Wilhelm Kube’s Paradox in the Holocaust

Wilhelm Kube

Wilhelm Kube was a devout Christian as well as a zealous Nazi. Those 2 aspects of his life clashed a few times during WWII.

In July 1941, just after the German occupation of the western parts of the Soviet Union, he was appointed Generalkommissar for Weissruthenien (now known as Belarus).

As Generalkommissar he was in charge of the extermination of the large Jewish population of his assigned region. He was nevertheless disgusted and outraged by the massacre in  Slutsk in October 1941.  SS Einsatzgruppen murdered Jews without the apermission  of the local Nazi civil administration and Security SS authorities. Local non-Jewish Belarusians were also massacred, causing great resentment among the population.

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Kube wrote in protest to his supervisor and Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler:

“The town was a picture of horror during the action. With indescribable brutality on the part of both the German police officers and particularly the Lithuanian partisans, the Jewish people, but also among them Belarusians, were taken out of their dwellings and herded together. Everywhere in the town shots were to be heard and in different streets the corpses of shot Jews accumulated. The Belarusians were in greatest distress to free themselves from the encirclement.

I am submitting this report in duplicate so that one copy may be forwarded to the Reich Minister. Peace and order cannot be maintained in Belarus with methods of that sort. To bury seriously wounded people alive who worked their way out of their graves again is such a base and filthy act that the incidents as such should be reported to the Führer and Reichsmarschall.”

In another letter dated December 16 1941 to Hinrich Lohse the Reichskommisar for Ostland.

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“Minsk
Generalkommissar for Byelorussia
To: Reichskommissar for Ostland

I wish to ask you personally for an official directive for the conduct of the civilian administration towards the Jews deported from Germany to Byelorussia. Among these Jews are men who fought at the Front and have the Iron Cross, First and Second Class, war invalids, half-Aryans, even three- quarter Aryans. . .

. . .These Jews will probably freeze or starve to death in the coming weeks.
. . On my own responsibility I will not give the SD any instructions with regard to the treatment of these people. . .

I am certainly a hard man and willing to help solve the Jewish question, but people who come from our own cultural sphere just are not the same as the brutish hordes in this place. Is the slaughter to be carried out by the Lithuanians and Letts, who are themselves rejected by the population here? I couldn’t do it. I beg you to give clear directives [in this matter,] with due consideration for the good name of our Reich and our Party, in order that the necessary action can be taken in the most humane manner.
Heil Hitler!
Wilhelm Kube”

Despite these contradicting feelings he participated in an atrocity on 2 March 1942 in the Minsk ghetto.

minsk_ghetto

During a raid by German and Belarusian police, a group of children were seized and thrown into pits of deep sand to die.

At that moment, several SS officers arrived , among them was  Wilhelm Kube. Kube, immaculate in his uniform, threw handfuls of sweets to the distressed children. All the children died in the sand.

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Source

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The Rexist Party-Belgian Fascists

Rexist Party flag

Germany and Italy weren’t the only countries with Fascists parties. Several European countries had National Socialist Fascists partyies, for example  The Netherlands had the NSB.

In Belgium the Rexist Party(aka Rex), led by Léon Degrelle, won about 10 percent of the seats in the parliament in 1936.

Léon_Degrelle

After failing 3 times to pass his final law exams at the Catholic University of Leuven , Degrelle, who was a dynamic orator, entered politics. Using national banking scandals and corruption of the established political parties as issues, he organized the Rexist Movement in 1930, allegedly to cleanse the Roman Catholic religion of political contamination.Its name was derived from the Roman Catholic journal and publishing company Christus Rex (Latin for Christ the King).

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Initially it stayed loyal tho the monarchy, in their flag they included the crown. At the outbreak of WWII they endorsed the Belgian government’s policy of neutrality.

In 1936, Degrelle met Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, both of them providing Rexism with funds (2 million lire and 100,000 marks) and ideological support.With the German invasion of Belgium in 1940, Rexism welcomed German occupation.

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After the occupation some members left the party and joined the Belgian resistance because they could not agree with the  Nazis’ anticlerical and extreme anti-Semitic policies enforced in occupied Belgium.

During World War II Degrelle collaborated with the German occupation forces. In August 1941 he formed and later commanded the Walloon and Flemish storm-trooper brigades that fought on the Russian front. Under his guidance the Rexists took control of local governments and newspapers in Belgium. Degrelle joined the Walloon legion of the Wehrmacht, which was founded in August 1941, to fight against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. The leadership of the Rexists then passed to Victor Matthys.

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In August 1944, Rexist militia were responsible for the Courcelles Massacre .Matthyss he ordered the execution of 20 civilians in Courcelles in central Belgium as reprisals for anti-German resistance activities.

The Rexist mayor of the Greater Charleroi area, Oswald Englebin, was attacked and killed along with his wife and son by members of the Belgian Resistance between Courcelles and Monceau-sur-Sambre in a region known as the “Bois du Rognac”

As news broke in Rexist headquarters in Brussels and Charleroi of the attack on the Mayor and his family, A number of civilian were rounded up,including  policemen, doctors, architects, lawyers and various civil officials. 20 were executed. Among them was the Catholic priest Pierre Harmignie, during the night he had tried to console his fellow hostages with the words “I will die, we all will die in order for peace to return to the world so people can love each other again”

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Those responsible for the killing returned to Brussels, where they were offered a drink and congratulated.on their act of revolutionary vengeance.

The order for the executions  would ultimate lead to Matthys’s  downfall from power as criticisms surfaced. It was condemned as being too heavy-handed and Matthys gave up the leadership of the Rexists to Louis Collard.After  the liberation of Belgium in September 1944, the party had been banned.

Of the 150 participants of the massacre, 97 were identified, 80 arrested and tried of whom 27 were executed on 10 November 1947. Amongst them was Victor Matthys who was accused of organizing the massacre.

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With the final surrender of Berlin in May 1945, Degrelle was desperate to avoid Russian captivity and ordered as many of his worn-out veterans as possible to make for the Baltic port of Lubeck to surrender to the British. Degrelle himself fled first to Denmark and then Norway, where he commandeered a Heinkel He 111 aircraft,allegedly provided by Albert Speer.

After a daring 1,500-mile flight over portions of Allied-occupied Europe, he crash-landed on the beach at San Sebastian in northern Spain but was gravely wounded and hospitalized for over a year.

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While in Spain, during the Franco dictatorship, Degrelle maintained a high standard of living and would frequently appear in public and private meetings in a white uniform featuring his German decorations, while expressing his pride over his close contacts and “thinking bond” with Adolf Hitler.

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He continued to live undisturbed when Spain became democratic after the death of Franco with the help of the Gil family, and continued publishing polemics, voicing his support for the political far right.

In 1994, Léon Degrelle died of cardiac arrest in a hospital in Málaga, aged 88.

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Sources

Liberation Route Europe

Wikipedia Belgium

WWII Database

 

 

The Tulle Massacre- The hanging of 99

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What a sense of relief it must have been when the French people found out that the allied troops had finally arrived on June 6 1944. Unfortunately though D-Day wasn’t the end of the war it was only the start of the end and many innocent lives were still lost between that day and the end of WWII.

The citizens of the town of Tulle found out only 3 days after D-Day that the war was still raging in the most brutal way possible.

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After a successful attack by the French Resistance group Francs-tireur on 7 and 8 June 1944, the arrival of Das Reich troops forced the Maquis(French Resistance) to flee the city of Tulle (department of Corrèze) in south-central France.

Resistance operations in Tulle had been planned by the commander of the Maquis FTP of Corrèze, Jacques Chapou , aka Klébe

The offensive started on June 7 1944 at 5 AM with a Bazooka attack on the barracks of the security forces at Champ de Mars. This action  functioned as the signal to begin the attack.

The fighting centered  around three main areas: the armory, the gendarmerie barracks and the girls’ school, which housed German troops.

The focus the following day was on the girls’ school. the Resistance fighters  set fire to the school building around 3 PM.About 2 hours later , in circumstances that remain unclear and disputed, the Germans tried to leave, if one of them was waving a white cloth, others were carrying live grenades. In all the chaos, the Maquis opened fire with automatic weapons; some soldiers were cut down at close range, by exploding grenades, which would explain the injuries observed on the horribly mutilated corpses. An estimated  were killed.

When the 2nd SS Panzer Division ‘Das Reich’ entered the town they found 40 dead bodies of the German 3rd Battalion/95th Security Regiment garrison troops near the school, their bodies badly mutilated.

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On 9 June 1944, after arresting all men between the ages of sixteen and sixty, the SS and members of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) ordered 120 of the prisoners to be hanged, of whom 99 were actually hanged.

Tulle

The citizens of Tulle had been warned by a text on a poster

“Forty German soldiers were murdered in the most horrible manner by a band of communists. For the guerillas and those who helped them, there is a punishment, execution by hanging. Forty German soldiers were murdered by the guerrillas, one hundred and twenty guerrillas and their accomplices will be hanged. Their bodies will be thrown in the river — Poster signed by the commanding General of the German troops.

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In the days that followed, 149 men were sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where 101 lost their lives. In total, the actions of the Wehrmacht, the Waffen-SS, and the SD claimed the lives of 213 civilian residents of Tulle.

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Back to Normandy

The Vinkt Massacre

Vinkt

One of the first crimes committed by the German army, in western Europe, took place in Belgium villages of Vinkt and Meighem, near Ghent, between 26–28 May 1940 during the Battle of the Lys.. The atrocity was perpetrated by the Wehrmacht, not the SS.

The Vinkt bridge crossing the Schipdonk Canal was being guarded by the 1st Belgian Division of Chasseurs Ardennais

As the German 225th Divison approached the Vinkt bridge they discovered  it blocked by refugees fleeing south. The Wehrmacht soldiers then took a number of refugees and used then as human shields.

German soldiers

On  Sunday, May 26th, the Germans took hostages  at the Meigem and Vinkt church, and at a number of  farms in the area. Some hostages were killed immediately, but the a worse event occurred  at Meigem church, where an explosion killed 27 hostages.

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The following day, Monday May 27th, Adolf Hitler, demanded Belgium’s immediate and unconditional surrender. Belgium’s King Leopold III announced to his government that he would as Commander-in-Chief, use his authority  lay down arms.

Meanwhile, the Chasseurs ardennais, were not aware  of these developments,  and were still holding and defending the bridge against vastly superior odds. For unclear reasons, the German 225th Division  started to execute their hostages, and taking new ones, executing them on the spot. Refugees were taken out at random from the endless columns on the trek south and executed immediately. One priest managed to escape, being buried under two dead colleagues. He was one of four such victims who managed to escape.

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The victims were all unarmed civilians who had posed no threat, nor were they likely to pose any future threats. They were killed for no reason whatsoever.

On May 28 the Belgian army capitulated.

As news of the carnage spread, German press sources denied it or excused it, claiming that Belgian civilians had dressed up as soldiers. The British press who knew the facts of the atrocity refused to report for fears they’d be accused of war propaganda, Which had happened during WWI after reporting ‘the rape of Belgium’

After WWII the Wehrmacht officers Kühner and  Lohmann were sentenced to 20 years of forced labour in Belgium, however after 5 years they were extradited to Germany.

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86 innocent civilians were massacred. Additionally to that another 27 killed by the explosion more then likely caused by German grenades.

Memorial to the victims of the massacre

Vinkt_massacre_-_Memorial

 

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Sources

Vinkt Mei 1940

Wikipedia Belgium

Vasily Blokhin-Stalin’s butcher

Vasili_Blokhin

Born to a Russian peasant family in 1895, as a young man he quickly earned a reputation for “chernaya rabota”, or “black work”, while serving in the Tsarist army during World War I- gaining recognition from Stalin himself for his covert assassinations, torture, and executions. Blokhin quickly rose through the ranks of Russia’s secret police at the time—the NKVD—eventually becoming the head of the Kommandatura department.

Vasily Blokhin is recorded as having executed tens of thousands of prisoners by his own hand, including his killing of about 7,000 Polish prisoners of war during the Katyn massacre in spring 1940, making him the most prolific official executioner in recorded world history. He was the NKVD major in charge of executing the Polish officers from the Ostashkov camp, and he believed in personally doing the killing that his superiors had ordered him to supervise.

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Born in 1885, he was known as the NKVD’s chief executioner, having been hand-picked for this position by Joseph Stalin himself.

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Blokhin personally killed tens of thousand of men and women during Stalin’s Great Purges of the 1930s, so it was only natural that the NKVD would turn to him when it came time to dispatch the officers held in the Soviet prison camps. Along with a team of about thirty NKVD men from Moscow, mainly drivers and prison guards, Blokhin arrived at the NKVD prison in Kalinin (Tver) and set himself up in a sound-proofed cellar room that had a sloping floor for drainage.

Tver Execution room of Polish soldiers buried later at Mednoye- Photograph Katyn Museum

He then put on his special uniform, consisting of a leather cap, long leather apron, and elbow-length gloves. On a table next to him was a briefcase filled with his own personal Walther PPK pistols, for Blokhin, a true artist at his trade, would use no one else’s tools but his own.

After the prisoner’s identity was verified, he was brought handcuffed into the cellar room where Blokhin awaited in his long apron, like some horrible butcher. One guard later testified: “The men held [the prisoner’s] arms and [Blokhin] shot him in the base of the skull…that’s all”. Blokhin worked fast and efficiently, killing an average of one men every three minutes during the course of ten-hour nights – the killings were always done at night, so that the bodies could be disposed of in darkness.

Although this has never been completely proven, historians suspect that Blokhin shot 7,000 men over a period of twenty-eight days, which would make him one of the most prolific murderers of all time. However many people he killed, Blokhin was consistently promoted by his superiors for performing “special tasks”. He lost his job after Stalin died. The cause of Blokhin’s death, in 1955, was listed as suicide.

Katyn massacre
The Katyn massacre, also known as the Katyn Forest massacre was a mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the Soviet secret police, in April and May 1940. The massacre was prompted by NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria’s proposal to execute all captive members of the Polish Officer Corps, dated 5 March 1940. This official document was approved and signed by the Soviet Politburo, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000.

 

Massacre of Kondomari

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

The Massacre of Kondomari  refers to the execution of male civilians from the village of Kondomari in Crete by an ad hoc firing squad consisting of German paratroopers on 2 June 1941 during World War II.The shooting was the first of a series of reprisals in Crete. It was orchestrated by Generaloberst Kurt Student, in retaliation for the participation of Cretans in the Battle of Crete which had ended with the surrender of the island two days earlier.

Bernhard-Hermann Ramcke, Kurt Student

The massacre was photographed by a German army war propaganda correspondent whose negatives were discovered 39 years later in the federal German archives by a Greek journalist.

The civilian population of Crete had joined in the defence of their island alongside Greek and British armed forces. There are many accounts of them killing parachutists, some as they were still hanging in their parachutes as they landed. Some might regard this as a matter of self defence but the Germans interpreted it as “partisan” activity because they were not wearing uniform, and in their eyes outside the rules of warfare. There were also rumours that bodies had been mutilated or that even some parachutists had been tortured – although a much more likely explanation that bodies – necessarily left on the landing grounds – very rapidly decomposed in the heat.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

 

Following Student’s order, the occupants of Kondomari were blamed for the death of a few German soldiers whose bodies had been found near the village. On 2 June 1941, four lorries full of German paratroopers from the III Battalion of Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1 under the command of Oberleutnant Horst Trebes surrounded Kondomari. Trebes, a former member of the Hitler Youth, was the highest-ranking officer of the Battalion to have survived the Battle unwounded.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

Men, women and children were forced to gather in the village square. Then, a number of hostages was selected among the men while women and children were released. The hostages were led to the surrounding olive groves and later fired upon. The exact number of the victims is unclear. According to German records, a total of 23 men were killed but other sources raise the toll to about 60. The whole operation was captured on film by Franz-Peter Weixler, then serving as a war propaganda correspondent (kriegsberichter) for the Wehrmacht.

 

 

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

Franz Peter Weixler, Wehrmacht kriegsberichter (Army war correspondent) photographed and preserved his negatives of the massacre. Weixler was later charged with treason and held by the Gestapo. Here is an English translation his original statement for the trial of Hermann Goering.

“The punitive expedition consisted of Trebes, another lieutenant, an interpreter, two sergeants and about twenty five parachutists of the Second Battalion. As a photographer assigned to my division I was permitted to accompany this commando. Near the village of Malemes, we stopped and Trebes showed us the corpses of several soldiers, obviously in the process of decay. He incited the men against the civilian population. We continued our drive to the village of Kondomari.

The men got off, and ran into the few houses of the little community. They got all men, women, and children onto the little square.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

A German soldier brought out the coat of a parachutist which he had picked up in one of the houses. and which had a bullet hole in the back. Trebes had the house burned down immediately.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

One man admitted having killed a German soldier, but it was not possible to convict any of the others of any crimes or plundering, and I therefore asked Trebes to stop the contemplated action and give us orders to return, taking with us only the one man. Trebes however gave orders to separate the men from the women and children; then he had the interpreter tell the women that all of the men would be shot because of having murdered German soldiers, and that the corpses would have to be interred within two hours.

When Trebes turned his back for a few moments, I made it possible for nine men to get away. Trebes had the men form a half circle, gave the order to fire, and after about fifteen seconds, everything was over.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

I asked Trebes, who was quite pale, whether he realized what he had done, and he replied that he had only executed the order of Hermann Goering, and avenged his dead comrades. A few days later he received the Knights Cross from Goering for his “braveness” in Crete.”

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The following day an even worse massacre was conducted in the village of Kandanos, where 180 civilians were killed, possibly by a squad also led by Horst Trebes. The village was razed to the ground.

The Le Paradis massacre

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The Le Paradis massacre was a war crime committed by members of the 14th Company, SS Division Totenkopf, under the command of Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein.

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It took place on 27 May 1940, during the Battle of France, at a time when the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was attempting to retreat through the Pas-de-Calais region during the Battle of Dunkirk.

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Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Norfolk Regiment, had become isolated from their regiment. They occupied and defended a farmhouse against an attack by Waffen-SS forces in the village of Le Paradis. After running out of ammunition, the defenders surrendered to the German troops. The Germans led them across the road to a wall, and machine-gunned them. Ninety-seven British troops died. Two survived, with injuries, and hid until they were captured by German forces several days later.

After the war, Fritz Knöchlein was located, tried and convicted by a war crimes court, with the two survivors acting as witnesses against him. For his part in the massacre, Knöchlein was executed in 1949.

The British captives, a majority of whom were wounded, were disarmed and marched down a road off the Rue du Paradis. While they were waiting, two machine-guns from No.4 Machine-gun Company were prepared and set up by a barn in a paddock of the farm. The British prisoners were marched to the barn, lined up alongside it and fired upon by the two German machinegunners, who continued firing until all the British had fallen. Knöchlein then armed his men with bayonets to kill any remaining survivors. Satisfied that they had killed them all, the German soldiers left to rejoin the rest of their regiment.

An account by Private Albert Pooley, one of only two survivors:

… we turned off the dusty French road, through a gateway and into a meadow beside the buildings of a farm. I saw with one of the nastiest feelings I have ever had in my life two heavy machine guns inside the meadow … pointing at the head of our column. The guns began to spit fire … for a few seconds the cries and shrieks of our stricken men drowned the crackling of the guns. Men fell like grass before a scythe … I felt a searing pain and pitched forward … my scream of pain mingled with the cries of my mates, but even before I fell into the heap of dying men, the thought stabbed my brain ‘If I ever get out of here, the swine that did this will pay for it.’

Ninety-seven British prisoners were killed and the Germans forced French civilians to bury the bodies in a shallow mass grave the next day. Despite the German efforts, Private William O’Callaghan had survived and pulled Private Albert Pooley alive from among the bodies in the field. The pair then hid in a pig-sty for three days and nights, surviving on raw potatoes and water from puddles before being discovered by the farm’s owner, Madame Duquenne-Creton, and her son Victor. The French civilians risked their lives caring for the two men, who were later captured by the Wehrmacht’s 251st Infantry Division and transferred to a military hospital

On the day after the massacre, 28 May, Gunter d’Alquen, a journalist in the Waffen-SS, arrived at the scene with Dr Thum, the SS-Totenkopf deputy legal advisor. d’Alquen made a report of what he saw:

Gunter d'Alquen

It was possible to look into the back yard from the road…the corpses in British uniform were lying in the yard near the buildings. They were lying in such a position that one can assume they were killed by machine-gun bursts. It struck me at once that the dead soldiers were not wearing helmets, nor did they have any equipment on them…I took pictures of the dead bodies, and the whole farm. At Thum’s request these were to be placed at the disposal of the division…I believe I was already sitting there in the vehicle when Thum…told me that in the field which he had returned the equipment the shot British soldiers were lying in a heap, from which he had come to the conclusion that a summary trial had taken place”

After the war, O’Callaghan’s evidence and the discovery of the SS-run extermination camps prompted the British authorities to look into the reports.

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The massacre was investigated by the War Crimes Investigation Unit and after Knöchlein’s company was identified as the perpetrators in 1947, he was traced and arrested in Germany. Knöchlein was arraigned on charges of war crimes in August 1948, to which he pleaded not guilty:

Knöchlein denied being at Le Paradis. Then, when residents identified him; he said the executions were justified because the British used dum-dum bullets banned by the Hague Convention.

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He also claimed the British had lured his men to the farmhouse with a white flag before gunning them down. Finally, he accused his jailers of subjecting him to physical and mental torture.

The court did not believe any of it, and Knöchlein was hanged on January 28, 1949, for his role in the massacre – the only one punished.

 

Bath School massacre

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The Bath School massacre, was a series of violent attacks perpetrated by Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927 in Bath Township, Michigan which killed 38 elementary schoolchildren and 6 adults and injured at least 58 other people. Kehoe killed his wife and firebombed his farm, then detonated an explosion in the Bath Consolidated School before committing suicide by detonating a final device in his truck.It is the deadliest mass murder to take place at a school in United States history.

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Andrew Kehoe was the 55-year-old school board treasurer and was angered by increased taxes and his defeat in the Spring 1926 election for township clerk. He was thought to have planned his “murderous revenge” after that public defeat.Kehoe left behind a stenciled sign on his farm fence that read “Criminals are made, not born.”

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He had a reputation for difficulty on the school board and in personal dealings. In addition, he was notified that his mortgage was going to be foreclosed upon in June 1926. For much of the next year, a neighbor noticed that he had stopped working on his farm and thought that he might be planning suicide. During that period, Kehoe purchased explosives and discreetly planted them on his property and under the school.

Prior to May 18, Kehoe had loaded the back seat of his truck with all sorts of metal debris capable of producing shrapnel during an explosion. He also bought a new set of tires for his truck so it wouldn’t break down when transporting the explosives. He didn’t want it to look suspicious that his truck was full of dangerous products. He made many trips to Lansing for more explosives, as well as the school, town, and his house.

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Many of his neighbors noticed how busy he was driving around, but never thought to make any comment about it. Multiple times, a neighbor to the school saw a man carrying objects into the building at night, but never thought to mention it to anyone.

Nellie Kehoe had been discharged on May 16 from Lansing’s St. Lawrence Hospital.[16] Between her release and the bombings two days later, Kehoe killed his wife. He put her body in a wheelbarrow located in the rear of the farm’s chicken coop, where it was found in a heavily charred state after the farm explosions and fire. Piled around the cart were silverware and a metal cash box. Ashes of several bank notes could be seen through a slit in the cash box. Kehoe had placed and wired homemade pyrotol firebombs in the house and all the buildings of the farm. The burned remains of his two horses were found tied in their enclosures with their legs wired together, to prevent their rescue during the fire.

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Classes began at 8:30 a.m. that morning. At about 8:45 a.m., in the basement of the north wing of the school, an alarm clock set by Kehoe detonated the dynamite and pyrotol he had hidden there.

Rescuers heading to the scene of the Kehoe farm fire heard the explosion at the school building, turned back and headed toward the school. Parents within the rural community also began rushing to the school. The school building had turned into a war zone] with thirty-eight people, mostly children, being killed in the initial explosion.

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First-grade teacher Bernice Sterling told an Associated Press reporter that the explosion was like an earthquake:

“It seemed as though the floor went up several feet,” she said. “After the first shock I thought for a moment I was blind. When it came the air seemed to be full of children and flying desks and books. Children were tossed high in the air; some were catapulted out of the building.

About a half hour after the explosion, Kehoe drove up to the school and saw Superintendent Huyck. Kehoe summoned the superintendent over to his truck. Charles Hawson testified at the Inquest that he saw the two men struggle over some type of long gun and that the car then exploded.killing Superintendent Huyck, Kehoe, Nelson McFarren (a retired farmer)] and Cleo Clayton, an eight-year-old second grader. Clayton, a survivor of the first blast, had wandered out of the school building debris and was killed by the fragmentation from the exploding vehicle.

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The explosion also mortally wounded postmaster Glenn O. Smith (who lost a leg and died later that day of his wounds) and injured several others.

 

The last German massacre of WWII

Although the Germans had already surrendered and celebration to celebrate VE day had begun in many parts of the world,

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some German troops decided to go for one more killing spree.

The Massacre in Trhová Kamenice happened on 8 May 1945 in what is now the Czech Republic.

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German troops, escaping from Chrudim back to Germany, passed through the village of Trhová Kamenice where they decided to punish supposed partisans.

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Near the village they first killed five villagers, including Bedřich Mareš.

On the village borders, the troops found young Marie Pilařová returning from a visit to her relatives. They shot her instantly. They then entered the village, and in the church they captured the parish priest Oldřich Kučera and brutally tortured him to death.

The troops had previously captured four hostages in the near village of Rohozná – Jaroslav Kvapil, Jan Michek (a 17-year-old boy), Janko Trudič and Antonín Novák. The hostages were executed near house number 6.

Under the nearby hill called Třešňovka, the troops shot three more people – Antonín Alinč, Adolf Zábský and Emanuel Kacafír, who were trying to escape. They are buried in the Trhová Kamenice cemetery.

There is now a monument in the village to remember the event. Those responsible were never brought to trial.

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The Gardelegen massacre

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On May 7th, 1945, Life Magazine published a series of photographs which showed the atrocities discovered by American troops as they fought their way across Germany during the last days of World War II. Included was the photo below, which shows the charred bodies of concentration camp prisoners who were burned to death inside a barn near the Medieval walled town of Gardelegen in eastern Germany on the night of April 13, 1945.

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The Gardelegen massacre was a massacre perpetrated by German SS and Luftwaffe troops during World War II. On April 13, 1945, on the Isenschnibbe estate near the northern German town of Gardelegen, the troops forced 1,016 slave laborers, many of them Poles, who were part of a transport evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora labor camp into a large barn which was then set on fire. Most of the prisoners were burned alive; some were shot trying to escape. The crime was discovered two days later by F Company, 2nd Battalion, 405th Regiment, U.S. 102nd Infantry Division, when the U.S. Army occupied the area.

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On Friday, April 13th, approximately 1050 to 1100 of the concentration camp prisoners were herded inside a grain barn, piled knee-high with straw, which had been previously doused with gasoline. The barn was then deliberately set on fire by German SS and Luftwaffe soldiers and boys from the Hitler Jugend, according to the survivors. Prisoners who tried to escape from the fire were machine-gunned to death by the Germans guarding the barn, including teen-aged boys in the Hitler Jugend. A total of 1016 prisoners were burned to death or shot as they tried to escape from the unlocked barn. Around 100 of the prisoners survived, including several Russian Prisoners of War who greeted the American soldiers and led them to the scene of one of the most ignominious war crimes of World War II.

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The man who is considered to be the main instigator of the Gardelegen massacre is 34-year-old Gerhard Thiele, who was the Nazi party district leader of Gardelegen. On April 6, 1945, Thiele called a meeting of his staff and other officials at which he issued an order, which had been given to him a few days before by Gauleiter Rudolf Jordan, that any prisoners who were caught looting or who tried to escape should be shot on the spot.

 

On April 14, the 102nd entered Gardelegen and, the following day, discovered the atrocity. They found the corpses of 1,016 prisoners in the still-smoldering barn and nearby trenches, where the SS had had the charred remains dumped. They also interviewed several of the prisoners who had managed to escape the fire and the shootings. U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers soon arrived to document the Nazi crime and by April 19, 1945, the story of the Gardelegen massacre began appearing in the Western press. On that day, both the New York Times and The Washington Post ran stories on the massacre, quoting one American soldier who stated:

I never was so sure before of exactly what I was fighting for. Before this you would have said those stories were propaganda, but now you know they weren’t. There are the bodies and all those guys are dead.

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On April 21, 1945, the local commander of the 102nd ordered between 200 and 300 men from the town of Gardelegen to give the murdered prisoners a proper burial.

 

Over the next few days, the German civilians exhumed 586 bodies from the trenches and recovered 430 bodies from the barn, placing each in an individual grave. On April 25, the 102nd carried out a ceremony to honor the dead and erected a memorial tablet to the victims, which stated that the townspeople of Gardelegen are charged with the responsibility that the “graves are forever kept as green as the memory of these unfortunates will be kept in the hearts of freedom-loving men everywhere.” Also on April 25, Colonel George Lynch addressed German civilians at Gardelegen with the following statement:

“The German people have been told that stories of German atrocities were Allied propaganda. Here, you can see for yourself. Some will say that the Nazis were responsible for this crime. Others will point to the Gestapo. The responsibility rests with neither — it is the responsibility of the German people….Your so-called Master Race has demonstrated that it is master only of crime, cruelty and sadism. You have lost the respect of the civilized world.”

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Gerhard Thiele managed to elude justice in January 1946. He escaped , but it was found out he had lived in Düsseldorf at least until 1991 under a false identity.He died in 1994.

However, at least one of the SS men involved in the Gardelegen massacre was put on trial in 1947, according to Gring. She states on page 34 that SS-Untersturmführer Erhart Brauny was sentenced to life in prison. According to Gring, Brauny had been assigned to the Rottleberode sub-camp in 1944 and he was the transport leader for the prisoners evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp who subsequently wound up in Gardelegen and were herded into the barn which was set on fire.

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He was sentenced to life imprisonment and died in 1950 of natural causes in prison.

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