Gustav Wagner-Sadistic Murderer

It is just unfathomable how many of the most evil and vile war criminals escaped justice. It is something the German government and other European and American governments should be deeply,deeply ashamed off because they escaped under their watch.

Gustav Franz Wagner (18 July 1911 – 3 October 1980) was am Austrian member of the SS with the rank of Staff sergeant (Oberscharführer). Wagner was a deputy commander of the Sobibór extermination camp in German-occupied Poland, where more than 200,000 Jews were gassed during Operation Reinhard. Due to his brutality, he was known as “The Beast” and “Wolf

Born in Vienna, Wagner joined the Nazi Party in 1931 as member number 443,217. After being arrested for proscribed National Socialist agitation, he fled to Germany, where he joined the SA and later the SS in the late 1930s.

In May 1940, Wagner was part of the Action T4 euthanasia program at Hartheim with administrative functions .

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/04/08/forgotten-history-the-t-4-holocaust-victimsthe-killing-of-the-disabled/

Due to his experience in T4, Wagner was assigned to help establish the Sobibór extermination camp in March 1942.

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Once the gassing installations were completed, Wagner became deputy commandant of the camp under Commandant Franz Stangl. His official title was quartermaster-sergeant of the camp.

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Wagner was in charge of selecting which prisoners from the newly arrived transports would be used as slave laborers in and outside the camp, and which would be sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. When Wagner was on vacation or attending to duties elsewhere, Karl Frenzel assumed his role within the camp.

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Together with Frenzel he selected the prisoners who had to work in or outside the camp from the incoming transports. Although absent during the uprising, he did help dismantle the camp, among other things by executing the Arbeitsjuden from Treblinka who tore down the barracks.

 

More than any other officer at Sobibór, Wagner was responsible for the daily interactions with prisoners. Wagner supervised the routine and daily life at Sobibór, and he was one of the most brutal SS officers. Survivors of the camp described him as a cold-blooded sadist.Wagner was known to beat and thrash camp inmates on a regular basis, and to kill Jews without reason or restraint. Inmate Moshe Bahir described him:

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“He was a handsome man, tall and blond — a pure Aryan. In civilian life he was, no doubt, a well-mannered man; at Sobibor he was a wild beast. His lust to kill knew no bounds… He would snatch babies from their mothers’ arms and tear them to pieces in his hands. I saw him beat two men to death with a rifle, because they did not carry out his instructions properly, since they did not understand German. I remember that one night a group of youths aged fifteen or sixteen arrived in the camp. The head of this group was one Abraham. After a long and arduous work day, this young man collapsed on his pallet and fell asleep. Suddenly Wagner came into our barrack, and Abraham did not hear him call to stand up at once before him. Furious, he pulled Abraham naked off his bed and began to beat him all over his body. When Wagner grew weary of the blows, he took out his revolver and killed him on the spot. This atrocious spectacle was carried out before all of us, including Abraham’s younger brother.”

Inmate Eda Lichtman wrote that on the Jewish fast day of Yom Kippur, downloadWagner appeared at roll call, selected some prisoners, gave them bread and forced them to eat it. As the prisoners ate the bread, Wagner laughed loudly, enjoying his joke because he knew that these Jews were pious.

One of the Sobibór prisoners improvised a song which ironically described camp life (original text with English translation):

  • Wie lustig ist da unser Leben
  • Man tut uns zu essen geben
  • Wie lustig ist im grünen Wald
  • Wo ich mir aufhalt
  • How fun is our life there,
  • They give us food to eat that’s fair,
  • What fun it is in the green wood,
  • Where I am stood.

Wagner enjoyed this song and he forced the prisoners to sing it frequently.

After two Jews escaped from Sobibór in the spring of 1943, Wagner was put in charge of a squad of soldiers from the Wehrmacht, who laid minefields around the camp so as to prevent further escapes. However, these efforts did not prevent another escape, which took form in the Sobibór revolt. Wagner was not present at the camp on the day of the Sobibór revolt (14 October 1943). The inmates knew of Wagner’s absence and believed that it would improve their chances of success.

Heinrich Himmler considered Wagner to be “one of the most deserving men of Operation Reinhard”

After Sobibór, Wagner was transferred to Italy, where he participated in the deportation of Jews

Gustav Wagner was sentenced to death in absentia, but escaped with Franz Stangl to Brazil. Clergy at the Collegio Teutonico di Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome assisted Wagner in his flight from justice.

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Wagner was admitted as a permanent resident on 12 April 1950 and on 4 December 1950 a Brazilian passport was issued in the name of “Günther Mendel”, his new identity. He lived in Brazil undisturbed until he was exposed by Simon Wiesenthal and arrested on 30 May 1978.

It was only because Franz Stangl had mentioned ,that Wagner lived in Brazil, during an interview with Gitta Sereny for a study of him published as Into that Darkness.

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Stangl died of heart failure nineteen hours after the conclusion of that interview, in Düsseldorf prison on 28 June 1971.

Simon Wiesenthal investigated the whereabouts of Wagner after that interview.

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The trail went dead for years but it was only when an article appeared in a Brazilian Newspaper which was also picked up by the New York times, the article was about Nazi’s in Sao Paulo ,Brazil celebrating Hitler’s Birthday.

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The invite to the  secret celebration in was coded.It was out of pure luck that the reporters had found the location of the party.

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Because they had become hungry and thirsty they stopped at a hotel.When they arrived reporter/photographer,Cynthia Brito noticed Nazi porcelain in a display unit in the lobby. They then looked around in the  and noticed the. party going on in a function room at the back of the hotel.She then secretly took pictures of the guests.

None of the pictures showed Wagner but Wiesenthal asked Cynthia Brito, if she could publish a picture of one of the men and say that this was Gustav Wagner,SS Officer and War Criminal, he sent her Wagner’s SS rank number.Just to lure Wagner out of hiding.

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Brito agreed and published the picture. A day after publishing the ‘mock’ Wagner was killed and afraid that he would be indicted for the murder the real Wagner reported to the police.

Wagner was arrested after Wiesenthal contacted the police.Also a Sobibor survivot who also lived in Brazil gave evidence to Wagner’s crimes.

Extradition requests from Israel, Austria and Poland were rejected by Brazil’s Attorney General. On 22 June 1979 the Brazilian Supreme Court also rejected a West German extradition request.

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Wagner, in a 1979 BBC interview, showed no remorse for his activities in running the camp, remarking:

I had no feelings. … It just became another job. In the evening we never discussed our work, but just drank and played cards.

In October 1980, Wagner was found with a knife in his chest in São Paulo. According to his attorney, Wagner committed suicide. His date of death was determined to be 3 October 1980. However it is widely believed that is more likely he was killed rather then suicide.

 

 

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The real escape from Sobibor

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Today marks the 73rd anniversary of the Sobibor uprising. The reason why I call this article “the real escape from Sobibor” is not to mistake it for the movie “Escape from Sobibor” although the book and the movie are based on the event, parts of it are fictionalized.

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However this is not to say it is not a good movie, because it is a good movie and although I haven’t read the book I understand it is a very compelling read.

Sobibór  was a Nazi German extermination camp located on the outskirts of the village of Sobibór, in occupied Poland, within the semi-colonial territory of General Government, during World War II.

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During the revolt of 14 October 1943, about 600 prisoners tried to escape; about half succeeded in crossing the fence, of whom around 50 evaded capture. Shortly after the revolt, the Germans closed the camp, bulldozed the earth, and planted it over with pine trees to conceal its location. Today, the site is occupied by the Sobibór Museum, which displays a pyramid of ashes and crushed bones of the victims, collected from the cremation pits.

On 14 October 1943, members of the camp’s underground resistance succeeded in covertly killing 11 German SS-Totenkopfverbände officers and a number of Sonderdienst Ukrainian and Volksdeutsche guards. Of the 600 inmates in the camp, roughly 300 escaped, although all but 50 – 70 were later re-captured and killed. After the escape, SS Chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the death camp closed. It was dismantled, bulldozed under the earth, and planted over with trees to cover it up.

By the summer of 1943, the transports to the Sobibór death camp were slowing down. The veteran Jewish prisoners sensed that the end was quickly approaching. In July, the prisoners organized an underground unit. It was led by Leon Feldhendler, the son of a rabbi from the nearby town of Zolkiewka.

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In September 1943, a deportation from Minsk of Soviet Jewish prisoners of war brought to the camp a trained officer, Lieutenant Aleksandr “Sasha” Aronovich Pechersky.

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The Jewish underground recruited Pechersky and placed him in command. His deputy was Leon Feldhendler.

They devised a daring plan. SS officers would be lured into storehouses on the pretext that they were to be given new coats and boots. Once inside , aided by the bold efforts of Thomas (Tuvia) Blatt,thomas_blatt

they would be attacked by the prisoners and killed with axes and knives. Nazi weapons were to be seized, and at roll call the camp would be set ablaze. All prisoners would have a chance to bolt for freedom. Once outside Sobibór’s gates, they would all be on their own.

 

 

At 4:00 p.m. on October 14, 1943, the first SS soldier was killed with an axe. Ten more SS men were killed, as were several Ukrainian guards. Telephone wires and electricity lines were cut. Within an hour, the camp was burning, guns were aimed at the guard towers, and the first group of prisoners fled across the German mine fields surrounding the facility.

By dusk more than half the prisoners—about 300 people—had escaped. Most were killed by their Nazi pursuers or died crossing the minefields. After the revolt, some joined partisan units; others found shelter among sympathetic Poles. It is estimated that just 50 of the escapees survived the war.

 

Within days of the uprising, the SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the camp closed, dismantled, and planted with trees.The gas chambers were demolished. Remnants of their foundations were covered with asphalt and made to look like a road.Four of the chambers were uncovered by archaeologists in 2014, using modern technology.

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Feldhendler was among those who survived the war, hiding in Lublin until the end of German occupation. The city was taken by the Soviet Red Army on 24 July 1944, and became the temporary headquarters of the Soviet-controlled communist Polish Committee of National Liberation established by Joseph Stalin. However, on 2 April 1945, Feldhendler was shot through the closed door of his flat as he got up to investigate a commotion in an outer room. Feldhendler and his wife managed to escape through another door and made their way to Lublin’s Św. Wincentego á Paulo hospital, where he underwent surgery but died four days later. According to most of the older publications, Feldhendler was killed by right-wing Polish nationalists,sometimes identified as the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne,an anti-Communist and anti-Semitic partisan unit (name unknown). However, more recent inquiries, citing the incomplete treatment of the event by earlier historians, and the scant documentary record, have called into question this version of events.

The only concrete document found by local Polish scholars is a record of Feldhendler’s hospital admission at Wincentego á Paulo describing the injury. Dr Kopciowski wrote that Feldhendler was likely shot in an armed robbery gone bad, because he was known locally as a budding gold trader. Feldhendler’s killing was one of at least 118 violent deaths of Jews in the Lublin district between the summer of 1944 and the fall of 1946 amid the crime-wave of the so-called Soviet liberation.

 

 

 

 

On this day in WW2-18 September: 6 events

There were several events which happened on the 18 of September during WW2 happened On this day.Between 1939 and 1945 there were 6 extraordinary events which happened on this particular date of 18 September

I am not sure if it is a coincidence or planned that way. Or maybe I just happened to spot it, either way it is a bit eerie and most of these 6 events were awful crimes against humanity.

1939

The Nazi propaganda broadcaster known as Lord Haw-Haw begins transmitting.

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https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/05/28/william-joyce-aka-lord-haw-haw/

1940

The British liner SS City of Benares is sunk by German submarine U-48; those killed include 83 children.

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City of Benares was part of convoy OB-213, and was being used as an evacuee ship in the overseas evacuation scheme organised by CORB. She was carrying 90 child evacuee passengers who were being evacuated from wartime Britain to Canada. The ship left Liverpool on 13 September 1940, bound for the Canadian ports of Quebec and Montreal, under the command of her Master, Landles Nicoll. She was the flagship of the convoy commodore Rear Admiral E.J.G. Mackinnon DSO RN and the first ship in the centre column.

Late in the evening of 17 September, the City of Benares was sighted by U-48, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Bleichrodt, who fired two torpedoes at her at 23.45 hours. Both torpedoes missed, and at 00.01 hours on 18 September, the U-boat fired another torpedo at her. The torpedo struck her in the stern, causing her to sink within 30 minutes, 253 miles west-southwest of Rockall.

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Fifteen minutes after the torpedo hit, the vessel had been abandoned, though there were difficulties with lowering the lifeboats on the weather side of the ship. HMS Hurricane arrived on the scene 24 hours later, and picked up 105 survivors and landed them at Greenock.

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During the attack on the SS City of Benares, the SS Marina was also torpedoed. Hurricane mistakenly counted one of the lifeboats from the SS Marina for one of the lifeboats from SS City of Benares. As a result, Lifeboat 12 was left alone at sea. Its passengers had three weeks supply of food, but enough water for only one week. In the lifeboat were approximately 30 Indian crewmen, a Polish merchant, several sailors, Mary Cornish, Father Rory O’Sullivan (a Roman Catholic priest who had volunteered to be an escort for the evacuee children), and six evacuee boys from the CORB program. They spent eight days afloat in the Atlantic Ocean before being sighted from the air and rescued by HMS Anthony. In the end, of the 90 children, 83 died of exposure on lifeboats or were missing presumed lost at sea.

1943

On this day, September 18, 1943, Jewish prisoners from Minsk were massacred at Sobibór. This massacre, combined with rumors that the camp would be shut down, led Polish-Jewish prisoners to organize an underground committee aimed at escape from the camp.

The exact number who were killed is not known.

1943

Adolf Hitler orders the deportation of Danish Jews.

danish

(Danish fishermen (foreground) ferry Jews across a narrow sound to safety in neutral Sweden during the German occupation of Denmark. Sweden, 1943.)

When Germany occupied Denmark on April 9, 1940, the Jewish population was approximately 7,500, accounting for 0.2% of the country’s total population. About 6,000 of these Jews were Danish citizens. The rest were German and eastern European refugees. Most Jews lived in the country’s capital and largest city, Copenhagen.

Until 1943, the German occupation regime took a relatively benign approach to Denmark. The Germans were eager to cultivate good relations with a population they perceived as “fellow Aryans.” Although Germany dominated Danish foreign policy, the Germans permitted the Danish government complete autonomy in running domestic affairs, including maintaining control over the legal system and police forces.

Considering the relatively small Jewish population and the support most Danes gave to their fellow Jewish citizens, Germany initially decided not to make a major issue of the “Jewish question” in Denmark. In fact, the representative of the German Foreign Office at the Wannsee Conference recommended that the Scandinavian countries be excluded from the “Final Solution” on the assumption that the “Jewish question” could be resolved there once overall victory had been achieved.

wannsee

While the implementation of the Final Solution in Norway negated this recommendation, the general policy of non-interference in Denmark was decisive for the absence of such measures there.

Unlike in other western European countries, the Danish government did not require Jews to register their property and assets, to identify themselves, or to give up apartments, homes, and businesses.

The tone of the German occupation changed in early 1943. Allied victories convinced many Danes that Germany could be defeated. While there had been minimal resistance to the Germans during the first years of the occupation, labor strikes and acts of sabotage now strained relations with Germany. The Danish government resigned on August 28, 1943, rather than yield to new German demands that German military courts try future saboteurs. The following night, the German military commander,General Hermann von Hannecken, declared martial law.

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German authorities arrested Danish civilians, Jews and non-Jews alike, and Danish military personnel. Under the state of emergency German authorities took direct control over the Danish military and police forces.

On September 8, 1943, SS General Werner Best, the German civilian administrator in Denmark, sent a telegram to Adolf Hitler to propose that the Germans make use of the martial law provisions to deport the Danish Jews. On the 18th of September Adolf Hitler ordered the deportation of Danish Jews.

1944

The British submarine HMS Tradewind torpedoes Jun’yō Maru, 5,600 killed.

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The 5,065-ton tramp steamer Junyo Maru sailed from Batavia (Tandjoeng Priok) on 16 September 1944 with about 4,200 romusha slave labourers and 2,300 POWs aboard. These Dutch POWs included 1,600 from the 10th Battalion camp and 700 from the Kampong Makassar camp. This 23rd transport of POWs from Java was called Java Party 23. Java Party 23 included about 6,500 men bound for Padang on the west coast of Sumatra to work on the Sumatra railway (Mid-Sumatra).

Unbeknown to the Commanding Officer of Tradewind, Lt.Cdr. Lynch Maydon, lynch_maydon_largethe Japanese ship was carrying 4,200 Javanese slave labourers and 2,300 Allied prisoners of war from Batavia to Padang.

On 18 September 1944 the ship was 15 miles off the west coast of Sumatra near Benkoelen when HMS Tradewind hit her with two torpedoes, one in the bow and one in the stern.

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About 4,000 romushas and 1,626 POWs died when the ship sank in 20 minutes. About 200romushas and 674 POWs were rescued by Japanese ships and taken to the Prison in Padang, where eight prisoners died.

1945

General Douglas MacArthur moves his command headquarters to Tokyo

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Ben Ali Libi- the Magician of Sobibor

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In all honesty the title of this blog is likely to be incorrect, but it is an intriguing title nonetheless.Ben Ali Libi was the stage name of the Dutch Jewish magician Michel Velleman  (5 January 1895 – 2 July 1943). I didn’t want to post this blog so soon after my last one but I believe it is an important story that needs to be told.

The reason why the title is intriguing is because although there is quite a bit documented about this man there is still little known about his life and especially his time in Sobibor.

But in here lies the power of his story . For the Nazi’s he was just a statistic, a number a creature not even fit enough to eat Adolf Hitler’s dog Blondi’s food. A subhuman as they called him. However he wasn’t a statistic or a number but a human being of flesh and blood just like you and me.

The only things we know is that he was a Magician and I believe a very accomplished one, the Dutch Magician Hans Klok (from Vegas fame) said in an interview, he had heard about Ben Ali Libi and I understand he has his book of magic tricks which was published in 1925.

The other thing we know for certain is that he was picked up during a raid in Amsterdam in 1942 and that he ended up in Sobibor where he was killed.

He was killed because the Nazi regime had no use for his skills. Jews were only good to die or for slave labour not to entertain people. However I would like to believe that Ben Ali Libi would have still entertained his fellow victims, with his magic, in the darkest hours of their lives, to still let a bit of light shine in their hearts and bring a glimmer of hope.

The Dutch poet and writer Willem Wilmink wrote a powerful poem about Ban Ali Libi, there is only a Dutch version of the poem. I have attempted to translate it or at least tried to ensure the essence of the poem did not go lost in translation. Both version are below 1st the Dutch version below that the translation of it.

Ben Ali Libi

Op een lijst van artiesten, in de oorlog vermoord,
staat een naam waarvan ik nog nooit had gehoord,
dus keek ik er met verwondering naar:
Ben Ali Libi. Goochelaar.

Met een lach en een smoes en een goocheldoos
en een alibi dat-ie zorgvuldig koos,
scharrelde hij de kost bij elkaar:
Ben Ali Libi, de goochelaar.

Toen vonden de vrienden van de Weduwe Rost
dat Nederland nodig moest worden verlost
van het wereldwijd joods-bolsjewistisch gevaar.
Ze bedoelden natuurlijk die goochelaar.

Wie zo dikwijls een duif of een bloem had verstopt,
kon zichzelf niet verstoppen, toen er hard werd geklopt.
Er stond al een overvalwagen klaar
voor Ben Ali Libi, de goochelaar.

In ‘t concentratiekamp heeft hij misschien
zijn aardigste trucs nog wel eens laten zien
met een lach en een smoes, een misleidend gebaar,
Ben Ali Libi, de goochelaar.

En altijd als ik een schreeuwer zie
met een alternatief voor de democratie,
denk ik: jouw paradijs, hoeveel ruimte is daar
voor Ben Ali Libi, de goochelaar.

Voor Ben Ali Libi, de kleine schlemiel,
hij ruste in vrede, God hebbe zijn ziel

 

Translation

On a list of artists who were killed in the war.

I see a name I hadn’t heard of before.

So I look in wonder

Ben Ali Libi ,the Magician

 

With a smile, a fib and a magic box.

And an alibi carefully chosen,

he barely managed to make a living

Ben Ali Libi ,the Magician

 

Then the friends of Widow Rost figured,

that he country had to be rid of the,

global Bolshevik Jewish danger.

They meant of course Ben Ali Libi, the Magician

 

Who had so oft hid a flower or pigeon,

wasn’t able to hide himself when there was a loud knock

A police van was already waiting outside

For Ben Ali Libi, the Magician

 

In the concentration camp perhaps,

he showed his most delightful tricks,

with a smile, a fib and a misleading gesture.

Ben Ali Libi, the Magician

 

And always when I hear a loudmouth.

with an alternative for the democracy.

I think,” how much space is there in your paradise,

for Ben Ali Libi, the Magician.

For Ben Ali Libi, the little schmuck

May he rest in peace, God rest his soul

 

The widow Rost who is mentioned in the Poem is Florentine Rost van Tonningen, the wife of Meinoud Rost van Tonningen, the second leader of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (NSB) and President of the National Bank during the German occupation (1941–1945). Because she continued to support and propagate the ideals of National Socialism after World War II and the death of her husband, she became known in the Netherlands as the “Black Widow“.

Two lines in the last verse of the poem are poignant and are basically current with the rise of extreme right ideologies in Europe and other parts of the world.

“And always when I hear a loudmouth.

with an alternative for the democracy”

It is our duty to ensure that this alternative for democracy will NEVER happen again.

 

 

Jules Schelvis -Sobibor survivor

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I was actually doing research on a Sobibor victim called Ben Ali Libi which was the stage name of Michel Velleman , a Dutch Jewis magician who died in Sobibor on July 2nd 1943, But although there is a lot of mention of Ben Ali Libi there is actually little information. However I will do a piece on him in the near future. One name that did come up a lot during my research was the name of Jules Schelvis, I believe the last Dutch Jewish survivor of Sobibor.He died last month on April 3.

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Jules Schelvis (7 January 1921 – 3 April 2016) was a Dutch historian, writer, Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter. He lost his wife and most of his family during The Holocaust. Schelvis was a plaintiff and expert witness during the trial of John Demjanjuk.

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Jules was the second child of Jewish parents. His parents were not religious instead they devoted their lives as humanists and members of the Social Democratic Labor Party (SDAP). Some of their Jewish traditions were kept in the family in a natural way. Later in his life Jules still had warm thoughts when remembering ‘kesause mangelen‘ (unshelling peanuts from the Island of Curacao) at the dinner table on a Friday night. The sweet pastry from the Jewish bakery. He remembered his youth as happy, warm and educational. Despite the difficult financial circumstances of the thirties there was always food and an interest in culture and science.

After high school Jules was able to get an education to become a printer. He was grateful to his parents, who made this happen, for the rest of his life. Jules graduated in 1939, at the Printing Office Lindenbaum in Amsterdam. At this Office Jules made a quick career. However due to an anti Jewish measure, Jules was fired from the Lindenbaum Office during the war. He returned working for the Lindenbaum Office after war. He realized this only with the help of a legal decision. Not much later Jules switched to the newspaper ‘Het Vrije Volk.’ After the merge with the newspaper ‘Het Algemeen Handelsblad’ in Rotterdam, Jules achieved the position of manager of the technical division of the newspaper.

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In the spring of 1940 Jules met with the seventeen year old Rachel Borzykowski through the youth labor organization ‘Arbeiders Jeugd Centrale (AJC). Due to the existing anti-semitism Rachel’s parents fled Poland shortly after the First World War. Jules was welcomed in the Borzykowski family with great enthusiasm and warmth.

Jules Schelvis was put on transport from Westerbork on 1 June 1943 with his wife and in-laws. He brought his guitar as a ‘welcome distraction to take our mind off things’.

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On arrival in Sobibor he managed at the last moment to join a group of men who were selected for labour in the peat camp of Dorohucza.After he’d arrived he addressed one of the SS guards as officer in German, because he didn’t know the SS ranking.It may have played on the vanity of this guard because he asked Jules of he actually knew German. Jules replied “Jawohl offizier” (yes officer). The guard then told him to join the men who were going to the peat camp. In an interview he gave last year he stated that this bit of knowledge of the German language had been the difference between life and death

Jules Schelvis was one of the eighteen Dutch Jews who survived Sobibor.

On 26 May 1943 there was a raid in the city centre of Amsterdam in which more than 3,000 Jews were rounded up. Among them was 22 year old typographer Jules Schelvis, his wife Chel and her family. The couple had considered going into hiding, but had dreaded the problems this would present. Like so many others they expected to be put to work in German camps and they had decided to let themselves be rounded up. ‘Very calmly,’ wrote Schelvis after the war ‘we got our rucksacks and haversacks, that had been long ready just in case.’ By tram they were taken to a site near Muiderpoort train station, and from there, after hours of waiting, transported on a special train to Westerbork on June 1st. After six days they left the barracks with bag and baggage and were put on a train to Sobibor.

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After four days the victims arrived at the camp. The reception did not bode well. They were beaten out of the carriages by men with truncheons and whips. ‘I remember very well’, said Schelvis, ‘how my father-in-law was struck very hard across his back with a whip’. The prisoners had to walk towards a large barracks and throw all the haversacks and rucksacks, coats and overcoats on big heaps. ‘Before I knew it the women were separated from the men. I didn’t even have a chance to kiss Chel and we weren’t allowed to look back’. Schelvis never saw his wife again.

“emaciated people with death in their shoes passed us”
From among the men a group of eighty young men were selected for, so it seemed, the Jewish camp police and Schelvis managed to get included in the group. As it turned out the men were chosen to work in a nearby camp. An SS-officer told them they could return to their family and friends in Sobibor every night, to eat and relax. Those who stayed behind in the camp, so they were told, would first bathe. Separately of course, as that is why the men and women had been kept apart. Later, when Schelvis was put to work in Radom, he was told exactly what had happened to those who stayed behind. After the men and women had undressed, they were led to special chambers where they were gassed. After that their corpses were checked for gold teeth; these were knocked from their mouths by members of a Jewish Arbeitskommando. After that the corpses were dragged to the crematorium and burned.

 

Schelvis and the other young men were moved to labour camp Dorohucza, a peat camp where conditions were abominable. Prisoners slept in a draughty barracks, on the floor, no blanket. The Poles and Dutchmen who had been here longer were covered in lice. As there was no place to wash, the prisoners washed themselves in the creek in the morning. The work consisted of cutting peat. In the afternoon everyone received one litre of soup, made of sauerkraut, rotten apples and sometimes dog meat. ‘When we return to the barracks in the afternoon and at night, we are always beaten a lot by the Ukrainians. We are never quick enough and allegedly not disciplined. When you receive a beating like that, usually a series of blows, you’re not very happy, and you continue to feel it for days’, says Schelvis. He also witnessed the execution of two Dutchmen who had tried to escape. Together with another Dutch printer Schelvis applied for work in a print-shop outside the camp. But he and the group of men he was part of ultimately ended up in Lublin-Flugplatz, a labour camp a stone’s throw from the concentration and death camp of Lublin-Majdanek. There was no trace of a print-shop, but Schelvis did see men lugging heavy tree-trunks: ‘Emaciated people with death in their shoes passed us, spurred on by SS and Ukrainians with whips and sticks.’ Schelvis and the others from Dorohucza, including the Dutchman Jozef Wins, were forced to build barracks in the camp, among other things.

After several days Schelvis and the other typographers were taken to Radom, west of Lublin. Radom was an actual Jewish ghetto, where part of the population worked as tailors. Conditions were good and Schelvis rarely saw any SS in the ghetto. Here were the printing presses and a typesetting machine that had survived the ghetto uprising in Warsaw intact. The machines had been disassembled and transported to Radom where Schelvis and the other printers first had to reassemble them. The relative calm in the ghetto was shattered on 8 November 1943, when the SS, the Grüne Polizei, and their Ukrainian helpers carried out a raid in the ghetto. Schelvis, who together with the other typographers was among those who were spared, saw it happen: ‘The sick who couldn’t walk were shot’. Children and old people were murdered also, while the others were taken away to the nearby Szkolna concentration camp to, as would Schelvis eventually, work in the weapons factory.

When the Red Army advanced in the summer of 1944, the camp leaders were struck by indecision.‘There was huge panic among the German leadership,’ Schelvis stated in 1947, ‘SS on the run from the front passed us and they didn’t know what to do, surrender or flee.’ The order of the Sicherheitsdienst to kill all Jews when the Russians approached, was ignored by the camp command. The prisoners were told to prepare to walk to Tomaszow-Mazowiecki, over one hundred kilometres to the west, where they arrived after four days of walking. Here they were locked up in a rayon factory and they survived on potato peel broth; they did not work. A short time later the prisoners were put on a train to Auschwitz, where a selection took place on the platform. Some women, who were sent to the ‘good’ side, stayed behind to work in the camp, while the men who had a lucky escape – Schelvis among them – were loaded back onto the train. Further west they went, and the train finally arrived in Vaihingen near Stuttgart, where Schelvis was liberated by the French army on 8 April 1945.

On April 2016 Jules Schelvis died at age 95 in his residence Amstelveen.

It gives me hope and comfort knowing that Jules lived a long life after the horrors he had witnessed and had live through. Until recently I felt it was only evil people who lived a long life, if you look at the war criminals who escaped or hadn’t been executed,most of them reached 90+

RIP Mr Jules Schelvis, we salute you.

RIP