Blood in the snow-Continuing evil in the Ardennes.

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Although the German army had one last offence left in them,it must have become quite clear to them that despite the early success during the Battle of the Bulge, the war was coming to an end and they would be at the losing side of it.

Rather then accepting the inevitable in dignity, some of the German troops continued in an evil and brutal way.

The pictures below contain graphic images.

A war correspondent looks down at the dead body of a young Belgian boy, murdered by Nazi soldiers.

Stavelot, Belgium. December, 1945.

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The bodies of Belgian civilians litter the streets.
Belgium. Dec. 15, 1944.

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The blasted ruins of Bastogne after a raid by German bombers.
Bastogne, Belgium. Dec. 26, 1944.

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American soldiers, stripped of their equipment and one robbed of his boots, lie dead at the crossroads. Honsfeld, Belgium. Dec. 17, 1944.

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The scene of the Malmedy Massacre.
About 70 soldiers are stripped of their weapons, sent out into a field, and gunned down unarmed by Nazis soldiers after surrendering. Malmedy, Belgium. Dec. 17, 1944

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Another picture from the site of the Malmedy Massacre, where American prisoners-of-war were gunned down, defenseless and unarmed, by their Nazi captors.

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At a Belgian crossroads in the early hours of the battle of the Bulge, German soldiers strip boots and other equipment from three dead GIs. After U.S. troops captured this film, an Army censor redacted the road sign to Büllingen and other landmarks.

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Christmas in Belgium- ‘White’ Christmas at the Battle of the Bulge

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Bing Crosby sang “I am dreaming of a white Christmas” and made it sound like a magical event.

However for the men stuck in the Belgian Ardennes, a white Christmas was probably the last thing they wanted.But they did get the snow, in fact it was one the coldest and harshest winters on record.

Following are some impressions of Christmas during the Battle of the Bulge.

Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe and his staff celebrate Christmas in the barracks, surrounded by Nazi soldiers. Bastogne, Belgium. Dec. 25, 1944.

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On the road to liberate Bastogne, the 5th Armored Regiment gathers around a tank and opens their Christmas presents. Eupen, Belgium. Dec. 25, 1944.

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Three GI’s proudly display the unit’s Christmas tree. December 1944

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Sergeant John Opanowski of the 10th Armoured Division, emerges from a dug-out built under snow in the Bastogne area.

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Battle of the Bulge

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On December 16 1944, the Germans launched the last major offensive of the war, Operation Mist, also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Battle of the Bulge, an attempt to push the Allied front line west from northern France to northwestern Belgium. The Battle of the Bulge, so-called because the Germans created a “bulge” around the area of the Ardennes forest in pushing through the American defensive line, was the largest fought on the Western front.

The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces, and they were largely unable to replace them.

Rather then going into too much details about the battle it is better to show it in pictures.

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American engineers emerge from the woods and move out of defensive positions after fighting in the  vicinity of Bastogne.

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Three members, of an American patrol, Sgt. James Storey, of Newman, Ga., Pvt. Frank A. Fox, of Wilmington, Del., and Cpl. Dennis Lavanoha, of Harrisville, N.Y., cross a snow-covered Luxembourg field on a scouting mission in Lellig, Luxembourg, Dec. 30, 1944. White bedsheets camouflage them in the snow.

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German troops advancing past abandoned American equipment

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American soldiers of the 3rd Battalion 119th Infantry Regiment are taken prisoner by members of Kampfgruppe Peiper in Stoumont, Belgium on 19 December 1944.

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An American soldier escorts a German crewman from his wrecked Panther tank during the Battle of Elsenborn Ridge

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British Sherman “Firefly” tank in Namur on the Meuse River, December 1944

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Belgian civilians killed by German units during the offensive

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U.S. POWs on 22 December 1944

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German field commanders plan the advance.

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An American artilleryman shaves in frigid cold, using a helmet for a shaving bowl,

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nfantrymen fire at German troops in the advance to relieve the surrounded paratroopers in Bastogne

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GIs of the 413th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry

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The Belgian Holocaust

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For some reason you don’t hear that much about the Holocaust in Belgium and to be honest I don’t know why that is.

After the Germans conquered Belgium in May 1940, the Belgian government fled to Great Britain and formed a government-in-exile in London. King Leopold III remained in Belgium under house arrest during the German occupation. A German military administration coexisted with the Belgian civil service.

At the start of the war, the population of Belgium was overwhelmingly Catholic. Jews made up the largest non-Christian population in the country, numbering between 70–75,000 out of a population of 8 million. Most lived in the cities of Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi and Liège. The vast majority were recent immigrants to Belgium who had fled persecution in Germany and Eastern Europe, and, as a result, only a small minority actually possessed Belgian citizenship.

Immediately after the occupation of Belgium, the Germans instituted anti-Jewish laws and ordinances.

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They restricted the civil rights of Jews, confiscated their property and businesses, banned them from certain professions, and in 1942 required Jews to wear a yellow Star of David.

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Belgian Jews were also rounded up for forced labor. They worked primarily in the construction of military fortifications in northern France, and also in construction projects, clothing and armaments factories, and stone quarries in Belgium.

On 23 October 1940, the German Military Administration adopted anti-Jewish legislation for the first time.[9] The new laws, similar to the Nuremberg Laws adopted in Germany in 1935, coincided with the adoption of similar legislation in the Netherlands and in France.The laws of 28 October forbade Jews to practice certain professions (including the civil service) and forced Jews to register with their local municipality. On the same date, the German administration announced a definition of who was regarded as Jewish. Jewish-owned shops or businesses had to be marked by a sign in the window, and Jewish-owned economic assets had to be registered.

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From June 1940, a list of Jewish businesses had already been drawn up in Liège

The German administration was responsible for the deportation of the Jews in Belgium. Under the German occupation,In the summer of 1940, some German Jews and political refugees were deported from Belgium to Gurs and St. Cyprien, internment camps in southern France.

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On 14 April 1941, after watching the German propaganda film Der Ewige Jude, Flemish paramilitaries from the Volksverwering, VNV and Algemeene-SS Vlaanderen began a pogrom in the city of Antwerp.

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The mob, armed with iron bars, attacked and burned two synagogues in the city and threw the Torah scrolls onto the street.They then attacked the home of Marcus Rottenburg, the town’s chief rabbi. The police and fire brigade were summoned, but they were forbidden to intervene by the German authorities.

From August 1942, the Germans began deporting Jews, using Arbeitseinsatz (“recruitment for work”) in German factories as a pretext.[14] Around half of the Jews turned up voluntarily (though coerced by the German authorities) for transportation although round-ups were begun in late July. Later in the war, the Germans increasingly relied on the police to arrest or round up Jews by force.

The first convoy from Belgium, carrying stateless Jews, left Mechelen transit camp for Auschwitz on 4 August 1942 and was soon followed by others.These trains left for extermination camps in Eastern Europe. Between October 1942 and January 1943, deportations were temporarily halted;by this time 16,600 people have been deported on 17 rail convoys. As the result of Queen Elisabeth’s (Belgian Queen)intervention with the German authorities.

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In 1943, the deportations resumed. By the time that deportations to extermination camps had begun, however, nearly 2,250 Belgian Jews had already been deported as forced laborers for Organisation Todt, a civil and military engineering group, which was working on the construction of the Atlantic Wall in Northern France

In September, armed Devisenschutzkommando (DSK; “Currency protection command”) units raided homes to seize valuables and personal belongings as the occupants were preparing to report to the transit camp, and in the same month, Jews with Belgian citizenship were deported for the first time.

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DSK units relied on networks of informants, who were paid between 100 and 200 Belgian francs for each person they betrayed.After the war, the collaborator Felix Lauterborn stated in his trial that 80 per cent of arrests in Antwerp used information from paid informants. In total, 6,000 Jews were deported in 1943, with another 2,700 in 1944. Transports were halted by the deteriorating situation in occupied Belgium before the liberation.

The percentages of Jews which were deported varied by location. It was highest in Antwerp, with 67 per cent deported, but lower in Brussels (37 per cent), Liège (35 per cent) and Charleroi (42 per cent). The main destination for the convoys was Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland. Smaller numbers were sent to Buchenwald and Ravensbrück concentration camps, as well as Vittel concentration camp in France.

In total, 25,437 Jews were deported from Belgium. Only 1,207 of these survived the war. Among those deported and killed was the surrealist artist Felix Nussbaum in 1944.

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The Breendonk and Mechelen camps served as collection centers for the deportations.

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The forgotten Genocide-Belgian Congo.

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The Congo Free State was a corporate state in Central Africa privately owned by King Leopold II of Belgium founded and recognized by the Berlin Conference of 1885. In the 23 years (1885-1908) Leopold II ruled the Congo he massacred 10 million Africans by cutting off their hands and genitals, flogging them to death, starving them into forced labour, holding children ransom and burning villages. The ironic part of this story is that Leopold II committed these atrocities by not even setting foot in the Congo.

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Under Leopold II’s administration, the Congo Free State became one of the greatest international scandals of the early 20th century.

The ABIR Congo Company (founded as the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company and later known as the Compagnie du Congo Belge) was the company appointed to exploit natural rubber in the Congo Free State. ABIR enjoyed a boom through the late 1890s, by selling a kilogram of rubber in Europe for up to 10 fr which had cost them just 1.35 fr. However, this came at a cost to the human rights of those who couldn’t pay the tax with imprisonment, flogging and other corporal punishment recorded.

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Failure to meet the rubber collection quotas was punishable by death. Meanwhile, the Force Publique (the gendarmerie / military force) were required to provide the hand of their victims as proof when they had shot and killed someone, as it was believed that they would otherwise use the munitions (imported from Europe at considerable cost) for hunting. As a consequence, the rubber quotas were in part paid off in chopped-off hands. Sometimes the hands were collected by the soldiers of the Force Publique, sometimes by the villages themselves. There were even small wars where villages attacked neighboring villages to gather hands, since their rubber quotas were too unrealistic to fill.

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A Catholic priest quotes a man, Tswambe, speaking of the hated state official Léon Fiévez, who ran a district along the river 500 kilometres (300 mi) north of Stanley Pool: All blacks saw this man as the devil of the Equator…From all the bodies killed in the field, you had to cut off the hands. He wanted to see the number of hands cut off by each soldier, who had to bring them in baskets…A village which refused to provide rubber would be completely swept clean. As a young man, I saw [Fiévez’s] soldier Molili, then guarding the village of Boyeka, take a net, put ten arrested natives in it, attach big stones to the net, and make it tumble into the river…Rubber causes these torments; that’s why we no longer want to hear its name spoken. Soldiers made young men kill or rape their own mothers and sisters.

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One junior European officer described a raid to punish a village that had protested. The European officer in command “ordered us to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades… and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross”. After seeing a Congolese person killed for the first time, a Danish missionary wrote: “The soldier said ‘Don’t take this to heart so much. They kill us if we don’t bring the rubber. The Commissioner has promised us if we have plenty of hands he will shorten our service”

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In Forbath’s words: The baskets of severed hands, set down at the feet of the European post commanders, became the symbol of the Congo Free State…. The collection of hands became an end in itself. Force Publique soldiers brought them to the stations in place of rubber; they even went out to harvest them instead of rubber… They became a sort of currency. They came to be used to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas, to replace… the people who were demanded for the forced labor gangs; and the Force Publique soldiers were paid their bonuses on the basis of how many hands they collected

In theory, each right hand proved a killing. In practice, soldiers sometimes “cheated” by simply cutting off the hand and leaving the victim to live or die. More than a few survivors later said that they had lived through a massacre by acting dead, not moving even when their hands were severed, and waiting till the soldiers left before seeking help. In some instances a soldier could shorten his service term by bringing more hands than the other soldiers, which led to widespread mutilations and dismemberment.

cong_hands_1904(A Congolese man looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter who was killed, and allegedly cannibalized, by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company militia)

A reduction of the population of the Congo is noted by all who have compared the country at the beginning of Leopold’s control with the beginning of Belgian state rule in 1908, but estimates of the death toll vary considerably. Estimates of contemporary observers suggest that the population decreased by half during this period and these are supported by some modern scholars such as Jan Vansina. Others dispute this. Scholars at the Royal Museum for Central Africa argue that a decrease of 15 percent over the first forty years of colonial rule (up to the census of 1924).

 

Fort Breendonk -Concentration camp

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Fort Breendonk was originally built for the Belgian army between 1906-13 as part of the second ring of defenses of the National Redoubt protecting the important port-city of Antwerp.It was covered by a five-metre thick layer of soil for defense against bombings, a water-filled moat and measured 656 by 984 feet (200 by 300 m).

By 1940, Breendonk was already militarily obsolete and was unnecessary for the German occupiers. Soon after the start of the German occupation, the Nazis transformed it into a prison camp which was controlled by SS and other security agencies of Nazi Germany (SIPO and SD in particular) although Belgium itself was under military jurisdiction and controlled by general Alexander von Falkenhausen

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During World War II, the fort was requisitioned by the Germans as a prison camp for detaining Belgian political dissidents, captured resistance members and Jews. Although technically a prison rather than a concentration camp, the Fort was famous for its prisoners’ poor living conditions and for the use of torture. Most prisoners who were detained at the camp were later transferred to larger concentration camps in Eastern Europe. Of the 3,590 prisoners known to have been imprisoned at Breendonk, 303 died or were executed within the fort itself but as many as 1,741 died subsequently in other camps before the end of the war.

 

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On 20 September 1940, the first prisoners arrived. Initially most of the prisoners were petty criminals, people deemed anti-social, or who did not conform to the German race laws. Later on, resistance fighters, political prisoners and ordinary people captured as hostages were detained as well. Another section was used as a transit camp for Jews being sent to death camps in Eastern Europe such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The camp was guarded by Flemish as well as German SS units.

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Of the 300 prisoners that died in the camp itself, 185 were executed; many of the rest died of torture, disease or exposure. Most of those that did survive were transported to concentration camps. The German execution poles and gallows, as well as the torture chamber, are preserved in the current museum on the site.

Between 3,500 and 3,600 prisoners were incarcerated in Breendonk during its existence,of whom 1,733 died before liberation.About 400-500 were Jews.Most of the non-Jewish prisoners were left-wing members of the Belgian resistance or were held as hostages by the Germans. In September 1941, the Belgian Communist prisoners held at Breendonk were deported to Neuengamme concentration camp.

Jewish prisoners in Breendonk were segregated from other prisoners until 1942. Thereafter, Jews were transferred to the nearby Mechelen transit camp and deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Upon arrival at the camp, new inmates were brought to the courtyard where they would have to stand facing the wall until they were processed into the camp.

breendonkThey were forbidden to move and any motion was severely punished. In the camp, punishment consisted of beatings, torture in the old gunpowder magazine,hanging or execution by firing squad. Inmates were forced to watch any executions that took place. The camp commander Lagerkommandant Philipp Schmitt was known to set his German Shepherd dog (called “Lump”)loose on the inmates.

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His wife was also known to wander the camp, ridiculing the inmates and ordering punishments at whim. Severe and arbitrary beating occurred daily. During winter 1942-1943, after the German defeat at Stalingrad, it occurred more than once that inmates, mostly Jewish, were forced by the Flemish SS guards to enter into the extremely cold water of the moat and kept there with a shovel. The victims gradually sank or fell into the mud and most of them, after a struggle that could last for over 15 minutes, finally drowned

All the prisoners were subjected to forced labour. The camp authorities wanted the earth that had covered much of the Fort to be removed and shifted to build a high bank around the camp to hide it from outside view. In the few years Fort Breendonk was used by the Nazis, 250,000 cubic metres (8,800,000 cu ft) of soil covering the fort were removed by the prisoners by hand at a gruelling pace.Prisoners only had hand tools to complete this enormous task and the soil had to be transported to the outer wall via hand carts on a narrow gauge railway system. The ground in the camp was often very soggy causing the rails to sink away in the mud. Prisoners were then expected to move by hand the carts filled with dirt, pushing and dragging them back and forth over a distance of more than 300 meters. This regime was imposed for over 12 hours a day, seven days a week, even in the worst of weather conditions. Orders were given only in German, so inmates were forced to learn the basic commands rather quickly or otherwise be punished for failure to obey orders. Prisoners were also forced to salute and stand to attention every time a guard passed.

Accommodation in the fort consisted of the old barracks. Built from thick stone, without windows and with only minimal ventilation, these were extremely cold and damp. Each barrack room only had a small coal burning stove, and providing sufficient heating was nearly impossible. Rooms were originally designed for no more than 38 people, but frequently housed over 50 inmates sleeping in three-tier bunk beds on straw mattresses. The top bunks were highly prized. Inmates only had a single small bucket per room for a toilet during the night, and many of the sick and weakened inmates simply allowed their waste to drop down to the lower levels. This caused much fighting between inmates, which was probably what the guards wanted.

Prisoners were allowed to use the toilet in the given order only twice a day. There were two gathering spaces inside the fort, east and west, each one with a small building, made of brick and without doors, equipped with four holes and one urinal. Only in 1944 a greater facility was added. But to go to the toilet was always done under surveillance, in group and in a hurry: an additional opportunity for the guards to intimidate and humiliate the prisoners.

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Jewish prisoners were segregated from other inmates and housed in specially constructed wooden barracks. These barracks were poorly insulated and over-crowded. Other prisoners were housed in cells, either in small groups or individually. The aim was to isolate certain prisoners for later interrogation and torture.

Food was severely rationed for the prisoners and distributed in different quantities to the various types of inmates. Jews received the least food and water. Prisoners were served three meals a day. Breakfast consisted of two cups of a coffee substitute made of roasted acorns and 125 grams (4.4 oz) of bread. Lunch was usually 1 litre of soup (mostly just hot water). Supper was again 2 cups of a coffee substitute and 100 grams (3.5 oz) of bread.[14] This was far from enough to sustain a human being, especially considering the intense cold or heat, harsh labour and physical punishments the prisoners were subjected to

This harsh treatment of prisoners started to leak outside the Fort to such a degree that the head of the administrative staff of the Military Governor of Belgium Eggert Reeder was compelled to order an inspection of the Fort because Von Falkenhausen “did not want the camp to become known to history as the hell of Breendonk”.

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But the respite was short lived also because the SS seized and forwarded to Germany most of the food parcels sent in by the Red Cross.

Conditions in the camp were so cruel and harsh that those who left alive were so weak that their chances of survival at the final destination were severely hampered. Often prisoners were so sick and weak that they were led straight to the gas chambers or simply died within weeks of their arrival. The regime in the camp was at least as harsh as in an actual concentration camp. On 4 September 1944 the SS evacuated the Fort, and all the remaining prisoners were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.Fewer than 10 percent of the inmates survived the war.

Particular controversy surrounds the Flemish SS guards of the camp, who so openly and cruelly turned against their fellow countrymen in blind support of their Nazi paymasters.

(the Flemish SS Fernand Weiss, with his mother)

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The artist Jacques Ochs was interned in Breendonk from 1940 to 1942, when he managed to escape. A few of the drawings he made during his time there had survived. He used them after the war to reconstruct scenes of life in the camp, and in 1947 published those in the book Breendonck – Bagnards et Bourreaux (“Breendonck – Slave Laborers and Hangmen“)

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