Diet Eman- WWII Hero.

Diet

Only the good die young, all the evil seem to live forever is a line from an Iron Maiden song, and there have been times where I thought this to be true, because I saw so many evil people living a long and prosperous lives.

But thankfully ever now and then that theory is proven wrong when you hear stories about people who personify the word good and you see they lived a long good life.

As was the case with Berendina Roelofina Hendrika  Eman aka Diet Eman. A genuine hero who lived to the age of 99, she died 2 weeks ago. What is amazing I had never heard of her until 2 friends, Norman Stone and Andy Ludwig( I am sure they won’t mind me giving them an honorable mention) pointed the story of Diet out to me.

She was born on April 20, 1920 in the Hague, the Netherlands and died on September 3, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A

She grew up in a religious Christian family she had 3 siblings and she was the 2nd youngest.

Om May 10,1940 when the Germans invaded the Netherlands her brother in law was killed.Shortly afterwards, Diet and her fiancé Hein Sietsma decided to join the resistance.The pair together with some friends established a resistance group with the code name “HEIN” which was in reference to Hein Sietsma but was also an abbreviation for “Help Elkander In Nood”which translates in Help each other in Need.

Diet and Hein

Initially the group listened to the BBC and translated the text of the broadcast in Dutch and distributed the transcripts in Dutch resistance magazines.They also smuggled  downed Allied pilots to England.

Soon they began to help Jewish friend find hiding places. Diet recalled after the war.

“There came a day,when my Jewish friend Herman, who worked with me in the bank in The Hague, began to understand that, for him, as a Jew, life could not go on in the same way anymore. He thus became the first Jewish person that we helped during the Occupation.”

Their resistance group began  to focus on stealing food and gas ration cards, forging identity papers and sheltering hundreds of fugitive Jews.

forged

At one stage Diet delivered supplies and moral support to an apartment in The Hague which housed 27 Jews in hiding, in late 1942. The walls were paper thin. Crying babies and even toilet flushing risked raising the suspicions of neighbors, who know that the apartment was owned by a single woman,Mies Walbelm.

Diet warned Mies, she told her “You’re living on top of a volcano that’s ready to erupt” but Mies did not heed the warning and housed more people, which was immensely brave but also extremely dangerous and could jeopardize the woman’s life but also those she hid. Despite that Diet kept visiting the apartment ,bringing supplies, sometimes 5 times a week Eventually the Gestapo did raid the apartment. A diary that contained Diet’s code name was discovered.One day Diet’s parents called her to warn her the Gestapo had turned up and told her not to return home. 

Diet and Hein Sietsma had plans to marry in September 1944, but in April Sietsma was arrested carrying false papers. In May Diet Eman, also, was caught on a train carrying a false ID. Luckily she managed to dispose of the incriminating papers she was carrying at a busy station while the Germans’ backs were turned, distracted by one of the men’s new plastic raincoat, a novelty at the time.

Diet was taken to Scheveningen prison and was later send to Vught concentration camp for  a few  months. However she kept insisting stubbornly that she was not Diet Eman but a simple housemaid. she managed to convince the Germans and she was released. She immediately rejoined the resistance and remained with it until May 1945. It was in June 1945 she found out that fiancé Hein Sietsma had died in Dachau in January 1945.

By some miracle, a letter he had written on a single sheet of toilet paper and tossed from a train as he was being transported to the camp found its way to her.“Darling, don’t count on seeing each other again soon,Even if we won’t see each other on earth again, we will never be sorry for what we did, and that we took this stand.”

He signed off with the Latin phrase that was engraved on the gold engagement ring that he had given her: “Omnia vincit amor.” Love conquers all.

A brother of Diet died later in a Japanese prison camp.

After the war she moved to the US, She became a nurse, learned Spanish, worked for Shell Oil in Venezuela, married an American engineer named Egon Erlich, divorced and moved to Michigan, where she also worked as a nurse and later for an export company. She raised a son and daughter.She kept quiet k about her resistance work until 1978. That year, she spoke at a “Suffering and Survival” convention. Here she met Dr. James Schaap who worked with Eman to write her memoir, “Things We Couldn’t Say”, which was published in 1994.

Things

On August 23, 1998, Yad Vashem recognized Berendina Roelofina Hendrika Eman as Righteous Among the Nations.

An amazing woman who risked her life to safe others, the world needs heroes like her today. Rust zacht Diet, ik zal U niet vergeten.

Persoon

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Sources

Holocausteducatie.nl

The New York Times

Smithsonian

Telegraph UK

Yad Vashem

 

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Would I have the same courage as Benjamin Blankenstein?

Benjamin

What would I do? Or, how much courage would I have? These are questions that haunt me in relation to the Holocaust? Questions which are becoming more and more relevant these days.

There was a time where I would jeopardize my life to defend my principles in relation to justice and the treatment of my fellow man. But now that I have a family of my own and people who depend on me, that dynamic has changed, I am not so sure what I would do now and I would not have an answer for the 2 questions at the start of this blog.

I am sure Benjamin Blankenstein must have asked himself similar questions, but he answered those questions by taking action.

Benjamin Blankenstein was a teacher at the local Christian elementary school in the town of Soestdijk (prov. Utrecht) in the Netherlands.He was married to Maria who stayed at home as a home maker , on Septenber 10, 1940 the couple had a baby girl,Fieke.Benjamin was 26 at the time, Maria was a few years older.

In 1943 Benjamin became an active member of the  resistance , part of the countrywide Landelijke Organisatie (LO),Him and his wife also had a 2nd baby daughter,Betty, that year.

Blankenstein familie

The LO was an organization that assisted both Jews in hiding, and non-Jews wanted for resistance activity or evading forced labor in Germany.

Notwithstanding the gave dangers they could face the Blankensteins took the decision to hide Jews in their own home.

It was brought to Benjamin’s attention that the  Bernstein family from nearby Soest had been betrayed at an earlier hiding place. Benjamin and Maria gave refuge to Henry Bernstein, his wife Martha and their 14-year-old son Rolf, Jewish refugees from Düsseldorf, Germany.

On September 3, 1942 the Dutch police had issued the following statement.

“The mayor of Soest requested that the stateless Jews Henry Bernstein, his wife and their son Rolf Bernstein, all residing at 35a Kerkpad NZ in Soest and having violated the regulations by changing their place of residence without permission, be located, detained and brought to trial.”

The 2 families got on wonderful.In the evenings Benjamin would school Rolf so he would not fall behind in his education.

Unfortunately the families were betrayed. On June 5, 1944, while Benjamin was  at school. The police arrested the Bernsteins and looted the Blankensteins home About half an hour later , Benjamin was arrested at the school, and taken to prison in Amsterdam . Later he was sent to to the Vught concentration camp, aka Herzogenbusch concentration camp.

Vught

On September 5, 1944, with the Allied Forces approaching, Blankenstein was moved to camps in Germany and eventually died

in Bergen-Belsen on February 24, 1945.  Nine days earlier hsi 3rd daughter Thea was born.

The Bernsteins were taken from the Blankenstein home and deported. Henry and Rolf were murdered in Auschwitz.

Martha Bernstein survived the war. After  her return from the camp, ill and alone, she was again welcomed by Maria Blankenstein.

On March 27, 2005, Yad Vashem recognized Benjamin Blankenstein and Maria Suzanna Blankenstein-van Klingeren, as Righteous Among the Nations.

Benjamin en Maria

On August 6. 2010. De city of Soest placed a Stolperstein, a stumbling stone, which is a memorial to remember Benjamin Blankenstein. The memorial was placed outside their home on the  Van Straelenlaan 31.

Stolper stein

In 2006 Henry and Rolf Bernstein also got  memorials in the form of Stolper steine in their home in Hilden near Dusseldorf.

Bernstein

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Sources

Yad Vashem

Joods Monument

.4-5-mei.nl/nieuws/1/4/stolperstein-benjamin-blankenstein

 

It would have been easy to turn a blind eye, but Fr.Lichtenberg didn’t.

Fr Lichtenberg

It would be so easy for ordinary citizens to turn a blind eye to the Holocaust, and indeed many did. I do not judge these people, because  faced with a similar situation I don’t know how I would react. Anyone who was critical against the Nazi regime, could face a prison sentence of worse death. And it really didn’t take that much to be sentenced to death. I can therefore understand why people ignored the things happening around them, for many it was a way to ensure survival.

There were those though how saw the injustice and evil and spoke out against it publicly. People like the Catholic Priest Fr. Bernhard Lichtenberg.

Ever since the Nazis came to power he spoke out against them. After the pogrom of November 9, 1938,known as Kristallnacht he said the following public prayer in the St. Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin.

cathredal

“We know what was yesterday. We do not know what will be tomorrow. But we have experienced what happened today. Outside, the Temple is burning. That is also a House of God.”

Lichtenberg  prayed publicly for the persecuted Jews at the daily Vespers service. Bishop Konrad von Preysing later entrusted Lichtenberg with the task of helping the Jewish community of the city, via the Welfare Office of the Berlin Diocesan Authority (“Hilfswerk”). In theory non-Aryan Christians were to be supported by the “Fund”. However  the aid was provided to every Jewish citizen who contacted the office.

Lichtenberg protested in person to Nazi officials against the arrest and killing of the sick and mentally ill.In 1941 he wrote a letter to the  chief physician of the Reich, Minister of Public Health Leonardo Conti, in relation to the T4 euthanasia program.

Conti

“I, as a human being, a Christian, a priest, and a German, demand of you, Chief Physician of the Reich, that you answer for the crimes that have been perpetrated at your bidding, and with your consent, and which will call forth the vengeance of the Lord on the heads of the German people.”

Initially the Nazis saw him more of a nuisance then a threat but his  efforts to help the Jews and his calls to put an end to the immoral actions of the Nazis grew stronger. To silence him, the Nazis arrested him on October 23, 1941, and was sentenced to 2 years in prison.But because of his unyielding opposition he was sent to Dachau. However he never reached Dachau.He collapsed and died while in transit, on 5 November 1943 in Hof, Bavaria.

BUST

He died for being a decent Human being , who spoke out about the evil he saw around him.

I am not a Catholic and I don’t believe in saints but of I had to believe in saints, he would be top of my list.

On 7 July 2004 Yad Vashem recognized Bernhard Lichtenberg as a Righteous Among the Nations.

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Sources

The Second World War: A Complete History

Bundesarchiv

Yad Vashem

 

Charles Durning WWII Veteran.

Charles Durning

Anyone who knows movies will know the name Charles Durning. He has starred in so many classic movies in a variety of genres, comedies, thrillers, musicals/ Movies like “Dog day afternoon”, “The Choirboys” ot “The best little whorehouse in Texas” the list is endless. Additionally he has also starred in a great number of TV shows.

But his illustrious career as an actor nearly didn’t happen. Charles was one of the many brave men who landed in Normandy on the 6th of June, 1944-D-Day, at age 21.

D-DAY

Even though he survived the initial assault reasonably  unscathed, he was injured by a German mine a few days later which earned him  a Purple Heart. After a recovery period of  six months, he was put back on the front lines to combat the German Ardennes offensive. In the battle of the Bulge.

During a German attack, Charles recalled that a particularly young soldier charged him, however  Charles couldn’t bring himself to fire. The two engaged in battle by using  their bayonets, and Charles got wounded again during the fight. Charles did manage to kill the German infantryman, with a rock .. After the offensive, He received his second Purple Heart.

He was discharged in January 1946 as a private first class.

He died on December 24, 2012, Christmas Eve, which is ironic because he played Santa Claus 6 times(Once as Kris Kringle)

A truly remarkable actor and human being. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Charles

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Sources

IMDB

Military.com

 

Major Jan Linzel- WW2 Hero.

Major Linzen

On May 5,2019 on the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. One of the heroes who contributed to this liberation passed away aged 103.

Like me he was Dutch and like me he had a love for Ireland and we both ended up making this emerald isle our home. But where I am merely a simpleton ,writing about history. I could only aspire to even reach 10% of the man Major Linzel was. He a true hero.

The WWII veteran had moved to Ireland in 1978 after he, his wife Marianne and their teenage son began holidaying in Glengarriff , in Co Cork five years earlier and fell in love with the locality.

Major Linzen was the last survivor of the Royal Dutch Air Force that tried to repel the Luftwaffe when Germany declared war on the Netherlands on May 10, 1940

Born in  Stadskanaal, a town of the North Eastern province Groningen the Netherlands on December 7th 1915, He  always had a keen interested in flying and, after joining the Royal Dutch Air Force in May 1938, was attached to a fighter squadron at Ypenburg when Germany declared war on the Netherlands on May 10th 1940.

He shot down two German fighters before being hit himself and bailing out with a bullet wound in the leg.

plane

In an interview with the Irish Times , 3 years ago he recalled that ‘dogfight’, in his Fokker DXX1

“I saw the silhouette of an aircraft that I had never seen before… I then saw the German markings and gave a short burst – a very bright violent flame came out of its right engine and then black smoke – it went down straight away,” he recalled.

“I climbed up again and saw a large formation of Heinkels in the direction of the Hague – I dived down to on the hindmost right aircraft and fired everything I had at close range – I am sure I hit it but I did not have time to see the result.

“When I pulled away, a bullet came through the floor and exploded in my thigh – there was a lot of blood and I started to feel faint. I threw off the hood and bailed out – you have no idea how quiet it is when you are hanging in the air.”

fokker

Landing in a field of cows, Major Linzel lay there wounded for almost two hours as a local dairy farmer reckoned he was a German paratrooper but when the farmer finally approached, Major Linzel told him that he was “as Dutch as your cows over there”

He was taken to a hospital together with some German pilots, were he was discharged after 6 weeks.

Undeterred, he joined the Dutch Resistance before making his way to Britain,via Switzerland, France, Spain and Portugal,in 1943 where he joined the RAF with whom he flew almost 100 sorties.

Members of the Royal Netherlands Air Force gathered in a quiet country graveyard in West Cork on Thursday,May 9th.2019 to honour one of the last of their famous May Fliers who defended their country against the Nazis.

RIP

Majoor Linzel, Rust in Vrede en bedankt wat U voor uw Vadeland en Koningkrijk gedaan hebt.

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I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Sources

Irish Times

Examiner

Irish Sun

 

The Librarian of Auschwitz

Auschwitz

I started reading ‘The Librarian of Auschwitz’ I got the book as a birthday present a few days ago. It is based on the story of Dita Kraus, it is partially fictional and historical.

However this blog will not be a book review nor will it be about Dita herself. The blog will be about Fredy Hirsch, one of the main people mentioned in the book.

I don’t think that people appreciate the remarkable bravery of this man. It is also one of the stories I really should have known but didn’t. Fredy was born in Aachen ,Germany which is a city not far away from where I was born and grew up, it was also a place which I visited several times a month.

To illustrate how close Aachen was to me hometwon of Geleen, in the Netherlands. In October 5th.1942 the RAF bombed Geleen, believing it to be Aachen.

But like so may other I had never heard of Fredy Hirsch. He was a revered, openly gay Jewish youth leader who brightened the lives of kids at Theresienstadt and Auschwitz and saved many from death.

Fredy

He was  the deputy supervisor of children at Theresienstadt and the supervisor of the children’s block known as Block 31  at the Theresienstadt family camp at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Due to the fact he was charismatic and German he was able to convince the SS guards to grant the children some privileges and persuaded them to allocate Block 31, for children younger than fourteen.

I will not go too much in the details of block 31 but will focus on what Fredy and others actually achieved here/ Fredy had convinced the Nazis that it would be beneficial for the children to learn German, this request was granted, But Fredy recruited others  who had been involved in education basically turned the block into a school. Knowing that education was forbidden, they also realized that it cost them their lives if it was ever discovered.

They used just the handful of books they had to educate the children. Again even the fact that they had books was punishable by death, and to make it even more dangerous for them some of the books had been from authors who were banned by the Nazi regime, Authors like H.G Wells.

Wells’s   works were banned from libraries and book stores. Wells, as president of PEN International (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), angered the Nazis by overseeing the expulsion of the German PEN club from the international body in 1934 following the German PEN’s refusal to admit non-Aryan writers to its membership. At a PEN conference in Ragusa, Wells refused to yield to Nazi sympathisers who demanded that the exiled author Ernst Toller be prevented from speaking. Even Germans caught possessing any of Well’s books could face harsh punishments.

Yet this did not deter Fredy and his fellow teachers to use Wells’s book “A Short History of the World ” as one of their educational tools.

wells

Fredy Hirsch died on March 8, 1944 and the circumstances are unclear, some say he committed suicide, others say he was poisoned. Fredy had been told that day about the preparations for the liquidation of the family camp and to urge him to lead an uprising.

But just let this sink in for a minute a Gay Jewish man educating children by using banned books in Auschwitz. The bravery of this is just beyond anything I can imagine.

stone

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Sources

The Librarian of Auschwitz

USHMM

 

Tina Strobos-Forgotten Hero

Tina

I had not heard of Tina Strobos before although I have read so much about WWII and the Holocaust, but for some reason her name escaped me. She was born Tineke Buchter.

She was a  was a Dutch physician and psychiatrist from Amsterdam and during WWII she was involved in the Dutch resistance.Together with her mother and grandmother she provided a safe place for about 100 Jews during the German occupation of the Netherlands.

She used her house to hide these Jews,  usually three or four individuals at a time,using a secret compartment in the attic  and a warning bell system to keep them safe from the many sudden police raids. She also smuggled guns and radios for the Dutch resistance and forged passports, by stealing stole  cards from non-Jewish people at social gatherings, to help refugees escape the country..

foged

She knew that if she was ever discovered she would face a certain death.

During the course of the war, she  had been arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo nine times.[ During these interrogations, She would be held by her wrists and thrown against a wall,once she was even knocked unconscious.Despite all this  she never once betrayed the whereabouts of those she hid. In order to endure the interrogations , Tina  learned certain tactics. She always requested for an  interpreter, even though she was  fluent in German, this bought her some time to compose herself. A Nazi officer once commented on her legs, she used this to her advantage and became more courageous : “I realized that he was just a man and he was interested in my legs. So that gave me a sense of power.”

This heroic woman died age 91 on February 27,2012 in New York. Because of people like her I am proud to be Dutch.

 

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Max Schmeling-defying an evil regime

mAX

Often the psyche of people is that they see what they want  to see. They see a headline or a picture and they will have made up their minds. There is no further need for more details on the background story, they have enough to work with and make up their own story.

For example people will see the picture of Max Schmeling above giving the Nazi salute and they will just assume that Max clearly was a Nazi sympathizer.

Or they see the picture below of Max Shchmeling being warmly received by   Adolf Hitler and immediately they will think that Max was one of Hitler’s best buddies and favourite sports man. But on both occasions they could not be much further from the truth.

Max and AH

Truth is that Max Schmeling also saw things but he did not like what he saw and refused to join the Nazi party, which would have consequences for him. Not only did he not join the Nazi party he also saved a few Jewish boys and refused to fire his Jewish boxing promoter Joe Jacobs.

Max was a world champion heavyweight fighter from Germany whose two fights with Joe Louis transcended boxing and became worldwide political events because of their racial and international significance.

I will not go into Max’s boxing career. I will only focus on 2 matches ,both against the boxing legend Joe Louis.

On Friday 19, June 1936 Max Schmeling beat Joe Louis in the Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, USA

KO

Less then 2 years later in the same venue on Wednesday 22, June 1938, Joe Louis got his revenge and beat Max Schmeling and took back the World Heavyweight Title. The fight had been  portrayed as the battle of the Aryan versus the Black, a struggle of evil against good .When Louis regained his title, Hitler took Schmeling’s defeat as an embarrassment to the nation.

In an interview in 1975 ,Schmeling remembered the defeat: “Looking back, I’m almost happy I lost that fight. Just imagine if I would have come back to Germany with a victory. I had nothing to do with the Nazis, but they would have given me a medal. After the war I might have been considered a war criminal.”

KO2

During the 1938 November Pogrom-Kristallnacht- Max hid the 2 sons of his Jewish friend David Lewin. He hid the 2 boys ,Henry and Werner, in his apartment at the Excelsior Hotel in Berlin. Schmeling had told the front desk of the Hotel that he was ill and was not to be disturbed.

After things had calmed down Schmeling helped the 2 boys flee the country. The boys escaped to the United States, where Henri got a great career in managing Hotels, including the Hilton in Las Vegas.Henri Lewin was convinced  that he and his brother owe their lives to Schmeling and he sincerely believed that Schmeling himself could have died for saving them.

In 1923 Schmeing had hired Jewish New York born boxing promoter Joe Jacobs. Hitler had demanded that Schmeling would fire Jacobs, Schmeling refused to do so.

Because his refusal of joining the Nazi party ,he was him drafted into the Paratroopers and was sent him on very dangerous missions.He did partake in the Battle of Crete in May 1941, where he was wounded in his right knee by mortar fire shrapnel during the first day of the battle. After recovering, he was dismissed from active service after being deemed medically unfit for duty because of his injury.

Max remained a close friend of Joe Louis and even paid for Joe’s funeral in 1981. and became a successful business man in Germany after the war. He had been hired by Coca Cola to run the company  in Germany, .

He only once gave the Nazi salute and regretted it for the remainder of his life. He died on February 2, 2005.

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Mercer Greene Abernathy- A hero who gave his life for strangers.

Mercer

One of the definitions of a hero is “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character”

Mercer G. Abernathy was such a person and even though I don’t know him it is with a 100% certainty I can state he was a hero.

I know nothing of this man except for his Army records and a page of his high school year book, and that he  was born on December 29, 1924. in Texas

football

He doesn’t even have a grave because he died in Germany or the Netherlands  missing In Action as navigator on a B17 Flying Fortress.

All that he is remembered by is his name on a memorial marker in the Netherlands American War Cemetery in Margraten near Maastricht in the Netherlands.

Memorial

He died in a foreign land trying to liberate strangers from evil.

At the entrance of American War Cemetery in Margraten there is a text on a building which says

“In Memory of the Valor and sacrifices which hallow this soil”

Earlier this year I visited the cemetery and said a prayer for all of those buried there and remembered there and said a few separate prayers for a few, Mercer Greene Abernathy was one of those few for I owe so much to those men.

Dear Sir I salute you.

Valot

 

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Desperation and Survival

sonder

I have often wondered how the Sonderkommandos coped with their  work.

Sonderkommandos were the were forced labour units made up of  Nazi death camp prisoners. usually Jews.They were forced to help with the disposal of gas chamber victims among other duties. Sometimes even removing family members.

It is not like they had a choice, it was either work and have a chance to survive or get killed themselves. I have heard people call them traitors but I don’t subscribe to that point of view, The basic instinct of any human being is to survive.

How hard it was for these victims, for they to were victims, is illustrated in the testimony of Filip Müller, a Slovak Jewish member of the Sonderkommando.

Muller

Filip had become so desperate that he tried to commit suicide by smuggling himself into the gas chamber.

Below are some excerpts from his testimony taken from his book ‘ Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers’

“In the great confusion near the door I managed to mingle with the pushing and shoving crowd of people who were being driven into the gas chamber. Quickly I ran to the back and stood behind one of the concrete pillars. I thought that here I would remain undiscovered until the gas chamber was full, when it would be locked. Until then I must try to remain unnoticed. I was overcome by a feeling of indifference: everything had become meaningless. Even the thought of a painful death from Zyklon B gas, whose effect I of all people knew only too well, no longer filled me with fear and horror. I faced my fate with composure.Eyewitness

Inside the gas chamber the singing had stopped. Now there was only weeping and sobbing. People, their faces smashed and bleeding, were still streaming through the door, driven by blows and goaded by vicious dogs. Desperate children who had become separated from their parents in the scramble were rushing around calling for them. All at once, a small boy was standing before me. He looked at me curiously; perhaps he had noticed me there at the back standing all by myself. Then, his little face puckered with worry, he asked timidly: “Do you know where my mummy and my daddy are hiding?” I tried to comfort him, explaining that his parents were sure to be among all those people milling round in the front part of the room. “You run along there,” I told him, “and they’ll be waiting for you, you’ll see.”

The only reason he survived is because he was approached by a few girls.

“Suddenly a few girls, naked and in the full bloom of youth, came up to me. They stood in front of me without a word, gazing at me deep in thought and shaking their heads uncomprehendingly. At last one of them plucked up courage and spoke to me: “We understand that you have chosen to die with us of your own free will, and we have come to tell you that we think your decision pointless: for it helps no one.” She went on: “We must die, but you still have a chance to save your life. You have to return to the camp, and tell everybody about our last hours,” she commanded. “You have to explain to them that they must free themselves from any illusions. They ought to fight, that’s better than dying here helplessly. It’ll be easier for them, since they have no children. As for you, perhaps you’ll survive this terrible tragedy and then you must tell everybody what happened to you. One more thing,” she went on, “you can do me one last favour: this gold chain around my neck: when I’m dead, take it off and give it to my boyfriend Sasha. He works in the bakery. Remember me to him. Say ‘love from Yana.’ When it’s all over, you’ll find me here.” She pointed at a place next to the concrete pillar where I was standing. Those were her last words.”

Burning bodies

Müller first testified during his recovery in a post-liberation hospital and subsequently in several trials. His testimonies were included in “The Death Factory” written by two fellow Holocaust survivors, Erich Kulka and Ota Kraus. He was also interviewed for the 1985 French documentary Shoah by Claude Lanzmann, who himself had been a Holocaust survivor and French resistance fighter.

Müller died on November 9, 2013. In my opinion there is only one word to describe him. Hero.

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