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by Anne S. Reamey
.S.-Hauptsturmführer Prof. Dr. August Hirt was born April 28, 1898 in Mannheim, Germany to an old Strasbourg family. Little is known of the life of August Hirt prior to his involvement with the Ahnenerbe leading up to and during World War II, but due to his role in several radical medical experiments and collections, his works during the war have been closely examined. He joined the Institute of Anatomy at the Reichsuniversität (initially the University of Strasbourg, overtaken and turned to theAnatomisches Institut der Reichsuniversität) early in 1941 where he became the chairman of the anatomy department. When Hirt became employed at the University he was already an established member of the S.S. and the Ahnenerbe Society (the Society for the Heritage of the Ancestors).
August Hirt, like many Nazi doctors, is most closely associated with his role in the medical experimentation on and gassings of groups of Jewish prisoners. What makes him unique was motive: instead of seeing the gassing of prisoners as a quick and effective method of extermination, Hirt wanted to significantly expand the skull and skeleton collection for his institute at the University of Strasbourg. He wanted to create a museum of "sub-humans, in which proofs of the degeneracy and the animality of the Jews would be collected." Hirt considered it to be a task of upmost importance and extremely time-sensitive since soon the Jewish population would be completely exterminated, at which point Jewish "skeletons would be as rare and precious as a diplodocus… "."
- April 28, 1898
The Report of Death: Catalyst for the Collection of Medical Research
Attached to a letter from Ostuf. (Obersturmführer - First Lieutenant) Wolfram Sievers (Reich Secretary of the Ahnenerbe Society) to Stbf. (Sturmbannführer - Major) Dr. Rudolf Brandt, was a report written by Hirt in February 1942 describing the minimal amount of Jewish skulls existing at the Strasbourg Reich University (Reichsuniversität Strasbourg), and how to best procure the desired number of additional skulls through the assistance of the field Military Police ("Feldpolizei"). It should be noted that in the report, the skulls requested for procurement were those of "Jewish Bolshevik Commissars". Historian Heather Pringle points out in her book, The Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust, that "by "commissars," the army actually meant "Jews." Nazi propagandists had skillfully portrayed Soviet political officers and officials as Jews for years, and so deeply engrained was this notion in the minds of many SS and Wehrmacht officers that they simply accepted it as fact."
In addition to Hirt's personal interest in the collection of skulls he hoped to obtain, it has also been suggested that Hirt himself had considered getting into the skull mail-order business as an additional source of income.
Himmler's Response to Hirt's Deadly Proposal
Himmler's Response to Hirt's Deadly Proposal
Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler received Hirt's report with great enthusiasm. He was "prodigiously interested" in the project, considering it to be of "enormous value," and according to Jean-Claude Pressac, he "unceasingly gave his entire support to Professor Hirt's proposal." Soon after his receipt of the report, Himmler sent Wolfram Sievers of theAhnenerbe Society to meet with Hirt personally, and agreed to the importance of his research. Sievers then worked with Hirt to determine the best method of transportation of his victims.
A letter used as evidence during the war crime trials at Nuremburg, includes an attachment with a report on "securing skulls of Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars for the purpose of scientific research," which initially allowed Dr. August Hirt to begin his gassings of Auschwitz Jews at Natzweiler - Struthof.
The Compounding of Hate: Multi-faceted Anti-Semitism Meets the "Final Solution"
So what was it in Hirt's report that caught the eye of Himmler and caused him to be supportive of the proposed "scientific" endeavor? While the Jews were on the top of Hitler's list for extermination, Himmler and Hirt brought together two strands of anti-Semitism: rumors of Jewish conspirators and racism. During the proceedings of the fourth Yad Vashem International Historical Conference, Robert Jay Lifton explained, "On one hand, there is the mystical tradition of anti-Semitism and racism as exemplified by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - the notorious forgery around the idea of a Jewish world conspiracy involving Jewish Bolsheviks and Jewish capitalists. On the other, there is the "scientific" racism that his study of these skulls directly reflects."
In the case of Hirt's proposed skull collection enhancement, timing was everything: Only a month prior to Hirt's proposal, a new policy had been secretly adopted at a villa overlookingGroßer Wannsee that would be known as the "Final Solution." In addition to their decision to exterminate the Jews of Europe, and eventually the world, was the debate of what to do with the Mischlinge ("part-Jews"). "Himmler was keen to take action. He wanted the SS Race and Settlement Office (Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt-SS (RuSHA)) to racially evaluate all children of mixed marriages and their progeny for three or four generations, just as agriculturalists did when attempting to breed superior varieties of plants and animals. Descendants who exhibited Jewish traits could then be at least sterilized, if not murdered. For this, the SS needed a much clearer picture of the Jewish Race."
THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE
The Wannsee Conference was held on 20 January 1942, in a villa owned by the SS-Nordhav Foundation in the attractive Berlin lakeside suburb of Wannsee. It was presided over by SS-Lieutenant General Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Security Police and Security Service. Heydrich summoned fourteen men representing the governmental and military branches most involved in implementing the practical aspects of the Final Solution. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring had charged him with arranging all practical matters concerning the implementation of the Final Solution of the Jewish question.1 Heydrich was an ambitious and meticulous officer who relished the responsibility of power. One of Heydrich's foremost intentions was to make sure that all these men understood perfectly what duties and responsibilities their office was expected to fulfill.
In the years leading up to World War II, the phrase "Final Solution of the Jewish Problem" had taken on a series of increasingly ominous meanings in the Nazi vocabulary.2 The various implications had included voluntary emigration, confinement to ghettos in cities located along rail lines, forced removal to concentration camps, and finally, extermination. Heydrich wanted to be certain there was no confusion among the group that, now, the term referred specifically to the murder of all European Jews.
Heydrich's assistant, SS Lt-Colonel Adolf Eichmann tells us in testimony at his trial in 1961, that the meeting was relatively brief, lasting only an hour to an hour and a half, and that the atmosphere of the meeting was one of cooperation and agreement.3 These high-ranking members of the Nazi government met at mid-day over a buffet luncheon to discuss the annihilation of an entire people.
Those attending were:
- Gauleiter Dr. Alfred Meyer and Reichamtsleiter (Chief Officer) Dr. Georg Leibrandt - Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories
- State Secretary Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart - Reich Ministry of the Interior
- State Secretary Dr. Erich Neumann - Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan
- State Secretary Dr. Roland Freisler - Reich Justice Ministry
- State Secretary Dr. Josef Bühler - Office of Governor General [Poland] representing Hans Frank
- Under State Secretary Martin Luther - Foreign Office
- SS Senior-Colonel Gerhard Klopfer - Party Chancellery representing Martin Bormann
- Ministerial Director Friedrich Kritzinger - Reich Chancellery
- SS Major-General Otto Hofmann - Race and Resettlement Main Office
- SS Major-General Heinrich Müller - Reich Security Main Office
- SS Lt-Colonel Adolf Eichmann - Reich Security Main Office
- SS Senior-Colonel Dr. Eberhard Schöngarth - Commander of the Security Police and the SD in the General Government [Poland]
- SS Major Dr. Rudolf Lange - Commander of Security Police and Security Service for General Commissariat Latvia, as Deputy of Commanding Officer of Security Police and Security Service for Reich Commissariat Ostland [Baltic States and White Russia] Security Police and Security Service. 4
We have access to the minutes of the meeting (Protocol, in German usage) only by chance. In 1947, the Protocol was discovered in the files of one of the attendees, Martin Luther of the Finance Ministry. Years later, Ministerial Director of the Reich Chancellery, Friedrich Kritzinger and Adolf Eichmann described in detail everything that had occurred at the Wannsee conference and acknowledged the criminal nature of the gathering.5
Heydrich began the meeting by establishing the primacy of his authority. This authority transcended geographical boundaries. He briefly described the recent history of Nazi action against the Jews. The goals had been to remove Jews from different sectors of German society and then from German soil. The Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration had been established to facilitate and encourage Jewish emigration and through its offices, those who could afford it were allowed to leave the country. This process proved to be too slow and too limited in scope. At the time of this meeting, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had already stopped emigration.
The Führer had approved a new solution: the evacuation of the Jews to the East. The Protocol states, "These actions are nevertheless to be seen only as temporary relief but they are providing the practical experience that is of great significance for the coming final solution of the Jewish question."
Heydrich continues by enumerating the number of Jews in each country and observes, "Approximately eleven million Jews will be involved…" He further states in the Protocol, "In large, single-sex labor columns, Jews fit to work will work their way eastward constructing roads. Doubtless the large majority will be eliminated by natural causes. Any final remnant that survives will doubtless consist of the most resistant elements. They will have to be dealt with appropriately because otherwise, by natural selection, they would form the germ cell of a new Jewish revival." In other words, none would be allowed to survive.
Beginning with Germany proper and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Europe was to be cleared of Jews from west to east. This brought up a number of difficult questions to be resolved. First, who was a Jew? Would any Jews be exempt? Jewish Veterans who served Germany and were decorated in WWI? Jews married to Germans? Those of mixed blood (Mischlinge) married to Germans? Would sterilization be an alternative? Would those Jews be spared whose labor was necessary for the war effort? Nearly one third of the Protocol is devoted to these complicated matters, not all of which were resolved at this meeting.6
Eichmann tells us that the first part of the meeting was more or less a monologue by Heydrich and the last part, a summary of several positions put forward by individuals at the table.
- SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann was in favor of sterilization instead of "evacuation" for half Jews (Mischlinge). Heydrich replied that a decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. He also spoke of an old people's ghetto, possibly Theresienstadt, to ward off anticipated interventions over individual cases.7
- Stuckart of the Ministry of the Interior proposed compulsory divorce for Germans married to Jews.
- Erich Neumann from the Four Year Plan organization said that Jews should not be removed from essential enterprises unless replacement labor could be provided. Heydrich agreed, pointing out that this was already the policy.
- Josef Bühler from the General Gouvernment asked that the Final Solution begin in Poland, since there were no major transport or manpower problems. Bühler said the authorities from the General Gouvernment accepted Heydrich's primacy in all matters pertaining to the Jewish question and would support his work. He had but one request -- "that the Jewish question be solved as quickly as possible." 8
A number of those gathered at the conference table had already been actively engaged in the extermination of Jews and Bolsheviks since the summer of 1941. Lange and Schöngarth commanded Einsatzgruppen activities in the Riga District and in Polish Galicia. Heydrich and Müller directed the killing operations of the Einsatzgruppen and Müller forwarded the Einsatz "Incident Reports" [Ereignismeldungen] to the Foreign Office. Eichmann routinely received "Incident Reports" from the Einsatz Units describing the daily tallies of their victims, and had himself witnessed a mass shooting near Minsk.9
By the time of the Wannsee Conference, the Einsatzgruppen operating behind the army front lines, had murdered more than half a million people.10 Mass shootings were not suitable for European Jewry outside the war zone and were also demoralizing for the Nazi troops. This had prompted a search for a more impersonal way of killing large numbers of people. By January 1942, the death camps in Belzec and Chelmno, with their gassing facilities, were already under construction.
The Wannsee Conference was not called to decide the fate of European Jews but to clarify all points regarding their demise. In Eichmann's testimony after the war, he said that Heydrich also intended to implicate, that is, share the guilt with the ministries represented at the table. (The war in Russia had begun to turn against the Germans and for the first time, there was a question about whether or not Germany would win.)
A few days after the conference, each of the attendees received his own numbered copy of the Protocol prepared by Eichmann from shorthand notes. According to Eichmann, Heydrich proofread and polished the summary before he gave it his approval. We also know that the Protocol does not reflect everything that was discussed at the meeting, as Eichmann's words at his trial make clear:
Q. Who spoke of this topic?
A[nswer]. I no longer remember all the particulars today, Mr. President, but I know that the gentlemen sat around together and plotted together, and there they, in very direct words - not the words I had to use in the Protocol, but in very direct words - called things as they were, with no attempt to disguise them. I would be unable to remember these things if I did not know that, at the time, I said to myself: Look at Stuckart, who people always considered to be a very scrupulous and fastidious law and order man, and now his tone and all his formulations were very unlike the letter of the law. That's about the only thing that has really stayed in my memory.
Presiding judge: What did he say about this subject?
A. In particular, Mr. President, I would like ...
Q. Not in particular - in general!
A. Murder and elimination and annihilation were discussed.
The Beginning of the End for the Prisoners of Auschwitz
After receiving permission from Himmler, Hirt began the task of selecting his victims from the prisoners of Auschwitz (although there is some debate as to whether Hirt himself made the selection, or if it was done by SS members Dr. Hans Fleischhacker [Tübingen] and SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Bruno Berger [Munich], who arrived in Auschwitz the first half of 1943 ), as indicated by Tübingen Professor, Dr. Hans-Joachim Lang, with the initial selection totaling 115 people - 79 Jewish men, 30 Jewish women, 2 Poles, and 4 "Asians" (most likely Soviet POWs). Once his selections were made, SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Bruno Berger collected personal data and biometrical measurements from the prisoners, completing his task by June 15, 1943.
Although the Ahnenerbe supported Hirt by instructing all members working in the concentration camps to collect "any particularly interesting and demonstrative" anatomical specimens, the only known victims for the Institute's skeleton collections came directly from Auschwitz-Birkenau. Robert J. Lifton explained that "there were apparently difficulties in rounding up Jewish-Bolshevik commissars and possibly in severing heads, so that it was decided to make use of full skeletons rather than merely skulls and to collect specimens in the place where any such task could be accomplished - namely, Auschwitz."
While there were killings in such substantial numbers at Auschwitz that an extra hundred here or there would make relatively little difference, the fate of Hirt's victims was not a well-kept secret among the camp doctors. "Dr. L. had seen enough of Auschwitz to suspect the terrible truth ("I told myself immediately,…. 'They are going to a museum' "), though she and others refrained in saying so because they "lacked the courage," felt it would be more kind to remain silent, and could not in any case be certain of their suspicion."
Meanwhile, the collection of potential victims wasn't the only problem to be dealt with. In a memo from Sievers to Brandt, Sievers quotes the concerns of Hirt: the preparations of Natzweiler-Struthof were going too slowly. More importantly, the camp's administration demanded that Hirt's Institute pay for the prisoners throughout their stay at the camp. This spurred great debates as to who was to pay for the project, and how payments were to be made.
Death at Natzweiler-Struthof
Following the initial selection, the prisoners were held inside of the quarantine office at Auschwitz due to the outbreak of a typhus epidemic before being relocated to Natzweiler-Struthof, the only extermination camp on French territory.
Both prior to and following the second World War, Natzweiler-Struthof (31 miles outside of Strasbourg), perched 2,500 feet up on the top of a mountain in the Vosges Mountains, was used as a ski resort for tourists. It is only during WWII that the now-serene location (ironically one that mimicked the German Schwarzwald across the Rhine River) was used as a concentration camp. Originally the camp, known as "Le Struthof" to the French, was not intended as a death camp for mass exterminations, but rather to house Anti-Fascist resistance-fighters and convicted German criminals, often referred to as the "Nacht und Nebel" (Night and Fog) operation because fighters were arrested without warning, and without notification to their families, making them appear to simply disappear into the fog.
The camp itself, holding only about 1,500 prisoners at a time (one of the smaller camps constructed by the Germans), was run by the "brutality incarnate" Joseph Kramer (condemned to death and executed, 10th Military Region archives). Instead of being located immediately within the camp, the building was located about a mile away off a small side road, making the location almost peaceful. Due to the local quarries filled with red granite, the prisoners of Struthof were subjected to manual labor in order to create new monuments for Germany.
The building eventually used as the gas chamber was originally used as a refrigerator room with cold storage chambers by the Struthof hotel, and converted in April 1943 to a site to test the gas masks of SS recruits by filling the building with tear-gas to help prepare the recruits for the dangers of chemical warfare.
The gas experimentation chamber was modified in August of 1943 to allow for the gassings at the suggestion of Kramer. He considered the similarities of the tear-gas testing with the requirements of a building that was to use the "hydrocyanic salts" Hirt provided to Kramer for the killings. Already lined with white tiles and kept cool by blocks of ice, the SS works doctorate named the site "Bauwerk 10" or building site 10. The adaptation of the building was completed between August 3 and 12, 1943.
The wall of the chamber was perforated below and to the right of the peep-hole. A metal pipe was passed through, with the inside end opening into a small porcelain basin, and the outside wnd consisting of a 1.5 litre fullel equipped with a tap flow and safety control. According to a plan drawn up when the camp was liberated, it seems that a protective housing was installed, hiding the equipment from view… Kramer proceeded as described in his 2nd deposition of the 6 December 1945. In fact, there was no other way to carry out the operation. Water poured into the funnel flowed onto a substance previously placed in the basin, triggering the release of hydrocyanic gas ("Gas Blausäure") .
As knowledge of the camp spread to the United States, so did the awareness of Hirt's victims, according to The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Nuremberg IMT (International Military Tribunal) records indicate that an assistant to Dr. Hirt secretly noted the numbers tattooed on the arms of the 86 victims, making their identification possible.
The Arrival of Hirt's Victims at Natzweiler-Struthof
Although there is little information regarding the time gap between June 15, 1943 when Dr. Bruno Berger completed his part of the record-keeping and the time of the arrival of the prisoners from Auschwitz to Natzweiler-Struthof, the records that are available indicated that the 2 month gap took place during the quarantine of prisoners during the typhus outbreak at Auschwitz. Once it was considered that the prisoners could be transported, they were moved to Natzweiler-Struthof in August of 1943. Joseph Kramer, commandant of Natzweiler-Struthof, recalled, "during the month of August 1943, I received from the Supreme S.S. Commandant in Berlin an order to accept about 80 prisoners from Auschwitz. I was to get in touch with Professor Hirt."
Once the prisoners did arrive, we have a clear account of the events that followed given at the Military Tribunal in Strasbourg by Joseph Kramer. Kramer was instructed to meet Hirt at the Institute of Anatomy. During their meeting, Hirt provided Kramer with instructions to gas the convoy using crystals Hirt supplied for their "treatment." There is some debate as to the exact contents of the flask given to Kramer by Hirt, but it usually falls within two possible answers:
Either the flask provided by Hirt, with a capacity of about 250 ml, contained an inert combination of sodium or potassium cyanide thoroughly mixed with a crystalline acid, such as citric, oxalic or tartic acid, these being two agents that react with one another only in an aqueous medium. Or the flask contained calcium cyanide, which has the peculiarity of decomposing in water with hydrocyanic acid release. It would be possible to determine exactly what substance was used by complicated calculations, based on the volume of the gas chamber (approximately 20m cubed), the quantity used (1/3 or ¼ of 250 ml), and the expected HCN release, as a function of the amount of water added, needed to bring the room's atmosphere rapidly up to a lethal concentration for man.
During his conversation with Hirt, Kramer was also told he was to divide the bodies into smaller groups to be delivered directly to Hirt following the gassings.
One evening, about nine o-clock, the eighty prisoners arrived. I led about fifteen women to the gas chamber. I told them they were going to be 'disinfected.' With the help of some of the S.S. guards, I got them completely undressed and pushed them into the gas chamber. When I closed the door they began to scream. I put some of the crystals that Hirt had given me into the funnel above the observation window. I would watch everything that was going on inside through it. The women continued to breathe for half a minute and then fell to the floor. I turned on the ventilation, and when I opened the door they were lying dead on the ground, full of shit. I told some of the male S.S. nurses to put the bodies in a truck and take them to the Institute of Anatomy at 5:30 the next morning.
Following the initial gassing, the same procedure was repeated with four or five more groups over a period of three nights. In total, 86 people would fall victim to Kramer's gassings. It should be noted that the discrepancy in numbers by multiple sources (86 versus 87 bodies) was due to an incident that took place at Natzweiler-Struthof. As the victims were being herded into the gas chamber, one prisoner resisted and was shot by an SS officer. Due to the pistol's bullet wound, the body was not sent to Strasbourg with the others because it was considered "spoiled."
Extract from interrogation of Josef Kramer by Major Jadin, military investigative judge with the Military Tribunal in Strasbourg on the 26 July 1945:
'As soon as I locked the door, they started to scream..Once the door was locked, I placed a fixed quantity of the salts in a funnel attached below and to the right of the peep-hole....
I illuminated the chamber's interior by means of a switch located near the funnel, and I observed what was happening inside the chamber through the outside peep-hole....
I felt no emotion while accomplishing these tasks, because I had received an order to execute the 80 [actually 87] prisoners in the manner that I have described to you. That is simply how I was brought up.'
In addition to Hirt's specially-selected victims, many other prisoners were held and executed at Natzweiler-Struthof from May 1941 to September 1944. A total of over 50,000 people from more than 30 countries were brought to Struthof, of which almost 22,000 were killed.
Final Transport: Natzweiler-Struthof to the Institute
[They] were given a sham physical examination for reassurance, then gassed… the corpses were immediately transported to the anatomy pavilion of the Strasbourg University Hospital. A French inmate, who had to assist the project's director… told how "preserving began immediately," with the arrival of bodies that were "still warm, the eyes… wide open and shining." There were two subsequent shipments of men, from each of whom the left testicle had been removed and sent to Hirt's anatomy lab.
With large groups of bodies being brought into the doors of the Institute, Professor Hirt's assistants, Otto Bong and Henri Herypierre, began placing the bodies into the vats of synthetic alcohol they had prepared the evening before at 55°. During the War Crimes trials at Nuremberg following the war, Herypierre took the stand. He gave testimony on the condition of the bodies as they were brought into the Institute: "They were still warm. Their eyes were wide open and shining. They appeared congested and red, and protruded from the socket. There were traces of blood around the nose and mouth. There was no rigor mortis. It is my opinion that these victims had been poisoned or asphyxiated."It was later reported that when Herypierre passed Hirt in a hallway the following day Hirt abruptly warned Herypierre, "If you don't hold your tongue, that's where you'll go too."
Although at the time Hirt appeared both interested and extremely protective of his developing "collection," Hirt never again visited the Institute to check on the process of performing autopsies and soaking the bodies for preservation purposes. Over a year passed with nothing more being done with the bodies than the occasional adding of alcohol to the storage vats by an assistant.
It is unclear whether Hirt simply lost interest, or if the Ahnenerbe's direction for Hirt to focus his research on combat gas was the sole cause, but whatever the reason, the bodies remained abandoned for more than a year. After a year, however, the collection was again brought to the forefront of the minds of the leaders of the Ahnenerbe. With the Allies swiftly approaching, many projects and records were quickly burned or abandoned, and Hirt's vision was never fully realized.
Only once the Allies began approaching Strasbourg did Hirt seem to recall the collection. In a letter addressed to Rudolf Brandt from the director of the Ahnenerbe, Brandt included Hirt's concerns regarding the bodies:
By reason of the considerable scientific work required, the preparation of the skeletons has not yet been completed.Hirt is wondering what to do with the collection in the event that Strasbourg is endangered. He could macerate them and make them unrecognizable. But in this case a part of the work of the entire project would have been performed in vain, and that would result in a great scientific loss for this unique collection for casts would no longer be possible. The collection, as it now exists, attracts no attention. We could say that these were the remains of cadavers taken from the Institute of Anatomy, where the French had left then, and we would burn them.
While we do not know what the director's response was to Brandt's letter, soon after Hirt demanded that the laboratory assistants remove the bodies from the Institute. They were then to cut up the bodies (to help prevent identification) and incinerate them in the city's crematory ovens. Due to the speed of Leclerc's men, fifteen bodies were left behind in the bottoms of the alcohol vats.
A part of Hirt's skull collections said to have been moved to the Mittersill castle in the fall of 1944. Hirt was captured at Strasbourg by French troops, who found "many wholly unprocessed corpses," many "partly processed corpses," and a few that had been "defleshed… late in 1944," and their heads burned to avoid any possibility of identification.
The bodies of Hirt's victims comprised some of the gruesome evidence left behind.
The relatively limited number of Hirt's victims allows us to investigate what it was that caused him to choose that particular group of people, and what happened to their bodies following their deaths. Hirt's selections were based primarily on racial characteristics: he wanted the most prominent examples for his collection that would be used both in anthropological studies, as well as to "demonstrate the superiority of the Nordic race
A Gruesome Discovery
After the march of Strasbourg began on November 23 at 7:03, it wasn't long before the columns of soldiers (the French First and the American Seventh) began to move across the city and make prisoners of those who had previously been the captors. While some SS officers made a feeble attempt to hold off Leclerc and his officers, they soon realized their attempts were in vain and fled. Some had even hidden civilian clothes in advance to aid themselves in their own escape. Others, including Professor Hirt, had fled as early as several weeks before. Hirt himself had told his assistants "they'll never take me alive," a fate that ultimately would prove to be true, although certainly not in the way Hirt had expected. Hirt was captured by French troops in Strasbourg, but committed suicide before he could be made to stand trial.
We had known. The world had vaguely heard. But until now no one of us had looked on this. Even this morning we had not imagined we would look on this. It was as though we had penetrated at last to the center of the black heart, to the very crawling inside of the vicious heart
Meyer Levin, war correspondent
Pictured above (top to bottom): Brandel Grub, Elisabeth Klein, Frank Sachnowitz, Hugo Haarzopf, Jeanette Passmann, Maria Kempner, Maurice Frances
Honoring the 86
On the 11th of December 2005 a ceremony will take place in the Jewish cemetery of Strasbourg-Cronenbourg, in Alsace.. The ceremony will honor the memory of 86 Jews who lay in an unmarked mass grave there since 1945.
London’s Daily Mail newspaper, on 1/3/45, broke the story of the discovery of 86 cadavers preserved in alcohol that were discovered at the University of Strasbourg’s Institute of Anatomy. All had a number tattooed on their left arm.
After lengthy and detailed research, the German journalist-historian Hans-Joachim Lang managed to identify every one of the 86 victims. In the study that he has just published, Lang takes on the “case” of August Hirt, the medical doctor named in 1941 to direct the Institute of Anatomy at the Reichsuniversität of Strasbourg, which was set up by the Nazis in the absence of the University of Strasbourg which had relocated to Clermont-Ferrand since 1939.
In the context of his racial studies, Professor Hirt conceived of the project of a collection of Jewish skeletons and, to that end, presented a research proposal to Reichsfuhrer Heinrich HImmler, who approved the project. Men and women were therefore “selected” in Auschwitz in August of 1943 and sent to the Struthof-Natzweiler (sic) concentration camp in Alsace. They were divided into four groups that were gassed one after the other between the 11th and the 19th of August, after which their cadavers were placed at the disposal of Professor Hirt.
But in September of 1944, due to the rapid approach of the allied armies, the project was abandoned and HImmler ordered the elimination of every trace of the compromising collection. His orders were not carried out, and the remains of the 86 cadavers were discovered and buried on October 23, 1945, in the municipal cemetery of Strasbourg-Robertsau. (In September, 1951, they were transferred to the Jewish cemetery of Strasbourg-Cronenbourg.) August Hirt, who fled Strasbourg in September, 1945, his in the city of Tübingen before committing suicide at the end of April 1945.
Six of his victims were Belgian Jewish women, who were deported from Malines to Auschwitz. Two of there were from Liège: Marjem Kempner-Rozen and her daughter Brandel Grub-Kempner. Dr. Lang’s work and other research conducted in Liège these last few years today allows us to follow the course of their destiny. Here, briefly, is their story and that of their families:
A Polish national, Marjem Rozen arrived in Liège from Dusseldorf at the age of 30. (Her brother, Alter-Jacob Rozen was to follow in 1923.) In Liège she met Moszek Kempner, also Polish, who was taken prisoner (not prisoner of war) in 1915 and interned in the Breslau (Germany) prison camp until December, 1918. The two had a daughter, Brandel, born in 1922, in Dusseldorf.
The families settled in and grew: Alter-Jacob Rozen, joined by his sife, Charolla Roth, became father to two daughters, Bertha and Nelly. Laib Kempner and his wife Esther Altmann gave birth to a son, Abraham. For her part, After three years of technical coursework at the trade school in Féronstrée street in Liège, Brandel became a “tailor.” In 1940, she married Abram Josek Grub, a tie manufacturer.
In May 1940, at the start of the war, they were alal living in the village of Grivegnée and were directly concerned when, at the end of October, 1940, the German occupying forces put “the Jewish question” on the table in Belgium. The first of ten anti-Jewish ordinances promulgated over a period of two years created a “Directory of Jews.” The responsibility to set up and maintain the listing fell to the municipal authorities.
In Liège, the obligation to apply the instructions of the Germans fell upon the “Bourgmaster” of the city, the socialist Joseph Bologne. Except for the distribution of yellow stars, he and his administration carried out all the German ordinances concerning the Jews. In other ways, however, “Bourgmaster” Bologne found areas for insubordination, where he could contest - or even refuse to carry out - German orders.
As ordered to do so by the Germans, the Kempner family signed onto the Jewish Directory of the cillage of Grivegnée on the 29th of November, 1940, and then, on the 9th of March, 1942, onto a second Directory, that of the local committee of the Association of Belgian Jews (an organization created by the occupier and in which the Jews were obliged to enroll.)
As a result of other ordinances, Moszek Kempner was expunged from the business list, on the 4th of April 1942, And, like all the Jews of Belgium, he and his family had to submit to a variety of measures ( curfew, no schooling, etc. ) intended to exclude them from their country’s economic and social life.
At the end of July, 1942, German policy regarding the Jews of Belgium took a decisive turn: on August 3, Moszek Kempner, his son-in-law Sbraham Grub, his brother-in-law Alter-Jacob Rozen, his brother Lajb Kempner and his nephew Abraham were called in by the Li¡ege Office of Work and deported, with 137 other Jews in the Liège region, to work camps in the north of France, notably in Dannes-Camiers.
On the following October 31, the Germans decided to arrest all the Jewish foreigners working in the Pas-de-Calais camps in order to deport them to Auschwitz on the 16th convoy. But the Kempner-Rozens managed to get out of it: Kajb Kempner was liberated, for medical reason, from the Dannes-Camiers camp; his son Abraham Kempner escaped from it ( he was later to join the Resistance). As for Moszek Kempner, Albraham Grub and Alter Jacob Rozen, they managed to jump off the train and get back to Liège.
But by that time, the Jewish population of the region of Liège were hard pressed. Since August 4, 1942, 511 of the region’s Jews were deported to upper Silesia, among whom Charolla Roth, Alter Rozen’s wife, arrested September 25 in what was probably Liège’s only round-up. She was incorporated, on September 26, 1942, into the 11th convoy headed to Auschwitz. Lajb Kempner’s wife, Esther Altmann was deported on the 23rd convoy, January 15, 1944.
Numerous other Jews, on their own or with the help of the local population and the Resistance, went underground; so it was with Marjem Rozem and her daughter Brandel, who were rejoined by those [of their family] on the run. Moszek Kempner and his family decided to hide in several different houses in the region: he found refuge with the Renard-Gresy’s in Grivegnée, the others in the Hanon-Lenaerts in Angleur.
It was only a brief respite: on April 12, seemingly by denunciation, the anti-Jewish section of Liège’s Sicherheitspolizei swooped down on Grivegnee and on Angleur. Moszek Kempner hid in a ceiling and was thus able to escape arrest. That was not to be the case of his wife, his daughter, his son-in law and his brother-in-law.
They were imprisoned first in the Citadelle of Liège, a military barrack converted by the German occupier into a high-security prison, from which Brandel Kempner, by subterfuge, passed a last message to his father to let him know of their situation.
On April 17, 1943, they were transferred to the Dossin barrack in Malines, and on the 19th, they were deported on the 20th convoy. It was attacked by the Resistance and Brandel’s husband, Abraham Grub, managed to get away. ( He was retaken and deported on the 21st convoy of July 31, 1943.)
Marjem and Brandel Kempner arrived on April 22 in Auschwitz. Four months later, they became members of the group “selected” for “Project Hirt” and were transferred to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in Alsace. They were gassed ther on August 11, 1943.
With the avalanche of commemorations this past year, one had the right to ask if all had not been said. The fate of these 86 victims whose identity took 60 years to uncover, serves to remind us that there is still much to study, to say, and to write.
In Belgium, the recent opening of totally unexplored archive collections, more and more detailed research about the specific means of persecution of the Jews, the emergence of regional studies, lights up parts of our national history that have remained in shadow. This research also allows tens of thousands of assassinated Belgian Jews to come out of the anonymity where their memory up until now had been limited to abstract statistics.
Translated by Diana Henry ( email@example.com )
Following the War
August Hirt committed suicide on June 2, 1945, in Schonenbach, in the Neustadt district. Due to his self-inflicted death, he was never brought to trial for his atrocious crimes.
Many of his collaborators, however, did stand trial for their crimes at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany.
Wolfram Sievers, originally a book dealer before WWII, served as the Executive Secretary of the Ahnenerbe and the director of the Institute for Military Scientific Research during the war after working at the Dachau concentration camp.
In addition to his role with Hirt's skeleton and skull collection, Sievers also participated in the high altitude and freezing experiments on concentration camp inmates, killing between 280 and 300 prisoners.
During his trial at Nuremberg, he pled not guilty, but was found guilty on August 20, 1947, and hanged for his crimes on June 2, 1948.
Rudolf Brandt, originally certified as a lawyer, served as Heinrich Himmler's Personal Administrative Officer, as well as acting as administrator to a number of medical experiments including high altitude and freezing experiments and extermination of prisoners with tuberculosis (his official title was Ministerial Councilor and Head of the Minister's Office in the Reich Ministry of the Interior ).
During the war crime trails, Brandt was found guilty and was sentenced to death. He was hanged in Landsberg on June 2, 1948.
Heinrich Himmler served as a Nazi German politician and head of the SS (Schutzstaffel). Next to Hitler himself, Himmler was one of the most powerful and influential players of World War II. He was individually responsible for giving the orders and organizing the extermination of millions of people. Showing no remorse for his crimes, Himmler stated, "We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us. Altogether, however, we can say that we have fulfilled this most difficult duty for the love of our people. And our spirit, our soul, our character has not suffered injury from it." Himmler, who committed suicide after being captured in 1945, would be referred to as the "architect of the Holocaust" following the war.
Photos below: overview of the main courtroom at the Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, Germany; the 23 defendants in the trial,
Honoring the Victims
With the horrors of the Holocaust farther behind us, the victims of August Hirt's skeleton collection have been honored across the world through publications, articles and memorials.
On December 11, 2005, a memorial was unveiled at the anatomy institute of Strasburg hospital, and at the Cronenbourg Jewish Cemetery in France. The unveiling was attended by relatives of Hirt's victims from Thessalonica, London, Germany, Israel and France. The plaque reads: "Souvenez-vous d'elles pour que jamais la medecine ne soit devoyée" (Remember them so that medicine never be corrupted again).
Jean-Claude Faugere, (L) chief of police of Bas-Rhin and Alsace region, Jean Kahn (C), president of France's Central Jewish Consistory, and senator and mayor Fabienne Keller (R) unveil a plaque carrying names of 86 Jews, victims of Nazi professor August Hirt of Reichsuniversität, formerly Strasbourg University.
- June 2, 1945,
August Hirt (April 28, 1898 in Mannheim, Baden – June 2, 1945 in Schönenbach/Schwarzwald), an SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain), served as a chairman at the Reich University in Strasbourg during World War II.
Working with the Ahnenerbe division, Wolfram Sievers, Bruno Beger and Hirt together collected human skeletons from among the Dachauinmates. In 1943, Hirt had 79 Jewish men, 30 Jewish women, 2 Poles, and 4 "Asians" selected among the inmates at Auschwitz. These people were sent to Natzweiler-Struthof on July 30, 1943. Here they were gassed, by Josef Kramer, on August 17 and August 19, 1943. Their bodies were returned to Hirt at the anatomical laboratory of the Reich University in Strasbourg for preparation as an anthropological display, where they were re-discovered after the liberation.
In the book, “Die Namen der Nummern“ (The Names of the Numbers), Hans-Joachim Lang describes this mass murder. He also recounts in detail the story of how he was able to determine the identities of 86 victims, 60 years after they were murdered.
Some of his records prepared for the trial are in possession of the US National Archives, including:
"Photocopies of certificates of proof of ancestry, in connection with research on prisoners in the Konzentrationslager Natzweiler, ...Feb. 9-Nov. 3, 1942.
Partial copies of slips for the admittance of prisoners into the Konzentrationslager Natzweiler, medical examinations on prisoners, and a death certificate, Dec. 9, 1942-Aug. 9, 1944. Feb. 9, 1942-Aug. 9, 1944"
- April 28, 1898~ June 2, 1945
Jewish Skeleton Collection
The Jewish skeleton collection was an attempt by the Nazis to create ananthropological display to showcase the alleged racial inferiority of the "Jewish race" and to emphasize the Jews status as untermenschen as opposed to the Germanrace which the Nazis considered to be Aryan ubermenschen. The collection was to be housed at the Anatomy Institute at the Reich University of Strasbourg in theAlsace region of Occupied France, where the initial preparation of the corpses was performed. The collection was sanctioned by Reichsführer of the SS Heinrich Himmler, and under the direction of August Hirt with Rudolf Brandt and Wolfram Sievers, general manager of the Ahnenerbe, being responsible for procuring and preparing the corpses.
Originally the "specimens" to be used in the collection were to be Jewish commisarsin the Red Army captured on the Eastern front by the Wermacht. The individuals ultimately chosen for the collection were obtained from among a pool of 115 Jewish inmates at Auschwitz concentration camp in Occupied Poland. They were chosen for their perceived stereotypical racial characteristics. The initial selections and preparations were carried out by SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Bruno Beger and Dr. Hans Fleischhacker, who arrived in Auschwitz in the first half of 1943 and finished the preliminary work by June 15, 1943.
Due to a typhus epidemic at Auschwitz, the candidates chosen for the skeleton collection were quarantined in order to prevent them from becoming ill and ruining their value as anatomical specimens; from a letter written by Sievers in June 1943: "Altogether 115 persons were worked on, 79 were Jews, 30 were Jewesses, 2 were Poles, and 4 were Asiatics. At the present time these prisoners are segregated by sex and are under quarantine in the two hospital buildings of Auschwitz."
Ultimately 87 of the inmates were shipped to Natzweiler-Struthof, 46 of these individuals were originally from Thessaloniki, Greece. The deaths 86 of these inmates was, in the words of Hirt, "induced" at a jury rigged gassing facility at Natzweiler-Struthof and their corpses; 57 men and 29 women, were sent to Strasbourg, one male victim was shot as he fought to keep from being gassed. Josef Kramer, acting commandant of Natzweiler-Struthof (who would become the commandant at Auschwitz and the last commandant of Bergen Belsen) personally carried out the gassing of 80 of these 86 victims. In 1944 with the approach of the allies, there was concern over the possibility of the corpses being discovered, at this point they had still not been defleshed. The first part of the process for this "collection" was to make anatomical casts of the bodies prior to reducing them to skeletons. In September, 1944 Sievers telegrammed Brandt: "The collection can be defleshed and rendered unrecognizable. This, however, would mean that the whole work had been done for nothing-at least in part-and that this singular collection would be lost to science, since it would be impossible to make plaster casts afterwards."In February 1942, Sievers submitted to Himmler, through Rudolf Brandt, a report from which the following is an extract read at the Nuremberg Doctors Trial by General Telford Taylor, Chief Counsel for the prosecution at Nuremberg: Wolfram Sievers
"We have a nearly complete collection of skulls of all races and peoples at our disposal. Only very few specimens of skulls of the Jewish race, however, are available with the result that it is impossible to arrive at precise conclusions from examining them. The war in the East now presents us with the opportunity to overcome this deficiency. By procuring the skulls of the Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars, who represent the prototype of the repulsive, but characteristic subhuman, we have the chance now to obtain a palpable, scientific document.
"The best, practical method for obtaining and collecting this skull material could be handled by directing the Wehrmacht to turn over alive all captured Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars to the Field Police. They in turn are to be given special directives to inform a certain office at regular intervals of the number and place of detention of these captured Jews and to give them special close attention and care until a special delegate arrives. This special delegate, who will be in charge of securing the 'material' has the job of taking a series of previously established photographs, anthropological measurements, and in addition has to determine, as far as possible, the background, date of birth, and other personal data of the prisoner. Following the subsequently induced death of the Jew, whose head should not be damaged, the delegate will separate the head from the body and will forward it to its proper point of destination in a hermetically sealed tin can especially produced for this purpose and filled with a conserving fluid.
"Having arrived at the laboratory, the comparison tests and anatomical research on the skull, as well as determination of the race membership of pathological features of the skull form, the form and size of the brain, etc., can proceed. The basis of these studies will be the photos, measurements, and other data supplied on the head, and finally the tests of the skull itself."Victim Elisabeth Klein (b. 1901 Vienna,Austria)
Brandt and Sievers would be indicted, tried and convicted in the Doctors' Trial in Nuremberg and both were hanged in Landsberg Prison on June 2, 1948. Hirt committed suicide in Schonenbach, Austria, on June 2, 1945 with a gunshot to the head. Josef Kramer was convicted of war crimes and hanged in Hamelin prison by noted British executioner Albert Pierrepoint on December 13, 1945. In 1974 Bruno Berger was convicted by a West German court as an accessory to 86 murders for his role in procuring the victims of the Jewish skeleton collection. He was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, the minimum sentence, but did not serve any time in prison. According to his family, Beger died in Königstein im Taunus on October 12, 2009.
For many years only a single victim, Menachem Taffel (prisoner no. 107969) a Polish born Jew who had been living in Berlin- was positively identified, through the efforts of Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. In 2003 Dr. Hans-Joachim Lang, a German professor at the University of Tübingen succeeded in identifying all the victims, by comparing a list of inmate numbers of the 86 corpses at Strasbourg (surreptitiously recorded by Hirts' French assistant Henri Herypierre) with a list of numbers of inmates vaccinated at Auschwitz. The names and biographical information of the murder victims were published in the book Die Namen der Nummern (The Names of the Numbers). In 1951 the remains of the 86 victims were reinterred in one location in the Cronenbourg-Strasbourg Jewish Cemetery. On Dec. 11, 2005, memorial stones engraved with the names of the 86 victims were placed at the cemetery. One is at the site of the mass grave, the other along the wall of the cemetery. Another plaque honoring the victims was placed outside the Anatomy Institute at Strasbourg's University Hospital.
- July 21, 1900~ August 17 or 19, 1943
SURVIVORS REMEMBER and REMEMBERED
Who is André?
In these photos, made by British intelligence when André was secretly brought over to England from France in the second year of World War II, André was given several disguises-in case he was picked up by the Nazis for questioning.
André sent copies of these photos back to his sister Madie in the US and thus we have a record of how the kind and clairvoyant face with which he surmounted incredible obstacles in the course of spying on the Germans and eventually surviving three concentration camps, Natzweiler-Struthof, Allach and Dachau.
Before becoming André, Joseph Scheinmann was a teenager when his family sought refuge from Germany in France in 1933. He had been a leader of Jewish youth in Germany before leaving: he organized sports camps and tutoring for his peers when they were excluded from school activities, and militated against their having to participate in Hitler rallies.
André was a soldier for France, for the three weeks France fought Hitler; when he enlisted, in 1939, the French army assigned him a dead man’s name and identity, that of André Peulevey. He escaped from prisoner of war camp and went to work for the railroad, immediately sniffing out Turban, his boss, for a British spy and joining his network as second-in-command.
Taking cover for his flawless German by enrolling as a graduate student at the University of Rennes and as would-be professor of German, he served as an interpreter for the Nazis and obligingly translated for the SS in Brittany when they toured their military bases, ports, fuel depots, and submarine facilities.
Thanks to him, the British knew what to expect of bombing raids originating at the Rennes airport, off-limits to the French, but where André had placed a Polish cook who reported to him. He got a shave every morning at the barber shop where the Nazi pilots unwound and talked about their missions; he demanded and received strategic reports by placing phone calls to Germany through the telephone system set up by the Nazis at their railroad headquarters.
His reports were radioed and couriered to London for months, allowing the British to bomb and destroy the facilities he'd identified with great accuracy. In December 1941, he was brought to London, overnight across the English channel, for additional training. While he was there, his network was infiltrated: as soon as he went back to work he was caught.
Days of and nights of torture, months of prison, the most vicious of the concentration camps, Natzweiler-Struthof: a dreary and dismal fate, illuminated by his bravado, courage and pride. At Gestapo headquarters in Paris, he insisted on coffee, toast and jam, a typewriter and quiet if he was to type his report on conditions in London. He passed messages in and out of jail in slices of omelet. He grew healthy on a starvation diet while in solitary confinement, because other prisoners sent him food down the air vents. He never talked - except to say hehad gone to London to look up an old girlfriend.
At Natzweiler, he became a Kapo, and organized a shadow dance of work to protect the dying prisoners under his command and the SS guards who craved sleep, protection and loyalty as much as their charges. André reports with enduring pride that when he was put into the “weberei" (the weaving workshop) "production immediately dropped by 30%.”
When the most feared “Rottenführer” (SS corporal) at Natzweiler asked him if his teammates always worked so hard he said:“Of course not, only when you are here!” And this Ehrmanntraut, master of the dogs, this sadist extraordinaire, addressed him with formality and respect.
Dachau seemed easy by comparison, and that was where he was liberated by the Americans on April 19, 1945. He ran to embrace a soldier - her helmet fell off, her blond hair fell to her shoulders, and he found himself hugging a famous female photographer, Lee Miller. That was the last of the good memories -- he soon found out his parents had given up hope when he was taken, let themselves be captured, and died in Auschwitz.
But André met Claire at the US embassy in Paris. She had had a brilliant career in radio operations for the RAF during the war. They married, resettled in the US, and their son and grandchildren live near him in Boston.
André's wife, Claire, at the time of their meeting in London, 1941, when she worked in the RAF.
Natzweiler Has been a French National Monument since 1968
drawings from memory of camp scenes by survivor Henri Gayot
photographs from the documentation used for the Nuremburg trials'
Aerial reconnaissance photo of Konzentrationslager Natzweiler (K.L.Na) by the RAF, July, 1944
Daughter Jeanne remembers her father:
Jean and wife Marguerite (née Heintz) with their daughters, Georgette on the bicycle and Jeanne on the rocking horse, in 1941.
Jeanne L. has provided precious materials for this website about her father Jean Schmit. He "was incarcerated as a political prisoner from Luxembourg. In 1942 he was taken during the night and we first heard from him when he was sent to Hinzert, then transferred to Natzweiler where he was able to communicate with his family via mail , the first letter came July 13th, 1943. The last letter my mother received was Feb. 26th 1944. No more news after that. "
Translation by Jeanne Schmit:
"Concentration Camp Natzweiler
Post Office: Rotau-Alsace
The following rules are to be obeyed when corresponding with a person:
1.) Twice each month the prisoner can send or receive a letter or postcards. The letters to the prisoners have to be written in ink and very legible. Only 15 lines are allowed per page. Only one size envelope can be used. Only 5 stamps of twelve pfennigs can be enclosed. Everyhthing else is forbidden and will be confiscated. Postcards can only have to lines. The use of photographs as postcards is not allowed.
2.) You can send money.
3.) Be sure that by money transfers you write the exact name of the prisoner, birthdate, prisoner camp number. Everyone who writes to the prisoner must use the exact same address; if not, it will be returned to the sender.
4.) Newspapers are allowed only if ordered through the postoffice at Natzweiler camp.
5.) Packages cannot be sent, the prisoners are able to buy everything they need at the camp store.
6.) Try to steal anything or trade with other prisoners and you will be punished.
7.) Remarks and backtalk with the camp leaders is also punishable. Talks and visits with the prisoners are strictly not allowed."
The Camp commander.
Sent by : Name: Schmit, Johann
Prisoner # 4161, Block [Barrack] O ( 17th)
The stamp features a portrait of Hitler and themark alludes to the pleasant summer climate and wintersports at Schirmeck-Rotau.
[Editor's Note: NN prisoners at the camp were not known to be there and their families could not correspond with them.]Jeanne Schmit writes: "This is a postal receipt for money transferred to father when he was in Natzweiler. Date July 13th, 1943. This is the original.
"A wife's heartache, a mother's pain" by Jeanne Schmit:
"I remember back in 50's when we were allowed to look through my mother's large armoire drawer to see some guns and a machine gun, lots of war stuff, but I know that the weapons went to my mother's nephew because she did not want them in the house anymore. Those weapons were used by my mother to carry on my father's work with the Belgian resistance after he was taken away by the Gestapo."
Jeanne writes further: "I was able to get in touch with Serge Hoffmann, he's the conservator at the Archives Nationales in the city of Luxembourg, and he was able to send me some detailed information and dates about all the camps my father was in, and the last known place was Auschwitz, and on January 14th, 1945. He believes that my father was sent to that most horrific camp, Dora, where he finally died. Mr. Hoffmann is sending me copies of all the documents in the Archives, and having them in my hand will bring closure to this obsession I had of finding out what happened to my father. And having the letters he sent from Natzweiler, one especially for my fourth birthday, they will remain close in my heart."
"I received an email from my sister Georgette today, and she has some input as to the biography and the dangerous feats my father and his resistance comrades did to upset the progress of the German armies.... I also have a very touching letter written to my mother from another prisoner when my father was in the camp of Hinzert. I believe that my father was unable to write at the time, maybe because of illness, and it read that my mother should destroy the letter after reading it, but she didn't. I will make copies and send it to you, it is rather interesting. I will get to busy and get my pen working to write our fathers story, and I have hopes that it will affect some people interested in works of the resistance. I will write again soon. Jeanne"
Jeanne will keep us posted, so please check back for more information. "On september 22nd, I will fly to Lux. to visit with my sister, a trip I had planned some time ago, and this will be a good time for us to take this search further. ...After 34 years living in the US, I'm still proud to be a Luxembourger and of the work my father did with the French and Belgian resistance, and the knowledge and heroism my mother told us kids about our father. In Luxembourg they will not let the future generations forget what happened between 1939 and 1945. "
[If you would like to write to Jeanne, you may do so at Bobobythesea@aol.com]
Jean Schmit is listed on page 79 "Tableau d'Honneur" [Honor Roll] of the "Golden Book of the Resistance in Luxemburg, 1940-1945"
in the chapter on Natzweiler-Struthof. [translation on request.]
Ivan Stular prisoner #10076
Mateja Stular - Varsek has been in touch since 2008 with Diana Mara Henry. Many thanks for her sharing precious memories.
"My father, Ivan Stular, prisoner #: 60974 died in Natzweiler in 1944..... Ivan and/or Janez means John in Slovenian.
...My father was born in Vrhnika (near Ljubljana), Slovenia and both my brother and I were born there as well. My brother still lives in Ljubljana but I immigrated to Canada in l954.
"I am enclosing two of my father's letters from Natzweiler to my aunt in present day Kamnik in Slovenija known as Stein in Oberkrain during the German occupation. His letters from Dachau were also mailed to my aunt Franciska Levstek who later forwarded them to my mother Danica Stular in Vrhnika through some underground connection. These letters had to be written in German and were censored by the camp command before they were forwarded.
You will note that the first letter was written by my father; however, the second one (the longer one) was written by an unknown writer. I can only assume that my father was already too ill and too weak to write. My father was transferred to Natzweiler from Dachau in March 1944 and in May 1944 he passed away. I am enclosing my father's personal information as is kept in the Natzweiler-Struthof museum.
Perhaps you remember me from last year when I was ... to travel to Natzweiler-Struthof Museum. I took the local train from Strasbourg to Schirmeck La Broque and then the shuttle bus (#253) to Struthof. After spending most of the day at the museum and trying to re-live the horrors of the camp I decided to walk back the 10 km highway to Schirmeck railway station, thinking and imagining what it was like for these undernourished and almost naked prisoners to walk up the steep road. Even in late September, the wind was cold and razor sharp.
This is the latest communication, 10/25/11 from Mataya Stular about her father.
My father's Prisoner #60974 was given to him in Dachau while in Natzweiler-Struthof's his Prisoner number was #10076.
My father, Ivan Stular was first imprisoned (with about 19 others) in Vrhnika in early December 1943 and after a few days sent to a bigger prison in Ljubljana (present-day capital of Slovenija). I can still hear the heavy knock on our front door very early in the morning - it must have been about 6:00 am because my grandmother Marija had already gone to church to attend the daily Mass. When we opened the door, two German soldiers armed with rifles asked for my father who was told to get ready at once. They showed him a piece of paper saying that they are just carrying out their orders.
As soon as we learned that my father was moved from Vrhnika's to Ljubljana's Police Station, my mother and grandmother had prepared a small parcel of food which I took to him. I was 9 years old at that time and had to travel 20 km on a local train from Vrhnika to Ljubljana. I clearly remember asking the guards at the Police Station to see my father but they refused to let me see him; however, they took the parcel and called me "another communist whore".
From Ljubljana my father was sent to a prison in Begunje - a well known prison where immediate executions of political hostages took place either by shooting or hanging. Last fall I visited this Museum of Hostages in Begunje (Slovenija) and among the hand-written records could find his name and the date of arrival: 21.12 (December 21) Johann Stuller (07), Prisoner No. 2676. For some unexplained reason, my father and others were not executed but moved to Dachau. (I have several letters from Dachau).
Ivan Stular arrived at KL Natzweiler-Struthof on March 29, 1944, prisoner #10076.
Le sel, la cendre, la flamme [Salt, Ash, Fire] by Henri Rosencher is the memoir of a resistor to the Nazis, from his birth in Warsaw in 1915, his young manhood as a Marxist medical student in Paris, through his imprisonment at the Natzweiler-Struthof and Dachau concentration camps, to his return to a world in which none of his family remained.
Along the way, he was:
- a soldier for France
- twice arrested and twice escaped from prisoner of war camps
- a scout and weapons instructor in the British initiatives in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, and
- an explosives expert in the desperate resistance struggle to liberate the Vercors plateau in France,
the experience you will read here.
This chapter, “The Tragedy of the Vercors” is a gripping insider’s narrative of the controversial betrayal by the Allies of the most promising insurrection in Western Europe from which very few survived to tell the tale.
Dr. Rosencher resides in Paris with his wife, and on my visit with him in December of 2000 he summarized his book, in his inscription to me, as “memories of somber but exalting times.”
Dr. Rosencher’s book, winner of the prestigious French “Literary Prize of the Resistance,” in the English language, deserves to be published in English and the reading public will then be treated to one heck of a good read as well as a powerful education about what makes a Jew a warrior in desperate times.
Interview with Joseph Linden of Forest Hills, NY, July, 1992 by Diana Mara Henry
Was sent from the ghetto of Nowy-Targ, Poland, to the concentration camp of Krakow, Plaszow, where he worked on electrifying the fences for the Siemens Corporation. There were only Jews there at first.
He had been working in an oil refinery as a chemical engineer. During his incarceration by the Nazis, "I made my profession as an electrician."
In July, 1944, 40 Jewish electricians were sent to Natzweiler. "They put us to work in a commando in Neckar-Elz near Heidelberg. We spent 10 days in Natzweiler first while they were waiting for our orders.
"Neckar-Elz was a place of gypsum mines. The AEG, Siemens and BBC were the companies producing parts for the V1 and V2 missiles. We were slave labor. When we came, there was nothing there. We set up the installation for the Russian and French slave labor. The Luftwaffe were building these (missiles). We had better food: a little bread and soup. The camp was in the public school. We went in at 5 a.m. and came out at 8 p.m., seven days a week. Christmas was off. They even put a Christmas tree there.
"I was sent to the airport of Munich-Riem. I was doing manual labor-digging. They were testing the first jets. We were building the runways. We were camped at the stables at the racetrack.
"In the beginning of February, we went to Dachau on foot, then by train. I was liberated from Dachau. Just before the liberation, the 40 Jews only were taken back to Dachau. A few of the 40 died of typhus in Natzweiler. We didn't meet any Jews and we thought there were none left.
"Right after the liberation, we started the Jewish Committee. Right after the liberation, many Jews died. There was a mass grave. We made a list of their names, and the Hofbau and the Forward published the list of Jews who died at Dachau. (There are two volumes of Yahrzheit dates: one of the Jews from Poland, and one of the Jews from elsewhere in Europe.)
"We also compiled a list of all Jews in Dachau who remained alive. Dr. Abe Klansner (of Armonk, according to Rabbi Malcolm Stern), an American Rabbi and Chaplain, was one of the first to visit. Abe provided lists of Jews left in the neighboring camps and we compiled them. "
Joseph has a detached retina from a blow to his eye from someone taking lumber from him that he was carrying. He has no tatooed number on his arm, because only Auschwitz inmates had tattooed numbers. Compensation to Linden comes from Bavariuan Landesbank to Bank Leumi @ approximately $700 per month.
The National Archives have many of his documents and the living Museum to the Holocaust in NYC have other artifacts.
The sign posted by the entrance to the Natzweiler-Struthof camp reads: "General Delestraint Square. Head of the secret army, Imprisoned at the Struthof from the 8th of March to the 5th of September, 1944. Died for France at Dachau, April 19 , in 1945. " Delestraint , general in charge of the Resistance Movements Within the German occupation of France DURING, WAS removed from Natzweiler with all The Other Prisoners, in advance of the oncoming American Troops, Who discovered the camp, empty of Prisoners, in November of 1944. He Was Shot Just Before the Americans Liberated Dachau. Photo and Copyright © Diana Mara translation Henry.
Delestraint Charles (1879 - 1945)
The first head of the Secret Army
The First leader of the Secret Army
At the beginning of World War I (1914-1918), Captain Delestraint was taken prisoner by the Germans and interned for four years, after a brilliant part in the fighting.
At the start of WWI, Captain WAS Delestraint taken as prisoner of war by the Germans and WAS Imprisoned for Four Years, After Participating in the fight brilliantly.
During the Second World War (1939-1945), General Delestraint refuses the armistice signed 22 June 1940 by the Petain government and chooses to follow the call of London by General de Gaulle, to resist against Nazi Germany .
DURING WWII, General Delestraint Refused to acknowledge the armistice signed on June 22 1940 by the Petain government and something to follow the call put out by General de Gaulle for Resistance Against Nazi Germany.
In 1942, he became known as Vidal, the first head of the Secret Army. Arrested by the Gestapo, he was deported to the camp Struthof in Alsace, then to Dachau, where he was executed in April 1945, days before the camp was liberated by the Americans.
In 1942, Under the name Vidal, ET Became the first leader of the Secret Army. Arrested by the Gestapo and deported to the He Was Struthof camp in Alsace, then to Dachauwhere He Was Executed in April 1945, A Few days before the American liberation of the camp.
General Delestraint, 1938. Source: FY Guillin Collection
Joining in the spirit of General de Gaulle, Delestraint chose to stay in France where the resistance is organized. He then tries to find and combine the old tanks, urging them to take action. Conducting an intensive propaganda campaign, it multiplies the meetings in non-occupied.
In December 1940, the first issue of the newsletter between those of the tanks. Delestraint participated in the writing of this bulletin, the message is clear: be prepared to take up arms. Everywhere, associations are created, potential sources of future actions. Delestraint devotes his time tirelessly to maintain the flame of resistance.
General Delestraint in 1942.
Beginning in 1942, Jean Moulin left London. General de Gaulle asked him to coordinate, in France, the actions of the various resistance movements.
On August 28, 1942, Delestraint meeting in Lyon, Jean Moulin.
Jean Moulin is looking for a military leader capable of directing the organization that will bring their armed groups. The aim is to establish a military organization prepared to respond effectively to the Allied landings. Contacted, General Delestraint accepted the position.
Delestraint becomes, under the pseudonym of Vidal, the head of the Secret Army veterans that includes the elements of the three resistance movements in the southern zone: Combat, Libération and snipers.
Went into hiding, Delestraint-Vidal moved to Lyon, where he is his staff. In late 1942, the number of the secret army is estimated at some 30,000 men.
Letter to General de Gaulle
Delestraint entrusting the
command of the Secret Army.
Source: FY Guillin Collection
In February 1943, Delestraint-Vidal went to London with Jean Moulin to coordinate the work of the secret army with the Allied Command. While Vidal sees his responsibilities extend to the whole country (areas north and south), he learns that the landing of the Allies will not occur until spring 1944. It should build on these months of waiting to organize, equip and train his men to date.
March 15, 1943, when the head of the Secret Army in London, several members of his staff were arrested in France. Important documents were seized. German intensifies surveillance and arrests are increasing.
Back in France, Vidal maquis develops, particularly in the Vercors, ensure their food supplies, weapons and equipment. Vidal is working hard to unify and operational cohesion of his troops. Focusing on well-prepared actions, he wants to avoid any premature action that would jeopardize the final design.
Within months, the size of the Secret Army increased from approximately 100 000 people to over 200 000.
If the work done is important, the situation is becoming increasingly worrying. The head of the Secret Army knows that his days may be numbered.
On June 9, 1943, Delestraint-Vidal was arrested by the Gestapo in Paris, where he was to meet with military leaders of the movement of the north, and the commander Gastaldo, his Chief of Staff and head of the second study, and Lieutenant Jean-Louis Theobald, collaborator of Jean Moulin.
When questioned by the Gestapo, Delestraint-Vidal gives no information. Transferred to Fresnes prison, he tries to release the liability of other defendants and to obtain their release by taking all his dependents.
After nine months of training, the case is referred to the Court of Breslau.
1944 - Delestraint was interned in Natzwiller-Struthof and then to Dachau.
On March 10, 1944, General Delestraint was interned in Alsace, at Camp Natzwiller-Struthof, under the status of Nacht und Nebel, that is to say that the Nazis deported a make disappear "night and fog" . Delestraint waiting for his court appearance.
In September 1944, the camp was evacuated Struthof, before the Allied advance. The prisoners were transferred to Germany, near Munich, the Dachau concentration camp.
On April 19, 1945 - Delestraint is executed at Dachau.
The implementation of the General Delestraint a few days before the camp was liberated by the Americans.
The following is a translation of Postcript by Thomas Poiss to the German language edition of Pahor's memoir of Natzweiler-Struthof, Nekropolis, as translated by Thomas Marc Futter for this site:
The mischief started, as so often in the 20th century: somebody must have slandered Boris Pahor when, in January, 1944, in Trieste, German secret police came to fetch him, subjected him to the usual brutal examination, and within a short while, deported him to Dachau. The truth is that Pahor had not yet had time to become involved in the Resistance, since he had just --- following Italian war service in Libya and as prison translator at Lake Garda --- returned to his home in Trieste where the Slovenian liberation front OF had been in operation with some success. The trap door closed in spite of this. Two newspaper articles in the Nachtkastchen
(Nightbox) were enough to send Boris Pahor for fifteen months into the German Death Reich: Dachau, Natzweiler in the Vosges mountains, Dora- Mittelbau, and Hartzungen/Bergen Belsen.
Boris Pahor relates his way through Nekropolis --- the name relates to the description of the French memorial at Natzweiler: nécropole national ---
but he doesn’t tell anything in chronological or thematic order, but in a manner that protects us later-born, at the same time in a more emphatic way. The experiences are related from the perspective of a summer’s day in the early Sixties, when the author is strolling along the memorial site of Natzweiler. He is walking in eye- and earshot of the official leading a group through the camp and follows the impulses of the spontaneous memory from which he can obtain a very intense picture of the organization of the camp, exactly because the most powerful pictures gather around the remembered details. At the same time, Pahor is reflecting in his lonely walk across the terraces of the camp --- down below, the crematorium, up above, the gallows, and in between, the tiered barracks, connected by staircases --- the possibility and impossibility of making any kind of statement. His own light summer shoes are reflected in the gravel but seem completely unreal vis à vis the remembrance of the plump, often unusable wooden clogs in which he at times used to be chased or which he was wearing whenever the dead were carried from the sick barracks to the oven. When, however, his own present time resists past memories --- how should a former prisoner explain himself to anyone who was not affected by the events themselves --- vacationing tourists when their imagination becomes overloaded by the simplest happenings? “What is that? - The oven. The poor ___” and at the same time the story teller who has to listen to this banal dialogue knows that it is only the usual excuse of a weak consciousness in the face of the suspected reality.
In constantly new attempts, Pahor circles around the question of communication while time and time again being pulled into ascending remembrances: into the rain, into the cold, into the pointless harassment or the sadistic guards, the illnesses. In the regard to the last named, we discover, particularly intensively, because Pahor, who had no political direction nor had been a member of the hierarchy of the prisoners, only got to know the camp through his multilingualism and his ability to care for the sick. In changing bandages, a French camp doctor noticed the many languages of the man with a capital I that stamped him as an Italian, who through his Slovenian, also knew the Slavic languages and in addition knew the German that was a requirement for the official sick reports. So Pahor became one of those who fought with paper bandages, grape sugar, animal carbon and in the best case, with veterinary medical sulfanimides against diarrhea, inflammation/ infection, open sores of hunger, edema, and similar severe suffering. Too many times the activity of those caring for the sick was transformed into that of gravedigger. In consideration of this, it would appear to be a miracle that Boris Pahor escaped with only pulmonary TB. Of these medical therapies in a French pulmonary sanitorium, and of the difficult return into everyday living, he relates in an autobiographical novel, Kampf mit im Frühling.(1958, dated 1997.)
Boris Pahor approached the theme of Nekropolis very slowly. In Kampf mit im Frühling, he relates --- embedded in the equally strange but healing love story --- the experiences in a concentration camp in two chapters, while in a preceding novel, La Villa sur le Lac (1998) this is only present in an indirect way. The protagonist an architect from Trieste who is on vacation in Lake Garda, discovers the emotional and still standing relics of Mussolini’s time, but is reluctant to tell his young beloved about his own experiences. But in the Sixties, the time is ripe to take the related beginnings of the immediate postwar years --- the episode of the caretaker Yanos (Nekropolis page 98 and following) was already told as a separate story in 1947 --- to put them together into a many faceted representation.
The storyteller of Nekropolis mostly knits together several perspectives and often achieves his disturbing clarity through careful guidance of the reader. For example, Pahor walking through the barracks of Natzweiler hits upon the wooden horse to which the victim of whippings were tied. But he is not focusing his view onto this terrible event which cannot be reached through any amount of pity but because of the absence of the banished prisoners from the call up (appel.) They are only waiting that the presumed victim who may have walked away and is sitting in another corner and fallen asleep from exhaustion that the guards will find them. Only in realizing this silence they will follow the expected identification with victim, but even this does not happen until the panicky moment of discovery at the moment of extreme isolation.
Natzweiler/ KLNa to the Nazis, one of the least discussed of the concentration camps, with its population of almost entirely non-Jewish inmates, and Jewish resistors not identified as Jewish, makes an important case study of revolt. The memoirs of Natzweiler-Struthof provide primary material for a serious exploration of the history of repression and resistance in the second World War.
All the writers known to have written about Natzweiler belonged to a category which deserves to be studied far more extensively than it has been in the U.S.: they were resistors condemned under the NN -- "Nacht und Nebel" decree.From 1942 on, the KLNa was mostly dedicated to the incarceration and death of resistors. By 1943, Himmler decided to group all those arrested under this decree at Natzweiler.
The phenomenon of opposition to the Nazis under many forms and guises is represented in about two dozen memoirs of Jews and non-Jews who actively participated in the destruction of the Third Reich, for the enduring honor of mankind. Future generations, no matter how widely they create, fantasize, interpret, analyze, will always have these primary sources, this bedrock of memory to mine.
These accounts demonstrate that the persistence of memory of these atrocities is not an act claimed only by the Jews: only two of the known memoirs were written by Jews. The most recently published memoirs are by a Norwegian, a Dutchman and a Slovene: non-Jews. This should set aside the challenge so often put to a Jewish person interested in this period of history: "Why can't you put the Holocaust behind you?" Every one of the authors so far known to have written about Natzweiler, and included in this survey, was sent there as punishment for acts of resistance and sabotage of the German war effort. The NN and other political prisoners of the Nazis were destined to slave labor and extinction.
Floris Bakels' diaries form the basis of Nacht un Nebel, (Night and Fog) Published in 1993 by Lutterworth Press, it is possibly the earliest to be written: it is based on his concentration camp diaries which were hidden in the rafters of Natzweiler before the camp's "evacuation" on September 2, 1944, to Dachau. Bakels' diaries, while providing contemporary accounts of the same events as those the other inmates recorded from memory and the camp archives, play counterpoint to all the other memoirs: as a "proeminenten" by his Dutch nationality, which was respected as Aryan by the Nazis, Bakels held a desk job, lost about ten kilos less than the others, possessed and smoked cigarettes by the pack, received packages from home , cooked, and even kept his faith in God.
Bakels now steers away from organized Christianity: "I do not belong to any religious community and rarely go to church, unless it is to lecture. I fear the catastrophes which threaten to come our way; many are already on the way."
Floris Bakels, 27 when he reached Natzweiler, was the son of a Mennonite minister and his memoirs are the most religous of the group. Not surprisingly, his heart was turned towards God and Jesus during many of his most difficult moments in the camp, as for example, on 11/8/43:
"I'm wasting away It's all too much. Have just been bandaged, on the way to the loo I slipped with my crutch, all damaged again, I'm moaning, being scolded. Insult, Harshness, injustice. God, how long will you allow yourself to be mocked? Christ, let me suffer martyrdom for You, for You, for You. Give it to me, I'll take it, I'll join the thousands of martyrs who suffer for You. Let me have it for it is blissful."
Instead of martyrdom, he received four foot surgeries, with anesthesia. "Debated with Leo (the SS doctor, not an inmate doctor) about the New Testament on the operating table." He receives a visit from the SS; " `You've been run down. How do you feel now?' Compassion from them!" Bakels is the only prisoner to mention the "forced and uninterrupted communal life" as being "a real plague."You could not even think alone. All your thoughts, fantasies, notions were influenced, infected." (127) This comment is followed by a grotesquely amusing description of the cacaphony of sounds of men evacuating together sitting on a pole. His author's choice of focus in far different from Pahor's excruciating description of a prisoner being beaten for not being able to control his diarrhea. These two authors direct their readers' interest to very different effect, one to revulsion and one to compassion for the sufferers.
The unrelieved promiscuity so obnoxious to him was aggravated by the fact that Bakels usually had cigarettes on him, "and when you were walking and smoking you could not be alone for even one minute: scroungers would find you soon enough. (`can I have a puff too, Floor?'). Thus you were irritated by the physical, but especially psychic, presence of others."A comparison of this annoyance with the agony of guilt Pahor experienced through the years at the memory of trading a cigarette for a piece of bread, which he insists was the cause of the prisoner's death by starvation, demonstrates that no one memoir can tell the story of the camps:
"I confess my sin. It happened only once, because I never had access to cigarettes again....I knew exactly when I was crossing the line into the realm of base instinct. Yes, condemn me for that piece of bread. Because when the smoker's body succumbed, it succumbed in part because of the the piece of bread I ate. If I had given him the cigarettes, and not taken that one piece of bread, I would not have contributed to his death.
So, fortunate Floris, fortunate all the Dutchmen in his transport, greeted their first night by "a man with hair on his head, impeccably dressed in an ordinary blue striped suit...:
"I am Wim Roessingh, one of three Dutchment in Natzweiler until now.... [Bakels uses first and last names.] "`I work in the Revier [sick ward], I have contacts. As yet it isn't known how they'll treat the Dutch. Let's hope it'll be like the Norwegians, not like the French.'...My relationship with Wim continued after the war with an extraordinary and delightful result...He and I --both survivors-- now share two granddaughters and a grandson. How is it possible!"
Bakels had been in the resistance, publishing an underground newsletter in the Hague and in Rotterdam.
For this, Bakels was sent to Natzweiler.
"In Spring 1941 I appealed to all my learned colleagues in Rotterdam by circular letter not to sign the so-called Aryan declaration which was intended to reveal Jewish origins. I believe no solicitor signed it...I could not accept the events as an official war between two countries...I viewed them as a criminal case...The presence in Holland of a Reichscommissar with all the farrago of German government offices and regulatory measures I judged to be a farce, a sinister comedy. We were really dealing with gangsters and nothing else."
His skills and Aryan national background qualified Bakels for a job in the weberei and then in the registrar's office (Schreibstube ). "For weeks, indeed months, I sat in a clean wooden room writing for some ten hours a day, with a view of part of a forest, a watchtower with SS and machine gun, and a part of the crematorium." Bakels also worked in the Effektenkammer (warehouse for prisoner's private property) with the prominenten (top dog prisoners) "Unlike anyone else we had plenty of opportunities to "organize'. You could steal and make yourself rich, because all these goods could be exchanged for food. You could `organize' sweaters, socks, shoes. you could smoke..."
The Dutch were among the favored "aryan" nationalities at the camps. At Natzweiler, parcels arrived for each Dutchman from the Mennonite Society of Amsterdam ("opened, pillaged, as usual." But in the order of the camps there were always more fortunate prisoners : Bakels vividly describes being caught up in a throng of prisoners surging timidly toward the barracks of Luxemburgers whose care packages had just arrived. and who were grilling meat. But there is a comparative lack of descriptions of hunger in Bakels, compared with the other memoirs. No one can read Pahor, for example, without a powerful sensation of the deplorable ravages of hunger on body and mind: "You feel that the emptiness inside you is about to swallow your last shred of reason." Bakels speaks of love and saucepans of macaroni. (Among the accounts written by all the other prisoners, both are unique.) : "...friends could still love each other. One evening, when I was lying on my bed deeply depressed, Con Broers brought me a saucepan of macaroni. When he noticed my deep distress he climbed onto the bed next to mine....He turned on his side, my way, and started stroking my stubbly head. That really helped, and forty-nine years later I can still feel it....The list of friends who pulled, dragged and hauled me through an endless series of mortal dangers is a long one, a very long one."
Bakels makes a distinction between the "manly" type of friendship (described in Rosencher's African odyssey) and the feminization of feeling, the tenderness of friendship in the camps, which Bakels notes but which is more apparent in Pahor.
Bakels is actually the only one of the authors to analyze friendship; nevertheless, it is obvious that among the survivors there is a bond of solidarity which the years do not diminish.
"Without friendship you could not survive a Kraut camp, not for more than a few weeks anyway. Friendship in the KZ was not restricted to encouraging words, help with food and clothes and getting a better job...In ordinary life friendship between men has a genial quality, crude, perhaps sometimes superficial, but in the camps this could turn into something else. There you could not leave it at `Come on boy, chin up.'
During the daily fight to stay alive friendship could acquire a tenderness, which had feminine qualities, somehow protective. ...Some books proclaim that men who are locked up for a long time without seeing any women can become temporarily homosexual. Nothing of that sort occurred in our KZ, all sexual curiosity of any kind had disappeared as a result of fear and starvation. Yet friends could still love each other."
Occasionally, one memoir will provide a clue or anecdotal evidence for topics mentioned in the other accounts. Bakels provides unique details of this sort: his memory of the human jaw that one day turned up in the soup, and his belief that the SS dogs were fed on human hams. This may account for the smoke room next to the crematorium oven at Natzweiler; the purpose of this room, in other survivor memoirs, is termed a mystery.
He also remembers seeing "tens, perhaps hundreds, of dark-eyed women with brightly-coloured head-scarves" behind a fence thrown up around the barrack next to the Revier. "A few days later, those barracks were deserted....All our female friends, our gypsy women, had been killed. ..One of them had given birth just before she and the new-born baby were gassed."
Somewhat condescendingly, in addition to "our gypsy women'" Bakels speaks of "our Jew." (Contrary to his assertion, there were in fact others.) "Amongst us there was one Jew. How did he get mixed in with our company? What German whim, what German sense of humour had caused one Jew to be in the NN-Lager Natzweiler? It was obvious that something would be done about it. "Something is going to be done about it. The gallows have been erected, a black coffin placed next to it. With much glee the Jew, our Jew, is invited to lie down in the coffin. He does just that. Now he gets three hours to get used to his surroundings, that is what they tell him. After that the lid is closed. Three hours later, with the entire camp assembled for roll-call, they hang him. This time it goes smoothly. Our Jew breaks his neck immediately." (147)
Perhaps his "best" vignette is of a little Polish boy cracking out his dying father's gold-filled teeth. "The next morning, the father turns out to have died. The son seems rather cheerful. Later that day some prominent men come to visit him, fat Kapos with bread, soup, cigarettes, The following day too he receives visitors, and food. He recovers." Bakels weighed 49 kilos when he left the camp- some weighed only 49 pounds. Although he claims not to "suffer much from the so-called post-KZ syndrome...this book was written during a period when I could not do any normal work, and was indeed declared medically unfit. Writing helped me return to normality."He reports that his visits back to Natzweiler are a deliberate "attempt to relive the KZ in all its extraterrestrial, divine and infernal aspects.
"And I succeed in reliving that phenomenon in the same way that lightening strikes- a discharge of high tension, which curiously enough you survive. I am back in the KZ, but never longer than a few seconds. Away from the earth. Away from the present. Out of myself, I return. This psychic experience cannot be described. It is like taking an unbelievable medicine, beneficial and mortal at the same time. You are outside yourself. "It is neither good nor bad, it is a mystery. This is accompanied by physical symptoms. I shiver from top to bottom, three or four times. I stand there shivering. I am sweating profusely. My pulse rate increases rapidly; I feel my eyes dilating. I am completely taken up by it. I am completely in the power of some force... It is the tidal wave into a river bed long ago dried up- a previous existence, a future existence. However much I try, it cannot be explained. But it is very real."
It is not without guilt that Bakels writes these memoirs, and looks back on how he and his family could have done more from the beginning of Hitler's rise to power. " This shrieking upstart with the strange runic sign on his sleeve suddenly turned on the Jews. We dismissed this as quite ridiculous and carried on with life. This was unforgiveable."
Arne Brun Lie
Diana Mara Henry made the acquaintance of Arne Brun Lie (February 2, 1925 - April 11, 2010) Happy to share his recent press and the books, video, and documents he gave us!
A Teenager Survives the KLNa: Arnie Brun Lie, a Norwegian NN at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp
Arne Brun Lie’s Night and Fog, (Norton 1990) constitute the memoirs of a Norwegian teenager who at 19, in 1944, after a few weeks of dabbling in the resistance, was arrested as an NN, avoided execution for reasons he never discovered, and spent the last year of the war in Natzweiler, Dautmergen, and Dachau. His memoir adds the remembered voice of a disrespectful but already wise adolescent to the two dozen other memoirs of the KLNa, by other Nacht Und Nebelprisoners committed to the destruction of the Third Reich, for the enduring honor of mankind.
Lie's candid teenage memories resurface during a transatlantic sailing adventure which forms the other half of the story. Both narratives blend surprisingly well into a gripping read, even for sailing novices. Very highly recommended to fill in some of the story of
The letter at bottom of the book cover and on its dust jacket flaps was sent from Dachau before the authorities there realized Arne was an "NN" prisoner. It was the only communication he sent during the year he was a prisoner of the Nazis.
The postcard is addressed to:
Mr. Joh[anne]s E. Lie
Rieber & Co Box 175
13 November 1944
I am now in Dachau and all is good with me. I think of course often about you and I hope and believe that everything with you folks is also in order. I am now in a position to receive postcards from everybody. Money you can also send to me. In any case your must read the instructions on the writing exactly and when you write to me the letters must be in German. In the same way you must greet all my friends and in particular a greeting to my Aunt Borghild. Please also send my address and my greetings to Pastor Arne Bag in the Norwegian Sailors’ Mission in Lamburg. Greetings from Arne.
The printed instructions on the postcard, from the KL (Konzentrationslager / Concentration Camp):
Concentration camp Dachau 3K
The following instructions have to be obeyed by all correspondents with prisoners. Every concentration camp prisoner may receive from his relatives and send to them 2 letters or 2 postcards. The letters to the prisoners must be easily legible and written in ink and may contain only 15 lines per page. Permitted is a letter page of normal size. Envelopes must be without a lining. And in any one letter, not more than 5 stamps of 12 pennies each must be enclosed. Everything else is prohibited and subject to confiscation. A postcard can have 10 lives. Photographs may not be used as postcards. 2) Money may be sent in the form of money orders. However, only if there are exact name and first name, date of birth and prisoner numbers are shown. 3) Newspapers are permitted but only if they are ordered through the post office of the Dachau 3K concentration camp.4) Packages may be sent through the Post Office in limited amounts. 5) Requests to be released from security [Schutzhaft/imprisonment] addressed to the camp administration are useless. 6) Speaker permission and visits by prisoners in the concentration camp are basically not permitted. 7) All mail which does not conform to the above instructions will be destroyed. Signed, the Kommandant of the camp.
Tadeusz Borowski (Polish pronunciation: [ta?d?u? b??r?fsk?i]; 12 November 1922 – 1 July 1951) was a Polish writer and journalist. His wartime poetry and stories dealing with his experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz are recognized as classics of Polish literature and had much influence in Central European society.
Borowski was born in 1922 into the Polish community in Zhytomyr, USSR, (today in Ukraine). In 1926, his father, whose bookstore had been nationalized by the communists, was sent to a camp in the Gulag system in Russian Karelia because he had been a member of a Polish military organization during World War I. In 1930, Borowski's mother was deported to a settlement on the shores of the Yenisey, in Siberia, during Collectivization. During this time Tadeusz lived with his aunt.
In 1932 Borowski and his brother were repatriated from the USSR to Poland thanks to the efforts of the Polish Red Cross. They settled in Warsaw. Their father was freed in a prisoner exchange with communists arrested in Poland, and their mother was released in 1934.
He also became involved in several underground newspapers and started to publish his poems and short novels in the monthly Droga, all the while working in a warehouse as a night watchman. It was during this period that he wrote most of his wartime poetry, and he clandestinely published his first collection, titled Gdziekolwiek Ziemia (Wherever the Earth).
While a member of the educational underground in Warsaw, Borowski was living with his fiancee Maria. After Maria did not return home one night in February 1943, Borowski began to suspect that she had been arrested. Rather than staying away from any of their usual meeting places, though, he walked straight into the trap that was set by the Gestapo agents in the apartment of his and Maria's close friend. Arrested himself, he was first thrown into the infamous Pawiak prison and then was transported to Auschwitz.
Forced into slave labor in extremely harsh conditions, Borowski later reflected on this experience in his writing. In particular, working on a railway ramp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, he witnessed Jews first being told to leave their personal property behind, and then being transferred directly from the trains to the gas chambers. While a prisoner at Auschwitz, Borowski caught pneumonia; afterwards, he was put to work in aNazi medical experiment "hospital." He was able to maintain written and personal contact with his fiancee, who was also imprisoned in Auschwitz.
In late 1944 Borowski was transported from Auschwitz to the Dautmergen subcamp of Natzweiler-Struthof, and finally to Dachau. Dachau-Allach where Borowski was imprisoned was liberated by the Americans on May 1, 1945 and after that Borowski found himself in a camp for displaced persons near Munich.
He spent some time in Paris, and then returned to Poland on May 31, 1946. His fiancee, who had survived the camps and emigrated to Sweden, returned to Poland in late 1946, and they were married in December 1946.
Borowski turned to prose after the war, believing that what he had to say could no longer be expressed in verse. His series of short stories about life in Auschwitz was published as Po?egnanie z Mari? (Farewell to Maria, English title This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen). The main stories are written in the first person from the perspective of an Auschwitz inmate; they describe the morally numbing effect of everyday terror, with prisoners, trying to survive, often being indifferent or mean towards each other; the privileges of non-Jewish inmates like Borowski; and the absence of any heroism. Early on after its publication in Poland, this work was accused of being nihilistic, amoral and decadent. His short story cycle World of Stone describes his time in displaced person camps in Germany.
He worked as a journalist, joined the Communist-controlled Polish Workers' Party in 1948 and wrote political tracts as well. At first he believed that Communism was the only political force truly capable of preventing any future Auschwitz from happening. In 1950 he received the National Literary Prize, Second Degree.
In the summer of 1949 he was sent to work in the Press Section of the Polish Military Mission in Berlin. He returned to Warsaw a year later and entered into an extramarital affair with a young girl.
Soon after a close friend of his (the same friend who had earlier been imprisoned by the Gestapo, and in whose apartment both Borowski and his fiancee had been arrested) was imprisoned and tortured by the Communists. Borowski tried to intervene on his behalf and failed; he became completely disillusioned with the regime.
He committed suicide at the age of 28 by breathing in gas from a gas stove on July 1, 1951, three days after his wife had borne him a daughter.
- 12 November 1922 – 1 July 1951
Trygve Martin Bratteli
(11 January 1910 – 20 November 1984)
Bratteli was born in Nøtterøy, where he attended primary school. He was unemployed for some time, worked as a messenger, a whaler, and construction worker. Named as secretary of the Labour Party's crisis committee during the Nazi invasion of Norway, he was arrested by theGermans in 1942, was a Nacht und Nebel prisoner of various German concentration camps from 1943 to 1945 but survived. He was liberated from Vaihingen an der Enz concentration camp on 5 April 1945 by the White Buses along with 15 other Norwegians who had survived.
After returning to Norway in 1945, he became chairman of the Workers' Youth League, vice chairman of the party, served on the newly formed defense commission, and in 1965 he was made chairman of the Labour Party. He was elected to the Norwegian Parliament from Oslo in 1950, and was re-elected on seven occasions.
He was appointed Minister of Finance in Oscar Torp's cabinet, and from 1956 to 1960 in the third cabinet of Einar Gerhardsen. From 1960 to 1963, still during Gerhardsen's third period as Prime Minister, he was Minister of Transport and Communications. He was also acting Minister of Finance from January to February 1962. In September 1963, when Gerhardsen's fourth cabinet was formed, Bratteli was again made Minister of Transport and Communications, a post he held until 1964.
The centre-right cabinet of Borten held office from 1965 to 1971, but when it fell, Bratteli becamePrime Minister. Central to his political career was the question of Norway's membership of theEuropean Community. Following the close rejection of membership in the 1972 referendum, his cabinet resigned. However, the successor cabinet Korvald only lasted one year, and the second cabinet Bratteli was formed following the Norwegian parliamentary election, 1973. It was succeeded by another Labour cabinet Nordli in 1976.
Trygve Bratteli wrote a number of autobiographical and political books. His memoirs about his time in German concentration camps - Prisoner in Night and Fog - became a bestseller in Norway.
- 11 January 1910 – 20 November 1984
Alf Martinius Grindrud
(2 July 1904 - 17 May 1959) was a Norwegian politician for the Labour Party.
During the German occupation of Norway he was a member of the Norwegian resistance movement. He was arrested in January 1944, and spent time at the concentration camps Grini, Natzweiler, Dachau, Ottobrunn, Dautmergen and Vaihingen. In April 1945 sixteen Norwegians were liberated by the White Buses from Vaihingen, among them Grindrud and later Prime Minister Trygve Bratteli.
- 2 July 1904 - 17 May 1959
Major-General Comte Albert-Marie Edmond Guérisse,
(5 April 1911 – 26 March 1989) was a Belgian Resistance member who organized escape routes for downed Allied pilots during World War II under the alias of Patrick Albert "Pat" O'Leary, the name of a Canadian friend. His escape line was dubbed the Pat Line.
Concentration Camp portrait drawn by Brian Stonehouse
He was born in Brussels, and qualified in medicine at the Université Libre de Bruxellesbefore joining the Belgian Army. At the outbreak of War, Guérisse was serving as a Medecin-Capitaine, a Captain in the Medical Branch, as the medical officer of the Guides, a Belgian cavalry regiment. After Belgium was forced to surrender, he escaped to Britain throughDunkirk. He then joined the French-crewed ship, Le Rhin, which had been accepted for special operations and renamed HMS Fidelity. His British commission was therefore a naval commission in the RNVR, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
Guérisse was serving mainly as a conducting officer, escorting agents ashore in small boats through the surf, whilst the large vessel lay some distance offshore. This was skilled work, exposed to physical dangers from the sea-conditions and operational dangers from the Vichy security services. On 25 April 1941, during a mission to place SOE agents in Collioure, on Roussillon coast in southern France, Guérisse was in the skiff on its way back to the ship when it turned over and he had to swim ashore. To the Vichy French coast guards, Guérisse claimed he was a Canadian airman named Pat O'Leary. The 'Canadian' identity attempted to explain his not-quite British accent in English, and his not-quite French accent in French, without compromising his relatives in occupied Belgium.
He was taken to St. Hippolyte du Fort near Nîmes, where he met 'fellow British' officers, including SOE operative Ian Garrow who got him released and took him to Marseille. In this roundabout way, Guérisse was inducted into the clandestine work on escape-lines. Both for security in Vichy France and for consistency in his story, Guérisse decided to continue with the O'Leary alias while he remained ashore in France. At this point he might still have assumed that his work in France was a temporary measure and that he would, in his turn, make his way to Gibraltar and resume his original naval service. Events were to dictate otherwise.
Initially one of Garrow's assistants, along with others such as Nancy Wake, but when the Vichy France authorities captured Garrow in October 1941, Guérisse took over as chief of the escape network. He smuggled a German uniform to Garrow in his cell in Mauzacconcentration camp which helped Garrow's escape on 6 December 1941. At this point the British decided it was time for Garrow to return to London, so Guérisse continued in command and expanded the reach of the escape line's operations. The line carried over 600 escapees to Spain and back to Britain.
In January 1943, the escape line was infiltrated and betrayed by French turncoat Roger le Neveu, who was an associate of Harold Cole and Guérisse was arrested in Toulouse in March. He managed to get one of the younger members, Fabien de Cortes, to flee the train when they were transported to prison to warn the British. After his arrest the line was, in turn, taken over by Marie Dissard. Guérisse told nothing to theGestapo interrogators when he was tortured and then was sent to a series of concentration camps.
In the summer of 1944, he was at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in Alsace with another SOE agent Brian Stonehouse. At the camp he witnessed the arrival of four other female SOE agents, Andrée Borrel, Vera Leigh, Diana Rowden, and Sonya Olschanezky, who were all executed and disposed of in the crematorium in an attempt to make them disappear without a trace, under the programme of night and fog. After the war, Guérisse and Stonehouse were able to testify at the Nazi war crimes trials as to the women's fate.
Finally, Guérisse was taken to the Dachau concentration camp, tortured again and then sentenced to death. However, when SS guards surrendered before the Allied advance, "O'Leary" took command and refused to leave before Allies agreed to take care of the inmates. On April 30, 1945 he was chosen as the first president of the International Prisoners' Committee that administered the camp after liberation. From its founding in 1956 until his death he served many terms as president of the Comité International de Dachau, and regularly gave the keynote speech at the May memorial ceremonies.
After the War, Guérisse resumed his real name and rejoined the Belgian Army. He served with the Belgian forces in Korea during the Korean War where he was wounded trying to rescue a wounded soldier. He became the head of the medical service of the Belgian army and retired in 1970, in the rank of major general.
In his personal life, he married Sylvia Cooper-Smith in 1947 and they had a son. Sylvia predeceased him.
General Guérisse received 35 decorations, from a variety of nations. In 1946, the British recognised his war service with the award of theGeorge Cross. This was the highest possible award of the British Commonwealth nations for actions not in combat and only the Victoria Cross (the equivalent award for bravery in actual combat) takes precedence. In the UK it is the convention for the post-nominal letters for both these awards to be amended to the surname even for general usage, i.e. to refer to: 'Guérisse, GC'. Recognising his military service as a whole, the British later also conferred on Albert-Marie Guérisse, GC, an honorary knighthood (KBE).
Similarly, the King of Belgium recognised the lifetime service of General Guérisse with the grant of a peerage in 1986, in the rank of Count (comte).
General Count Albert-Marie Guérisse, GC, died in Waterloo, Belgium on 26 March 1989, aged 77.
- 5 April 1911 – 26 March 1989
(3 December 1898 – 16 January 1955)
was a Norwegian footballer. He was a centre-half who played 19 times for theNorwegian national team, and won the Norwegian Cup in 1917 as a member of Sarpsborg.[ After his playing career ended, he became general secretary of the Norwegian Football Association, and he is regarded as the architect behind the Norwegian "Bronze Team" that famously finished third in the 1936 Olympics.
Between 1922 and 1934, Halvorsen played in Germany for Hamburger SV, where he won two German championships. He returned to his home country in 1934, and was hired as general secretary of the NFF. This job also made him head of the national team's selection committee, and in the years before the war, he also acted as national team coach.
With Halvorsen at the helm, Norway won the Bronze medals at the 1936 Olympics, and qualified for the 1938 World Cup. This was Norway's first and only appearance in the World Cup finals until the 1990s.
During the war, Halvorsen was one of the figureheads of the Norwegian sports boycott. Practically all organized sport ceased its operations during the German occupation, and as a result, Halvorsen was arrested and placed in a concentration camp. He was imprisoned atMøllergata 19 for one day, then in Grini concentration camp from August 1942 to July 1943, then in Natzweiler-Struthof, Neckarelz andVaihingen an der Enz concentration camps. He returned home after the war, and remained general secretary of the NFF until his death in 1955.
- 3 December 1898 – 16 January 1955
Arne Brun Lie
Arne Brun Lie
(February 2, 1925 - April 11, 2010)
Born in Oslo, Norway, Lie was a member of the Norwegian Resistance during the Occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Gestapo in 1943 for resistance activity at sixteen years of age. He spent a year in Nazi concentration camps, including Natzweiler-Struthof and Dachau. He was released in 1944.
Following his release, Lie moved back to Norway. He immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s, and since then became public about his Holocaust experience, publishing a book and releasing a documentary film. Lie moved to Ipswich, MA in 1989. He was the brother of Sylvei Brun Lie, who is the wife of the famous Norwegian lawyer, judge and politician Jens Evensen.
Arne Brun Lie died on 11 April 2010 in Beverly, MA. He was 85 years old.
- February 2, 1925 - April 11, 2010
was a Norwegian non-fiction writer and public servant.
While still a student, he was also active in the Norwegian resistance movement during World War II and was imprisoned as a Nacht und Nebel inmate. He was imprisoned in Veiten from June to July 1942, then in Bergen from July to September, then in Grini concentration campfrom September to December. From December 1942 to June 1944 he was in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, then until September 1944 in Natzweiler-Struthof. He was then in Dachau concentration camp for three days, and Ottobrunn for one day. He was lastly in Dautmergenfrom September to November 1944 and Vaihingen until the war's end.
After the war, he finished his studies at the University of Bergen, where he became the leader of the Det Norske Studentersamfund first in Bergen, and then as a full-time employee at the University of Oslo. He was the manager of the Foundation for Student Life in Oslo from 1950 to 1979. He led the commission that recommended the founding of regional university colleges throughout Norway and for establishment of the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund. He also chaired the board of NRK from 1972 to 1979, and Nationaltheatret from 1981 to 1989
After he retired, Ottosen wrote a series of historical accounts from World War II. These included memoirs from his work in the Norwegian resistance as well as thorough historical surveys of Norwegians who were arrested and detained by Nazi authorities during the war. For this work he was honored with the Fritt Ord Honorary Award in 2004, was made commander in the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, and named honorary member of the Norwegian Labour Party
Ottosen's works include:
- Ottosen, Kristian (in Norwegian). Theta Theta : et blad fra motstandskampens historie, 1940-1945. Bergen: Universitetsforlaget. ISBN 82-00-06823-4. - about the work of the resistance group known as Theta Theta.
- Ottosen, Kristian (in Norwegian). Natt og tåke : historien om Natzweiler-fangene. Oslo: Aschehoug. ISBN 82-03-16108-1. - about the Nacht und Nebel prisoners in the Natzweiler concentration camp, with an emphasis on the Norwegians held there.
- Ottosen, Kristian (in Norwegian). Liv og død : historien om Sachsenhausen-fangene. Oslo: Aschehoug. ISBN 82-03-16484-6. - about theSachsenhausen concentration camp.
- Ottosen, Kristian (in Norwegian). Kvinneleiren : historien om Ravensbrück-fangene. Oslo: Aschehoug. ISBN 82-03-16791-8. - about theRavensbrück concentration camp, primarily for women.
- Ottosen, Kristian (in Norwegian). Bak lås og slå : historien om norske kvinner og menn i Hitlers fengsler og tukthus. Oslo: Aschehoug.ISBN 82-03-26000-4. - about the deportation and imprisonment of Norwegian men and women in prisons throughout Germany.
- Ottosen, Kristian (in Norwegian). I slik en natt : historien om deportasjonen av jøder fra Norge. Oslo: Aschehoug. ISBN 82-03-26049-7. - about the deportation and fate of Jews from Norway.
- Ottosen, Kristian (in Norwegian). Nordmenn i fangenskap 1940-1945. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. ISBN 82-00-22372-8. - an authoritative list of Norwegian individuals who had been held in German captivity during World War II.
- Ottosen, Kristian (in Norwegian). Ingen nåde : historien om nordmenn i japansk fangenskap. Oslo: Aschehoug. ISBN 82-03-26127-2. - about Norwegian prisoners held in Japanese captivity during World War II.
- 15 January 1921~1 June 2006
(16 March 1920)
was a Norwegian engineer and resistance member during World War II. He is known as a member of the illegal radio group Skylark B. After the war he was a professor at the Norwegian Institute of Technology.
Sørbye attended secondary school at Stabekk, and enrolled at the Norwegian Institute of Technology on 1 September 1939—the day World War II started. In April the war reached Norway, with Nazi Germany invading and occupying the country. Sørbye participated briefly in the Norwegian Campaign as a telegrapher, but the Norwegian forces in Trøndelag had lost by 10 May.
In September 1940 the Secret Intelligence Service established two stations for radio communication in occupied Norway; the so-called Skylark A was led by Sverre Midtskau in Oslo while Skylark B was led by Erik Welle-Strand in Trondheim. As students formed the backbone of the Skylark B group, Sørbye joined. Other members were Bjørn Rørholt and Einar Johansen, and the chemistry professor Leif Tronstad, helped out as well. Egil Reksten later took over as leader. Skylark B established regular contact with the intelligence in London in 1941, and helped spread messages about German troop and naval movements as well as vital information about German activity at Vemork heavy water plant.
In September 1941, however, Gestapo managed to track the Skylark B transmitting activity. Sørbye was arrested by the Nazi authorities, and was first held in Vollan prison. He was then incarcerated at Møllergata 19 from 27 September 1941 to 16 January 1943, then at Grini concentration camp until 29 July 1943. He was then shipped to Germany and Nacht und Nebel camps. He spent much time inNatzweiler. Despite health problems, he survived until the end of World War II, and was brought home with the White Buses. Reksten survived as well, but seven of the eleven detainees associated with Skylark died. Sørbye was decorated with the King's Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom and the Defence Medal 1940–1945
Brian Julian Stonehouse MBE
(8 August 1918 – 2 December 1998)
Concentration Camp Self portrait drawn with a Mirror - hence the signature
Stonehouse worked as an artist but joined the Territorial Army after the outbreak of World War II. He was later conscripted into the Royal Artillery. In 1940, he worked as an interpreter for French troops inGlasgow who had been evacuated from Norway. In the autumn of 1941, he was training for a commission in the 121 Officer Cadet Unit when the Special Operations Executive contacted him. Due to his fluency in French, SOE recruited him as a wireless operator with code name of Celestin.
On 1 July 1941, Brian Stonehouse parachuted into occupied France near the city of Tours in the Loire Valley. His radio got caught in a tree and he spent five nights in the forest before he could get it down. After finally retrieving it, the radio would not work properly and his contact told him to move to Lyon.
In September, accompanied by another agent, Blanche Charlet, he went to a safe house and made contact with the other SOE agents. By August he was in regular contact with the SOE station in London. However he became careless and transmitted too much and too long. As a result, German direction-finders triangulated his position and the Milice arrested him on 24 October 1941 in Chateau Hurlevent near Lyon. Blanche Charlet was also captured but later managed to escape to London. After the war Stonehouse discovered that Charlet had tried to committ suicide because of the capture of the man she loved whilst her responsibility.
In Castres Prison, the Gestapo placed Stonehouse in solitary confinement while subjecting him to frequent and brutal interrogations. In December he was transferred to Fresnes prison in Paris and further interrogated. Eventually he was shipped to Germany with other SOE prisoners. In October 1943, he arrived in Saarbrücken and in November was sent to Mauthausen concentration camp. He spent a brief time in a Luftwaffe factory camp in Vienna.
In the summer of 1944, he was transferred to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in Alsace with Pat O'Leary (war alias of Albert Guérisse), the Pat Line organizer. There he saved his life by drawing sketches for the camp commandant, guards and their families.Throughout his time in five prisons he kept his personal vow of never painting or drawing an officer in uniform. At the camp he witnessed the arrival of four female SOE agents, Andrée Borrel, Vera Leigh, Diana Rowden and Sonya Olschanezky who were all executed and disposed of in the crematorium in an attempt to make them disappear without a trace, under the programme of night and fog. After the war, Brian Stonehouse and Albert Guerisse were able to testify at the Nazi war crimes trials as to the women's fate. In 1985, Stonehouse painted a poignant watercolour of the four women from memory which now hangs in the Special Forces Club in London.
From Natzweiler-Struthof, Stonehouse was sent to the Dachau concentration camp from where he was liberated by U.S. troops on 29 April 1945. At home, he was created a military MBE. After the war, he remained in the military and was promoted to captain while working for theAllied Control Commission in Frankfurt, Germany where he assisted with the interrogation of Gestapo and SS members.
After 1946, Stonehouse continued his career as a fashion artist in the United States, painting for magazines like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar andElizabeth Arden. In 1979, he returned to Britain and became a portrait painter. His clients included members of the Royal family. One of his last portraits of The Queen Mother, who sat for him many times, still hangs in the Special Forces Club in London.Fashion drawing.
- 8 August 1918 – 2 December 1998
Prince Xavier of Bourbon-Parma
Xavier, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, known before 1974 as Prince Xavier of Bourbon-Parma (called Francisco Javier de Borbón Parma y de Braganza in Spain;
Xavier was the son of Robert, Duke of Parma, and of his second wife, Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal. He was born at Villa Pianore, near Viareggio in Italy. He had eleven brothers and sisters, including Empress Zita of Austria and Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma (husband of Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg). From his father's first marriage, he had a further twelve half-brothers and half-sisters including Princess Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma (wife of the future Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria) and Duke Elias of Parma.
Xavier spent his earliest years at Villa Pianore and at Schwarzau am Steinfelde in Austria. His first tutor was Father Sergio Alonso, a member of the Order of Saint Gabriel. Xavier and his older brother Sixtus studied at the Jesuit college Stella Matutina in Feldkirch in Austria and then inCarlsburg in Germany. He went to university in Paris where he obtained degrees in agriculture and political science.
During World War I Xavier and his brother Sixtus enlisted in the Belgian Army. Several of their older brothers were officers in the Austrian Army. Xavier received the French Croix de guerre and the Belgian Croix de guerre. He was also awarded the Cross of the Order of Leopold II.
On November 12, 1927 at Lignières in France, Xavier married Madeleine de Bourbon Busset. Madeleine was a member of the Bourbon-Bussetfamily, a branch of the House of Bourbon generally regarded as non-dynastic in France.
Xavier and Madeleine had six children:
- Maria Francisca, born on 19 August 1928 (age 83), married Prince Eduard of Lobkowicz (1926–2010).
- Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma, born on 8 April 1930, died on 18 August 2010 (aged 80), married Princess Irene of the Netherlands.
- Maria Teresa, born on 28 July 1933 (age 78).
- Cecilia, born on 12 April 1935 (age 76).
- Maria de las Nieves, born on 29 April 1937 (age 74).
- Sixtus Henry, born on 22 July 1940 (age 71).
Xavier's marriage to Madeleine was recognised as dynastic by the Carlist claimant to the throne of Spain, Alfonso Carlos, Duke of San Jaime, who was married to the sister of Xavier's mother. However, Xavier's half-brother Elias - who was regent for their handicapped brother Duke Enrico of Parma - did not recognise the marriage as dynastic regarding the succession to the ducal throne of Parma. The reason for this lack of dynastic recognition was in part Madeleine's ancestry, but it was also influenced by other political and family differences. During the 1920s and 1930s Elias and Xavier were on opposing sides of a family legal battle over the ownership of the Château de Chambord. Elias had also recognised Alfonso XIII as constitutional king of Spain, in spite of the fact that his father Robert had supported the Carlist claimants.
In 1961 Elias' son Duke Robert II of Parma recognised the marriage between Xavier and Madeleine as dynastic regarding the succession to the ducal throne of Parma.
The early 1930s were years of both struggle and opportunity for the Carlists in Spain. Alfonso Carlos, Duke of San Jaime, was in his eighties and childless; he was the last male-line descendant of the first Carlist claimant, Infante Carlos, Count of Molina. Some Carlists considered that Alfonso Carlos' heir was Alfonso XIII, the exiled constitutional king of Spain; but many believed that Alfonso and his family were all excluded from the succession (some thought this way because they believed Alfonso XII was not real son of his official father).
Faced with this uncertainty Alfonso Carlos appointed Xavier regent of the Carlist Communion on January 23, 1936. Alfonso Carlos considered that Xavier was the senior male Bourbon who believed in the Carlist ideals. Several months later the Spanish Civil War began. Xavier was named commander-in-chief of the Carlist armies.
During World War II Xavier returned to service as a colonel in the Fourth Division of the Belgian Army. After the fall of Belgium in May 1940, he retreated to Dunkirk where his division was incorporated in the 39th French Army. He was demobilized and joined the French maquis. GeneralFrancisco Franco gave permission for Xavier's mother and sister Zita to travel through Spain to Portugal, but refused permission to Xavier. Instead he was forced to remain in Vichy France.
On July 22, 1944 Xavier was arrested by the Gestapo. He was imprisoned for a month at Vichy and then at Clermont-Ferrand where he was classified as a "Nacht und Nebel" political prisoner. On account of the approaching Allied armies Xavier was sent to Natzweiler-Struthof, then to Dachau, and then to Prax in the Tyrol. On May 8, 1945 he was liberated by the United States Army.
After the war Xavier re-established himself as the leader of the largest Carlist group in Spain. A minority of Carlists supported Juan, the son of Alfonso XIII. Others supported Archduke Karl Pius of Austria, a maternal grandson of Carlos, Duke of Madrid.
On May 20, 1952, the National Council of the Traditionalist Communion (the Carlists who supported Xavier) declared that the regency was over and that Xavier was the rightful successor to the Spanish throne. Henceforward Xavier claimed the throne as Javier I.
Xavier kept up his political activities in Spain. He was generally opposed to the government of General Franco who lent his support more to Juan, son of Alfonso XIII, and Archduke Karl Pius of Austria. In 1956 the government expelled Xavier from Spain.
In 1962 Xavier allowed his elder son Carlos Hugo to meet Franco; this was the first of several meetings. Xavier and Carlos Hugo believed that there was a real possibility that Franco might name Carlos Hugo as his heir instead of Juan Carlos, the grandson of Alfonso XIII. Many Carlists disapproved of these negotiations with Franco.
On February 22, 1972 Xavier was injured in a traffic accident. Carlos Hugo became the active leader of Carlism. He initiated a new form of Carlism, transforming it into a socialist movement. Carlos Hugo was very successful in attracting new support for this socialist-Carlism, but also alienated many traditional Carlist supporters.
On April 20, 1975 Xavier abdicated as Carlist king in favour of Carlos Hugo. His younger son Sixtus Henry opposed the succession of Carlos Hugo and presented himself as the "standard-bearer" (abanderado) of traditional Carlism. Xavier issued a declaration affirming that his abdication had been voluntary, and that Sixtus Henry had separated himself from Carlism.
The battle between Xavier's sons continued with each claiming their father's support. Carlos Hugo was supported by his three unmarried sisters, while Sixtus Henry was supported by his mother.
Carlos Hugo accused Sixtus Henry of having abducted Xavier who was then in hospital. Sixtus Henry published a declaration from Xavier dated March 4, 1977 in which Xavier re-affirmed his support for traditional Carlism. In this document Xavier condemned the socialist form of Carlism which he described as "a very serious doctrinal error". Three days later on March 7, 1977, Xavier's daughter Cecilia took Xavier out of hospital in order to take him to mass. On this occasion Xavier signed another declaration published by Carlos Hugo in which he confirmed Carlos Hugo as his heir. The next day Xavier's wife Madeleine published a declaration condemning Carlos Hugo and Cecilia.
On May 7, 1977 Xavier died of a heart attack in a hospital at Zizers near Chur in Switzerland; he had been visiting his sister the Empress Zita of Austria. Xavier was buried at St. Peter's Abbey, Solesmes where three of his sisters had been nuns.
- 25 May 1889 – 7 May 1977
The Gas Chambers
The gas chamber at Natzweiler was built for Dr. August Hirt, in order to enable him to gas Jews for his work on racial differences. Hirt's superior, Sievers, submitted to SS Sturmbannfuehrer Dr. Brandt in a letter headed "secret" on the 9th of February, 1942, Hirt's "proposal for securing the skulls of Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars:" "...Of the Jewish race, however, only so very few specimens of skulls are at the disposal of science that a study of them does not permit precise conclusions. The war in the East now presents us with the opportunity to remedy this shortage. By procuring the skulls of Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars, who personify a repulsive yet characteristic subhumanity, we have the opportunity of obtaining tangible scientific evidence."
One of the images presented at the Nuremberg trials, in the "Medical Case," documenting the bodies as they were found in the vats at Natzweiler. The cadavers have Auschwitz numbers tattooed on their arms.
The gas chamber was constructed so that the proceedings as people were dying could be observed, after the door was closed and a component of the lethal mixture poured into the chamber through the hole visible in the wall next to the girl's arm. The procedure was clinically described by Josef Kramer, Commandant of Natzweiler for much of its existence, during his trial as "the Beast of Belsen," where he was reassigned after Natzweiler was vacated ahead of the approaching U.S. army in the fall of 1944. Kramer is the only Nazi at natzweiler to have been executed for his crimes.
Gypsies were also gassed at Natzweiler, in experiments conducted by Dr. Hagen to develop an antidote to mustard gas. These experiments are also documented in the Medical Cas of the Nuremberg trials. The man seen here in front of the gas chamber's plaque is a Gypsy who claims to have survived one of these gassings, as a 17 year old.( From Essor: Témoignages.)
General George De Gaulle inaugurated the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp as a French National Monument in 1968.
Natzweiler-Struthof Gas Chamber
Gas Chamber at Natzweiler-Struthof
The Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp was located on top of a 2,500 foot-high mountain in the Vosges range, which was a ski area before the camp was built, and still is today. Natzweiler-Struthof was not a death camp, specifically built for the mass extermination of the Jews; it was a camp for the imprisonment of convicted German criminals and Anti-Fascist resistance fighters. However, one of the reasons that it is so well known in America today is because a small number of Jews were killed there in a gas chamber, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The gas chamber building, shown in the photo above, has been preserved, but it was not open during the time that I visited. However, it is not necessary to examine the gas chamber because we have the confession of Josef Kramer, in which he said that he personally gassed 80 Jews. Kramer made his confession after he was arrested at Bergen-Belsen when that camp was voluntarily turned over to the British on April 15, 1945.
Le Struthof, as the camp is known to the French, was located 31 miles from Strasbourg where Dr. August Hirt, a Professor at the University of Strasbourg, was conducting research on racial characteristics. When he requested Jewish skeletons that were undamaged by bullet holes or body blows, Heinrich Himmler ordered that Jews should be brought from Auschwitz to Natzweiler so that they could be killed in a gas chamber there.
In August 1943, a special gas chamber was constructed by adapting an existing building, formerly owned by the Struthof hotel, which was located about a mile from the concentration camp on a side road. This room had previously been used as a refrigerator room by the hotel.
Killing the Jews in one of the gas chambers at Auschwitz and shipping the skeletons to Strasbourg wouldn't do - the skeletons had to be prepared with great care by Dr. Hirt himself.
According to a Tübingen Professor, Dr. Hans-Joachim Lang, two anthropologists, who were both members of the SS, Dr. Hans Fleischhacker and Bruno Beger, were sent in June 1943 to Auschwitz to select Jews to be gassed so that their skeletons could be added to the rassistische/rassenideologische collection of Dr. August Hirt. There were 57 men and 29 women in the group that was selected.
In the documents submitted to the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, it is mentioned that the Jewish victims were put into quarantine for a time at Auschwitz because there was a typhus epidemic in the camp; then they were brought to Natzweiler-Struthof. The Nuremberg IMT documents show that 86 corpses were brought to the Anatomie Institute of the Reichsuniversitat Strassburg and that an assistant of Prof. August Hirt saw the tattoos on the arms and secretly wrote down the 86 numbers on a piece of paper.
Dr. August Hirt in his SS uniform
In a Military Tribunal conducted by the British after the war, Magnus Wochner, an SS staff member who was among the accused, testified as follows, according to a book entitled "The Natzweiler Trial," written by Anthony M. Webb:
I recall particularly one mass execution when about 90 prisoners (60 men and 30 women), all Jews, were killed by gassing. This took place, as far as I can remember, in spring 1944. In this case the corpses were sent to Professor Hirt of the department of Anatomy in Strasbourg.
Contrary to the statement above, the gassing actually took place in August 1943, according to the confession of Natzweiler Commandant Josef Kramer, who was not among the accused at the trial where Wochner testified.
Dr. August Hirt doing an autopsy
Photo Credit: USHMM
According to Dr. Lang, the files of the Natzweiler-Struthof camp show that there were 4 Jewish inmates in the camp on August 1, 1943 and one week later there were 90 Jews, indicating that a group of 86 Jews had arrived. The 29 women were gassed soon after arrival and the following week, there were 60 Jews in the camp. A week later, after the men had been gassed, there were only 3 Jews left in the camp since one of the male Jewish inmates had died during the week that the women were gassed.
When the Bergen-Belsen camp was turned over to the British on April 15, 1945, Commandant Josef Kramer volunteered to stay behind to help the British soldiers take over the camp, which was experiencing a horrendous typhus epidemic. Obviously, Kramer had no remorse for his crimes and did not expect to be arrested, or he would have escaped along with the other guards who left the camp before the British arrived. Instead, he met the British troops at the gate and offered his help in overcoming the typhus epidemic.
The photo below shows Josef Kramer, the Commandant of Bergen-Belsen and the former Commandant of Natzweiler, after he was arrested by the British on the first day after they took over the camp.
Josef Kramer, former Commandant of Natzweiler, under arrest at Bergen-Belsen
In the museum at Natzweiler-Struthof, Kramer's confession is on display; he described how he personally mixed "salts" with water to produce a lethal gas. The gas was dumped through a hole which had been chiseled through the tiled wall of a room previously used for the refrigeration of perishable food. Then Kramer watched through a peephole as the Jews died from the fumes of the poison gas.
Josef Kramer was convicted by a British Military Tribunal held in 1945, and hanged for the crimes he had committed at Auschwitz II and Bergen-Belsen. The charges against Kramer at the proceedings of the British Military Tribunal did not include the crime of gassing Jews at Natzweiler-Struthof. Rather, he was charged with crimes committed at Bergen-Belsen and with gassing Jews at Auschwitz, where he was the Commandant of the Auschwitz II camp before being transferred to Bergen-Belsen in December 1944.
The corpse of a woman who was allegedly gassed at Natzweiler
Photo Credit: USHMM
At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, charges were brought by the American prosecutor against the Nazis for medical experiments performed at Natzweiler, but there were no documents introduced in which it was claimed that a gas chamber had been used there to murder Jews.
The abandoned Natzweiler camp was discovered by both French and American troops, so it was the responsibility of the French and the American prosecutors to introduce the evidence of the gas chamber there.
On December 9, 1944, Colonel Paul Kirk and Lt. Colonel Edward J. Gully of the US 6th Army made an inspection of the Natzweiler camp, three months after it had been abandoned by the Nazis. According to Robert H. Abzug, the author of "Inside the Vicious Heart," they qualified just about every observation that had to do with instruments of death and torture. The following is a quote from Abzug's book:
They found, among other things, "what appeared to be a disinfestation unit" and "a large pile of hair appearing and reputed to be human female." They were shown a building with a space "allegedly used as a lethal gas chamber. " In this building was "a cellar room with a special type elevator," and "an incinerator room with equipment obviously intended for the burning of human bodies...a cell room and an autopsy room." Kirk and Gully then described in detail the "so-called lethal gas chamber," noting every pipe and outlet and its two steel doors. In the cellar they found four coffins and a sheet metal elevator "of a size which would take a human body" with "stains which appeared to be caused by blood."
Kirk and Gully wrote a report that was sent to the War Crimes Division, in which they referred to a "so-called gas chamber" at Natzweiler. Based on their report, there were no charges, pertaining to a gas chamber at Natzweiler, brought against the Nazis on trial before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.
The building described in the quote from Abzug's book is shown in the photo below. This building is the crematorium which has an elevator, an incinerator room, a cell room and an autopsy room.
Crematorium building at Natzweiler-Struthof
The photo below shows water pipes going into what appears to be a shower room which is right next to the crematory oven. You can see a bit of the crematory oven in the lower right hand corner of the photo. It appears that the water for the room might have been heated by the oven, as shown in the second photo below.
Water pipes going into shower room next to the ovens
When I visited the Natzweiler camp in October 2004, the room next to the oven was not open to visitors. I peeked through the window shown in the photo above and saw what looked like a shower room. This is probably the "so-called lethal gas chamber" which the two American officers described in their report, but there was no sign which said that this was a gas chamber. This is not the room that Josef Kramer described in his confession.
Oven for cremating bodies at Natzweiler-Struthof
The photo above shows the crematory oven described by the American Army officers who investigated the Natzweiler camp in an attempt to find evidence of war crimes. The shower room is behind the oven and to the right. To the right in the photograph is a display of the shoes worn by the prisoners in the camp. The Natzweiler camp had only one crematory oven since it was not intended to be a factory for mass murder.
Apparently Kirk and Gully were not told by their French guides that the actual gas chamber was located on a side road, about one mile distant from the camp. Since they never saw the real gas chamber, they didn't include it in their report, and consequently no charges were brought at the Nuremberg IMT with regard to the gassing of Jews at Natzweiler-Struthof.
In 1989, a plaque was placed at Struthof, in memory of the "87 Jews who were gassed" there. This was accomplished through the joint efforts of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a New Jersey lawyer, Stephen Draisin. The number 87 includes the 86 Jews who were brought from Auschwitz to be gassed and one Jewish inmate who died during the same time period.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "the gas chamber was also used in pseudoscientific medical experiments involving poison gas. The victims of these experiments were primarily Roma (Gypsies) who had been transferred from Auschwitz. Prisoners were also subjected to experiments involving treatment for typhus and yellow fever."
A book which I purchased from the Memorial Site has this to say about the gas chamber:
4. The affair of the Israelite corpses
Hirt, professor of anatomy in Strasbourg, received corpses from the camp of Russian war prisoners at Mutzig, but as he thought they were too lean, he asked for people in a good physical condition for studies on heredity.
87 Israelites (30 of whom were women) were sent from the camp at Auschwitz. They were shut up in block 13 at the Struthof where they were measured, and they had to undergo experiments on sterilization. On August 11, 13, 17, 19, 1943, under the direction of doctors from Strasburg, the S.S. gassed the 87 Israelites in the gas chamber at Struthof with cyanide. Death occurred after 30 to 60 seconds. The corpses were transported to the Institut d'Anatomie in Strasburg. 17 entire corpses (3 of which being women's) were found at the liberation as well as many dissected pieces.
According to Dr. Lang, there were 16 of the 86 bodies (3 women and 13 men) that were found intact in November 1944, not 17, and an autopsy was performed on the bodies.
"The liberation" referred to in the above quote probably means the liberation of France in August 1944. The Natzweiler-Struthof camp was abandoned in September 1944 so it was not actually "liberated."
Dr. Hans-Joachim Lang was able to identify the 86 Jews who were gassed at Natzweiler after locating their prisoner numbers in the Auschwitz archives. The 29 women and 57 men who were gassed had been deported to Auschwitz from Norway, Poland, Greece, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The bodies of the 86 victims are buried in the Jewish cemetery of Strasbourg and a grave stone with the 86 names was placed there in December 2005.
Dr. Lang has published a book with the names of the 86 Jews who were gassed at Natzweiler. His book can be purchased at this web site:
Wolfram Sievers (Hildesheim,
(10 July 1905 - Landsberg, 2 June 1948)
was Reichsgeschäftsführer, or managing director, of the Ahnenerbe from 1935 to 1945.
Sievers was born in 1905 in Hildesheim, the son of a Protestant church musician. It is reported that he was musically gifted, that he played the harpsichord, organ, and piano, and loved Germanbaroque music. He was expelled from school for being active in the Deutschvölkischer Schutz und Trutzbund and went on to study history, philosophy, and religious studies at Stuttgart's Technical University while working as a salesman. A member of the Bündische Jugend, he became active in the Artamanen-Gesellschaft ("Artaman League"), a nationalist back-to-the-land movement.
Sievers joined the NSDAP in 1929. In 1933 he headed up the Externsteine-Stiftung ("Externsteine Foundation"), which had been founded by Heinrich Himmler to study the Externsteine in the Teutoburger Wald. In 1935, having joined the SS that year, Sievers was appointedReichsgeschäftsführer, or General Secretary, of the Ahnenerbe, by Himmler. He was the actual director of Ahnenerbe operations and was to rise to the rank of SS-Standartenführer by the end of the war.
In 1943 Sievers became director of the Institut für Wehrwissenschaftliche Zweckforschung (Institute for Military Scientific Research), which conducted extensive experiments using human subjects. He also assisted in assembling a collection of skulls and skeletons for August Hirt's study at the Reichsuniversität Straßburg as a part of which 112 Jewish prisoners were selected and killed, after being photographed and their anthropological measurements taken.
Sievers was tried during the Doctors' Trial at Nuremberg following the end of World War II, where he was dubbed "the Nazi Bluebeard" by journalist William L. Shirer because of his "thick, ink-black beard". As the Institute for Military Scientific Research had been set up as part of the Ahnenerbe, the prosecution at Nuremberg laid the responsibility for the experiments on humans which had been conducted under its auspices on the Ahnenerbe, and Sievers, as its highest administrative officer, was accused of actively aiding and promoting the criminal experiments.
Sievers was charged with being a member of an organization declared criminal by the International Military Tribunal (the SS), and was implicated in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In his defense, he alleged that as early as 1933, he had been a member of an anti-Nazi resistance movement which planned to assassinate Hitler and Himmler, and that he had obtained his appointment as Manager of the Ahnenerbe so as to get close to Himmler and observe his movements. He further claimed that he remained in the post on the advice of his resistance leader to gather vital information which would assist in the overthrow of the Nazi regime.
- 10 July 1905~ 2 June 1948
A massive Soviet 1944 summer offensive in eastern Belarus annihilated German Army Group Center and permitted Soviet forces to overrun the first of the major Nazi concentration camps, Lublin/Majdanek. Shortly after that offensive, SS chief (Reichsfuehrer SS) Heinrich Himmler ordered that prisoners in all concentration camps and subcamps be evacuated toward the interior of the Reich. Due to the rapid Soviet advance, the SS had not had time to complete the evacuation of Majdanek. Soviet and western media widely publicized SS atrocities at the camp, using both footage of the camp at liberation and interviews with some of the surviving prisoners. The evacuations of the concentration camps had three purposes:
(1) SS authorities did not want prisoners to fall into enemy hands alive to tell their stories to Allied and Soviet liberators
(2) the SS thought they needed prisoners to maintain production of armaments wherever possible
(3) some SS leaders, including Himmler, believed irrationally that they could use Jewish concentration camp prisoners as hostages to bargain for a separate peace in the west that would guarantee the survival of the Nazi regime.
In the summer and early autumn months of 1944, most of the evacuations were carried out by train or, in the case of German positions cut off in the Baltic States, by ship. As winter approached, however, and the Allies reached the German borders and assumed full control of German skies, SS authorities increasingly evacuated concentration camp prisoners from both east and west on foot.
By January 1945, the Third Reich stood on the verge of military defeat. Most of German East Prussia was already under Soviet occupation. Soviet forces besieged Warsaw, Poland, and Budapest, Hungary, as they prepared to push German forces back toward the interior of the Reich. After the failure of the surprise German Ardennes offensive in December 1944, Anglo-American forces in the west were ready to invade Germany.
The SS guards had strict orders to kill prisoners who could no longer walk or travel. As evacuations depended increasingly on forced marches and travel by open rail car or small craft in the Baltic Sea in the brutal winter of 1944-1945, the number who died of exhaustion and exposure along the routes increased dramatically. This encouraged an understandable perception among the prisoners that the Germans intended them all to die on the march. The term death march was probably coined by concentration camp prisoners.
During these death marches, the SS guards brutally mistreated the prisoners. Following their explicit orders, they shot hundreds of prisoners who collapsed or could not keep pace on the march, or who could no longer disembark from the trains or ships. Thousands of prisoners died of exposure, starvation, and exhaustion. Forced marches were especially common in late 1944 and 1945, as the SS evacuated prisoners to camps deeper within Germany. Major evacuation operations moved prisoners out of Auschwitz, Stutthof, and Gross-Rosenwestward to Buchenwald, Flossenbürg, Dachau, andSachsenhausen in winter 1944-1945; from Buchenwald and Flossenbürg to Dachau and Mauthausen in spring 1945; and from Sachsenhausen and Neuengamme northwards to the Baltic Sea in the last weeks of the war.
As Allied forces advanced into the heart of Germany theyliberated hundreds of thousands of concentration camp prisoners. This included thousands of prisoners whom Allied and Soviet troops liberated while they marched on the forced evacuations. On April 25, 1945, Soviet forces met U.S. forces at Torgau, on the Elbe River in central Germany. The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally in the west on May 7 and in the east on May 9, 1945. May 8, 1945, was proclaimed Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day).
To almost the last day of the war, German authorities marched prisoners to various locations in the Reich. As late as May 1, 1945, prisoners who had been evacuated from Neuengamme to the North Sea coastline were loaded onto ships; hundreds of them died when the British bombed the ships a few days later, thinking that they carried German military personnel.
A view of the death march from Dachau passing through villages in the direction of Wolfratshausen. German civilians secretly photographed several death marches from the Dachau concentration camp as the prisoners moved slowly through the Bavarian towns of Gruenwald, Wolfratshausen, and Herbertshausen. Few civilians gave aid to the prisoners on the death marches. Germany, April 1945.
Prisoners on a death march from Dachau move towards the south along the Noerdliche Muenchner street in Gruenwald. German civilians secretly photographed several death marches from the Dachau concentration camp as the prisoners moved slowly through the Bavarian towns of Gruenwald, Wolfratshausen, and Herbertshausen. Few civilians gave aid to the prisoners on the death marches. Germany, April 29, 1945.
A view of a death march from Dachau. German civilians secretly photographed several death marches from the Dachau concentration camp as the prisoners moved slowly through the Bavarian towns of Gruenwald, Wolfratshausen, and Herbertshausen. Few civilians gave aid to the prisoners on the death marches. Germany, April 29, 1945.
An American soldier looks at the corpses of Polish, Russian, and Hungarian Jews found in the woods near Neunburg vorm Wald. The victims were prisoners from Flossenbürg who were shot near Neunburg while on a death march. Germany, April 29, 1945.
The bodies of Jewish women exhumed from a mass grave near Volary. The victims died at the end of a death march from Helmbrechts, a subcamp of Flossenbürg. Volary, Czechoslovakia, May 11, 1945.
Under the supervision of American medics, German civilians file past the bodies of Jewish women exhumed from a mass grave in Volary. The victims died at the end of a death march from Helmbrechts, a subcamp of Flossenbürg. Volary, Czechoslovakia, May 11, 1945.
German civilians from Volary attend burial services for the Jewish women exhumed from a mass grave in the town. The victims died at the end of a death march from Helmbrechts, a subcamp of Flossenbürg. Volary, Czechoslovakia, May 11, 1945.
An American soldier stands among the corpses of prisoners exhumed from a mass grave in a ravine near Nammering. On April 19, 1945, a freight train with nearly 4,500 prisoners from Buchenwald pulled onto the railroad siding at Nammering. Hundreds of prisoners who had died on the train were buried in the mass grave along with the prisoners who were forced to carry the corpses to the ravine and were then shot. Germany, ca. May 6, 1945.
Burned bodies of former prisoners of Rottleberode, a subcamp of Dora-Mittelbau, lie near the entrance to a barn that had been set afire by SS troops while the prisoners were on a death march. Gardelegen, Germany, April 18, 1945.
Three German mayors view the corpse of a prisoner burned alive in a barn by the SS while on a death march from Rottleberode, a subcamp of Dora-Mittelbau. Gardelegen, Germany, April 18, 1945.
German civilians from Schwarzenfeld dig graves for the reburial of 140 Hungarian, Russian, and Polish Jews exhumed from a mass grave near the town. The victims died while on an evacuation transport from the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Schwarzenfeld, Germany, April 25, 1945.
U.S. troops and German civilians from Neunburg vorm Wald attend a funeral service for Polish, Hungarian, and Russian Jews found in the forest near their town. The victims were shot by the SS while on a death march from Flossenbürg. Neunburg, Germany, April 29, 1945.
STUDY OF THE GASSING AT NATZWEILER-STRUTHOF
Jean Lentbergor, a Struthof prisoner at the end of August 1943, and one of 3 Jews still alive there when 87 people arrived from Auschwitz. saw only the group of men.
They came to the camp in several convoys and were housed in hut number 10. Lemberger noticed them for the first time in front of the “Wachtstube” (guard station) at the camp’s entrance.
Dressed in patched “zebra” clothing with a yellow star, and being of very pale complexion, they contrasted with the camp’s prisoners, who wore civilian clothing, haphazardly painted yellow in the case of Jews. They received exactly the same food as the other internees.
Realizing that they did not work, Lemberger wanted to have himself added to their group. His kapo dissuaded him by giving him to understand that his request was sheer foly. Then, bit by bit, the “zebra” group melted away. Until one morning there were none left.
Later on, it was Lemberger’s turn to undertake the opposite journey from Struthof to Auschwitz. Based on a telephone conversation on 14 March 1985 between the witness and the author.
Pierre Henripierre, a civilian employee at the Institute of Anatomy, has testified that the bodies were brought there by truck in three lots: 30 women the first time, then 30 men, and finally another 26 men. The 86 corpses were spread among six vats full of synthetic alcohol at 55 degrees Centigrade and not formol [formaldehyde] as is often believed.
One skeleton was missing at the roll-call. An “incident” had occurred when one of the groups was being pushed into the gas chamber. Someone resisted and was slaughtered by an SS-man’s pistol fire. The “spoiled” body was not sent to Strasbourg.
After its “homicidal” use, the gas chamber recovered a measure of scientific “respectability”. In the fall of 1943, ten experiments to test for protection against phosgene by hexamethylene tetramine (urotropine) administered both orally and parenterally, were conducted by Professor Bickenbach under conditions that did not cause any deaths.
A gas sampling tube had been installed in the door, for the purpose of measuring the concentration of phosgene in the gas chamber. On the 15 June 1944, four more experiments were undertaken by Professor Hirt. They caused four deaths by acute oedema of the lungs, not because, as some historians have thought, the phosgene concentration was much higher, but because they were under Hirt’s brutal “direction”. Bickenbach gave his subjects phials containing up to 8 grams of phosgene, with inhalation for 20 minutes in a 20m³ room, with no mishaps except for slight oedemas. Hirt caused one death with the administration of a 2.7 g phial over a 25 minute inhalation period, and was responsible for 3 more deaths with a 10.14 g phial administered for 30 minutes.
Let us try now to understand the discrepancy between Joseph Kramer’s two depositions. At the Belsen trial he again furnished two often contradictory versions. Do we then conclude that he was lying each time? It is not hard to see where the truth lies, by comparing the following two extracts on the subject of Auschwitz, where Kramer was commandant of sector B.II of Birkenau from mid-May to the 29 November 1944. In a first deposition he states:
“I have heard allegations by ex-prisoners from Auschwitz regarding a gas chamber, mass executions and floggings, regarding the cruelty of the guards, and that all of this supposedly took place in my presence or that I had knowledge of it. All I can say on the subject is that these are falsehoods from start to finish.”
Later on he comes back on his words and confesses to the following in a second deposition:The first time I ever saw a gas chamber as such was Auschwitz. The whole building (Krematorium III), containing a crematorium and a gas chamber, was located at (the end of) camp number 2 (Bauabschnitt II at Birkenau), of which I was the commandant. I visited the building on my first inspection of the camp, when I had been there for three days, but it was not in operation for the first eight days.”
The explanation of this double talk is quite simple. At the beginning of his imprisonment, Kramer still considered himself under oath with respect to his superiors, such as SS-Obürgruppenführer Oswald Pohl, and constrained not to reveal anything of what he knew. This also explains why, at the Struthof trial, he initially admitted to Major Jadin to a false gassing procedure. He did this quite deliberately, thinking perhaps that the gassing technique and the substance involved were really “secrets” of the Third Reich's medical “science”. But then, given the behaviour, sometimes to the extent of suicide, of his previous superiors in the docks of Allied tribunals, Kramer, considering himself released from his SS oath, “laid his cards on the table” and started giving reasonably straightforward answers. Such are the origins of the “second” versions.
It is rather astonishing that French Military Justice paid little or no attention to the second deposition of the 6 December 1945, although it must be praised for having at least recorded this statement. In the collection of photographs put together by Major Jadin, only the first deposition is mentioned. Even though it contains a flagrant physical impossibility, the first one has been consistently reproduced and disseminated mainly because Kramer ends it, referring to the gassing operations he carried out, as follows:
“I FELT NO EMOTION WHILE ACCOMPLISHING THESE TASKS, BECAUSE I HAD RECEIVED AN ORDER TO EXECUTE THE 80 INTERNEES IN THE MANNER THAT I HAVE DESCRIBED TO YOU. THAT IS SIMPLY HOW I WAS BROUGHT UP”.In the context of the years 1945-1950, one can understand the deliberate selection of such a reply by a concentration camp commandant. But when 40 years later, historians, who should remain dispassionate, and who have an obligation to remove all ambiguity regarding the workings of the Struthof gas chamber, continue to reproduce Kramer’s first deposition, without any explanation, then one has every right to question their abilities and the historical value of their writings – especially if they still mention the tourist prattle of crematorium guides about a “vivisection” table and shower water for SS-men heated by the oven.
The French Military Justice possessed irrefutable evidence of the existence and use of a gas chamber at Struthof, without even taking Joseph Kramer’s statements into consideration, and relying solely on German documents that had been seized. A daily report of building progress, signed on 3 August 1943 by the Chief of the K.L. Natzweiler Works Directorate, mentions the word “Gasraum” three times and the word "Gaskammer" (gas chamber) once. The weekly reports of the 14 and 21 August 1943 about the camp's overall complement are particularly eloquent by their silence on the cause of death of the 87 Jews. Moreover, SS-man Volkmar's note-book, which associates Professor Hirt with the “Gas Blausaure” (gas from hydrocyanic acid), shows that the camp’s entire staff was aware of the gassings.
In addition, to the above, Josef Kramer, in a letter of 12 April 1943 to the Ahnenerbe states that a 20m³ G-cell (“G-Zelle”) is ready: “dass die G-Zelle hier fertiggestellt ist und einen Rauminhalt von 20m³ hat) (Beger trial, special, volume I, page 112). There can be no doubt about the meaning ascribed by Kramer after the war to “G-cell”. He really did mean a gas cell, since the one in Struthof has a volume of exactly 20m³. Finally Professor Hirt's letter of the 14 July 1943 to the Ahnenerbe is unequivocal: .The material for the gassings (das Material zur Vergasung) …” All in all, an unequivocal and devastating collection of documents.
Letter from Professor Hirt to the Ahnenerbe of the 14 July 1943. Reference. Your letter of the 9 July 1943, that is, copy of letter from, the SD of the 25 June, constitution of a collection. I have taken note of the contents of this letter. This is to inform you that, according to the camp commandant, there has been a difficulty in that the gassing equipment is not in place. Therefore I ask you to intervene with the appropriate administrative authorities to have the necessary equipment made available; otherwise the matter cannot be brought to a close...
At the liberation, the water pouring device was dismantled for the purpose of toxicological testing for traces of cyanide. This was an habitual procedure. The Polish Judiciary did the same thing, with a positive result, with metal components taken from the gas chambers at Birkenau. The result at Struthof was negative, which was somewhat embarrassing. With the benefit of hind-sight, and without criticizing a logical procedure, we know that the funnel never contained anything but water, and that the contact time with hydrocyanic acid was too brief to leave a mark in the form of cyanide traces. Moreover, the gas chamber was saturated with phosgene more often than witch HCN. Following analysis of the “pouring” apparatus, the pipe was lost, while the funnel and tap were saved by the Comité d'Histoire de la 2eme guerre mondiale (Second World War Historical Committee), which offered them to the Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de Franche-Comté (Franche-Comté Museum of the Resistance and the Deportation) at La Citadelle de Besançon, where they are still to be found.
As the Allies approached, the SS doctors and professors started to panic. The collection of Jewish skeletons at Strasbourg! What a loss for “racial science” if it were to fall into enemy hands, or if it were to prove necessary to destroy it. But Professor Hirt, the “owner” of the collection, had forgotten to make it clear to Himmler’s Headquarters that the work required to constitue the collection HAD NEVER BEEN DONE. As of September 1944, the 86 corpses were still steeped in alcohol, COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN. Pierre Henripierre stated quite succinctly: “Once the bodies had been preserved and placed in vats, THEY REMAINED THERE FOR A YEAR WITHOUT BEING DISTURBED BY ANYONE.”
Despite the growing threat to Strasbourg, and the predictably disastrous consequences of discovery of the bodies by the enemy, correspondence among various levels of the SS wasted precious time before reaching the obvious decision that the bodies had to be destroyed. It was too late. Too much work was involved in eradicating all the traces. On the 15 November, the SS
authorities still did not know whether the “work” had been done. On the 21, it was thought to have been completed, and on the 23, Leclerc’s Second Division suddenly overran Strasbourg. Since Hirt had lied, since his superior, SS Colonel Sievers, General Secretary of the Ahnenerbe, had also lied, and since everyone insisted that they had carried out orders which in fact were not executed in the debacle, as a result 16 or 17 bodies were indeed found intact in the cellars of the Institute of Anatomy, with an Auschwitz identification number still visible on the left forearm in some cases (3). In other cases, the number was removed in order to prevent identification of the victim’s origins, as can be seen on the photographs of forearms.
They were all photographed by the legal identification branch. In an ordinary school of medicine, such bodies would just be part of the “décor”. In Strasbourg, the corpses left over from Professor Hirt’s racial studies had been the subject of too much bureaucracy and had been seen by too many witnesses not belonging to the SS. They were not “normal”. They pointed and they still point a finger at a totalitarian regime that laid its foundations on a bed of racial inequality.
One might well wonder why Hirt’s collection was never completed in practice. Was it a “whim” on his part, quickly forgotten after having cost 87 Jewish women and men their lives for nothing, or did he simply not dare, given the worsening military situation, to finish realizing his project? Hirt could have told us, but he preferred to disappear (4).
These 87 purposeless murders are a perfect example of what can come from the contempt of a group of men for other “different” ones, and of the danger of a society in which too much power is concentrated in the hands of too few. The expression “Die Macht ohne Moral”, or “Power without Morality” is a fitting close to this short study.
(1) The trial of anthropologist Dr. Bruno Beger was held in Frankfurt in 1970 and 1971 (case no. 4 KS 1/70). Beger was the man who selected Auschwitz prisoners, to be sent to the camp of Natzweiler-Struthof. However, the court was unable to establish whether Beger was co-responsible, with his friend Professor Hirt, for the project of a skeleton collection, as alleged by the prosecution (bill of indictment, pp 33-35).
Beger claimed to have made his choices by looking for mongoloid types and anthropologically interesting specimens, on the basis of normal scientific criteria, and without knowing that the prisoners he selected would be killed after their transfer to Struthof (depositions by and examinations of Beger on the 31 March 1960, 14 December 1961, 22 January 1961, 18 January 1963 and 9 April 1963). Of 1 15 prisoners selected, 109 were Jews. Beger was assisted in his mission by another anthropologist, Dr. Hans Fleischhacker, and by a specimen preparer, Willi Gabel, who made 26 head castings among the 115 chosen prisoners (depositions by Fleischhacker of the 18 January 1963 and 6 November 1963, by Gabel of the 25 July 1960 and 23 November 1962).
Berger’s mission to Auschwitz lasted from the 7 to the 15 June 1943. After having been selected, the prisoners were measured and photographed; then the 85 men were quarantined in blocks 21 and 28, and the 30 women in block 10, to await their transfer to Struthof, which took place on the 30 July 1943 (bill of indictment, pp 50-58; deposition by Ludwig Wörl of the 3 January 1963).
An exact list of all these prisoners was drawn up at Auschwitz and sent to Berlin, to the Ahnenerbe (Ancestral Heritage), the scientific organization responsible for this and similar initiatives, and to which Hirt and Beger belonged (depositions by Herman Reineck of the 15 January 1962, Ernst Toch of 19 January 1962 and Charlotte Heydel of 6 February 1961). The Ahnenerbe executive was led by SS-Standartenführer (Colonel) Wolfram Sievers, who was in constant contact about this matter with SS-
Obersturmbannführer Dr. Brandt, of the personal staff of SS-Reichsführer Himmler, who unceasingly gave his entire support to Professor Hirt's proposal, quoted in document NO-085 of the 9 February 7942 (Brandt to Sievers, 27 February 1942, NO-090; Himmler directive to the Ahnenerbe, 7 July 1942, NO-422; Brandt to Eichmann, 6 November 1942, NO-089). Sievers and Brandt were found guilty of this charge of murdering Jews, for the constitution of a skeleton collection at Strasbourg, by the Allied Military Tribunal in Nuremberg and were hanged. For his complicity in the murder, Beger was sentenced in 1971 to 3 years imprisonment by the Frankfurt Criminal Court.
(2) See, in particular, the Beger trial depositions of:
— Otto Bong, who was Professor Hirt’s specimen preparer. In his deposition of the 10 January 1963, Bong (born in 1901) gives detailed descriptions of the arrival of the bodies, of the treatment he subjected them to, of Prof essor Hirt’s prohibition, laced with threats, against talking about these corpses, and of the attempt to destroy all the corpses before the Allies entered Strasbourg.
— Liselotte Seepe, who was Professor Hirt’s secretary. In her deposition of the 10 January 1963, Seepe (born in 1907) admits to having deliberately destroyed all files relating to Professor Hirt’s secret affairs; in particular, she destroyed the files of the skeleton collection, which must have contained measurements, photographs, reports of organ examinations, and perhaps the 26 head casts taken at Auschwitz as well
— Professor Doctor Anton Kiesselbach, Professor Hirt’s assistant in Strasbourg, who saw the bodies and who admits that they were spoken of at the University of Strasbourg in hushed and sombre tones.
— Elisabeth Schmitt, medical laboratory assistant. In her deposition of the 10 April 1963, Schmitt (born in 1922) admits to having worked on the corpses of the collection.
— Robert Nitsch, deposition of the 23 August 1962.
— René Wagner, deposition of the 17 November 1946 made to French Military Justice.
It was possible to identify only the prisoner bearing Auschwitz no. 107969, who is shown here in photograph no. 52. The calendar of events occurring at Auschwitz, as reproduced in the“Zeszyty Oswiecimskie” (“Oswiecim Papers" no. 4, 1960, p 84), informs us that a convoy of Jews arrived at the camp from Berlin on the 13 March 1943. Of the 620 women and children in the convoy, 147 women were selected for labour, while the rest were gassed immediately. Of the 344 men, 218 were selected for labour and identified by the numbers 107772 to 107989. We subsequently found out from a letter contained in the Beger trial records, addressed by the international Camps Committee to the Court President on the 1 January 1971, that the deportee in question was called Menachem Taffel, that he was born on 28 July 1900, and that he lived in Berlin at 9 Elsasserstrasse.
(4) Professor Doctor August Hirt, born on 29 April 1898 ín Mannheim of Swiss parents. Medical doctor at the age of 24 after having studied at the University of Heidelberg. At the age of 40, he became Director of the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Frankfurt. Member of the SS from the 16 October 1933 (no. 100414), and of the Nazi Party from the 1 May 1937 (no. 4012784). Director of the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Strasbourg upon its re-opening in 1941. After having lost his wife and son in a September 1941 bombing, and having tried to exculpate himself, in a deposition of the 25 January 1945 made at Tübingen, from charges brought against him upon the liberation of Strasbourg and Struthof, Hirt chose to kill himself on the 2 June 1945 with a revolver bullet in the heart.
Doctor Bruno Beger, born on 27 April 1911 in Frankfurt, son of an officier. Post-secondary studies in anthropology at the universities of Jena, Heidelberg and Berlin. Dissertation in 1940 under the supervision of Professor Hans Gunther, a racist theoretician. Joined the SS in 1934 and the Nazi Party in 1937. Participated as an anthropologist in a 1938 German expedition, patronized by Himmler, to Tibet. SS-Hauptsturmführer at the time of his mission to Auschwitz.
Doctor Hans Fleischhacker, born on 10 March 1912 in Töttleben. Post-secondary studies at the universities of Jena and Munich. Appointed to the Institute of Racial Research in Tübingen in 1937, when he also joined the SS. Nazi Party member as of 1940, and appointed to the SS Central Bureau for Race and Settlements.
The following are now presented :
· The documents produced at Nuremberg on the genesis
and the history of the collection of skeletons.
· Testimony by a civilian witness about the adaptation of
the gas chamber, and testimony by the man who carried
out the gassing operation.
(In these depositions, the English “prisoner” is
consistently used for the German “Häftling”.)
· The available photographic documentation
LETTER FROM SIEVERS TO RUDOLF BRANDT
The Reich Business Manager Berlin, 2 November 1942
Personal Staff Reich Leader SS
Registration of Files Secret 5/116 Secret To: SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Dr. Brandt
Dear Comrade Brandt !
The Reich Leader SS once ordered, as you know, that SS Haupteturmfuehrer Prof. Dr. Hirt should be provided with all necessary material for his research work. I have already reported to the Reich Leader SS that for some anthropological studies 150 skeletons of inmates or Jews are needed and should be provided by the Auschwitz concentration camp. It is only necessary for the Reich Security Main Office to be furnished now with an official directive by the Reich Leader SS; by order of the Reich Leader SS, however, you could issue it yourself. Sincerely yours,
Heil Hitler !
Sievers 1 enclosure:
Draft of a letter to the Reich Security Main Office
TRANSLATION OF DOCUMENT NO-089
TRANSLATION OF DOCUMENT NO-089
Field Command Post 6.11.42
The Reichsfuehrer-SS .
Diary No. 41/1/43 Secret. SECRET (1)
To the RSHA
Department IV B4
For the attention of
SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann
Berlin SW 11
Prinz-Albrecht-Str. 8 Re: Establishment of a collection of skeletons at the Anatomical Institute at Strassburg. The Reichsfuehrer-SS has issued a directive to the effect that SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Prof. Dr. Hirt, who is the director of the Anatomical Institute at Strassburg and the bend of a department of the institute for Military Science Research in the Ahnenerbe Society, be furnished with everything he needs for his research work. By order of the Reichsfuehrer-SS, therefore, I ask you to make possible the establishment of the planned collection. SSObersturmbannfuehrer Sievers will get in touch with you with regard to straightening out the details. By order
SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer ———— Berlin, 27 November 1942 2.
To the “Ahnenerbe” Society .
Copy sent with request that cognizance be taken thereof. I refer to your letter of 2.11.42. By order
[in pencil] 27.11
[in pencil] M
I was born April 13, 1917 in Berdorf (Luxembourg)
On 19 May 1942, I was arrested by the Germans while I'm working in the fields of my parents Berdorf. After a brief stay in the Villa Pauly (Gestapo headquarters) and the Prison of Grund, Luxembourg City.
On May 21, 1942, I transferred to the KL-Hinzert. The KL-or SS-Hinzert Sonderlager (special camp) Hinzert; not matter. It is a place of torture. Upon arrival at the camp, depersonalization begins with registration, change our clothes, shaving the whole body and this body with a razor used - result: myself and everyone else have bleeding skin. Then showers with hot and cold water alternately. I have to sew the registration number 4044 with a red triangle on my jacket and above on the right leg of the pants. After six days, I am assigned to commando outside Maria-hut near Reinsheim. Unloading of wagons with stones, cement, lime and sand. This work takes up 17 hours on site. Later, I am assigned to commando Gusterath. All work to be done in two Kommandos is an indescribable torture.
On January 26, 1943, transfer to KL-Natzweiler. The "red" finish are the same as Hinzert. Surprise for supervisors to see me out of my pocket a rosary. The SS now takes it and throws it into the wastepaper basket and yells "do not think this machine can help to get out of here" and he slaps me on the left and right. Blood spurts everywhere. Mates drag me to the shower. I am now the registration number 2266 with red triangle. No difference in the daily torture of KL-Hinzert. The SS had refined his methods to degrade man by terrorizing the insecure, the starving.
On July 1, 1943 a new commando of a hundred men is created. Ellwangen transport in the Stuttgart region, subcamp of Natzweiler, to build a shooting range. The first day, during the call, the SS noticed missing and I am a prisoner accused as a kapo for helping him to escape. Punishment for me with internment in my block, with monitoring by an SS man with gun ready to fire until late in the evening, without receiving any food. The fugitive was found the next day and returned in the block and the Kommando, but only for one day. All the commando was transferred to the KL-Natzweiler.
On January 19, 1944, transfer to KL-Flossenburg in Bavaria. Registration number 1852. Assigned to block 21. The next day, formation of a commando outside fifteen men including myself, towards the town of Krondorf to lay a water pipe. Do not forget that this is a very harsh winter. We need to dig trenches to a depth of three meters. How dry our wet clothes? The only food: soup with water (Steckriibensuppe) and a few grams of bread. My parents sometimes send me a packet. It is not always free, in my hands. But I always share with my companions. On January 3, 1945, I moved to another commando: construction with 115 companions a hall 110 feet long. On 1 April 1945, dissolving the commando. The U.S. military is twenty miles.
On April 6, 1945, the SS decided to evacuate the camp. Piled into two cars, we drove just two hours when an air strike stopped the train. The SS disappear. After several attacks, the engine gives up the ghost. The SS back, before disappearing for good, they make us get to continue on foot. At the first village all inmates entering houses to eat something. I continue to walk alone. In the morning, the Americans arrive. They give us bread and asking that all former prisoners leave the ranks. On April 11, 1945, I am exhausted. The truck that supports me is full of former prisoners in Belgium. The Luxembourg, all conscripted, gave me a small notebook in which all their names and addresses are marked. Notebook that I always have in my possession.
On June 5, 1945, a bus picks up the Luxembourgers to return home. Stop in Luxembourg City. We get cards and forms of return and we fixed an appointment with the services of the Red Cross. Once I get two pairs of socks, two pants, shirt, pants and jacket. I spend the night with my family in Luxembourg City. My return is reported in our family. I arrived June 6, 1945 in Berdorf by train. In my house there are only ruins. My parents and my brother live in the house next door, decorated with flowers for my home.
A few days after my return, I found a permanent job at the Post Office in Luxembourg as a factor, until I retired on 1 May 1977.
From 1977 to April 1999, I acted as standard bearer of our Association of former Natzweiler-Struthof.
For me, the whole of Germany was drawn to the words of Adolf Hitler for the money: work for men and a cash benefit for women with children. All the opponents were in KL, like Dachau in 1933.
Today, Germany is a democratic country and has contributed greatly to the construction of Europe.
A youth, I say "Make sure that such a war, with atrocities not happen again."
Louis HUBERT. Luxembourg.
- April 13, 1917