The Buchenwald Song and the brutal murder of the man who wrote it.

Song

Fritz Löhner-Beda was  an  Austrian born Jewish librettist, lyricist and writer. Born Wildenschwert, Bohemia but he grew up in one of Europe’s most cultural cities,Vienna. Alas Vienna’s culture was to become tainted to a degree.

In the 1920s, Löhner-Beda became one of the most popular and  sought-after librettists and lyricists in Vienna. This popularity though meant nothing on April 1,1938, less then 3 weeks after the Anschluss, (annexation of Austria by the Nazis).

AH ANSCHLUSS

On April 1, 1938 Löhner-Beda was arrested and deported to Dachau concentration camp.His Viennese neighbors and fan base did very little to help him.Just over 5 months later on September 23 1938 he was deported to Buchenwald.

While in Buchenwald, at the end of 1938, he wrote Das Buchenwald lied(the Buchenwald song) together with Hermann Leopoldi an Austrian born Jewish composer. Below is the text to the chorus of the song

“O Buchenwald, ich kann dich nicht vergessen,
weil du mein Schicksal bist.
Wer dich verließ, der kann es erst ermessen,
wie wundervoll die Freiheit ist!
O Buchenwald, wir jammern nicht und klagen,
und was auch unser Schicksal sei,
wir wollen trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen,
denn einmal kommt der Tag, dann sind wir frei!”

English Translation:

“O Buchenwald, I cannot forget you,
because you are my fate.
Only he who leaves you can appreciate
how wonderful freedom is!
O Buchenwald, we don’t cry and complain;
and whatever our destiny may be,
we nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life:
for once the day comes, we shall be free!”

Viktor Frankl used the line “trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen”(nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life) as the German title for his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. written in 1946.

ja zum leben

On October 17, 1942,  Löhner-Beda was deported to the Monowitz concentration camp, a sub-camp of Auschwitz. The SS established the camp in October 1942 at the behest of I.G. Farben executives to provide slave labor for their Buna Werke (Buna Works) industrial complex.

monowitz

On December 4,1942 Fritz Löhner-Beda had already been ill. he was accused of not working hard enough. Because of this he was beaten to death by a Kapo. Just imagine that, beaten to death that is a different kind of evil. I know the Kapo’s were forced to do bad things in order to survive themselves, but beating someone to death that takes a particular kind of person.

So many people were killed during the Holocaust but with that also so much cultural heritage has vanished.

Fritz Löhner-Beda could have contributed so much more for the betterment of humankind.Who knows how many classic songs he could have written, or how many more award winning plays and screenplays. His death didn’t only end his life it also deprived the world of a great artist.

Fritz

Ending this blog with a version of the song and one more time the line “we nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life” Let’s do that , let us all say yes to life despite whatever comes our way, We owe to Fritz and to ourselves.

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The Witch of Buchenwald

ilse-koch

On this day in 1951, Ilse Koch, wife of the commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp, was sentenced to life imprisonment in a court in West Germany. Ilse Koch was nicknamed the “Witch of Buchenwald” for her extraordinary sadism.

Koch was born in Dresden, Germany, the daughter of a factory foreman. She was known as a polite and happy child in her elementary school. At the age of 15, she entered an accountancy school. Later, she went to work as a bookkeeping clerk. At the time the economy of Germany had not yet recovered from Germany’s defeat in World War I. In 1932, she became a member of the rising Nazi Party.

On May 29, 1937, she married Karl Otto Koch, a colonel in the SS who was commander of the Sachsenhausen camp.Koch_Karl In the summer of 1937 he was transferred to Buchenwald, then a new concentration camp near Weimar. There Koch acquired her reputation as a sadist and nymphomaniac, beating prisoners with her riding crop and forcing them to perform physically exhausting activities for her own amusement. Koch and her husband enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in an elegant house on Buchenwald’s grounds, and he had a large horseback-riding arena built especially for her. Although the inmates were forced into starvation, the Kochs had all the food and alcohol they wanted, and they are alleged to have held orgies at their house for their SS staff.

The iron gate that led into the camp read Jedem das Seine, which literally meant “to each his own,” but was intended as a message to the prisoners: “Everyone gets what he deserves.”

jedemdasseine04

Koch had three children with her husband—son Artwin and daughters Gisele and Gudrun; Gudrun died in infancy.

Ilse Koch jumped at the opportunity to become involved in her husband’s work, and over the next few years gained a reputation for being one of the most feared Nazis at Buchenwald. Her first order of business had been to use money stolen from prisoners to construct a $62,500 (around $1 million in today’s money) indoor sports arena where she could ride her horses.

RidingHall

Koch would often take this pastime outside the arena and into the camp itself, where she would taunt prisoners until they looked at her — at which point she would whip them. Survivors of the camp recalled later, during her trial for war crimes, that she always seemed particularly excited about sending children to the gas chamber.

Her other hobby, which would later become a major point of contention during the Nuremberg Trials, was her collection of lampshades, book covers, and gloves, said to have been made from human skin.

tatoos-lampshade

Witnesses later recalled that Ilse Koch often took her horseback rides through the camps to scout out prisoners who had distinctive tattoos. The prisoner would be stripped of his or her skin before being incinerated, and Koch allegedly kept the skin on display in her home with the Commandant. These artifacts were recovered after the camp’s liberation and served as key evidence during her trial.

In 1941 Karl Otto Koch was transferred to Lublin, where he helped establish the Majdanek concentration and extermination camp. Koch had three children with her husband—son Artwin and daughters Gisele and Gudrun; Gudrun died in infancy.Ilse Koch remained at Buchenwald until 24 August 1943, when she and her husband were arrested on the orders of Josias von Waldeck-Pyrmont, SS and Police Leader for Weimar,Langhammer_-_Josias_Prinz_zu_Waldeck_und_Pyrmont

who had supervisory authority over Buchenwald. The charges against the Kochs comprised private enrichment, embezzlement, and the murder of prisoners to prevent them from giving testimony.

Ilse Koch was imprisoned until 1944 when she was acquitted for lack of evidence. Her husband was found guilty and sentenced to death by an SS court in Munich, and was executed by firing squad on 5 April 1945 in the court of the camp he once commanded. She went to live with her surviving family in the town of Ludwigsburg, where she was arrested by U.S. authorities on 30 June 1945.

After World War II, Koch and her children went to live in Ludwigsburg, a suburb of Stuttgart, but the Allies arrested and jailed her to await trial. In 1947 a sensational Allied military tribunal held at the former Dachau concentration camp tried her and 30 others connected with Buchenwald. She was charged with several crimes, including abusing prisoners and ordering those with “interesting” tattoos to be killed and their skin turned into artifacts such as lampshades, book covers, gloves, and so on. Despite the testimony of former prisoners who were forced to make such grisly objects, prosecutors could not conclusively prove her involvement in committing such crimes. Koch announced in the courtroom that she was eight months pregnant but on 19 August 1947, she was sentenced to life imprisonment for “violation of the laws and customs of war”At the Landsberg Prison in October 1947, she gave birth to a son, Uwe, likely fathered by a fellow prisoner, Fritz Schäffer.

800px-DachauerProzess

 

On 8 June 1948 after she had served two years of her sentence, Gen. Lucius D. Clay, the interim military governor of the American Zone in Germany, reduced the judgment to four years imprisonment on the grounds “there was no convincing evidence that she had selected inmates for extermination in order to secure tattooed skins, or that she possessed any articles made of human skin”.

Lucius-d-clay-80-87

 

News of the reduced sentence did not become public until 16 September 1948. Despite the ensuing uproar, Clay stood firm. Jean Edward Smith in his biography, Lucius D. Clay: An American Life, reported that the general maintained the leather lamp shades were really made out of goat skin. The book quotes a statement made by Clay years later:

There was absolutely no evidence in the trial transcript, other than she was a rather loathsome creature, that would support the death sentence. I suppose I received more abuse for that than for anything else I did in Germany. Some reporter had called her the “Bitch of Buchenwald”, had written that she had lamp shades made of human skin in her house. And that was introduced in court, where it was absolutely proven that the lampshades were made out of goatskin. In addition to that, her crimes were primarily against the German people; they were not war crimes against American or Allied prisoners … Later she was tried by a German court for her crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment. But they had clear jurisdiction. We did not.

Under the pressure of public opinion Koch was re-arrested in 1949 and tried before a West German court. The hearing opened on 27 November 1950 before the District Court at Augsburg and lasted seven weeks, during which 250 witnesses were heard, including 50 for the defense. Koch collapsed and had to be carried from the court in late December 1950,and again on 11 January 1951.At least four separate witnesses for the prosecution testified that they had seen Koch choose tattooed prisoners, who were then killed, or had seen or been involved in the process of making human-skin lampshades from tattooed skin.

However, this charge was dropped by the prosecution when they could not prove lampshades or any other items were actually made from human skin.

On 15 January 1951, the Court pronounced its verdict, in a 111-page-long decision, for which Koch was not present in court. It was concluded that the previous trials in 1944 and 1947 were not a bar to proceedings under the principle of ne bis in idem, as at the 1944 trial Koch had only been charged with receiving, while in 1947 she had been accused of crimes against foreigners after 1 September 1939, and not with crimes against humanity of which Germans and Austrians had been defendants both before and after that date. She was convicted of charges of incitement to murder, incitement to attempted murder and incitement to the crime of committing grievous bodily harm, and on 15 January 1951 was sentenced to life imprisonment and permanent forfeiture of civil rights.

trial-koch

Koch appealed to have the judgment quashed, but the appeal was dismissed on 22 April 1952 by the Federal Court of Justice. She later made several petitions for a pardon, all of which were rejected by the Bavarian Ministry of Justice. Koch protested her life sentence, to no avail, to the International Human Rights Commission.

While in prison, her son Uwe, who had been conceived during her imprisonment at Dachau, discovered that she was his mother. He came to visit her in prison often over the next several years at Aichach, the prison where she was serving her life sentence.

On September 1, 1967, Ilse Koch committed suicide in prison,by hanging herself with a bedsheet. The next day, Uwe arrived for their visit and was shocked to find that she had died. She was buried in an unmarked, untended grave at the prison’s cemetery.

ilsekoch

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The Buchenwald experiments

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On October, 1  1944, the first of two sets of medical experiments involving castration were performed on homosexuals at the Buchenwald concentration camp, near Weimar, Germany.

Buchenwald was one of the first concentration camps established by the Nazi regime. Constructed in 1937, it was a complement to camps north (Sachsenhausen) and south (Dachau), and was built to hold slave laborers, who worked in local munitions factories 24 hours a day, in 12-hour shifts.

Holocaust

Although not technically a death camp, in that it had no gas chambers, nevertheless hundreds of prisoners died monthly, from malnutrition, beatings, disease, and executions.

The camp boasted a sophisticated-sounding facility on its grounds called the Division for Typhus and Virus Research of the Hygiene Institute of the Waffen SS. In truth, it was a chamber of horrors where medical experiments of the cruelest kind were carried out on prisoners against their will. Victims were often intentionally infused with various infections to test out vaccines. Euthanasia was also performed regularly on Jews, Gypsies, and mentally ill prisoners.

Among the cruelest of Buchenwald’s overseers was the infamous Ilse Koch, wife of SS commandant Karl Koch and known as the “Witch of Buchenwald.”

Ilse_Koch

Among her fetishistic tendencies was her penchant for lampshades, gloves, and other items made from the tattooed skin of dead inmates. She also had a reputation for forcing prisoners to participate in orgies. She was ultimately sentenced to life in prison for her sadism, but she hanged herself after 16 years behind bars.

The SS left behind accounts of the number of prisoners and people coming to and leaving the camp, categorizing those leaving them by release, transfer, or death. These accounts are one of the sources of estimates for the number of deaths in Buchenwald. According to SS documents, 33,462 died. These documents were not, however, necessarily accurate: Among those executed before 1944, many were listed as “transferred to the Gestapo”. Furthermore, from 1941, Soviet POWs were executed in mass killings. Arriving prisoners selected for execution were not entered into the camp register and therefore were not among the 33,462 dead listed.

W-Buchenwald-Gallows

One former Buchenwald prisoner, Armin Walter, calculated the number of executions by the number of shootings in the back of the head. His job at Buchenwald was to set up and care for a radio installation at the facility where people were executed; he counted the numbers, which arrived by telex, and hid the information. He says that 8,483 Soviet prisoners of war were shot in this manner.

According to the same source, the total number of deaths at Buchenwald is estimated at 56,545. This number is the sum of:

  • Deaths according to material left behind by the SS: 33,462[34]
  • Executions by shooting: 8,483
  • Executions by hanging (estimate): 1,100
  • Deaths during evacuation transports (estimate): 13,500

This total (56,545) corresponds to a death rate of 24 percent, assuming that the number of persons passing through the camp according to documents left by the SS, 240,000 prisoners, is accurate

Buchenwald was liberated by the Allies on April 11, 1945, one day before the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. It was later used by the Soviet Union as a concentration camp for the enemies of East Germany.

JedemDasSeine04

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