Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski-Lodz Ghetto

ZIH A-163 Lejzerowicz
ZIH A-163 Lejzerowicz

Chaim Rumkowski led the Lodz Ghetto as head of the ghetto’s Jewish Council. Rumkowski remains a controversial figure in the history of the Holocaust. His detractors say that he used his position to advance his own power at the expense of others and that he betrayed his fellow Jews. The supporters of Rumkowski argue that he had no choice other than to work with the Nazis who controlled Lodz as they decided what went into the ghetto in terms of food and others supplies. I am staying on the fence on this one, simply because I don’t know what I would have done if I had been placed in his position.

Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski (February 27, 1877 – August 28, 1944) was a Polish Jew and wartime businessman appointed by Nazi Germany as the head of the Council of Elders in the Łódź Ghetto during the occupation of Poland in World War II.

He accrued exponentially more power by transforming the Ghetto into an industrial base manufacturing war supplies for the Wehrmacht army in the mistaken belief that productivity was the key to Jewish survival beyond the Holocaust. The Germans liquidated the ghetto in 1944. All remaining prisoners were sent to death camps in the wake of military defeats on the Eastern Front.

Rumkowski is remembered for his speech Give Me Your Children, delivered at a time when the Germans demanded his compliance with the deportation of 20,000 children to Chełmno extermination camp. In August 1944, Rumkowski and his family joined the last transport to Auschwitz,and was murdered there on August 28, 1944 by the Jewish Sonderkommando inmates who beat him to death as revenge for his role in the Holocaust. This account of his final moments is confirmed by witness testimonies of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials.

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Before the Nazi  invasion of Poland, Mordechaj (in Polish) Rumkowski was an insurance agent in Łódź; member of Qahal, and in 1925–1939 head of a Jewish orphanage at Krajowa 15 Street.

Helenówek_Orphanage,_Łódź,_Poland

It has been said that his work at the orphanage was self-serving rather than charitable; according to Dr. Edward Reicher, a Holocaust survivor from Łódź, he had an unhealthy interest in children. Łódź was annexed by the invading Germans into the Reich. It became part of the territory of new Reichsgaue separate from the Generalgouvernement in the rest of occupied Poland. Smaller Jewish communities were dissolved and forcibly relocated to metropolitan ghettos. The occupation authority ordered the creation of the new Jewish Councils known as the Judenräte which acted as bridges between the Nazis and the prisoner population of the ghettos. In addition to managing basic services such as communal kitchens, infirmaries, post offices and vocational schools, common tasks of the Judenräte included providing the Nazi regime with slave labor, and rounding up quotas of Jews for “resettlement in the East,” a euphemism for deportations to extermination camps in the deadliest phase of the Holocaust.

On October 13, 1939, the Nazi Amtsleiter in Łódź appointed Rumkowski the Judenälteste(“Chief Elder of the Jews”), head of the Ältestenrat (“Council of Elders”). In this position, Rumkowski reported directly to the Nazi ghetto administration, headed by Hans Biebow.When the rabbinate was dissolved, Rumkowski performed weddings. The ghetto’s money or scrip, the so-called Rumki (sometimes Chaimki), was derived from his name, as it had been his idea.His face was put on the ghetto postage stamps.

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As the Judenrat leader, Rumkowski was swayed by the slogan “Arbeit macht frei – Work sets you free” that appeared on the gates of several concentration camps. By industrializing the Łódź ghetto, he hoped to make the community indispensable to the Germans and save the people of Łódź. On April 5, 1940, Rumkowski petitioned the Germans for materials for the Jews to manufacture in exchange for desperately needed food and money. By the end of the month, the Germans had acquiesced in part, agreeing to provide food, but not money.Although Rumkowski and other “Jewish elders” of the Nazi era came to be regarded as collaborators and traitors, historians have reassessed this judgement since the late 20th century in light of the terrible conditions of the time. A survivor of the Łódź ghetto, Arnold Mostowicz, noted in his memoir that Rumkowski gave a percentage of his people a chance to survive two years longer than the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, destroyed in the Uprising.However, as noted by Lucjan Dobroszycki, the ultimate decision on the future was not his to make.

Probably the most controversial issue surrounding Rumkowski was not so much his belief that the Jews should work (under duress) for the Nazis for their own survival but the power he acquired within Lodz Ghetto. To some he was ‘King Chaim’ who established a power base in the ghetto that was too great for one individual. The internal stamps used in the Lodz ghetto carried an image of Rumkowski and his friends and supporters in the ghetto always seemed to live better lives than his detractors – or so it seemed to them. Rumkowski also carried out marriage ceremonies when rabbis were forbidden to work. He also referred to Lodz by its new German name – Litzmannstadt as opposed to Lodz.

The ghettoization of Łódź was decided on September 8, 1939, by an order of SS-Oberführer Friedrich Uebelhoer.

Friedrich_Uebelhoer

His top secret document stated that the ghetto was only a temporary solution to “the Jewish question” in the city of Łódź. Uebelhoer never implied the long-term survival.The ghetto was sealed on April 30, 1940, with 164,000 people inside.On October 16, 1939, Rumkowski selected 31 public figures to form the Council. However, less than three weeks later, on November 11, twenty of them were executed and the rest disappeared, because he denounced them to the German authorities “for refusing to rubber-stamp his policies.” Although a new Judenrat was officially appointed a few weeks later, the men were not as distinguished, and remained far less effective than its original leaders. This change conceded more power to Rumkowski, and left no one to contest or restrain his decisions. Rumkowski had the Jewish Ghetto Police under his control also.

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The Germans authorized Rumkowski as the “sole figure authority in managing and organizing internal life in the ghetto”.Rumkowski gained power because of his domineering personality in as much as his words and actions.Biebow, at first, gave Rumkowski full power in organizing the ghetto, as long as it did not interfere with his main objectives: absolute order, confiscation of Jewish property and assets, coerced labor, and Biebow’s own personal gain.Their relationship seemed to work effectively. Rumkowski had leeway to organize the ghetto according to his wishes, while Biebow sat back and reaped the rewards. In trying to keep Biebow happy, Rumkowski obeyed every order with little inquiry, and provided him with gifts and personal favors. Of his willingness to cooperate with the German authorities, Rumkowski is said to have boasted in a speech, “My motto is always to be at least ten minutes ahead of every German demand.”He believed that by staying ahead of German thinking, he could keep them satisfied and preserve the Jews. Łódź was the last ghetto in Eastern Europe to be liquidated. However, only 877 inhabitants survived in the city until liberation by hiding with the Polish rescuers, and Rumkowski had nothing to do with it.

Because of the confiscation of cash and other belongings, Rumkowski proposed a currency to be used specifically in the ghetto – the ersatz.

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This new currency would be used as money, and by this alone, a person could buy food rations and other necessities. This proposal was considered arrogant and illustrated Rumkowski’s lust for power. The currency was, therefore, nicknamed by ghetto inhabitants as the “Rumkin”.It dissuaded smugglers from endangering their lives to get in and out of the ghetto with goods, as people could not pay for them with regular currency. Rumkowski believed that smuggling of food would “destabilize the ghetto with regard to the prices of basic commodities” and prevented it from taking place.

Rumkowski did not allow public protests expressing dissent. With the help of the Jewish police, he violently broke up demonstrations. On occasion, he would request the Nazis to come and break up the commotion, which usually resulted in protesters being killed. The leaders of these groups were punished by not being allowed to earn a living, which in effect meant that they and their families were doomed to starvation. Sometimes the strikers and demonstrators were arrested, imprisoned, or shipped off to labor camps.By the spring of 1941, almost all opposition to Rumkowski had dissipated. In the beginning, the Germans were unclear of their own plans for the ghetto, as arrangements for the “Final Solution” were still being developed. They realized that the original plan of liquidating the ghetto by October 1940 could not take place, so they began to take Rumkowski’s labor agenda seriously. Forced labor became a staple of ghetto life, with Rumkowski running the effort. “In another three years – he said – the ghetto will be working like a clock.”This sort of “optimism” however, was met with a damning assessment by Max Horn from Ostindustrie, who said that the ghetto was badly managed, not profitable, and had the wrong products.

By the end of January 1942 some 10,000 Jews were sent aboard Holocaust trains to Chełmno based on selections made by the Judenrat.Additional 34,000 victims were sent there by 2 April, with 11,000 more by 15 May 1942, and over 15,000 more by mid September, for the total of an estimated 55,000 people. The children and the elderly as well as anyone deemed “unfit for work” in the eyes of the Judenrat would follow them.

 

Rumkowski actively cooperated with the German demands hoping to save the majority of the ghetto inmates. Such behaviour set him at odds with the Orthodox observant Jews, because there could be no justification for delivering anyone to certain death. Following the creation of the extermination camp at Chełmno in 1941, the Nazis forced Rumkowski to organize several waves of deportations. Rumkowski claimed that he tried to convince the Nazis to reduce the number of Jews required for deportation and failed.

Give Me Your Children

On German orders Rumkowski delivered a speech on September 4, 1942 pleading with the Jews in the ghetto to give up children 10 years of age and younger, as well as the elderly over 65, so that others might survive. “Horrible, terrifying wailing among the assembled crowd” could be heard, reads the transcriber’s note to his parlance often referred to as: “Give Me Your Children”. Some commentators see this speech as exemplifying aspects of the Holocaust.

A grievous blow has struck the ghetto. They [the Germans] are asking us to give up the best we possess – the children and the elderly. I was unworthy of having a child of my own, so I gave the best years of my life to children. I’ve lived and breathed with children, I never imagined I would be forced to deliver this sacrifice to the altar with my own hands. In my old age, I must stretch out my hands and beg: Brothers and sisters! Hand them over to me! Fathers and mothers: Give me your children!

— Chaim Rumkowski, September 4, 1942 

Rumkowski was adamant about his position as head of the Judenrat, confiscating property and businesses that were still being run by their rightful Jewish owners in the ghetto.

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He established numerous departments and institutions that dealt with all of the ghetto’s internal affairs, from housing tens of thousands of people, to distributing food rations. Welfare and health systems were also set up. For a time, his administration maintained seven hospitals, seven pharmacies, and five clinics employing hundreds of doctors and nurses. Despite their effort, many people could not be helped due to the shortage of medical supplies allowed in by the Germans.

Rumkowski helped maintain school facilities. Forty-seven schools remained in operation schooling 63% of school-age children. There was no education in any other ghetto as advanced as in Łódź. He helped set up a “Culture House” where cultural gatherings including plays, orchestra and other performances could take place. He was very involved in the particulars of these events, including hiring and firing performers and editing the content of the shows. He became integrated in religious life. This integration deeply bothered the religious public. For example, since the Germans disbanded the rabbinate in September 1942, Rumkowski began conducting wedding ceremonies, and altering the marriage contract  “He treated the ghetto Jews like personal belongings. He spoke to them arrogantly and rudely and sometime beat them”

Chaim Rumkowski1

Due to Rumkowski’s harsh treatment, and stern, arrogant personality, the Jews began to blame him for their predicament, and unleashed their frustration on him instead of the Germans, who were beyond their scope of blame.The most significant display of this frustration and resistance was a series of strikes and demonstrations between August 1940 and spring of 1941. Led by activists and leftist parties against Rumkowski, the workers abandoned their stations and went to the streets handing out fliers:

There are conflicting accounts regarding Rumkowski’s final moments. According to one contemporary source he was murdered upon his arrival at Auschwitz by the Jews of Łódź who preceded him there.This version of events however has been challenged by historians. Another report, submitted by the Sonderkommando member from Hungary, Dov Paisikovic  informs that the Jews of Łódź approached the Sonderkommando Jews in secrecy, and asked them to kill Rumkowski for the crimes he himself committed in the Łódź Ghetto; so they beat him to death at the gate of the Crematorium No. 2 and disposed of his corpse.

 

 

Elbe Day

 

 

Today marks the 74th anniversary of this unofficial holiday.It heralded the end of WWII in Europe.

I don’t think enough is done to mark this day since it did not only herald the end of World War 2 it also heralded the start of the cold war.

At a river in the heart of Hitler’s Germany, the United States and Soviet Union came together, but while war united them,  peace would split the superpowers apart

Elbe Day, April 25, 1945, is the day Soviet and American troops met at the Elbe River, near Torgau in Germany, marking an important step toward the end of World War II in Europe. This contact between the Soviets, advancing from the East, and the Americans, advancing from the West, meant that the two powers had effectively cut Germany in two.

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Elbe Day has never been an official holiday in any country, but in the years after 1945 the memory of this friendly encounter gained new significance in the context of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

The first contact between American and Soviet patrols occurred near Strehla, after First Lieutenant Albert Kotzebue, an American soldier, crossed the River Elbe in a boat with three men of an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon. On the east bank they met forward elements of a Soviet Guards rifle regiment of the First Ukrainian Front, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Gardiev.

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The same day, another patrol under Second Lieutenant Willi am Robertson with Frank Huff, James McDonnell and Paul Staub met a Soviet patrol commanded by Lieutenant Alexander Silvashko on the destroyed Elbe bridge of Torgau.

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Lt. Bill Robertson of the 273th Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division, driving on the morning of April 25 into the town of Torgau, knew that he might encounter Soviet troops, and knew he should greet them as friends and allies – Gen. Courtney Hodges, Commander of the First U.S. Army, had told his men to “Treat them nicely.” But Robertson was not prepared to carry out the protocol that U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had worked ou tseveral months before in Yalta.

The first American soldiers to make contact were to fire a green-colored star shell – the Soviets, a red one. Robertson and the three men in his patrol decided the best way to show they were Americans was to present an American flag. As they didn’t have a flag, they found a white sheet and painted it as best they could to look like the stars-and-stripes.

Soviet Lt. Alexander Sylvashko was skeptical at first that Robertson and his men were Americans. He thought the four men waving a colored sheet were Germans playing a trick on the Soviet troops. He fired a red star shell, but did not receive a green one in return.

Sylvashko sent one of his soldiers, a man named Andreev, to meet Robertson, in the center of a bridge crossing the Elbe. The two men awkwardly embraced and made the hand signal of “V for Victory.”

On April 26, the commanders of the 69th Infantry Division of the First Army and the 58th Guards Rifle Division of the 5th Guards Army (Soviet Union) met at Torgau, southwest of Berlin. Arrangements were made for the formal “Handshake of Torgau” between Robertson and Silvashko in front of photographers the following day, April 27.

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The Soviet, American, and British governments released simultaneous statements that evening in London, Moscow, and Washington, reaffirming the determination of the three Allied powers to complete the destruction of the Third Reich.

Monuments at Torgau, Lorenzkirch, and Bad Liebenwerda commemorate the first encounters between U.S. and Soviet troops on Elbe Day. In the United States, a “Spirit of the Elbe” plaque at Arlington National Cemetery commemorates the day.

 

 

In 1949 the Russian film studio Mosfilm commemorated Elbe Day in the black-and-white film Encounter at the Elbe.

During the Cold War the meeting of the two armies was often recalled as a symbol of peace and friendship between the people of the two antagonistic superpowers. For example, in 1961 the popular Russian song “Do the Russians Want War?” evoked the memory of American and Russian soldiers embracing at the Elbe River.

Joseph Polowsky, an American soldier who met Soviet troops on Elbe Day, was deeply affected by the experience and devoted much of his life to opposing war. He commemorated Elbe Day each year in his hometown of Chicago and unsuccessfully petitioned the United Nations to make April 25 a “World Day of Peace.” His remains are buried in a cemetery in Torgau.

 

 

American singer-songwriter Fred Small commemorated Joseph Polowsky and Elbe Day in his song “At The Elbe”.

In 1988 a plaque titled “Der Geist der Elbe” (“Spirit of the Elbe”) was mounted on a stone near Torgau at the site of the encounter between troops of the U.S. 69th Infantry and the Soviet Guards.

In 1995 the Russian Federation issued a three-ruble coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of Elbe Day.

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By 2010, the 65th anniversary of the event, Elbe Day events in Torgau were held annually on the weekend closest to April 25, attracting tourists to the city. Also in 2010, the U.S. and Russian presidents for the first time issued a joint statement on April 25 commemorating Elbe Day and the “spirit of the Elbe”.

The meeting at the Elbe is represented in the war strategy game R.U.S.E., released in 2010 and 2011 and based loosely on World War II events.

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Forgotten History-Alfred Rosenberg

Although this probably isn’t forgotten by historians and WWII aficionados, I think that at large it is forgotten by most others and especially the younger generations.

Although his name would indicate a Jewish origin it was never proven he was from Jewish descend.

Alfred Ernst Rosenberg ( 12 January 1893 – 16 October 1946) was a Baltic German theorist and an influential ideologue of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by  Dietrich Eckart.

Dietrich_Eckart_by_Karl_Bauer

He later held several important posts in the Nazi government. He is considered one of the main authors of key National Socialist ideological creeds, including its racial theory, persecution of the Jews, Lebensraum, abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, and opposition to degenerate modern art. He is known for his rejection of and hatred for Christianity,having played an important role in the development of German Nationalist Positive Christianity.At Nuremberg he was sentenced to death and executed by hanging for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Born in Reval, Russia (today, Tallinn, Estonia), to an Estonian mother and Baltic German father, Rosenberg studied architecture in Riga and Moscow before fleeing revolution-torn Russia in 1918 for Germany. Already a committed anti-Bolshevik and anti-Semite, he became heavily involved in the post-World War I ultra-nationalist scene in Munich. In early 1919 he became an early member of the Nazi Party’s predecessor organization, the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or DAP). Gaining renown as the author of antisemitic tracts, he quickly made the acquaintance of Dietrich Eckart, one of the early, influential promoters of Adolf Hitler. In an article published in Eckart’s own journal, Auf gut Deutsch (In Plain German), Rosenberg made clear a key component of his ideology: the equation of Jews with Bolshevism and communist revolution (“Judeo-Bolshevism”). At Eckart’s encouragement, Rosenberg joined the fledgling Nazi Party and began writing for its flagship newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter. He became the newspaper’s senior editor in 1923.

BEOBACHTER

Antisemitic diatribes featured prominently in Rosenberg’s writings. His efforts helped spread The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Germany and denounce the Weimar Republic as an aberration born from defeat and manipulated by “Jewish traitors.”

On November 9, 1923, Rosenberg participated in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, which resulted in Hitler’s arrest.

 

Tasked by Hitler as interim leader of the Nazi Party, Rosenberg struggled to prevent the Nazi movement’s disintegration. After Hitler’s release, Rosenberg returned to journalism and began his chief work, The Myth of the Twentieth Century (Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts), published in 1930.

Though neither officially translated into another language nor endorsed by Hitler as the authoritative expression of Nazi ideology, the book sold approximately one million copies by the late war years and boosted Rosenberg’s standing as Party ideologue

As the Nazi Party’s chief racial theorist, Rosenberg oversaw the construction of a human racial “ladder” that justified Hitler’s racial and ethnic policies. Rosenberg built on the works of Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Madison Grant, as well as on the beliefs of Hitler. He placed Blacks and Jews at the very bottom of the ladder, while at the very top stood the white “Aryan” race. Rosenberg promoted the Nordic theory which regarded Nordics as the “master race”,superior to all others, including to other Aryans (Indo-Europeans).

Rosenberg reshaped Nazi racial policy over the years, but it always consisted of Aryan supremacy, extreme German nationalism and rabid antisemitism. Rosenberg also outspokenly opposed homosexuality – notably in his pamphlet “Der Sumpf” (“The Swamp”, 1927) – he viewed homosexuality (particularly lesbianism) as a hindrance to the expansion of the Nordic population.

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Rosenberg’s attitude towards Slavs was flexible and depended on the particular nation involved. As a result of the ideology of “Drang nach Osten” Rosenberg saw his mission as the conquest and colonization of the Slavic East In Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts Rosenberg describes Russian Slavs as being overwhelmed by bolshevism. Regarding Ukrainians, he favoured setting up a buffer state to ease pressure on the German eastern frontier, while agreeing with the notion of the exploitation of Russia for the benefit of Germany

Rosenberg argued for a new “religion of the blood”, based on the supposed innate promptings of the Nordic soul to defend its noble character against racial and cultural degeneration. He believed that this had been embodied in early Indo-European religions, notably ancient European (Celtic, Germanic, Greek, Roman) paganism, Zoroastrianism, and Vedic Hinduism.

He rejected Christianity for its universality, for its doctrine of original sin (at least for Germans whom he declared on one occasion were born noble), and for its teachings on the immortality of the soul.Indeed, absorbing Christianity enfeebled a people.[Publicly, Rosenberg affected to deplore Christianity’s degeneration owing to Jewish influence.Following Chamberlain’s ideas, he condemned what he called “negative Christianity” (the orthodox beliefs of Protestant and Catholic churches), arguing instead for a so-called “positive” Christianity based on Chamberlain’s claim that Jesus was a member of an Indo-European, Nordic enclave resident in ancient Galilee who struggled against Judaism.Significantly, in his work explicating the Nazi intellectual belief system, The Myth of the Twentieth Century, Rosenberg cryptically alludes to and lauds the anti-Judaic arch-heretic Marcion and the Manichaean-inspired, “Aryo-Iranian” Cathari, as being the more authentic interpreters of Christianity versus historically dominant Judaeo-Christianity; moreover these ancient, externally Christian metaphysical forms were more “organically compatible with the Nordic sense of the spiritual and the Nordic ‘blood-soul’.” For Rosenberg, the anti-intellectual intellectual, religious doctrine was inseparable,from serving the interests of the Nordic race, connecting the individual to his racial nature. Rosenberg stated that “The general ideas of the Roman and of the Protestant churches are negative Christianity and do not, therefore, accord with our (German) soul.” His support for Luther as a great German figure was always ambivalent.

In January 1934 Hitler had appointed Rosenberg as the cultural and educational leader of the Reich. The Sanctum Officium in Rome recommended that Rosenberg’s Myth of the Twentieth Century be put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (list of books forbidden by the Catholic Church) for scorning and rejecting “all dogmas of the Catholic Church, indeed the very fundamentals of the Christian religion” During World War II Rosenberg outlined the future envisioned by the Hitler government for religion in Germany, with a thirty-point program for the future of the German churches. Among its articles:

  • the National Reich Church of Germany would claim exclusive control over all churches
  • publication of the Bible would cease
  • crucifixes, Bibles and saints were to be removed from altars
  • Mein Kampf would be placed on altars as “to the German nation and therefore to God the most sacred book”
  • the Christian Cross would be removed from all churches and replaced with the swastika.

Swastika

Compared to other members of the Nazi elite like Hermann Göring, Joachim von Ribbentrop, or Joseph Goebbels, Rosenberg before the war lacked the executive authority that came with a cabinet portfolio. His burning ambition for higher office was undermined by his frequent squabbles with competitors, his inability to forge alliances, and his reputation as an inept administrator. A stepping-stone towards greater political power came in 1938 when Hitler approved Rosenberg’s idea for a new, fully Nazified university system (Hohe Schule) that would ground the Party’s and the nation’s future elite in racist ideology.

In 1940 Rosenberg was made head of the Hohe Schule (literally “high school”, but the German phrase refers to a college), the Centre of National Socialist Ideological and Educational Research, out of which the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg developed for the purpose of looting art and cultural goods.

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The ERR were especially active in Paris in looting art stolen from famous Jewish families such as the Rothschilds and that of Paul Rosenberg. Hermann Goering used the ERR to collect art for his own personal gratification. He created a “Special Task Force for Music” (Sonderstab Musik) to collect the best musical instruments and scores for use in a university to be built in Hitler’s home town of Linz, Austria. The orders given theSonderstab Musik were to loot all forms of Jewish property in Germany and of those found in any country taken over by the German army and any musical instruments or scores were to be immediately shipped to Berin.

 

Following the invasion of the USSR, Rosenberg was appointed head of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete).

ab 1942 Amtssitz des Ministers für die besetzten Ostgebiete Alfred Rosenberg, später Umbau zum Gästehaus der Reichsregierung
ab 1942 Amtssitz des Ministers für die besetzten Ostgebiete Alfred Rosenberg, später Umbau zum Gästehaus der Reichsregierung

Alfred Meyer served as his deputy and represented him at the Wannsee Conference.

Another official of the Ministry, Georg Leibbrandt, also attended the conference, at Rosenberg’s request.

Rosenberg had presented Hitler with his plan for the organization of the conquered Eastern territories, suggesting the establishment of new administrative districts, to replace the previously Soviet-controlled territories with new Reichskommissariats.

These would be:

  • Ostland (Baltic countries and Belarus),
  • Ukraine (Ukraine and nearest territories),
  • Kaukasus (Caucasus area),
  • Moskau (Moscow metropolitan area and the rest of nearest Russian European areas)

Although Rosenberg regarded all the Soviet peoples as subhumans for their communist beliefs,such suggestions were intended to encourage certain non-Russian nationalism and to promote German interests for the benefit of future Aryan generations, in accord with geopolitical “Lebensraum im Osten” plans. They would provide a buffer against Soviet expansion in preparation for the total eradication of Communism and Bolshevism by decisive pre-emptive military action.

Following these plans, when Wehrmacht forces invaded Soviet-controlled territory, they immediately implemented the first of the proposed Reichskommissariats of Ostland and Ukraine, under the leadership of Hinrich Lohse and Erich Koch, respectively. The organization of these administrative territories led to conflict between Rosenberg and the SS over the treatment of Slavs under German occupation. As Nazi Germany’s chief racial theorist, Rosenberg considered Slavs, though lesser than Germans, to be Aryan. Rosenberg often complained to Hitler and Himmler about the treatment of non-Jewish occupied peoples.He proposed creation of buffer satellite states made out of Greater Finland, Baltica, Ukraine, Caucasus

In a 1941 conference speaking about the Jewish Question, he said:

Some six million Jews still live in the East, and this question can only be solved by a biological extermination of the whole of Jewry in Europe. The Jewish Question will only be solved for Germany when the last Jew has left German territory, and for Europe when not a single Jew stands on the European continent as far as the Urals… And to this end it is necessary to force them beyond the Urals or otherwise bring about their eradication.

He made no complaints about the murders of Jews. At the Nuremberg Trials he claimed to be ignorant of the Holocaust, despite the fact that Leibbrandt and Meyer were present at the Wannsee conference.

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Since the invasion of the Soviet Union intended to impose the New Order, it was essentially a war of conquest. German propaganda efforts designed to win over Russian opinion were, at best, patchy and inconsistent. Alfred Rosenberg was one of the few in the Nazi hierarchy who advocated a policy designed to encourage anti-Communist opinion among the population of the occupied territories. His interest here was mainly in the non-Russian areas such as the Ukraine and the Baltic States; however, supporters of the Russian Liberation Army were somewhat able to win him over.

Amongst other things, Rosenberg issued a series of posters announcing the end of the Soviet collective farms (kolkhoz). He also issued an Agrarian Law in February 1942, annulling all Soviet legislation on farming, restoring family farms for those willing to collaborate with the occupiers. But de-collectivisation conflicted with the wider demands of wartime food production, and Hermann Göring demanded that the collective farms be retained, save for a change of name. Hitler himself denounced the redistribution of land as “stupid”.

There were numerous German armed forces posters asking for assistance in the Bandenkrieg, the war against the Soviet partisans, though, once again, German policy had the effect of adding to their problems. Posters for “volunteer” labour, with inscriptions like “Come work with us to shorten the war”, hid the appalling realities faced by Russian workers in Germany. Many people joined the partisans rather than risk being sent to an unknown fate in the west.

Another of Rosenberg’s initiatives, the “Free Caucasus” campaign, was rather more successful, attracting various nationalities into the so-called Eastern Legion (Ostlegionen), though in the end this made little difference in the outcome of the war on the Eastern Front.

Rosenberg was arrested at the end of the war. Rosenberg was captured by Allied troops at the end of the war in Flensburg-Mürwik. He was tried at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, and found guilty on all four counts of the indictment for conspiracy to commit aggressive warfare, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The final judgment against him named him one of the principal planners of the invasions of Norway and the Soviet Union. It also held him directly responsible for the systematic plunder of the occupied countries of Europe, as well as the brutal conditions in Eastern Europe.[During his trial he wrote his memoirs, which were published posthumously and with analytical commentary by Serge Lang and Ernst von Schenck.

He was sentenced to death and executed with other condemned co-defendants at Nuremberg on the morning of 16 October 1946. His body, as those of the other nine executed men and the corpse of Hermann Göring, was cremated at Ostfriedhof (Munich) and the ashes were scattered in the river Isar.

Throughout the trial, it was agreed that Rosenberg had a decisive role in shaping Nazi philosophy and ideology. Examples include: his book, Myth of the Twentieth Century, which was published in 1930, where he incited hatred against “Liberal Imperialism” and “Bolshevik Marxism”; furthering the influence of the “Lebensraum” idea in Germany during the war; facilitating the persecution of Christian churches and the Jews in particular; and opposition to the Versailles Treaty.

According to Joseph Kingsbury-Smith, who covered the executions for the International News Service, Rosenberg was the only condemned man who, when asked at the gallows if he had any last statement to make, replied with only one word: “No”

 

 

Hitler was a leader oriented towards practical politics, whereas, for Rosenberg, religion and philosophy were key and culturally he was the most influential within the party.Several accounts of the time before the Nazi ascension to power, indeed, speak of Hitler as being a mouthpiece for Rosenberg’s views, and he clearly exerted a great deal of intellectual influence.

Rosenberg’s influence in the Nazi Party is controversial. He was perceived as lacking the charisma and political skills of the other Nazi leaders, and was somewhat isolated. In some of his speeches Hitler appeared to be close to Rosenberg’s views: rejecting traditional Christianity as a religion based on Jewish culture, preferring an ethnically and culturally pure “Race” whose destiny was supposed to be assigned to the German people by “Providence”. In others, he adhered to the Nazi Party line, which advocated a “positive Christianity”.

After Hitler’s assumption of power he moved to reassure the Protestant and Catholic churches that the party was not intending to re-institute Germanic paganism. He placed himself in the position of being the man to save Positive Christianity from utter destruction at the hands of the atheistic anti-theist Communists of the Soviet Union.This was especially true immediately before and after the elections of 1932; Hitler wanted to appear non-threatening to major Christian faiths and consolidate his power. Further, Hitler felt that Catholic-Protestant infighting had been a major factor in weakening the German state and allowing its dominance by foreign powers.

Some Nazi leaders, such as Martin Bormann, were anti-Christian and sympathetic to Rosenberg.Once in power, Hitler and most Nazi leaders sought to unify the Christian denominations in favor of “positive Christianity”. Hitler privately condemned mystical and pseudo-religious interests as “nonsense”. However, he and Goebbels agreed that after the Endsieg (Final Victory) the Reich Church should be pressed into evolving into a German social evolutionist organisation proclaiming the cult of race, blood and battle, instead of Redemption and the Ten Commandments of Moses, which they deemed outdated and Jewish.

Heinrich Himmler’s views were among the closest to Rosenberg’s, and their estrangement was perhaps created by Himmler’s abilities to put into action what Rosenberg had only written. Also, while Rosenberg thought Christianity should be allowed to die out, Himmler actively set out to create countering pagan rituals.

Rosenberg was married twice: to Hilda Leesmann, an ethnic Estonian, in 1915 (divorced in 1923), and to Hedwig Kramer in 1925,with whom he was married until his execution. He and Kramer had two children: a son who died in infancy and a daughter, Irene, who was born in 1930.His daughter has refused contact with anyone seeking information about her father.

The question remains was he influenced by Hitler or did he influence Hitler?

 

Eighties Music-Censorship

History of Sorts

The word Censorship is perhaps a bit misleading since it was really a failed attempt to Censorship because it actually achieved the opposite effect.

This whole idea came from  the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) which was headed by no other then the wife of former vice President Al Gore,Tipper Gore(no that is really her name).

Tipper Gore Tipper Gore, left, wife of Sen. Albert Gore Jr., D-Tenn., testifies before the Senate Commerce Committee as Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker III awaits her turn on Sept. 19, 1985 in Washington. The committee was holding hearings on record labeling. (AP Photo/Lana Harris)

The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was an American committee formed in 1985 with the stated goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to be violent, have drug use or be sexual via labeling albums with Parental Advisory stickers…

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Oskar Gröning -Bookkeeper of Auschwitz

This week marks the 1st anniversary of the trial against Oskar Gröning- the ‘Bookkeeper’ of Auschwitz. So it’s a good opportunity to look back at his life and his trial.

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More than 70 years have passed since the liberation of the death camps and many of those involved have now died.

So the trial of Oskar Groening was one of the last of its kind.

Mr Groening, known as the “book-keeper of Auschwitz”, was allegedly responsible for counting banknotes confiscated from prisoners.

Prosecutors in Lueneburg, northern Germany, also allege that he hid victims’ luggage away from new arrivals, to disguise the victims’ fate.

Oskar Gröning (born 10 June 1921) is a German former SS junior squad leader who was stationed at Auschwitz concentration camp.

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His responsibilities included counting and sorting the money taken from prisoners, and he was in charge of the personal property prisoners had arrived with.

On a few occasions he witnessed the procedures of mass-killing in the camp.

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After being transferred from Auschwitz to a combat unit in October 1944, Gröning was captured by the British on 10 June 1945 when his unit surrendered. He was eventually transferred to Britain as a prisoner of war and worked as a forced labourer.

Gröning wanted to join an elite army unit and set his sights on joining the Waffen-SS.Without his father’s knowledge, he did so in 1940 at a hotel where the SS was recruiting. Gröning says his father was disappointed to learn this when he came home after having joined.

His father, a proud nationalist, joined the Stahlhelm paramilitary group after Germany’s defeat in World War One. His anger at how Germany had been treated under the Treaty of Versailles increased when his textile business went bankrupt in 1929.

Gröning describes himself as a “desk person” and was content with his role in SS salary administration, which granted him both the administrative and military aspects he wanted from a career.

Gröning worked as a bookkeeper for a year until 1942, when the SS ordered that desk jobs would be reserved for injured veterans, and that fit members in administrative roles were to be subjected to more challenging duties.Gröning and about 22 of his colleagues travelled to Berlin where they reported to one of the SS economic offices.:They were then given a lecture by several high-ranking officers who reminded them of the oath of loyalty they took, which they could prove by doing a difficult task.The task was top secret – Gröning and his comrades had to sign a declaration that they would not disclose it to family or friends, or people not in their unit. Once this had concluded, they were split into smaller groups and taken to various Berlin stations where they boarded a train in the direction of Katowice with orders to report to the commandant of Auschwitz, a place Gröning had not heard of before.

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Upon arrival at the main camp, they were given provisional bunks in the SS barracks, warmly greeted by fellow SS men and provided with food.Gröning was surprised at the myriad food items available in addition to basic SS rations. The new arrivals were curious about what function Auschwitz served. They were told that they should find out for themselves because Auschwitz was a special kind of concentration camp. Immediately someone opened the door and shouted “Transport!”, causing three or four people to leave the room.

The next day, Gröning and the other arrivals reported to the central SS administrative building and were asked about their background before the war.One of the officers said Gröning’s bank clerk skills would be useful, and took him to barracks where the prisoners’ money was kept.Gröning was told that when prisoners were registered into the camp, their money was stored here and later returned to them when they left.

It became clear that Auschwitz was not a normal internment camp with above average SS rations, but that it served an additional function. Gröning was informed that money taken from interned Jews was not actually returned to them. When he inquired further, his colleagues confirmed that the Jews were being systematically exterminated and that this had included the transport of prisoners who had arrived the previous night.

Gröning’s responsibilities included sorting and counting the multitude of currencies taken from arriving deportees, sending it to Berlin, and guarding the belongings of arrivals until they were sorted He said he was astonished to learn of the extermination process,but later accepted his part in it, stating that his work became “routine” after several months.

His bureaucratic job did not shield him completely from physical acts of the extermination process: as early as his first day, Gröning saw children hidden on the train and people unable to walk that had remained among the rubbish and debris after the selection process had been completed, being shot Gröning also heard:

…a baby crying. The child was lying on the ramp, wrapped in rags. A mother had left it behind, perhaps because she knew that women with infants were sent to the gas chambers immediately. I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs. The crying had bothered him. He smashed the baby’s head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent.

After witnessing this, Gröning claims he went to his boss and told him that he could not work at Auschwitz any more, stating that if the extermination of the Jews is necessary, “then at least it should be done within a certain framework”.Gröning claims that his superior officer denied this request, forcing him to continue his work.

One night towards the end of 1942, Gröning and his comrades in their SS barracks on the outskirts of Birkenau were awakened by an alarm.They were told that a number of Jews who were being taken to the gas chambers had escaped and hidden in the woods. They were ordered to take pistols and search the woods.When his group arrived at the extermination area of the camp they saw a farmhouse, in front of which were SS men and the bodies of seven or eight prisoners who had been caught and shot. The SS men told Gröning and his comrades that they could go home but they decided to hang around in the shadows of the woods.

They watched as an SS man put on a gas mask and emptied a tin of Zyklon B into a hatch in the cottage wall.

Gröning said the humming noise from inside “turned to screaming” for a minute, then to silence.A comrade later showed him the bodies being burnt in a pit. A Kapo there told him details of the burning, such as how gases developed in the body and made the burning corpses move.

Gröning claims that this disrupted the relative tranquility his job gave him and he claims he yet again complained to his superior.His boss, an SS-Untersturmführer, listened but reminded him of the pledge that he and his comrades made. Gröning thus returned to work. He has declared that he manipulated his life at Auschwitz so as to avoid witnessing the camp’s most unpalatable aspects.

Gröning’s application to transfer to a unit on the front-line was successful, and in 1944 he joined an SS unit fighting in the Ardennes.He was wounded and sent to a field hospital before rejoining his unit, which eventually surrendered to the British on 10 June 1945, on his birthday

He realised that declaring “involvement in the concentration camp of Auschwitz would have a negative response”, and so tried not to draw attention to it, putting on the form given to him by the British that he worked for the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (SS Main Economic and Administrative Office)instead.

He did this because “the victor’s always right”, and that things happened at Auschwitz which “did not always comply with human rights”.

Gröning and the rest of his SS colleagues were imprisoned in an old Nazi concentration camp.He was later sent to Britain as a forced labourer in 1946 where he had a “very comfortable life”. He ate good food and earned money, and travelled through the Midlands and Scotland giving concerts for four months, singing German hymns and traditional English folk songs to appreciative British audiences.

Gröning was released and returned to Germany in 1947 or 1948.

But when the war was over – and he was released from a British prison – he did not speak of his role at Auschwitz. Upon return to Germany, Gröning lived with his father-in-law.[At the dinner table, they once made “a silly remark about Auschwitz”, implying that he was a “potential or real murderer,” which Gröning said enraged him, banging his fist on the table, demanding: “This word and this connection are never, ever, to be mentioned again in my presence, otherwise I’ll move out!”Gröning said that this request was respected.

Instead he began a normal, middle-class life in Lueneburg Heath in Lower Saxony, where he worked at a glass-making factory until retirement.

It was not until he heard people denying the Holocaust had ever happened, decades later, that he suddenly felt the need to speak up.

“I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria,” he told the BBC in the 2005 documentary Auschwitz: the Nazis and the “Final Solution”

“I was on the ramp when the selections [for the gas chambers] took place.”

He spoke of witnessing an SS soldier murdering a baby, and how the treatment of the prisoners had “horrified” him.

But he said that at the time he believed that killing Jews – including children – was the “right” thing to do.

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“We were convinced by our world view that we had been betrayed… and that there was a great conspiracy of the Jews against us.”

 However, Mr Groening says he did not take part directly in the killing, and described his role as “a small cog in the gears”.

“If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent,” he told Der Spiegel in 2005.

In the book accompanying the BBC documentary, historian Laurence Rees describes the experience of listening to Mr Groening speak about his time at Auschwitz as a “strange experience”.

He says Mr Groening “shields himself” from taking full responsibility, by referring to the power of family beliefs and propaganda, but that he does not claim to have purely been following orders.

“He carried on working at Auschwitz not just because he was ordered to but because… he thought the extermination programme was right.

“It’s just that that ‘right’ then turns out not to be ‘right today.”

In September 2014, it was reported that Gröning had been charged by state prosecutors with having been an accessory to murder for his role at Auschwitz receiving and processing prisoners and their personal belongings. The indictment stated that Gröning economically advanced Nazi Germany and aided the systematic killing of 300,000 of the 425,000 Hungarian Jews who were deported to Auschwitz by 137 railway transports during the summer of 1944.

The trial commenced on 20 April 2015 at Lüneburg Regional Court (Landgericht). In an opening statement, Gröning asked for forgiveness for his mainly clerical role at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944, by saying: “For me there’s no question that I share moral guilt,” the 93-year-old told the judges, acknowledging that he knew about the gassing of Jews and other prisoners. “I ask for forgiveness. I share morally in the guilt but whether I am guilty under criminal law, you will have to decide”.

During the trial several of the 60 ‘co-claimants gave evidence.Eva Mozes Kor who was 10 years old when she arrived at Auschwitz, testified that she and her twin sister were used for the cruel medical experiments conducted by Josef Mengele

and that she had lost her parents and older sisters in Auschwitz. Kor conversed with and embraced the defendant after giving evidence,while other holocaust survivors in the courtroom protested against this gesture.Another witness, Max Eisen who was 15 years old at the time of entry into Auschwitz, described the brutality of the extermination part of the camp, including extracting gold teeth from dead victims. On 12 May 2015, Susan Pollack, an 84-year-old Briton, gave evidence how she was taken from Hungary to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen; describing the living conditions encountered at Auschwitz, she said: “I was in a barrack with about 800 other girls … we were losing weight, we weren’t able to use our minds anymore”. On the same day, Ivor Perl, an 83-year-old Briton who was born in Hungary into a religious Jewish family, also gave evidence;Perl testified that he was 12 years old when he arrived at Auschwitz and that he and his brother lost his parents and seven siblings in the Holocaust In July, Irene Weiss, an 84-year-old survivor from the United States, testified that her family was torn apart on arrival at Auschwitz in May 1944, during the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews and that she had lost both her parents, four siblings and 13 cousins at Auschwitz.

On 15 July 2015 he was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 JewsReacting to the sentence, Auschwitz survivor Eva Mozes Kor said that she was “disappointed” adding: “They are trying to teach a lesson that if you commit such a crime, you will be punished. But I do not think the court has acted properly in sentencing him to four years in jail. It is too late for that kind of sentence… My preference would have been to sentence him to community service by speaking out against neo-Nazis. I would like the court to prove to me, a survivor, how four years in jail will benefit anybody.”

Although I do believe Oskar Gröning was guilty albeit by association and complicity, I do think Eva Mozes Kor makes a valid point. It would have been more beneficial to have sentenced him to community service by speaking out against neo -Nazis and go to schools and talk about his time and the crimes he was complicit in, in Auschwitz

What a wonderful woman she is though, I hope she will be an example to all of us.

On 28 November 2016, the appeal was declined by the German Federal Court of Justice. In August 2017, Gröning was judged to be fit for prison. An appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court also failed. The latter court ruled his age was not a valid reason not to send him to jail.

On 15 January 2018, Gröning applied for pardon as a last measure to avoid imprisonment.The pardon was rejected.

On 9 March 2018, Gröning died while hospitalized before he was to begin his sentence. He was 96.

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Forgotten History War Criminal Pieter Menten

History of Sorts

This is not so much a Forgotten History but more a not often mentioned history, why I don’t know. Maybe because it is a bit awkward to talk about since it is a black page in my country’s history.

I had heard about this man when I was a kid living in the Netherlands. I remember his trials between 1977 and 1980, it did have an extensive media coverage at the time.To be honest at that time I thought there could only be German war criminals, my excuse I was  still in primary school at the time

Pieter Menten’s story spans a few decades and has connections to the Netherlands,Poland and Ireland.

Born into a wealthy Rotterdam family, Menten became interested in Poland through his father’s business connections. He soon developed an extensive export trade in Dutch products to Poland. Menten moved to East Galicia in 1923 (then in Poland…

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Hitler’s Sponsors.

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Without a shadow of a doubt, Adolf Hitler was one of the most evil(if not the most evil) men in history. However I am not going to spend much time on him because I don’t think I will be able to add any historical value. However I will be mentioning a number of companies, some who are still household names, that supported Hitler and the Nazi regime  in any way, shape or form.

But before I go into that I will be asking a moral question and I hope you will indulge me by answering it.

This is a question which is often asked by psychologists

If you could travel in back to the time when Adolf Hitler was a baby, knowing what you know about him, would you kill him?

But now back to the sponsors of Hitler, again I try not to judge and stay factual as much as possible. However given the fact of the size of the companies and the respect they have nowadays it maybe difficult for me not to judge.

Nowadays a well respected fashion house. Not that many people know that it started off as a “Fascist” house. Hugo Boss was a member of the Nazi party and a sponsoring member of the SS. In fact his company  designed and manufactured  the uniforms, and Hugo Boss himself has a big part to play in this, and also used slave labour for his company.

IBM

IBM via its subsidiary Dehomag became the main provider of computing expertise and equipment in Nazi Germany. Dehomag gave the German government the means for two official censuses of the population after 1933 and for searching its data.

Dehomag leased and maintained the German government’s punched card machines. Dehomag general manager for Germany, Hermann Rottke, reported to Thomas J. Watson in New York.

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IBM established a special subsidiary, Watson Business Machines, to deal with railway traffic in the General Government during the Holocaust in Poland. The German Transport Ministry used IBM machines under the New York-controlled subsidiary in Warsaw, not the German subsidiary. It was legal for IBM to conduct business with Germany directly until America entered the war in December 1941.

AGFA.BASF,BAYER and HOECHST were all part of IG Farben, The company that used slave labourers in their plants during WWII and was the company that manufactured Zyklon B.

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Henry Ford was the most famous of Hitler’s foreign backers, and he was rewarded in the 1930s for this long-lasting support with the highest Nazi decoration for foreigners. It is reported that Henry Ford sent Hitler a cheque for $50,000 on his birthday until his last today 127 years ago. The picture below is of Henry Ford receiving the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Nazi officials. 1938

Henry Ford receiving the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Nazi officials. 1938

Ferdinand Porsche, the man behind Volkswagen and Porsche, met with Hitler in 1934, to discuss the creation of a “people’s car.” (That’s the English translation of Volkswagen.)

Hitler told Porsche to make the car with a streamlined shape, “like a beetle.” And that’s the genesis of the Volkswagen Beetle… it wasn’t just designed for the Nazis, Hitler NAMED it.

During World War Two, it’s believed that as many as four out of every five workers at Volkswagen’s plants were slave laborers. Ferdinand Porsche even had a direct connection to Heinrich Himmler, one of the leaders of the SS, to directly request slaves from Auschwitz.The company VW still tends to breach laws nowadays.

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Coca-Cola, specifically Fanta. Coke played both sides during World War Two… they supported the American troops but also kept making soda for the Nazis. Then, in 1941, the German branch of Coke ran out of syrup, and couldn’t get any from America because of wartime restrictions.

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So they invented a new drink, specifically for the Nazis: A fruit-flavored soda called Fanta.It became the official Nazi drink.

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Siemens took slave laborers during the Holocaust and had them help construct the gas chambers that would kill them and their families. Good people over there.

Siemens also has the single biggest post-Holocaust moment of insensitivity of any of the companies on this list. In 2001, they tried to trademark the word “Zyklon” (which means “cyclone” in German) to become the name a new line of products… including a line of gas ovens. Siemens never learned their lesson, in 2008 they received a record fine from the US authorities in relation to a bribery scandal. The total cost came to about $2.5 Billion.

I highlighted these companies because their brands still enjoy a global appeal.

There were more companies who supported the Nazi regime, some who were forced to others who only did it for commercial interests.

It is sad to see that 7 decades after the war some companies still put the commercial interests ahead of humanity.

All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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Charles Coward-The Count of Auschwitz

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What’s in a name? My last name would indicate that I would be someone from a small stature, however with my 1.90 m (6ft23) I could not be considered small by any stretch of the imagination. The same can be said about Charles Coward one of WW2 biggest heroes despite his name.

Charles Coward, nicknamed the “Count of Auschwitz,” was held as a British POW but, since he had escaped so many other POW camps, he was sent to Auschwitz III, a POW camp near Auschwitz II in Birkenau.

Once, during an escape, he blended in with German wounded and was accidentally awarded the Iron Cross by Nazi officers.  In the Auschwitz POW camp, he met a British doctor who would visit the camp from the Jewish side.  One day he switched clothes with the doctor and spent a day in the Auschwitz death camp witnessing the horrors only a few meters away.

Coward joined the Army in June 1937 and was captured in May 1940 near Calais while serving with the 8th Reserve Regimental Royal Artillery as Quartermaster Battery Sergeant Major. He managed to make two escape attempts before even reaching a prisoner of war camp, then made seven further escapes; on one memorable occasion managing to be awarded the Iron Cross while posing as a wounded soldier in a German Army field hospital.

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When in captivity he was equally troublesome to his captors, organizing numerous acts of sabotage while out on work details.

Finally in December 1943, he was transferred to the Auschwitz III (Monowitz) labour camp (Arbeitslager), situated only five miles from the better-known extermination camp of Auschwitz II (Birkenau).

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Monowitz was under the directionof the industrial company IG Farben, who were building a Buna (synthetic rubber) and liquid fuel plant there.IG Farben also manufactured Zyklon B

It housed over 10,000 Jewish slave labourers, as well as POWs and forced labourers from all over occupied Europe. Coward and other British POWs were housed in sub-camp E715, administered by Stalag VIII-B.

Thanks to his command of the German language, Coward was appointed Red Cross liaison officer for the 1,200-1,400 British prisoners.

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In this trusted role he was allowed to move fairly freely throughout the camp and often to surrounding towns.He witnessed the arrival of trainloads of Jews to the extermination camp. Coward and other British prisoners smuggled food and other items to the Jewish inmates. He also exchanged coded messages with the British authorities via letters to a fictitious Mr. William Orange (Code for the War Office), giving military information, notes on the conditions of POWs and the other prisoners in the camps, as well as dates and numbers of the arrival of trainloads of Jews.

On one occasion a note was smuggled to him from a Jewish-British ship’s doctor, who was being held in Monowitz. Coward determined to contact him directly; managed to swap clothes with an inmate on a work detail and spent the night in the Jewish camp, seeing at first hand the horrific conditions in which these were held. He failed to find the individual, later found to be Karel Sperber. This experience formed the basis of his subsequent testimony in post-war legal proceedings.

Determined to do something about it, Coward used Red Cross supplies, particularly chocolate, to “buy” from the SS guards corpses of dead prisoners, including Belgian and French civilian forced labourers. Coward then directed healthy Jewish prisoners to join the nightly marches of Jews considered unfit for further work from Monowitz to the Birkenau gas chambers.During the course of the march the healthy men dropped out of procession to hide in ditches; Coward scattered the corpses he had purchased on the road to give the impression that they were members of the column who had died on the march.He then gave the documents and clothes taken from the non-Jewish corpses to the Jewish escapees, who adopted these new identities and were then smuggled out of the camp altogether. Coward carried out this scheme on numerous occasions and is estimated to have saved at least 400 Jewish slave labourers, even though this wasn’t officially verified.

 

In December 1944 Coward was sent back to the main camp of Stalag VIII-B at Lamsdorf (now Łambinowice, Poland) and in January 1945, the POWs were marched under guard to Bavaria, where they were eventually liberated.

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After the war, Coward testified at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, describing the conditions inside the Monowitz camp, the treatment of Allied POWs and Jewish prisoners, and the locations of the gas chambers.

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In 1953, Coward also appeared as a witness in the “Wollheim Suit”, when former slave labourer Norbert Wollheim sued I.G. Farben for his salary and compensation for damages.

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In January 1955, he joined the Old Comrades No. 4077 of UGLE.

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1960 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.

In 1954 John Castle’s book, The Password is Courage, describing Coward’s wartime activities, was published. It has been through ten editions since, and remains in print. On the back cover of the current edition he is billed as “The Man who Broke into Auschwitz”, (which is also the title of Denis Avey’s book). This was adapted into a 1962 film also titled The Password Is Courage starring Dirk Bogarde. The film was lighthearted compared to the book and made only passing reference to Coward’s time at Auschwitz; it concentrated instead on his numerous escapes and added a fictitious romantic liaison.

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In 1963 Coward was named among the Righteous among the Nations and had a tree planted in his honour in the Avenue of Righteous Gentiles in Yad Vashem. In 2003 Coward was further commemorated with the mounting of a blue plaque at his home at 133 Chichester Road, Edmonton, London, where he lived from 1945 until his death. The North Middlesex Hospital has a ward named “Charles Coward” in his honour.

In 2010, Coward was posthumously named a British Hero of the Holocaust by the British Government.

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This move was seen as a reaction to comments made by Shimon Peres, the Israeli President, who commended Mr Coward’s actions in the House of Commons on 19 November 2008.

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His own father, Yitzak Persky, was also a prisoner of war who saved Jews from the gas chambers, and met Mr Coward, reportedly describing him as a “most impressive character”

En route, a New Zealand soldier died from hypothermia and starvation. “Coward took his dogtag and documentation off him and replaced my identity with his,” Persky reported. He used this identity for the rest of the war.

After Charles Cowards’s death there have been conflicting reports in relation to how many people has helped to escape.When Coward himself was questioned by Yad Vashem researchers in 1962 he offered few details about their identities or fates saying “It is not known exactly how many of these people regained their freedom, because some people went different ways and to different countries.” He added: “And naturally no records were kept of them because once they arrived in their new country, special papers were given to them and perhaps different names, etc.” The revisionist position is that Coward may have saved a few Jews, but certainly not hundreds, but does that make him less of a Hero? In my opinion it doesn’t.

 

sources

http://www.wollheim-memorial.de/en/charles_joseph_coward_19051976

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/charles-coward/

https://ww2-movie-characters.fandom.com/wiki/Charles_Coward

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Forgotten History-Khatyn Massacre

It is only by chance I came across this story whilst I was researching the Katyn Massacre in Poland, it was only one letter of a difference but both atrocities portrayed the human depravity.

https://dirkdeklein.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/katyn-forest-massacre-the-killing-of-polish-pows/

Khatyn or Chatyń (Belarusian and Russian: ) was a village of 26 houses and 156 inhabitants in Belarus, inLahoysk Raion, Minsk Region, 50 km away from Minsk. On 22 March 1943, the entire population of the village was massacred by the 118th Schutzmannschaft Nazi battalion. The battalion was formed in July 1942 in Kiev and was made up mostly of Ukrainian nationalist collaborators from Western Ukraine, Hiwis and the Dirlewanger Waffen-SS special battalion.

The massacre was not an unusual incident in Belarus during World War II. At least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were burned and destroyed by the Nazis, and often all their inhabitants were killed (some amounting up to 1,500 victims) as a punishment for collaboration with partisans. In the Vitebsk region, 243 villages were burned down twice, 83 villages three times, and 22 villages were burned down four or more times. In the Minsk region, 92 villages were burned down twice, 40 villages three times, nine villages four times, and six villages five or more times.Altogether, over 2,000,000 people were killed in Belarus during the three years of Nazi occupation, almost a quarter of the region’s population.

On 22 March 1943, a German convoy was attacked by Soviet partisans

Partisans_attack_village

near Koziri village just 6 km away from Khatyn, resulting in the deaths of four police officers of Schutzmannschaft Batallion 118, which consisted mostly of Ukrainian collaborators, and Red Army prisoner-of-war volunteers and deserters. Among the dead was Hauptmann Hans Woellke.

Hans_Woellke_1936

The battalion’s commanding officer.Woellke was an Olympic champion in Berlin in 1936 and an acquaintance of Adolf Hitler.

Troops from the Dirlewanger Brigade,a unit mostly composed of criminals recruited for anti-partisan duties, entered the village and drove the inhabitants from their houses and into a shed, which was then covered with straw and set on fire. The trapped people managed to break down the front doors, but in trying to escape, were killed by machine gun fire. 147 people, including 75 children under 16 years of age, were killed – burned, shot or suffocated in fire. The village was then looted and burned to the ground.

Only eight inhabitants of the village survived, from whom six were recognized as witnesses to the tragedy – five children and a single adult. By 2008, only two of them were still alive to tell the story

Twelve-year-old Anton Iosifovich Baranovsky , was left for dead due to wounds in both legs.His injuries were treated by partisans.

baranofski

Alexander Petrovich Zhelobkovich (1930–1994), who was 12 years old at the time, also survived. When the Nazi soldiers almost surrounded the village, his mother woke him up and put him on a horse, on which he escaped to a nearby village.

Vladimir Antonovich Yaskevich managed to survive by hiding in a potato pit 200 meters from his family house. Two Nazi soldiers noticed the boy, yet they spared him. Vladimir noted that they spoke German between themselves, not Ukrainian.

Sofia Antonovna Yaskevich,(later Fiokhina) Vladimir’s sister (born 1934) hid in the cellar during the tragedy.

Viktor Andreevich Zhelobkovich ,a seven-year-old boy, survived the fire in the shed under the corpse of his mother.

JELOB

The picture below is of Vladimir Antonovich Yaskevich;Sofia Antonovna Yaskevich and Viktor Andreevich Zhelobkovich as adults at the memorial complex.

3 of them

The only adult survivor of the massacre  was a man called Joseph Kaminski

kaminsjki

Although Joseph survived he had to suffer a hard blow, though. He found his injured son among the corpses of the fellow — villagers. The boy was fatally wounded in the abdomen and totally burnt. He died later in the arms of his father.

Two other Khatyn women survived because they were away from the village that day.

Tatyana Vasilyevna Karaban  was visiting relatives in a neighboring village.

Sofya Klimovich, a relative of Tatyana Karaban, was also visiting a nearby village.

Although the inhabitants of Khatyn were not aware of the events which had unfolded that morning it didn’t stop the Nazi’s to indiscriminately kill everyone in the village, even a 7 week old baby wasn’t spared.

If it hadn’t been for the 6 witnesses who survived no one would have ever found out what really happened.

The commander of one of the platoons of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, Ukrainian Vasyl Meleshko, was tried in a Soviet court and executed in 1975. The chief of staff of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, Ukrainian Grigory Vassiura, was tried in Minsk in 1986 and found guilty of all his crimes. He was sentenced to death by the verdict of the military tribunal of the Belorussian military district.

The case and the trial of the main executioner of Khatyn was not given much publicity in the media; the leaders of the Soviet republics worried about the inviolability of unity between the Belarusian and Ukrainian peoples.

Khatyn became a symbol of mass killings of the civilian population during the fighting between partisans, German troops, and collaborators. In 1969, it was named the national war memorial of the Belarussian SSR. Among the best-recognized symbols of the memorial complex is a monument with three birch trees, with an eternal flame instead of a fourth tree, a tribute to the one in every four Belarusians who died in the war.There is also a statue of Joseph Kaminsky carrying his dying son

joseph

 

and a wall with niches to represent the victims of all the concentration camps, with large niches representing those with more than 20,000 victims.The Wall of Sorrow near the cemetery represents the memorial slabs with the names of 66 largest death camps and places of massive loss of life.

sorrow

The memorial has 26 chimneys with bells – one for each of the houses in the village – which ring out every hour. Each chimney has a plaque remembering the family members who died.

Part of the memorial is a Cemetery of villages with 185 tombs. Each tomb symbolizes a particular village in Belarus that was fired along with its population.

Khatyn_-_Villages tombs

Among the foreign leaders who have visited the Khatyn Memorial during their time in office are Richard Nixon of the US, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Rajiv Gandhi of India, Yasser Arafat of the PLO, and Jiang Zemin of China.

nixon

The Khatyn massacre was deliberately exploited to cover up the Katyn massacre by the Soviet authorities; according to Norman Davies, this was a major reason for erecting the memorial—it was done in order to cause confusion with Katyn among foreign visitors.

In 2004, the Memorial was renovated.

1920px-Khatyn_Panorama

Nixon’s visit to the Memorial

Forgotten History-The Jews from Geleen 1940-1944.

During the war Geleen was a small mining town in the South-East of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg. Above are 2 maps the first one is of the Netherlands and the other one is of the greater Geleen Sittard area, just to give you a geographical sense of the place.

Due to the close proximity to Germany many Jews escaped to Limburg in the 1930’s. The Netherlands was a neutral country so the Jewish community thought they were safe.

Geleen itself had a relatively small Jewish community but significant enough for a town with a population of approximately 15,000 at the time.The exact number of Jews living in Geleen is not known but it is estimated there were 67.

Rather then going in to each individual account I will be showing the timeline of events relating to the Jews in Geleen. This timeline would be identical for Jewish communities in other towns and cities in the country and indeed throughout Europe. It is a good indication of the systematic dehumanization of the Jews by the Nazi’s. In total there are 42 events, I will not mention all of them but will highlight , for a lack of a better description, the most important ones.

22 June 1940: All Jewish shop are besmirched by the Nazi’s with the text ” Jüdisches Geschäft” (Jewish Shop)

winkel

1 July 1940: Jews have to leave the Bomb shelters

26/27 July: During night time the windows of Jewish shops are shattered.(Below a news paper article about it)

krant artikel

31 July 1940: Ban on ritual slaughter

6 September 1940: The general secretaries of most Government departments promise not to hire Jews in pubic office jobs.

5 October 1940: Government personnel have to sign an ‘Aryan’ declaration

21 November 1940: An announcement is made that all Jews working in the public and civil service are to be fired.

10  January 1941: Compulsory Registration is introduced, by the 21st of February all Jews need to be registered. Mayor Damen announces on the 15th of April that 67 Jews have been registered.

4 June 1941: The freedom of movement is restricted for Jews

1 September 1941: Jewish children are no longer allowed to attend regular schools. A make shift school is set up in the teachers residence next to the synagogue.

image140

15 September 1941: Signs with “Verboden voor Joden” forbidden for Jews are put up. Jews are forbidden to go to cinemas,sports ground,libraries,concert hall and most other public places.

verbod

Also in 1941 Richard Kaufmann is picked up by the Nazi’s and sent to a labor camp in the Netherlands. On October the 3rd he is deported to Westerbork.

westerbork

Shortly afterwards he is deported from Westerbork to Auschwitz.Richard Kaufmann dies on the 3rd of September 1943 in Auschwitz.

richard

2 May 1942: All Jews are ordered to start wearing the yellow star of David.

jood

19 May 1942: Radio builder Frederik Goldsteen is been arrested after it is found out he kept building radio’s after he was forbidden to do so, and also because of his criticism of Adolf Hitler.Via Camp Amersfoort he is sent to Westerbork and from there to Auschwitz where he dies on 15 August 1942.

12 June 1942: Jews are no longer allowed to buy vegetables in Non Jewish shops

2 August 1942: In all of the Netherlands Jews who have been converted to Catholicism are picked up. In Geleen there were 4 one of then was a Nun who is transported to Auschwitz and dies in the gas chamber. The other 3 are released because they are from mixed marriages.

9 August 1942: Luise Löwenfels aka Sister Maria Aloysia dies in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

lowenfels

 

https://dirkdeklein.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/forgotten-history-luise-lowenfels/

25 August 1942:approximately 20 Jewish citizens were deported from City Hall by the Germans. Only 1 survives the war.

HITACHI Digital Camera

10 November 1942: Guus van Dam is picked up and sent to Groningen in the North of the country, from there he is deported to Auschwitz via Westerbork. His fate is unknown. On the 17th of August 1945 some of his family members put an ad in a newspaper to see if anyone has information.

dam

In September 1930, Guus had moved with his parents to Geleen and lived there on Jubileumplein 12, this was near the rear entrance of my school. An address I would have passed by on a daily basis.

21 January 1943: The Jewish mental asylum “Het Apeldoornse Bos” is evacuated. Two patients were from Geleen. They are all send to Auschwitz where they all perished.

bos

September 1943: Jews with mixed marriages are exempt of wearing the yellow star of David

March 1944: Jews from mixed marriage are ordered to be sterilized or to proof they are infertile

18 September 1944: Geleen is liberated by the Combat Command (B) 2nd Armored Division.

putstraat

Below is the list of all those who were deported from Geleen and never returned.

  Name  First Name Born Died
1 Freimark-Adler Hermine 12-12-1876 Urspringen (D) 14-05-1943 Sobibor
2 Baum Max 04-01-1907 Bauchem (D) 31-03-1944 Auschwitz
3 Cohen-Ten Brink Esthella Carolina 05-06-1904 Ootmarsum 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
4 Meyer-Cahn Jeanette (Jetta) 18-12-1859 Leutesdorf (D) 10-05-1943 Westerbork
5 Claessens Albert 19-04-1905 Obbicht 30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
6 Cohen Frieda 11-07-1924 Vaals 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
7 Cohen Henny 30-10-1925 Vaals 26-09-1942 Auschwitz
8 Cohen Josephine 09-07-1930 Geleen 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
9 Cohen Simon 01-05-1889 Midwolda 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
10 Freimark Ernst 12-08-1936 Frankfurt (D) 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
11 Freimark Friedrich 27-10-1902 Marktheidenfeld (D) 30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
12 Freimark Kurt 21-12-1939 Heerlen 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
13 Levy-Goldschmidt Irene 15-02-1907 Rheda (D) 30-11-1943 Auschwitz
14 Goldschmidt Josef 24-10-1867 Rheda (D) 28-05-1943 Sobibor
15 Goldsteen Frederik 09-07-1918 Rheydt (D) 15-08-1942 Auschwitz
16 Levi-Harf Rosalie 27-10-1880 Mönchengladbach (D) 28-05-1943 Sobibor
17 Goldschmidt-Jacob Frieda 19-02-1869 Rheda-Wiedenbrück (D) 07-10-1943 Maastricht**
18 May-Jacobsohn Klara 14-05-1871 Neckarbischofsheim (D) 14-05-1943 Sobibor
19 Meyer-Kaufmann Berta 03-01-1912 Köln (D) 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
20 Kaufmann Margard 10-11-1928 Gronau (D) 03-09-1943 Auschwitz
21 Kaufmann Richard 30-06-1886 Moers (D) 03-09-1943 Auschwitz
22 Heimberg-Klestadt Bertha 28-12-1891 Büren (D) 25-01-1943 Auschwitz***
23 Claessens-Krzanowska Ajga 17-03-1909 Zawiercie (Polen) 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
24 Lebenstein Ida 16-05-1888 Ochtrup (D) 28-05-1943 Sobibor
25 Levy Arnold 27-05-1880 Wuppertal-Elberfeld (D) 28-05-1943 Sobibor
26 Levy Hans Erich 22-03-1911 Düsseldorf (D) 31-03-1944 Polen
27 Löwenfels Luise 05-07-1915 Trabelsdorf (D) 30-09-1942 Auschwitz
28 Freimark-May Gertruda 16-02-1902 Niedermendig (D) 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
29 Winter-May Irma Johanna 30-08-1908 Niedermendig (D) 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
30 Goldsteen-Mendel Carolina 06-07-1880 Tetz (D) 22-10-1943 Auschwitz****
31 Meyer Max 23-01-1900 Remagen-Oberwinter (D) 30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
32 Roer Helene 14-09-1921 Zülpich (D) 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
33 Roer Ilse 20-02-1925 Zülpich (D) 31-08-1942 Auschwitz
34 Baum-Salmagne Sophia 12-06-1867 Eilendorf (D) 16-11-1943 Bergen-Belzen
35 Willner Paul Siegfried 05-06-1902 Aachen (D) 30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
36 Winter Gustav 01-11-1897 Korschenbroich (D) 30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
37 Kaufmann-Zilversmit Adele 07-12-1890 Gronau (D) 03-09-1943 Auschwitz

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Resources

http://members.home.nl/w.brasse/vergeten_joden_van_geleen.htm#SlachtoffersGeleen

https://www.stolpersteinesittardgeleen.nl/Slachtoffers/Gustaaf-van-Dam