Attack on the twentieth convoy to Auschwitz.

Train

War often brings out the worst in people. they commit crimes they would usually never even contemplate, but equally war also brings out the best in people performing heroic acts they know can cost their lives.

Early 1943 Jews throughout Belgium were rounded up and arrested.People like three members of the Gronowski family(Mother,son and daughter), who were arrested for committing the awful ‘crime’ of being Jewish.

Gronowski.JPG

After the round up they were transported to the Kazerne Dossin,army barracks in Brussels.For most this would be last ‘residence’ in Belgium they would ever be in, for this was the gathering place for the final transport to the death camps.

Kazerne

On 18 April,  1,631 were informed they were going to be  deported by train the following day.The end station would be Auschwitz. The train was designated as Transport 20.

Shortly after the train had set off on route to Auschwitz it was stopped.

Three young students and members of the Belgian resistance including a Jewish doctor, Youra Livchitz  and his two non-Jewish friends Robert Maistriau  and Jean Franklemon armed with  only one pistol, and a makeshift  red warning  lantern ,  stopped the train on the track Mechelen-Leuven, between the towns of Boortmeerbeek and Haacht. This was the first and only time during World War II that any Nazi transport carrying Jewish deportees was stopped.

The train  was guarded by one officer and fifteen men from the Sicherheitspolizei. After a quick  battle between the Germans train  the three Resistance members, the train started again.In the mean time the resistance fighters had opened one rail car and were able to set 17 people free.

The train driver Albert Dumon most I have felt inspired by this  he deliberately drove  slow enough . and stopped frequently to allow people to jump without being injured or killed, 236 in all escaped. 115 of those were never recaptured.

Youra Livchitz unfortunately  was arrested by the Gestapo one month later, but managed to overpower his guard and escape; he was rearrested in June and executed by firing squad the following year.

yoyra

His two brothers in arms survived the war. As did Simon Gronowski the son of the Gronowski family.

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Sources

BBC

 

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16 bodies in Lake Maggiore

Meina

The lakes of Italy are known for its beauty. Although I have been to Italy several times it was usually the Lake Garda area I would visit, every time I was awestruck by its beautiful surroundings. I did see Lake Maggiore once in passing and it also looked majestic.

However this majestic beautiful place was also a place of horror for at least 16 Jewish Greeks during WWII.

Even though Italy did have a brutal and fascist regime and there were persecutions of Jews, the majority of the Jewish population did have a relatively ‘normal’ life compared to Jews elsewhere in Europe.

However this changed after the dismissal and arrest of Mussolini. Hitler sent an elite squad to free his ally from captivity after Italy had signed an armistice with allied forces in September 3,1943 and officially announced 5 days later on the 8th of September.

Hitler moved fast to establish a new Fascist Italian state in the North of Italy. The Repubblica Sociale Italiana.The Italian Social Republic was proclaimed on 23 September, with Mussolini as both head of state and prime minister.But the new republic really was a puppet state run by Nazi Germany.

Duce

Meina was a small village at  the southern area of Lake Maggiore. The village had a Hotel with the same name Hotel Meina. The owners were the Behars, a family of Turkish Jews.

The hotel had about 30 guest rooms,  a billiard room, a reading room and a room where the guests could play cards. The garden faced Lago Maggiore. In September 1943, it had a number of Jewish guests, mostly from Greece, who had escaped the Nazi occupation in Greece.

Since Italy had signed an armistice there was this false believe the war was over, nothing could be further from the truth.

On Wednesday morning, Sept. 15, the Meina hotel was surrounded by the SS. Twenty Jews were identified, including: Alberto and Eugenia Behar, the owners of the hotel, with their children; the Fernandez Diaz family; the Mosseris; Raoul Torres and his wife, Valerie Nahoum; Daniele Modiano; Vittorio Haim Pompas; Vitale Cori, the hotel’s bartender; and Lotte Fröhlich-Mazzucchelli.

The SS men were from the SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. They kept the Jews as prisoner in the Hotel, where the Non Jewish guests were free to do what they wanted to do.

SS

On the night of 22/23 September the 16 Jewish guests were taken out of the Hotel and driven a few miles outside of the village where they were shot.

The 16 bodies were dumped in Lake Maggiore.

Lago

In the  following days, the bodies floated to the surface. The SS recovered the corpses and burned them.

The fate of the 16 souls was initially forgotten but in 1968 those responsible for the Meina massacre were tried in Germany Mario Mazzucchelli, the non Jewish husband of  Lotte Fröhlich-Mazzucchelli, testified as a witness. Three officers were sentenced to life but in 1970, the Supreme Court declared the statute of limitations had expired and released them.

In Meina commemorative ‘stumbling blocks’ were put down to remember the victims of the Meina Hotel  massacre.One separate block for each victim and one general block for all 16.

stone

In 2007 director Carlo Lizzani shot a movie of the awful event. Hotel Meina.

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Karl Frenzel-‘Fair’in his punishments

Frenzel

Karl August Wilhelm Frenzel  was an SS non-commissioned officer in Sobibór extermination camp. As the commandant of Camp I, he was in charge of a Sonderkommando, a unit consisting inmates, mainly Jewish prisoners forced to do a variety of jobs including herding  victims into the gas chambers.

Frenzel claimed that he was always fair in conducting punishments.

Below are a few examples of his ‘fairness’

A 15 year old boy was caught stealing a can of sardines, Frenkel took the boy to Lager III, the crematorium and shot him.

In spring  1943,  two Jews from Chelm escaped from the camp, Frenzel announced that as a punishment , every tenth prisoner at the morning roll call would be executed. He personally walked along the lines of the roll call and selected the victims  to be shot at Camp III. Twenty prisoners were shot as a reprisal for the two who escaped.

One  survivor testified that one time Frenzel grabbed an abandoned baby in an incoming transport, smashed the baby’s  skull and threw the infant aside, like a dead rat.

After World War II, he was arrested by United States troops at a prisoner of war camp near Munich, but was soon released. Frenzel found a job in Frankfurt as a stage lighting technician. On 22 March 1962, while on a break at work, he was again identified, arrested and brought to trial along with other former SS officers at the Sobibór trial on 6 September 1965.

Trial

Frenzel was  charged with personally murdering 42 Jews , and was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes but was ultimately released after 16 years.

He died 2 September 1996,aged 85.

It seems to me the only one who got a ‘fair’ punishment was Frenzel. Another case where justice wasn’t served.

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Martin Sommer-Too evil for Nazi standards.

Sommer

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The bizarre thing about the Nazi regime was that they had so many contradictions.They had no issues with committing mass murder and genocide or evil and cruel medical experiments, but they had issues with cruelty which was not conform with their policies.

It was okay to murder and torture but it had to be done the Nazi way.

Walter Gerhard Martin Sommer was an SS Hauptscharführer who served as a guard in 2 concentration camps First he served in Sachsenhausen  later in  Buchenwald. Where he got the nickname  “Hangman of Buchenwald”

SS

 

He was born in Schkölen, to a farming family  in Thuringia in 1915. In 1931 at age sixteen, Sommer joined the Nazi Party and 2 years later became a member of the SS.He was also a  a depraved sadist.

After he left Sachsenhausen he was assigned to Buchenwald where he was put in charge of a cell block where he reigned over his prisoners with impunity. Later he promoted to head the punishment bunker and was promoted once more to Chief Penal Officer.

In both camps Somner served under Karl Koch.

Koch

Sommer was quick to utilize his  position to fulfill  his natural sadistic desires.

His favorite manner of torture was tying prisoners’ wrists together behind their backs and then hang them a few inches off the ground from cell bars, stanchions, or branches of trees until their arms became dislocated. This  earned him the nickname “the Hangman of Buchenwald.”

HangmanWhen this special form of torture was conducted on prisoners in the woods around the camp, the screams of the victims were so intense that the other inmates soon gave the area a name, the “singing forest.”

Sommer had a special dislike for clergy men. One time he ordered two Austrian priests, Otto Neururer and Mathias Spannlang, to be crucified upside-down.Another time he beat a Catholic priest to death for performing the Sacrament of Penance for a fellow inmate.

At one stage he beat  a German pastor, then hanged him naked outside in the winter and threw buckets of water over him and let him freeze to death.

Sommer also had a secret compartment underneath the floor under his desk.  Where he kept his private instruments of torture concealed.Instruments  such as the needles he used to kill his victims after he finished torturing them, he would inject them with carbolic acid, or inject air into their veins causing his victims to die by embolism. Sometimes, after ‘private’ late night torture sessions he would hide the bodies of his victims under his bed until he could dispose of them the following morning.

He sometimes would  rubbed prisoner’s backs with steel brushes and then pour acid on the wounds

In 1943 ,Heinrich Himmler appointed SS judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen to investigate allegations of cruelty and corruption at the Buchenwald camp.

Morgen

Morgen found the allegations to be true and Sommer was put on trial.

After the  trial Sommer was sentenced to  a reduction in rank and was sent to a penal battalion fighting on the Eastern Front where he was wounded in a tank explosion, losing his left arm and right leg. He was arrested by the Soviet army and was detained as P.O.W. until 1950 when his prisoner status was changed from Prisoner of War to war criminal. In 1955 as part of the negotiations conducted on behalf of Soviet held German prisoners by Konrad Adenauer, Sommer was released.

After his release he returned to West Germany where he married his Nurse, and they had a child ,Sommer filed for and received a pension for his service related disabilities. sommer newsHe received a pension of 280 marks a month and over 10,500 marks in back payments.

He escaped punishment for his crimes until 1957, when he was indicted for complicity in the death in 101 concentration camp inmates.In 1958, the German government deemed  Sommer healthy enough for trial.

He was convicted of 25 deaths and received a life sentence. The sentence was appealed but  the case was upheld in May 1959 by the German  Federal Court. In 1971 he was released from jail because there was no facility to continue his treatment of his war injuries. he was transferred to a hospital and in 1973 to a nursing home where he remained until his death in 1988.

 

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Sources

Der Spiegel

German Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am human being just like you!

Sandro

When the rain falls, my face gets wet.

When the sun shines, it blinds my eyes.

When the snow falls, I want to go out and feel the crunch of the fresh new snow beneath my feet.

When it is muddy, I get dirty.

When I am hungry, I eat.

When I am thirsty, I drink.

When I see a baby cry, I am sad for I know only a few years ago I was a baby.

You see, once you were a baby too.

Once the sun would would blind your eyes, and the rain would make your face wet.

Your mother would also be annoyed when you came in with a muddy face.

Once you were a 5 year old mischievous little angel.

Like you, I am a human being too.

At least I maintained my humanity, where you no longer are that mischievous angel.

The day you killed me in Auschwitz you became a devil.

I am Sandro Sonnino, aged 5. Once a human being, now an angel.

Arbeit Macht Frei-A false promise.

Frei

It is seldom that 3 random words can send shivers down your spine but the words Arbeit Macht Frei do.

Just three ordinary words used many times in daily life and yet they also mean total horror. The literal translation is Work makes free, I know they are often translated as works set you free, even by me, but I think that is wrong, the literal translation is what should be used.

‘Work sets you free’ has more of a condition attached to it, it is not a definite, for there is this silent’but’. Whereas ‘Work makes free’ it states exactly that it makes free for definite.

The Nazi regime turned so many things into weapons, including words.  The phrase or slogan ‘Arbeit mach frei ‘was one of the most powerful psychological weapons. It gave the victims a sense of hope. If they would work they would be free. Even after arriving at the Concentration and death camps ,where the slogan was used at the gates, there were selections.

Selections

Again creating that illusion and false hope that people were selected for different kinds of works. Soon enough though it became clear that this was not the case.

Not only did the Nazis massacre millions of Jews and other groups of people they deemed to be subhuman,they also caused so much psychological damage to those few who survived. Psychological damage not only caused by the daily horrors they witnessed but also by these blatant lies, the promise that work makes free, creating the hope if I just work my family and I will be free at some stage.  This was another psychological crime committed by the Nazis, ensuring that where possible families would be transported together, They even allowed them to bring some possessions ,again making the victims believe that. yes, the situation was bad but it could be worse. At least they were still together.

Only to be torn apart after they arrived at the Concentration camps.

Family

Despite everything there were some brave people who were defiant. The slogan over the entrance to Auschwitz I , was erected by order of commandant Rudolf Höss, and was made by prisoners. As an act of defiance they turned the letter ‘B’ upside down.

arbeit

 

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The era of hypocrisy-The post WWII era

Paperclip

One thing that has always baffled me was the blatant double standards applied at the end and the era just after WWII.

On one hand you had scientists like Alan Turing, whose work on the enigma code shortened the war by 2 years, and potentially saved millions of lives, but because of his homosexuality was forced to undergo ‘chemical’ treatment to suppress his homosexuality or face jail. He did choose the former option but eventually committed suicide.

alan

On the other hand you have operations like ‘Operation Paperclip’  a secret program of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency largely carried out by Special Agents of Army CIC, in which more than 1,600 Nazi scientists, engineers, and technicians, such as  were recruited and saved from legal persecution. To top things off many of them received prestigious awards and were given high positions in several government agencies, like Wernher von Braun who became the top man at NASA.

bRAUN

Braun who had willingly participated in the use of slave labour from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp , for his work on the V2 rockets. More people had actually died from building the rocket, than were killed by it as a weapon. claim von Braun engaged in brutal treatment or approved of it.

Witnesses claimed  von Braun engaged in brutal treatment of prisoners or approved of it.

Then there is Dr. Hubertus Strughold who had conducted various medical experiments , in conjunction with the Luftwaffe, in which prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp were used as human test subjects.Most of them did not survive.

Hubertus

It would make sense that such a evil and barbaric man would be brought to justice, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact he too got a high position with NASA.And they even named an award after him. an award for Space medicine, he himself was given the nickname ‘Father of Space Medcine’ it was only in 2013 when NASA decided to remove his name from the award.

Another scientist, Kurt Blome, who had been  the Deputy Surgeon General in the Third Reich and headed its biological warfare program disguised as cancer research. He had been running  experiments involving spreading disease through insects like mosquitoes and lice. And also carried out d tests which involved dropping nerve gas and insecticides from planes as well and attempted creating  a weaponized Bubonic plague, during WWII.

bLOME

Blome had also links to Unit 731 of the Japanese army. Unit 731 were probably the most evil and barbaric unit in WWII.

He was arrested on 17 May 1945 by an agent of the United States Counter Intelligence Corps  in Munich.It is widely believed that American intervention saved Blome from execution in exchange for information about biological warfare, nerve gas, and providing advice on to the American chemical and biological weapons programs.

He was never  charged with war crimes  after his acquittal at the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial in 1947. He also was allowed to continue  practice medicine in West Germany, and was active in politics as a member of a right-wing Germany Party. He died in Dortmund in 1969.

There were several operations by the US,British and Soviet governments which facilitated Nazi scientists and other Nazis safe passage and a new start.

Scientist

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The Murder of a perfect child

Bernhard Leo

Dear little boy , you are perfect in every aspect . Even your imperfect hair is perfect.

Imperfect and perfect in one sentence is a paradox.

A paradox is what you are because you were hated event though all you gave was love.

It is said that the eyes are the portals to the soul and in your eyes I see perfect love.

Dear little boy your are perfect in every way because there are no imperfect 2 year old’s.

Jacob Loisstraat 12 a, Rotterdam a random address but to you it was the perfect place for it was your home.

Alas your home was not the safe place that every child deserves. Nit because you had a bad family.

No, they loved you for nearly 800 days and each day was perfect because you were in it.

Your home wasn’t safe for one reason only, hate.

Hate by those who didn’t even know you

Hate by those who children of 800 days themselves, so they should know you were perfect.

But their hate made them blind

Dear little boy your are perfect, you were Bernard Leo Laden age 2. Murdered by hate in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Dear little boy your are perfect, to me you shall always be perfect, may you rest in perfect peace.

 

Source

Joods Mounument

 

 

 

 

Execution was not enough

Plotzensee

Many opponents of the Nazi regime found their untimely death in Plotzensee prison. Those executed were German resistance fighter, but also Polish and French forced laborers, and many others.

A great number were executed by guillotine but on September 3 the guillotine was damaged beyond repair after an RAF raid. From then one the methods of executions were hanging or firing squad.

After execution, the bodies were released to Hermann Stieve, an anatomist at the medical college of what is now Humboldt University of Berlin. He and his  assistants dissected the bodies  for research purposes.

Herrman

Stieve had a particular  interest in the effects of stress on the menstrual cycle, and produced  230 papers based on this research, among them one that demonstrated that the rhythm method was not an effective method of preventing conception.

He received prison records which contained  information on how the women had reacted to their death sentences, and also how well they had adjusted to prison life, and the timing of their menstrual cycles.

One of his research subjects was Liane Berkowitz,a German resistance fighter of the Red Orchestra organisation.

Liane

Liane was arrested and sent to  the women’s prison on Barnimstraße, while she was pregnant.Her  daughter Irina was born on 12 April 1943 in prison. The grandmother took care of the child from July 1943.

Liane was executed on 5 August 1943,only 2 days away from her 19th birthday. Her remains were sent to Hermann Stieve.

Liane’s  daughter Irina died on 16 October 1943 in hospital in Eberswalde under suspicious circumstances.

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The empty “noble” gesture of Hugo Boss

Boss

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

SS

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

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

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

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

Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

funreal

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

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

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

 

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Source

Zwangsarbeit in Metzingen