Dutch Olympian Athletes Murdered during the Holocaust

It is strange sometimes how one thing can draw your attention to another. I did a piece recently on the German national anthem, that led me to look at the Dutch national anthem. “Wilhelmus van Nassouwe”, usually known just as “Wilhelmus” is the national anthem of the Netherlands. It dates back to at least 1572, making it the oldest national anthem in use today.

I mostly associate it with sporting events like the Olympics. It still give me the goosebumps every time I see the Dutch flagged being raised and the anthem is played during the Olympics, or any other sporting event for that matter. Although the Dutch do punch above their weight when it comes to sport, considering the size of the country. it only hosted the Olympic games once, in 1928. It was held from 28 July to 12 August 1928.

It was the first time that female athletes were competing in the field of gymnastics. Five women on the Dutch Olympic gymnastics team were Jewish: Helena-Lea Nordheim, Ans Polak, Estella-Stella Agsteribbe, Judikje-Judik Simons and Elka de Levie. The team’s trainer, Gerrit Kleerekoper, was also Jewish. The team won the gold medal for women’s gymnastics at the 1928 Olympics, and the Dutch press elevated the women to the status national heroines.

“Everything was taken care of down to the last detail. Nice practice material – not too heavy – logically composed, neatly executed in class, wonderful order and leadership, in one word sublime. …The jury was also enthusiastic and awarded the Kleerekoper corps a total score of 316.75 points, leaving the other teams far behind. With their well-deserved success the gymnasts were the first female Olympic champions in the Netherlands. At a quarter past five, the Dutch flag fluttered above the Olympic Stadium and the National Anthem sounded over the central area. However, the cheers rose when HRH Prince Hendrik stepped forward and shook hands with each of the participants. …and then they, our ladies, to whom we owe the first victory, disappeared under the grandstand to their dressing rooms.”

The Dutch Olympic women’s gymnastics team at the Amsterdam Olympics, 1928. The team won the gold medal. The coach was Jewish, as were five of the team members.The Jewish team members are standing on the first row: From left: Helena-Lea Nordheim (second), Anna Polak (third), Estella Agsteribbe (fourth), Judik Simons (last) and Elka de Levie (second row, first from right). Courtesy of NOC-NSF Gelderland collection

Less then 12 years later that status was forgotten. On May 10 German troops invaded the Netherlands and a few days later the country was fully occupied by the Germans who quickly found collaborators and a Nazi regime was put in place.

Leah, Estella and Elka trained at the “Bato” sports club in Amsterdam, which had been established in 1902 and was one of the largest Jewish sports clubs in the city. In September 1941, the Germans banned Jews from all sports activities, but even after the club’s closure, Jews continued to train and exercise illegally until 1942. From the summer of 1942, Dutch Jews were deported to the East.

Judik Simons married Bernard Solomon Themans in 1935, and they had two children, Sonja (b. 1937) and Leon (b. 1940). After the team’s win, Simons and her husband ran an orphanage in Utrecht, where they lived with their own two children. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the family was given a chance to escape deportation to the death camps, but Simons and her husband refused to leave the orphans. On March 3, 1943, the entire family and dozens of children from the orphanage were gassed at Sobibor.

Helena Nordheim married Abraham Kloot, and their daughter Rebecca was born in 1933. Lea and Abraham were both hairdressers. In 1943, they were arrested and sent to Westerbork. On 29 June 1943, a deportation train left Westerbork, arriving at Sobibor three days later. The deportees included Helena Kloot, her husband and their ten-year-old daughter, and Gerrit Kleerekoper-the coach of the team- his wife Kaatje and their 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth. They were all murdered. There were no survivors from this deportation. Gerrit and Kaatje’s 21 year old son Leendert was murdered on 30 July 1944 at Auschwitz, according to the Totenbuch des KL Auschwitz-Monowitz (death register)

In 1936, Anna-Ans Polak married Barend Dresden, a tailor, and in 1937 their only daughter Eva was born in Amsterdam. In May 1943, the family was arrested and sent to the Vught concentration camp in the Netherlands. Approximately one month later, Anna and Eva were transferred to Westerbork. On 20 July 1943, a deportation train left Westerbork, arriving at Sobibor three days later. Among the deportees were Anna Dresden and her six-year-old daughter Eva. They were both murdered. There were no survivors from this deportation. Anna’s husband Barend was deported from Vught to Auschwitz on 15 December 1943. He survived the selection, and was sent to forced labor in Auschwitz III: Buna-Monowitz. On 30 November 1944, Barend was murdered at Auschwitz.

In 1928, Stella Agsteribbe competed in the first ever Olympic gymnastics competition for women. Despite placing 13th in the Dutch team selection event, she was elected to compete in the group competition. The Dutch quite comfortably earned the gold in the five-team competition. Individually, Agsteribbe placed 3rd at the Dutch all-around championships in both 1930 and 1934. At the latter event, she competed as Stella Blits, having married Samuel Blits, also a gymnast with her club BATO. Like several of her team mates (Lea Nordheim, Ans Polak, Elka de Levie, alternate Judikje Simons and coach Gerrit Kleerekoper, Agsteribbe was Jewish. During World War II, she was deported to Auschwitz with her husband and children. She was killed shortly after arrival on 17 September 1943, along with her six-year-old daughter Nanny, and two-year-old son Alfred. Her husband, Samuel Blits, died at Auschwitz on 28 April 1944.

Elka de Levie managed to evade the tragic fate of her fellow Jewish teammates, and survived in the Netherlands. She passed away in Amsterdam in 1979.

Mozes Jacobs competed in the men’s gymnastics team. He didn’t win any medals, I believe he came 8th. He taught physical education. He joined the resistance and participated in acts of sabotage and helped those in hiding. On 1 April 1943 he was caught in Vierhouten and held at the house of detention in Arnhem. From there he was deported to Germany via Westerbork. He was murdered on July 9,1943 in Sobibor.

Cornelis Compter was of Jewish descent. He was a truck driver by profession. He competed in the featherweight weightlifting event at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, where he achieve the 19th place. Hewas a memer of the the Hague communist resistance. He was involved in the distribution of the resistance magazine De Vonk. He was arrested on August 4, 1941 by Johannes Hubertus Veefkind, a member of the Hague Police Intelligence Service before the war. Compter was arrested as a result of an infiltration action by Johannes Hubertus van Soolingen, ordered by Mayor De Monchy in May 1940. In March 1942 he was transferred from the Oranjehotel to Kamp Amersfoort. The same month he was transferred to Buchenwald. In 1944 he was transferred to the Nacht und Nebelkamp Natzweiler. In September 1944 he was transferred to Dachau and shortly afterwards to Mauthausen, where he died of exhaustion on 23 February 1945.

Elias Hyman Melkman was a member of the gymnastics association Plato in Amsterdam. He took part as a gymnast in the Olympics of 1928 in Amsterdam. He was murdered in Auschwitz on January 3,1942.

Israel Wijnschenk was also a member of the Dutch men’s gymnast team. He competed in seven events at the 1928 Summer Olympics. He was murdered in Auschwitz on January 31,1943.

Pierre Marie Robert Versteeghwas a Dutch horse rider who competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics and in the 1936 Summer Olympics. In the 1928 Summer Olympics he won the bronze medal in the team dressage with his horse His Excellence after finishing ninth in the individual dressage. Eight years later he finished fifth with the Dutch team in the team dressage and placed eighth in the individual dressage.

Pierre Versteegh trained for the Dutch military, enrolling at the Royal Military Academy in Breda in 1906. In June 1909 he was appointed second lieutenant and assigned to the Third Division in Ede. In the years before World War I, and also after the conflict, Versteegh became an active equestrian participant, winning numerous local competitions. In 1925 he was promoted to captain and in 1936 to major in the Army. In 1931 Versteegh had been awarded the Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau with Swords.

When the Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, Versteegh held the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and was also concerned because his wife was Jewish. After the Dutch Army surrendered, Versteegh joined the Dutch Underground, working with the Ordedienst (OD), a fusion of several underground groups. On 2 May 1941 Versteegh was arrested after being found to be a member of the OD. He and several other OD members were kept in the state prison in Scheveningen, later called the Oranjehotel. In March-April 1942 Versteegh and many of his compatriots were tried in Amersfoort, and all were found guilty, and sentenced to death.

On 1 May 1942 the convicted OD members, among whom were included Richard Schoemaker, a Dutch fencing Olympian, were taken by train to Oranienburg, near Berlin, and then transported by truck to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. On 3 May 1942 all of the convicts were executed by firing squad, in groups of 12 each. Pierre Versteegh was among them.

Jan Geert Ankerman was a Dutch field hockey player , he was born in Wommel in Friesland, the Northwest of the Netherlands. He competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics. He was a member of the Dutch field hockey team, which won the silver medal. He played all four matches as halfback.

He did not die in any of the Nazi deathcamps. He was murdered in another concentration camp, by another axis power. He died on December 27,1942 in a Japanese prisoners of war camp in Burma.

Although the Japanese camps were not to the scale as the Nazi camps, they were nonetheless horrific and inhumane and often described as hell on earth

sources

https://www.olympedia.org/lists/3/manual

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/535112/about-elias-hyman-melkman

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/158818/israel-wijnschenk

https://peoplepill.com/people/pierre-versteegh/

https://www.timesofisrael.com/the-jewish-olympians-among-hitlers-victims/

https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/sport/dutch-gymnastics-team.asp

https://peoplepill.com/people/jan-ankerman

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Denazification of the German National Anthem.

Denazification was the process of removing Nazi ideology and influence from all forms of public life in Germany after World War 2.

This process does not seem to have happened on the German National Anthem, I think this was a great mistake. A national Anthem is not just a bit of music, it instill a sense of pride and belonging in people’s hearts and minds.

It is my opinion that the German National Anthem should have been changed after the war.

The “Deutschlandlied” – “Song of Germany”)- officially titled “Das Lied der Deutschen” (“The Song of the Germans”), or part of it, has been the national anthem of Germany since 1922.

The music is the hymn “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser”, written in 1797 by the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn as an anthem for the birthday of Francis II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and later of Austria.In 1841, the German linguist and poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the lyrics of “Das Lied der Deutschen” as a new text for that music. The melody used by the “Deutschlandlied” was still in use as the anthem of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its demise in 1918. On 11 August 1922, German President Friedrich Ebert, a Social Democrat, made the Deutschlandlied the official German national anthem.

When the Nazis took control in 1933,only the first stanza was used, it was also used in conjunction with the “Horst-Wessel-Lied”

The first stanza or refrain has the following text(English Translation)

“Germany, Germany above all,
Above all in the world,
When, for protection and defense,
It always stands brotherly together.
From the Meuse to the Memel,
From the Adige to the Belt,
Germany, Germany above all,
Above all in the world!
Germany, Germany above all,
Above all in the world!”

Although they changed the anthem from the 1st to the 3rd stanza after the war, with the lyrics.

“Unity and justice and freedom
For the German fatherland!
Towards these let us all strive
Brotherly with heart and hand!
Unity and justice and freedom
Are the safeguards of fortune;
Flourish in the radiance of this fortune,
Flourish, German fatherland!
Flourish in the radiance of this fortune,
Flourish, German fatherland”

The melody remained the same and the 1st stanza is still an official part of the whole piece of music. In the recent past it has resurfaced by some far right extremists and Neo Nazis. This could have been avoided if they had changed the National Anthem in its entirety.

There were efforts between 1945 and 1950 to change the anthem, but it was not popular with the German citizens. So in 1950 they decided to stick with the anthem and to just change the stanza. I think they gave up too easy.

At least the East German government changed the anthem to .”Auferstanden aus Ruinen” risen from ruins.

For Germany to escape their constant association with Fascism and Nazism, I believe it is important for them to realize that changing the anthem will be an important step to that. Maybe they should adopt the former DDR anthem

sources

https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/periods-genres/national-anthems/german-national-anthem-lyrics-world-war-two/

https://www.bundestag.de/en/parliament/symbols/anthem

https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/german-national-anthem-lyrics/

Nemmersdorf massacre-Murder of civilians

No one can deny that the Nazis committed unspeakable atrocities during World War 2,against civilians. But the Nazis were not the only ones.

On October 21, 1944, the Soviet Red Army was steamrolling the German army on the Eastern Front, reaching the town of Nemmersdorf, at the time it was a German rural town in East Prussia, though today the town finds is part of Russia and is called Mayakovskoye.

The 2nd Battalion, 25th Guards Tank Brigade, belonging to the 2nd Guards Tank Corps of the 11th Guards Army, crossed the Angerapp bridge and established a bridgehead on the western bank of the Rominte river on 21 October 1944. The German forces tried to retake the bridge, but several attacks were repelled by the Soviet tanks and the supporting infantry. During an air attack, a number of Soviet soldiers took shelter in an improvised bunker that was already occupied by 14 local men and women. According to the testimony of a seriously-injured woman, Gerda Meczulat, when a Soviet officer arrived and ordered everybody out, the Soviets shot and killed the German civilians at close range. During the night, the Soviet 25th Tank Brigade was ordered to retreat back across the river and take defensive positions along the Rominte. The Wehrmacht regained control of Nemmersdorf and discovered the massacre.

A Soviet officer had ordered the civilians to be killed. There were some conflicting reports in relation to the age and gender of the victims , as well as the number of victims, with both sides trying to spin the incident to their respective advantage.

Nazi German authorities organized an international commission to investigate, headed by the Estonian Hjalmar Mäe and other representatives of neutral countries, such as Francoist Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. It heard the report from a medical commission, which reported that all of the dead females had been raped (they ranged in age from 8 to 84). The Nazi Propaganda Ministry (separately) used the Völkischer Beobachter and the cinema news series Wochenschau to accuse the Soviet Army of having killed dozens of civilians at Nemmersdorf and having summarily executed about 50 French and Belgian noncombatant prisoners-of-war, who had been ordered to take care of thoroughbred horses but had been blocked by the bridge.

After the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, new sources became available and the dominant view among scholars became that the massacre had been embellished and actually exploited by Goebbels in an attempt to stir up civilian resistance to the advancing Soviet Army.

The former chief of staff of the German Fourth Army, Major General Erich Dethleffsen, testified on 5 July 1946 before an American tribunal in Neu-Ulm:

“When in October, 1944, Russian units temporarily entered Nemmersdorf, they tortured the civilians, specifically they nailed them to barn doors, and then shot them. A large number of women were raped and then shot. During this massacre, the Russian soldiers also shot some fifty French prisoners of war. Within forty-eight hours the Germans re-occupied the area.”

Karl Potrek of Königsberg, the leader of a Volkssturm company present when the German Army took back the village, testified in a 1953 report:

“In the farmyard stood a cart, to which more naked women were nailed through their hands in a cruciform position … Near a large inn, the ‘Roter Krug’, stood a barn and to each of its two doors a naked woman was nailed through the hands, in a crucified posture…. In the dwellings we found a total of 72 women, including children, and one old man, 74, all dead…. Some babies had their heads bashed in.”

While the Germans claimed that most of the 653 residents of Nemmersdorf were killed, Soviet records showed only 20 to 30 killed. It was generally believed that the Germans had inflated the number of deaths, grouped evidence of other isolated atrocities to embellish the size of this massacre, and might even had created the situations where civilians would be killed by the Soviets (for example, some accused the German military of using civilians to shield one of the attacks on the Angrapa bridge). The Soviet claim of only 20 to 30 killed was equally fantastic, as the Soviet Union was also known to take great liberties with numbers even with its official state records. The actual number of deaths was likely somewhere in-between.

Regardless what the numbers were, it was nonetheless a massacre on civilians which never should have happened.

sources

https://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=198

https://www.bridgemanimages.com/it/noartistknown/wwii-nemmersdorf-massacre-1944/nomedium/asset/2497462

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemmersdorf_massacre

https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/45432/were-the-events-in-nemmersdorf-a-pr-stunt-of-the-nazi-propaganda

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Evil science

No mater how you twist or turn it, when you are complicit to a crime, you are just as guilty as the perpetrator, and perhaps even more guilty because you were an enable of that crime.

Hermann Stieve was Director of the Berlin Institute of Anatomy from 1935 to 1952, which was from the early days of the Third Reich until 7 years after the war.

His research on the female reproductive system is controversial, as some of his scientific insights derived from histological investigations on the genital organs of executed women. These investigations were made possible by the sharp increase in executions during the “Third Reich.” Stieve’s research was methodologically accurate and contributed significantly to contemporary scientific debates. Nevertheless, his use of the organs of execution victims, some of them resistance fighters, benefited from the Nazi justice system. He thus indirectly supported this system of injustice.

Charlotte Pommer , a young physician, who had been an assistant to Dr Stieve, reported after the war.

“On 22nd of December 1942 eleven men were hanged and five women decapitated. Fifteen minutes later they were laid out on the dissection tables in the anatomical institute. [She] lay on the first table, […] on the third table the big lifeless body of her husband […] I felt paralyzed and could hardly assist Professor Stieve, who – as always- carried out his scientific exploration with great care and uncommon diligence […] After the impressions of that night I resigned from my position”

Stieve wanted to study human organs. He was able to get some donated uteruses and ovaries from the bodies of accident victims, or from surgeons who had removed them. One of the best historical sources of organs for research, the bodies of executed criminals, had not been available during the early years of his research as the Weimar government made very minimal use of the death penalty, and did not execute any women. In a 1931 letter Stieve complained that it was difficult to get a set of ovaries from a healthy woman.

After the National Socialist regime came to power in January 1933, one of its first goals was the reorganization of the universities. Leadership of the universities was taken away from the individual German states and centralized within the Ministry of Education in Berlin, which was also responsible for the anatomical institutes. This included research funding, recruitment of faculty, and the professional society, the Anatomische Gesellschaft. In terms of the body procurement, the Ministry of Education shared this responsibility with the Ministry of Justice, when bodies from prisons and executions were concerned. All science was to be aligned with NS doctrine and to be utilized for war purposes.

Stieve, who had accepted a professorship at what is now Humboldt University of Berlin as well as the directorship of its anatomical institute, reached an agreement with administrators at Plötzensee Prison outside the city to accept all bodies of those shot, hanged or beheaded, many of them political prisoners. Others were “Polish and Russian slave laborers executed for such acts as socializing with German women,” according to Seidelman. Over the entire Nazi era that came to around 3,000 victims, many more bodies than Stieve needed for research purposes. It is alleged that during his research he claimed the corpses of 182 victims of the Nazi regime, 174 of whom were women at the age rank from 18 to 68, two thirds of victims were of German origin.

I just want to focus n 2 of his subjects.

Liane Berkowitz, a German resistance fighter and was most notable for being was a member of the Berlin-based pro-soviet resistance group that coalesced around Harro Schulze-Boysen, that was later called the Red Orchestra by the Abwehr. Arrested and sentenced to death, she was executed shortly after she gave birth to a daughter in custody.

The young mother was executed in Plötzensee Prison at 7.45 p.m on 5 August 1943, two days before her 19th birthday.

Liane’s daughter Irina was born on 12 April 1943 in the women’s prison on Barnimstraße.[The grandmother took care of the child from July 1943. As the Reichskriegsgericht pronounced the sentence recommendation when checking with Adolf Hitler to dismiss the pregnant Liane Berkowitz from prison, he expressly rejected any reprieve. The death sentence was confirmed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and countersigned. Her body was delivered to Hermann Stieve to be dissected for research. Her final resting place is unknown. Her daughter Irina died on 16 October 1943 in hospital in Eberswalde under unclear circumstances.

Mildred “Mili” Elizabeth Fish-Harnack was an American literary historian, author, translator, and resistance fighter, born in Wisconsin. After marrying Arvid Harnack, she moved with him to Germany, where she began her career as an academic. Fish-Harnack spent a year at the University of Jena and the University of Giessen working on her doctoral thesis. At Giessen, she witnessed the beginnings of Nazism. In 1930, the couple moved to Berlin and Fish-Harnack became an assistant lecturer in English and American literature at the University of Berlin. In the early 1930s, the couple became increasingly interested in the Soviet communist system. Harnack established a writers’ group that studied the Soviet planned economy, and the couple were able to arrange a visit to the Soviet Union during August 1932 and by 1933 they were fully committed to Soviet ideology. Through contacts at the American embassy, Fish-Harnack became friends with Martha Dodd, who became a part of her salon where they discussed current affairs. In 1936, Fish-Harnack’s translation of Irving Stone’s biography of Vincent van Gogh, Lust for Life, was published.

In 1938, the couple began to resist Nazism. They became friends with Louise and Donald Heath, who was First Secretary at the embassy, and to whom Harnack passed economic intelligence from his position at the Reich Trade Ministry. By 1940, the couple came into contact with other anti-fascist resistance groups and cooperated with them. The most important of these was run by German air force officer Harro Schulze-Boysen. Like numerous groups in other parts of the world, the undercover political factions led by Harnack and Schulze-Boysen later developed into an espionage network that collaborated with Soviet intelligence. Fish-Harnack became a resistance fighter as a member of a Berlin anti-fascist espionage group, later called the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle) by the Abwehr. The couple were arrested in September 1942 and executed shortly after.

On 7 September 1942, the Harnacks were arrested by the Gestapo at the seaside village of Preila on the Curonian Spit.

Harnack was sentenced to death on 19 December after a four-day trial before the Reichskriegsgericht (“Reich Military Tribunal”), and was executed three days later at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. Fish-Harnack was initially given six years in prison, but Adolf Hitler refused to endorse the sentence and ordered a new trial, which resulted in a death sentence on 16 January 1943.She was beheaded by guillotine on 16 February 1943. While she was imprisoned, She was the only American woman executed on the direct orders of Adolf Hitler.

After her execution, her body was released to Hermann Stieve to be dissected for his research into the effects of stress, such as awaiting execution, on the menstrual cycle. After he was finished, he gave what was left to a friend of hers, who had the remains buried in Berlin’s Zehlendorf Cemetery.

Unlike the research of Nazi scientists who became obsessed with racial typing and Aryan superiority, Stieve’s work didn’t end up in the dustbin of history. The tainted origins of this research, along with other studies and education that capitalized on the Nazi supply of human body parts—continue to haunt German and Austrian science, which is only now fully grappling with the implications. Some of the facts, amazingly, are still coming to light. And some German, Austrian, and Polish universities have yet to face up to the likely presence of the remains of Hitler’s victims, their cell and bone and tissue, in university collections that still exist today.

sources

https://web.archive.org/web/20150715183928/http://www.gedenkstaette-ploetzensee.de/zoom/09_6_dt.html

https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/11/mildred-harnack-was-executed-by-hitler-for-resisting-the-nazis-now-we-know-what-happened-to-her-remains.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-48215894

https://www.timesofisrael.com/microscopic-remains-of-nazi-victims-studied-by-german-doctor-buried-in-berlin/

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/history/2013/11/nazi_anatomy_history_the_origins_of_conservatives_anti_abortion_claims_that.html?via=gdpr-consent

https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/jbc/article/view/10848/10058

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19173259/

Donation

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Dachau herb garden

Aside from their murderous practices, the SS also had several businesses.

On January 23, 1939 Oswald Pohl .the head of “SS Main Economic and Administrative Office” founded the “German Research Institute for Nutrition and Food Provision Ltd.” The shareholders were the SS concern “German Earth and Stone Works Ltd.” and a member of the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office. Although his name is not found in available sources, it can be assumed that the individual concerned was the SS-Standartenfuhrer (Colonel) Dr. Salpeter whose name was recorded as that of a trusted shareholder at the end of 1939. The major aim of the undertaking was the cultivation and study of medicinal plants and spices. Its management was the responsibility of Hauptsturmfuhrer (Captain) Heinrich Vogel in the Office of Economic Administration of the WVHA. According to the partnership agreement the research institute had the following tasks:

a) Systematic research and cultivation of those medicinal herbs native to Germany in the interest of the national economy
b) Supplying German and foreign markets with German drugs.
c) Production of new drugs and new syntheses based on scientific research.
d) Maintenance of laboratories.
e) Acquisition of plots
f) The organization of all commercial and agricultural transactions arising in connection with the enterprise e.g. poultry and animal farms etc.

The plantation at the Dachau concentration camp was the centerpiece of the whole venture which came to include a wide range of assorted projects. While at the end of 1939 there were in total only three in operation (Dachau, Ravensbruck, Bretsteintal in der Steiermark.) by the end of 1944 the “German Research Institute for Nutrition and Food Provisions Ltd” comprised over twenty agricultural enterprises as well as fish hatcheries and the administration and oversight of properties in the occupied territories of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Soviet Union.

One of these enterprises was the herb garden in Dachau, Known as the plantation.

The plantation at Dachau and the smaller one at Ravensbruck concentration camp were distinctive in the sense that they were cultivated almost exclusively by prisoners. The other projects, which were spread across Germany an Austria, employed a good deal more civilian workers and were cultivated only in part by prisoners. They were also less labor intensive, being based around experiments with biodynamic cultivation methods in which both Himmler and Pohl were believers as well as cattle and sheep breeding and experimenting with veterinary medicine etc.

Ernst-Günther Schenck was tasked to set up the plantation.in Dachau concentration camp, which contained over 200,000 medicinal plants, from which, among other things, vitamin supplements for the Waffen-SS were manufactured.

In 1940 he was appointed as inspector of nutrition for the SS. In 1943 Schenck developed a protein sausage, which was meant for the SS frontline troops. Prior to its adoption it was tested on 370 prisoners in Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, some of whom died of hunger.

The extensive cultivation of medicinal herbs, however, particularly in the given climate conditions, was highly labor intensive: such a project under the the prevailing wage conditions was hardly feasible. For the initiators of the project to use concentration camp prisoners was therefore an obvious one. Using a labor force that could be exploited could guarantee the viability of the whole undertaking.

The plantation was located outside the prisoner camp. It was a large nursery with areas of cultivated land that, from 1938 onwards, the prisoners were forced to lay out and work on. The SS described this agricultural operation euphemistically as the “herb garden”. Today, the area is mostly overbuilt with industrial buildings.

The complex comprised numerous structures, including a maintenance building, a teaching and research institute, a shop, an equipment shed, a bee house, greenhouses, as well as large sections of productive land. It was Heinrich Himmler’s idea that by cultivating and studying medicinal and aromatic herbs the Nazi state could itself independent of its reliance on foreign medicines and herbs. Establishing a “Volk medicine” in close touch with nature was a prestige project of Nazi health policy and was avidly supported by the leader of the SS. Responsible for selling the produce from the experiments and testing was the SS-owned company “Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Ernährung und Verpflegung GmbH” (DVA).

The residents of Dachau, as in the town Dachau, and neighboring areas could purchase the produce of the “herb garden” in a shop. There individual prisoners succeeded in secretly establishing contact with the civilian population who helped them, at the risk of death, to smuggle goods and information in and out of the camp.

The prisoners called the feared deployment to the outdoor areas of the “herb garden” the “plantation” work detail. They were forced to do the extremely arduous and exhausting work no matter the weather. Inadequate clothing, malnutrition, bullying and abuse by the SS turned the already hard outdoor work into a perilous torture. The working conditions in the buildings and greenhouses were less brutal. A work detail of illustrators had to compile a herbarium.

The former administrative and institute building as well as remnants of three greenhouses with added end structures have survived. There are plans to restore the building ensemble, which is in the possession of the City of Dachau authority. Based on a new utilization concept, the historical structures are to be integrated into the Memorial Site and become part of its ‘space of memory’.

In April 1945 Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck volunteered to work in an emergency casualty station located in the large cellar of the Reich Chancellery, near the Vorbunker and Führerbunker,during the battle in Berlin.

Although he was not trained as a surgeon and lacked the experience, as well as the supplies and instruments necessary to operate on battle victims, he nonetheless assisted in major surgical operations. During these surgeries, Schenck was aided by Dr. Werner Haase, who also served as one of Hitler’s private physicians. Although Haase had much more surgical experience than Schenck, he was greatly weakened by tuberculosis, and often had to lie down while giving verbal advice to Schenck.

During the end time in Berlin, Schenck saw Hitler in person twice, for only a brief time: once when Hitler wanted to thank him, Haase, and nurse Erna Flegel for their emergency medical services, and once during the reception after Hitler’s marriage to Eva Braun.

Because of this chance encounter with Adolf Hitler his memoirs proved historically valuable. His accounts of this period are prominent in the works of Joachim Fest and James P. O’Donnell regarding the end of Hitler’s life, and were included in the film Downfall (2004).

sources

https://www.thirdreicharts.com/the-dachau-herb-garden

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How the Nazis could have won the war, if it hadn’t been for hate.

Max Planck, was a German theoretical physicist whose discovery of energy quanta won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.He had foreseen that the Nazi regimes racial law would have consequences for science in Germany.

An immediate consequence upon passage of the law was that it produced both quantitative and qualitative losses to the physics community. Numerically, it has been estimated that a total of 1,145 university teachers, in all fields, were driven from their posts, which represented about 14% of the higher learning institutional staff members in 1932–1933.Out of 26 German nuclear physicists cited in the literature before 1933, 50% emigrated. Qualitatively, 11 physicists and four chemists who had won or would win the Nobel Prize emigrated from Germany shortly after Hitler came to power, most of them in 1933.These 15 scientists were: Hans Bethe, Felix Bloch, Max Born, Albert Einstein, James Franck, Heinrich Gerhard Kuhn, Peter Debye, Dennis Gabor, Fritz Haber, Gerhard Herzberg, Victor Hess, George de Hevesy, Erwin Schrödinger, Otto Stern, and Eugene Wigner. Britain and the United States were often the recipients of the talent which left Germany. The University of Göttingen had 45 dismissals from the staff of 1932–1933, for a loss of 19%.

Eight students, assistants, and colleagues of the Göttingen theoretical physicist Max Born left Europe after Hitler came to power and eventually found work on the Manhattan Project, thus helping the United States, Britain and Canada to develop the atomic bomb; they were Enrico Fermi,[50] James Franck, Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Robert Oppenheimer (who was American, but had studied under Born), Edward Teller, Victor Weisskopf, Eugene Wigner, and John von Neumann. Otto Robert Frisch, who with Rudolf Peierls first calculated the critical mass of U-235 needed for an explosive, was also a Jewish refugee.

Max Planck, the father of quantum theory, had been right in assessing the consequences of National Socialist policies. In 1933, Planck, as president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft (Kaiser Wilhelm Society), met with Adolf Hitler. During the meeting, Planck told Hitler that forcing Jewish scientists to emigrate would mutilate Germany and the benefits of their work would go to foreign countries. Hitler responded with a rant against Jews and Planck could only remain silent and then take his leave. The National Socialist regime would only come around to the same conclusion as Planck in the 6 July 1942 meeting regarding the future agenda of the Reichsforschungsrat (RFR, Reich Research Council), but by then it was too late.

Hans Geiger was a German physicist. He is best known as the co-inventor of the detector component of the Geiger counter and for the Geiger–Marsden experiment which discovered the atomic nucleus.

In 1925, Geiger accepted his first teaching position, which was at the University of Kiel, Germany. Here, he and Walther Müller improved the sensitivity, performance, and durability of the counter, and it became known as the “Geiger-Müller counter.” It could detect not only alpha particles but also beta particles (electrons) and ionizing photons. The counter was essentially in the same form as the modern counter.

In 1929, Geiger moved to the University of Tübingen (Germany), where he was named professor of physics and director of research at the Institute of Physics. In 1929, while at the Institute, Geiger made his first observations of a cosmic-ray shower. Geiger continued to investigate cosmic rays, artificial radioactivity, and nuclear fission after accepting a position in 1936 at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin, a position he held until his death. In 1937, with Otto Zeiller, Geiger used the counter to measure a cosmic-ray shower

Beginning in 1939, after the discovery of atomic fission, Geiger was a member of the Uranium Club, the German investigation of nuclear weapons during World War II. The group splintered in 1942 after its members came to believe (incorrectly, as it would later transpire) that nuclear weapons would not play a significant role in ending the war.

Although Geiger signed a petition against the Nazi government’s interference with universities, he provided no support to colleague Hans Bethe (winner of the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physics) when he was fired for being Jewish.

Politicization of the German academia under the Nazi regime had driven many physicists, engineers, and mathematicians out of Germany as early as 1933. Those of Jewish heritage who did not leave were quickly purged from German institutions, further thinning the ranks of academia. The politicization of the universities, along with the demands for manpower by the German armed forces (many scientists and technical personnel were conscripted, despite possessing technical and engineering skills), substantially reduced the number of able German physicists.

The German nuclear weapons program (German: Uranprojekt; informally known as the Uranverein; English: Uranium Club) was an unsuccessful scientific effort led by Germany to research and develop atomic weapons during World War II. It was mainly unsuccessful because of the immigration, purge and murder of so many brilliant scientists. The scientists that remained and worked in the Uranium Club weren’t brilliant enough to figure out that their work was leaked to foreign intelligence agencies.

From April through December of 1945, ten of Nazi Germany’s greatest nuclear physicists were detained by Allied military and intelligence services in a kind of gilded cage at Farm Hall, an English country manor near Cambridge. The physicists knew the Reich had failed to develop an atomic bomb, and they soon learned, from a BBC radio report on August 6, that the Allies had succeeded in their own efforts to create such a weapon. But what they did not know was that many of their meetings and private conversations were being monitored and recorded by British agents.

Just imagine what could have happened if Hitler did not have such a hate for the Jews. His own hate lost him the war.

sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3228631/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_nuclear_weapons_program

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Laws against Jews in the Netherlands.

At their annual rally held in Nuremberg on September 15, 1935 Nazi party leaders announced, after the Reichstag had adopted them, new laws that institutionalized many of the racial theories underpinning Nazi ideology.

The so-called Nuremberg Laws, signed by Hitler and several other Nazi officials, were the cornerstone of the legalized persecution of Jews in Germany. They stripped German Jews of their German citizenship, barred marriage and “extramarital sexual intercourse” between Jews and other Germans, and barred Jews from flying the German flag, which would now be the swastika.

It would be less then 5 years later, when the Nazis introduced laws against Jews in the Netherlands.

In October 1940, only 5 months after the Germans invaded, a ban on ritual (kosher) slaughter was introduced. Additionally there were, removals of Jews from government employment, confiscations of radios. Jews were banned from recreational facilities, hotels, restaurants. Jews had to register with Dutch authorities by the deadline of January.

A great number of laws were to follow. The most cynical laws, at least that’s what I think, were the laws restricting the movements of Jews. In June 1942 Jews were forbidden to ride on public transportation such as buses and trams. Jews were given a residential curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. And one that may not seem like a harsh one, but anyone who knows the Netherlands knows the importance of the bicycles for the Dutch, On June 23 1942, Jews were required to turn in their bicycles.

The reason why I think these were cynical laws, is because they ensured that the Jews could not travel, therefore they had to remain near their home. This made it easier to find them and round them up during raids.

In a way I can understand why some Dutch turned a blind eye, I can understand it but don’t condone it. However one thing I can’t fathom is why some people did report their Jewish neighbours if they hadn’t turned in their bicycles. Neighbours they had lived next to for many years, and even had invited them into their house for coffee and cake. There was no punishment for not reporting Jews, yet so many were quite eager to betray their fellow citizens.

sources

https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/text/anti-jewish-measures-netherlands-and-belgium-between-1940-and-1944

https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/winter/nuremberg.html

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Rolf Wenkhaus; Child actor and Luftwaffe crew member

I was reminiscing on TV shows I watched as a kid in the Netherlands. One of my favourite shows was a series called “Q&Q”. It was about 2 teenage detectives. The boys named Aristides Quarles and Wilbur Quant accidentally snap a photo of a dead body in the woods. After finding the place where the body was, they find it to be gone. Nobody believes them except Grandpa. They decide to investigate themselves. I will spare you the theme song because once you hear it, it will be in your head for days.

Then I also remembered a German movie I watched about some German teenage detectives, nowadays with Google and IMDB, it was relatively easy to find the title. The movie is called “Emil and the Detectives” .Turns out it is the birthday of the young main actor today. Rolf Wenkhaus was born on September 9,1917. The movie I was referring to earlier was made in 1931.

Rolf only made tow more movies, the last one was a Nazi propaganda movie titled “S.A.-Mann Brand”

Ironically the screenplay for Rolf Wenkhaus’s 1st movie, “Emil and the Detectives” was written by Billy Wilder, a Jewish Austrian screenwriter who lived in Berlin. After the rise of the Nazi Party, he moved to Paris, due to rampant antisemitism and discrimination against the Jewish people. He moved to Hollywood in 1933. That movie was also based on a novel by Erich Kästner, a pacifist and an opponent of the Nazi regime. The Gestapo interrogated Kästner several times, the national writers’ guild expelled him, and the Nazis burned his books as “contrary to the German spirit” during the book burnings of 10 May 1933, instigated by Joseph Goebbels.

After the outbreak of World War II, Rolf Wenkhaus enlisted in the military. At the time of his death, aged 24, he was in the aircrew of a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, a four-engine bomber that specialized in attacks on shipping. Wenkhaus’s plane, with identification code F8 MH 0093, was shot down on 31 January 1942, off the coast of Bloody Foreland in County Donegal, Ireland by HMS Genista, a British Flower-class corvette being utilized as a convoy escort vessel.

The entire aircrew of six was killed. The body of the pilot, Werner Bornefeld, washed up at Bunbeg two weeks later, and was eventually reburied at a German War Cemetery at Glencree, Ireland.

Because Rolf Wenkhaus’s corpse has never been found they officially pronounced his dead only in 1948.

sources

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0921020/?ref_=tt_ov_st

https://prabook.com/web/rolf.wenkhaus/1928015

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_K%C3%A4stner#Berlin_1933%E2%80%931945

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The Siege of Leningrad

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the start of the siege of Leningrad.

The Siege of Leningrad was one of the deadliest and most destructive sieges in the history of the world – quite possibly the deadliest ever. It would last for 872 days, and there would be more than a million Soviet civilian casualties, plus another million Soviet military casualties and half a million German casualties.

The effect of the siege on the city was devastating . Food shortages were chronic, deaths from starvation, disease and cold were constant and cannibalism occurred throughout the years of the siege. The number of deaths in Leningrad was the single largest loss of life ever known in a modern city.

The Soviets managed to break the siege on 18 January 1943 by opening a narrow land corridor, but it would not be fully lifted until 27 January 1944 when they managed to fully repel the Germans on their drive west.

What is a lesser known fact is that it wasn’t only the Germans who laid siege on Leningrad.

The Finnish army invaded from the north, co-operating with the Germans until Finland had recaptured territory lost in the recent Winter War, but refused to make further approaches to the city. Also co-operating with the Germans after August 1942 was the Spanish Blue Division. It was transferred to the southeastern flank of the siege of Leningrad, just south of the Neva near Pushkin, Kolpino and its main intervention was in Krasny Bor in the Izhora River area.

The population of Leningrad suffered greatly. Despite all the suffering there were still some people who sacrificed their lives to safekeep things that were dear and important to them.

When the German and Finnish forces began their siege of Leningrad, choking food supply to the city’s two million residents, one group of people preferred to starve to death despite having plenty of ‘food.’ The Leningrad seedbank was diligently preserved through the 28-month Siege of Leningrad.

While the Soviets had ordered the evacuation of art from the Hermitage, they had not evacuated the 250,000 samples of seeds, roots, and fruits stored in what was then the world’s largest seedbank. A group of scientists, headed by Nikolai Vavilov, at the Vavilov Institute boxed up a cross section of seeds, moved them to the basement, and took shifts protecting them. Those guarding the seedbank refused to eat its contents, even though by the end of the siege in the spring of 1944, nine of them had died of starvation.

During the siege of Leningrad, a teenage girl Tanya Savicheva, kept a diary. She lost all her family but she herself was eventually evacuated out of the city in August 1942, along with about 150 other children, to a village called Shatki. But whilst most of the others recovered and lived, Tanya, already too ill, died of tuberculosis on 1 July 1944. Below is one her diary entries, it says everything you need to know how awful the siege was.

Zhenya died on December 28th at 12 noon, 1941. Grandma died on the 25th of January at 3 o’clock, 1942. Leka died March 17th, 1942, at 5 o’clock in the morning, 1942

Uncle Vasya died on April 13th at 2 o’clock in the morning, 1942. Uncle Lesha May 10th, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, 1942. Mama on May 13th at 7:30 in the morning, 1942

The Savichevs are dead. Everyone is dead. Only Tanya is left.

sources

https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/stalin-vs-science-the-life-and-murder-nikolai-vavilov

https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/the-tragic-tale-of-nikolai-vavilov

https://www.onthisday.com/photos/siege-of-leningrad

This is how close the Holocaust still is to me.

The picture is of a vacant building in the town center of Geleen in the Netherlands. The building wasn’t always empty. It used to be a clothes shop called “Modehuis” or Fashion House. It was really a shop which catered more for the older ladies, my mother liked to shop there A few doors next to it, there used to be a hairdresser, where I got my haircut several times.

Across from it there used to be a video store where I would rent my favourite movies. The address of the shop was Raadhuisstraat 16.

All of this will mean absolutely nothing to you, and even until today the historical reference of the place was not known to me.

The shop was known as “Kousenhuis” (Stockingshouse) in the 1930s, the owner was Paul Siegfried Willner and his wife Charlotte Sophia Walter. Paul was Jewish but Charlotte was Roman Catholic . They were married on April 17,1934 in Geleen, the maximum temperature that day was 21 degrees centigrade, so it was a warm spring day. Aside from the shop they also ran a wholesale business in cleaning products.

The shop was initially situated somewhere else, but due to subsidence caused by mining they moved to the Raadhuisstraat. On January 11,1939 Paul sold the shop to Julius Jacob Wolff.

Paul and his wife moved to Molenstraat 27 in Geleen. Below is a recent picture of that address.

As a young kid in secondary school, I actually had a friend living in Molenstraat 25, which is next door. The house is also near my favourite restaurant, swimming pool, and a few other places I would have visited several times a week.

Paul Siegfried Willner was born in Aachen in Germany, near to the Dutch border, on June 5,1902. He had moved in February 1934 from Aachen to Geleen. On November 25,1941 Paul lost his German citizenship as per new Reichs citizens law. As a Jew he was no longer considered to be a German.

On February 5,1942 Paul and Charlotte divorced, I don’t know why but I can only imagine that this was to safe Charlotte. If she was no longer married to a Jew, she would more then likely be safe.

On August 25, 1942 ,Paul had to register for labour in Germany, A day later on August 26, he ended up in Westerbork transit camp. Two days later he was deported to Auschwitz. But shortly before arriving there he was taken of the train at the labour camp in Kosel. It is not clear where he was murdered. His date of death was registered as April 30 1943, but that was a generic date used for many whose death date wasn’t known.

On October 5,1942 the RAF mistakenly bombed Geleen, assuming it was Aachen, Paul’s house was destroyed as was the house of his ex wife.

Julius Jacob Wolff who was also Jewish, survived the war, His shop was still thriving when I left Geleen in 1997.

When I said at the start ‘how close the Holocaust still is to me, I meant it in a physical way as in buildings I have been in or have been close to, but also in a emotional way, because I never knew this bit of history. I had to emigrate to find out the significance of the actual buildings, which is a pity.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/137523/paul-siegfried-willner

https://www.stolpersteinesittardgeleen.nl/Slachtoffers/Paul-Siegfried-Willner

https://www.openarch.nl/rhl:54839896-93a6-84fb-e6c6-a4540cb3b0a6

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