Heinz Sommerfeld-Transport Ek no. 1458 (28. 09. 1944, Terezín -> Auschwitz)

Heinz

Around this time of year many 17 year old kids are getting ready for school exams. And although they may think it is unfair that they have to sit for hours and hours, to do their exams(I know I thought it was unfair). They don’t actually realize how lucky they are.

Education, even though it is a basic human right.it is not a certainty and it should be seen as a privilege when it is given to you.

I am sure Heinz Sommerfeld would have loved to have done his exams when he was 17, but he never got the chance. His biggest worry was staying alive, and because of an evil regime he did not succeed in that either.

He was born in Berlin on March 26th, 1927. On January 5th, 1939, aged 11, he  came to the Netherlands as a refugee without his parents on a  Kindertransport. (children’s transport)

Kinder

When he arrived in the Netherlands he was first in an orphanage in Amsterdam, but in November 1939 he was put in foster care with the Lipschits family in Maastricht . However a few months after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands he was moved again to an orphanage, this time in Utrecht.

In February 1942 he was deported to Westerbork. On January 20th, 1944 he was put on the train to Theresienstadt, from where he was deported to Auschwitz on September 28th, 1944 on transport 1458. A total of 2499 persons were registered on that transport. Heinz was one of them.

The train arrived in Auschwitz on September 29th,1944. What happened to the other 2498 I don’t know, but Heinz was murdered in the gas chambers upon arrival.

He was murdered not because he was bad but because he was perceived to be different, He was Jewish that was enough for the Nazis to kill him.

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“Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy”

Gilbert

The title of this blog is a quote from Captain G. M. Gilbert. which he quoted after the Nuremberg trials. He was  appointed the prison psychologist of the German prisoners. During the process of the Nuremberg trials , During this time he became a confidant to several of the defendants ,including Hermann Göring.

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from his or her point of view, rather than from one’s own. In short to ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

To a great extend I agree with his opinion. However a psychopath can also imagine him or herself in the situation or circumstances of another person. But where someone with empathy use their use their ability for good and to facilitate a helping hand where possible, a psychopath uses this ability to better their own position at any cost regardless the price anyone else has to pay.

Gilbert had a famous exchange with Göring, which he recorded in his book”The Psychology of Dictatorship “.

Below is the text of that exchange.

“Göring: Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Göring indicates here that he understands that no one wants war, but he also knows how easy it is to get people to do things they usually would not even contemplate, once you set the conditions for it.

I think a good lesson can be learned from that. The Holocaust happened, but it is not unthinkable something like this could happen again, and what scares me most it could  perhaps happen on an even  bigger scale.The times may have changed but deep down mankind hasn’t.

nuremberg

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The parallel universe in Auschwitz.

Villa

I was struggling with the title but to be honest I can’t think there is another way of describing it.

An estimated 1.5 to 2 million children were killed during the Holocaust. How many were killed in Auschwitz is not clear but if you consider that for example on October 10,1944 800 gypsy children were gassed, it will give you some indication of how many children were killed in the 5 years the camp was in operation.

auschwitz

Yet some children had a great time in Auschwitz. They lived a very idyllic live, without a care in the world. They had nice clothes,plenty of food,toys and were able to play outside and even go for a swim. These 5 children lived in a parallel universe compared to those children who lived only a few yards away from them.

They were the children of Rudolf Höss, the longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz.

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After ordering to kill children in the camp Rudolf Höss, would go home and play with his own children, Their villa was adjacent to the camp and the gate of the garden would actually come out in the camp.

The villa was so close you could see the prisoner blocks and old crematorium from the upstairs window.The family decorated their home with furniture and art taken from prisoners as they were selected for the gas chambers. It was a life of luxury only a few short steps from horror and torment.

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children

 

Most of Höss’s children denied that the Holocaust ever happened. His Daughter Brigitte did not deny that atrocities took place or that Jews and others were murdered in the concentration camps, but she doubted that millions were killed.

In 1972 she moved to Washington with her Husband.Where she got a job in a Fashion salon which was owned by a Jewish couple who had fled  Nazi Germany after the Kristallnacht in 1938.

Höss’s grandson Rainer, is the only member of his family to publicly denounce his grandfather. He has been involved in several documentaries highlighting the evil acts of his grandfather.

Once he was asked what he would do to his grandfather, he answered ” I would kill him myself”.

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Sources

BBC

Daily Telegraph

Mail On line

Independent.co.uk

Jerusalem Post

 

 

The Green Triangle -The first prisoners in Auschwitz

gREEN

Many people believe that the industrialized scale killing of Jews, Homosexuals,Roma and others in Auschwitz started immediately when the camp had opened.

But the fact is that for the first few weeks there were only 30 prisoners. On May 20,1940 the first 30 numbers were assigned to  German prisoners who had been designated as professional criminals.

They were known as “greens” after the green triangles they were required to wear on their prison clothing.

Up to the 14th of June these were the only prisoners in Auschwitz. The prisoner assigned number 31 was the first political prisoner. He was Stanisław Ryniak a Polish political prisoner who had arrived on June 14,1940 with the first mass transport to Auschwitz.

31

Stanislaw survived and died aged 88 on February 13, 2004.

The first gassings started at September 3, 1941.

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Dr. Leonhard Levy.

LRVY

I often wonder how many really died during the Holocaust and where they did stop being considered a fatality of the Holocaust?

I think the real numbers are much higher because I don’t think the numbers include victims who died after the war as a direct result of the Holocaust.

Dr. Leonhard Levy was born July 14, 1898, in Hamburg .He married Gertraud Friedländer  in April 1943. I wish I could say more about him, but unfortunately there is not much more I found out. The only thing I know, but I don’t even know for certain is that at some stage he moved to the Netherlands.

What I do know for certain is that he had been imprisoned in Bergen Belsen concentration camp and was liberated from there. However due to the hardships he had endured while imprisoned, he had become very ill.He eventually still succumbed to the horrors of Bergen Belsen and died on November 23,1945,in Vaals , the Netherlands more then 6 Months after the liberation of the Netherlands.

Dutch Notification

He was laid to rest on November 26,1945 in a Cemetery in Maastricht.I know it’s not much but the only consolations is that he died a free man surrounded by people who loved him. His wife survived the war.

begraaf

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Scrappy invaluable bits of paper.

letter

This week the painting with the name “Haystacks” by Claude Monet was sold for $110 Million.But that value pales compared to the value of the scrappy bits of paper which contained the last words of those who were killed in the Holocaust.

Those bits of paper are invaluable and no amount of money on earth, could ever reflect their value.

The letter at the start of the blog was written by Martijn Konijn on January 11,1943 It was mots probably smuggled out of Westerbork, It is not clear to who it was addressed to but it must have been either a Brother or Sister in Law. The letter is in Dutch but below is the translation.

“Westerbork 11/1 ‘43

I write you because than I am sure it will arrive.

Today on transport to the east I salute you all family and friends.

I hope you won’t forget me en hope to see all of you again.

Don’t send anything to Westerbork because I won’t be there.

Show all people who know me, this card. It is a pity but cannot do anything about it.

Bye. Your brother in law Martijn.

MARTIJN KONIJN Westerbork B66.

The latter below was the last sign of life of Leendert Arbeid. he died in 26 February 1943.

Leendert

It can’t make out the address at the to of the letter but it was written on February 23,1942. This letter is also in Dutch .

letter 2

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Today we went on transport.Think as long as possible about Jeff and Stella who are in Vught(another camp).Warn the family, also Abram and Gina, Hoping to see each other again some day. Leendert en Jet.

Many kisses and greetings to everyone also (can’t make out the first name) Bandy and Sophie.

Leendert had been married to Henriette Achtsteribbe(I believe he calls her Jet in the letter). They got married on March 24,1920. They both died on February 26, 1943 in Auschwitz.

akte

The story of Louis van Leeuwen is probably the saddest of the three. His famly don’t even know the exact date or place where he died.

louis van leeuwen

The Dutch Red Cross declared on the 27th of  November 1951 that Louis died   not earlier than 15-01-1945 and latest 02-02-1945, somewhere in the Middle of Europe,either Auschwitz or Gross Rosen.

declaratie

Below is the last letter Louis wrote, he addressed it to his wife but I could not trace the name of his wife, the letter is in Dutch with the English translation below.

Louis

 

“Dearest wife

In relation to my health, I am well, Via this way I want to let you know that Riba and many other seamstresses have received a letter to come to the “Centralstelle” with proof of identification to receive a stamp.Inform yourself once more how it is with(after that there is a line I couldn’t read because it was in a crease of the paper)

I got dressed again but I will stay at home, therefore my value won’t decrease because I remain at home the whole day.

Strength in your knees and much power/

Your loving husband and reliance.

Louis van Leeuwen”

Louis’s sister was Roza van Leeuwen. She married Salomon Arbeid in July 1948. Salomon was the son of Leendert and Henriette Arbeid.

Bruidspaar

Although those last few words of those three men were written on scrappy bits of pieces. Those bits of papers have become invaluable for their loved ones who survived.

 

 

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Sources

Holocaust History Archive

Joods Monument.

 

Painting for Mengele.

Painting

When you look at some bizarre connections in History, you cannot escape the fact that life sometimes has a ironic way of weaving a tapestry of coincidences.

One of Hitler’s favourite movies was the Walt Disney classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” released in 1937.

Disney

One of the main animators of the movie was Art Babbitt. an animator who joined the Disney studio in 1932. He  was born to a Jewish family in Omaha, Nebraska.

But that’s not where this tapestry of coincidences,or even fate, stops.

Dina Gottliebová was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia on January 21, 1923 .She was raised by her Mother, Johanna Schawl, a lone parent . Her mother had left Dina’s father when she was only 4 months old.

When Snow white and the Seven dwarfs was released, Dina must have seen the movie at least 7 times.

In 1939, when the Germans invaded her homeland, Dina was living in Prague, where she had enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1942  Dina’s mother received a summons that the Jews were being moved. Dina  left school and volunteered to be shipped out with her mother to , Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia.

Thersien

She was actually sent to Theresienstadt on Jan. 21, 1942, her 19th birthday. Dina and her mother stayed there until Sept. 7, 1943 when they were among 5,000 people transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

In 1944, while in Auschwitz, Dina was chosen by Mengele to draw portraits of Roma Gypsy prisoners .Mengele wished to capture the Roma’s skin coloration better than he could with camera and film at that time. Dina agreed if her own mother’s life were spared as well,Mengele agreed.

One of the people she painted was called Celine. Dina says of painting her muse back in 1944.

“She was very sad and I said, ‘Are you sick?’”  “Celine  said, ‘My baby just died.’ It was a 2-month-old baby and she couldn’t get anything to feed the baby and didn’t have any milk. And Celine couldn’t eat anything. We had black bread with something in it—too much bran or something that made people sick—and I said, ‘Well, can I help with something?’ She said, ‘You can get some white bread.’”

Dina asked Mengele for some white bread. He delivered and Dina sneaked it to Celine, but unfortunately Celine did not survive the death camp. (I believe the portrait below is of Celine but I could not verify it, But it is definitely one of Dina’s paintings)

celine portarit

Both Dina and her Mother survived the Holocaust.Dina moved to the US after the war.

However this is not where this tapestry of life stops. There was to be one more twist to Dina’s life. On April 27,1949, Dina married Art Babbitt. The man who was the main animator of the movie she had watched so many times.

Their marriage didn’t last though. They got divorced in 1963. Dina died aged 86 on July 29,2009, in Santa Cruz California

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Sources

Goodtimes.sc

The Jewish News of Northern California

IMDb.

 

 

 

May 10,1933- Book burning.

Book Burning

A scary thought crossed my mind this week. What some Social Media outlets are doing nowadays, is basically the digital version of book burning. Regardless how valuable a post might be, or even how inoffensive it is when the moderators don’t like it , it will get banned,or digitally burned so to speak.

On May 10,1933 German university students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of perceived “un-German” books, foreshadowing an era of state censorship and control of culture. On the evening of May 10, in the majority of German university towns, right-wing students marched in torchlight parades “against the un-German spirit.” The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, university rectors, and university student leaders to address the participants and spectators.

may 10

The books ranged from Bebel, Bernstein, Preuss, and Rathenau through Einstein, Freud, Brecht, Brod, Döblin, Kaiser, the Mann brothers, Zweig, Plievier, Ossietzky, Remarque, Schnitzler, and Tucholsky, to Barlach, Bergengruen, Broch, Hoffmannsthal, Kästner, Kasack, Kesten, Kraus, Lasker-Schüler, Unruh, Werfel, Zuckmayer, and Hesse. The catalogue went back far enough to include literature from Heine and Marx to Kafka. But also books from H.G Wells,Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf.

What amazes me most about this, these weren’t uneducated people doing this but students and lecturers, and other academics willingly participating in the destruction of scientific research and history.

books collected

These academics had become the moderators of what could or could not be read.

It is true history does repeat itself.

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The young people who fought back.

 

I have many weaknesses ,one of them is that I have a very low tolerance or even no tolerance for people who have a warped sense of entitlement. I know I shouldn’t be intolerant and just rise above it , but I find that very hard at times.

Especially when it comes to the snowflake generation or millennials. A millennial is described  as “a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century.Or people born between the years of 1981 to 1998. I have to say not all of these people do have that sense of entitlement, there are many very decent people among them. It is only a minority of millennials but is a very vocal minority, They appear to have a problem for every solution. Generally they have not experienced any hardships but yet they claim their lives are much worse then that of the generation before them.

Then I come across stories of extremely brave young people like Mordechai Anielewicz,Mira Fuchrer and Rachel (Sarenka) Zylberberg(all pictured above)zob

These 3 young people ,who were in the same age bracket as the millenials, all died this day 76 years ago in Warsaw, May 8,1943. They were all members of the  Jewish Combat Organizationor ZOB in Polish), a resistance movement in occupied Poland, which was instrumental in engineering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

 

The youth groups that were instrumental in forming the ŻOB had anticipated German intentions to annihilate Warsaw Jewry and began to shift from an educational and cultural focus to self-defense and eventual armed struggle

Their headquarters  was a bunker based on Ulica Miła 18 (or 18 Pleasant Street in English)

I am not going too much into the details of the group. I leave that up to all of you to do the homework on that, Because there is so much information on them.

Suffice to say that Mordechai Anielewicz was the leader of the ZOB and Mira Fuchrer was his girlfiend. Together with their friend Rachel  Zylberberg they played a pivotal role in the uprising at the cost of their lives.

On the 8th of May they were in the bunker with a group of about 120 fighters, when the bunker was discovered.s They were surrounded by the Nazis but the young resistance  fighters refused to surrender. Many of them committed suicide.

bunker

These heroes should never be forgotten.

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One last song

betty

I want to sing one last song , maybe “Hoedje van Papier” (hat made out of paper) my Dad sings that for me everyday and I know all the words.

I want to draw one more picture. Perhaps of a butterfly who sits still on a tulip in the garden.

I want to have one more ice cream, vanilla flavour if you don’t mind.

I want to hear my Mother read to me one more time. The Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales I like the most.

I want to feel the warmth of the sun one more time.

I want to sing one more song, but I can’t.

I am Betty Vredenburg daughter of Abracham and Rachel.

Born in Amsterdam on May 6th 1940, 4 days before the Nazis came.

I want to sing one more song, but my voice was silenced on May 22,1944 in Auschwitz. I was only 4.

Yes I was only 4.

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Thanks Melody and Sudhir for bringing Betty to my attention