The Dutch SS training camp-Built with the blood of slaves.

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Although there were many Dutch who with disregard of their own safety and lives were willing to help their Jewish fellow men and women, however there were  also those who ceased the opportunity to fulfill their own evil ambitions and joined the SS.

I know there will be some who say that some of these men were just misguided and did look passed the policies of the Nazi regime, and only joined the SS for the adventure and the chance to fight in an efficient army unit, and to an extend that was true. But it had to have become very clear to them shortly after joining what the SS really stood for.

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It already started at the building of the SS training camp Avegoor which had been a stately home prior to the start of the war.

One of the key areas the Nazis focused on was sport,Hitler was convinced that a good athlete would make a good soldier.

Hauptscharführer Karl Hautz was responsible to build a state of the art sport facility at the SS training centre Avegoor.

He did this by using 139 Jewish slave laborers to build a sports hall.an athletics ttacl, a sports field and 2 exercise facilities and stands.

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The sporting complex was also used by the Hitler youth and the Youth Storm for matches and competitions.

The 139 men arrived on 2 and 3 September 1942, they had to carry out the work under appalling circumstances. Not enough food, little sleep and comfort long hours and the constant fear of punishment.

Three of the Jewish slave labourers died  while building the sport camp. They died so that others could be trained to kill.

Camp

Of the 139 men only 33 eventually survived the war.

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16 bodies in Lake Maggiore

Meina

The lakes of Italy are known for its beauty. Although I have been to Italy several times it was usually the Lake Garda area I would visit, every time I was awestruck by its beautiful surroundings. I did see Lake Maggiore once in passing and it also looked majestic.

However this majestic beautiful place was also a place of horror for at least 16 Jewish Greeks during WWII.

Even though Italy did have a brutal and fascist regime and there were persecutions of Jews, the majority of the Jewish population did have a relatively ‘normal’ life compared to Jews elsewhere in Europe.

However this changed after the dismissal and arrest of Mussolini. Hitler sent an elite squad to free his ally from captivity after Italy had signed an armistice with allied forces in September 3,1943 and officially announced 5 days later on the 8th of September.

Hitler moved fast to establish a new Fascist Italian state in the North of Italy. The Repubblica Sociale Italiana.The Italian Social Republic was proclaimed on 23 September, with Mussolini as both head of state and prime minister.But the new republic really was a puppet state run by Nazi Germany.

Duce

Meina was a small village at  the southern area of Lake Maggiore. The village had a Hotel with the same name Hotel Meina. The owners were the Behars, a family of Turkish Jews.

The hotel had about 30 guest rooms,  a billiard room, a reading room and a room where the guests could play cards. The garden faced Lago Maggiore. In September 1943, it had a number of Jewish guests, mostly from Greece, who had escaped the Nazi occupation in Greece.

Since Italy had signed an armistice there was this false believe the war was over, nothing could be further from the truth.

On Wednesday morning, Sept. 15, the Meina hotel was surrounded by the SS. Twenty Jews were identified, including: Alberto and Eugenia Behar, the owners of the hotel, with their children; the Fernandez Diaz family; the Mosseris; Raoul Torres and his wife, Valerie Nahoum; Daniele Modiano; Vittorio Haim Pompas; Vitale Cori, the hotel’s bartender; and Lotte Fröhlich-Mazzucchelli.

The SS men were from the SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. They kept the Jews as prisoner in the Hotel, where the Non Jewish guests were free to do what they wanted to do.

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On the night of 22/23 September the 16 Jewish guests were taken out of the Hotel and driven a few miles outside of the village where they were shot.

The 16 bodies were dumped in Lake Maggiore.

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In the  following days, the bodies floated to the surface. The SS recovered the corpses and burned them.

The fate of the 16 souls was initially forgotten but in 1968 those responsible for the Meina massacre were tried in Germany Mario Mazzucchelli, the non Jewish husband of  Lotte Fröhlich-Mazzucchelli, testified as a witness. Three officers were sentenced to life but in 1970, the Supreme Court declared the statute of limitations had expired and released them.

In Meina commemorative ‘stumbling blocks’ were put down to remember the victims of the Meina Hotel  massacre.One separate block for each victim and one general block for all 16.

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In 2007 director Carlo Lizzani shot a movie of the awful event. Hotel Meina.

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September 11,1940-The Foundation of the Dutch SS.

dUTCH ss

I am immensely proud of the country I was born in and where I grew up, but like nearly every other nation on earth there are some black paged in its history.

One of the darkest days for the Dutch history wasSeptember 11,1940. This is the day when the ‘Nederlandsche SS, was founded. Only 4 months after the invasion by Nazi Germany.

The leader of the Dutch national socialist party ,NSB,Anton Mussert, had already been ordered during a meeting on June 9,1940 by Adolf Hitler via Gottlob Berger of the German SS-Amt, to to recruit Dutch men for the Wiking division of the Waffen-SS.

Some Dutch historians will tell you that those joining the SS were forced to do so, however this was not the case, all 7000 of them were volunteers.

One of the conditions to join was the promise of unconditional obedience to all superiors.

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In the spring of 1941, a training school for the Dutch SS was opened at the Avegoor estate in Ellecom .

On 1 November 1942 the name was changed to Germanic SS in the Netherlands. The name change indicated that the Germanic aspect outweighed the Dutch element.

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Fighting for the enemy

brit ss

Before you read this blog, have a close look at the above picture. It is a picture of an SS soldier, and you have probably seen many pictures like it, but there is something special about this one.On the sleeve on the left arm, at the left bottom, you can see part of a flag, however it is not the German flag but the Union Jack.

The picture is of Roy Courlander, a British born New Zealander. He was one of 54 Brits,Australians and New Zealanders who served in the British Free Corps, a unit of the Waffen SS

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The British Free Corps were recruited from the POW camps, they were given a choice to fight for the SS or remain in the camp. In total 54 of them chose the former. However At no time did it reach more than 27 men in strength.

I could have focused on any of these men but what is so intriguing about Roy Courlander is his background.

He was born in London in 1914, out of wedlock. He was adopted  by Lithuanian Jewish businessman Leonard Henry Courlander  and his wife Edith Cater .

Roy was sent to a boarding school, his parents divorced when he was 19. He was sent to live and work on a coconut plantation owned by his father in the New Hebrides in the South Pacific.

In November 1938, Roy Courlander moved to  New Zealand and found administrative work  with the Land and Income Tax Department in Wellington.

On the outbreak of WWII, Courlander was enlisted into the New Zealand army, he was placed in the Intelligence Corps because his linguistic abilities, and served in the Western Desert and Greece, where he was captured in April 1941. As a prisoner of war, He  acted as a translator at the camp. He joined work parties in Austria and eventually in September 1943 was sent to Genshagen camp or Stalag III-D

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unbeknown to his fellow PoWs, Courlander secretly had fascist sympathies and was convinced of  the inevitability of a Nazi victory.

The Germans recruited Courlander in January 1944 for the British Free Corps.While imprisoned in  Genshagen, Courlander  came into contact with one of the most infamous British traitors of WWII – John Amery.

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The British Free Corps had actually come  from John Amery,  son of the then serving British Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery.John Amery had  travelled to Berlin in October 1942 trying to sell the idea to the Germans for  the formation of a British volunteer force.

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Initially christened the ‘Legion of St George’, the idea was personally approved by the Führer. On December 28, 1942.

In April 1944 Roy Courlander  was promoted to Unterscharführer (sergeant). his aim was to oust John Amery and take control of the Corps.

But eventually Courlander, left the BFC by volunteering for service with the war correspondent unit SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers, which operated at the Western front. As the year wore on, even the most hardened members of the BFC came to the realisation  that the war was going against Germany, and they had no desire to go into action. Their ultimate goal was to make for the Allied lines as soon as they got the chance. During thE summer OF 1944 Roy Courlander made plans to escape.,along with another BFC member, Francis Maton.

The two men boarded a train for Belgium in the company of a Flemish Waffen-SS unit. On 3 September 1944, the two men arrived in Brussels, where they teamed up with the Belgian Resistance. They partook in street fighting against the Germans. Courlander got injured  during the action. The following day, they surrendered themselves  to a British officer, and  became  the first two BFC men to be arrested.

He was Court-martialed by the New Zealand military authorities, on 3 October 1945, in Westgate-on-Sea near Margate in Kent and was sentenced to 15 years in prison on a charge of “voluntarily aiding the enemy”

In May 1950 the sentence reduced to 9 years after an appeal by Courander. He died in Australia in 1979.

What amazes me the most that although he was brought up by Jewish adoptive parents, he by all accounts gave him a good life, he joined the SS.

BFC

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De Nederlandsche SS- The Dutch SS

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Although the majority of the Dutch citizens hated the German occupiers, there were many who saw an opportunity in the situation they found themselves in.

This is the story of approximately 7000 cowards who found it more favorable to pledge allegiance to an evil regime than to the country they were born in raised in, the Nederlandsche SS(Dutch SS).

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The Nederlandsche SS was formed on September 11, 1940. On November 1, 1942 the name was changed to Germaansche SS in Nederland (Germanic SS in the Netherlands). The Nederlandsche SS in total counted about 7,000 members and was primarily a political formation. In addition it served as a reservoir for the Waffen-SS. They dressed in black uniforms that were based on those of the German SS.

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In a meeting on June 9, 1940 between A.A. Mussert and Gottlob Berger of the German SS-Amt,

 

Mussert was ordered by Hitler to recruit Dutch men for the Wiking division of the Waffen-SS. The Dutch volunteers would get their own regiment, the Standarte ‘Westland’.

There were four reasons why the formation of extension of Himmler’s SS in the Netherlands was important. First, the SS wished, as a result of Himmler’s desire for expansion, to take an important position in the conquered countries. Second, the SS thought it to be of great importance for the recruitment of volunteers for the Waffen-SS. The Nederlandsche SS could not only serve as a pool of reserves, but also had an important task for creating a foundation from which future recruitment could take place. Third, the Nederlandsche SS served to push Mussert in the desired direction of a Greater Germanic Reich. Finally, the formation of a Nederlandsche SS was of great propaganda value.

At first Mussert refused to cooperate, but he had to make concessions to the German authorities to retain his own position. Despite his failure to cooperate and even advising NSB members not to serve in the SS, the unit was still established. The Germans got fed up with his half-hearted attitude and threatened to advance Meinoud Rost van Tonningen to his position, forcing Mussert to agree with the formation of the Nederlandsche SS, as a variant of the Allgemeine SS.

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On September 11, 1940 the Dutch SS was formed by Mussert, formally as Afdeling XI (Department XI) of the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (National Socialist Movement, the NSB) making Mussert the theoretical leader of the department. Henk Feldmeijer, a protégé of Meinoud Rost van Tonningen was appointed “Voorman”. In practice, Feldmeijer reported to Rauter and Heinrich Himmler, completely bypassing Mussert and his NSB.feldmeijer

Feldmeijer sought more and more integration with the German Allgemeine SS. A training school was opened for the Dutch SS at the Avegoor estate in Ellecom in the Spring of 1941.

On 1 November 1942 the name was changed to Germaansche SS in Nederland  This change emphasized that it was the Greater German aspect rather than the Dutch – that was of greater importance.

By the end of 1944 the Germaansche SS in Nederland only existed on paper, thanks to the changing tide against the Germans and their supporters as the war drew to a close.

As the Nederlandsche SS was supposed to be an elite corps, not everybody was allowed to become a member. There were selections based on race, attitude to life, personality and physical condition. To become a member, the candidate (SS-maat, a translation of the German SS-Anwärter) had to satisfy the following conditions:

  1. Aryan descent proven to the year 1800 (1750 for the officers). The candidate had to give his word of honour that he knew nothing of any non-Aryan ancestors.
  2. No dishonorable criminal convictions.
  3. At least 1.72 m in height.
  4. Physically healthy, confirmed by medical examination.
  5. Age 18-30. Exceptions were made for those who were true national socialists before May 9, 1940.
  6. Pledge of unconditional loyalty to all superiors.

A thorough series of physical and genealogical examinations and investigations were made on each applicant. Only after these were successfully concluded did the candidate officially become an SS-Man.

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They had a propaganda magazine called “Storm” which had slogans and ‘inspirational’ messages  like “Vreugde in Arbeid” (Joy in work) or “De macht van een gedachte” (The power of a thought)

arbeid

power

About half of the Dutch SS did go on to serve in the Eastern front, for those who survived the east front and those who had remained in the Netherlands were tried  in the Netherlands as war criminals and collaborators. Those who weren’t sentenced to death, were imprisoned in camps.

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By early 1950’s most of the Dutch SS men were released, however they were still hated by the general population. They had also lost their citizenship and were often cast aside by their families. Some of them joined the French and Spanish foreign legions while others tried to regain citizenship by fighting in the Korean war under the UN banner.

I deliberately called them cowards because that is really what they were, It puzzles me how they could volunteer,knowing what happened to their fellow country men,women and children.Some historians say we judge them too harshly, I don’t subscribe to that point of view.

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