kicked the stool out from under his feet and hanged himself. He was 21. The certificate “reason of death-sudden heart attack”

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Lists of numbers of prisoners who died in KL Auschwitz. gathered in 4 books. The lists contain: date, serial number, prisoner’s camp number, number of block from where the body was brought and a signature of the prisoner recording the data.

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Auschwitz Death Notice

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Auschwitz II-Birkenau – original blueprints of gas chamber & crematorium II

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The Auschwitz Numbers

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During the Holocaust, concentration camp prisoners received tattoos only at one location, the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. The Auschwitz camp complex consisted of Auschwitz I (Main Camp), Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau), and Auschwitz III (Monowitz and the subcamps).

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Incoming prisoners were assigned a camp serial number which was sewn to their prison uniforms. Only those prisoners selected for work were issued serial numbers; those prisoners sent directly to the gas chambers were not registered and received no tattoos.

Numbers ascribed by camp authorities to those deported to KL Auschwitz became their second name during their incarceration. Being awaken in the middle of the night, they needed to be able to provide their number in German. Those who survived were unable to forget them.

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The prisoner numbers were issued chronologically to the newly arrived in KL Auschwitz, similarly as in the majority of German Nazi concentration camps. Therefore, the prisoner number allows us to determine a specific date of deportation. However, when the camp functioned, there were several number series applied – separate for women and for men, and also for various prison categories-groups. These series were prepared by camp administration, regarding the needs, as new transports continued to arrive. Jointly, about 400 000 of prisoner numbers were issued in all series.

Originally, a special metal stamp, holding interchangeable numbers made up of needles approximately one centimeter long was used. This allowed the whole serial number to be punched at one blow onto the prisoner’s left upper chest. Ink was then rubbed into the bleeding wound.

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When the metal stamp method proved impractical, a single-needle device was introduced, which pierced the outlines of the serial-number digits onto the skin. The site of the tattoo was changed to the outer side of the left forearm. However, prisoners from several transports in 1943 had their numbers tattooed on the inner side of their left upper forearms. Tattooing was generally performed during registration when each prisoner was assigned a camp serial number. Since prisoners sent directly to the gas chambers were never issued numbers, they were never tattooed.

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Tattooing was introduced at Auschwitz in the autumn of 1941. As thousands of Soviet prisoners of war (POWs) arrived at the camp, and thousands rapidly died there, the SS authorities began to tattoo the prisoners for identification purposes. At Auschwitz II (Birkenau), the SS staff introduced the practice of tattooing in March 1942 to keep up with the identification of large numbers of prisoners who arrived, sickened, and died quickly. By this time, the majority of registered prisoners in the Auschwitz complex were Jews.

In the spring of 1943, the SS authorities throughout the entire Auschwitz complex adopted the practice of tattooing almost all previously registered and newly arrived prisoners, including female prisoners. Exceptions to this practice were prisoners of German nationality and “reeducation prisoners,” who were held in a separate compound. “Reeducation prisoners,” or “labor-education prisoners,” were non-Jewish persons of virtually all European nationalities (but at Auschwitz primarily Germans, Czechs, Poles, and Soviet civilians) who had run afoul of the harsh labor discipline imposed on civilian laborers in areas under German control.

 

The first series of prisoner numbers was introduced in May 1940, well before the practice of tattooing began. This first series was given to male prisoners and remained in use until January 1945, ending with the number 202,499. Until mid-May 1944, male Jewish prisoners were given numbers from this series.

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A new series of registration numbers was introduced in October 1941 and remained in use until 1944. Approximately 12,000 Soviet POWs were given numbers from this series (some of the POWs murdered at Auschwitz were never registered and did not receive numbers).

A third series of numbers was introduced in March 1942 with the arrival of the first female prisoners. Approximately 90,000 female prisoners were identified with a series of numbers created for female prisoners in March 1942 until May 1944.

Each new series of numbers introduced at Auschwitz began with “1.” Some Jewish prisoners (but not all) had a triangle tattooed beneath their serial number.

In order to avoid the assignment of excessively high numbers from the general series to the large number of Hungarian Jews arriving in 1944, the SS authorities introduced new sequences of numbers in mid-May 1944. This series, prefaced by the letter A, began with “1” and ended at “20,000.” Once the number 20,000 was reached, a new series beginning with “B” series was introduced. Some 15,000 men received “B” series tattoos. For an unknown reason, the “A” series for women did not stop at 20,000 and continued to 30,000.

A separate series of numbers was introduced in January 1942 for “reeducation” prisoners who had not received numbers from the general series. Numbers from this new series were assigned retroactively to “reeducation” prisoners who had died or been released, while their superseded general-series serial numbers were reassigned to new “general” arrivals. This was the only instance in the history of Auschwitz of numbers being “recycled.” Approximately 9,000 prisoners were registered in the “reeducation” series. Beginning in 1943, female “reeducation” prisoners were given serial numbers from their own new series, which also began with “1.” There were approximately 2,000 serial numbers in this series.

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Beginning in February 1943, SS authorities issued two separate series’ of number to Roma (Gypsy) prisoners registered at Auschwitz: one for the men and one for the women. Through August 1944, 10,094 numbers were assigned from the former series and 10,888 from the latter. Gypsy prisoners were given the letter Z (“Zigeuner” is German for Gypsy) in addition to the serial number.

The camp authorities assigned more than 400,000 prisoner serial numbers (not counting approximately 3,000 numbers given to police prisoners interned at Auschwitz due to overcrowding in jails who were not included in the daily count of prisoners

Czeslawa Kwoka, the 14-year-old”political” prisoner of Auschwitz

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Czesława Kwoka (15 August 1928 Wólka Złojecka – 12 March 1943 Auschwitz) was a Polish Catholic child who died in the Auschwitz concentration camp at the age of 14. She was one of the thousands of child victims of German World War II crimes against Poles. She died at Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, and is among those memorialized in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum indoor exhibit called ‘Block no. 6: Exhibition: The Life of the Prisoners”

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Czeslawa was a Polish Catholic girl, from Wolka Zlojecka, Poland, who was sent to Auschwitz with her mother in December of 1942. She was deemed a political prisoner for living in Zamosc, the location of a future German colony. The cut on her lip in picture two came from being struck by a female Kapo for not speaking German which she did not know. (Speaking Polish was outlawed in 1939.)

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Czesɫawa, was only in camp three months before she perished, less than one month after her mother, Katarzyna Kwoka (prisoner number 26946) did, due to unknown circumstances (there is speculation that lethal injection was used). Both of their names can be found on a list of deceased female prisoners who were thought to be associated with the camp resistance.

The rod in the first picture was used to keep the subject still and at right distance from the camera. Those kind of devices were widely used in early days of photography when the photographic plates weren’t so sensitive and long exposures had to be used.

The pictures were taken by Wilhelm Brasse while, a Polish professional photographer and a prisoner in Auschwitz, working in the photography department at the death camp.

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Edith Stein- AKA Teresa Benedict of the Cross.

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Today is the 30th anniversary of the beatification of Edith Stein by Pope John Paul II.Her story intrigued me, not because I am a Catholic and I pray to saints, but because Edith Stein’s life has remarkable similarities to another converted Jewish woman called Luise Löwenfels, who was deported from my birth place.

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Both women had fled Germany and moved to the Netherlands,in fact they had met while in the Netherlands because the convents they belonged to were only a few miles from each other. And both fates were intertwined.

Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, (12 October 1891 – 9 August 1942), was a German Jewish philosopher who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She is canonized as a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church.

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In the midst of all her studies, Edith Stein was searching not only for the truth, but for Truth itself and she found both in the Catholic Church, after reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila. She was baptized on New Year’s Day, 1922.

After her conversion, Edith spent her days teaching, lecturing, writing and translating, and she soon became known as a celebrated philosopher and author, but her own great longing was for the solitude and contemplation of Carmel, in which she could offer herself to God for her people. It was not until the Nazi persecution of the Jews brought her public activities and her influence in the Catholic world to a sudden close that her Benedictine spiritual director gave his approval to her entering the Discalced Carmelie Nuns’ cloistered community at Cologne-Lindenthal on 14 October 1933. The following April, Edith received the Habit of Carmel and the religious name of “Teresia Benedicta ac Cruce,” and on Easter Sunday, 21 April 1935, she made her Profession of Vows.

When the Jewish persecution increased in violence and fanaticism, Sister Teresa Benedicta soon realized the danger that her presence was to the Cologne Carmel, and she asked and received permission to transfer to a foreign monastery. On the night of 31 December 1938, she secretly crossed the border into Holland where she was warmly received in the Carmel of Echt.

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There she wrote her last work, The Science of the Cross.

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Stein’s move to Echt prompted her to be more devout and an even greater subscriber to the Carmelite rule. After having her teaching position revoked by the implementation of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, Stein quickly eased back into the role of instructor at the convent in Echt, teaching both fellow sisters and students within the community Latin and philosophy.

Even prior to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Stein believed she would not survive the war, going as far to write the Prioress to request her permission to “allow [Stein] to offer [her]self to the heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for true peace” and created a will. Her fellow sisters would later recount how Stein began “quietly training herself for life in a concentration camp, by enduring cold and hunger” after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in May, 1940.

Ultimately, she was not safe in the Netherlands. The Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the nation on 20 July 1942 condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on 26 July 1942 the Reichskommissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts who had previously been spared.

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Along with two hundred and forty-three baptized Jews living in the Netherlands, Stein was arrested by the SS on 2 August 1942. Stein and her sister, Rosa, were imprisoned at the concentration camps of Amersfoort and Westerbork before being deported to Auschwitz. A Dutch official at Westerbork was so impressed by her sense of faith and calm,he offered her an escape plan. Stein vehemently refused his assistance, stating, “If somebody intervened at this point and took away her chance to share in the fate of her brothers and sisters, that would be utter annihilation.”

On 7 August 1942, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was probably on 9 August that Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, her sister, and many more of her people were killed in a mass gas chamber.

 

Karl Gebhardt Medical Experiments

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Karl Gebhardt was Gruppenführer in the SS and Generalleutnant (Lieutenant General) in the Waffen SS; personal physician to Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler; Chief Surgeon of the Staff of the Reich Physician SS and Police (Oberster Kliniker, Reichsarzt SS und Polizei); and President of the German Red Cross.

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He served as Medical Superintendent of the Hohenlychen Sanatorium. As a physician he would have sworn to the Hippocratic Oath ‘First do no harm’

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He was a Consulting Surgeon of the Waffen-SS, Chief Surgeon in the Staff of the Reich Physician SS and Police, and personal physician to Heinrich Himmler.

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Gebhardt was the main coordinator of a series of surgical experiments performed on inmates of the concentration camps at Ravensbrück and Auschwitz.

During the war, Gebhardt conducted medical and surgical experiments on prisoners in the concentration camps at Ravensbrück (which was close to Hohenlychen Sanatorium) and Auschwitz. At Ravensbruck he had initially faced opposition from camp commandant Fritz Suhren, who feared future legal problems given the status of most camp inmates as political prisoners, but the SS leadership backed Gebhardt and Suhren was forced to cooperate.

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In order to absolve Gebhardt for his failure to prescribe sulfonamide for Heydrich, Himmler suggested to Gebhardt that he should conduct experiments proving that sulfonamide was useless in the treatment of gangrene and sepsis. In order to vindicate his decision to not administer sulfa drugs in treating Heydrich’s wounds, he carried out a series of experiments on Ravensbrück concentration camp prisoners, breaking their legs and infecting them with various organisms in order to prove the worthlessness of the drugs in treating gas gangrene.

43-031He also attempted to transplant the limbs from camp victims to German soldiers wounded on the Russian front. The Ravensbrück experiments were slanted in Gebhardt’s favor; women in the sulfonamide-treated experimental group received little or no nursing care, while those in the untreated control group received better care. Not surprisingly, those in the control group were more likely to survive the experiments.

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During the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, Gebhardt stood trial in the Doctors’ Trial (9 December 1946–20 August 1947), along with 22 other doctors.

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He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death on 20 August 1947. He was hanged on 2 June 1948, in Landsberg Prison in Bavaria.

The Vrba–Wetzler report aka the Auschwitz Protocols

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On April 10, 1944 (some reports say April 7), two men escaped from Auschwitz: Rudolph Vrba (Vrba was born Walter Rosenberg in Topoľčany, Czechoslovakia. He took the name Rudolf Vrba in April 1944 after his escape, and changed his name legally after the war.) and Alfred Wetzler. They made contact with Slovak resistance forces and produced a substantive report on the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In great detail, they documented the killing process. Their report, replete with maps and other specific details, was forwarded to Western intelligence officials along with an urgent request to bomb the camps. Part of the report, forwarded to the U.S. government’s War Refugee Board by Roswell McClelland, the board’s representative in Switzerland, arrived in Washington on July 8 and July 16, 1944.

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While the complete report, together with maps, did not arrive in the United States until October, U.S. officials could have received the complete report earlier if they had taken a more urgent interest in it.

In April, 1944 Vrba and Wetzler hid in a woodpile right under the guards’ noses for three days, traversed rugged and dangerous enemy terrain, and solicited the generosity of strangers. After an extraordinary 15-day trek covering 85 miles across occupied Poland, they finally reached people they thought they could help. At the Jewish Council headquarters in Zilina, Slovakia, they described the horrific activities of the Nazis at Auschwitz. Their tale was recorded in the Vrba-Wetzler Report, which they assumed would be distributed to the proper authorities, who would then force the Germans to stop the deportations and executions.

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The men crossed the Polish-Slovakian border on 21 April 1944. They went to see a local doctor in Čadca, Dr. Pollack, someone Vrba knew from his time in the first transit camp. Pollack had a contact in the Slovak Judenrat (Jewish Council), which was operating an underground group known as the “Working Group,” and arranged for them to send people from their headquarters in Bratislava to meet the men. Pollack was distressed to learn the probable fate of his parents and siblings, who had been deported in 1942.

Vrba and Wetzler spent the night in Čadca in the home of a relative of the rabbi Leo Baeck.

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The next day, 24 April, met the chairman of the Jewish Council, Dr. Oscar Neumann, a German-speaking lawyer.

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Neumann placed the men in different rooms in a former old people’s home and interviewed them separately over three days. Vrba writes that he began by drawing the inner layout of Auschwitz I and II, and the position of the ramp in relation to the two camps. He described the internal organization of the camps, how Jews were being used as slave labour for Krupp, Siemens, IG Farben and D.A.W., and the mass murder in gas chambers of those who had been chosen for Sonderbehandlung, or “special treatment.”

The report was written and re-written several times. Wetzler wrote the first part, Vrba the third, and the two wrote the second part together. They then worked on the whole thing together, re-writing it six times.Neumann’s aide, Oscar Krasniansky, an engineer and stenographer who later took the name Oskar Isaiah Karmiel, translated it from Slovak into German with the help of Gisela Steiner.They produced a 40-page report in German, which was completed by Thursday, 27 April 1944. Vrba wrote that the report was also translated into Hungarian. The original Slovak version was not preserved.

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The report contains a detailed description of the geography and management of the camps; how the prisoners lived and died; and the transports that had arrived at Auschwitz since 1942, their place of origin, and the numbers “selected” for work or the gas chambers.

Rudolf Vrba’s sketch of the Crematorium at Birkenau(translated in English)Vrba-Wetzler_report_sketch_(crematoria)

The report provided details known only to prisoners, including, for example, that discharge forms were filled out for prisoners who were gassed, indicating that death rates in the camp were actively falsified.

It also contains sketches and information about the layout of the gas chambers. In a sworn deposition for the trial of SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann in 1961, and in his book I Cannot Forgive (1964), Vrba said that he and Wetzler obtained the information about the gas chambers and crematoria from Sonderkommando Filip Müller and his colleagues who worked there.

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Müller confirmed this in his Eyewitness Auschwitz (1979).Auschwitz scholar Robert Jan van Pelt wrote in 2002 that the description contains errors, but that given the circumstances, including the men’s lack of architectural training, “one would become suspicious if it did not contain errors.

The report was indeed sent to Allies around the world. But to Vrba’s horror, some copies took months to arrive in the right hands, and the most urgent copy was suppressed by Rudolph Kastner, head of the Hungarian Jewish underground, who worried it would destroy a deal he was trying to make with the Nazis. Kastner’s deal eventually saved about 1600 Jews on his “train to freedom,” but according to Vrba and others, the suppression of the report resulted in hundreds of thousands more being deported to the gas chambers.

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The Jews of Europe needed outside assistance, but by then, Vrba and Wetzler had all but given up hope that their report would ever trigger a coordinated Allied response. Copies had been sent to the British, Americans and even the Pope, but nothing had happened. Then, in June of 1944, a copy of the report made its way to British Intelligence. It confirmed growing Allied suspicions that the Nazis were murdering millions of Jews. The document was immediately forwarded to top British and American officials.

On June 15th, the BBC broadcast the horrific details of the report. Five days later, extracts were published in The New York Times. The Nazi secret was finally out. America’s first official response was to threaten reprisals against anyone involved in the Hungarian deportations. The Vatican added the Pope’s condemnation. But despite the Allied pressure, Admiral Horthy, the Hungarian head of state and puppet to Hitler, allowed the deportations to continue. On July 2nd, the US Air Force attacked Budapest, raining bombs on the Hungarian capital. Horthy believed the raid was punishment for his refusal to stop the deportations. But in fact, the timing was a complete coincidence.

 

The execution of Rudolf Hoess-Auschwitz Commandant

Rudolf Hoess the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, is hanged next to the crematorium at the camp, 1947 (1)

Rudolf Hoess (Rudolf Höss) was the architect and commandant of the largest killing center ever created, the death camp Auschwitz, whose name has come to symbolize humanity’s ultimate descent into evil.

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Höss joined the Nazi Party in 1922 and the SS in 1934. From 4 May 1940 to November 1943, and again from 8 May 1944 to 18 January 1945, he was in charge of Auschwitz where more than a million people were killed before the defeat of Germany. He was hanged in 1947 following a trial in Warsaw.

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On 1 May 1940, Hoess was appointed commandant of a prison camp in western Poland. The camp was built around an old Austro-Hungarian (and later Polish) army barracks near the town of Oswiecim; its German name was Auschwitz. Hoess commanded the camp for three and a half years, during which he expanded the original facility into a sprawling complex known as Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

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After visiting Treblinka extermination camp to study its methods of human extermination, Hoess, beginning on 3 September 1941, tested and perfected the techniques of mass killing that made Auschwitz the most efficiently murderous instrument of the Final Solution. He improved on the methods at Treblinka by building his gas chambers ten times larger, so that they could kill 2,000 people at once rather than 200. He commented: “still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process”.

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Hoess experimented with various methods of gassing. According to Eichmann’s trial testimony in 1961, Hoess told him that he used cotton filters soaked in sulfuric acid in early killings. He later introduced hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid), produced from the pesticide Zyklon B. With Zyklon B, he said that it took 3–15 minutes for the victims to die and that “we knew when the people were dead because they stopped screaming”.

In the last days of the war, Hoess was advised by Himmler to disguise himself among German Navy personnel. He evaded arrest for nearly a year. When he was captured by British troops on 11 March 1946, he was disguised as a farmer and called himself Franz Lang. His wife had told the British where he could be found, fearing that her son, Klaus, would be shipped off to the Soviet Union, where she feared he would be imprisoned or be tortured. After being questioned and beaten (Hoess’s captors were well aware of his crimes), Hoess confessed his real identity.

During his trial in Poland, while never denying that he had committed crimes, he contended that he had only been following orders. He had no illusions about the fate that awaited him. To the end, Hoess contended that, at the most, a million and a half people had died at Auschwitz, not 5 or 6 million. At the end of the trial, he requested the court’s permission to send his wedding ring to his wife. Hoess was sentenced to death by hanging on 2 April 1947. The sentence was carried out on 16 April immediately adjacent to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp. The gallows constructed specifically for that purpose, at the location of the camp Gestapo.

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Rudolf Hoess was led out punctually at 10 a.m. He was calm. With energetic steps, almost strutting, he walked along the main camp street. Since his hands were handcuffed behind his back, the executioners had to help him climb onto the stool placed above the trapdoor. A priest, whose presence had been requested by the condemned man, approached the gallows. A prosecutor read out the sentence. The hangman placed the noose on Hoess’s neck, and Hoess adjusted it with a movement of his head. When the hangman pulled the stool from under the former commandant, his body struck the trapdoor, which opened, leaving Hoess hanging.

Rudolf Hoess the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, is hanged next to the crematorium at the camp, 1947 (2)

The priest began to recite the prayer for the dying. It was 10:08 a.m. A physician pronounced Hoess dead at 10:21. His remains were probably cremated.

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