The fighting postmen of Gdansk

postmen

One event that is often over looked in the wider context of WWII is one of the first actions of the war.

On September 1,1939 the Germans cut the cut the phone and electricity lines to the Post office of Gdansk. At the time there were 56 people in the building. Combat engineer and Army Reserve 2nd lieutenant  Konrad Guderski. 42 Gdansk postal employees, ten postal employees from  the cities of Gdynia and Bydgoszcz, the building keeper with his wife and a 10-year-old daughter who lived in the complex.

Konrad Guderski had been dispatched to  Gdansk  earlier in 1939.konradHis task was to help organize the official and volunteer security staff at the Polish Post Office in Gdansk, because of the imminent threat of a German invasion.

Guderski was sent by the Ministry of Military Affairs in April 1939, to Gdansk.He was an engineer by trade but joined the army in 1934.

Of the 56 people in the Post office complex ,Konrad Guderski was the only one person working for the military.

At 4.45 on September 1st ,1939 the German battleship SMS Schleswig-Holstein started shelling the Polish positions on the Westerplatte, and in doing so fired the first shots of World War II. The ship had already been in Gdansk prior to September 1st. In a way similar as the Trojan horse. It had come to Gdansk as part of an annual  ceremonial visit in August. What wasn’t known by the polish authorities  that the ship had about 100 heavily armed infantry men on board.

cruiser

Gdansk which was called Danzig at the time was technically a German city in Poland, about 90% of the population were ethnic Germans, The city also had SA and SS divisions ,also the police force were loyal to the Nazi regime.

Three ADGZ heavy armored cars were brought in by the police ,as the local SS,SA, the Police and some infantry reinforcements from the Schleswig Hosltein attacked the Post office.

adgz

The Germand thought it was going to be an easy victory .The attack started at the same time, as the shelling of Westerplatte . It was,  even though the attackers were able to get entrance to the complex , the attack initially failed. Guderski though was killed by his own grenade while trying to stop the German advance.

The siege lasted 15 hours, After the Germans pumped burning gasoline into the basement, and used flamethrowers 5 people in the building were burned alive.

The defenders of the Post office decided to call it a day and sent Dr. Jan Michoń, the director of the Post Office and Józef Wąsik, the commandant of the Post Office,out with a white flag. However the Germans ignored the white flag and shot both men.

The rest of the Poles were allowed to surrender and leave the burning building. Six people managed to escape from the building, although two of them were captured the following days.The other 4 managed to survive the war.

Sixteen wounded prisoners were sent to the Gestapo hospital, where six subsequently died (including the 10-year-old daughter of the building keeper). The other 28 were first imprisoned in the police building and, after a few days, sent to Victorianism(a temporary prison for Poles living in Gdansk), where they were interrogated and tortured.

viktoria

All the other defenders of the Post office were sentenced to death.

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Sources

Libcom.org

Warhistory on Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The execution of 9 Polish farmers.

notification

I would love to explain the exact reason why these 9 Polish men were executed on November 25,1941. But I can’t.

Looking at the text of the German announcement which was signed by the by the governor of Lublin district,all that the announcement indicates is that the men did not fulfill their quota and were therefor in breach of Article 1 of the  Kriegswirtschafts verordnung , War Economy Regulation. which states:

“Anyone who destroys, disposes of, or withholds raw materials or products that belong to the vital needs of the population, and thereby maliciously endangers the cover of this need, will be punished with a prison sentence or in particularly severe cases can be sentenced to death.”

This law was of course deliberately vague so that the Nazis could apply it in whatever way they wanted to.

These 9 men were likely executed for keeping some food for themselves or their family.

The law stayed in place until after the war. It was finally replaced in 1949 by the Economic Criminal Law

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Source

Bundesarchiv

 

Give Me Your Children

Chaim

There were many contradictions during the Holocaust on one hand there were Nazis like Wilm Hosenfeld who saved Jews, on the other hand there were Jews who helped the Nazis ensuring many Jews  were put on transport to their deaths.

One of those Jews was Chaim Rumkowski and although I try no to be judgmental in this case I find it hard not to be, and that is probably a shortcoming and I do apologize for that.

chaim and biebow

Chaim  Rumkowski  was a ,in Russia born, Polish Jew and wartime businessman appointed by the Nazis as the head of the Council of Elders in the Łódź Ghetto during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.

Prior to the war he was the head of a Jewish orphanage although many claim he only did the work for self serving reasons, rather then charity. Holocaust survivor Dr. Edward Reicher claimed Rumkowski had an unhealthy interest in children.

As the Elder of the Jews tasked with running the ghetto’s Nazi-installed Jewish Council, Rumkowski,  appeared to have thoroughly cherished his authority. In the analysis of several historians Rumkowski was so close to the Nazis and indeed identified  himself to his Nazi masters that he could be considered their Jewish counterpart.

In the Lodz ghetto he was nick named King Chaim.

chaim stamp

Some may say he only tried to survive and no one should be blamed for self preservation , and to an extend that is true. He was surely not unique, there were other Jews who helped the Nazis. But there is helping and there is making things very easy for them.

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. Below is a part of that speech.

“A grievous blow has struck the ghetto. They 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!

I had a suspicion something was going to befall us. I anticipated “something” and was always like a watchman: on guard to prevent it. But I was unsuccessful because I did not know what was threatening us. The taking of the sick from the hospitals caught me completely by surprise. And I give you the best proof there is of this: I had my own nearest and dearest among them and I could do nothing for them!

I thought that would be the end of it, that after that, they’d leave us in peace, the peace for which I long so much, for which I’ve always worked, which has been my goal. But something else, it turned out, was destined for us. Such is the fate of the Jews: always more suffering and always worse suffering, especially in times of war.

Yesterday afternoon, they gave me the order to send more than 20,000 Jews out of the ghetto, and if not – “We will do it!” So the question became, ‘Should we take it upon ourselves, do it ourselves, or leave it to others to do?”. Well, we – that is, I and my closest associates – thought first not about “How many will perish?” but “How many is it possible to save?” And we reached the conclusion that, however hard it would be for us, we should take the implementation of this order into our own hands.

I must perform this difficult and bloody operation – I must cut off limbs in order to save the body itself. I must take children because, if not, others may be taken as well – God forbid.”

Children

He had this warped ideology that after the war he would seen as the savior of Jews. Even when it became clear what the fate was of those who were ‘resettled’ Rumkowski believed he could keep some Jews alive by producing goods for Germany and refused any form of resistance to Nazi orders.

He was ruthless, using his position as head of the Judenrat to confiscate property and businesses that were still being run by their rightful Jewish owners in the ghetto.

Rumkowski and his relatives were ultimately sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they met the same fate as most of the Lodz ghetto’s 160,000 Jews. There are conflicting versions  of Rumkowski’s death , including one in which former inmates of his fiefdom recognized him on “the ramp” at Birkenau and decided to end his life with his own hands. Rumour has it that he was beaten  to death at the gate of the Crematorium No. 2 and  his body was disposed of.

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Sources

Times of Israel

Holocaust education and research team

 

Litzmannstadt-the Children’s concentration camp.

girlsThe children’s camp on Przemyslowa Street in Lodz, which was located within the Lodz Ghetto.Separated from the Ghetto only by a high fence made of planks.

The young inmates were Polish children from all of Poland’s regions.The children were either ophans or the children of deported parents. They were aged between 2 and 17 but the majority were between the ages of 8 and 12 Not much is known how children were selected or reasons why they ended up there. There is one record claiming that a young boy was sent to Litzmannstadt because he was caught without a ticket on a train.

The Nazis were always on the look out for children who did fit the ‘aryan’ profile.Those among them found to be suitable, were transported  from Litzmannstadt to the greater German Reich for adoption and Germanisation to be raised as Germans.

The conditions were harsh in the camp.Everyone slept in bare wooden multi-storey bunks. They would eat out doors regardless what condition. Children as young as two were forced to work at crafts and small-scale industrial projects.

boys

Children who could not keep up, or who committed “violations” which could be something innocent like  wetting the bed, were severly punished by beatings, hours of exercises like running,jumping,standing, etc, reduced rations, and being drenched with cold water and exposed to the weather in winter, fall, and early spring. As in nearly all other   camps, vermin such as lice, scabies, flies, and rats were rampant.

profile

 

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Sources

Zeit

Vintage News

Many thanks to Norman Stone for pointing the story out to me

 

Auschwitz Greenhouses

Greenhiuses

A mistake many people make is to think that Auschwitz was only 1 camp.Aside from Auschwitz ,Auschwitz Birkenau and Monowitz which were the 3 biggest camps, there were another 40+ camps.

One of these camps was Rajsko (Gärtnerei, which means Horticultural center or nursery). It was officially established on 12th June 1943. The camp was a 10 minutes walk from the main camp, an estimated 300 women worked and lived there.

A number of female prisoners were selected for their experience and qualifications in agronomy.  They were designated “Kommando Pflanzenzucht” meaning Commando growing plants.

These women were very important and vital to the project,  they were sent from Ravensbrück concentration camp, just north of Berlin.

The flowers produced in Rajsko were distributed  all over Germany. And  became very popular and achieved  a reputation for the quality and longevity.

greenhouse

The women   were forced to work in the nurseries tending flowers, plants and vegetables for the Nazis and also help conduct agricultural experiments into rubber.

There were 2 ‘kommandos’ The first Kommando grew vegetables in hothouses for the SS. They also nursed flower beds, and worked in the nearby fields. The gardening Kommando also ran something which was basically a gardening center or a co-op where SS men, their families, and civilians could purchase vegetables, fruit, and flowers.

The women in the second Kommando worked on the development of the Kazakh dandelion, which was known for its production of high quality rubber.

rubber

The Germans had a chronic shortage in rubber.

Due to the importance to maintain cleanliness and precision in the research work, the conditions in the sub-camp were far superior to those in Birkenau. The women lived in reasonable comfort with heated barracks, slept in beds linen.They also had warm water warm water and wore clean clothes, and ate better. But they were closely supervised and, would be  punished for possessing prohibited items by flogging or sent to work in penal camps.

Although strict provisions were in place, the camp was not immune from a typhus outbreak which was eventually controlled.

SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Caesar was the commander of Rajskosub-camp. Many prisoners recalled him to be a human man. He was also the only SS-officer to refuse to partake  in selections  in Birkenau, believing it to be unethical. Surprisingly no action was taken against him for his refusal, which indicated that it was possible to turn down such orders without reprisal, meaning SS officers had a choice.

joachim

Rajsko was liquidated on January 18, 1945, and the prisoners were forced to join the Death March in the direction of Wodzisław Śląski, and from there by train to the Ravensbrück camp.

Several women survived.

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Sources

USHMM

Auschwitz.org

Auschwitz Study group

 

 

 

The ease of killing women and children-But orders are orders.

101

The one thing I find the most difficult doing these blogs is to remain as objective as possible and to try to keep emotions like anger out of it. It is nearly impossible, especially when you come across a story like the story of Reserve Police Battalion 101.

As the name implies these men were reserves, not professional soldiers or policemen.In a similar fashion as the National Guard in the United States, these German battalions were organized regionally. The 101 consisted mostly of often ordinary middle aged  men from working- and lower-middle-class neighborhoods in Hamburg, many with families.

101 men

Their commander was Major Wilhelm Trapp, he was a career police man, a WWI veteran who had joined the Nazis in December 1932.

In June 1942 the battalion was sent to Poland to  partake  in the rounding up of Jews.

On July 13,1942, just three weeks after their arrival, the men were sent to the village of Józefów, home to 1,500 Jews.

Prior to departure from Biłgoraj, where they had been stationed,they were given large amounts of extra ammunition and a generous supply of alcohol was procured.

101 drinks

Major Wilhelm Trapp, stood up in front of the  men. As he began to speak they noticed he was emotional.

He told his men to round up all the Jews living in this village as reportedly  they were involved with the local partisans.

Trapp ordered  that they should separate the Jewish men so they could be sent off to a work camp. But, the woman, children and the elderly should be taken aside and shot – and although he did not like what they had been asked to do, it would make it easier if they remembered that, back home in Germany, bombs were falling on women and children.

Trapp then said if any of the older men among them did not feel up to the task that was put before him, he could decline to so. He paused, and after a few moments, one man stepped forward. One of the officers  began to reprimand the man. The major told the officer to be quiet. Then 13 or 14 other men stepped forward also. They turned in their rifles and were told to await a further assignment from the major.

Of the 500 men standing there that day only 14 or 15 chose to opt out of the killing. The rest went on to massacre all the Jewish women, children and elderly people in the village.

The massacre lasted for 17 hours.By afternoon, the men were being offered bottles of vodka to “refresh” themselves.

It is said that some of the uniforms were dripping wet with brain matter and blood.

Trapp did not take part in the shootings himself, he spent the rest of the day in his headquarters, which was a converted school building in town. He also went to the homes of the Polish mayor and the local priest. Witnesses who had seen him  during the day described  him as  complaining about the orders he had been given and “crying like a child.”

Trapp later remarked to his driver: “If this Jewish business is ever avenged on earth, then have mercy on us Germans … But orders are orders”, he said

For nearly all men, Jozefow was the first time where they had to kill. All of the platoons conducted  at least one more mass shooting . Most found that these subsequent murders were easier to perform.

101+

 

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BBC

 

The Slovak invasion of Poland

Slovak

You don’t have to be a History biff to know that September 1,1939 was the date when the Germans invaded their neighbours, Poland.

What often is forgotten is that it wasn’t only the Germans who invaded Poland on that day. The Germans got a  helping hand from the newly formed republic of Slovakia.

More Slovaks

And it was quite a substantial helping hand, approximately 50,000 Slovak soldiers took part in the invasion of Poland.

No one had envisaged  the attack from the independent Slovak state. Reason being there had not been a Slovak republic prior to 1939. The First Slovak Republic was only established on March 14th 1939, after Germany’s occupation of Bohemia and Moravia.

Adolf Hitler decided to create a puppet Slovak state, headed by Jozef Tiso, a Roman Catholic priest and leader of the Slovak People’s Party, the SPL.

Tiso

During secret discussions with the Germans on July 20–21, 1939, the Slovak government agreed to partake in Germany’s planned attack and invasion of Poland. They also agreed to let Germany  use Slovak’s territory as the staging area for its troops. On August 26, the Slovak Republic mobilized its army and created a new field army, named “Bernolák”, which comprised of 51,306 soldiers.

Army

The attack started on September 1, 1939, at 5:00 a.m.

At the start, Poland had a problem with the idea of treating Slovaks as their enemies, they even dropped leaflets requesting them to halt the invasion.

Even though the fighting between the Slovaks and the Poles was not really all that fierce and there were no real major battles, there were still casualties.

During the whole  campaign in September, the losses of the Slovaks amounted to 18 killed, 46 wounded and 11 missing. Approximately 1,350 Polish soldiers were taken prisoner. In January 1940, about 1,200 of them were transferred to the Germans and the Ref Army,  the rest were imprisoned in the camp in Lešť.

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When should we stop pursuing justice? NEVER!

jUSTICE

The pursuit for truth and justice for the victims of the Holocaust should never ever stop.Even when perpetrators are brought to justice it is still just a hollow one, because what punishment can possibly cover the vile and sickening crimes committed.

However it is important that these people are pursuit regardless what age they are, or in what health condition they are.

Earlier this month US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents removed Jakiw Palij from his home in Queens, N.Y.  in order to send him back to Germany.

DEPORTATION

Jakiw Palij is a former Nazi guard, who had worked as a guard at the Trawniki Labor Camp.He immigrated to the United States in 1949, he had lied  on his immigration documentation that he claimed he  had been a simple farm-worker on his father’s land during the war. Palij entered the U.S. via Boston and became a US citizen in 1957. He bought a  home in Queens, New York in 1966.

He was Born in a part of Poland that is now modern-day Ukraine. He lived a quiet life as a draftsman in the US. In 2001 an investigator from the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations  showed up at his home  to question him about his wartime activities. Palij  admitted to federal officials  that he had been trained as a Nazi guard in spring 1943.

On November 3, 1943, more than 6,000 men, women and children imprisoned at Trawniki were shot to death in one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust.

 

By ensuring that no one was able to escape, Jakiw Palij was instrumental in the massacre of the 6000 innocent men,women and children.

camp

Nearly three decades ago  investigators found his name on an old Nazi roster and a fellow former guard spilled the secret that he was “living somewhere in America.” It would take until 2001 before he was found. In 2003 he citizenship was revoked,based on his wartime activities, human rights abuses and immigration fraud. An immigration judge ordered him to be deported in 2004.

protest

But that turned out to be more complicated as was envisaged for neither the Ukraine nor Germany, nor any other country wanted him. he therefore remained in the US until August 21 when he was finally deported to Germany.

His  case will now be part of an investigation at a Nazi crimes investigation unit in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

Himmler

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Sources

NBC News

CNN

Journal.ie

Business Insider

 

The Ravensbrück Rabbits

Rabbitts

The Ravensbrück Rabbits was the name given to 74 Polish women, who were subjected to medical experiments in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Of the 74 women, 5 died as a result of the experiments and 6 other victims whose wounds did not heal were executed. The other survived with permanent damage.

Rather then go through all 74 accounts I am focusing on the account of one sirvivor,Jadwiga Kaminska. below is the translation of her affidavit submitted to the Nuremberg trials.

Rabbis

“I, Jadwiga Kaminska, 24 Avenue de 1’Yser, Brussels, make oath and state as follows:

“I was arrested on 18 March 1941 and arrived in Ravensbruck on 27 September 1941 and left the camp on the 16 April 1946.

“I was twice operated on during my stay in the camp. The first time was August 15, 1942, in the second group of prisoners to be operated on; the following were operated on with me: Kormanska, Zofia; Kaminska, Zofia; Karolewska, Vladyslava; Jurkowska, Alicia; Karwacka, Ursula; Iwanska, Yanina; Iwanska, Krystyna; Karesman, Muria.

“In the morning of the same day we were operated on we were all sent to the Revier not knowing what was to happen to us. Five of us were sent to one room and the two Inwanska sisters and Karwacka to another. On arrival we all had baths and were given small hospital shirts and blouses. We had no medical examination and were given nothing to eat. When they were taking me to the operating theatre I fought to keep out but was held down by the nurse Ericka and two owner nurses in the corridor whilst Dr. Rosentahl gave me an anaesthetic by injection in my arm.

Dr Rose

Just before I had the injection I saw Gebhardt in the corridor and I also recognize him on No. 3 in the group of photographs. I also saw Dr. Oberhauser going into the Operating theatre. When I came round, I found that all of us had been operated on and that my right leg was in plaster up to the knee, three days later I was taken to the Dressing Room and my face was covered with a sheet so that I could not see what going on, I recognized the voices of Oberhauser, Rosenthal, Schidlauski and there were several others there whose voices I did not recognize. I heard another Doctor who I believe removed plaster ask for instruments.

“Immediately after the operation I had a temperature of 39 degree, the first week after the operation it varied between 38 and 39. When I was sent back to my block three weeks after the operation I still had some fever and felt very weak.

After the first operation Gebhardt came into the room where I was having my dressing changed with several other doctors and talked about the operations and said they were “Military Operations”. I recognized Gebhardt when he came into the room.

Gebbhardy

“About a week after my first operation Rosenthal came into our room drunk. We asked him why we had been operated on, he answered “because you are young girls and Polish Patriots.” Oberhauser was also asked the same question She answered that the operation had been ordered by the Gestapo. Dr. Fischer advised us to ask the Senior Doctor, Schidlausky, why we had been operated on, but after that we never saw Schidlausky again.

“I was in great pain after the operation, the first two days we were offered a medicine but refused to take it after which we were offered nothing.

“About a week after the operation I first saw my wound which was about 10 cms. long and 5 cms. wide and full of green pus and very inflamed. It is now 10 cms. long and about 3 cms. in width.

“Thee days after my first dressing the second one was done under similar circumstances as the first, but I managed to pull the sheet off my face for a few seconds and saw Dr. Fischer who was doing my dressing.

“I was operated on the second time on 13 September 1942, with five others who were: Wojtaski, Wanda; Rakowska, Pelagia; Gnas, Maria; Kaminska, Jadwiga; Karolewska, Vladislava,; Karwacka, Ursula.

“The day before the operation I was again put in the Revier and had a bath and then salt compresses were put on my wound by the nurse Wricke and another nurse. Before the second operation I was given something to drink which made we sleep and consequently knew no details of the operation.

“When I came to from this operation I had much more fever than the first time; we were given something to drink three times a day to alleviate the pain but it had little effect; in the evening, however, Oberhauser gave us morphine injections. We were not in plaster after the second operation. The first two times my dressings were changed by Dr. Fischer and afterwards by Schidlausky and Oberhauser and also by SS nurses.

“After my second operation I stayed in the Revier three months, during all that time I had fever and felt very weak and I was given no care.

“When I left the Revier three months after that operation my fever had almost gone but my wound was still open. Before I left the Revier Oberhauser had a look at my wound, and said I was fit to go. In March 1943 my leg was still discharging pus.

“In February 1945 the order came out that all of us who had been operated on were to remain in our blocks. We knew this meant we were to be liquidated.

“I went to the bureau and spoke to Binz and Swarzhuber; they told me that as we were still weak we would be transferred to the Gresrosen camp. I said that was not true but that we should be shot in the camp without being transferred.

“I demanded of Swarzhuber that I saw Suhren; he said it was impossible. After a few days, however, I saw Suhren and told him that we would rather be killed in the camp than at Grossrosen. Suhren said he would do everything in his power to save us.

“My leg is new healed but gets tired very quickly and during the last three months I have had intermittent fever which my doctor tells me is due to recurrence of infection in my leg and also the glands in my right groin have become swollen. Signed Jadwiga Kaminska.”

OR

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Sources

The Nuremberg Project.

A working day in Auschwitz

Block 11.JPG

Every aspect in Auschwitz was designed for either extermination or dehumanization of the prisoners, mainly Jewish prisoners.

For those young and fit enough to work there was a daily roll call, sometimes these could last for hours. Prisoner were forced to stand still, wearing very thin clothing regardless what weather condition ,even the slightest movement could lead to severe physical punishment or death.

Roll call

The typical working would began at 4:30 during the summer and 5:30 in the winter. After the roll call a working day would be 11-12 hours long. Prisoners doing labor in remote places several kilometers away did not have to participate in the roll call,they left for work earlier. Neither  did the prisoners from camp labor details as the hospital, kitchen, or orchestra.

orchestra

Typically they would have an hour break time.

Three times a day they would receive a meal, or at least what the Nazis thought constituted a meal good enough for the prisoners.

In the mornings they would get something that vaguely resembled coffee, really it was boiled water with a grain based substitute for coffee, or a herbal tea. This in the eyes of the Nazi was enough for breakfast.

The lunch was made up of  of about a liter of soup, the main ingredients  were potatoes,  a kind of turnip , and small amounts of groats, rye flour, and Avocado food extract.

meal.JPG

The evening meal  consisted of about 300 grams of black bread, served with a small bit of sausage, about 25 grams, or a tablespoon of marmalade ,cheese,or margarine.

The calorie count  ranged from 1,300 calories for light-work prisoners to 1,700 calories for prisoners performing hard labor.

Where really  a hardworking man needs 4,800 calories  per 24 hours and an average working man more than 3,600 calories.

If you weren’t selected for the Gas chamber you would likely die of malnutrition and disease.

 

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I am passionate about my site and I know a 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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