May 2nd Dachau Death March.

On the 2nd of May a unit from the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, US Army, encountered Jewish inmates  who were put on a death march from Dachau and were approaching Waakirchen. The US soldiers were almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese ancestry (Nisei)

During these marches, also called the “death marches”, at least one thousand prisoners died. They died of disease, undernourishment, and exhaustion. If a prisoner collapsed or, fully exhausted, simply could not continue, they were beaten or shot to death by SS guards. The route of the marches passed through numerous villages and small towns. Scores of residents witnessed the brutal marches.

Women prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp on an “death march” in Percha, Lake Starnberg, April 28 1945 (Municipal archives Landsberg am Lech)

By the second of May 1945, only some of the 6,000 prisoners sent on the death march were still alive; thosewhose heatlth failed them or were unable to continue had been shot as they fell. On that day, as the eastwards-marching prisoners had passed through Bad Tölz and were nearing Waakirchen, nearly sixty kilometers (37 miles) south of Dachau, several hundred of the dead and dying were lying on open ground, nearly all covered in freshly fallen snow.

They were spotted by advance scouts of the U.S. Army’s 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the only segregated Japanese American-manned military unit in Germany at the time. Only days earlier, they had liberated the Kaufering IV Hurlach satellite slave labor camp of the Dachau main camp’s “system”.

Finishing up with the words of one of the survivors.

Willemijn Petroff-van Gurp
Due to my resistance activities, I was imprisoned in Scheveningen, Vught, Ravensbrück and Dachau. We were liberated by the Americans.

I owe my life to my friends, who dragged me along with them when I passed out and kept me warm when I was in bad shape in the camp.

Because of the war, it became clear to me what freedom of expression, the danger of dictatorship and declaring human beings to be inferior mean. This is why I contributed to a report of my experiences of the war, because I think it is important that the youth also realize this.

My oldest son Robert had prepared himself to go to the commemoration in Dachau in my name. Unfortunately I can not go there myself anymore due to my health, as I am now 101 years old.

Willemijn Petroff-van Gurp wrote this message 2 years ago

sources

http://encyclopedia.densho.org/522nd_Field_Artillery_Battalion/#

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/?f%5Bspecial_collection%5D%5B%5D=The%20Jeff%20and%20Toby%20Herr%20Oral%20History%20Archive

Bergen Belsen- A place of darkness and death.

On April 15, the 63rd Anti-tank Regiment and the 11th Armoured Division of the British army liberated about 60,000 prisoners at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

One of the soldiers, 21 year old Corporal Ian Forsyth, called it “A place of darkness and death.” What the British troops encountered was described by the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby, who accompanied them:

“…Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which… The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them … Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live … A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms, then ran off, crying terribly. He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days. This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.”

Major Dick Williams was one of the first British soldiers to enter Bergen-Belsen. On April 15, 1945,he described his first impressions of the camp and its atmosphere of death.

“But we went further on into the camp, and seen these corpses lying everywhere. You didn’t know whether they were living or dead. Most of them were dead. Some were trying to walk, some were stumbling, some on hands and knees, but in the lagers, the barbed wire around the huts, you could see that the doors were open. The stench coming out of them was fearsome.

They were lying in the doorways – tried to get down the stairs and fallen and just died on the spot. And it was just everywhere.
Going into, more deeper, into the camp the stench got worse and the numbers of dead – they were just
impossible to know how many there were…Inside the camp itself, it was just unbelievable. You just couldn’t believe the numbers involved.

This was one of the things which struck me when I first went in, that the whole camp was so quiet and yet there were so many people there. You couldn’t hear anything, there was just no sound at all and yet there was some movement – those people who could walk or move – but just so quiet. You just couldn’t understand that all those people could be there and yet everything was so quiet… It was just this oppressive haze over the camp, the smell, the starkness of the barbed wire fences, the dullness of the bare earth, the scattered bodies and these very dull, too, striped grey uniforms – those who had it – it was just so dull. The sun, yes the sun was shining, but they were just didn’t seem to make any life at all in that camp. Everything seemed to be dead. The slowness of the movement of the people who could walk. Everything was just ghost-like and it was just
unbelievable that there were literally people living still there. There’s so much death apparent that the living, certainly, were in the minority”

Major Leonard Berney, recalled:

“I remember being completely shattered. The dead bodies lying down beside the road, the starving emaciated prisoners still mostly behind barbed wire, the open mass graves containing hundreds of corpses, the stench, the sheer horror of the place, were indescribable. None of us who entered the camp had any warning of what we were about to see or had ever experienced anything remotely like it before.”

Harry Oakes and Bill Lawrie both served with the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU).The unit was established in 1941 to produce an official record of the British Army’s role during the Second World War. Both men arrived at Bergen-Belsen to record conditions in the camp. They recall how British forces gained access to the camp.

“About that time the chaps attached to 11th Armoured Division had seen a staff car come up to Headquarters one day with a German officer, or two German officers I believe, blindfolded and when they made enquiries they were told that they were from a Political Prison Camp at Belsen. The
Germans, anticipating us capturing the camp or over-running it, wanted the British to send in an advanced party to prevent these prisoners who were supposed to be infected with typhus from escaping.

But the force we wanted to send in was too much. The Germans felt it wouldn’t have been
air so they agreed on a compromise that they would leave 1,000 Wehrmacht behind if we returned them within ten days. So we were standing by at Lüneburg, Lawrie and myself, to go into Belsen…We had this business of the staff car with the white flags telling us that there was a typhus hospital on the way ahead of us, and would we be willing to call a halt to any actual battle until this area was taken over in case of escapees into Europe and the ravage that would take place.

And as far as I know, the Brigadier believed this story, and we set sail that evening to have a look at this typhus hospital under a white flag. And there was no typhus hospital. There was barbed wire, sentry boxes, a huge garrison building for SS troopers, and Belsen concentration camp. And, as I say, we drove up in two, three jeeps, four jeeps maybe, in the evening, and we saw this concentration camp that we believed was a typhus hospital. But we knew immediately that it wasn’t a typhus hospital.”

Finishing this blog with a quote from Bergen Belsen’s mots famous victim, Anne Frank.

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

sources

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/12/the-horrors-i-saw-still-wake-me-at-night-the-liberation-of-belsen-75-years-on

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-liberation-of-bergen-belsen

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/stories/the-liberation-of-bergen-belsen

Liberation of Westerbork

Westerbork was liberated on April 12, 1945, by Canadian forces. At the time there were still 876 inmates there. Something which isn’t widely known is that this liberation nearly was a destruction. The Canadians thought the camp was a Germany military base. They had plans for shelling Weseterbork.

This was published in de Telegraaf on September 14,1998.

“Title: ESCAPED PRISONER SAVED WESTERBORK FROM BEING BOMBARDED
Publication: DE TELEGRAAF
Date of the Publication: 14-09-1993

————————————–Title————————————————

ESCAPED PRISONER SAVED WESTERBORK FROM BOMBARDMENT
————————————Summary———————————————

As now is evident, the last 900 Jewish prisoners held captive by the Germans in concentration camp Westerbork
escaped near death on the 12th of April 1945.
—————————————Text———————————————–

Escaped Jew saved Westerbork from being bombarded.
From our correspondent
WESTERBORK, Tuesday
As now is evident, the last 900 Jewish prisoners held captive by the Germans in concentration camp Westerbork escaped near death on the 12th of April 1945.
The Canadian Army, which liberated the camp that day, were about to destroy the camp by bombarding it. The Allies believed it to be a military camp housing German troops which were determined to fight to the end. A fatal error only averted in the very last moment through the intervention of a Jewish camp inmate from Amsterdam. He managed to escape in the night from the 11th to the 12th after the German SS guards secretly had fled on the 10th.
The man, who recently turned 70 years old (Ed.: in 1993) and now lives in Canada, told his perilous adventure last week for the first time to the Director D. Mulder of the herinneringscentrum – Remembrance Center Westerbork. “We keep his identity for the time being a secret because he still is quite undone by what happened to him during wartime.” according director Mulder.

Oranjekanaal – the Orange canal

In the meantime, this sensational statement has been confirmed by the second principle player in this near-drama, Brigadier-General Allard of the 6th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. Allard was promoted to Chief of Staff of the Canadian Army.
The escapee, who hailed from Amsterdam, managed to swim across the Oranjekanaal, in the early hours of the morning of the 12th of April. Next he was apprehended by recently arrived troops under Allard. The Canadians dit not believe the escaped prisoner who told them that only civilians were in the camp and returned him to Westerbork together with a reconnaissance patrol in order to obtain certainty. Although the patrol encountered wandering Germans with whom they exchanged shots, the soldiers managed to bring out report that the man from Amsterdam had been correct. This convinced Allard, resulting in the cancellation of the planned bombardment.
According to Mulder, the statement of the people involved is of significant importance, because very little is known about the circumstances surrounding the events dealing with the liberation of camp Westerbork. “I have arranged with Allard that together we would conduct an investigation into this matter,” according to the director.

It is unfortunate indeed that more that 60 years have gone by without having obtained a crystal clear picture as to what exactly happened on that momentous day, the 12th of April 1945. Various stories have emerged, several have been recorded on this Website. I believe all who were there and lived through the liberation period are sincere men. Each of them sheds a ray of light on an otherwise clouded over bit of history. Somewhere in between rests the truth.”

Westerbork was originally built in 1939 as a refugee camp. Given the increasing number of German Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime.

Jacques Schol, a Dutchman, was commander of the camp from 16 July 1940 and until January 1943. On July 1st 1942, the Germans took over the control of Westerbork and transformed it into a transit camp.

On 1 July 1942, the camp was officially placed under the jurisdiction of the SS; it was no longer a refugee camp, but a transit camp. A fortnight later, the first deportations to the east began, dozens of cattle cars left the camp every week for the death camps of Poland.  Westerbork became the biggest transit point in Western Europe.

Although it was not a death camp, it was a cynical place. The illusion was created that things were not as bad as they seemed, given the inmates a sense of hope. It had a football league, schools and an orchestra and there were regular cabaret performances.

Actress Camilla Spira, who was briefly a member of the cabaret, remembered her disbelief at the enthusiasm of the audience:

“This couldn’t be, they enjoyed themselves so, and they sat there in rags. We were the collection camp, these people were dragged here, and then it was on to Auschwitz or Theresienstadt. These volleys of laughter, this excitement – in the moment when they saw us, the people forgot everything. And it was horrible, for the next morning they went to death … they were only there for a night.”

Etty Hillesum wrote in one of her letters:

“the comic Max Ehrlich and the hit composer Willy Rosen, who looks like a walking corpse. A little while ago he was on the list for transport, but he sang his lungs out a few nights in a row for an enchanted audience including the commander and his followers … the commander, who valued art, found it wonderful and Willy Rosen was spared … and over there is another court jester: Erich Ziegler, the favourite pianist of the commanders. There is a legend that he is so amazing that he can even play Beethoven’s ninth as a jazz piece, and if that isn’t something else…”

The camp even had healthcare services and a Hospital. Again to create this illusion that life would continue as normal as possible and that the accommodation was only temporary . Soon they would be resettled. For 107,000 people this resettlement meant being murdered in Auschwitz, Sobibor and other extermination camps or labour camps.

Abraham Mol ,a former civil servant of the Ministry of Transport and Public Works and former male nurse of camp Westerbork recalled his memories of the liberation in an interview a different liberation story of Transit Camp Westerbork. This camp was located in the moors of the province of Drente, from where Dutch Jews were deported to the extermination centers in Poland.

Abraham Mol a former civil servant of the Ministry of Transport and Public Works and former male nurse of camp Westerbork recalled his memory of the liberation during an interview with ‘De Telegraaf’

“Commandant Gemmeker, together with his SS guard unit, absconded on the 11th of April, 1945, when the Allied forces moved in northern direction. They posted posters which said that the camp was turned over to the Red Cross. For the last Jewish prisoners still in the camp it said that we could remove our Jew stars. Furthermore, we were advised to remain in our barracks, seeing the camp had now become front-line.”

After the liberation, the 876 Jews that were liberated, had to stay in the camp for a few more months longer. This was initially as security measure The entirety of the Netherlands hadn’t been liberated yet. There was still fighting further up north. In addition, the Canadian and Dutch authorities first wanted to investigate why these Jewish prisoners hadn’t been deported: were there people amongst them who had worked with the Nazis and had to be imprisoned (again)? It would take to July 1945 before the last prisoners were allowed to leave Camp Westerbork. In the meantime, most people had received the heartbreaking news that their deported family members, friends, and acquaintances who went to ‘the East’ were murdered there by the Nazis and would never return.

The prisoners had asked civil servant Aad van As to take charge as soon as the SS had left. Van As belonged to one of the few Dutch citizens who held a position in the camp.

Van As issued this statement:

“Since I have accepted the position of leadership for this camp for the time being, I issue the following orders:

1e. The present “Dienstbereiche – Heads of Service” have been changed as follows:

                        Administration .......................  R. Friend
                        Field Service .........................  E. Zielke
                        Technical Service ................... E. Wachsmann
                        Guard Service .......................  A. Pisk
                        Medical Service ..................... Dr. F. Spanier
                        Clothing Repair Shop ............. G. Frank
                        Woodworking Shop ............... H. Beyer

2e. In order to maintain discipline in the camp, the above mentioned services will continue to operate.

3e. The representatives in whom I have placed my trust, and who have promised to work alongside with
me in the interest of camp life are as follows:

                         M. de Jong
                         F. Schiff
                         K. Schlesinger
                         Dr. Speijer
                         A. van Witsen

These men will form together with me the leadership of this camp.

4e. Everyone is advised to carry out his or her task in his own best interest, and to maintain camp
discipline.

5e. I will not hesitate to take corrective action against anyone who, one way or another, attempts to
disturb order and discipline in the camp.

6e. Labor hours will be changed as follows:

  women: from 8 until 12 o'clock, or when required at other times.
  men: from 8 to 12 o'clock and from 14 to 16 hours (2 to 4 in the afternoon).

  No work will be required after Saturday at noon until Monday morning.
  Should it be in the best interest of camp life these hours may be adjusted to a longer work schedule.

The office for the directors of the camp is in Barrack No. 33 as of this afternoon.

                                                                              Signed by Aad van As

     Westerbork, d. 12 April 1945.                            ( A. van As Jr.)

Translation of the Dutch order issued by Aad van As, dated 12 April 1945″

The late Ed van Thijn, former Mayor of Amsterdam and Dutch Minister for Interior affairs, was one of the 876 people who were liberated.

In the spring of 1943, Eddy van Thijn and his mother are taken from home in a raid. They end up in camp Westerbork and after three months they go on the train, not to Auschwitz but back to Amsterdam.

Thanks to a ruse by his father, the family did not have to go to the concentration camps in Eastern Europe.

However, he had to go into hiding as a 10-year-old boy.

He went into hiding in Brunssum, a town in the province of Limburg, and subsequently went to 18 different hiding places in Limburg and Overijssel. The eighteenth address was betrayed and so he ended up in Westerbork again in January 1945

Hidden in a kitchen cupboard, he heard soldiers’ boots on the stairs. He was betrayed and arrested. But because the war was coming to an end, he again avoided transport from Westerbork to the Auschwitz extermination camp. ,,I wasn’t allowed to exist, but I do exist’, said Van Thijn later. Both his parents survived. Ed van Thijn died on December 19,2021

Ed asked himself the following questions most of his life, I think we can ask ourselves some of those questions also.

“Had I not been a child in the war, how bravely would I have behaved? Would I have joined the resistance? Would I have resisted? Would I have been as untouchable as my father? Would I have had the courage to jump out of a moving train? Would I have succeeded in getting my child out of Westerbork?’

sources

https://www.normandy1944.info/blog/liberation-of-camp-westerbork-nl

https://www.annefrank.org/en/timeline/225/westerbork-transit-camp-is-liberated/

https://holocaustmusic.ort.org/places/camps/western-europe/westerbork/

https://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1942-1945/liberation-of-westerbork

https://kampwesterbork.nl/en/history/second-world-war/durchgangslager/66-history/durchgangslager/268-liberation

https://kampwesterbork.nl/de-stichting/nieuws/item/in-memoriam


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Testimonies on Ohrdruf Concentration camp.

I am not a great believer in posting graphic images, but when it comes to the Holocaust there really is not always a way around it.

The picture above was taken in Ohrdruf shortly after it was liberated, it is actually one of the least graphic pictures.

The Ohrdruf camp was a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp, and the first Nazi camp liberated by US troops.

The camp was liberated on April 4, 1945, by the 4th Armored Division, led by Brigadier General Joseph F. H. Cutrona, and the 89th Infantry Division. It was the first Nazi concentration camp liberated by the U.S. Army. There is a scene in ‘the Band of Brothers’ where they liberate a camp, the name isn’t mentioned but I believe it to be Ohrdruf.

One of the 4th Armored Division soldiers, David Cohen, said: “We walked into a shed and the bodies were piled up like wood. There are no words to describe it. The smell was overpowering and unforgettable.”

The horrific nature of what the 4th Armored Division had discovered led General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, to visit the camp on April 12, with Generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley. After his visit, Eisenhower cabled General George C. Marshall, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, describing his trip to Ohrdruf:

“The most interesting—although horrible—sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.'”

Ohrdruf had also made a powerful impression on battle hardened Patton, who described it as “one of the most appalling sights that I have ever seen.” He recounted in his diary that:

“In a shed … was a pile of about 40 completely naked human bodies in the last stages of emaciation. These bodies were lightly sprinkled with lime, not for the purposes of destroying them, but for the purpose of removing the stench.

When the shed was full—I presume its capacity to be about 200, the bodies were taken to a pit a mile from the camp where they were buried. The inmates claimed that 3,000 men, who had been either shot in the head or who had died of starvation, had been so buried since the 1st of January.

When we began to approach with our troops, the Germans thought it expedient to remove the evidence of their crime. Therefore, they had some of the slaves exhume the bodies and place them on a mammoth griddle composed of 60-centimeter railway tracks laid on brick foundations. They poured pitch on the bodies and then built a fire of pinewood and coal under them. They were not very successful in their operations because there was a pile of human bones, skulls, charred torsos on or under the griddle which must have accounted for many hundreds.”

John W. Becket was another soldier who entered Ohrdruf that day. On the 17th of April he documented his experiences and impressions.

“As we came along our way we saw a sign pointing to ‘OHRDRUF,’ 15 kilometers from here, that is where the Germans had a concentration camp. What we saw was enough and at that it was pretty well cleaned up.”

“… an MP captain was questioning one of the liberated prisoners. He was Polish, spoke German, & as he related it was translated to us by the captain.” The prisoner showed them places where prisoners were beaten, tortured, and executed. Beckett wrote, “As the Polish prisoner talked, tears seemed to come to his eyes but he fought them down.”

“All such atrocities that were known to savages & Roman times & here it exists today in 1945, how is it possible, how can a man treat another as such. The question perhaps can’t be answered and I pray they will receive their just rewards, both here & in the life to come. Practically the whole battery went to see it & Patton wanted as many of his men that could go to see it & know that it is real & not propaganda. Its real, all too grotesquely real.”

Bruce Nickols was yet another soldier who recalled on what he saw that day. In 1998 he wrote a report on it.

“Fifty years have passed since this day but I recall my first impression of the camp called Ohrdruf which I found later was associated administratively with the camp called Buchenwald. Ohrdruf was named after the town of the same name, apparently locally famous for its history of being the place where Johann Sebastian Bach composed some of his works..

April 4, 1945
REPORT ON SURRENDER OF THE GERMAN CONCENTRATION CAMP AT OHRDRUF:
The date was April 4, 1945 and I was on a patrol as a member of the I &R platoon attached to the Headquarters company of 354th Infantry Regiment, of the 89th Infantry Division, 3rd Army U.S.A.

As I recall it was a beautiful spring morning marred by the fact that we were under mortar attack. I remember very well my surprise when I observed Brigadier General Robertson strolling upright down the road. He was an elderly avunular gentleman who thought nonchalance under fire characterized the general officer’s role model.

I was impressed but remained prone in the drainage ditch until the atttack ceased. Shortly thereafter, an acquaintance let it be known that a camp had been liberated further up the hill.

Fifty years have passed since this day but I recall my first impression of the camp called Ohrdruf which I found later was associated administratively with the camp called Buchenwald. Ohrdruf was named after the town of the same name, apparently locally famous for its history of being the place where Johann Sebastian Bach composed some of his works.

From the outside, the camp was unremarkable. It was surrounded by a high barbed wire fence and had a wooden sign which read, “Arbeit Macht Frei.” The swinging gate was open, and a young soldier, probably an SS guard, lay dead diagonally across the entrance. The camp was located inthe forest and was surrounded by a thick grove of pine and other conifers. The inside of the camp was composed of a large 100 yards square central area which was surrounded by one story barracks painted green which appeared to house 60-100 inmates.

As we stepped into the compound one was greeted by an overpowering odor of quick-lime, dirty clothing, feces, and urine. Laying in the center of the square were 60-70 dead prisoners clad in striped clothing and in disarray. They had reportedly been machine gunned the day before because they were too weak to march to another camp. The idea was for the SS and the prisoners to avoid the approaching U.S. Army and the Russians.

Adjacent to the”parade ground” was a small shed which was open on one side. Inside,were bodies stacked in alternate directions as one would stack cord wood, and each layer was covered with a sprinkling of quick-lime. I did not see him, but someone told me that there had been a body of a dead American aviator in the shed. This place reportedly had been used for punishment, and the inmates were beaten on their back and heads with a shovel. My understanding is that all died following this abuse.

I visited some of the surrounding barracks and found live inmates who had hidden during the massacre. They were astounded and appeared to be struggling to understand what was happening. Some were in their 5 tier bunks and somewhere wandering about.

This was the first camp to be “liberated” by the Allied armies in Germany. Ohrdruf was visited by Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley and there are photographs of them observing the bodies of the machine gunned inmates. According to Eisenhower, Patton had refused to visit the punishment shed as he feared he would become ill. He did vomit at a later time.

Further into the camp was evidence of an attempt to exhume and burn large numbers of bodies. There was a gallows, although I really cannot remember whether I saw it or not. I don’t remember leaving the camp. I recall being numb after seeing the camp. I had just turned 20 years old and I had read the biographical “Out of the Night.” It was a pale and inadequate picture of a German concentration camp by a refugee German author.

I recall becoming very upset when we got back to our quarters, but the whole experience was far beyond my understanding. I wrote a letter to my parents describing the experience which was read at a local gathering of business men. It was widely disbelieved.

Bruce Nickols”

sources

https://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1942-1945/liberation-of-ohrdruf

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/ohrdruf-concentration-camp

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/ohrdruf

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The treatment of Dutch Jews after liberation.

I came across this document which made me glad on one hand, but on the other hand it was also disturbing.

But before I go into the details I have to give some background information first. The south of the Netherlands was mostly liberated by October 1944. At that time the Netherlands was made up of 11 provinces(a few decades ago a 12 province was added)

The most southern province is Limburg with the capital Maastricht. In October 1944 the province was governed by the military commissioner.

He received the letter on October 16,1944. It was send to him 3 days earlier.

The letter mentions a bombing which took place on October 5,1942. This was a so called friendly fire bombing by the RAF. It killed 83 in my home town Geleen, and it left thousands homeless. The RAF thought it was Aachen in Germany.

I hadn’t realised that some of the bombs also were dropped on the neighbouring town of Beek.

The letter says that after this bombing, some homeless families in Beek were housed in the homes of Jewish families who had gone in hiding. But now after liberation the Jewish families claimed back their property, understandably so stated the mayor of Beek.

However he said there was one complicated case. A local butcher had his house and shop destroyed by the October 1942 bombing. He was assigned the house and the butcher shop of a Jewish butcher, who had left(turns out he was also in hiding). This arrangement was ordered by the NSB(Dutch Nazi party) mayor of Beek at the time.

But now the Jewish butcher had returned, after liberation, and he wanted his shop and his house back. The mayor asked the military commissioner for advice on what to do in this situation.

What made me glad in this story is that some of these Jewish people had survived the war. What disturbed me was the fact that advise was asked. To me it should have been a clear cut case of just giving back the property to the rightful owner , there should not be a question about it.

This is something what a lot of Dutch Jews experienced after the war, Their property would be occupied by others and more often then not, their houses or apartments would not be returned to them.

source

https://www.rhcl.nl/nl/info/nieuws-map/update-inventarisatieproject-archief-militair-gezag

https://jck.nl/nl/page/beek

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Freedom at last-Liberation Day-May 5,1945

The Netherlands had been occupied by the Nazis between May 15th 1940,after the Dutch forces surrendered, and May 1945. Although many parts had already been liberated by autumn 1944.

The official liberation day was set on May 5,1945. The Netherlands had a population at the time of about 8.8 million. During the 5 years of occupation approximately 210,000 Dutch men and women had died of war-related causes. Of that number , 6,700 were military casualties. One number that stands out though is that of the Jews, who were either Dutch or were refugees. It is estimated that between 104,000 and 107,000 of the 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands were murdered during the Holocaust, which makes it about 75% of the Jewish population. It is the highest number per capita in Europe. This is one of the most shameful part of Dutch history. Many Dutch and especially the Dutch civil service and the administrative infrastructure, aided the Nazi occupiers. Eichmann was once quoted as saying “The transports run so smoothly that it is a pleasure to see.”

About 18,000 Dutch citizens died during the famine of 1944/45, caused by the hunger winter. Additionally to the deaths in the Netherlands there were another 30,000 deaths in the Dutch East Indies, now called Indonesia, either while fighting the Japanese or in camps as Japanese POWs. Dutch civilians were also held in these camps.

The Netherlands had the highest per capita death rate of all Nazi-occupied countries in Western Europe (2.36%).

At least 2 of my family died. My uncle, my mother’s brother, Johannes Jager died on December 6,1944. He did see the liberation of my hometown Geleen on September 18,1994, but the strain of the war and his ill health proved too much. My Father’s dad ,Jan de Klein died on May 12 1942, he was 47 at the time. He had been in the Dutch Army when the Nazis invaded, he was executed but the reasons why are still unknown to me. I have resigned myself to the fact that I probably will never find out.

The Netheralnds was liberated by Canadian forces, British infantry divisions, the British I Corps, the 1st Polish Armoured Division, American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops. Parts of the country, in particular the south-east, were liberated by the British Second Army which also included American and Polish airborne forces . On 5 May 1945, at Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen, Canadian Corps commander Lieutenant-General Charles Foulkes and Oberbefehlshaber Niederlande commander-in-chief General oberst Johannes Blaskowitz reached an agreement on the capitulation of all German forces in the Netherlands.

The capitulation document was signed the next day (no typewriter had been available the previous day ) in the auditorium of Wageningen Agricultural University, located next door to the Hotel.

Initially liberation day was celebrated on August 31,1945 to coincide with Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday ,However in 1946 the Dutch government decided to celebrate the liberation on the 5th of May.

Initially Liberation Day was celebrated every five years. In 1990 the day was declared a national holiday when liberation would be remembered and celebrated every year. Festivals are held in most places in the Netherlands with parades of veterans and musical festivals throughout the whole country.

A friend of mine once said “Freedom isn’t free” not only did many Dutch pay the price for this freedom. There were many others who paid an equally high price. Many men and women who fought to liberate the country. They fought although they were strangers, they recognized that evil should never be tolerated.

Sources

https://web.archive.org/web/20100915150604/http://www.wageningen1940-1945.nl/Capitulatie/Wageningen%205%20mei%201945.htm

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Martha Gellhorn’s account of the Liberation of Dachau.

Martha Gellhorn, a pioneering female journalist who often reported from the front lines during WWII. Her Father was Jewish, her Mother was protestant From 1940 to 1945 she was married to Ernest Hemingway.

She was the only woman to land at Normandy, France on June 6th 1944-D-Day. She was also one of the first journalists to report from Dachau concentration camp after it was liberated by US troops on April 29, 1945.

This is just some of her recollection and accounts of the liberation of the first Nazi concentration camp ,Dachau.

“We were blind and unbelieving and slow, and that we can never be again.
I have not talked about how it was the day the American Army arrived, though the prisoners told me. In their joy to be free and longing to see the friends who had come at last, the prisoners rushed to the fence and died- electrocuted.

There were those who died cheering, because that effort of happiness was more than their bodies could endure. There were those who died because at last they had food and they ate before they could be stopped and it killed them. I do not know words fine enough to talk of the men who have lived in this horror for years- three years, five years, ten years- and whose minds are as clear and unafraid as the day they entered.


I was in Dachau when the German armies surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. It was a suitable place to be. For surely this war was made to abolish Dachau and all the other places like Dachau and everything that Dachau stands for. To abolish it forever. That these cemetery prisons existed is the crime and shame of the German people.
We are not entirely guiltless, we the Allies, because it took us twelve years to open the gates of Dachau. We were blind and unbelieving and slow, and that we can never be again. We must know that there can never be peace if there is cruelty like this in the world.
And if ever again we tolerate such cruelty we have no right to peace.”

As I stated earlier Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp it opened on 22 March 1933. For 12 years it was used for murdering people, initially for political prisoners but later it was used for the mass murder of Jews, Poles, Romani, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic priests, Communists.

What I find scary is that we don’t have learned anything from the history of the Holocaust. Genocides are still happening across the world.

Even in many western so called modern countries there seems to be an upsurge of extreme right ideologies.

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sources

https://www.ushmm.org/search/results/?q=45075

https://www.pbs.org/perilousfight/psychology/disbelief_of_atrocities/letters/

Westerbork the Jewish refugee camp that became a concentration camp.

Westerbork

What a lot of people don’t realize is that Camp Westerbork was actually established as a refugee camp for Jews escaping the Nazi regime in Germany and Austria.and who had illegally entered the Netherlands. It was established by the Dutch government in the summer of 1939.

In July 1942, the Nazis took over the camp and turned it into a transition camp. Jews arrested in the Netherlands were taken to the camp and put on transport. Transport trains arrived at Westerbork every Tuesday from July 1942 to September 1944, and left with close to 100,000 jews.But also Roma and Sinti were transported from Westerbork.

The Deportations were part of  the responsibilities of Gestapo sub-Department IV-B4, which was headed by Adolf Eichmann.

train

Although the camp was relatively “humane” by  Nazi standards , it was cruel in other ways. Jewish inmates with families were housed in 200 interconnected cottages The cottages  contained two rooms, a toilet, a hot plate for cooking, and a small yard. Single inmates were put  in oblong  shaped barracks which contained a separate bathroom for each sex.

The camp also had a school, hairdresser, orchestra and even restaurants arranged by SS officials to give inmates a false sense of hope for survival but also to aid avoiding problems during transportation.

school

Nearly t all of the  estimated 95,00 persons deported to Auschwitz and Sobibor in German-occupied Poland were killed upon arrival.

The camp was  liberated by Canadian forces on April 12, 1945. A total of 876 inmates were found.

liberation

The fact that the Nazis maintained that false sense of hope is probably one of the most sickening aspects of the camp. They knew what the fate was of the inmates and giving them that hope that they would survive, that they were only going to be resettled to Eastern Europe.

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Sources

USHMM

Liberation Route Europe

 

This building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1,200 men in it, five to a bunk.

Buchenwaldf

The title is a line from a report by Edward R. Murrow, a CBS radio news reporter.He  reported largely from Europe during World War II, and was the first reporter on scene following the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp The report was broadcast on  Sunday, April 15, 1945, in Studio B-4 of the BBC, only a few days after the liberation.

I could include pictures of what the allied troops encountered in April 1945. Pictures of piles of corpses or emaciated inmates, and there are plenty. But I won’t do that. I have decided to tell the story with some of the excerpts from the report. When you initially read it then probably just like me, you won’t be that shocked,maybe a bit disturbed but not shocked.

This is probably because the horrors written down, don’t trigger a response. However when you read it again and leave the words sink in, the horrors become so clear and they will stick with you more so then any picture could do.

Edward

Report from Edward R. Murrow

“There surged around me an evil-smelling stink, men and boys reached out to touch me. They were in rags and the remnants of uniforms. Death already had marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes. I looked out over the mass of men to the green fields beyond, where well-fed Germans were ploughing.

I asked to see one of the barracks. It happened to be occupied by Czechoslovaks. When I entered, men crowded around, tried to lift me to their shoulders. They were too weak. Many of them could not get out of bed. I was told that this building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1,200 men in it, five to a bunk. The stink was beyond all description.

barn

We went to the hospital. It was full. The doctor told me that 200 had died the day before. I asked the cause of death. He shrugged and said: ‘tuberculosis, starvation, fatigue and there are many who have no desire to live. It is very difficult’ He pulled back the blanket from a man’s feet to show me how swollen they were. The man was dead. Most of the patients could not move.

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said: “The children- enemies of the state!” I could see their ribs through their thin shirts.

Children

They called the doctor. We inspected his records. There were only names in the little black book, nothing more. Nothing about who these men were, what they had done, or hoped. Behind the names of those who had died, there was a cross. I counted them. They totaled 242. 242 out of 1,200, in one month.

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

Jedem

Unlike Auschwitz or other camps Buchenwald’s gate did not say “Arbeit macht Frei” but ” Jedem das Seine” which translates to “to each his own” or “to each what he deserves”. No one in Buchenwald got what they deserved. No one deserves to be treated as a subhuman. Nor did they deserve to be murdered for being Jewish,Communist or just critical of the Nazi regime.

 

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Sources

Scrapbook pages

Jewish Virtual Library

Berkley Library

 

 

Holocaust Remembered

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On 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.

UN Resolution 60/7 establishing 27 January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day urges every member nation of the U.N. to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, and encourages the development of educational programs about Holocaust history to help prevent future acts of genocide.

“We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world. And we must do our utmost so that all peoples may enjoy the protection and rights for which the United Nations stands”

Some of the pictures below are graphic and may be disturbing. But please do keep in mind disturbing as they may be, they are still fairly sanitized there are other images even more disturbing.

In 1948 ,a girl who grew up in a concentration camp was asked to draw “home” and what she drew was scribbles. It shows how the horrors of the concentration camp warped her mind. It’s a mystery what the lines truly mean to her, probably the chaos or the barbed wire.

A girl who grew up in a concentration camp draws a picture of home while living in a residence for disturbed children, 1948

Transport

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SS prison guards forced to load victims of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp into trucks for burial, 1945

SS prison guards forced to load victims of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp into a trucks for burial, 1945

Evil words

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Photos of Jewish children in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

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Prisoners were stripped of all their possessions when they arrived at the camps. In an area of the camp called Canada people\’s personal belongings were processed, stored and then redistributed to Germans.

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Glasses collected from people murdered in the gas chambers.

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Jews being transported to the Camps

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A long-buried documentary, co-directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Sidney Bernstein, provides unequivocal proof of the Holocaust’s horrors.

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SS guards humiliating Orthodox Jewish man

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German soldier shooting a woman with a child in her arms, Ivanograd, 1942.

EXECUTIONS OF KIEV JEWS BY GERMAN ARMY MOBILE KILLING UNITS, 1942

A group of holocaust victims that are often forgotten are the Roma

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Lithuanian nationalists clubbing Jewish Lithuanians to death. Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, June 27, 1941.

The Kovno Garage Massacre - Lithuanian nationalists clubbing Jewish Lithuanians to death, 1941 (1)

The liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army.

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I often hear people say “Leave the past in the past” but if we do that we repeat the mistakes, some of the mistakes have already been repeated.

NEVER FORGET.

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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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