Dunes of Death

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Waalsdorpervlakte, in the dunes by the Dutch seaside village of Scheveningen, was one of the most notorious spots during the Second World War. On this desolate sand plain more than 250 people were killed by the Germans.

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Most were members of the Dutch Resistance who risked their lives in the struggle against the Nazi occupier. In their last moments they walked across the sand, were bound to wooden poles and waited for the firing squad to line up. The shots that followed put an end to their lives. The first execution carried out here was on 3 March 1941 when the Germans shot Ernst Cahn, who had organized Resistance activities from his ice cream parlour in Amsterdam.

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In 1945, out of respect and appreciation for the fallen, five large memorial crosses were fashioned from the wooden execution poles. These wooden crosses were replaced by bronze copies in 1981.

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Marion Pritchard-Van Binsbergen- WWII Hero-Real Girl power.

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Dutch hero Marion Pritchard-Van Binsbergen died at the age of 96 in Washington on December 11th, 2016.

Marion Pritchard, (née van Binsbergen; was a Dutch-American social worker and psychoanalyst, who distinguished herself as a savior of Jews in the Netherlands during the Second World War. Pritchard helped save approximately 150 Dutch Jews, most of them children, throughout the German occupation of the Netherlands.In addition to protecting these people’s lives, she was imprisoned by Nazis, worked in collaboration with the Dutch resistance, and shot and killed a Dutch Nazi.

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Marion Pritchard grew up in the Netherlands, the daughter of liberal judge Jacob van Binsbergen, who was on the board of regents for the prisons of Amsterdam. Her parents encouraged her to express her feelings and to expect honest answers from them. She recalled going to school with Jews in every class and reported that they were “considered Dutch like everyone else”. At age 19, she enrolled in a school for social work in Amsterdam

When the war started in May 1940, she was studying social sciences at the University of Amsterdam.

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During her social work studies, Pritchard (then van Binsbergen) was arrested while staying overnight during curfew with friends, who—unbeknownst to her—had been distributing transcripts of Allied radio broadcasts, and was imprisoned for seven months.

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A year later, when the Germans began with the mass deportation of Jews, Marion intervened again. Along with 10 friends, she started a resistance that helped Jews find places to hide, getting them food stamps and false identities.

She then took on more dangerous activities when she was tasked with delivering a package to a home in the northern part of the country. Along the journey, she was given a baby girl by a stranger. Upon reaching her destination, she found out that the people she was supposed to deliver the package to had been arrested. She then took shelter with a man and his wife, originally not part of the operation, who agreed to take care of her and the baby

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Marion also managed to hide Fred Polak and his three children for over three years in a home outside Amsterdam. When Germans raided the home with a Dutch police officer, she hid the Jewish family under the floor. The Dutch officer returned and found the family. Marion shot him to protect them and hid his body, with the help of a local mortician, by burying it in a coffin that already contained someone else.

After the war she joined the United Nations and helped refugees who were displaced from their home. Here she met her husband Anton Pritchard, a US Army officer. They moved to the United States, where she continued to work with refugees.

The Pink Triangle

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Hitler considered homosexuals “infectious” and sought to isolate or exterminate them to ensure his pure German master race. Most of what the Nazis called “die Rosa-Winkel” (the Pink Triangles), died – possibly up to 15,000 of them – either from exhaustion or starvation in the camps or on long marches led by the Nazi SS as allied forces closed in.

Shortly after the Nazis became the only legal party in the Third Reich, homosexual men and women became the target of police raids and interrogation. Under a section of the existing 1871 German Penal code, known as Paragraph 175 (§ 175), homosexual men could be arrested and tried. Paragraph 175 made sexual acts between men a punishable act.

Although the code was operational prior to 1933 it was largely ignored throughout Germany. The ‘unnatural’ sexual act of sodomy itself was difficult to prove unless actually caught while still in progress, making criminal charges cumbersome in many cases.

Before Hitler became Chancellor, the act was almost repealed in parliament as a result of the pioneering campaigning by sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld.

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When the Nazi party came to power the act was adjusted to include further punishment for homosexual men and the code was used as the main instrument to arrest both known homosexuals and later, men suspected of homosexual acts. The photo below is a police identity picture showing a German man arrested in October 1937 for violating Paragraph 175.

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By June 28th 1935, and in effect from September 1st 1935, the new § 175 had been revised to include indecency and two further additions: 175a and 175b.

By 1944 a suggestion of homosexuality was all that was required for an arrest and many more men found themselves arrested and imprisoned.

To differentiate between the various groups in the camps, the Nazis devised a simple system of easy identification. Besides the individual numbering system of tattooing each prisoner on entry, various cloth symbols and letters were sewn onto uniforms and worn at all times to aid instant recognition.

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Initially homosexuals were identified by the letter ‘A’, which was sewn on to their left breast or trouser leg. The ‘A’ stood for Arschficker, which is the German word for ‘Ass-F*cker’. Later replaced by a triangle system as shown in the chart above recovered from the Dachau camp in Germany.

The Nazis soon developed a system of several different coloured triangles: yellow for Jews; red for political ; green for criminals; purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses; black for a-socials; brown for gypsies; blue for emigrants and pink for homosexuals. Jewish homosexuals were made to wear both the yellow triangle and the pink triangle, which undoubtedly left them feel ‘the lowest of the low’.

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In some of the early concentration and ‘security camps’ a blue bar worn on the breast and sleeve identified homosexual inmates. It also identified catholic and political prisoners

The pink triangle, or Rosa Winkel, was the most associated symbol for men held under § 175. Inmates were made to wear a large piece of pink cloth on the breast side of their clothes  and a larger one across their backs. The pink triangle was made 2cm larger than any of the other identification triangle so that guards and other prisoners could clearly see when a homosexual prisoner was approaching.

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Prisoners with the pink triangle made little contact with other prisoners for fear of further persecution. By associating with the pink triangles, other detainees would have almost certainly drawn unwanted attention on to themselves and the best way of avoiding further abuse was clearly to remain as invisible as possible.

In the Berlin Nollendorfplatz subway station, a pink triangle plaque honors gay male victims.

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Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, of whom some 50,000 were officially sentenced.Most of these men served time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 of those sentenced were incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps.It is unclear how many of the 5,000 to 15,000 eventually died in the camps, but leading scholar Rüdiger Lautmann believes that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60%. Homosexuals in the camps were treated in an unusually cruel manner by their captors.

Berthold von Stauffenberg- The Brother of Claus.

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Most people will have heard of Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the main conspirators of the 20th of July assassination plot. Many books have been written about him and several movies were made about him, one the most recent ones ‘Valkyrie’ with Tom Cruise in the title role.

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But there was another von Stauffenberg involved in the 20th July plot,Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg.

I am not going to go to deep into his early life but will focus more on his last days and will also go in to the question of how heroic the von Stauffenberg brothers really were.

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Berthold was the oldest of four brothers (the second being Berthold’s twin Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg) born into an old and distinguished aristocratic South German Catholic family. His parents were the last Oberhofmarschall of the Kingdom of Württemberg.

In 1939, he joined the German Navy, working in the High Command as a staff judge and advisor for international law.

Berthold’s apartment at Tristanstraße in Berlin, where his brother Claus also lived for some time, was a meeting place for the 20 July conspirators, including their cousin Peter Yorck von Wartenburg. As Claus had access to the inner circle around Hitler, he was assigned to plant a bomb at the Führers briefing hut at the military high command in Rastenburg, East Prussia, on 20 July 1944. Claus then flew to Rangsdorf airfield south of Berlin where he met with Berthold. They went together to Bendlerstraße, which the coup leaders intended to utilize as the centre of their operations in Berlin.

Hitler survived the bomb blast and the coup failed.

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Berthold and his brother were arrested at Bendlerstraße the same night. Claus was executed by firing squad shortly afterwards.

After his arrest, Stauffenberg was questioned by the Gestapo about his views about the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”. Stauffenberg told the Gestapo that “he and his brother had basically approved of the racial principle of National Socialism, but considered it to be ‘exaggerated’ and ‘excessive’” Stauffenberg went on to state.

“The racial idea has been grossly betrayed in this war in that the best German blood is being irrevocably sacrificed, while simultaneously Germany is populated by millions of foreign workers, who certainly cannot be described as of high racial quality”

Berthold was tried in the Volksgerichtshof (“People’s Court”) by Roland Freisler on 10 August and was one of eight conspirators executed by strangulation, hanged in Plötzensee Prison, Berlin, later that day. Before he was killed Berthold was strangled and then revived multiple times.The entire execution and multiple resuscitations were filmed for Hitler to view at his leisure.

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Although their acts could be seen as heroic but both of the brothers had signed to the idea of the Nazi regime, and it was clear from the outset what that regime’s policies were.

Claus von Stauffenberg and his regiment took part in the attack on Poland. He supported the occupation of Poland and its handling by the Nazi regime and the use of Poles as slave workers to achieve German prosperity as well as German colonization and exploitation of Poland. The deeply rooted belief common in the German aristocracy was that the Eastern territories, populated predominantly by Poles and partly absorbed by Prussia in partitions of Poland, but taken from the German Empire after World War I, should be colonized as the Teutonic Knights had done in the Middle Ages. Stauffenberg said, “It is essential that we begin a systemic colonization in Poland. But I have no fear that this will not occur”.

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By July 1944 it was pretty clear that the Germans were going to lose the war. And I wonder if it had been different, would the von Stauffenbergs (or any of the other conspirators)have been such willing participants in an assassination plot?

Leon Jessel- Was he misguided, believing the Nazis would leave him alone?

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Leon Jessel,(January 22, 1871 – January 4, 1942) was a German composer of operettas and light classical music pieces. Althouh if I had beem up to his parents Samuel and Mary Jessel, he would have become a textile sales man.His  Father however was a gifted violinist.

Today Leon Jessel  is best known internationally as the composer of the popular jaunty march The Parade of the Tin Soldiers, also known as The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.

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Jessel was a prolific composer who wrote hundreds of light orchestral pieces, piano pieces, songs, waltzes, mazurkas, marches, choruses, and other salon music. He achieved considerable acclaim with a number of his operettas — in particular Schwarzwaldmädel (Black Forest Girl), which remains popular to this day.

Because Jessel was a Jew by birth (he converted to Christianity at the age of 23), with the rise of Nazism in the late 1920s, his composing virtually came to an end, and his musical works, which had been very popular, were suppressed and nearly forgotten.

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Jessel was a Jew who converted to Christianity at the age of 23 in order to marry a Christian woman. They moved to Berlin in 1911, where Jessel continued his composing. He and his wife divorced and Jessel remarried in 1921. All through the 1920s and into the 1930s, his operettas were popular. The music was light but robust, and the plots fed the nostalgia for turn-of-the-century German imperial enthusiasm—such catchy songs, for example, as “We Wander through the Wide, Wide World” from The Girl from the Back Forest.

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As a matter of fact, that operetta was one of Hitler’s favorites. In 1930 the handwriting on the wall in Germany was perhaps still unclear. Maybe Jessel thought that his conversion to Christianity and his sense of nationalism would stand him in good stead. His second wife was even a member of the NSDAP (the Nazi party). Yet, none of that helped. None of it. His works were banned in 1933.  (Ironically, in that same year the German post office issued a commemorative stamp on the occasion of the first filming of Jessel’s Black Forest operetta!).

His wife was expelled from the Nazi party in 1934; Jessel was forced out of the Reichsmusikkammer (State Music Bureau) in 1937 and the recording and distribution of his music was prohibited. In 1939, he wrote to a friend: “I cannot work in a time when hatred of Jews threatens my people with destruction, where I do not know when that gruesome fate will likewise be knocking at my door.” The Gestapo came calling in 1941 and arrested Jessel for spreading Greuelmärchen (“horror stories”) about the state.

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The Gestapo took him to their infamous torture chamber at Alexanderplatz in Berlin. He was then taken to a hospital where he died on January 4, 1942.

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Holocaust – the statistics

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Victims Killed
Jews 5.93 million
Ethnic Poles 2.7–3.2 million
Ukrainian Slavs 3 million
Soviet POWs 2–3 million
Belarusian Slavs 1.5 million
Serbs 300,000–500,000
Disabled 270,000
Romani 90,000–220,000
Freemasons 80,000–200,000
Slovenes 20,000–25,000
Homosexuals 5,000–15,000
Jehovah’s
Witnesses
2,500–5,000
Spanish Republicans 7,000

 

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The numbers are truly staggering but to be honest I don’t really care if 500,000 or 15 million got killed, for these numbers are statistics and that is all they are.But every number has a story.

I am interested in the first victim, for the Holocaust didn’t start at the 6th million Jewish victim but the first.

On April 12th 1933 Arthur Kahn was executed in the newly build concentration camp,Dachau.

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Ernst Goldmann, Rudolf Benario and Erwin Kahn were executed shortly afterwards. This fact is important to determine where the guilt lies for the Holocaust. In April 1933 the world knew about Dachau and although there are no records about it but these executions most have certainly being mentioned in the global media.

Because of the political situation in Germany there were thousands of international reporters working and living in Germany, and they surely most have heard of the executions of 4 Jewish men.

In 1933 Germany wasn’t yet the powerful nation it became in later years and it would have been so easy for the allied governments and the league if nations  to intervene and hold Hitler and his henchmen to account ,for Germany was still bound to the treaty of Versailles. And if they would have read “Mein Kampf” they would have seen the blueprint of things to come

But they failed to do so therefor giving Hitler a cart blanche to do whatever he wanted to do.

Nazi Germany were the executioners but they were empowered by the league of nations.

 

Chelmno Extermination camp

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To say that Chelmno is a forgotten extermination camp would be an overstatement,however there are many people who have never heard of this camp.

Many think there were only a few concentration camps but in fact there were hundreds.

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Chelmno was the first Nazi camp where gassing was used to murder Jews on a large scale. The site was chosen due to the village’s position in the Warthegau region (previously an area of Western Poland, but now part of Nazi Germany). It was 47 kilometres to the west of the Lodz ghetto where many of the victims came from.

A total of 320,000 people were murdered at Chelmno. These included Jews from the Lodz ghetto and throughout the area, in addition to 5,000 Roma who had been previously sent to the ghetto.

Chelmno consisted of two sites, just two and a half miles apart. The first was located in a large manor house, known as ‘The Palace’.

As there was no railway running through the village of Chelmno, the victims were taken by train to a nearby station. They then walked or were loaded onto trucks to the Chelmno camp reception area.

 

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The first group of victims arrived at Chelmno on 7 December 1941. The following day the first exterminations took place. The killings continued throughout 1942. By March 1943 the camp was dismantled because all the Jews in the area had been murdered, except those in Lodz.

On arrival at the Palace camp, the victims were addressed by the camp commandant or one of his deputies, who was disguised as the squire of the estate, wearing a feather hat, jackboots and smoking a pipe.

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The Jews were told that they would be fairly treated and receive good food in return for working on the estate, in Austria or in the East.

To put insult to injury they   were held in a  synagogue at Kolo near Chelmno before being murdered by the Nazis

They were then told that they needed to shower to become clean and that their clothes had to be disinfected. This was a huge lie. They were led to the undressing room, where they gave up their valuables and clothes. But, having been led up steps to the ‘washrooms’, they in fact found themselves in a gas van. The doors were closed and locked.

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The driver then drove into the forest. After 10 minutes the gas fumes had suffocated all those inside the van. The victims were buried in mass graves.

The possessions of those brought to Chelmno were given or sold to Germans living in the region.

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In April 1944 the Nazis planned to liquidate the Lodz ghetto, so they reopened Chelmno. Those who had previously worked at the camp were brought back to resume their work and carry out the killings. Between 23 June and mid-July 1944, more than 7,000 Jews were murdered and disposed of in the newly-erected crematorium. The camp was then closed as the killings were moved to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The Nazis destroyed Chelmno in September 1944. They tried to erase all evidence of mass murder. They ordered the digging up and cremation of all of the bodies from the mass graves.

On 17 January 1945, the Nazis murdered 45 of the last 48 Jewish prisoners as the Soviet army edged closer to the camp. These last few Jews at the camp had fought against the fleeing Nazis, but only three of them succeeded in escaping.

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Do cry for me Argentina- The other side of Evita Peron

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The former first lady of Argentina has been accused of accepting Nazi treasures stolen from wealthy families during the Holocaust in return for using her country as a safe haven. 

According to a new book, Eva Peron and her husband, former president Juan Peron, kept quiet about the number of Nazis who were hiding out in Argentina after the Second World War.

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Among those who fled to the South American country was Adolf Eichmann, a key orchestrator of the concentration camps.

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He lived under a false name and worked for Mercedes Benz until 1960, when he was kidnapped by Mossad agents and taken to Israel.He was later faced trial and was hanged for the war crimes he committed.

Josef Mengele, the Nazi ‘Angel of Death’ responsible for human experiments on Holocaust victims, also found refuge in Argentina and lived in South America until his death in 1979 at the age of 67.

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In ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Latin America,’ authors Leandro Narloch and Duda Teixeira wrote: ‘It is still suspected that among her [Eva Peron’s] possessions, there were pieces of Nazi treasure that came from rich Jewish families killed in concentration camps.
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‘Peron himself even spoke of goods of ”German and Japanese origin” that the Argentine government had appropriated,’ they added.Switzerland is said to have launched an investigation into whether Argentina deposited stolen Nazi loot in Swiss banks after the war.

In 1947, then First Lady Eva Peron included a brief trip to Switzerland during a publicity tour of Europe to try and boost the image of her husband’s regime abroad.

According to historians, she may have opened at least one secret Geneva account to stash funds and valuables she allegedly received from Nazis in exchange for Argentine passports and visas.

Records  emerging from Swiss archives and the investigations of Nazi hunters, an unpublicized side of Evita’s world tour was coordinating the network for helping Nazis relocate in Argentina.

This new evidence of Evita’s cozy ties with prominent Nazis corroborates the long-held suspicion that she and her husband, Gen. Juan Peron, laid the groundwork for a bloody resurgence of fascism across Latin America in the 1970s and ’80s.

Besides blemishing the Evita legend, the evidence threatens to inflict more damage on Switzerland’s image for plucky neutrality. The international banking center is still staggering from disclosures about its wartime collaboration with Adolf Hitler and Swiss profiteering off his Jewish victims.

The archival records indicate that Switzerland’s assistance to Hitler’s henchmen didn’t stop with the collapse of the Third Reich.

And the old Swiss-Argentine-Nazi connection reaches to the present in another way. Spanish “superjudge” Baltasar Garzon is seeking to open other Swiss records on bank accounts controlled by Argentine military officers who led the so-called “Dirty War” that killed and “disappeared” tens of thousands of Argentines between 1976-83.

The second wife of Juan Peron, Evita was given the official title of ‘Spiritual Leader of the Nation’ by the Argentine Congress before her death from cancer in 1952 at the age of 33 and is still regarded as a national heroine.

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The Diary of Mary Berg(Miriam Wattenberg)

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Mary Berg lived in the Warsaw Ghetto, but her situation was very unusual. Though she was born in Poland, her mother was an American, so her ultimate fate was different from most of her neighbors. Jews with American citizenship could possibly be exchanged for German prisoners of war, so they had a unique value to their captors. While 300,000 of her fellow Jews were deported to their deaths, she and her family were held in Pawiak Prison, pending the transfer that would eventually bring them to the U.S.

From a window, she could see the columns of people heading down the street to the trains that would take them to Treblinka. She later wrote, “We, who have been rescued from the ghetto, are ashamed to look at each other. Had we the right to save ourselves? Here everything smells of sun and flowers and there—there is only blood, the blood of my own people.”

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Mary lived in the Warsaw Ghetto for almost two years. Although she came from a wealthy, privileged family, she was a sensitive observer who recorded the terrible ordeal of life in the ghetto with true feeling for her fellow sufferers, especially for those who were less fortunate.

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This took a psychological toll on her, even invading her dreams.  On July 10th, 1941 she wrote, “I am full of dire forebodings. During the last few nights, I have had terrible nightmares. I saw Warsaw drowning in blood; together with my sisters and my parents, I walked over prostrate corpses. I wanted to flee, but could not, and awoke in a cold sweat, terrified and exhausted. The golden sun and the blue sky only irritate my shaken nerves.”

In January 1943, her family was sent to an internment camp in France, where they awaited a prisoner exchange that would allow them to flee. Their journey to freedom began March 1, 1944, when they boarded a train for Lisbon. There, they boarded the ocean liner SS Gripsholm for the voyage to America. Her memoir, Warsaw Ghetto, describes her years in Pawiak.She arrived in the United States in March 1944, at the age of 19. Her memoir was serialized in American newspapers in 1944, making it one of the earliest accounts of the Holocaust to be written in English, Published under the penname “Mary Berg”

Mary was not guilty for wanting to live, but she undoubtedly felt compromised by the struggle to survive. Freedom did not entirely lift this burden, but she believed that her ghetto diary/memoir might do some good for others. When she arrived in the U.S. in 1944, some of Europe’s Jews were still alive. Saving them might be possible, but only if their plight was publicized. This was her motivation for helping to get her account published. In the end, she became uncomfortable with the celebrity that accompanied her book, and she dropped out of public view.

She dies on 1 April 2013 aged 88.

The start of deportation to Treblinka

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On this day in 1942, the systematic deportation of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto begins, as thousands are rounded up daily and transported to a newly constructed concentration/extermination camp at Treblinka, in Poland.

On July 17, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS, arrived at Auschwitz, the concentration camp in eastern Poland, in time to watch the arrival of more than 2,000 Dutch Jews and the gassing of almost 500 of them, mostly the elderly, sick and very young.

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The next day, Himmler promoted the camp commandant, Rudolph Hoess, to SS major and ordered that the Warsaw ghetto (the Jewish quarter constructed by the Nazis upon the occupation of Poland, enclosed first by barbed wire and then by brick walls), be depopulated–a “total cleansing,” as he described it–and the inhabitants transported to what was to become a second extermination camp constructed at the railway village of Treblinka, 62 miles northeast of Warsaw.

Treblinka was an extermination camp,built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II.It was located in a forest north-east of Warsaw, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) south of the Treblinka train station in what is now the Masovian Voivodeship.

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The camp operated between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 as part of Operation Reinhard, the deadliest phase of the Final Solution. During this time, it is estimated that between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews were killed in its gas chambers,along with 2,000 Romani people.More Jews were killed at Treblinka than at any other Nazi extermination camp apart from Auschwitz.

Within the first seven weeks of Himmler’s order, more than 250,000 Jews were taken to Treblinka by rail and gassed to death, marking the largest single act of destruction of any population group, Jewish or non-Jewish, civilian or military, in the war. Upon arrival at “T. II,” as this second camp at Treblinka was called, prisoners were separated by sex, stripped, and marched into what were described as “bathhouses,” but were in fact gas chambers. T. II’s first commandant was Dr. Irmfried Eberl, age 32, the man who had headed up the euthanasia program of 1940 and had much experience with the gassing of victims, especially children.

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He compelled several hundred Ukrainian and about 1,500 Jewish prisoners to assist him. They removed gold teeth from victims before hauling the bodies to mass graves. Eberl was relieved of his duties for “inefficiency.” It seems that he and his workers could not remove the corpses quickly enough, and panic was occurring within the railway cars of newly arrived prisoners.

In 1944 he joined the Wehrmacht for the remainder of the war. After the war ended, Eberl continued to practise medicine in Blaubeuren. He found himself a widower following his second wife’s death. Eberl was arrested in January 1948, and hanged himself the following month to avoid trial.