The testimony of Edith Birkin (née Hofmann)

Edith Hofmann was born in Prague in 1927; in 1941, aged 14, she was sent with her family to the Lodz ghetto in Poland. Her parents died within their first year there. When the Lodz ghetto was liquidated in 1944, Birkin was sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz where she spent the rest of her time there working in an underground munitions factory.

After the war she moved to the UK. She went to Belfast by boat to visit her sister; attended high school in Derry. There was a Jewish community there. She followed a teachers’ training course in London. After that she worked in Hendon and Edgware. She married in 1962 to a non-Jewish man,they were unable to have children so they adopted two boys, and a girl. In the 1970s she studied A-level History of Modern Art and went on to take a course in fine art.

Following are some excerpts of her testimonies.

About the life in the ghettos

“So when you came to the ghetto there was this dreadful dreadful smell. It was in the winter, and it was freezing, and you could smell rotten cabbages and beetroot; there was this smell of beetroot. And what we were given was beetroot soup, which I couldn’t eat at first, it was so awful. It wasn’t a sort of good beetroot soup, it was terrible beetroot soup, it was just water with bits of beetroot swimming in it. And I couldn’t eat it for a few days, but then I was so hungry I ate it and didn’t get enough of it. Or it was cabbage soup made of rotted cabbage, and I think we got a loaf of bread a week, and I think a little bit of sugar we got sometimes. And then we got what they called coffee, it was just a sort of brown water, it wasn’t really coffee, and with that you cleaned your teeth and did everything. Another thing I remember on that first day is that cart where they picked up the dead people, you know, when people died they came and collected all the dead people from the rooms, or out in the street, and just shoved them onto this sort of, like a cart, took them away. And people standing outside wailing you know, if a relative died, and get these people to collect them and they stood out there, wailing. It was very very frightening, because people didn’t do that in Czechoslovakia, all this wailing and moaning and shouting and crying and screaming, all that. That was our first day in the ghetto. It was a very very severe winter, and people didn’t have fuel, they didn’t have food enough. They got diseases, they got typhus and typhoid and dysentery and all kinds of diseases. And lots and lots of them died, thousands of people. We… there were a lot of children my own age whom I knew in that same building, and we did sort of… we found a place in the, there was a sort of attic, and we used to gather in the attic sort of place, sing songs and make up plays, and talk, and played games, you know, all kinds of games. And amused ourselves. We never went out for a walk together somehow, for some reason, but I remember being in that attic and singing and dancing a bit, and making our own amusement. In the spring then we used to go for walks; there was a place just outside the ghetto, but it was still in the ghetto you know, it was in the boundary of the ghetto, but it was like a sort of wasteground, there weren’t any houses, and occasionally there was a tree, because I remember trying to eat the bark of it, to see if one could eat it, which you couldn’t. And there were a few trees, yes. So we used to go there, and through the barbed wires you could see a bit of countryside, so we had walks in the spring.”

About Auschwitz

“When we arrived in Auschwitz we all had to get out, and then you had the Doctor there who selected us, who looked at people, and when he saw that you might be useful for work you went one side, and if you were old or ill looking you went the other side, the women were somewhere else and the men were somewhere else, the children were with the women. All different groups of people. And luckily I went with the young and so-called healthy women. I made myself big and tall and strong, soon realised you know it was probably wise to do. So I went with these girls, they weren’t really women they were young girls. I think anybody over twenty had it, you know, because they didn’t need that many for work. So, from what I remember, nobody was over thirty; I never met anybody over thirty after that.”

“Of course we soon realised that there was this big chimney, you know, out of which came a lot of smoke, and the sky was red, the sky was red all the time. And you know, when we asked what it is they told us, and we couldn’t believe it. Well the Germans didn’t tell us, but other prisoners told us you know. ‘What’s this, what’s this smoke, what’s this fire, you know, why is the sky so red?’ What is this all about, you know, we couldn’t understand. But then we were told, very soon we were told you know, and we saw these transports of people coming; they came past us because there was this Lagerstrasse, you know, this road that was going to the gas chamber, from the train, and they came past. All these transports came past us, you know, thousands and thousands of people. And they never appeared again, they just disappeared into this building, you know. Somehow you know, you just got used to it; you were there. It’s more terrifying thinking back on it now, in a way, than then. Again, they said you know, they’re giving us bromide in the soup to keep us calm. But things were so bad, and you lost everybody, that it was just another blow, you know, you just got sort of immune to these things.”

“Auschwitz was very frightening in a certain extent, because it was full of Germans. Because until then we didn’t see a lot of Germans in the ghetto, only occasionally. It was full of Germans and the Germans with dogs, and there were these barbed wires, with electricity in it you know. Discipline, very strict discipline. This feeling of death, all these people going in the gas chamber. It was a very weird place, very weird place. With this atmosphere of death all the time you know, and this unbelievable situation of people being… you could smell, you could smell these people being burnt. All the time you smelt this… it was a little bit like you know, when people used to boil glue, it was the bones that smelt like glue. You had volunteers who would go with the Germans you know, and get a bit of food, and they were what was called the kapo, and the block leader you know. Because every of these huts, it was a block, which was called a block, had a block leader who had a little cubicle all to herself, with the women a woman and with the men a man. Because there were only women in our block, we were separated then from the men, so the men had men and the women had women. And it was like a glass cubicle, so they could see us. And you could recognise them because they were not starved, you know, they looked normal in their faces, in their bodies, they weren’t hungry, they had enough to eat, and they had reasonable clothes on, they had good clothes on. So, you knew who they were, and they were very sadistic and very cruel, and they treated us, the other prisoners, very very badly. They were prisoners like us, but they had privileged positions you see.”

sources

https://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/voices/testimonies/edith/birkin4/atmosphereofdeath.html

https://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Jewish-Holocaust-survivors/021M-C0410X0030XX-0500V0

Transport to Cosel: Limburg Jews on their way to death.

Before I go into the story of the men, who were put on slave labour by the Nazi regime, I will have to explain what ‘Limburg’ is .Limburg is a province in the southeast of the Netherlands and the northeast of Belgium.

I was born and grew up in the Dutch side of Limburg. The most populated part is the south of the Dutch Limburg, it is also the part that looks completely different then the rest of the Netherlands. There are actually hills there. Although I am a native of the province, I was not aware of the fate of these men.

Not all deportation trains with Dutch Jews went directly to the extermination camps and gas chambers. Between August 28 and December 10, 1942, some of the trains to Auschwitz-Birkenau made a stopover in Silesian Cosel (present-day Poland). Here almost all men between the ages of 15 and 55 had to get off the train at the freight station. Where they were put to work.

On 24 August 1942, six hundred Limburg Jews were issued a call-up card by the Dutch police, the municipal police or a constable. They were all under the age of sixty and had to report to the assembly point at the public school on Professor Pieter Willemsstraat in Maastricht the next day.

Only half of them showed up. The group was taken to Camp Westerbork and was largely deported on August 28, 1942. They were part of the first Cosel transport. Another 17 Cosel transports from the Netherlands would follow. Also 21 transports from France and Belgium stopped in Cosel.

The train stopped on August 29 in Cosel, about a thousand kilometers from Westerbork .About 170 men, 75 of whom are Limburgers, were pushed out of the train while being yelled and cursed at . A selection followed, and those who were not been deemed fit for work had to get back on the train. The train continued the journey to Auschwitz ,when it arrived on August 30,1942, the majority were murdered in the gas chambers.

The Limburg men who left Westerbork on August 28 were put on trucks in Cosel and ended up in Camp Sakrau, from where they went to various other camps in the region. Conditions in these camps were very different. The work was very hard, some of the Jewish men died from hunger, exhaustion, illness or accidents.

Abraham Spiero, a survivor who survived a later transport said about the ordeal:

“The train stopped in Cosel. That was a terrible thing there. Humanity stopped here. We, the men up to 50 years old, all had to sit down squatting. When the train had driven away, we were loaded onto trucks like animals.”

The men of the other 17 Cosel transports also ended up in a network of 177 camps near factories and construction sites. Some 1,500 forced laborers make fighter planes and war machinery, they worked in Krupp’s metalworks or IG Farben’s chemical plants.

Others were forced to work in the construction of railways and highways. Which was a big money earner for the German state and the companies.

The men who were no longer able to work were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were gassed.

At the end of April 1943, most of the survivors were sent to Camp Blechhammer. Also father Pinehas Gans and son Philip Gans. They both came from the transport of November 2, 1942. Pinehas and Philip survived for a long time, and end up together in Camp Blechhammer. But when the camp is evacuated on January 21,1945 ,the prisoners are marched to Camp Gross-Rosen by foot. During the march or shortly after arrival at Gross Rosen both Gans men are murdered, on February 5,1945.

The Gans family in 1934 .Right in the picture is Pinehas(Piet)Gans, behind him is his wife and sitting next to him is his son Philip

In January 1945, of the ten thousand French, Belgian and Dutch forced laborers selected in Cosel, about two thousand were still alive. Most are in Camp Blechhammer. Eventually, only 873 men survive, less than ten percent of the men who got off at Cosel. The survival rate of the Dutch is even less, of the 3400 Dutch on the Cosel transports, 193 men survived. This also applied to the Limburg men who started their journey in Maastricht on 25 August 1942. Eleven of the 170 men of this first transport survived the forced labour.

On initiative of some people from Limburg there was finally a plaque unveiled at September 2, 2016 near the former goods store station of pre-war Cosel (Poland) and this as a remembrance of the so called Cosel Transports.

sources

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/artikel/transport-naar-cosel-limburgse-joden-op-weg-naar-de-ondergang

https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/100746/Memorial-Cosel-Transports.htm

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Two sides of the Holocaust-Innocence and Evil.

May 16 is a date which links two events in relation to the Holocaust, even though they are 15 years apart.

Hana Bradyová was born on 16 May 1931 in Prague, the daughter of Markéta (née Dubsky) and Karel Bradyová. Her family lived in Nové Město na Moravě in the Vysočina Region of Czechoslovakia.

Most people will know Hana Bradyová as Hana Brady, her story was brought to light in the book “Hana’s Suitcase” by Karen Levine.

Hana was described as a happy, active and athletic little girl who was very close to her family. Hana was just eight years old when the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. The family’s life became restricted, and they were forced to hand over their radio and other valuables to the Nazis. Their Christian friends stopped playing with Hana and her brother George(Jiří ) , because their parents feared they would be punished for playing with Jewish children. Hana and George remained close and supported one another during this time.

In March 1941, their mother, Marketa, was assigned to a Nazi transport and taken away. Soon after, they were forced to sew yellow star badges to their clothing along with all the other Czech Jews. When one man in town refused to comply, a Nazi officer was furious and ordered the arrests of all the other Jewish men in town. Hana and George’s father Karel was arrested and taken away a few days later, and the two children were left with the family’s housekeeper.

In 1942 Hana and George were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Hana was assigned to the girls’ home in barrack L410.In 1944, Hana was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. While her brother survived by working as a laborer, Hana was sent to the gas chambers a few hours after her arrival on 23 October 1944, she was murdered aged 13. Her body was cremated with other victims in the ovens at the crematorium.

Bruno Tesch

15 years after Hana’s birth Bruno Tesch and Karl Weinbacher were executed, on May 16,1946.

Karl Weinbacher worked at Degesch (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung, which translates as German Corporation for Pest Control) until 1924, and then at Tesch & Stabenow (Testa, for short), where he received the position of manager in 1927, and by 1943 was director and deputy executive under owner and chief executive officer Bruno Tesch. Testa manufactured and sold Zyklon B, which was used control in the gas chambers of Auschwitz to murder people, including Hana Brady. Weinbacher received royalties on sales of Zyklon B.

Bruno Emil Tesch (14 August 1890 – 16 May 1946) was a German chemist and entrepreneur. Together with Gerhard Peters and Walter Heerdt, he invented Zyklon B, He was the owner of Tesch & Stabenow (called Testa), a pest control company he co-founded in 1924 with Paul Stabenow in Hamburg, Germany, which was a major supplier of Zyklon B to the Nazi concentration camps.

Below is the transcript of a statement at the trial of Bruno Tesch.

By

Dr. Bruno TESCH

Dr. Bruno TESCH, having been duly sworn, states:–

My name is Dr. Bruno TESCH, born on 14th August 1890, in Berlin, and living at HAMBURG-BLANKENESE, Wittspark 14.

In 1924 I founded, together with Mr. STABENOW, the firm of TESCH & STABENOW, which, since 1927, has been under the direction of the Deutsche Gasellschaft für Schaedlingsbekaempfung. Our firm had the sole right to supply Cyan-Gas in the form of Zyklon B to the country east of the ELBE. On the foundation of the firm I held thirty-three and a third percent of the shares; in 1927, some time before the alleged suicide of my colleague, STABENOW, I acquired another eleven and two-thirds percent, so that my share was forty-five percent. In 1942 I acquired the remaining fifty-five percent and was therefore sole proprietor of the firm.

In 1933 I joined the NSDAP and in the same year became a supporting member of the SS.

Since 1927 Mr WEINBACHER was the Prokurist of the firm. All incoming orders went through his hands, and in my absence, approximately two hundred days a year, he took over the managament [sic] of the firm. Dr. Joachimhans DROSIHN was the biological adviser of the firm. He, too, was travelling most of the time. Mr. ZAUN was the head book-keeper. Mr. SEHM was a book-keeper. He had no reason to wish me ill; on the contrary he should be thankful as I once helped him in a situation.

I kept no ‘black book’ in which I recorded the misdeeds of my employees. Neither did I keep a sealed envelope about Dr. DROSIHN.

I wrote very exact travel reports about my journeys, which on my return I divided evenly over my secretaries for typing. My private secretary was Miss RATOKE; but also Mrs. UENZELMANN and Miss BIAGINI and the others wrote my reports.

I was never told in BERLIN at a conference, or by any other source, that Zyklon B gas should be used against human beings. I mentioned this fact in none of my travel reports and I have never spread no[r] heard such a rumour in my office.

Except Zyklon gas, my firm also supplied circulation plant for gas chambers of 10 cbm size. Chambers of the capacity of more than 50 cbm are not known to me, and therefore I did not know that the SS was our best customer. I also know nothing of the huge deliveries which we made to AUSCHWITZ in the years 1942-43. Since 1943 all orders of state customers went through the Haupt-sanitaetspark, BERLIN. Our firm never supplied the Wirtschafts-Verwaltungs Hauptaert (WVHA) either directly or indirectly. My accounts books were checked by Dr. PLINKER and I only know the yearly and monthly general balance.

SUMMARY PRODUCTION No. 10

Of sales of ZYKLON B to Concentration Camps during 1942 and 1943, extracted from Exhibits HG and HH.

KZ Camp 1942 1943
DATE Kg RM DATE Kg RM
AUSCHWITZ 6 Feb 480.0 3,038.0 13 Jan 1,004.4 6026.0
9 Mar 516.0 3,266.0 19 Jan 1,026.0 6156.0
3 Jun 50 317.0 29 Jan 999.0 5,994.0
3 Aug 495.0 3,133.0 24 Mar 999.0 5,994.0
6 Aug 1,756.8 11,120.0 10 Mar 999.0 5,994.0
31 Aug 1,008.0 6,381.0 22 Mar 999.0 5,994.0
8 Sep 504.0 3,190.0 29 Mar 1,018.0 6,108.0
8 Oct 489.6 3,099.0 31 Jul 216.0 1,231.0
8 Oct 489.6 3,099.0 30 Apr 1,018.0 6,108.0
28 Oct 1,497.6 9,480.0 17 Aug 810.0 4,617.0
9 Dec 192.0 1,152.0 30 Aug 972.0 5,540.0
7,478.6 44,575.0 14 Sep 999.0 5,694.0
30 Nov 999.0 5,694.0
31 Dec 116.5 699.0
12,174.9 71,849.0
SACHSEN-HAUSEN 10 Feb 72.0 456.0 22 Jan 192.0 1,152.0
25 Mar 96.0 608.0 5 Feb 192.0 1,152.0
24 Apr 96.0 608.0 26 Feb 288.0 1,728.0
15 Jun 96.0 608.0 8 Mar 288.0 1,728.0
18 Jul 96.0 608.0 17 Feb 192.0 1,152.0
13 Aug 96.0 608.0 18 Mar 288.0 1,728.0
31 Aug 96.0 608.0 6 Apr 288.0 1,728.0
28 Sep 96.0 608.0 6 Jul 288.0 1,641.0
28 Oct 96.0 608.0 31 Aug 288.0 1,641.0
6 Nov 96.0 576.0 28 Sep 288.0 1,641.0
26 Nov 192.0 1,152.0 17 Dec 288.0 1,641.0
15 Dec 192.0 1,152.0 31 Dec 33.6 201.0
23 May 118.0 683.0 2913.6 17,133.0
1,438.0 8,883.0
NEUEN- GAMME 3 Mar 24.0 152.0 21 Jan 60.0 360.0
9 Jun 12.0 76.0 29 Jan 60.0 360.0
14 Aug 12.0 76.0 17 Feb 60.0 360.0
9 Sep 36.0 228.0 10 Mar 60.0 360.0
9 Nov 36.0 216.0 10 Jun 60.0 342.0
18 Dec 60.0 360.0 30 Aug 60.0 342.0
180.0 1,108.0 19 Oct 60.0 342.0
31 Dec 7.0 42.0
427.0 2,508.0
GROSS-ROSEN NIL 8 Jan 60.0 360.0
27 Feb 120.0 720.0
8 Jun 124.5 710.0
17 Sep 125.0 713.0
429.5 2503.0
LUBLIN nil 19 Jul 513.0 2,924.0
14 Sep 999.0 5,694.0
31 Dec 115.5 693.0
1,627.5 9,311.0
Signed A. ZAUN.
PRODUCTION No. 10

KZ Camp 1942 1943
DATE Kg RM DATE Kg RM
RAVENSBRUCK NIL 19 Apr 114.0 684.0
10 Jun 114.0 650.0
15 Sep 90.0 313.0
19 Oct 30.0 171.0
31 Dec 3.5 21.0
351.5 2039.0

(Signed) Alfred ZAUN

Hamburg, the 26th of October 1945

Sworn before me Capt. R.A. Nightingale Int. Corps of No. 2 War Crimes Investigation Team this twenty-eighth day of October 1945.

(Signed) R.A. Nightingale

Capt

sources

https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/holocaust/trial-bruno-tesch/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/inside-house-zyklon-b-180965184/

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One in Six Million

The definition of ‘one in a million’ is : a person or thing that is very unusual, special, or admired.

Herman Wertheim was certainly that. However, sadly he was also one in six million. He was one of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.

Herman Wertheim was born on February 17, 1912 in Strijp, the Netherlands . He was the eldest son of Hester and Jacob Wertheim. Herman worked as a tobacco trader for A. J. van Beek in Rotterdam.

Herman married Esther Rosenfeld from Amsterdam on August 4, 1936.

The first child, a daughter whom they called Margaretha Beatrix, died as an infant on 6 February 1938. In 1939 a son was born: Jaap.

During the war, the family went into hiding, all three in different places. Son Jaap is brought to Laren in 1942 at the age of three. He is taken in by the couple Tom and Anneke van Blaaderen. Esther is hiding in Eindhoven with the Hoekstra family in the Fuutlaan and also temporarily with the Boudrez family. Herman Wertheim attempted to flee to England. He ought false work papers for an amount of between 750 and 1000 guilders. Herman Wertheim ended up in Paris in June 1942. On his way to England, however, he was betrayed by a seller of false papers and brought back to the Netherlands where he was charged on 14 August 1942 with ‘unauthorized crossing of the Belgian-Dutch border’. On the same day Herman was taken to Westerbork. From there he was deported on 24 August 1942 to Auschwitz where he was murdered almost two years later, on 15 May 1944. His wife Esther and son Jaap survived the war. Source: Remember the names, September 18 Foundation.

It is impossible for me to remember all the millions who were murdered during the Holocaust. But I believe, remembering the individuals will have a bigger impact.

Herman and I both married a beautiful wife. If I was born in 1912, our fates could have easily been the same.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/29231/herman-wertheim

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/tijdlijn/Herman-Wertheim/01/13520

Richard Glücks-The evil man in charge of the concentration camps.

On May 10.1945, probably knowing that he was close to be captured, by swallowing a capsule of potassium cyanide at the Mürwik naval base in Flensburg-Mürwik,Richard Glücks ended his own life. Although the lack of official records or photos gave rise to speculation about his ultimate fate.

There are many biographies about this man, but I decided to stick with the facts that matter. No matter how you twist or turn it, Richard Glücks was an evil man.

Glucks was a major contributor to the execution of the “Final Solution”—the
destruction of European Jewry. He established Auschwitz, where millions of
Jews were exterminated; was in charge of the construction of gas chambers;
and helped develop the medical experiments program that was carried out in the concentration camps.
In 1942 Glucks was made responsible for a unit of the Economic Administrative Main Office (Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt), which dealt
with industrial companies regarding the use of concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in their factories.

Some might say that Glücks was the worst of them and that he actually eased some of the suffering the camps.

Due to the extremely high mortality rate in the camps around 1942, which of course had a negative effect on the deployment of prisoners as slave laborers, Glücks sent the following memo to all camp commanders on December 28,1942:

“The first camp physicians are to do their utmost with all the means available to them, to considerably lower the mortality rate in the various camps [..] The physicians are to supervise the feeding of prisoners more than ever and submit proposals for improvement to the camp commanders according to policy. These are not to be just put on paper but must frequently be checked by the physicians. [..] The Reichsführer-SS has ordered the death rate be lowered considerably.”

But this was not because he felt sorry for the inmates in the camps, but it was solely for economic reasons.

From 1942 onwards he was responsible for slave labour and the death by work.

In July 1942, he participated in a planning meeting with Himmler on the topic of medical experiments on camp inmates. From several visits to the Auschwitz concentration camps, Glücks was well aware of the mass murders and other atrocities committed there.

On July 8, 1942, Glücks had a meeting with Himmler, Professor Carl Clauberg and others about the intended mass sterilization of Jewish women in the concentration camps. Auschwitz was designated as the camp where Clauberg was to start experimenting with various means of sterilization. Numerous prisoners succumbed to the consequences of these experiments; others endured excruciating pains and were maimed for the rest of their lives. Glücks has also ordered to develop gas cambers in certain camps in order to kill sick and weakened prisoners speedily and efficiently.

Glucks was one of the key figures of the concentration camp system. Together with Himmler and Pohl, he decided how many of the deported Jews were to be killed and determined that the hair of the murdered people was to be collected and made into ‘hair-yarn stockings for U-boat crews and hair-felt stockings for the railroad’.

sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/ss-and-the-camp-system

http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/glucks.html

https://www.tracesofwar.com/articles/4870/Gl%C3%BCcks-Richard.htm

Putting evil into words

They say a picture tells a thousand words. But it never tells the full story. The picture above has a clear description of how evil men can be, below are some testimonies and eye witness accounts of liberators and survivors of the Holocaust.

Gina Rappaport was liberated by the US Army in April 1945, after spending two years in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. After her liberation, she wrote down her story. This is an excerpt of what she wrote.


“After two years the SS told us to pack our things and go to the station, and they put us on a train which travelled for an unknown destination. We were seven days in the train travelling very slowly, when we were liberated by the American army on the 13th of April. It was the luckiest day of my life.
At that moment I was bathing in the river when I saw the first American soldier from afar. What a joy. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was sure it was a dream, but still it was true.
A few minutes before the American soldiers arrived we were told that we should have to go on foot over the Elbe River. But the American army saved us from a sure death, which we will never forget.
I was also sad this day because I remembered how many people of value had died and couldn’t see the liberation and the fall of the barbarian, Hitler. I shall never forget what I owe to the American army.
I hope that I will be able to estimate the right value, what the Americans have done for us. Now, after five years of suffering I shall know how to appreciate the more my liberty.”

In spring 1945, Benjamin Ferencz began investigating crimes committed by the Nazis. In the area outside the Flossenbürg concentration camp, he followed a trail of mass graves. This is his recollection.


“As the camps were about to be liberated, the Germans tried to move the inmates out, those who were still able to walk or to work. They left those behind to be killed or to die, who were too sick. But they marched them out. And they were marching—I think it was from Flossenbürg to Dachau, or one of the camps. And they took them through the woods and they marched at night, and if anybody faltered on the way, they were immediately shot. If anybody paused to try to pick up a potato or to eat a root or something, they were shot.
And I was able to follow this trail through the woods of mass graves—10, 20, 30, 50 killed, you know.
And I would get the nearest farmer to, say, dig them up. They would say, “Oh yes, we heard firing last night, there was shooting going on.” “Where was it?” ‘Over there in the woods.’ And I would say, ‘Let’s
go.’ And we’d go out to the woods and there would be a newly dug-up place, and I would say, ‘Get some shovels.’ And then stop some Germans on the street, ‘Take this shovel, dig them up.’ And we’d dig up the
bodies of people who’d been obviously shot through the head, usually top of the skull was blown off, shot probably kneeling from the back. Some of them were tied still, you know, just lightly covered over with six
inches of dirt, something like that. But I could follow the trail of crime being committed all along the way”

Marie Knowles Ellifritz was 22 when she tended to the survivors of the Mauthausen concentration camp. Her commanding officer gave the nurses the option not to enter the camp because he couldn’t bring himself
to subject them to the horrors he had seen. This is her recollection.


“The emotional trauma caused by our medical participation in the liberation of the European concentration camps was beyond belief. As Americans and as women we never before had been subjected to such inhumanity to man. And my initial feeling was of a tremendous job to do.
To take in 1,500 patients into a 400-bed hospital had to be madness. That fact became our madness. And it proved to become a tremendous overwhelming job. Clinically, it was a matter of sorting the dead from the
living, deciding who would live for at least three days or more, and to make all those we found comfortable and to begin the process of treatment. A tent to keep the patient dry, an air mattress to give them a place
to lie down, a blanket to help them keep warm, pajamas to give them some dignity, a small amount of foodto nourish them, and plasma to preserve the remaining life and begin them on a road back to living.
Everyone had work to do. The patients themselves helped as much as they could. We deloused them. We moved them out of the larger camp into our tent city and we let the fresh air, the sunshine, the space, and
most of all their freedom do its work.
It seemed to take one to three days for us to convince some of them that they were truly free at last.

And when that reality came they simply closed their eyes and died in peace and freedom. Some of the patients seemed to know immediately that they were free once again and so they were able to rejoice and begin to make plans for the future. Life force for these patients had begun when the camp’s gates were opened by their liberators.”

Mr. PATRICK GORDON WALKER (BBC): I reached Weimar’s concentration camp a few days after its liberation by British soldiers. I met these soldiers. They were filled with righteous anger. Unlike British soldiers as a rule, they wanted to talk, to tell the world what they had seen. I made recordings of these men, all of them of the outfit …(unintelligible) just outside the camp itself.

Mr. TYLER McKENNEY PAYNE (British Soldier): I’m Tyler McKenney Payne(ph) of the …(unintelligible). I live at Mansfield Woodhouse(ph). I want to tell you a tale, just one tale, as there are many other horrible sights in the past days that I saw. I myself was guarding the milk store, and around this milk store was a screaming crowd of women with babies. I kept picking a few babies out and feeding them.

And one woman who was–I think she was mad, kept kissing my feet and clothing, so I took the baby from her. When I looked at the baby, his face was black and he had been dead for a few days. I couldn’t come to say it was dead so I burst the milk can opened and poured milk down through its dead lips. The woman crooned and giggled with delight. I gave her the baby back and she staggered off and lay in the sun. And when I next looked, she was dead with the baby in her arms. So I put her in the stack of the dead bodies, 2 or 300 dead, and then I turned away. I was allowed to say that I’m a British soldier and it’s not propaganda; it’s the truth.

Mr. MURROW: As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others–they must have been over 60–were crawling towards the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.

In another part of the camp, they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only six. One rolled up his sleeve, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm; D6030 it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said, The children, enemies of the state.' I could see their ribs through their thin shirts. The old man said,I am Professor Charles Risha(ph) of the Sorbonne.’ The children clung to my hands and stared. We crossed to the courtyard. Men kept coming up to speak to me and to touch me. Professors from Poland, doctors from Vienna, men from all Europe, men from the countries that made America.

Lucjan Salzman, a Polish Jewish prisoner, was 17 when, in April 1945, he was liberated from the Wöbbelin concentration camp in Germany by the 82nd Airborne Division. This is his recollection.


“I ran in that direction and as I came onto that place I noticed many prisoners yelling and screaming and jumping and dancing. And there standing amongst them were seven giants, young people. They must have
been 18 or 19—American soldiers. There were seven or eight of them standing inside the camp. Apparently they cut the wire and came into the camp.
They were bewildered by us. Wild and unkempt and dirty and, I’m sure, smelly people, jumping and dancing and trying to embrace them and kiss them. And I did too. I also joined the crowd and yelled and screamed
and somehow knew that the day of liberation has come.
It was a strange feeling for me, however, because as I remember it, on the one hand, I was, I was overwhelmed by this unexpected and unhoped for encounter of freedom, but at the same time, what was happening was outside of me. I really—I didn’t know what to make of it. I knew I was free, but
I didn’t count on it. I somehow didn’t know what it meant. And I knew it was great, but I, I was overjoyed because all people around me were overjoyed and were singing and dancing and, and—but I, I was 17.
I, I was free, but what it meant I wasn’t sure.”

sources.

https://www.npr.org/2005/05/04/4630493/eyewitness-reports-of-nazi-concentration-camps?t=1651948620658

https://www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov/research/photographs/world-war-ii-holocaust-images

Escaping a Jewish Work camp.

There were 4 concentration camps in the Netherlands. The best known was Westerbork, the other 3 were Vught,Amersfoort and Ommen.

A relatively unknown fact is that there were also an estimated 42 work/labour camps. Between January 1942 and October 1942 , the Jewish work camps in the Netherlands spread across the countrie from which unemployed Jews had to carry out outdoor work.

The work in the camps was heavy, in almost all cases waste ground had to be cleared. The digging is done by hand. The men work long days, from six in the morning to six in the evening.

On the night of October 2–3, 1942, during Yom Kippur, the Jewish men were removed from most of these camps. They were transported to camp Westerbork on the pretext of family reunions. Most of them were sent later to Auschwitz, Sobibor and other camps, where the majority were murdered.

Maurits Jakobs was one of the men who were interned in Vedder one of the work camps. The camp was run by a Dutch company, Nederlandsche Heidemaatschappij, although it was under supervision by the Nazi regime.

At the end of September 1942, Maurits Jakobs cycled through a pitch-black forest in the middle of the night. He had just escaped from the Jewish labour camp Vledder in Drenthe. At that time, hw was not yet aware that his old camp mates would be deported to extermination camps a few days later, via Westerbork.

He managed to escape from Camp Vledder with the help of supervisor Willems, who was employed by the Nederlandse Heidemaatschappij. Willems has parked his bicycle at the sandy path. But the initiative for the escape came from Jo Oldenburger, a former employee of Maurits.

Oldenburger knew that the situation for Jews was becoming increasingly ominous and arranged a hiding place for Maurits and his wife in the town of Emmen. In the evening Oldenburger is waited for Mauris at the camp with an extra bicycle. Maurits, who initially still had doubts, decided to go along and follows Jo via the sandy path into the dark forest.

Maurits knew. as long as he would see the red bicycle light of Jo Oldenburger, who cycled in front of him, it would be safe. That was the arrangement.. Suddenly the light disappeared from view and Maurits hid with bicycle and all in a ditch. But Jo appeared to have turned a corner. They agreed to stay closer together.

The bike ride of almost seventy kilometers was tough for Maurits, who had not been on a bicycle for at least a year. After a long and painful journey they arrived at the hiding place in Emmen. Thanks to various hiding places, the Jakobs’ couple managed to stay under the radar all this time. They both survived the war.

This was probably the most ‘Dutch’ escape one could imagine. Escape by bicycle.

sources

https://www.ru.nl/rich/our-research/research-groups/cultures-of-war-and-liberation/current-projects/projects/knhm-1929-1954/

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/artikel/maurits-jakobs-ontsnapt-dagen-voor-grootschalige-deportatie-uit-kamp-vledder

https://joodsewerkkampen.nl/geschiedenis

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Only a death certificate to remember her by

All stories of children who were murdered during the Holocaust are extremely sad, but even in that there are different levels.

The story of Helga Renate Sara Zons is particularly heartbreaking . There are no pictures of her just a death certificate to remember her by, The certificate was even issued 10 years after she was murdered.

What make it really sad is the fact that she would be 79 today, she could still have a few decades left to live. But she never really had a life to begin with, she was born on April 26,1941. Her place of birth was Westerbork transit camp, she was born in captivity.

Sara only had 2 journeys in her short life. The first one was to Theresienstadt on September 4,1944.Her second and her last journey was to Auschwitz where she was murdered upon arrival on October 6,1944, she was only 3 years old.

A life never fulfilled.

Rest in peace little angel.

Sources

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/tijdlijn/Helga-Renate-Sara-Zons/01/97835

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/217307/helga-renate-sara-zons

Holocaust in Croatia

Many eastern European nations are diverting their guilt in the Holocaust by saying that they were occupied. To me that is like the German Nazis saying “We didn’t know”

Croatia cannot claim they were occupied. The Independent State of Croatia was ruled by the Croatian fascist Ustaša movement. The Ustaša immediately embarked on a campaign “to purge Croatia of foreign elements”. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs were expelled or sadistically murdered in camps established by the Ustaša. The concentration of Jews in camps began in June 1941. By the end of that year about two thirds of Croatia’s Jews had been sent to Ustaša camps, where most of them were killed on arrival.

The NDH, The Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia, operated a series of concentration and extermination camps within Croatia, the most significant being the Jasenovac camp system. While the total number of Jasenovac victims cannot be determined, the Jasenovac Memorial Site has so far identified 83,145 victims by name, including 47,627 Serbs, 16,173 Roma, and 13,116 Jews. In all, approximately 30,000 Jews (between 75-80 percent of the Jews within the NDH) died during the Holocaust, the majority at the hands of the Ustasha, although the NDH also transferred some 7,000 Jews to the Nazis to be deported to Auschwitz. Approximately 20,000 of the Jewish victims resided in current Croatian territory. The NDH also killed an estimated 25,000 or more Roma men, women, and children, the vast majority of the Roma population under its control. The total number of ethnic Serbs the Ustasha killed throughout the territory of the NDH remains unknown, but estimates suggest that it was between 320,000 and 340,000 between 1941 and 1942.

Years before the war started , the Ustaše had close ties to fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. In 1933 the Ustaše presented “The Seventeen Principles”, which proclaimed the uniqueness of the Croatian nation, promoted collective rights over individual rights, and declared that people who were not Croat by race and blood, would be excluded from political life. In 1936, the Ustaše leader, Ante Pavelić, wrote in “The Croat Question”:

″Today, practically all finance and nearly all commerce in Croatia is in Jewish hands. This became possible only through the support of the state, which thereby seeks, on one hand, to strengthen the pro-Serbian Jews, and on the other, to weaken Croat national strength. The Jews celebrated the establishment of the so-called Yugoslav state with great joy, because a national Croatia could never be as useful to them as a multi-national Yugoslavia; for in national chaos lies the power of the Jews… In fact, as the Jews had foreseen, Yugoslavia became, in consequence of the corruption of official life in Serbia, a true Eldorado of Jewry…The entire press in Croatia is also in Jewish-masonic hands…”

Theodora Klayman was born in 1938 in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Dora survived hiding with her Catholic uncle and neighbors in Croatia. Her parents and many other family members were murdered by Nazi collaborators, the Ustaša, in the Jasenovac concentration camp.

This is her account of that time.

“My name is Dora Klayman. I’m a Holocaust survivor and Museum volunteer.

I was born in January 1938 in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, a country cobbled together after World War I. It was a country of differing historical alliances, several languages, and various religions

By the eve of World War II there were within Yugoslavia serious ideological and political disagreements, and one of the results was development of an ultra-nationalist group, the Ustaša.

The Ustaša advocated withdrawal from the Yugoslav coalition and the establishment of a nationalist Croatian country. When the Ustaša failed to win enough votes in the elections, they turned to terrorist tactics.

Following the German invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, and with the support of Germany, the Ustaša assumed leadership of the so-called Independent State of Croatia.

Hardly independent, it was a puppet government of Nazi Germany, eager to persecute anyone who was not aligned with them politically or was not Croatian and Catholic. Specifically, that included Communists, Roma, Serbs, and Jews.

My maternal family members lived in Ludbreg, a small town in the north of Croatia. My grandfather, the town’s rabbi, had served the Jewish community there for many years.

Our family had a very cordial relationship with a predominantly Catholic population, and for the 40 years that my family lived there, there were practically no antisemitic incidents.

My aunt Giza and her long-time close friend Ljudevit (Ludva) Vrancic, a local bank director, had all but decided not to marry. However, fear of the German invasion of Yugoslavia changed their minds. The hope was that Ludva’s Catholic identity would protect Giza from persecution.

By June 1941, just a few months after the Nazis marched into Yugoslavia, my parents and infant brother, Zdravko, were arrested. My father was deported to the Jasenovac concentration camp and my mother was sent to Stara Gradiska, a subcamp of Jasenovac. Neither survived.

Fortunately, my little brother was saved by our housekeeper and brought to Ludbreg, where I had been staying with my extended family. My brother and I were first sheltered by our grandparents, but by 1942, nearly the entire Jewish community of Ludbreg had been deported, including my grandparents and the majority of my family members.

All were soon killed in Jasenovac. We were left behind with my aunt Giza and her Catholic husband Ludva. In 1943, Ludva was arrested on suspicion of supporting the partisan resistance movement and was sent to Jasenovac.

In his absence, my aunt Giza was denounced, arrested, and deported to Auschwitz, where she died from illness shortly after arrival.

During this time, my brother and I were hidden by our Catholic neighbors, the Runjaks, and we pretended to be their children. Most people in Ludbreg knew we were Jewish, but they never denounced us.

Sometime later, Ludva was released along with other political prisoners. Fearing the worst and having been warned that the local priest made threats toward us while we were with the Runjak family, my brother and I were baptized for added protection.

After liberation, we waited in vain for our family members to return.

Knowing that our parents would not return, Uncle Ludva adopted my brother and me and we sought to rebuild our lives in what became Yugoslavia.

The Nazis and the Ustaša killed hundreds of thousands of people they identified as “the other,” people they decided did not have the right to exist.

The history of the Holocaust, my history, highlights the precariousness of the persecuted peoples and the power of individuals, even whole towns, to stand up and do what is right, even in extraordinary times.

It also reminds us that people can rise and fight political oppression, but it takes more than just an internal uprising to achieve victory over a powerful and ruthless government.

Tragically, we all know that hatred, even genocide, did not end with the Holocaust. What became my country after World War II, Yugoslavia, experienced yet another genocide in more recent times.

We continue to witness, in many parts of the world, silence in the face of persecution based on religious or ethnic identity. Or—we profess despair but do little or nothing to help.

We must not remain silent; we must all lift our voices in pleas and in protest, in calls for action to create a better world and to work to make Never Again a reality.”

sources

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa18499

https://www.ushmm.org/remember/holocaust-reflections-testimonies/eyewitness-to-history/dora-klayman

https://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/stories/the-holocaust-in-croatia.html

Croatia

https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/grant-projects-database/killing-sites-first-stage-holocaust-serbia-and-croatia

The murder of Philibert Steinbach- a boy from Geleen

Geleen is a small former mining town in the province of Limburg, in the south east of the Netherlands. It is not a particular famous place, although it is the place where the first professional football was played in the Netherlands, and it used to host one of the world’s biggest rock festivals’PinkPop’

It is also the place where I was born and a boy called Philibert Steinbach. Most of us will have seen the picture of his sister ,Settela Steinbach.

Philibert Steinbach was born in Geleen on September 4, 1932. On May 16, 1944, Philibert Steinbach was arrested in Eindhoven. From May 16, 1944 to May 19, 1944 Philibert Steinbach was imprisoned in Camp Westerbork. From May 22, 1944 to August 3, 1944 Philibert Steinbach was in the Gypsy Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Sinti and Roma had to live in assembly camps outside cities from 22 June 1943, such as near The Hague or Eindhoven. At the behest of the Nazi occupier, the caravans were pulled together here and the Sinti and Roma concentrated. From that moment on, the Sinti and Roma were forced to live in the assembly camps or in a house. This made it easier for the occupier to arrest the Sinti and Roma a year later during the gypsy roundup.

Not the actual camp where the Steinbach family stayed.

The travel ban for Sinti and Roma , also known as the towing ban, was introduced on 1 July 1943. The wheels of the caravans were confiscated or had to be removed. Horses were also seized.

From May 22, 1944 to August 3, 1944 Philibert Steinbach was imprisoned in the Gypsy Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. On August 3, 1944 Philibert Steinbach was murdered in Auschwitz, he was aged 11.

The Sinti and Roma were seen by the Nazis as an inferior race and were persecuted for that reason. About 500 Sinti and Roma were deported from the Netherlands, almost the entire community. Across Europe, it is estimated that some 500,000 Sinti and Roma were murdered in concentration camps.

The picture at the top of the blog is an old picture of the start of the street in Geleen where I I grew up. When I was 11 I felt very safe and secure, due to a large part of my family living in the street. Nearly every second house would be occupied by an uncle, aunt or older cousin. Despite the fact that Philibert had a large family, he never enjoyed that safety. Most of his family were murdered just like him.

Only recently I discovered that I am related to the Steinbach family via some in laws. 77 years after the war I am still discovering new aspects of the horrors of the Holocaust.

This is the only official document I could find of Philibert, it was issued by the war graves foundation on February 26,1958.

sources

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/tijdlijn/Philibert-Steinbach/01/102563

https://www.stolpersteinesittardgeleen.nl/Slachtoffers/familie-Steinbach

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/658691/philibert-steinbach