Transport to Cosel: Limburg Jews on their way to death.

Before I go into the story of the men, who were put on slave labour by the Nazi regime, I will have to explain what ‘Limburg’ is .Limburg is a province in the southeast of the Netherlands and the northeast of Belgium.

I was born and grew up in the Dutch side of Limburg. The most populated part is the south of the Dutch Limburg, it is also the part that looks completely different then the rest of the Netherlands. There are actually hills there. Although I am a native of the province, I was not aware of the fate of these men.

Not all deportation trains with Dutch Jews went directly to the extermination camps and gas chambers. Between August 28 and December 10, 1942, some of the trains to Auschwitz-Birkenau made a stopover in Silesian Cosel (present-day Poland). Here almost all men between the ages of 15 and 55 had to get off the train at the freight station. Where they were put to work.

On 24 August 1942, six hundred Limburg Jews were issued a call-up card by the Dutch police, the municipal police or a constable. They were all under the age of sixty and had to report to the assembly point at the public school on Professor Pieter Willemsstraat in Maastricht the next day.

Only half of them showed up. The group was taken to Camp Westerbork and was largely deported on August 28, 1942. They were part of the first Cosel transport. Another 17 Cosel transports from the Netherlands would follow. Also 21 transports from France and Belgium stopped in Cosel.

The train stopped on August 29 in Cosel, about a thousand kilometers from Westerbork .About 170 men, 75 of whom are Limburgers, were pushed out of the train while being yelled and cursed at . A selection followed, and those who were not been deemed fit for work had to get back on the train. The train continued the journey to Auschwitz ,when it arrived on August 30,1942, the majority were murdered in the gas chambers.

The Limburg men who left Westerbork on August 28 were put on trucks in Cosel and ended up in Camp Sakrau, from where they went to various other camps in the region. Conditions in these camps were very different. The work was very hard, some of the Jewish men died from hunger, exhaustion, illness or accidents.

Abraham Spiero, a survivor who survived a later transport said about the ordeal:

“The train stopped in Cosel. That was a terrible thing there. Humanity stopped here. We, the men up to 50 years old, all had to sit down squatting. When the train had driven away, we were loaded onto trucks like animals.”

The men of the other 17 Cosel transports also ended up in a network of 177 camps near factories and construction sites. Some 1,500 forced laborers make fighter planes and war machinery, they worked in Krupp’s metalworks or IG Farben’s chemical plants.

Others were forced to work in the construction of railways and highways. Which was a big money earner for the German state and the companies.

The men who were no longer able to work were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were gassed.

At the end of April 1943, most of the survivors were sent to Camp Blechhammer. Also father Pinehas Gans and son Philip Gans. They both came from the transport of November 2, 1942. Pinehas and Philip survived for a long time, and end up together in Camp Blechhammer. But when the camp is evacuated on January 21,1945 ,the prisoners are marched to Camp Gross-Rosen by foot. During the march or shortly after arrival at Gross Rosen both Gans men are murdered, on February 5,1945.

The Gans family in 1934 .Right in the picture is Pinehas(Piet)Gans, behind him is his wife and sitting next to him is his son Philip

In January 1945, of the ten thousand French, Belgian and Dutch forced laborers selected in Cosel, about two thousand were still alive. Most are in Camp Blechhammer. Eventually, only 873 men survive, less than ten percent of the men who got off at Cosel. The survival rate of the Dutch is even less, of the 3400 Dutch on the Cosel transports, 193 men survived. This also applied to the Limburg men who started their journey in Maastricht on 25 August 1942. Eleven of the 170 men of this first transport survived the forced labour.

On initiative of some people from Limburg there was finally a plaque unveiled at September 2, 2016 near the former goods store station of pre-war Cosel (Poland) and this as a remembrance of the so called Cosel Transports.

sources

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/artikel/transport-naar-cosel-limburgse-joden-op-weg-naar-de-ondergang

https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/100746/Memorial-Cosel-Transports.htm

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The Concentration Camps

Earlier this week I had one question and one statement about concentration camps. The question was “What are the differences between a concentration camp and an extermination camp?” This question I will try to address as much as possible in this blog.

But before I do that I want to mention the statement which was put to me, I am only doing this because it was followed by a disturbing bit of ignorance. The statement was “Concentration camps were already used during the Boer wars” which is true. However this person followed the statement, which he made on a blog about a Jewish school. that most of those children were not murdered but they died of typhus. It is undoubtedly true that some children will have died of typhus, but a bigger number would have been murdered in the gas chambers. Even if they died of typhus, it still would have been murder. I just felt compelled to mention this.

In order to understand what a concentration camps is , we first need to know what its definition is.

The term concentration camp was used long before the Nazis came to power. It came into popular usage at the end of the nineteenth century, when it was applied to the housing of military troops and especially to the imprisonment of civilians during the Boer and Spanish-American Wars. Officials also referred to certain types of prison camps for civilians in World War I as concentration camps.

According to the Oxford and Merriam Webster dictionaries it is : “a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard”

However in the context of the Nazi regime that definition, although technically correct, it is a very weak description.

Most people don’t realize that there were about 40,000 camps throughout Nazi controlled Europe, this included all subcamps too.

There were even a few on the British channel islands.

The first of these camps was opened at Dachau, near Munich in Bavaria, in March 1933. In the early years of the regime, inmates included Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, criminals, and others considered to be deviants.

So what was the difference between the camps.

The Nazi concentration camps essentially had three purposes:

  1. To incarcerate indefinitely people whom the Nazi regime perceived to be a security threat in the broadest possible sense (for example, from a Jew with presupposed “international connections” or perceived racial deficiencies, to an alcoholic who was incapable of holding a job)2.
  2. To eliminate—by murder—individuals and small, targeted groups of individuals.
  3. .To exploit the so-called labor-potential of the prisoner population.

Extermination camps

Extermination camps were used by the Nazis from 1941 to 1945 to murder Jews, Roma and other groups deemed subhuman by the Nazis

To implement the ‘ Final Solution ’, the Nazis established six purpose built extermination camps on Polish soil. These were:

Chełmno (in operation December 1941-January 1945)
Bełżec (in operation March-December 1942) it was basically the laboratory or template for Auschwitz. It was also the only camp where Polish laborers were used to build it.
Sobibór (in operation May-July 1942 and October 1942-October 1943)
Treblinka (in operation July 1942-August 1943)
Majdanek (in operation September 1942-July 1944)
Auschwitz-Birkenau (in operation March 1942-January 1945)
Chełmno was the first extermination camp to be established in December 1941. Its purpose was to murder the Jews of the surrounding area and the Łódź ghetto. The facility contained three gas vans in which victims were murdered by carbon monoxide poisoning. Once dead, the vans were driven to a nearby forest and the victims were buried in mass graves.

After the Wannsee Conference of 1942, the Nazis built additional extermination camps at Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka. These camps were specifically built near railway lines to make transportation easier. Instead of vans, stationary gas chambers, labelled as showers, were built to murder people with carbon monoxide poisoning created using diesel engines.

A concentration camp had been established at Majdanek in 1941. In the spring of 1942, following the Wannsee Conference, the camp was adapted to become an extermination camp by the addition of gas chambers and crematoria.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was a complex, consisting of a concentration camp, a forced labour camp and an extermination camp. Eventually it had a network of more than 40 satellite camps. Following tests in September 1941, the lethal gas Zyklon B was selected as the method of murder. Auschwitz initially had one gas chamber at the Auschwitz I camp, but this was soon expanded. By 1943, four new crematoria, with gas chambers attached, had been built in Auschwitz II. Approximately 1.1 million people were murdered in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

Some who arrived at the extermination camps were not murdered on arrival. They were selected for various work tasks to help the camp operations run smoothly. Jobs included sorting and processing the possessions of everyone who arrived at the camp, administrative work and heavy manual work.

The majority of those selected for any kind of work within this type of camp would still die within weeks or months of their arrival from starvation, disease, mistreatment or overwork. Those that survived were often murdered after a short period and replaced with new arrivals.

Transit camps

Transit camps were camps where prisoners were briefly detained prior to deportation to other Nazi camps. Overall, the conditions in the transit camps were similar to that of concentration camps – unsanitary and awful. Facilities were poor and overcrowding was common. These camps were mainly run by the SS.

Westerbork was the oldest camp for Jews and the largest. In February 1939 the Dutch government decided to construct one ‘Central Refugee Camp’ for Jews and on October 9, the first 22 German refugees arrived at the new small wooden houses. The Committee for Special Jewish Affairs, established by the Dutch Jewish community organizations in 1933, had financed the construction. It was located in a remote heath area in the northeast of the Netherlands, near the village of Westerbork. The internal affairs of the camp were run by the refugees themselves, in cooperation with the Committee. In May 1940, at the beginning of the German occupation, there were about 750 refugees living in the camp. It remained under the administration of the regular Dutch authorities during the first two years of the occupation. From December 1941 onward, on German orders, more Jewish refugees were sent to Westerbork and the camp was expanded with large wooden shacks. On July 1, 1942, when there were about 1,500 Jews in the camp, it was taken over by German Security Police, and an SS-commander and staff were appointed. The camp’s name was changed to Polizeiliches Durchgangslager (Police Transit Camp) and it was surrounded with barbed wire and seven watch towers.

Forced labour camps

This photograph shows a group of forced labourers at work in Kraków-Płaszów camp in German-occupied Poland.

Forced labour camps

Even before the war began, the Nazis imposed forced labour on Jewish civilians.As early as 1937, the Nazis increasingly exploited the forced labor of so-called “enemies of the state” for economic gain and to meet desperate labor shortages. By the end of that year, most Jewish males residing in Germany were required to perform forced labor for various government agencies.

The invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 further heightened demands on the war economy, and in turn, for labour. At the same time, this invasion brought thousands of potential new workers under Nazi control. These prisoners were called Ostarbeiter (eastern workers) and Fremdarbeiter (foreign workers). The Nazis deported these people to forced labour camps, where they worked to produce supplies for the increasingly strained war economy or in construction efforts.

As in most Nazi camps, conditions in forced labour camps were inadequate. Inmates were only ever seen as temporary, and, in the Nazis view, could always be replaced with others: there was a complete disregard for the health of prisoners. They were subject to insufficiencies of food, equipment, medicine and clothing, whilst working long hours. There was little or no time for rest or breaks. As a result of these conditions, death rates in labour camps were extremely high. The aim was to work them to death.

By 1945, more than fourteen million people had been exploited in the network of hundreds of forced labour camps that stretched across the whole of Nazi-occupied Europe.

The Dora-Mittelbau (also known as Dora-Nordhausen or Nordhausen) camp was established in central Germany near the southern Harz Mountains, north of the town of Nordhausen. It was originally a subcamp of Buchenwald. Prisoners from Buchenwald were sent to the area in 1943 to begin construction of a large industrial complex. In October 1944, the SS made Dora-Mittelbau an independent concentration camp with more than 30 subcamps of its own.

The inmates at Dora-Mittelbau were treated in a brutal and inhumane manner, working 14-hour days and being denied access to basic hygiene, beds, and adequate rations. Around one in three of the roughly 60,000 prisoners who were sent to Dora-Mittelbau died.

Bergen-Belsen

I find Bergen Belsen hard to place in any of the other categories .Originally established as a prisoner of war camp,[1] in 1943, parts of it became a concentration camp. Initially this was an “exchange camp”, where Jewish hostages were held with the intention of exchanging them for German prisoners of war held overseas.

The camp was later expanded to accommodate Jews from other concentration camps.

At the end of July 1944 there were around 7,300 prisoners interned in the Bergen-Belsen camp complex. At the beginning of December 1944, this number had increased to around 15,000, and in February 1945 the number of prisoners was 22,000. As prisoners evacuated from the east continued to arrive, the camp population soared to over 60,000 by April 15, 1945. People were just left there to die.

Many survivors described it as hell on earth. The actor Dirk Bogarde was one of the liberators and said this about Bergen Belsen, he says April 13 1945, but the camp was liberated 2 days later.

“I think it was on the 13th of April—I’m not quite sure what the date was when we opened up Belsen Camp, which was the first concentration camp any of us had seen, we didn’t even know what they were, we’d heard vague rumours that they were. I mean nothing could be worse than that. The gates were opened and then I realised that I was looking at Dante’s Inferno, I mean … I … I still haven’t seen anything as dreadful. And never will. And a girl came up who spoke English, because she recognised one of the badges, and she … her breasts were like, sort of, empty purses, she had no top on, and a pair of man’s pyjamas, you know, the prison pyjamas, and no hair. But I knew she was girl because of her breasts, which were empty. She was I suppose, oh I don’t know, twenty four, twenty five, and we talked, and she was, you know, so excited and thrilled, and all around us there were mountains of dead people, I mean mountains of them, and they were slushy, and they were slimy, so when you walked through them … or walked—you tried not to, but it was like …. well you just walked through them, and she … there was a very nice British MP [Royal Military Police], and he said ‘Don’t have any more, come away, come away sir, if you don’t mind, because they’ve all got typhoid and you’ll get it, you shouldn’t be here swanning-around’ and she saw in the back of the jeep, the unexpired portion of the daily ration, wrapped in a piece of the Daily Mirror, and she said could she have it, and he” [the Military Police] “said ‘Don’t give her food, because they eat it immediately and they die, within ten minutes’, but she didn’t want the food, she wanted the piece of Daily Mirror—she hadn’t seen newsprint for about eight years or five years, whatever it was she had been in the camp for. … she was Estonian. … that’s all she wanted. She gave me a big kiss, which was very moving. The corporal” [Military Police] “was out of his mind and I was just dragged off. I never saw her again, of course she died. I mean, I gather they all did. But, I can’t really describe it very well, I don’t really want to. I went through some of the huts and there were tiers and tiers of rotting people, but some of them who were alive underneath the rot, and were lifting their heads and trying …. trying to do the victory thing. That was the worst.”

I hope that this explains the differences somewhat.

All of the camps had one ultimate goal though, the death and destruction of Jews, Roma , Homosexuals and other groups deemed subhuman by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/bergen-belsen

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/dora-mittelbau-overview

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/forced-labor

https://training.ehri-project.eu/transit-camps-western-europe-during-holocaust

https://digital.kenyon.edu/bulmash_transit/

https://aboutholocaust.org/en/facts/what-is-the-difference-between-a-concentration-camp-and-an-extermination-camp

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Heinrich Bütefisch- virtually unpunished.

Heinrich

Heinrich Bütefisch- is not a well known name in the context of WWII and the Holocaust, yet he was responsible for the deaths of thousands, In addition to that he also worked for a company who had helped to develop Zyklon b, the gas used to kill millions.

The company that produced Zyklon B was Degesch -Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung(German Corporation for Pest control) which was owned for 42.5 per cent by IG Farben.

Heinrich Bütefisch was a leading manager at IG Farben, and an Obersturmbannführer in the SS.

zyklon b

He was placed as the head of the gasoline synthesis program to be established at the I.G. Auschwitz plant.He was places in charge  of production at the Buna werke facitory at Monowitz, sometimes referred to as Auschwitz III.

3

When the factory was being built Jews in the surrounding areas were removed from their homes, and the homes were given to Germans employd at the factory, Some Polish residents were also moved.

The life expectancy for Jews working at Monoiwtz were 3 to 4 months, and for those working in the nearby supply mines it was only 1 month.

An estimate 10,000 died at Monowitz/Buna Werke . Bütefisch claimed he was never actually present at the Monowitz concentration camp, and he only  knew the construction site only from a few visits. I doubt this was true, and even if it was he was the man in charge and ultimately was responsible for everything that happened there.

He was arrested  by the U.S. Army in 1945, and was indicted at the Nuremberg IG Farben trial in 1948. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison ,including time already served.

After his early release from prison in 1951, heh became a member of several supervisory boards, including Deutsche Gasolin AG, Feldmühle, and Papier- und Zellstoffwerke AG, the following year.

He also was hired as a  consultant for Ruhrchemie AG Oberhausen, and becamed a member ofits supervisory board in 1952.

Of the 24 defendants at the IG Farben Trial, 10 were acquitted . One was removed due to medical reasons. The remaining 13 men received sentences varying form 1 to 8 years, none of them served the full term.

trial

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sources

http://www.wollheim-memorial.de/en/heinrich_buetefisch_18941969

https://www.chemie.de/lexikon/Heinrich_B%C3%BCtefisch.html

https://digitalcommons.law.lsu.edu/nuremberg_photos/63/

The empty “noble” gesture of Hugo Boss

Boss

There is a popular misconception that Hugo Boss designed the SS uniforms. This is not true, the uniforms were designed by the  artist and senior SS officer called Karl Diebitsch, in cooperation with a graphic designer called Walter Heck. The uniforms were based on older uniforms with a few alterations.

SS

However it was Hugo Boss who got the lucrative order to produce the uniforms. He had been a member of the Nazi party since 1931.

By 1933, he could  advertise the fact  that he made clothes not only for the SS, but also for the Hitler Youth and the SA.His relationship with the Nazis made him a very wealthy man.

During the war it was difficult to find employees so he decided to start using forced labour, it is estimated that he used 140 Polish and 40 French forced laborers.

Even though Boss’s factory wasn’t part of a concentration camp,and his labourers were not considered  prisoners, the conditions were dreadful.

Poster

It would have been relatively easy and cheap for Hugo Boss to make life for his workers more bearable, but he chose not to.

The food was insufficient given the hours they had to work. And during air raids, the workforce was not allowed into shelters, but had to stay in the factory.There were no special treatments for children and pregnant women,

The most poignant story that indicates how desperate the workers felt is that of  Josefa Gisterek, a Polish woman.Sho was sent to work at Boss in October 1941. In December, she ran away, back home to give  her father a helping hand to raise her siblings, but she was captured by the Gestapo and transported to Auschwitz and then to  Buchenwald, where she was beaten.

Hugo Boss found out where she was, and  he used his contacts in the Nazi party to get her returned to Metzingen. Why did he did this is unclear, maybe he felt he had some responsibility for his workforce, but I doubt that.

When Josefa returned, the factory foreman worked her mercilessly, which resulted in her getting a breakdown.

After that Josefa was given three months’ leave, and was allowed to see a doctor, but on 5 July 1943, she committed suicide.Boss who probably felt some guilt. paid for the funeral expenses, and the travel costs for her family to attend.

funreal

Although this may appear to be some sort of a ‘noble’gesture, if Hugo Boss would have treated his workforce more humanely, Josefa would not have fled in the first place.

Hugo Boss died in 1948 but his company became one of the biggest fashion houses in the world and to this day is still a multi billion dollar company.

This is something I just can’t understand, if you take for example Oskar Schindler, he died a poor man and all that remains of his company is a museum, whereas companies like Boss,VW,C&A and BMW who all had an active part in the atrocities during WWII have become mega companies, how is that even possible?

 

 

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Source

Zwangsarbeit in Metzingen