If that is so, then I suppose I’m a murderer.

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On March 29, 1945, some 60 Jewish slave labourers were shot in Deutsch Schützen, Austria, a town in what is now the Austrian province of Burgenland. One of the suspected murderers is former SS Junior Squad Leader Adolf Storms.

Though Storms’ identity was known in 1946 – he was listed in the German telephone book – Austrian authorities never apprehended him. Adolf Storms died in 2010 shortly before the trial against him was opened.

Adolf Storms was born in 1919. During World War II, he was a sergeant of the 5th SS Division “Wiking”, a division of the Waffen SS, which had participated in the war of aggression against the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1944. The division’s fallback led it from Hungary to the Czech Republic and finally to Austria.

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Storms, who was 90 years old, was on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most-wanted Nazi suspects.He was accused of the massacre of at least 57 Jewish forced labourers in Austria at the end of World War II.

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Prosecutors in Germany were investigating the accusations against him and preparing a trial.The prosecutor in the city of Dortmund, Andreas Brendel, said investigators had recently been checking if Storms was fit for trial.

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Mr Brendel said he had had strong evidence against Storms.

The former SS officer and unidentified accomplices forced the labourers to hand over their valuables and kneel by a grave before shooting them.

Witnesses

Storms was also accused of having shot another man on the day after the massacre.He was alleged to have shot the man because he was too weak to take part in a forced march.

Several former members of the Hitler Youth, who had helped the SS guards during the march, gave witness statements against Storms.

The accused worked as a railway station manager for decades until a student at the University of Vienna found his name in documents alleging his involvement in war crimes.

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The student and his professor, Walter Manoschek, tracked him down and Manoschek then visited Storms several times. The professor conducted about 12 hours of interviews in which Storms repeatedly said that he does not remember the killings.He said it was war and I was a young lad. When he was told that the massacre did happen, his reply was “Well if that is so I suppose I am a murderer”

Walter Manoscheck Flyer Website Version-01

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Stalag Luft III murders- The real aftermath of the Great Escape

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Most of us will have seen the classic WWII movie ‘the Great escape’ usually around every Christmas period or Easter time it will be shown multiple times on a great number of channels.

It is one of my favourite wartime movies although it does take quite a number of artistic liberties in relation to some of the real events.

The Stalag Luft III murders were war crimes perpetrated by members of the Gestapo following the “Great Escape” of Allied prisoners of war from the German Air Force prison camp known as Stalag Luft III on March 25, 1944. Of a total of 76 successful escapees, 73 were recaptured, mostly within days of the breakout, of whom 50 were executed on the personal orders of Adolf Hitler. These summary executions were conducted within a short period of recapture.

Fifty of the Allied airmen who tunnelled out of Stalag Luft III were executed in chilling scenes like this. article-2285629-18565A31000005DC-948_634x400

Outrage at the killings was felt immediately, both in the prison camp, among comrades of the escaped prisoners, and in the United Kingdom, where the Foreign Minister Anthony Eden rose in the House of Commons to announce in June 1944 that those guilty of what the British government suspected was a war crime would be “brought to exemplary justice.”Sir_Anthony-Eden_number_10_Official

After Nazi Germany’s capitulation in May 1945, the Police branch of the Royal Air Force, with whom the 50 airmen had been serving, launched a special investigation into the killings, having branded the shootings a war crime despite official German reports that the airmen had been shot while attempting to escape from captivity following recapture. An extensive investigation headed by Wing Commander Wilfred Bowes RAF and Squadron Leader Frank McKenna of the Special Investigation Branch into the events following the recapture of the 73 airmen was launched, which was unique for being the only major war crime to be investigated by a single branch of any nation’s military.

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The day after the mass escape from Stalag Luft III,Hitler’s rage was all-consuming. He summoned SS chief Heinrich Himmler and Reichsmarschall Göring and ordered that all 76 fugitives be executed upon recapture.

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Word of such an atrocity, Göring explained, might result in fierce Allied reprisals. Himmler agreed, prompting Hitler to order that ‘more than half the escapees’ be shot. Random numbers were suggested until Himmler proposed that 50 be executed. Hitler ordered his SS chief to put the plan in motion.

The Kriminalpolizei (the criminal-investigations department of the Reich police) issued a Grossfahndung, a national hue and cry, ordering the military, the Gestapo, the SS, the Home Guard and Hitler Youth to put every effort into hunting the escapees down. Nearly 100,000 men needed to defend the Reich were redirected to the manhunt.

By Wednesday, March 29, five days after the breakout, 35 escapees languished behind bars in the cramped cells of the jail at Görlitz, not far south of Sagan.

Those who remained on the run hoped to make destinations in Czechoslovakia, Spain, Denmark and Sweden. Luck, however, worked against them.

They were seized at checkpoints, betrayed by informants or simply thwarted by freezing temperatures. Before long, all but three of the fugitives were back in captivity.

 Two weeks after the escape, the whereabouts of the escapees remained a mystery to the prisoners inside the camp. Just six men had thus far been returned to Stalag Luft III and marched directly into the cooler, the solitary-confinement block.

But on April 6, Group Captain Herbert Massey, the senior British officer in the camp, was to learn the fate of so many of his men.

The camp commandant, Colonel Braune, informed him that 41 had been killed while resisting arrest or attempting to escape after being captured; not one had been merely wounded. Braune was unable to look Massey in the eye as he told him the lies.

On April 15, a list identifying the victims appeared on the camp’s noticeboard. The list now contained not 41 names, but 47. Two days later, a representative of the Swiss Protecting Power visited Stalag Luft III on a routine inspection and was given a copy of the list.

Among the dead were 25 Britons, six Canadians, three Australians, two New Zealanders, three South Africans, four Poles, two Norwegians, one Frenchman and a Greek.

The Swiss government then reported the killings to the British government, including three additional victims, bringing the total number of those murdered to 50. Churchill was incensed, and even amid the final push for victory made finding the killers a priority.

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The 3 Successful escapees

  • Per Bergsland, Norwegian pilot of No. 332 Squadron RAF
  • Jens Müller, Norwegian pilot of No. 331 Squadron RAF
  • Bram van der Stok, Dutch pilot of No. 41 Squadron RAF

    A detachment of the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Air Force Police headed by Wing Commander Wilfred Bowes was given the assignment of tracking down the killers of the 50 officers. The investigation started seventeen months after the alleged crimes had been committed, making it a cold case. Worse, according to an account of the investigation, the perpetrators “belonged to a body, the Secret State Police or Gestapo, which held and exercised every facility to provide its members with false identities and forged identification papers immediately they were ordered to go on the run at the moment of national surrender.”

    The small detachment of investigators, numbering five officers and fourteen NCOs, remained active for three years, and identified seventy-two men, guilty of either murder or conspiracy to murder, of whom 69 were accounted for. Of these, 21 were eventually tried and executed (some of these were for other than the Stalag Luft III murders); 17 were tried and imprisoned; 11 had committed suicide; 7 were untraced, though of these 4 were presumed dead; 6 had been killed during the war; 5 were arrested but charges had not been laid; 1 was arrested but not charged so he could be used as a material witness; three were charged but either acquitted or had the sentence quashed on review, and one remained in refuge in East Germany.[1]:261

    Despite attempts to cover up the murders during the war, the investigators were aided by such things as Germany’s meticulous book-keeping, such as at various crematoria, as well as willing eye-witness accounts and many confessions among the Gestapo members themselves, who cited that they were only following orders.

    SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe, who is believed to have selected the airmen to be shot, was later executed for his involvement in the July 20 plot to kill Hitler.Bundesarchiv_Bild_101III-Alber-096-34,_Arthur_Nebe

    American Colonel Telford Taylor was the U.S. prosecutor in the High Command case at the Nuremberg Trials. The indictment in this case called for the General Staff of the Army and the High Command of the German Armed Forces to be considered criminal organizations; the witnesses were several of the surviving German Field Marshals and their staff officers.One of the crimes charged was of the murder of the 50. Luftwaffe Colonel Bernd von Brauchitsch, who served on the staff of Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, was interrogated by Captain Horace Hahn about the murders.Horace_Hahn_senior_class_photo_1933

    The first trial specifically dealing with the Stalag Luft III murders began on 1 July 1947, against 18 defendants. The trial was held before No. 1 War Crimes Court at the Curio Haus in Hamburg. The accused all pleaded Not Guilty article-2285629-1858A3D4000005DC-294_634x480

    The verdicts and sentences were handed down after a full fifty days on September 3 of that year. Max Wielen was found guilty of conspiracy and sentenced to life imprisonment. The others were found not guilty of the first two charges, but guilty of the individual charges of murder. Breithaupt received life imprisonment, Denkmann and Struve ten years imprisonment each, and Boschert eventually received life imprisonment. The other 13 condemned prisoners were hanged  at Hamelin Jail in February 1948 by British executioner Albert Pierrepoint.Albert-Pierrepoint

     

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Crimes by the “regular” German soldiers.

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There are still many who think that the Nazi atrocities were only carried out by the SS, SS-Totenkopfverbände, Einsatzgruppen and Waffen-SS but not by the regular German Wehrmacht soldiers or Luftwaffe. However in recent years evidence has emerged that especially the Wehrmacht were also responsible for atrocities and some even worse then the SS.

Below are some accounts from Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe soldiers given during interviews some of these were used in the book “Soldaten”

Eye witness account of Willy Peter Reese ,a young Wehrmacht soldier.

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Willy Peter Reese, an infantryman who fought on the Russian front and died in 1944 aged 23, kept a diary of how German soldiers killed scores of prisoners of war, committed rape, threw pregnant women and children out of their homes and stole food..
”We were without feeling for the suffering of others,We bragged about what we had conquered and about the effect a pistol could have on a defenseless woman.”

”We danced in the railway carriages and fired into the air, made a captured Russian woman dance naked for us and smeared her breasts with boot polish, we made her as drunk as we were,”

Luftwaffe accounts

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Fighter pilot Budde and Corporal Bartels were captured by the British early 1943.
Budde: “I flew two spoiling attacks. In other words, we shelled buildings.”
 
Bartels: “But not destructive attacks with a specific target, like what we did?”
 
Budde: “No, just spoiling attacks. We encountered some of the nicest targets, like mansions on a mountain. When you flew at them from below and fired into them, you could see the windows rattling and then the roof going up in the air. There was the time we hit Ashford. There was an event on the market square, crowds of people, speeches being given. We really sprayed them! That was fun!”
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Two other pilots, Bäumer and Greim, also had their share of “amusing” experiences, which they described in a conversation with other soldiers.

Bäumer: “We had a 2-centimeter gun installed on the front (of the aircraft). Then we flew down low over the streets, and when we saw cars coming from the other direction, we put on our headlights so that they would think another car was approaching them. Then we shot them with the gun. We had a lot of successes that way. It was great, and it was a lot of fun. We attacked trains and other stuff the same way.”
 
Greim: “We once flew a low-altitude attack near Eastbourne. When we got there we saw a big castle where there was apparently a ball or something like that being held. In any case, there were lots of women in nice clothes and a band. We flew past the first time, but then we attacked and really stuck it to them. Now that, my dear friend, was a lot of fun.”

Major General Walter Bruns

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In April 1945, Major General Walter Bruns described what happened during a typical “Jew operation” he witnessed.

Bruns: “The trenches were 24 meters long and about 3 meters wide. They had to lie down like sardines in a can, with their heads toward the middle. At the top, there were six marksmen with submachine guns who then shot them in the back of the neck. It was already full when I arrived, so the ones who were still alive had to lie on top, and then they got shot. They had to lie there in neat layers so that it wouldn’t take up too much space. Before this happened, they had to turn in their valuables at another station.

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The edge of the forest was here, and in here there were the three trenches on that Sunday, and here there was a line that stretched for one-and-a-half kilometers, and it was moving very slowly. They were standing in line to be killed. When they got closer, they could see what was going on inside. Roughly at this spot, they had to hand over their jewelry and their suitcases. A little farther along, they had to take off their clothes, all except their shirts and underpants. It was just women and little children, like two-year-olds.”

The Vinkt massacre

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Was a war crime which occurred in the Belgian villages of Vinkt and Meighem, near Ghent, between 26–28 May 1940 during the Battle of the Lys. During the massacre, between 86 and 140 civilians were deliberately killed by German Wehrmacht troops from the 337th Infantry Regiment, apparently as retaliation for the Belgian army’s resistance in the village.

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Arriving near the bridge on May 25, the German 225th Division, consisting mostly of badly trained soldiers from Itzehoe in the North of the Hamburg area, found it impossible to cross. They then took 140 civilians hostage and used them as human shields.

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The story Lance Corporal Sommer tells about a lieutenant whom he served under on the Italian front shows how common it was to terrorize the civilian population:after the collapse of the Mussolini government

 Sommer: “Even in Italy , whenever we arrived in a new place, he would always say: ‘Let’s kill a couple of people first!’ I could speak Italian, so I always got special tasks. He would say: ‘Okay, let’s kill 20 men so we can have some peace and quiet here. We don’t want them getting any ideas!’ (laughter) Then we staged a little attack, with the motto: ‘Anyone gives us the slightest trouble and we’ll kill another 50.'”

Bender: “What criteria did he use to select them? Did he just pull them out at random?”

Sommer: “Yeah, 20 men, just like that. ‘Come here,’ he’d say. Then he’d line them up on the market square, pick up three MGs — rat-a-tat-tat — and there they were, dead. That was how it happened. Then he would say: ‘Great! Pigs!’ He hated the Italians so much, you wouldn’t believe it.”

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In another case, a senior German army officer voiced his disgust at a junior lieutenant’s giggling account of how he and his men raped a so-called woman “spy” in Russia and then threw hand grenades at her. “She didn’t half scream when they exploded near her,” the lieutenant jeered.

Even the German navy was involved.

In March 1943, Solm, a seaman on a submarine, tells a cellmate how he “knocked off a children’s transport” in which more than 50 children drowned. The transport he mentions was most likely the British passenger ship City of Benares, which was sunk in the north Atlantic on Sept. 17, 1940.

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“Did they all drown?’

“Yes, they’re all dead.”

“How big was it?”

“6,000 tons.”

“How did you know that?”

“Via the radio.

 

 

 

 

Reinhard Kopps & Erich Priebke-No honor among murderers.

Reinhard Kopps (29 September 1914 Hamburg – 11 September 2001 Bariloche, Argentina) was an SS Officer for the Nazi Party during World War II. Following the defeat of Germany in World War II, he helped Nazis escape to Argentina, finally fleeing there himself. Under the assumed name of Juan Maler, Kopps was hiding in the small town of Bariloche in the Andes Mountains. Bariloche was the home of many Germans after World War II.

Nazi archives opened in 1994 caused ABC News to research Nazi war criminals. After research revealed many Nazis living in Argentina, Sam Donaldson confronted Maler on camera,getting him to admit that he was Reinhard Kopps, a former Nazi, and that he assisted Nazis to leave Germany and settle in Argentina. The Simon Wiesenthal Center accused him of having organized ethnic crimes in Albania where thousends of jewish were deported and killed. He was also reported for alleged activities as an ideologist of neo nazi groups in all over the world.

In order to deflect attention away from himself, he told Donaldson that an even worse war criminal, Erich Priebke (under the assumed name Erico Priebke)was also living there.Donaldson and his team waited for Priebke outside the school he was working and interviewed him at his car.

After initial hesitation, Priebke admitted who he was and spoke openly about his role in the massacre. He justified his actions by saying that he only followed orders from the Gestapo chief of Rome, Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler and that, in his view, the victim were terrorists.

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Erich Priebke (29 July 1913 – 11 October 2013) was a German mid-level SS commander in the SS police force (SiPo) of Nazi Germany.

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In 1996 he was convicted of war crimes in Italy, for participating in the Ardeatine massacre in Rome on 24 March 1944. 335 Italian civilians (among them 75 Italians of Jewish ancestry) were killed in retaliation for a partisan attack that killed 33 men of the German SS Police Regiment Bozen.

The massacre was perpetrated without prior public notice in a little-frequented rural suburb of the city, inside the tunnels of the disused quarries of pozzolana, near the Via Ardeatina.

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By mistake, a total of 335 Italian prisoners were taken, five in excess of the 330 called for. On 24 March, led by SS officers Erich Priebke and Karl Hass.

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They were transported to the Ardeatine caves in truckloads and then, in groups of five, put to death inside the caves. Because the killing squad mostly consisted of officers who had never killed before, Kappler had ordered several cases of cognac delivered to the caves to calm the officers’ nerves.

The nerves of Erich Priebke didn’t need to be calmed. To set an example for the other men he personally shot the 2 first victims himself.

The officers were ordered to lead the doomed prisoners into the caves with their hands tied behind their backs and then have them kneel down so that the soldiers could place a bullet directly into the cerebellum, ensuring that no more than one bullet would be needed per prisoner. Many were forced to kneel down over the bodies of those who had been killed before them because the cave had become filled with dead bodies. During the killings, the existence of the five extra prisoners was discovered, and it was decided to kill them anyway, in order to prevent news of the location of the place of execution from becoming known.

Priebke was one of the men held responsible for this mass execution. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, he received help from a bishop stationed in Rome and fled to Argentina on a Vatican passport, where he lived for over 50 years.

In 1991, Priebke’s participation in the Rome massacre was denounced in Esteban Buch’s book.In 1994, 50 years after the massacre, Priebke felt he could now talk about the incident and was interviewed by American ABC news reporter Sam Donaldson.This caused outrage among people who had not forgotten the incident, and led to his extradition to Italy and a trial which lasted more than four years.

Donaldson’s news report showed how openly Priebke could live in Argentina, and how little remorse he felt for his actions. Argentine authorities arrested Priebke. Because of his old age and poor health, he was at first not imprisoned, but rather held under house arrest at his home in Bariloche, where he had lived since 1949.

The extradition of Priebke had several delays – his lawyers used tactics like demanding all Italian documents be translated into Spanish, a process which could have taken two years. The Argentine court eventually denied the process, but appeals and other delays caused the extradition case to take more than a year. His lawyers argued that the case could no longer be criminally prosecuted because the crime of murder was subject to a statute of limitations of 15 years under Argentine law.

In March 1995, after nine months of delays, the president of the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith was promised by, among others, the Argentine president Carlos Menem, that the case would soon be closed, and that Priebke was to be transferred to Italy by the end of the month. In spite of these promises, the Supreme Court of Argentina decided that the case was to be transferred to the local court in Bariloche where the case was originally brought up. This opened the possibility for years of delays from future appeals, while Priebke could live at his home.

In May 1995, an Argentine federal judge accepted the Italian demand for extradition on the grounds that cases of crimes against humanity could not expire. But there were more appeals and rumors that the court might change the ruling.

In August of the same year, it was judged that Priebke was not to be extradited because the case had expired. To put pressure on the Argentine government, Germany demanded extradition the same day. The Italian military prosecutor, Antonio Intelisano, argued that FN agreements to which Argentina was signatory expressly state that cases of war criminals and crimes against humanity do not expire.

After seventeen months of delays, the Argentine supreme court decided that Priebke was to be extradited to Italy. He was put on a direct flight from Bariloche to Ciampino, a military airport close to the Ardeatine caves, where the executions had been carried out many years earlier.erich-priebke-1995-argentina

In court, Priebke declared himself not guilty. He did not deny what he had done, but he denied any moral responsibility. He blamed the massacre on those whom he branded as “the Italian terrorists” who were behind the attack in which 33 German SS men were killed. The order came directly from Hitler, and he thought it was a legitimate punishment. During the trial it became clear that Priebke had personally shot two Italians. This was also in his testimony from 1946 before he managed to escape.

 

 

Around noon on 24 March 1944, 335 men went to the Ardeatine Caves, Rome. All were tied with their hands behind their backs and their names were read out loud. In groups of five they went into the caves. Priebke went inside together with the second or third group and shot a man with an Italian machine pistol. Towards the end he shot another man with the same machine pistol. The executions ended when it got dark that night. After the shootings, explosives were used to shut the caves. Priebke was found not guilty, for the reason of acting under orders.

On 1 August 1996, orders were given for the immediate release of Priebke. The Italian minister of justice later said that Priebke might be re-arrested, depending on whether or not he would be extradited to Germany to be charged with murder. The courts were blocked by demonstrators for over seven hours after Priebke’s trial.

The judges voted two against, one for, convicting the 83-year-old Priebke for taking part of the massacres, which he had admitted, but he was acquitted, again, purportedly because he had been following orders. There were strong reactions from family members of the victims, who claimed the judges put no value on human lives. Shimon Samuels, the leader of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that with this ruling, Italy was permitting crimes against humanity.

The case was appealed by the prosecutors. The day after, Germany asked Italy to keep Priebke imprisoned until their demand to have him extradited was processed, as they wanted him put on trial for the murders of two people that he had personally shot. Outside the courthouse there were demonstrations, but when it became known that Priebke had been rearrested, these calmed down. Many people later went to visit the Ardeatine Caves to honour the victims.

The Italian supreme court decided that the court that had freed Priebke was incompetent and the appeal went through. Among other things it was questioned why the Nuremberg trials were not taken up earlier, since it had been concluded that an individual has personal responsibility for his actions. The reason that Priebke had been released was that he followed orders. Priebke claimed that if he had not obeyed, he would have been executed himself, but the appeals would not accept this, as they felt it was a baseless excuse.

The Court of Cassation voided the decision, ordering a new trial for Priebke. He was sentenced to 15 years. These were reduced to 10 years because of his age and alleged ill health. In March 1998, the Court of Appeal condemned him to life imprisonment, together with Karl Hass, another former SS member. The decision was upheld in November of the same year by the Court of Cassation. Because of his age, Priebke was put under house arrest. In March 1997 it was decided that Priebke could not be extradited to Germany. The reason for this was that he was now going through a trial which was for the same things that Germany wanted him tried. He could not be tried for the same crime twice.

Priebke died in Rome on 11 October 2013 at the age of 100, from natural causes. His last request to have his remains returned to Argentina to be buried alongside his wife was denied by the Argentinian government. The Vatican issued an “unprecedented ban” on holding the funeral in any Catholic church in Rome. His hometown in Germany also refused to take the body, over fears that the place of burial could become a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.

Reinhard Kopps was never prosecuted and died in Baroche in 2001.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wereth Massacre

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On December 16, 1944, the Germans launched their last great offensive against the Western Allies through the Ardennes Forest of eastern Belgium. It would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. Three German Armies attacked a long a 50-mile front. American troops manning the line were thrown into confusion. Even the high command was stunned. Stabilizing the line was first priority and many of the units available were African American. One of them was the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion.

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From the battle emerged a multitude of heroes and villains. The brutality rivaled that of the Eastern Front; no quarter was given. Incidents like the Malmedy Massacre became well-known. On the afternoon of December 17, 1944, over 80 GIs who had been taken prisoner were gunned down by men of the 1st SS Panzer Division.

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Some escaped to spread the story, which led to a steely resolve on the part of American troops. But later that night another massacre occurred that received little attention during or after the war.

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Eleven men from the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion were taken prisoner after taking refuge in a Belgian village. They surrendered peacefully to a squad from the 1stSS, and marched out of the village. Upon arriving in a large field along the main road, the men were beaten and finally executed.

The remains of the 11 troops were found by Allied soldiers six weeks later, in mid-February, after the Allies re-captured the area. The Germans had battered the soldiers’ faces, cut their fingers off, broken their legs, used bayonetts to stab them in the eye, and shot at least one soldier while he was bandaging a comrade’s wounds.

The troops killed were:

  • Staff Sergeant Thomas J. Forte, service #34036992. Buried Henri-Chapelle plot C, row 11, grave 55. Awards: Purple Heart
  • T/4 William Edward Pritchett of Alabama
  • T/4 James A. Stewart of West Virginia, Service number 35744547. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot C, row 11, grave 2. Awards: Purple Heart
  • Cpl Mager Bradley of Mississippi
  • PFC George Davis of Alabama, service #34553436. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot D, row 10, grave 61. Awards: Purple Heart
  • PFC James L. Leatherwood of Pontotoc, Mississippi
  • PFC George W. Moten of Texas, service #38304695. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot E, row 10, grave 29. Awards: Purple Heart
  • PFC Due W. Turner of Arkansas, service #38383369. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot F, row 5, grave 9. Awards: Purple Heart
  • Pvt Curtis Adams of South Carolina, service #34511454. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot C, row 11, grave 41. Awards: Purple Heart
  • Pvt Robert Green
  • Pvt Nathanial Moss of Texas, service #38040062. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot F, row 10, grave 8. Awards: Purple Heart

Curtis Adams was a medic. Thomas J. Forte was a mess sergeant.

Operation Silbertanne-The execution of Dutch citizens.

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Operation Silbertanne (silver fir) was the codename of a series of murders taking place between September 1943 and September 1944 during the German occupation of the Netherlands. The assassinations were carried out by a death squad composed of Dutch members of the SS and Dutch veterans of the Eastern Front.

The objective of the operation was revenge and disruption of the Dutch resistance. The murders were usually carried out by members of the Dutch SS. Former SS officer Heinrich Boere was recently sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Achen, after escaping justice for decades in Germany.

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One of the best known victims is Dutch author A.M. de Jong.

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After Adolf Hitler had approved Anton Mussert as “Leider van het Nederlandse Volk” (Leader of the Dutch People) in December 1942, he was allowed to form a national government institute, a Dutch shadow cabinet called “Gemachtigden van den Leider”, which would advise Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart from 1 February 1943. The institute would consist of a number of deputies in charge of defined functions or departments within the administration.

On 4 February Retired General and Rijkscommissaris Hendrik Seyffardt, already head of the Dutch SS volunteer group Vrijwilligerslegioen Nederland (Legion of volunteers Nerherlands), was announced through the press as “Deputy for Special Services”. As a result, the Communist resistance group CS-6 under Dr. Gerrit Kastein

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(named after its address,  Corelli Straat 6, in Amsterdam), concluded that the new institute would eventually lead to a National-Socialist government, which would then introduce general conscription to enable the call-up of Dutch nationals to the Eastern Front.However, in reality the Nazis only saw Mussert and the NSB as a useful Dutch tool to enable general co-operation, and furthermore, Seyss-Inquart had assured Mussert after his December 1942 meeting with Hitler that general conscription was not on the agenda. However, CS-6 assessed that Seyffardt was the most important person within the new institute who was eligible for an attack, after the heavily-protected Mussert.

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After approval from the Dutch government in exile in London, on the evening of Friday 5 February 1943, after answering a knock at his front door in Scheveningen, Den Haag Seyffardt was shot twice by student Jan Verleun who had accompanied Dr. Kastein on the mission. A day later Seyffardt succumbed to his injuries in hospital.

A private military ceremony was arranged at the Binnenhof, attended by family and friends and with Mussert in attendance, after which Seyffardt was cremated. On 7 February, CS-6 shot fellow institute member “Gemachtigde voor de Volksvoorlichting” (Attorney for the national relations) H.Reydon and his wife. His wife died on the spot, while Reydon died on 24 August of his injuries. The gun used in this attack had been given to Dr. Kastein by Sicherheitsdienst (SD) agent Anton van der Waals, who after tracking him back through information, arrested him on 19 February.

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Two days later Dr. Kastein committed suicide so as not to give away Dutch Resistance information under torture.

Seyffardt and Reydon’s deaths led to massive Nazi Germany reprisals in the occupied Netherlands, under Operation Silbertanne, supported by various German officers. Silbertanne was intended as reprisal for the attacks made on predominantly Dutch collaborators and German occupational forces by the Dutch resistance.

SS General for the Netherlands Hanns Albin Rauter gave order to retaliate by assassinating civilians presumed to be in some way connected to the resistance or to be orange-minded, meaning Dutch patriots, or anti-German.

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Rauter  had claimed that Heinrich Himmler had given direct orders. However in a letter dating from November 1943, he writes that he “agrees with the operation”.

The murders were top secret, hardly anyone within Nazi circles knew about them. The relatives of the victims were left with a lot of unanswered questions as the perpetrators imitated the resistance, wearing civilian clothing and using British weapons.

The task of perpetrating the killings was first assigned to especially formed death squads, though killings were later carried out exclusively by Sonderkommando Feldmeijer, a special unit consisting of 15 SS-members.

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Rauter immediately ordered the murder of 50 Dutch hostages and a series of raids on Dutch universities.

The first killings took place in autumn 1943 in Meppel and Staphorst, and within a year more than 54 Dutchmen had been murdered or severely wounded. On 1–2 October 1944, in the village of Putten, over 600 men were deported to camps to be killed in retaliation for resistance activity in the Putten raid. Some of the most notorious Dutch war criminals participated in Operation Silbertanne: Heinrich Boere, Maarten Kuiper , Sander Borgers , Klaas Carel Faber, his brother Pieter Johan Faber , Daniel Bernard and Lambertus van Gog

Mussert was fundamentally opposed to Operation Silbertanne, and when in autumn 1944 SS Brigadeführer Karl Eberhard Schöngarth, head of SiPo and SD, was informed of these retaliatory killings he had them terminated in September 1944.

After World War II, some of the members of the death squad and those responsible for giving the orders were put on trial. Henk Feldmeijer, however, had been killed in the war. Maarten Kuiper and Pieter Johan Faber were executed in 1948. Hanns Albin Rauter was sentenced to death and executed in 1949. Others, however, managed to flee the country and went into hiding outside the Netherlands. Sander Borgers died in 1985 at the age of 67 in Haren, Germany. Klaas Carel Faber lived until his death on May 24, 2012 in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt.

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In July 2009 it was reported that the German government wanted to prosecute Faber after all.Daniel Bernhard died in 1962. Lambertus van Gog fled to Spain but was extradited to the Netherlands in 1978. Heinrich Boere, who had been living for decades in Germany, was found fit to stand trial for the murders committed between 1943 and 1944, by the Provincial Court of Appeal in Cologne on 7 July 2009, and subsequently was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in March 2010. Boere died in a prison hospital on December 1, 2013.

August Hirt’s Jewish skeleton collection

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Science is very important hence scientists are very important, but unchecked and uncontrolled they can become masters of evil. If there is one thing that WWII as taught us that would be it.

August Hirt (April 28, 1898 – June 2, 1945) was an anatomist with Swiss and German nationality who served as a chairman at the Reich University in Strasbourg during World War II. He performed experiments with mustard gas on inmates at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp and played a lead role in the murders of 86 people at Auschwitz for the Jewish skeleton collection. The skeletons of his victims were meant to become specimens at the Institute of anatomy in Strasbourg, but completion of the project was stopped by the progress of the war. He was an SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and in 1944, an SS-Sturmbannführer (major).

 

The Jewish skeleton collection was an attempt by the Nazis to create an anthropological display to showcase the alleged racial inferiority of the “Jewish race” and to emphasize the Jews’ status as Untermenschen (“sub-humans”), in contrast to the German race which the Nazis considered to be Aryan Übermenschen. The collection was to be housed at the Anatomy Institute at the Reich University of Strasbourg in the annexed region of Alsace, where the initial preparation of the corpses was performed.

The collection was sanctioned by Reichsführer of the SS Heinrich Himmler, and designed by and under the direction of August Hirt with Rudolf Brandt and Wolfram Sievers, general manager of the Ahnenerbe, being responsible for procuring and preparing the corpses.

Work by Hans-Joachim Lang published in 2004 revealed the identities and family history of all the victims of this project, based on discovery of the prisoner numbers found at Natzweiler-Struthof in records of those vaccinated against typhus at Auschwitz. The list of names has been placed on a memorial at the cemetery where all were buried, at the facility used to murder them, and at the Anatomical Institute where the corpses were found in 1944.

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In 1943, 86 Jews were sent to the gas chambers and their bodies brought to Strasbourg, which was then under Nazi occupation, where Hirt was assembling a macabre collection of corpses.The bodies, some intact, others dismembered or burned, were found in November 1944 after the liberation of Strasbourg, in bins filled with distilled alcohol. The faces of these corpses were burned off in order to prevent identification.

The project was designed by August Hirt, who directed the phases that were performed before the end of the war ceased the project prior to its completion. Originally the “specimens” to be used in the collection were to be Jewish commisars in the Red Army captured on the Eastern front by the Wehrmacht. The 86 individuals ultimately chosen for the collection were obtained from among a pool of 115 Jewish inmates at Auschwitz concentration camp in Occupied Poland. They were chosen for their perceived stereotypical racial characteristics. The initial selections and preparations were carried out by SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Bruno Beger and Dr. Hans Fleischhacker, who arrived in Auschwitz in the first half of 1943 and finished the preliminary work by June 15, 1943.

Due to a typhus epidemic at Auschwitz, the candidates chosen for the skeleton collection were quarantined in order to prevent them from becoming ill and ruining their value as anatomical specimens. In that time, the physical measurements were taken from the selected group of people. An excerpt from a letter written by Sievers in June 1943 reports on the preparation and the typhus epidemic: “Altogether 115 persons were worked on, 79 were Jews, 30 were Jewesses, 2 were Poles, and 4 were Asiatics. At the present time these prisoners are segregated by sex and are under quarantine in the two hospital buildings of Auschwitz.” In February 1942, Sievers submitted to Himmler, through Rudolf Brandt, a report from which the following is an extract read at the Nuremberg Doctors Trial by General Telford Taylor, Chief Counsel for the prosecution at Nuremberg:

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“We have a nearly complete collection of skulls of all races and peoples at our disposal. Only very few specimens of skulls of the Jewish race, however, are available with the result that it is impossible to arrive at precise conclusions from examining them. The war in the East now presents us with the opportunity to overcome this deficiency. By procuring the skulls of the Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars, who represent the prototype of the repulsive, but characteristic subhuman, we have the chance now to obtain a palpable, scientific document.

The best, practical method for obtaining and collecting this skull material could be handled by directing the Wehrmacht to turn over alive all captured Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars to the Field Police. They in turn are to be given special directives to inform a certain office at regular intervals of the number and place of detention of these captured Jews and to give them special close attention and care until a special delegate arrives. This special delegate, who will be in charge of securing the “material” has the job of taking a series of previously established photographs, anthropological measurements, and in addition has to determine, as far as possible, the background, date of birth, and other personal data of the prisoner. Following the subsequently induced death of the Jew, whose head should not be damaged, the delegate will separate the head from the body and will forward it to its proper point of destination in a hermetically sealed tin can especially produced for this purpose and filled with a conserving fluid.

Having arrived at the laboratory, the comparison tests and anatomical research on the skull, as well as determination of the race membership of pathological features of the skull form, the form and size of the brain, etc., can proceed. The basis of these studies will be the photos, measurements, and other data supplied on the head, and finally the tests of the skull itself”

Ultimately, 87 of the inmates were shipped to Natzweiler-Struthof.

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These people were kept for about two weeks in Block 13 of the camp so that they might eat well to improve their appearance for the desired casts of their corpses. Next, 86 were gassed in the small facility outside the camp proper, an existing building jury-rigged for gassing people. The deaths of 86 of these inmates were, in the words of Hirt, “induced” in an improvised gassing facility at Natzweiler-Struthof and their corpses were sent to Strasbourg — 57 men and 29 women. The gassing occurred on August 11, 13, 17, and 19th, conducted by commandant Joseph Kramer, who directed the victims to undress, placed the poison in the ventilation, and watched the people fall to their deaths. One victim was shot for fighting to avoid being gassed and thus was not part of the collection.Josef Kramer, acting commandant of Natzweiler-Struthof (who became the commandant at Auschwitz and the last commandant of Bergen Belsen), personally carried out the gassing of the victims, per his testimony at his post-war trial. It is believed that three men died in transport from Auschwitz to Natzweiler-Struthof.

The next part of the process for this “collection” was to make anatomical casts of the bodies prior to reducing them to skeletons. With the approach of the Allies in 1944, there was concern over the possibility that the corpses could be discovered, as they had still not been defleshed. In September 1944, Sievers telegrammed Brandt: “The collection can be defleshed and rendered unrecognizable. This, however, would mean that the whole work had been done for nothing-at least in part-and that this singular collection would be lost to science, since it would be impossible to make plaster casts afterwards.”

Some work had been done at the Anatomical Institute, but the project was never completed. The body casts were not made, and the corpses were not defleshed as skeletons. When the Allies arrived, they found the corpses, some complete and some beheaded, preserved by formalin.

Brandt and Sievers were indicted, tried, and convicted in the Doctors’ Trial in Nuremberg, and both were hanged in Landsberg Prison on June 2, 1948. Hirt committed suicide near the town of Schluchsee, in the Black Forest in Germany on June 2, 1945 with a gunshot to the head. Josef Kramer was convicted of war crimes and hanged in Hamelin prison by noted British executioner Albert Pierrepoint on December 13, 1945.

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In 1974, Bruno Beger was convicted by a West German court as an accessory to 86 murders for his role in procuring the victims of the Jewish skeleton collection. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment, the minimum sentence, but did not serve any time in prison. According to his family, Beger died in Königstein im Taunus on October 12, 2009.

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August Hirt, who conceived the project, was sentenced to death in absentia at the Military War Crimes Trial at Metz on 23 December 1953.It was unknown at the time that Hirt had shot himself in the head on June 2, 1945 while in hiding in the Black Forest.

For many years, only a single victim was positively identified through the efforts of Serge and Beate Klarsfeld: Menachem Taffel (prisoner no. 107969), a Polish born Jew who had been living in Berlin.Deported to Auschwitz in March 1943 along with his wife and child who were gassed upon arrival. He was chosen to be an anatomical specimen, shipped to Natzweiler-Struthof and executed in the gas chamber in August 1943.

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In 2003, Dr. Hans-Joachim Lang, a German professor at the University of Tübingen, succeeded in identifying all the victims by comparing a list of inmate numbers of the 86 corpses at the Reichs University in Strasbourg, surreptitiously recorded by Hirt’s French assistant Henri Henrypierre, with a list of numbers of inmates vaccinated at Auschwitz. Lang recounts in detail the story of how he determined the identities of the 86 victims gassed for Dr. August Hirt’s project of the Jewish skeleton collection. Forty-six of these individuals were originally from Thessaloniki, Greece. The 86 were from eight countries in German-occupied Europe: Austria, Netherlands, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Belgium, and Poland.

In 1951, the remains of the 86 victims were reinterred in one location in the Cronenbourg-Strasbourg Jewish Cemetery. On December 11, 2005, memorial stones engraved with the names of the 86 victims were placed at the cemetery.

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One is at the site of the mass grave, the other along the wall of the cemetery. Another plaque honoring the victims was placed outside the Anatomy Institute at Strasbourg’s University Hospital. In 2015, scientists at the Anatomical Institute discovered forensic tissue samples hidden away, presumed to be from Menachem Taffel. These last remains were buried in the Jewish cemetery.As journalist and researcher Lang stated, once his long research was published on the identities of the 86 people killed under Hirt’s orders, “The perpetrators should not be allowed to have the final word.”

Elizabeth Klein, murdered at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp. Her mother, Elizabeth Klein, was born in Thalheim on 29 May 1878. While in Vienna she married a Hungarian merchant Koloman Klein from Kisnána, with whom she had a daughter, Elizabeth Klein. The family emigrated to Belgium in 1938. Elizabeth was arrested during a raid in February 1943. On 19 April 1943 she was deported to Auschwitz from the Mechelen internment camp. There she was selected for the Jewish skeleton collection directed by August Hirt. She was one of 86 people murdered in the Natzweiler-Struthof

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Am Spiegelgrund clinic-the killing of Children

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The most vulnerable in society are children and even more vulnerable the children with a disability. They deserve love and care more then anyone else.

However the Nazi regime had a different philosophy. To them these poor souls were the impure and undesirable and there was no space for them in the Third Reich.

Am Spiegelgrund was the name of a children’s clinic in Vienna where hundreds of children were killed under the Nazi Regime Children’s Euthanasia Program.

 

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 “Am Spiegelgrund” in Vienna, a psychiatric hospital noted for its“special children’s ward” opened in July 1940 and served as one of the largest children’s killing centers until May 1945. Close to 800 children were murdered by doctors and nurses.

The clinic’s medical directors were Prof. Dr. Erwin Jekelius (until early 1942) and Dr. Ernst Illing (since 1942), and responsible for the “special children’s ward” were Dr. Heinrich Gross,  a psychiatrist and neurologist, Dr. Margarethe Hübsch, and Dr. Marianne Türk.

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Dr. Gross conducted painful experiments on thousands of living children before they were murdered. Pneumatic encephalography, a dangerous and painful procedure was routinely performed on children at Spiegelgrund; the ventricles of their brain were filled with air so as to be visible on X-ray. The X-rays prepared the ground for further research after the children either died during the procedure or they were murdered afterward.

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At lease half of the 800 children  killed at Spiegelgrund were from Gross’ ward.

In 1948, Gross was charged with murder. But the penal code he was prosecuted under did not define murder to include disabled people because they were “not capable of reasoning.” He was found guilty only of manslaughter, and when Gross appealed and won, the prosecutor chose not to retry him.

Dr. Illing was sentenced to death and executed in 1946. Dr. Jekelius died in 1952 in a Soviet prison. Dr. Margarethe Hübsch was acquitted, and Dr. Marianne Türk sentenced to 10 years (she served two).

Dr. Gross returned to Spiegelgrund (which had been renamed) and for 50 years continued to use brain specimens from the children who had been killed there for his research into mental defects, winning national acclaim as an expert.

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He published 35 papers, some written with University of Vienna faculty, and also testified as a psychiatric expert in thousands of cases in the Austrian court. One child who survived said the children called Gross “the Scythe”; another remembered that his arrival on the ward “was like a cold wind coming.”

Evidence against Gross surfaced in the files of the Stasi, the East German secret police. He was tried three times: in the 1950s the case was dismissed for technicalities; in 1980s it was dismissed because of a statute of limitations on manslaughter had expired. In 1975, he was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art.

In 1999, he was again indicted for murder, but his lawyers claimed he had Alzheimer’s and could not understand the proceedings against him. The court accepted this defense.After the court proceedings he smiled and went off to a coffee shop with his friends and family to celebrate.

Below are pictures of some of the victims.

Adolf 3 years                                                            Angela 2 years

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Irma 1 year                                                          Engelbert 13 years

irma          engelbert

After the war, the remains of over 800 children were discovered in the hospital and were buried in a secret memorial service. They were officially put to rest in 2002 and Gross had his Honorary Cross for Science and Art (awarded in 1975) stripped in 2003.

Detailed coverage of the burial ceremony, as well as full background are told in the 2004 film Gray Matter.

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What is even more disturbing another physician who wasn’t directly connected to the Clinic but endorsed it’s work went on to become a world renowned physician

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Hans Asperger (February 18, 1906 – October 21, 1980) was an Austrian pediatrician, medical theorist, and medical professor. He is best known for his early studies on mental disorders, especially in children. His work was largely unnoticed during his lifetime except for a few accolades in Vienna, and his studies on psychological disorders only acquired world renown posthumously. There was a resurgence of interest in his work beginning in the 1980s, and due to his earlier work which was regarded by many to be under the fold of autism spectrum disorders, was named after him. Both Asperger’s original paediatric diagnosis of autistic psychopathy (AP), and the eponymous diagnosis of Asperger syndrome (AS) that was named for him after his death, remain controversial in competing diagnostic criteria.

During World War II, he was a medical officer, serving in the Axis occupation of Croatia; his younger brother died at Stalingrad.Near the end of the war, Asperger opened a school for children with Sister Viktorine Zak. The school was bombed and destroyed, Sister Viktorine was killed, and much of Asperger’s early work was lost.

Asperger was discovered to have been associated with the Nazi Party. Herwig Czech, a scholar, discovered letters in Asperger’s handwriting that used “Heil Hitler” as their closing salutation, which wasn’t mandatory. Czech also discovered that Asperger also applied for the Nazi Doctors Association and sent a girl with encephalitis to be killed at Spiegelgrund.

Am Spiegelgrund Memorial

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The Hermann Graebe testimony.

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Herman Friedrich Graebe or Gräbe, (June 19, 1900 – April 17, 1986) was a German manager and engineer in charge of a German building firm in Ukraine, who witnessed mass executions of the Jews of Dubno on October 5, 1942 by Nazis. Following the war he wrote a famous and horrifying testimony.

“My foreman and I went directly to the pits. Nobody bothered us. Now I heard rifle shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds. The people who had got off the trucks – men, women and children of all ages – had to undress upon the order of an SS man who carried a riding or dog whip.

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They had to put down their clothes in fixed places, sorted according to shoes, top clothing and undergarments. I saw heaps of shoes of about 800 to 1000 pairs, great piles of under-linen and clothing.

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Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other, said farewells, and waited for a sign from another SS man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand. During the fifteen minutes I stood near, I heard no complaint or plea for mercy. I watched a family of about eight persons, a man and a woman both of about fifty, with their children of about twenty to twenty-four, and two grown-up daughters about twenty-eight or twenty-nine. An old woman with snow white hair was holding a one year old child in her arms and singing to it and tickling it. The child was cooing with delight. The parents were looking on with tears in their eyes. The father was holding the hand of a boy about ten years old and speaking to him softly; the boy was fighting his tears. The father pointed to the sky, stroked his head and seemed to explain something to him. At that moment the SS man at the pit started shouting something to his comrade. The latter counted off about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth mound. Among them was the family I have just mentioned. I well remember a girl, slim with black hair, who, as she passed me, pointed to herself and said, “twenty-three years old.” I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave.

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People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people shot were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was nearly two-thirds full. I estimated that it already contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an SS man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy-gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette. The people, completely naked, went down some steps which were cut in the clay wall of the pit and clambered over the heads of the people lying there to the place to which the SS man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or wounded people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay beneath them. Blood was running from their necks. The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot.”

Graebe later provided vital testimony in the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, invoking bitter persecution from many of his countrymen. To escape the hostility, Graebe moved his family to San Francisco in 1948, where he lived until his death in 1986. Hermann Graebe was honoured as a ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Yad Vashem.

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The Wola Massacre

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The Wola massacre  was the systematic killing of between 40,000 and 50,000 people in the Wola district of Poland’s capital city Warsaw by German troops and collaborationist forces during the early phase of the Warsaw Uprising.

From 5 to 12 August 1944, tens of thousands of Polish civilians along with captured Home Army resistance fighters were brutally and systematically murdered by the Germans in organised mass executions throughout Wola. The Germans anticipated that these atrocities would crush the insurgents’ will to fight and put the uprising to a swift end.However, the ruthless pacification of Wola only stiffened Polish resistance, and it took another two months of heavy fighting for the Germans to regain control of the city.

The Warsaw Uprising broke out on 1 August 1944 and during the first few days the Polish resistance managed to liberate most of Warsaw on the left bank of the river Vistula (an uprising also broke out in the small suburb of Praga on the right bank but was quickly suppressed by the Germans). Two days after the start of the fighting, SS General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski was placed in command of all German forces in Warsaw.

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Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski SS-Kriegsberichter: Unger 1382-44

Following direct orders from SS-Reichfuhrer Heinrich Himmler to suppress the uprising without mercy, his strategy was to include the use of terror tactics against the inhabitants of Warsaw. No distinction would be made between insurgents and civilians.

Himmler’s orders explicitly stated that Warsaw was to be completely destroyed and that the civilian population was to be exterminated.

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Professor Timothy Snyder, of Yale University, wrote that “the massacres in Wola had nothing in common with combat” as “the ratio of civilian to military dead was more than a thousand to one, even if military casualties on both sides are counted”

On 5 August, three German battle groups started their advance towards the city centre from the western outskirts of the Wola district, along Wolska Street and Górczewska Street. The German forces consisted of units from the Wehrmacht and the SS Police Battalions, as well as the mostly Russian SS-Sturmbrigade RONA and the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger, an infamous Waffen SS penal unit led by Oskar Dirlewanger.

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https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/07/09/oskar-dirlewanger-the-monster-of-warsaw/#jp-carousel-12844

Shortly after their advance towards the centre of Warsaw began, the two lead battle groups Kampfgruppe “Rohr” led by Generalmajor Günter Rohrand Kampfgruppe “Reinefarth” led by Heinz Reinefarthwere halted by heavy fire from Polish resistance fighters. Unable to proceed forward, some of the German troops began to go from house to house carrying out their orders to shoot all inhabitants. Many civilians were shot on the spot but some were killed after torture and sexual assault.Estimates vary, but Reinefarth himself has estimated that up to 10,000 civilians were killed in the Wola district on 5 August alone, the first day of the operation. Most of the victims were the elderly, women and children.

The majority of these atrocities were committed by troops under the command of SS-Oberführer Oskar Dirlewanger and SS-Brigadeführer Bronislav Kaminski.

Russland, Brigadekommandeur Borislaw Kaminski

Research historian Martin Gilbert, from the University of Oxford, wrote:

“More than fifteen thousand Polish civilians had been murdered by German troops in Warsaw. At 5:30 that evening [August 5], General Erich von dem Bach gave the order for the execution of women and children to stop. But the killing continued of all Polish men who were captured, without anyone bothering to find out whether they were insurgents or not. Nor did either the Cossacks or the criminals in the Kaminsky and Dirlewanger brigades pay any attention to von dem Bach Zelewski’s order: by rape, murder, torture and fire, they made their way through the suburbs of Wola and Ochota, killing in three days of slaughter a further thirty thousand civilians, including hundreds of patients in each of the hospitals in their path

On 5 August, the Zośka battalion of the Home Army had managed to liberate the Gęsiówka concentration camp and to take control of the strategically important surrounding area of the former Warsaw Ghetto with the aid of two captured Panther tanks belonging to a unit commanded by Wacław Micuta.

Over the next few days of fighting this area became one of the main communication links between Wola and Warsaw’s Old Town district, allowing insurgents and civilians alike to gradually withdraw from Wola ahead of the overwhelmingly superior German forces that had been deployed against them.

On 7 August, the German ground forces were strengthened further. To enhance their effectiveness, the Germans began to use civilians as human shields when approaching positions held by the Polish resistance.These tactics combined with their superior numbers and firepower helped them to fight their way to Bankowy Square in the northern part of Warsaw’s city centre and cut the Wola district in half.

German units also burned down two local hospitals with some of the patients still inside. Hundreds of other patients and personnel were killed by indiscriminate gunfire and grenade attacks, or selected and led away for executions.The greatest number of killings took place at the railway embankment on Górczewska Street and two large factories on Wolska Street – the Ursus Factory at Wolska 55 and the Franaszka Factory at Wolska 41/45 – as well as the Pfeiffer Factory at 57/59 Okopowa Street. At each of these four locations, thousands of people were systematically executed in mass shootings, having been previously rounded up in other places and taken there in groups.

Between 8 and 23 August the SS formed groups of men from the Wola district into the so-called Verbrennungskommando (“burning detachment”), who were forced to hide evidence of the massacre by burning the victims’ bodies and homes.[12] Most of the men put to work in such groups were also later executed.

On 12 August, the order was given to stop the indiscriminate killing of Polish civilians in Wola. Erich von dem Bach issued a new directive stating that captured civilians were to be evacuated from the city and deported to concentration camps or to Arbeitslager labour camps.

No one belonging to the German forces who took part in the atrocities committed during the Warsaw Uprising was ever prosecuted for them after the end of the Second World War. The main perpetrators of the Wola massacre and similar massacres in the nearby Ochota district were Heinz Reinefarth and Oskar Dirlewanger. Dirlewanger, who presided over and personally participated in many of the worst acts of violence, was arrested on 1 June 1945 by French occupation troops while hiding under a false name near the town of Altshausen in Upper Swabia. He died on 7 June 1945 in a French prison camp at Altshausen, probably as a result of ill-treatment by his Polish guards.In 1945, Reinefarth was taken into custody by the British and American authorities but was never prosecuted for his actions in Warsaw, despite Polish requests for his extradition. After a West German court released him citing a lack of evidence, Reinefarth enjoyed a successful post-war career as a lawyer, becoming the mayor of Westerland, and a member of the Landtag parliament of Schleswig-Holstein. The West German government also gave the former SS-Obergruppenführer a general’s pension before he died in 1979.

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In May 2008, a list of several former SS Dirlewanger members who were still alive was compiled and published by the Warsaw Uprising Museum.

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The Monument to Victims of the Wola Massacre, displaying a list of execution sites across Wola and estimates of the number of victims at each site.
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